Saturday, April 30, 2011

the California desert

the shower at HOLTVILLE hot springs
After hanging with Moonlight and her friend Jim and a few others at Holtville, I drove the 25 minutes out into the middle of the desert to a true desert oasis known as FIVE PALMS. It's technically a warm springs getting to about 92 degrees and completely shaded by palm trees. The story goes that General George S Patton, legendary tank battle commander back in WWII, initially had the spring tapped.  The army used to use the area for desert warfare tank training. So I like to think that Patton himself once sat and soaked where I did on this fine and warm day.
Met some terrific travelers at FIVE PALMS
Where Holtville is actively managed by the BLM and nudity is strictly prohibited, Five Palms is completely clothing optional.  I stayed for 2 hours and moved on to......

the resident kitty at SALVATION MOUNTAIN
I hope most of you know about SALVATION MOUNTAIN. It's been featured in the film INTO THE WILD and numerous documentaries including ROAD TO SALVATION starring Bob Green. Leonard Knight has been living there since the 1980's and has created a truly unusual monument in the desert. I had the extensive tour from Leonard several years ago, but when I rolled up this day, Leonard was relaxing in the shade with some of his buddies. I pulled up a chair and soon brought out the FREE BOX.

Kevin, Daniel, and Leonard dig it.
 Kevin took a "kevin" magnet, Daniel took massage "turtle", and Leonard initially didn't quite understand the concept, but soon found a toothbrush that he really needed.....

Mike and his nail clipper find
Mike rode his bicycle from Chicago to California and was hanging out in the desert. He was pysched to find some nail clippers... Leonard gave up a dvd about his life and a handmade GOD IS LOVE custom art piece for the FREE BOX! I have yet to watch the dvd... But if I visit you soon and you wanna watch it with me, just say the word!

Leonard Knight - first celebrity to encounter the FREE BOX
Leonard's pals took him into town for dinner and I hung out and acted as custodian to the tourists.... Taking messages, giving out postcards and dvds, and sharing my limited knowledge on the place and even managing the donation pile. I hung out for an hour or so and came across 3 FRENCHIES and their tour guide Larsen.
the French legion and Larsen on the right.
The Frenchies were in town to see Coachella but couldn't get tickets so they came to Salvation Mountain instead. The man in the middle gave the BOX a CD from his band. Turns out LARSEN, their tour guide, runs a FREE STORE from his home in southern Los Angeles. I'll be hitting that up in the fall on my way back to San Diego.

Ed Dominick and the Slab City pool

Ernie from Cheap Tricks skate shop in El Centro closed his shop for the weekend because he was hosting a skate rock weekend at SLAB CITY. Slab City is also featured in INTO THE WILD and this was my first time out there. Little did I know it's only a 1/4 mile from Salvation Mountain. It's an abandoned army barracks town that has been essentially taken over by squatters. Pretty much anything goes... The massive pool is the de facto skatepark in progress. Ed, Nate Peacher, Ernie and I all had a gas skating in the evening shade. After I had my fill of skating and was onto thinking about dinner, who did I see?   MOONLIGHT!   Moonlight my sister from HOLTVILLE came out based on my recommendation to check out SLAB CITY and the music. We hung out and watched the skating until dark. Austin Mayer came over and took a gander through the FREE BOX and came out with a candle.   As it got darker we moved over to the venue, THE RANGE, to watch various bands play. I was hoping to see ED's new band play, but I fell asleep in the van but am sure I at least heard the band play in my stupor.

the open air venue known as The RANGE at Slab City

SALVATION hot springs - an early morning soak
 I'd heard about another hot spring in the area... Keith Royer had mentioned it, the guys at Salvation mountain had mentioned it, and several at FIVE PALMS talked about it.. Early the morning after Slab City I rolled out to find this hot springs.... I'll call it SALVATION hot springs because you can see Salvation Mountain from the pool itself....Look just right of the camper in the distance....that's Salvation Mountain.

I stopped at the Brawley skatepark for a few turns on the four wheeled toy then headed back to FIVE PALMS. When I first arrived I found a family with a little boy in the pool, so I went in with my trunks on. Orion was the kid's name and he was having a great time collecting rocks and playing with his floating HOT WHEELs. Over the course of the afternoon more people came and went. Jane and John {not there real names} were my first FREE BOX participants of the day. They had been living in the desert out of their sedan for months, escaping the rain and cold of Northern California. They were quick to want to donate some items to the BOX. Jane donated 2 types of obsidian rock....alleged to have special protective characteristics. John went so far as to describe a protective bubble around the van once a single piece of the obsidian was placed inside it. So I'm happy to report that I do have a piece of obsidian inside the van and now BELIEVE in the force field around the van. These two travelers also donated a small jar of the WEED. That made me nervous and I had to respectfully decline this offering. Now I know it would have made many people's day, but the last thing I need is to have to explain why I have WEED in the van to a DEA or boarder patrol agent. They understood and took my refusal in stride...  We soaked and made conversation. Not too long after, park rangers came through the area and detained JOHN AND JANE and after 2 hours of questioning and some potentially illegal searching, Jane recieved a citation for possession of WEED despite having her medical MARIJUANA card. Nothing changes the mood at the hot springs as much as POLICE state interference.

From my time in the pool over the last 2 days, I'd heard about a man and his flying machine. Finally late in the afternoon this man showed up. Dakota was his name and he reminded me a little bit of JOHN J RAMBO. I suspect he could have been a POW in Vietnam based on some scarring on his face and chest. He has been living in his van since the 80's and flies with a wing and a motor on his back. I was disappointed to not have seen him fly, but was thankful to have time to get to know him over the next few hours. He enjoys his solitude and time with his dog, Little Boy. Dakota was the first person to respectfully decline anything from the BOX. He explained that he took simply the offer of being given something. He lives very simply and saw no need for anything in the BOX but was excited about the concept. He was truly insightful and I hope to run into him again on the road.

