Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Life on the road: Battle of the Dream

Nelly somewhere at the foothills of the Chugach Mtns (home base), Anchorage, Alaska
I’m sure van-life / camper-life people blog for all kinds of reasons.  Personally, I like to share my experiences because it may spark inspiration in those around me to get up and do what is meaningful to them in their life, and it makes me happy to see people living true to themselves.

The reality of living in a 105 sq ft space... storage.
Living in your car or living in your house… what difference does it make?  Happiness.  That’s what it all comes down to.  What makes you happy?
Freedom? Security? Mystery? Comfort?
Chances are, if you feel like I do, you want it all… in fact, I’m pretty sure you do want it all… after all, the one guarantee in life is not death and taxes, it is “need.”

The night you & a buddy were incidentally wearing the same thing...
Now, you can attempt your best at following the ways of Buddha, making your highest purpose the lack of “need.”  Or… you can just live your own truth, do what makes you feel good in your life and immerse yourself in the passions that drive you and feed your soul.  IF you grow old, you won’t regret your path if you have listened to your heart and filled your life with meaningful experiences that matter to you and those around you.  A man once said “the greatest currency we have is the effect we have on others.”

What makes me happy is sharing meaningful experiences, adventures and passions with others. I have found living full-time on the road has lead to more opportunities to fulfill my happiness, and in turn, that happiness has passed on to those around me.  To those that are considering life on the road, whether living full-time in a van, car or camper, I encourage you to ask yourself… will this help you live your dream?  If so, then go for it!

High in the Talkeetna Mtns, sled-skiing a new zone.

You all have seen the "tiny home/living in a van/life on the road" blogs all over the internet, especially the last few years, that are saturated with posts glorifying life on the road… it’s not all glory, it’s not always clean or easy, there’s no guarantees and it's not for everyone.  You might even feel a bit discouraged when the police knock on your door and ask you to move on (which has only happened to me 4 times the last 5 years of full-timing)… but it’s not all that bad and the benefits far outweigh any moments of uncertainty.  And yes, you do wind up in amazing locations with awesome people.

Once a week all summer... a spin jam on the downtown Anchorage park strip, great place meet and practice.
As much as I want property and want to build a small cabin, I want the open road and the freedom of debt.  The cabin would represent security and comfort, but also comes with a hefty price… a debt that could prevent you from following your dreams.  On the other hand, life on the road allows you the freedom from debt to follow your dreams, but won’t provide the same level of security and comfort as owning your own property.  The question is… How can you live on the road and also have security and comfort?  My answer to that question… No one knows, it’s all about the mystery of happiness!

Monday, November 7, 2016

The 5th Alaskan winter full-timing off-grid and on the road … a few tips for successfully pulling it of.

 This past fall, I had full intentions of building a small log cabin up on Flattop, right at the edge of Chugach State Park.  The property was a total steal and the view was worth a million bucks, but after surveying the land, shooting grades and elevations with my old man, and meeting up several times with the excavator, I realized the land was just too steep to be accessible by vehicles in the winter, which is a no go for me. 

So… here’s to a 5th winter living full-time in the little Toyota motorhome in Alaska!

     I have been lucky over the years to have an exorbitant amount of friends offer couches to sleep on or driveways to park in.  However, I think one of the most rewarding parts to full-timing without a dedicated parking space is the creativity and technique involved with finding places to spend the night without using friend’s resources.  It’s a cool feeling to survive without depending on the use of anyone’s offered space… doing so truly makes me feel like I have a “home everywhere” despite others’ perception that perhaps I’m lost on wheels with no place to stay.  However, I’d like to thank everyone (you know who you are) in the past that have offered/shared their space with me.  In 5 years I have not paid for parking or “camping” a single night.  I feel like I will do nearly anything to not pay a dime to sleep on this earth.  It astonishes me how many people pay 40+ dollars to park their motorhome somewhere for a night.  There are so many places to not spend a cent if you just do some research.

Here are some of my personal tips to successfully full-timing without a dedicated parking space:

1)    NEVER sleep in the same spot 2 nights in a row.  I always move on early the next morning.

