Journal

Utah and the Five National Parks

Not too long ago my friend Gary mentioned that he wanted to go with me when I hit the road again to gather my next round of National Park photos. Anyone that has traveled by themselves for an extended period of time knows that at times that road can become pretty solitary and having someone else there sounded like a splendid idea. I asked Gary where he wanted to go and he came back with Utah. Great! What a good excuse to get out there and see it. I had never been south of Salt Lake City and who knows when I would have put that on my own calendar.

After a few months of planning, map tracing and gear buying, we left Kansas City at 6:00pm on a Thursday and headed West deciding to stop in Hays Kansas. We would leave early in the morning from there and that would get us to Arches by sunset. 

It turns out, camping in the park is slim pickings. Reservations are made months in advance and we had none. Luckily these places are popular enough to have at least a few small private campgrounds just outside the park. Where we weren't able to get a spot within the grounds, there was always a place within a few miles that we could set up our tent (and usually with some pretty good characters).

I won't bore you with the stats of the parks (I think it takes away from the sheer wonder of it all to break it down into numbers) but the largest of the five is Canyonlands at over 337,000 acres and the smallest is Bryce Canyon at just of 35,000 acres.

Getting to these places reminds me how lucky we are to have them. I'm excited to get back there at some point, to camp under stars from horizon to horizon and see the red rocks, flowers and wildlife again that are unique to the area.

Me in complete wonder down in a canyon in Zion. Photo by Gary Breashears

Me in complete wonder down in a canyon in Zion. Photo by Gary Breashears

NASCAR at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City

I am lucky enough to know someone that works at the Kansas Speedway. I am also lucky in the fact that this person entertained my request to get me a photographers pass so I could get down around the track and into the pits during the SpongeBob SquarePants 400. Although not a huge racing fan, I knew that a sporting event of this size is something that I would love to be at with my camera. 

I arrived by shuttle in the infield amongst the campers and RV's. After walking around for a few hours figuring out where everything was (and catching a 45 minute Shooter Jennings show in the infield) the race started. It got loud and I was much closer than I thought I would be.

98 laps in the rain started and wouldn't let up for a few hours. I headed up to a higher point to get some overhead shots of the track waiting for the rain to stop. 

Met lots of nice people and came away with a different idea of the races. I hope to get to another race with my camera soon.

Hot Springs National Park

I spent a good week at home after arriving back from the West. Relaxing, sleeping in my own bed, walking the dogs. While I was glad to be home, I was eager to continue the adventure. I spread my maps out, Google Maps, and started charting a course to the Southeast. I learned from my travels so far that this trip doesn't have to be rushed all the time. I had time and wanted to enjoy the journey as much as the parks themselves.

My next destination would be Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas on my way to Florida. Having never ventured south of Fayetteville, I was excited to see a new landscape, and park.

I took US 71 nearly the entire way until I got to Ouachita National Forest, where I turned left onto some winding mountain roads, and snow, and I was nearly there. When you arrive in the park you are at the same time at the visitors center and the historic district of the town. The visitors center is located in one of the historic bathhouses that line Central Avenue. I stopped in and talked to a ranger about hiking and camping and he gave me some tips on good sunrise and sunset spots. 

I then headed to the one campground in the park, Gulpha Gorge. Being the middle of winter campers were sparse, although there were more than I expected. I found a spot away from the few other campers, paid to designate my campsite, then set out to find a sunset overlook. 

The entire drive in was overcast and of the four weather apps I have, it was unanimous that the cloud cover wasn't going anywhere soon, so I resigned myself to searching for a spot for the following night where I could get a good look. After searching, and finding, a spot I decided to head back to the campground. I knew it would be nice not having to set everything up in the dark and I could get caught up on some writing. 

I woke up the next morning at 5am to everything frozen. I picked up my phone to turn the alarm off and check the cloud outlook and it nearly froze to my hand. It was 17 degrees inside my car. Once again, all apps agreed that it was overcast with no chance of seeing the sunrise. So I laid my head back down and slept in for another hour. 

