I woke up late one evening to the quiet sounds of night on the other side of the bus and peered through the curtains to find a million stars staring back at me. Leo was fast asleep, but the nighttime and I are old friends and I felt in good company, so I stayed up for quite some time just thinking about life and how we ended up in a VW bus sleeping between the San Juan mountains, their dark silhouettes guarding us as we slept. I thought about all the lessons our bus has taught us, and how I am sure there are endless more to learn. I reached my hand up and pressed it softly against the wood lining of our ceiling, and I remembered how it was the first detail I noticed the day we found our bus. I thought about how fast life passes by, and how I want to slow everything down and savor every bite, but most the time that feels impossible. I thought about the stars and my place in this big universe, and I wondered if everything is truly connected, or really not at all. I wondered if we were exactly where we were supposed to be, in a big orange bus somewhere in the mountains after a summer of running our own business and working so hard, or if it was all random and by chance. I looked out at the stars one more time and everything felt simple and complicated all at once. As I fell back into my dreams, I thought about how Leo was going to brew coffee in the percolator the next morning, and I couldn't wait to wake up to the smell of it.
It was in the late summer of 2018 when we set out on our first big journey in our VW bus that we've lovingly restored.
We traveled over 800 miles through Colorado, from north to south and a little ways west. We became friends with the springs in our seats that have yet to be redone, and we mastered the art of flipping our bench seat into the bed it becomes. We wonder all the time where our bus has been, what roads it has already driven, whose hands spun the stirring wheel before us. We are story collectors, and the story of our bus before us remains a mystery as we write our own in orange. We climbed the last of summer winds to the summit of Monarch Pass, where rain turned to snow as we sat on the continental divide. We rushed past fields of wildflowers, calling out to them that winter is near. And all along we felt it--the pulse of the bus, beating fast, against roads it was meant to wander.
There's a lot of time to wonder when you are out on winding roads, sometimes the only vehicle for miles and miles, and it feels like it's all so good for the soul. Like so many, we get tired of the busyness of life and yearn for simpler times. It's the easiest thing-- getting caught up in the busy, but at our core we believe it's the simple things that are vital. Our bus somehow always breaks us back down to our core and reminds us that the simpleness we seek is actually all around us, waiting to be found again.
We were gone for five days, and with each mile we drove our daily world and routine melted slowly away in the rear view mirrors, and all we were left with was ourselves, our bus, and the road ahead. There's a peacefulness that drapes itself around us as soon as we sit in the front seats of our bus, feeling as if our noses may touch the windshield so close.
We cruised along at our max speed of 55 mph, drowning in the road noise finding its way through every cracked seal we have yet to replace.
We spent our first night at an RV park we booked ahead of time in Buena Vista, CO after eating pizza for dinner at a gas station on the way because we were too tired to pull anything from our cooler. We were the last to arrive and pulled into our spot, not so quietly, in our bus that likes to make itself known, and we quickly brushed our teeth in their bathroom and then set up camp. We settled in for the night in our cozy bed as the mountain air seeped in slowly through the open bay windows and the quiet rocked us to sleep.
We continued south the next morning, hopeful to find a spot at the Ampitheater campground in Ouray, CO, and somehow we got there right in time and got the last spot available after someone had to leave unexpectedly. It was so fulfilling being on the road after all the work we’ve poured into the bus. When you’re close to tears in a cold garage in the middle of winter, trying to replace flooring and having to custom cut each piece, you wonder what the hell you’re doing and why. Then time rushes by and you’re nestled in a group of old pine trees and aspens at a lucky campsite, sitting on the floor you installed with your own hands, reading a book while the sun sets—and you remember your why. Whatever it is you're working on now, keep going. Take those tiny steps that can feel so insignificant and can break you down and make you question it all. You are not alone, we have been there. We still are there. You will look at these photos and see the day, the moment, that they were taken-- but there is a longer story to it all and every step took perseverance. Take those steps, because it's the only way you will get to the place you have painted in your mind. It's the only way you will achieve all you wish to, and time is not going to stop--so you must run along with it. What's your orange bus? What are you doing to get it on the road? You will thank yourself when you wake up in the wild.
The sun filtered in through our back window in the morning, waking us early in the most natural way. We stayed under the warm covers for a bit, letting the sunshine warm our orange home. After a homemade breakfast in the woods with the best view you can have over coffee, we left Ouray to finish our journey south to Telluride and Rico, CO where we met with my sister and her family.
There are a lot of places in Colorado that we love, but the beauty in this area is unrivaled, and we stopped a million times to get out and stare at the mountains we have seen so many times that still take our breath away. One of our favorite drives is the one between Telluride and Rico, CO. You either know what we mean, or you will one day when you take it yourself.
Our niece spent several days wandering with us and somewhere around 8,000 feet above sea level, we let her be the first to climb the ladder on the back of the bus since we've owned it. That lucky girl! We would probably cave in the roof if we tried this pose. We made up a game with our favorite Road Atlas (adventure edition, of course!)--that we carry everywhere-- to keep her entertained and ran through grassy fields to stretch our legs along the way.
When your top speed is 55, all the trees are less of a blur and through the windows of our bus, the world becomes more magical---I swear. Are the trees out your windows a splash of green, or can you see their peeling bark and the way their leaves each blow a different way in the wind?
On the way home we decided on the fly to drive through the pouring rain to Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Park, and we highly recommend this Colorado gem. It's a steep-walled gorge carved through rock of the Gunnison River, and it's easy to forget what state you're in and think you're standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon. We drove the South Rim Road and got out at several stopping points to run through the rain and stand at the edge, and laughed uncontrollably when the wind almost pulled the umbrella backwards out of Leo's hand. We'll go back one day to do some hiking and camping there. I won't show you all our photos because you should just go and be amazed, like we were.
There is no heat in our bus, but that item on the to-do list got prioritized after we spent time in the bitter cold getting home! We went through a big storm on Monarch Pass and had to bundle up in all of our layers and blankets to stay warm, with a long stop for coffee at the top and hot Chinese food as soon as we arrived at the bottom! We tried to smile the entire time and felt proud of our bus for making it through rain + snow with such grace. We didn't even get worked up when the sunroof started leaking on my head and then poured ice cold rainwater down my back. What are you going to do when you just can't control it? You must carry on, mate!
We couldn't find a place to stay in Gunnison because we hadn't expected to stop there for the night, but we were two little icicles after the long, cold day of driving and decided to get some rest. We stealthily found a spot on the Western Colorado University campus (thanks guys!) and made it look like we were just another vehicle parked for the night as we set up camp and skipped brushing our teeth so we could stay undercover. The next morning there were still raindrops sliding down the windows and the sun was hiding behind the clouds, so we rolled out and brushed our teeth at a McDonalds nearby. We always keep it classy, folks. I bet you're thinking about the weirdest place you've brushed your teeth now, and here's betting it's weirder than that.
After five days wandering through southwest Colorado, the only thing that called us home was a warm shower. We spent the 400 miles back planning, joking, laughing, and wishing about spending a longer time on the road. We don’t have immediate plans to head out, and I don’t know if we will anytime soon. All I know is when I looked out of my apartment window in the middle of the night the following week, I couldn’t see the stars at all. So we'll be holding onto the orange magic from our road trip while we save up gas money for the next one and work on some projects, like the installation of a heater. Thank you for reading some snippets from our trip, we are happy to have you along as we seek wild adventure and build our business. We hope you feel inspired. If you loved reading this and want to see a little more from our trip, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to watch a short video we put together from it.
S T A Y WILD,
Iliana + Leo