Life as we all know is filled with unexpected yet sometimes welcome and sometimes horrible surprises. Sometimes these surprises really aren’t surprises but rather small detours off of our original paths. I think perhaps some of the best advice I’ve ever been given was given in a rather informal way by a dear friend John Ryan.
About a week ago I decided to join my friend Lauren and her father up in Glenwood Springs in order to hike to Hanging Lake.
This 156mi detour seemed to sum up and answer exactly the kind of questions I’ve been dealing with for the last two months. I left on this trip for no clear reason besides to change things up and learn a little bit about myself. And in doing so I have become occupied by several other aspects of solitary travel and adventure. Learning to prioritize the things that are important or necessary over the things that I simply want. When John Ryan texted me after we skied together at Keystone on Monday the 27th, it sounded a little like this,
“It was good seeing you. Don’t lose yourself in the struggle to find yourself
Enjoy it all
Or maybe that’s exactly what you need to do, to lose yourself to find yourself… I don’t know?”
This advice why slightly cliched through the years of adventure seekers, soul searchers, and religious zealots is about as true as anything I have ever heard. I am already relatively aware of what it takes for me to be happy, and I know the things that I love. To run away or deny myself these things in the search for who I am is basically saying that I wasn’t happy with who I was at my core and I wanted to reinvent myself. Well I actually don’t want to reinvent myself. I’m perfectly happy with who I am. Which is someone who loves people, interaction, social dynamics, and challenge. Perseverance, humor, time in the sun, academic pursuit, and emotional connection are other things that I also value very highly in myself . Among other personal qualities, these are the ones that I find define me most.
I am not out here to find myself. I know who I am. But I am out here to see what I am capable of. These traits that help to define who I am, like everything, seem to exist in some sort of scaled way, were we all are made up of certain percentages of these traits. I want to know just how I work with these qualities under all sorts of circumstances.
So this past week when I joined Lauren for a hike to Hanging Lake, and then moved on to see my friends John, Jen, and Chris in Silverthorn, and then finally meeting up with Greg Colquitt in Keystone it is because I am acutely aware of who I am. I love people, I love my people. Even though Greg and were not particularly close before I called him I was still welcomed into his place with open arms. That defines my kind of people. Folks who have no better reason to trust someone than because they have given them no reason not to trust them. (Paraphrased from “LIFE” by Keith Richards.)
I’m not trying to find myself. I’m pretty damn comfortable with who I am. If I lose myself it’s to test myself. To see how far those qualities that I use to define myself run. And if I do discover more to who I am that is excellent and welcome side effect of adventure.
But sometimes an adventure doesn’t have to have a focus, it doesn’t have to be about finding, discovering, or even pushing anything. It can be pure and utter fun.
As you know, I’m James Hansen and I’m having a blast!
Also did you know that Colquitt is an Irish name? I had no idea.
“The fire. The odor of burning juniper is the sweetest fragrance on the face of the earth, in my honest judgment; I doubt if all the smoking censers of Dante’s paradise could equal it. One breath of juniper smoke, like the perfume of sagebrush after rain, evokes in magical catalysis, like certain music, the space and light and clarity and piercing strangeness of the American West. Long may it burn.”
Edward Abbey “Desert Solitaire”
A strange thing to be looking at the white and blue light of the webpage while listening to the wind in cottonwood trees. How strange to hear the click-clack of the keyboard keys paired with the snaps of the fire. The darkness pairs well with my fire and my van is making for an excellent wind shield, while still letting me get my fill in of wood smoke. A fire, much like water on a hot day, has become a nightly necessity for me on the road. Each time I’ve bent to make one my technique has changed, usually ever so subtly. I’ll change some minuet detail, only one thing will differ from the nights previous and tonight’s fire, and usually every time the fire burns a little hotter, a little longer, and starts about 10x faster.
Today was really quite the quiet day for me, had a bit of a down day yesterday, and so today I kind of kept the trend alive, went for a hike down Hunter Canyon about 7.5mi down Kane Creek Rd. I followed up my six miles with two Johnnies IPAs from some joint in town. And straight to camp for me. Once at camp I proceeded to eat two large sandwiches and enjoy one large chocolate chip cookie. Now, this oh so relaxing day comes after about four days of hanging out with a crew of kids from SLC. The crew, made in part by a one eyed counter part, welcomed me into their midst, shared their beer, their food, and their adventures. I even picked up a few new ideas as far as living in my car goes.
