Armchair 2 Adventure: It Started when I Got Lost.

During the summer, I took a much needed vacation across America in a camper van. Along the way various things happened – some introspective, some not. Here’s a snippet.

I was heading south on I-405. Which was fine, except I wanted to be heading north, and what I really wanted was to be on I-10 heading towards Palm Springs. Not San Diego. I also had an “E” flashing at me in a rental van I had no clue whether that meant I still had 20miles of breathing room, or 20 seconds.


It was rush hour.

“Fuck, fuck”

I couldn’t get the radio to work. The start of my grand adventure was not boding well.

Los Angeles is big. I’d driven through it many times. Been caught on the “loop” near Pasadena during rush hour traffic and spent at least two hours trying to get out of it. I didn’t have two hours. I needed to be in Phoenix by tomorrow. It was 5:30pm and I was still trying to hit the city limits. I had planned plenty of time to get to Phoenix by 11pm. Took a morning flight from Florida, got out of LAX a little after 10am only to sit in the Escape Campervan office in Inglewood until 5pm. Sean and Rob had the Sunday shift and were checking vans out as fast as they could check vans in. I passed the time talking to a group of Aussie lads who were heading up to Colorado, Utah and then the Grand Canyon. They left the depot just before I did, (and as fate would have it, weeks later, would roll back in just as I was hiking out of the depot towards the bus stop) in a van nicknamed “Skittles”.

Safari the Van.

Mine was “Safari”.

With no radio, and navigating blind (I hadn’t set up any GPS or looked at a map yet) I decided to backtrack towards the depot, and start all over again from the gas station. It wasn’t the short-cut that Rob had described, but at least I would be heading in the right direction. I rolled into the Chevron, and fell out of my van looking very much like a rookie. Rental plates had been taken out of existence in the 90s, but it hardly mattered when I had “Escape Campervans and their 1-800 number” plastered across my rear windshield.

I wasn’t a tourist though. I was an adventurer.

An adventurer that really needed to hit Palm Springs and get the heck out of Dodge. LA.

Summertime meant I had a few extra hours of daylight, so when I eventually rolled through the hills covered in wind turbines, it was a little after 6:30pm. It could have been later. All I knew was I had found a radio station. A classical music one. The dials were foreign all of a sudden, and it would only be the following day that they would all unscramble themselves and I could switch stations. But y’know, these things happen for a reason. The classical music through LA traffic was a good combination. And as I headed off along the stretch I was worried about the most – the desert stretch through to Blythe, it would prove to be the perfect match in a darkened landscape.

Driving at night I had beat the heat. The Palm Springs – Blythe stretch was notorious for overheating cars, and it was Summer. Having driven through the desert in a car susceptible to overheating once before, I didn’t fancy it too much on my first day.

I rolled across the California-Arizona border in the middle of the night and left the stress of being lost behind me. It was a straight drive along one slightly truck-filled road.

Tomorrow would be daunting for different reasons, but when I rolled into the La Quinta Inn parking lot off I-17 in Phoenix it was 3am. There was no time to think about tomorrow.

After tomorrow, I had all the permission in the world to get lost.