I crawled out of the car in search of some hiking trails on the rangers recommendation. According to him, I couldn't hike all of them if I was here for a month. While I didn't plan on staying that long, I would get out there and see what I could find in a day. But first I went in to town to locate some coffee.

Running parallel to Central is a brick path called the Grand Promenade that cuts  behind the bath houses and leads to other, more technical trails. I started down that to see where it would take me. After about an hour I ended up at a tall, Space Needlesque structure that turned out to be the observation tower. Happy to have stumbled onto it, it cost $4 to go up 306 steps to the top. Great views but the Bill Clinton video on repeat starts to wear you down after a while (he grew here, and was a very nice boy if you believe everyone in the video).

After descending the steps that took me to the top, I headed back to my car in search of other trails that were near the campsite. I hiked up the Gulpha Gorge trail that lead to a "hike only" lookout that was spectacular. Unfortunately it was mid day and the sun had finally broken through so the light was too harsh for photos. It was still well worth the 2 hour hike in to see it. 

I headed back to the campsite to fetch my car and get to the overlook I wanted to be at for sunset. Once there I set out hiking down Sunset Trail. I'm still a little unsure of the naming of this as I hiked to the end and didn't come across any overlooks or even a decent view of the sunset. Either way the sun was going down and I wanted to be at a place that I could see both the city lights below, mountains and sunset in one place. I headed back towards the overlook where I parked and noticed I could see all of these things right here. Downside, it was Friday night and this is apparently the spot were the high school kids would come to "park". So there was me and three or four other cars. I was the only one not sitting my car. I could see why they came here, it turned out to be one of the best sunsets so far. The sparse clouds mixed in with the city lights and mountains. I stayed well past sunset until all the light was used up (I was the first car to leave).

The next morning I woke up at 5 knowing I would have to hike in to the spot I wanted to get to for sunrise. So at 5:20 with my headlamp on, I started on the 30 minute trek to the top of Mountain Tower Road that looks to the east. 

After the sun had risen, I hiked back down, happy the second day had given my such a great sunset and then sunrise. Like the ranger said, I could have spent a month hiking the trails here but with other places to see, I need to get on the road. The thrill of this trip is knowing when you leave one beautiful place, it is  replaced with a chance to see and experience something more.

Petrified Forest National Park

This particular morning in Joshua Tree, I needed to decide if I was going north to Death Valley or east to Petrified Forest. I'd been on the road for an extended period of time, driving to a park, staying for a couple of nights, and driving again. This being the first segment of a multi-part project, I figured instead of trying to hit one more California park on this trip, I would make my way east to Petrified Forest. I could cover the other California parks all at one time thus getting a better feel for each of them and how they compliment and contrast each other. 

I started east on I-10 towards what would eventually be my stop in Holbrook Arizona for the night. It is a 7 hour drive from Joshua Tree to the park entrance so I knew if I left at 9am, that would get me into the park at 4pm with a sunset at 5:45. 

Upon arriving at the southern entrance, the ranger told me the park hours were 8-5pm. I was welcome to drive around until 5, but when the rangers in the park asked me to leave, I should go. That was going to make it tricky for me since the sun rose at 7:30 and set at 5:30. 

I came up with a plan for sunset, I would worry about sunrise later. My idea was to go as fast as I could to the middle of the park via the long, winding 28 mile  road that cuts the park in half. I figured once they found me in there, it would take at least 45 minutes for me to slowly drive out and that way I could be in there for sunset. Not the best plan, but one I would have to make do with.

As I was driving in, the clouds on the horizon stopped me, sunset was already really good. 15 minutes into the drive I found a spot called Newspaper Rock that has a unique view. It is a large bluff that looks out on a series of petroglyphs that give the lookout its name. My time here was cut short due the family of 7 that decided to take their fight from inside the RV to right next to me. So deeper in the park I went. 