One such idea was a larger propane tank with an adapter for my Coleman stove, which ran me just about $75. Upon purchasing said new attachments for my stove I was eager to cook dinner that night to say the least. Almost as soon as I had parked at camp for the night, I was out and setting up my kitchen. In my haste, I dropped my stove. Not a large drop, just a small slide from the table seat to the ground, a distance of about 1.5 feet. Brushing the dust off the green and already scratched and dirtied exterior of my proven tough stove, I thought nothing of it. Setting up my stove with new accessories for the first time proved to be a bit of a battle however.
The first issue I ran into… I didn’t have the tools I needed to attach the adapter to the tank. It required a wrench, which I conveniently left at my sister’s house. But I was determined to cook and to cook with my new rig! So like any good person would, I jimmy-rigged the fuck out of it! Taking a large climbing hex, an old one I had found in a rock face and been using as a review mirror decorator… I took several large pieces of cord and shoved it into the corners of the hex. Placing the adapter in just the right way, I was able to create a tight enough hold on the bolt of the adapter to turn the hex with the cord and tighten the bolt sufficiently. Proud of myself for my resourcefulness, I quickly felt my elation fading as the stove would not lite. There was not the sound of gas nor the smell of propane.
Before I could do much else besides letting out an aggravated sigh, some dude around my age came looking for a lighter to solve his own stove related issues. Upon hear my predicament he offered up a small propane tank to test the stove to rule out the propane system. I quickly agreed. When Matt, as I later learned he was called, returned with my lighter, he held the propane tank as promised, and as expected it didn’t help. My stove was indeed broken from its tiny fall. But alas! All my tools are back in Mancos with my sister. So no hope of fixing it tonight. So I’m eating cold cuts and cheese dipped in Dijon mustard. But hey at least I have a fire.
I was recently taunted by a great friend of mine, “Find something beautiful outside of Utah, you son of a bitch.” In addition to Axel’s barrage of motivational comments I’ve also been reading a fair number of outdoor odysseys were more often than not protagonist die in pursuit of an ideal nature, an ideal man, an ideal world. In the case of Chris McCandless whose tale is told by Jon Krakauer’s, “Into the Wild” 1996, or the story of Everett Ruess, both these young explorers and adventures went in search of something much larger than themselves in the natural world. Both of them were well read and overall well educated by my standards. These to vagabonds if you will, also seemingly had a knack for people, however at the same time there seemed to broud in them a deep disgust for the majority of people who walk the earth. The two men mentioned above specifically travel to some of the, at the time, wildest places in America, where ultimately they die, and tragically usually with having made a realization that what they want to be happy is companionship, people.
I’m sitting in the public library in Moab, Utah typing this collage of thoughts, knowing full well that perhaps the single most important thing to me is human interaction. However, I’m on my present adventure in search of isolation. To be removed from the comforts of other people. I’ve spent several weeks with my dad and my younger brother and sister. A few more weeks were spent with my older sister in Mancos, Colorado. I’ve reconnected with my family in a way I did not think possible six months ago. Which is interesting considering the pretense for the trip. I’ve now also spent about five days road tripping with a few friends and have arranged to meet more friends here in Moab for random fun for the next few days. While looking to get away, I find myself desperately seeking out human interaction.
But this idea of human interaction has been embodied for me in several different ways, I’m reading more now than I ever have. I’m soaking up everything thing I come into contact with. Currently I’m listening to Keith Richards memoir. Even though I may never know, speak, or even see with my own eyes Keith Richards, the connection I find myself developing to such a legend is strange. But it’s this connection that then pushes me to continue to explore my own musical goals. There is almost a dialogue between the experiences of someone who came before and the pursuits of my life. It is in this pho dialogue that solitude goes from hard to deal with, to being equally as pleasurable as working a crowded bar or having dinner with my family.
In America today it is rare to say the least to find true wilderness. Which as a young man in search of wilderness is slightly discouraging. There are very few places left unexplored, there are very few sites left unseen. However, I’m not seeking something that has never been seen, I’m not looking to climb the routes that no one has climbed, I’m not in search of anything really beside to better understand myself. Of course I’m looking for adventure! Of course I want to discover something incredible, but ambition has many forms.