[editor's note....currently in AUSTIN...dallas soon]

Friday, April 22, 2011

the open road.....

     I said that I would elaborate on Ken's story in this next post.... Now that I dwell on it, I realize how appropriate it is to start with KEN. Ken is the man who currently owns the 1987 Vanagon in which I drove around the country in 1999 during the FOUR CORNERS tour. He is a master carpenter and has helped me on numerous projects around the house and more recently, helped build out my current van. Ken and I have a connection that I'm really lucky to have made. He's a free spirit and a dreamer. Our values are in line and his easy going nature is refreshing to be around. Earlier in his life he traveled the world and also spent some time living with his family in a van.... So he had invaluable information and insight into what would work well with the design and layout. I am proud to call Ken my friend and I look forward to when I will see him next.... Who knows when that will be....

     During Ken's rummaging through the FREE BOX he found a jar of flax seeds and a bottle of tea tree oil. I trust he'll put both to good use.

Saturday April 16th 2011   8:10am  Departing Edgemont

It was an early morning.... I was up at 3am doing my final packing, cleaning and loading. Justin said his good byes on his way out to TAI CHI and just a little after 8am I was backing out the van and headed to the open road. That road specifically was Hwy 94 to I-8, EAST BOUND AND DOWN. 

Life's Short, Play NAKED!

First stop was the De Anza Naturist Resort 73 miles outside of San Diego in the desert. I'd heard about it for years, but had never seen this sign from the interstate. Kay was lovely and gave me a tour of the facilities that included two saltwater swimming pools - one indoor and one outdoor. I toyed with the idea of staying there for a day, but the costs outweighed the benefits. I was anxious for Five Palms and Holtville...

Holtville was only another 55minutes down the freeway and the first person I met was Moonlight!
Moonlight with the FREE BOX at Holtville Hot Springs!
 Moonlight was a breath of fresh air. I introduced myself to her in the parking lot. She was delighted to take a look through the FREE BOX and was tickled to find packets of EMERGEN-C and a roll of DUCT tape. We hung out most of the morning in the springs. She tipped me off about using frozen water bottles instead of ice in the cooler. She and her dog have been living the VAN LIFE for 4 years now.  More with Moonlight in the next post....

Currently in TUCSON - heading to Patagonia, AZ soon....

Friday, April 15, 2011

the beginning


The idea for the Traveling Free Box was formulated while soaking in Remington Hot Springs

I'd been planning a monumental journey, hoping it would encompass most of 2011. I toyed with the idea of closing my business to be able to travel unencumbered with the hopes of being completely open to new opportunities. After being settled in the same house for 13 years and never being able to take a long road trip since the FOUR CORNERS TOUR in 1999, I've been anxious to see how folks are doing it in other progressive cities around the WESTERN U.S. On Decemeber 1st 2010 I acquired the mode of transport, and ever since then it's been a flurry of mental activity as I set to the task of planning and executing my vision: life on the road for upwards of six months. The main objections are to experience life via hot springs, vegan restaurants, skateparks, skate shops, ditches, backyard bowls and ramps, food co-ops, organic farms, swimming holes, housing collectives/communes, disc golf courses, bicycling, waterfalls, and spending time with family and friends.

In February while on a 19 day tester trip inside CALIFORNIA, I spent 40 uninterrupted hours at Remington Hot Springs. While soaking in those pristine and healing waters, I came to two realizations.  

A>. I could slightly restructure my company and take the show on the road. I was only into the tester trip a few days before I was kicking myself for never having packed up the station wagon and done a sales trip before.  There is no better way than visiting a skate shop to see for yourself what they are about and what sells well for them. My hope is to sell and swap the finest skateboard dvds available and to participate in local skate scenes across the country.

B>. I wanted to create a blog to chronicle my adventures. But I was unsure of how to package the adventure for the web. With a little guidance from Dave Bergthold, I looked back at my time at Remington and recalled the random items of clothing, a hat, and some abandoned towels that I rescued from the springs with the express intent to re-purpose them. Upon further scrutiny, I thought it would be keen to create a free box that would travel with me in the van. It would serve as a way to re-purpose all the completely useful items that I find discarded across the country and it will be a conversation starter. What better way to meet other road warriors than to ask them if they'd like something for free? The idea kept growing and this blog is the result and it's my hope to chronicle my travels through the view of the Traveling Free Box. Watch where it goes, see what goes into it, see what gets taken from it, and hear the tales of the lives it touches.

 A discarded wine box was located and I knew I wanted it decorated to some degree. Who did I turn to?
resident North Park artist, BOB GREEN.

Making it's first appearance at the 4th San Diego Really Really Free Market 3-13-11.

There she sits in front of EDGEMONT in the early a.m.

And so the journey begins tomorrow morning APRIL 16th. You are invited to check back often and see where this adventure takes me. The general OUTLINE is this.... Phoenix, Tucson, Austin, Dallas, Tulsa, Wichita, Lincoln, Ft. Collins, Denver, Park City, IDAHO, Seattle, Portland, Grass Valley, SF and then back to EDGEMONT when the feeling is right. Detours will pop up, unexpected incidents will occur - the lesson to be learned is to be like the water and go with the flow.

My brother from another mother, Ken Olsen, was the first participant!

 More on Ken's story next time.......