It’s no secret the Internet is in love with campervans, the nomadic life, and the sought-after simplicity of living on the road. It only takes two to four seconds of scrolling to find a #vanlife picture, but there is often very little explanation or any verification if what you’re seeing is actually real. We asked photographer Jeff Clark, who travels around in his customized Sprinter, to document a few of the best rigs and personalities he came across while spending the summer on the California highways. Turns out there is a lot to love. Here, Clark shares a few of his favorite setups and encounters with people who live on the road.
The Ride: 1991 Jeep Comanche 4x4
The Faces: Trevor Gordon is a surfer, brand ambassador, and photographer. Maddie Joyce is an illustrator and designer. They just got married and live in Santa Barbara, California.Dream Destination: They love the Eastern Sierras near Mammoth, California, but the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia take the top spot.Fun Facts: Gordon and Joyce live on a boat in the Santa Barbara harbor, so road tripping and life out of the truck isn’t too far out of the ordinary. The couple is in the process of making a cooking photo book about small alternative kitchens.Their Words: Gordon: “It’s a fun way to travel to places and surf. Plus, it’s better than staying in hotels and is just fun. It’s great to go tent camping but it’s nice to have somewhere to charge things and stay out of the weather. Moving quickly to follow a swell isn’t a bad perk either.”The Ride: 2005 AWD Chevy Astrovan with lift
The Faces: Lindsey Tjian is a model and climber. Joe Kinder is a professional climber. Fynn is their dog.Dream Destination: “The desert Southwest has been a major destination for us and this van. Driving on uncharted roads in the desert and up mountain passes I feel like we have really put it to the test. There are some limitations on the super rugged roads, but I would say 90 percent of the time it can handle it.”Fun Facts: The Astrovan has a small lift, which allows the couple to treat the rig like a truck and get some places other vans can’t. They cook outside on a collapsable table and chairs, use a cooler to keep food fresh, and park it wherever they feel comfortable.Their Words: Kinder: “The past two years I've been toying with the idea of upgrading. I need the off-road capabilities of a truck and the livable/comfort of an RV. When I heard Mercedes was coming out with the 4x4 Sprinter my head spun and the seed was planted. To build one of those out would be the optimal dream van, I think. Functional, diesel, off-road-ready, lifted, new, and cool looking. Plus you can stand up in the thing! I cannot wait until this fall, I daydream about us rolling around the desert exploring in total style and comfort. From a rattly and squeaky Astro Van to a Mercedes 4x4 Sprinter!”The Ride: Oryx road bike, plus a trailer.
The Face: Clint Haley, 22, from Tofino, BC.Dream Destination: “Eureka, California, is my favorite place because they gave me this tattoo for free on the 4th of July.”Fun Facts: Haley is from Tofino, British Columbia, and was riding down the coast after his road trip partner was called in to be a witness on a criminal case. His friend jokingly told him to get on a bike and that he’d meet him on the road with an RV when the case was settled. Haley did it, and 22 days and 1,000 miles later, he was in Mendocino and still going.His Words: “As soon as I crossed the border into California, I could tie my hair into a man bun.”The Ride: Volkswagen Westfalia
The Face: Kirt Fitzpatrick, programmer from San FranciscoDream Destination: Mendocino, California because of the riding and camping. Fitzpatrick bought the van to travel and race cyclocross on the East Coast and ended up driving it all around the country racing, surfing, and cruising on his mountain bike.
Fun Facts: The van has 260,000 miles on the original engine, which has never been replaced.His Words: “Building out a campervan to me isn't about trying to copy a commercial camper, it's about enabling a lifestyle. The van I'm building out now is specific to my Northern California life. I tore the AC unit out and sold it to give me room to mount a bike and surfboard inside and lock them. The size of a Vanagon is perfect for city living, a few inches larger in any dimension and it wouldn't fit into my tight San Francisco garage. It's my daily driver and my weekend road trip vehicle at the same time. It's setup for short trips mostly.”
“The best thing about the van is the shower, by a mile. I added a big water tank and spray hose to it a few years ago to deal with Diego (dog) when he rolls in a dead seal or runs through poison oak. It's my shower after bike races and after a morning surf before heading to work. The van lets me squeeze more in.”The Ride: 2011 Toyota Tacoma
The Face: David Ramirez, firefighter from Shaver Lake, California.Dream Destination: Anywhere there are waves.
His Words: “Big Sur looked like the best swell so I decided to come down and get some surf in.”Photographer Jeff Clark’s very own Sprinter, which he uses often as home base for rides and photo shoots around the country.Follow Clark at @jeffclarkphotographs or maybe you’ll run into him on the road.Not Now
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