The next spot I found was called “The Teepees”.  A series of cone shaped hills that resemble the tip of rounded, multicolored pencils sticking up from the ground. 

The sun was beginning to touch the horizon at this point and with the dry desert landscape, the sunset was starting to take shape. I stayed in this location for 15 minutes moving around The Teepees, changing my angle and viewpoint. By this time it was nearly dark so I headed back towards the entrance I came in at. I would have left the park without any ranger detection had I not been greedy and stopped for just a few more photos of the leftover cloud formations. I was in my “last” spot for the evening the ranger’s truck rolled up on me and asked, in a very authoritative tone, if my car was broken down. I said no and he informed me the park was closed and there was absolutely no stopping once that happened. I agreed to head for the gate and not stop again in the park.

The camping situation was basically non existent and the park gates didn’t even open up until 8am so I headed to the town of Holbrook to find a hotel or a Walmart parking lot, whatever I came across first. The hotel won.

Up the next morning at 5:30, I loaded up on gas station coffee and headed to the park. Maybe they forgot to close the gate last night or at the very least would open it early so I could get in before sunrise. Upon arriving, some responsible person had in fact locked the gate so I decided to start to hike in. I made it about 10 minutes and realized I wouldn’t get any good shots this way so I turned around and started back for the car. By this time it was 7:45, the sun was rising and they would open the gate soon. 

I waited impatiently until 8:10 when the gates finally parted and I could go in. I headed to a few spots I had noted the evening before. Overcast already, it started to rain. I pulled out rain coats, both for me and the camera, and headed to Crystal Forest. I photographed trees that were older than a time span I can comprehend. Very impressive artifacts laid out in a way that is very accessible, trusting that people won't disturb it. After hiking this short trail I jumped back in the car and headed up the road. There were more trails I wanted to cover, rain or not. My next stops were places with names like the Blue Mesa Trail, Puerco Pueblo and the Painted Desert Rim Trail.

After all this exploring, I ended up at the northern entrance. Having seen most of the park, I decided to make for the exit and head back towards Kansas City and a short break before I would be back on the road on my way to the Southeast. 

Joshua Tree National Park

I left Saguaro on a photographic high. I came away with some pretty decent photos and I was really impressed with the scenery. So much so that I didn’t want to leave, but at the same time excited to see what the next park would bring. I set off on I-10 west for the five hour drive that would take me to Southern California and Joshua Tree National Park.

I pulled through the park gates at 2pm with the time change, that gave me a little over three hours to find a good sunset spot. But first I had to find a campground. I wasn’t sure where to go so I asked a ranger at the station. He told me a couple of things. The first was this being Saturday all but three of the campgrounds were full, and those would soon fill up. Second, they only take cash. It was $10 per night and I had $9. I asked where it was possible to get money and he told me to ask another camper…then another ranger jumped in and told me about the town of Twenty Nine Palms, to the east of the campgrounds. I knew I had at least a dollar in change in my car but tomorrow I needed to get cash.

In a hurry to get to a campground before they all filled up, I started the one hour drive north to where they were. It was a great drive up there. Desert and mountains on both sides of the road with all the vegetation that thrive in this climate. The first campground I hit was called Jumbo Rocks. Not completely sure how the whole thing worked, I stopped at the pay station and as I was grabbing an envelope, another camper jumped out of her car and asked me if there was any space left in this campground, in the same breath saying all the others they went to were full. Having no clue about the capacity of this area, I said, let’s check it out. She jumped back in her car and me mine and we headed in. The second space we came across had one opening. We both pulled in and agreed that we could share the space. There were four of them and I would be camping in my car so it worked out perfect (and I didn’t see any other open spaces at this campground so it had to). After the sun set we chatted for a while, they were from New Zealand over to see some national parks in the states. Very cool people but hiking miles everyday and getting up at 5am every day takes it toll, so I called it a night...early.