We all learn who we are through different channels. Often times it is through our dedication to one specific pursuit that allows us to finally grasp at the many intricacies of who we really are. In the words of professional snowboarder Travis Rice,
“Experiencing the world through second hand information isn’t enough. If we want authenticity we have to initiate it. We will never know our full potential unless we push ourselves to find it. It’s this self-discovery that inevitably takes us to the wildest places on earth.”
And sometimes the wildest places are often times just wild to us. Go find your wild, find yourself. Currently I’m finding me.
Alright world! Its January 28, 2017 and James here is itching for some adventure! Its basically been a full month of indulgences: seeing great people, singing memorable songs, eating the tastiest of treats, sleeping more than any man, woman or child should! Needless to say I’m well rested and quite energized and ready for some real road time.
So quick updates…
I bought a mini van. It’s a 2005 Toyota Sienna mini van and its stocked up with a new bed, all my gear, and a few extra sweet perks. The van was sold to me by the gracious Ray Smead who went out and bought a 2006 Sienna with half the miles on it the day after he sold me his 05’. Guess it goes to show the van is a badass way to go. So far it has seen me through from Boulder to Salt Lake City. And from Salt Lake to Mancos, Colorado where my older sister Alys lives. Currently I am posted up in Mancos and setting up a bit of a home base where I can plan and organize from.
It’s good to know that the van that I bought is in fact deer resistant up to at least one impact, seeing as it struck one poor ungulate a few years back and still manages just fine.
It’s large enough to accommodate both me and at least one guest. I’m sure we could stuff a few more in beside though.
It gets better overall gas mileage than my Subaru did.
It has an unreal turning radius.
I can change into whatever gear I need to comfortably in the back space.
It’s strangely kinda has a cool counter culture vibe to it. Dirt bag lifestyle in a soccer mom rig. (who’da thought?)
It carries a kayak. ( I picked up a kayak, thanks Ed.)
It can accommodate my bike rack. (Thanks u-haul.)
It can double as a party van. (Shout out to my new friends in SLC Isabella and Maya. Isabella has one eye by the way, bumping her to the top 10 coolest people that I know. (I’ll let you all speculate whether or not you’ve been bumped off the list, but considering the eye thing is a selling point, Peter LaBlanc you’re still firmly in.))
So the snowboarding gear got organized today, starting tomorrow, Monday the 30th, I will begin some scouting hikes in order to find some backcountry lines in the area. I’ve been doing a little bit of reading and have a few really great starting places. Might as well enjoy the snow while I have it! Chicken Creek is my first pick for tomorrow.
So far from my rather slow start to this trip the one thing I’m learning is that I really don’t need a lot to be happy. Just a few good people, who you can literally meet anywhere, some ambition, a weird amount of motivation, coffee, and a van. Clothes and gear are cool and make things easier but just not really 100% necessary to living a great life. i.e. spend more time naked.
Here is a few pictures of the van cause why the fuck not…
Alright so totaling my Subaru Forester has turned out to be one of the biggest pains I’ve dealt with in a while, but it also happens to be a blessing is disguise. The Forester was a totally rock’in car, but because I wrecked it I got an even better ride and a couple extra bucks for the road…
Right after hitting a deer with great velocity and splattering the poor animal all over I-80, I was hell bent on getting my Subaru repaired and back on the road, well after the news came back that it was totaled I was a wee bit upset. The forester represented to me a massive financial investment in addition to symbolizing a freedom I’d only come to know while having a car. With the Subaru I had the ability to travel anywhere, do anything. I could adventure far and wide explore new places, meet new people, gain a larger appreciation for the world, specifically the natural world around me.
The Subaru spawned and facilitated a variety of adventures from: road tripping, and tripping booms in the northern forests of Arizona outside of Prescott. On this trip I also brought my two bikes and did some excellent trail rides in addition to riding a pretty badass BMX track in Durango, Colorado. That trip was just around 1,700 miles total. I had numerous ventures just north of Boulder to a place called Vedauwoo just south of Laramie, WY. Here I’d scramble giant boulders, cook bacon, and sleep under an amazing array of stars. It was also here that I’d have one of the sketchier moments of 2015.