When I got up the next morning it was foggy, really foggy. I knew this was going to make sunrise photos a little tricky but you take what you get so off I went in search of what I could find. As I drove deeper into the park, it became apparent there was not going to be a traditional sunrise but the fog and overcast morning brought it’s own set of interesting photos. I’m glad it did because a few hours later it was full on rain. This wouldn’t have been so bad had I not been carrying a camera and had a place to dry my clothes. My hiking was limited to short jaunts. When the rain would let up I would get out and head down a trail but the rain would start up again and I would make a break for it back to the car. I came across an overlook called Keys View that is supposed to be pretty impressive. I went up there and all you could see were the few rocks and a small tree right at the edge of the cliff. I made a mental note to go back to the spot later when the fog had cleared out and I could compare these two photos. The first photo below was at 8 in the morning, the second was at 11. 

My dodging of the rain went on for the rest of the afternoon and into evening. I decided I would look for another campsite. There is a spot that I learned about that is quickly taken by climbers on the weekend called Hidden Valley. It is filled with what apparently are great climbing routes. I headed over there to see if I could catch anyone climbing and if there were any open spots. When I pulled in there I saw three open camping areas so I took the first one. Once settled, I could see why this was popular. There were bouldering rocks and technical climbs next to petroglyphs. It was pretty amazing.

Luckily the rain tapered off around 7pm so I could get out my camp stove and cook some soup. I explored the area a little but by that time it was dark enough I couldn’t really see anything without my headlamp and the stars were hidden behind the dense clouds. So off to the car camper to read, the life of a vagabond when it rains. 

The next morning brought more fog and haze. I figured it would be about the same as the previous day so I would go to a few different areas. I headed back towards the point where I came in, Cottonwood Station. I stopped nearly every ten minutes to get a few more morning photos before I would leave to get back on I-10 to head out. 

Once again I encountered a park that has features that I have never seen before. The joshua trees were cool, but the gem of this park are the enormous boulders. They are fascinating and something that we just don't get in Kansas City. And they are very climbable. There will be a time when I go to the Death Valley and Kings Canyon parks and I will certainly make another pass through this one when I do. 

Saguaro National Park

When I set out from the Grand Canyon I had lots of photos and a need for an internet connection that I hadn't had a while. Flagstaff was on the way and I'd never been so I decided I would check it out. As I drove in I was very impressed. Cool mountain town with a good vibe (or as much as you can tell from an afternoon). With Yelp's assistance I found a coffee shop in the main part of town called the Flag Buzz. Strong coffee and internet connection, the two things that I needed. 

Once my photos were backed up to the cloud, I headed down I-17 to catch I-10 into Tucson. I got through Phoenix and it was smooth sailing in. About two hours out, I entered Saguaro National Park into Google Maps and by sheer luck it pointed me towards the Western side (Tucson Mountain District). Basically the park lays on both sides of Tucson and most of the visitors go to the Eastern side (Rincon Mountain District). So as I rolled into town around just before dusk, I was amazed. It was sprinkling a little but that didn't phase me at all from stopping and taking pictures of the giant Saguaro Cactus. Honestly I hadn't really expected too much from this park, but I was already blown away. It was different than anything I'd seen before. And there would be so much more to come.

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As the sun was starting to set, the clouds were forming like it might be a good one. So I headed down the first trail I saw. If you are hiking alone in the desert and you stop and listen, you can hear all kinds of things. As I was just standing there, I saw what looked like two small dogs walk out from behind some bushes. I stood very still and watched as they were just walking, completely unaware of me. When I brought my camera up to my eye and snapped a photo, they both stopped, turned and looked at me. I saw they were small coyotes no bigger than fifty pounds. We stared at each for about 10 seconds then they became bored and started walking off in the same direction they were before I disturbed them (unfortunately the pics were no good of these little fellas). 