It was early February in 2015 and myself, Tyson White, and Zewek Kilonoski drove about two hours to Vedauwoo to go shooting. It was still winter and we knew the area had recently been snowed on so we decided to take Zewek’s Jeep Patriot. The drive up was quick and painless, the sky was mostly overcast making the day feel colder than it was. We arrived at Vedauwoo right around 11:30 in the morning to find that most of the back woods 4×4 trails were covered by deep snowdrifts. Well being the arrogant asses that we are, we decided to push on to a back corner of the recreation area. Within about 300 yards of leaving pavement we got stuck. We had no shovels, no real snow gear, and no change of or back up clothing. Naturally we dug ourselves out with our hands and continued on our way, because why turn back? The time was just approaching 1:00pm. We finally snaked our way through a maze of snow drifts frozen puddles to our own personal shooting range. It was here we let hell loose for a few minutes and had an absolute blast, blasting clay pigeons and other assorted items. 3:00pm approached and we began to realize that if we did not head back soon we’d be driving back to the main road in the dark and avoiding the drifts had been hard enough in the light of day. So promptly turning back toward paved roads our misfortune started. Gunning the Jeep through small drifts was not only easy but fun, the issue with something like this though is that it builds confidence. Zewek, who was behind the wheel, gunned it into a drift that we had driven through on our way to shoot earlier that day, not only did we not make it through the drift, but it also became perfectly apparent that we would not be digging ourselves out of this one. Even if we had had shovels. The car was buried up past the front axle with some snow covering the hood the vehicle. We immediately knew that we were in trouble. Each of us jumped into emergency mode, first and foremost calling and notifying a few of our friends of our location, as well as our current situation and status. One of the people we called happened to be my boss at the time a fellow by the name of John Ryan. John had survived around four nights in the backcountry of Keystone after getting lost while skiing out of bounds, John’s story is impressive but should be told by him. When John heard of our situation he kind of gave us one of those laugh snorts, where it was clear he was thinking, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me?!” John gave us a few short words of inspiration and told us not to worry then proceeded to tell us that he could not come get us, disappointment. But understandable the guy has a kid. So we called around for a few more minutes trying to raise on of our friends from nearby Fort Collins, Colorado but alas no luck. Realizing that staying with Jeep was not really an option as we had no food, no water, no warmer clothes we decided to walk out to the freeway to try for a ride and maintain better cell service. As soon as we conceived the plan of hitching a ride we had to veto it, realizing that we were three grown men carrying five guns, no stranger would pick us up. We walked to the freeway anyway hoping to run into someone with a better 4×4 vehicle who might be willing to pull us out.
The three of us trying to find another truck to pull us out of the snow bank.
On the way in we had seen around five or six other cars each of which was either a jeep or larger burly looking truck. None of these cars remained. In fact walking three miles back towards the road in the snow in our tennis shoes we didn’t see a single other person. Just the headlights of the cars on the freeway heading back towards Cheyanne. It was around 6pm when we finally got ahold of one of our friends, Parry, who agreed to come and get us, only issue was, she was over 4 hours away. After the relief of knowing we had a way out of our situation, we began the waiting game. We continued our trek to the freeway posting up in the tunnel that cut under the road. It was here we waited and fantasied about a heater for just around five and a half hours. Right around 11pm that night Parry found us shivering, but otherwise just fine, minus the fact that we were leaving Zewek’s jeep in the middle of nowhere. Focusing on getting home and warming up we but the loss of the jeep out of our mind temporarily. It wasn’t until four cups of coffee and one amazing nights sleep later when wheels started turning to recover the entrenched jeep.
Making a few phone calls I was able to arrange to borrow a Toyota 4Runner from an old friend of mine the next Saturday and just like that Zewek and I were head north again this time to retrieve his car. Upon arriving in Vedauwoo we immediately noticed the reduced amount of snow coverage and grew suddenly more optimistic about or recovery mission. That was until we saw that the jeep was still very much so stuck. The warmth from the sun heating up the metal of the car, radiating out it made the snow around the jeep melt and allowed the jeep to sink deeper into the drift. On top of that the temperatures were still dropping well below freezing at night and so the jeep was now trapped in a frozen drift of ice. Somehow still feeling optimistic, we proceeded to begin cracking and breaking the icy ring entombing the jeep. After removing a sizeable swath from in front of the jeep we hooked up a tow strap to the chassis of the jeep and to the tow point of the 4Runner and slowly started to pull the jeep out, or so we thought. The tow strap we were using snapped. The end of the strap whipped forward and through the open hatch of the 4Runner smacking the headrest of the driver’s seat four inches ways from my face. The jeep had moved less than an inch. Our hopes were immediately dashed. We could probably have dug the vehicle out entirely by hand but that was not something we really wanted to do. And just at our lowest moment, a few rednecks mobbed by us on a variety pack of 4×4 toys. Seeing the jeep in such a deep hole the group of four decide to stop and help us out. Pulling out their own tow straps, and helping to shovel an even wider path in front of the jeep we tried again to pull the jeep from its frozen grave. This time to wild success. Every time I go back to Vedauwoo I think of this story, and every time I have a car adventure I remember to pack the right gear to get myself out of any hole, whether figurative or literal.
So that was a bit of a tangent as this is supposed to be more of a eulogy for the Forester… so I’ll carry on my reminiscing. The Subaru got me to Salt Lake City and Durango on more than one occasion.
It traveled to Moab about three times. It carried bikes, climbing gear, and often times found itself topped with a canoe for water adventures on the reservoirs of the Front Range. The back of the Forester became a home away from home, a place I’d often sleep if the weather or road conditions became to extreme while driving I-70 to Summit county. The forester pulled itself up rocky embankments on the Switzerland Trail, and crawled down slick rock outside of Escalante. It brought me safely home for just over two years. Then I exploded a deer with it. What a way to end an era.
But the era of adventures and life on the road is merely beginning. A dear friend of mine just sold me his 2005 Toyota Sienna minivan, helped me build a bed, and restored my dream of being on the road for the next few months.
My names James Hansen and the next time you hear from me this sucker should be packed and ready to roll!
One interesting experience after another. I guess that’s why they say make big choices on an empty stomach. Over the last 24 hours I’ve had one of the most annoying, inconvenient and rather hilarious experiences I’ve ever had while trying to fly. But allow me to back track ever so slightly in order to properly bring you up to speed.
Christmas Eve 2016 I hit a deer.
Christmas Day drunk in a hotel.
New Years Eve I stayed in for the first time in 5 years. (Been bartending the last 5)
Three dentist appointments.
One visit to the ocularist, the guy who made my eye.
Four breakfasts out on the town.
A few late nights.
Insurance company issues.
A check from the insurance company.
No fucking luck.
Raymo (Basically my grandpa) calls to say he’ll sell me his van.
Bought a ticket back to Denver.
Issue after issue arises with the flight making for a comedy of errors.
So what has actually happened here? Well on January 6th a bought an airline ticket through a third party reservation system called CheapoAir, they have lived up to their name. It has been mess. My flight which was originally scheduled for take off at 5:05pm on Monday, January 12th was canceled due to weather conditions here in Moab, Utah where I’m typing this silly little piece. Normal enough, flights get canceled all the time. So I head home and try to reschedule my flight. However, not a single person with CheapoAir can help me reschedule my flight. After about the first 45 minutes of calling, “Customer Service Professionals”, their words not mine, and getting placed on hold for over two hours, I decided to call the airline itself. Which after cutting some red tape and arguing for an additional 30min was more than accommodating.
But now I’m stuck in Moab. As of Monday night I was able to get my flight changed to 2pm the following day, today which is Tuesday. The plane took off on time, one small pit stop in Moab and then on to Denver right? Wrong. The flight that I had been rescheduled for was a round trip Salt Lake to Moab and back to Salt Lake, just not even remotely close to what I needed. After about another 30min of jumping hoops, some of which were on fire I might add, I had a spot secured on a PC-12 aircraft
at 6:15 from Moab to Denver. That means I only have three more hours in Moab, I can work with that.