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I went back to hiking the desert trail and I noticed the sky was turning all kinds of brilliant colors, so much that I ran back to my car to get my tripod. I didn't want to miss this one. I stuck around until well after dark and watched the sky change. 

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The next morning about an hour before sunrise, I started in on Loop Drive looking for an overlook where I could get the mountains and the sunrise. I stopped at a place called Loma Verde, set up my tripod...and waited. It was so peaceful sitting in the quietness of the park. For the first time since I'd left, I stopped and was really able to appreciate the journey I was on. As the sun rose over one set of mountains casting light on another range, two park workers showed up at my overlook and were trying to spot deer. After a little while of talking with them, I offered to help with my telephoto lens. We looked for deer for around a half an hour before they set off to hike into the park to see what they could find in there. Sunrise being finished, I packed my gear up and drove the rest of Loop Drive. 

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After some coffee and a granola bar, I headed to the Tanque Verde trailhead. This particular trail runs nearly half of the the eastern park and starts by going up to the ridge line. A beautiful hike through all the giant saguaros and other desert life I started out with my camera in a backpack but soon realized I would just be carrying it, there was too much to photograph. 

Once finished with that hike, and the rest of my water, I headed to Mt Lemmon on a suggestion from one of the park workers. It was about an 1:15 minute drive from where I was and I wanted to be there before sunset to check it out. The drive up was impressive in itself. I started at around 2500 ft and when I got to Ski Valley (yes, there's a ski resort at the top) I was above 8000 ft. I arrived in a short sleeve shirt and when I got out of the car I was grabbing my coat and stocking cap. It was cold up there. I checked it out for a while but noticed a few spots on my way up that I wanted to see the sunset from so I started down, stopping along the way. I had great luck with the clouds. They were nearly perfect for a sunset and as I was going down, it seemed to just keep getting better. 

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Saguaro National Park was so much more than I expected. The life in the desert is something to see. The people that live there know the good thing they have. I saw lots of people biking, running and hiking on these trails at all times. I expect when I'm back in the area I will be hiking into that park again. But now I'm off to California and Joshua Tree.

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Grand Canyon National Park

When I woke up it was cold. Not as bad as it was in Kansas City at the time but regardless, still cold. The cabin had a small heater that was intermittent at best. It would cough on and cut out. I laid in bed thinking about this for a minute. I decided to get this cabin so I wouldn't go straight from staying in a nice bed to sleeping in sub freezing temps in my car. I wanted to ease into it if possible. 

With a 30 minute drive from this cabin to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in front of me and the sun rising at 7:30, I needed to be there at 6:30 to catch the first light. That meant getting on the road at 5:45 so I could find a good spot. I pulled myself off the cot, got dressed and packed my car. 

When I arrived at the park, it was not crowded. I thought I may have planned it right to avoid the crowds. I could deal with the cold temps, but hordes of tourists not so much. I found a decent location near the geology museum and set up my tripod. As I was snapping a few photos, another photographer walked past me and we started talking. She told me about another location called Yaki Point and you can only get to it via shuttle (I later figured out you could get there by hiking to it, just no driving). That was where I would be the next morning.

After the sun rose I was walking along the trail when I spotted two elk. They weren't hard to see because they were right next to me behind a bush. I stopped, slowly got my camera out and started taking photos. Then a few more came out, then a few more. Suddenly there were thirteen of them forming a semicircle around me. I was snapping away photos and wondering how this was going to play out. There was no where for me to go (the open part of the semicircle was the cliff). Then they started down the path, together. I followed from a close distance to see where we would end up. This went on for around 30 minutes until they grew tired of me following them and they went back into the woods. 

After my nature walk I went on to search for a campsite. All were closed except one so I headed there. I was surprised to see a little over half of the sites occupied with campers. I hung my camping ticket on the post, cooked up some oatmeal and coffee, then set out to hike into the canyon. 

I stared in at the South Kaibab trailhead. There are signs everywhere warning hikers that you will need to be rescued it you try to hike to the Colorado River and back in one day. They said it was tougher than running a marathon. Not wanting to be one of the statistics that had to be carried out, I went in about 3 miles (roughly halfway) and admired the view for a while then turned around for the uphill version of the hike. It wasn't easy but not nearly as hard as they made it out to be, I'm a little mad at myself for not trying it.

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That evening I headed to the western edge of the South Rim to places with names like Hermit's Rest and Hopi Point for sunset. Great views, but mostly cloudless sunsets...and people everywhere. I didn't time it right. I don't know if there is a time when loads of people aren't leaning in to each other to get a photo. I even had a guy ask me to move so he could get a photo of his friend that jumped a fence and walked out on a rock that looked a little unsteady to me, but who am I to judge. 

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Back to the campground that evening the sky was stunning. I started a fire, made some soup and kicked back to look at some stars, not a bad way to spend an evening. After that I set up my "camper", see how I made my car into a camper here, and went to sleep. It wasn't bad at all and you can't beat the location. 

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When my alarm went off in the morning I could tell it was cold because everything I touched was freezing, but I wasn't! I turned my alarm off and my phone was so cold I'm surprised it still worked. The comforter I packed at the last minute was a godsend. I jumped out of the car and headed to the bus stop to get to Yaki Point. There were about 5 other people there which at 6am was a little surprising, but we all piled on and were off to THE sunset spot. It didn't disappoint. I understand now why it's so popular. There is an outcropping that goes more northeast than other places on the South Rim and as the sun rises, you get the first view of it over the canyon. This is pretty impressive. As more people started to show up and begin their hikes, the sun was fully up and my job was done. I packed up my gear and headed back to the campground for some more oatmeal and coffee then hit the road to Saguaro.

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Starting My Photography Project

Before setting off for the first day of my trip, I checked and rechecked my car and when everything was deemed in order, I backed out of the driveway at 8:30am. My end goal (and Airbnb reservation) was Santa Fe New Mexico. Google Maps said it was a 11 1/2 hour drive but as much as I stop and take photos I knew I was looking at closer to 13. The route I took went down I-35 south to Route 50 which turned into 56 around Dodge City. That took me through several giant wind farms and also the Cimarron National Grassland which is actually very photogenic in the evening.

I followed 56 through Oklahoma for a minute then into New Mexico just as the sun was setting.

Fortunately/unfortunately this sunset set me back around 30 minutes. The intensity and saturation were too much to just drive into. And since I was driving west at 70 MPH, I had the sunset for almost two hours. And then it got dark. Eastern New Mexico has very little light. As a matter of fact, the entire state doesn’t have much ambient night at light outside of Albuquerque. 

Once I did get to Santa Fe though I found the house I would be staying at and met the owner Nancy. She was a friendly as her 60+ reviews on Airbnb said she was and the bed was incredibly comfortable. Just what a guy needs after driving 13 hours, with another 7 staring him down the next day. Nancy told me about a breakfast spot called Tia Sophia right on San Francisco St in the Plaza area of Santa Fe. I ordered the breakfast burrito that was the size of my head and it was outstanding. After 1/2 of that burrito and several cups of coffee, I headed down I-25 to connect with I-40 to cross the rest of New Mexico and get me into Arizona and my spot in the Grand Canyon. 

The road across New Mexico into Arizona has some great views. So good that I stopped a couple of times to dig a little deeper to see what was off on the side roads. On my final excursion down one of these side roads, I parked in turn in area that was blocked by a fence. I wasn’t going in, but there just wasn’t anywhere else to pull off the road. After about two minutes and maybe three photos, I truck came and blocked me in. The gentleman got out, looked at my license plate and told me I was a long way from home. Hmmm, not what you want to hear. I explained that I was a photographer just taking some photos of the views that weren’t as visible from the highway. After going over this and him asking me other questions about what I was doing and why I was in this particular area, he told me it was Indian land and I needed to get off it. I kindly agreed, got in my car and as he backed up to let me out I resumed my trip to Williams Arizona (with only the three photos that didn’t turn out that great - see below).