Three hours and thirty minutes later…
The plane that was supposed to be back 30minutes ago never made it back. I doubt that it has even taken off from SLC airport. Which means I’m stuck in Moab for the night. I’m not sure what I’m gonna do yet. Might call Kari (a friend of mine I think still lives here), might just check into a hotel and post up for the night until a plane can make it here to get me to Denver. Kinda an unreal amount of bull shit if I’m gonna be honest. I should have gotten back on the plane to SLC and bought a flight from Southwest or some larger company. To say the least flying with a small airliner like Boutique is kinda fun, but so not worth the hours of waiting about I’ve had to do. It kinda feels like that movie where the guy gets stuck in the airport terminal for a few weeks and he just lives outta the terminal for a while. That being said, my terminal is a series of hangers, some shady looking tarmac, a few disgruntled old pilots, and a exceptionally loud Coke machine. I’m not spending the night here, or shaving in the sink, but the idea is still amusing. Its super quiet here, no one is behind any of the work desks, the one attendant has kept himself in his office, I’m pretty sure he is annoyed as fuck with me for whatever reason. The little gift shop for RedTail Air Adventures is the only thing lit up by the river of fluorescent light that moves in a straight line over the ceiling. Well that and the god damn Coke machine. Really I’m not sure if my flights been called off yet, I’m just assuming as much because it’s 30 minutes past when it was supposed to land. That being said every sound I hear I expect to be the annoyed clerk coming to tell me to find a hotel for the night. Load of bullshit. What a couple of days its been flying with this company.
First radio chatter I’ve heard in a long time, no news of my flight though. Still just posted up typing to save my mind from wandering. It’s amazing how quickly one gets annoyed, anxious, and angry when things don’t happen as efficiently as we are used to them happening in our modern society. So far, this trip I’d say the most important thing I am learning is patients. When I hit the deer, I was pissed because it was changing my plans, when this flight mess started I was upset because again it’s adversely affecting my plans. That being said I have no real reason to be upset. I’m alive and well. I have money enough to deal with my situation. I am stuck in one of my all time favorite places, I have friends here, I am currently warm and dry. I am annoyed that I am not back in Boulder with Tyson, or back in SLC, with my fa
mily. But I am also far from actually upset. I guess its all part of adventuring. The small aircraft thing though, that’s an immediate correction to my agenda next time. Never again. They just can’t fly through shit weather. Which is something that actually bothers the piss outta me.
I think the reason the annoyed clerk hasn’t come to give me any details about the plane is he doesn’t want to give me the news that I am not gonna make it to Denver tonight. Which is honestly just fine with me. But I would like to start setting up other accommodations for myself.
We will see what happens. Gonna check out on a movie for a minute. Oh shit… I hear a prop plane. Sounds like my flight just landed! All that ranting for not. Let me see if I make it to Denver now…. Fingers crossed. This is James signing off!
One day later…
Heyyyyoooo! I’m back in Boulder! Tyson snagged me from DIA last night and after all my fretting. That being said it is really great to be back in Boulder. So big news of the day, I bought a 2005 Toyota Sienna mini van! Retrofitted with a bed, removed the seats, this thing is gonna be one hell of a home for the next few months! I’m pretty stoked to get back on the road, but depending on weather I’ll probably end up staying in Boulder till after the weekend. Alright well, I’ve got a beer to finish and a dog to scratch behind the ears…
So flashing back to April 16th, 2013 I was 22 years old, recently started college at CU Boulder, and convinced the only thing I needed in life was a breath of fresh air and a break from reality. It has been three years since I felt that initial urge to ditch the so felt monotony of my everyday existence and chase something a little more meaningful, and I’m proud to say that I finally took a step away from my day to day comfortable, unchanging lifestyle and I jumped into something with a little more risk.
Since 2010 I have held six different jobs, working approximately 15,685 hours, 392 weeks, which is 7.54 years of work in just six years. that’s 1.5 years of working two full time jobs. Aaaannd don’t forget that during these last six years I have have been enrolled in approximately 88 credit hours at two different academic institutions. Needless to say that the exhaustion that I thought I felt in 2013 was lame and has since paled in comparison to what I am calling exhaustion now. But this is not a place for me to complain, just to take stock of where I am coming from. These last six years have enabled me to live thus far debt free, with a car that I purchased almost entirely in cash, and to live an extremely comfortable life. I’ve learned several different skills, meet hundreds of people, and have had thousands of experiences that are all fitting of their own pages and stories.
Just a few random highlights: pulling a man from a burning car in 2011, cutting the tip of my ring finger off in 2012, starting at CU Boulder, renting my very own place for the very first time, loosing my aunt, and falling in love. In 2013 I became a server, bought a car, failed a chemistry class, and realized how much I loved the desert. By 2014 I was most adeptly described as sophmorish, I squandered and partied and was frivolous with no regard to myself or others, I also learned what responsibility to myself actual meant, I became a bartender, worked harder than I’d ever worked. By 2015 I was entering a rhythm and a pattern of success and comfort I had money, time, energy, and was increasingly doing and living with a luxurious style, from visiting friends in different states to spending almost every weekend in the backcountry hiking, exploring, and living well. By the end of that year however, I began to itch again and this time for something more than a break. I’d become accustomed to the life in which I worked hard and played harder, but working as a bartender a job I’d come to love so much no longer held the same appeal to me that it once did. I decided to go back to school starting in January 2016. Six credit hours in the spring turned in 15 in the fall, and my work load never changed but my lifestyle of living and loving in the outdoors took a dramatic hit. By September of 2016 I was set on leaving and doing something completely different come 2017.