After two more Dan Carlson Hardcore History podcasts, I’ve landed at the sparse cabin I am staying at for the first night, 30 miles south of the Grand Canyon entrance. I'll be leaving before sunrise to get some photos and find a good camping spot, drop my stuff off and explore. More to come as time and internet connections allow.

Subaru Car Camping - The Setup

With my photo adventure to the Southwest fast approaching, I've been trying to figure out the best setup for camping in my 2007 Subaru Forrester. I did plenty of research, reading article after article about how people were camping in their car. Many people said a 6 foot person just couldn't get comfortable in the back. I did eventually find one guy, who claimed to be 6'4", that had used his Forrester to drive to Yosemite every weekend and camp in it, along with his girlfriend AND dog. His trick, a sleeping platform with a hinged piece at the head that can flip down when you slide your front seats forward. That sounded like it might work. Now to build it. 

My limited carpentry skills along with an incomplete toolset required help. My buddy Jason Gillman came to the rescue. I called him and told him my idea, he then came by my house to get a look at what we would be working with. After a few days of thinking it over, I drove my hopeful future cabin out to his garage (as a professional carpenter, he had everything we needed there).

What we started with:

  • 1 - 6' piece of 1/2" plywood
  • 3 - 6' 1x8's
  • 2 - standard hinges
  • a whole bunch of wood screws

And that is pretty much it. Later on I added some indoor/outdoor carpet to the top but that is a "nice to have" and not a necessity. 

Once the back seats are down, it creates an angle that slopes toward the back. We cut the 1x8's to match that angle so I would be able to lay on a flat surface. This angle created enough room under the platform to store all kinds of things like camp stove, tent, camp chair, etc. and I won't feel like I'm sleeping in a coffin. Then we took the 1/2" plywood and ripped it to fit the width between the wheel wells (that was 37"). At that point we joined the angled 1x8's to the plywood, set it back in the car and (of course) it fit.

Having completed the base, we worked on the custom attachment, the hinged board at the head that would give me the full 6' of sleeping area. We then put the entire setup back in the car. When I moved the seats up, we flipped the extra length over and resting on the console, you guessed it, it fit perfectly. 

All the credit goes to Jason on this one. I would still be cutting and going back to the hardware store again and again if it wasn't for his help. I hope anyone else thinking about doing something like this can use any of these plans. In my research I saw nearly every possible car converted into a camper, it can be done. 

So 2015 here I come. One step closer to getting on with this adventure. 

Sultans Bakery

There is a new bakery that has opened it's doors on 39th Street by the name of Sultan's and it is owned by my friend Shero Alloush. Him and I have worked together at VML for almost four years and if you know him, you know his attention to detail and work ethic are unrivaled. This bakery is no exception. Him, his wife Nicole and his cousin Ali are baking goods that are just as good to look at as they are to eat. He told me in Syria where he is from, "you eat with your eyes first."

I was lucky enough to take a few pictures for them to put on their website. I am not a professional food photographer but the texture and styling of the pastries they are producing are hard to make look bad. The quality and care they put in to each of these items are apparent. This was actually really fun to photograph. I love when a person puts their heart into what they are doing. You can see Ali's artistic side just looking at Bennarain and Warbat.

The list is long, and you won't have heard of a lot of items, but I can assure you, you can't go wrong with any of it. These items range from a Haresa to Noga to Baklava (traditional and chocolate) and on and on.

I couldn't be happier that Sultan's opened in my neighborhood. If you walk by and see someone in the window taking photos of the pastries then eating them, say hi, it's probably me.