I cycled through several different plans and finally settled on the Western United States Road Trip Extraordinaire that I started five days ago on December 24th. Well, on day one of this proposed five month road trip I hit a deer and totaled my car. And just like that I’m stuck only 525 miles from my starting point. That’s about an eight hour drive. I hit the deer just about 40 mi southeast of Evanston, WY which in turn is only about 79 mi away from my father’s house in SLC, UT. At about 6:15pm MST, traveling at about 74 mph in the right lane of interstate-80, I collided with a yearling deer crossing from the right side of the road to the left. With so little reaction time I was unable to comprehend what was happening and thus unable to make any stupid decisions that would have worsened my situation significantly. Instead, after having the airbag gently explode in my face and slowing to a stop on the shoulder of the road realized that I had just hit a deer and was now on a very different type of adventure than I had anticipated.
Before I’m able to take any real action, the sound of my car horn ringing ceaselessly in the frozen night air, the fog lights of a truck light up my stunned face. Reaching into the back of my overly packed Forester I reach for my down jacket just as a woman from the truck now parked behind me starts to ask if I am okay. Angela and Trevor. These two saw the deer run out in front of my car, saw me hit the poor creature, and ran to my aid when I was fumbling around in the dark for a jacket and a headlamp. Together Trevor and I were able to get the hood of my car open and wrench the horn fuse from its housing successfully creating a silence only broken by the engines and rattling chain-linkages of passing 18 wheelers.
The blood and guts on the driver’s side of my little white Subaru were still steaming, the airbag still smoking, Trevor and Angela’s child in her car seat still sleeping silently as the gravity of my situation seemed to come down on my shoulders. Before I really know what is happening, Angela has dialed the number of a towing company from Evanston, WY the next town down the road. The rough sounding man on the other end of the phone says it will be a while and to get comfortable. Of course it will be a while, it is Christmas Eve and the biggest storm of the year is on its way in from the West and the Salt Lake Valley.
I return to the driver’s seat after saying thanks and goodbye to Angela and Trevor, their daughter had woken up. The airbag hanging down from the disemboweled steering wheel and acrid smell of burning synthetic material in the air as the dust and other residue from the airbag settles into my skin. Lights again, this time they flash red and blue, signifying the arrival of Wyoming State Patrol Officer M. Adams. Officer Adams is a man of about 65 years with a crisp white, well groomed mustache and a receding equally as white hairline. After giving me a once over and realizing that I was fine and just shaken, Officer Adams and I returned to his cruiser allowing me to escape from the physical reality of my situation. After properly filing his report of the accident, we took a short drive back about 100 yards to the scene of the accident to see if the deer had remained in the road. However, we discovered that not much actually remained of the deer at all. We found just the head attached to the fore legs, and beyond that just bits and pieces of the animal’s body scattered over about a 25 sq yard area. We returned to my car and waited for Jim, the tow guy who Angela had so readily called for me. Apparently everyone in the area knew him. Apparently everyone in the area were also not strangers to rough and tumble situations. Officer Adams recounted a few for me; from the time a man in a Geo hit a bull moose and it bled to death on his lap, or the time that he himself hit a deer and a drunk man from a local bar offered to finish it off with a hunting knife from his truck. These short stories normalizing my situation, I was able to begin to calm down.
Just in time for Jim. Jim was everything but normal in my experience. Jim was 74 years old with a big gray bushy beard, tanned and weathered facial features, and the smoothest and softest hands I have ever shaken on a man who clearly has toiled laboriously for a living. The size of the tobacco chew in Jim’s lower lip was the size of large egg, and everything he said was muffled and stumped of times incomprehensible. quickly loading the truck with my damaged subaru, carrying my entire life on the back of his flat bed wrecker, Jim drove me 42 mi to the Motel 6 off the first exit in Evanston. It was there that I’d slowly, over the course of 36 hours, come to terms with my situation.
The first night was sleepless. I arrived at about 8:35pm to room 124 the second room in from the the furthest Northwestern point of the cheap brick hotel. The room was a combination of cheap linoleum disguised as hardwood, and cheap rattling appliances. The sound of the freeway clearly audible over the constant harassment from the mini-fridges air compressor. I went in and out of the quiet room several times that night, continuously looking at my poor little car as if it would some how miraculously all be back to normal the next time I looked at it. Laughing hysterically at my situation, desperately trying to see a silver lining in what was quickly turning into the single most disappointing accident of my life. Disappointing because everything was actually fine, all my things were fine, my car was drivable but most likely totaled, more importantly I was fine, Trevor and Angela and their daughter were fine, the deer… well that was pitiful sure. But I was 100% okay. Something that seems to have happened to so many people was taking a toll on me emotionally and physically and I didn’t know how to respond. I felt angry that it had happened to me, then I got mad for feeling selfish knowing that millions of other people had suffered far more severe car wrecks and in the schemes of hiccups this was minor. But the longer that I sat dwelling on why I was so upset the more I realized that I was upset because the car that Bambi and I had just wrecked in tandem represented the fruits of my 15,685 hours of hard work. The car had been my freedom, it was the thing that I was taking my road trip in, it had been my reprieve when I only had two hours between jobs and went for a hike, it had been the single largest physical representation of my success as an individual.
I wish realizing this made me less upset but the truth is that night I stayed awake until 4am periodically wiping away a tear or two from my eyes and choking back my self pity. It wasn’t until the next morning at around 10am that the sense of self pity began to diminish. With the rise of the sun came the instinctual urge for task oriented action that I’ve grown so accustomed to. I went to my car and procured food, clean clothes, and other items for the day. I ripped the broken plastic from the front of the car, and turned over the engine; looking and listening for potentially harmful sights or sounds, there were none. I tied up the dangling wires, removed shards of glass and plastic, pulled the entire front bumper from the two remaining pins holding it in place, tied the wheel wells into place, and tied the hood of the car down. as far as I was concerned I was ready to drive again. That was my plan after all. But on Christmas Day, as much as I wanted to be 80 mi along down the road sitting around a table with my family, the storm that had been brewing in the west was starting to wreak havoc on interstate-80 and my plan of driving the rest of the way to SLC was shot down my mother nature herself.
As many of you know for the last 4.8 years or so I’ve been working at Tahona Tequila Bistro, a tequila bar. And on my last day had been given a bottle of my favorite, Tonala four year extra anejo. Aged for two years in sherry barrels and two years in white american oak, Tonala has a smooth, sweet, oaky taste that to say the least brought me a warm and rather disorienting sensation after I drank half the bottle in about three hours.
I awoke face down on the hotel bed, sweating bullets, with a raging headache, and roaring stocmah. Walking outside to the car in search of more food I began to see the actual humor of my situation. Nothing like 4pm hangover to put things in perspective. I had been on hour seven of a 5 month road trip and had wrecked my car, escaped unscathed, and was stucked due to inclimate weather 80 mi away from my family, which would be the first time all of us would be together in one place in the last two years. But nothing ever goes the way we think it should.
In 25 years of life that has always been one of the most consistent lessons I have learned and relearned. Once we think we have something figured out or mastered, under control, or predicted, planned or otherwise have our thumb on it, life seems to slip away and smack us upside the head as if to say remember don’t get comfortable. My friend Sabine once told me that kids from divorced or homes often times abhore change in their lives. They look for stability and consistency. The truth in my life seems to be that we all seek stability and consistency, which is grand and fine thing to have. It’s incredibly luxurious to not have to stress about where your food is going to come from, where you are going to sleep, how your are going to get to work, how you can mean something to the world. But like any adventure in the beginning stages of any grand journey I must acknowledge that the reason I am leaving is because the stability that meant so much to me, that I spent 7.5 years of working time to build, has become suffocating in its own way. And that while no one wants to hit a deer and total their car, I would rather have to learn to deal with that and any other number of traumatic, inconvenient, destabilizing and morality punishing activities than to stay stagnant and never know what I am capable of.
My name is James Hansen, this is day five of my five month long road trip and as of now I still don’t have a car. But I’m not stopping.