2)    DON’T ARRIVE at your “spot” until late in the evening/night.  If you get there at 4:00pm in the afternoon and sit around all day, everyone will see your camper sitting there all day and you have a much higher chance of getting “called-in.”  Go watch some live music, have some coffee/tea in a coffee shop, read in the book store, dinner with friends, just don't park too early in your "spot."

3)    When you move in the morning… STAY in your camper when you leave.  Don’t open the door and walk around to your driver’s side door to drive away… this increases the odds that you will run into conflict since there are no longer walls between you and the outside world.

4)    Sit down, pull out a map of your city, and make a LIST of the places you can stay and ROTATE these places.  When I open my closet door, I have a list of 70+ places I can stay written down on a paper taped up to the inside of the door.  This means I don’t have to think about where to stay.  I simply check out my list and find the closest “spot” to where I’m currently located and there you have it, good to go! Also, make sure to adhere to rule #1 and never stay in the same spot 2 nights in a row… in fact, I never stay in the same spot within a 2 week period as a rule of thumb, it’s worked really well.

5)    Get a porta-potty! You can go to Cabelas, Sportsman’s Warehouse, and several other places and buy yourself a sweet, flushing, mini-portapotty for $80.  Then you literally have a bathroom in the winter that doesn’t need plumbing and there are free places to legally and sanitarily “dump” all around town.  There’s nothing that will get overnight camping spots shut down quicker than someone using the parking lot or camping spot as a bathroom and leaving it there.

6)    Keep your camper looking good!  If you have black garbage bags and foil all over your windows, NEWS-FLASH… you probably look sketchy to most people, so clean that stuff up and make your camper look respectable, you won’t have half the issues.

7)    Go do things OUT-OF-TOWN on the weekends.  If you’re moving around to other towns on the weekends or recreating in the woods, that’s a few days a week where no one in the city is seeing your RV.

8)    DON’T use a generator.  If you have a generator running, EVERYONE knows you are home. 

     Speaking of generators, one bit of advice for other full-timers out there… trade in your generator for some solar panels and a wood stove.  Generators are annoying and they aren’t necessary.  I have one, single deep cycle battery that powers all of my lights, TV, fridge, and can charge appliances.  This single deep cycle battery is charged by only 60 watts of solar panels (two 30 watt panels) and the engine’s alternator since I drive around every day.  The primary battery draining feature in any RV is the propane furnace, so if you can eliminate using the propane furnace, you can eliminate your overall need for on-grid electricity.

That's about it folks, see you on the road!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Six Mile Creek Whitewater & Bluegrass Festival (9th annual!) on Saturday, August 13th, 2016!

Six Mile Creek Whitewater & Bluegrass Festival (9th annual!) on Saturday, August 13th, 2016!

The purpose of the Six Mile Creek Whitewater & Bluegrass Festival is to bring the whitewater paddling community, the music & arts community, and the general public together to share a unique weekend of athletics, entertainment, the human connection and nature on the beautiful shores of Six Mile Creek.

Come experience the hardcore CHAOS of paddlers mass-start sprint racing through a narrow, whitewater canyon... guaranteed ear-to-ear grins! While you’re at it, come boogie on the shores of the river on Saturday night to some incredible, boot-stompin’ live music! EVERYTHING (live music, competition entry, festival entry, camping, parking) is FREE!!!!! As always, there will be a raffle for some sweet prizes, an awards ceremony for the races, live music, and a fire show once the sun goes down!

MUSIC Schedule:

SATURDAY, AUGUST 13th, 2016 at the main festival grounds:

- 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm: Squeeze Mama
- 7:15 pm - 8:15 pm : The Goddamn Ranch Hand Band
- 8:30 pm - 9:30 pm : Quela Narguela & the Rowdy Rutabagas
- 9:45 pm - 11:30 pm : The Shoot Dangs
- 11:45 pm - 1-ish am : Orion Donict (prepare to dance your faces off)

*** THERE WILL NOT be any food vendors this year or beer garden! Bring food/beer for yourself so you don't get hungry/thirsty! This is a completely self-reliant festival ***

BIG NOTE... I really need everyone to donate cash this year, as I've always lost money or barely broke even (never made a dime) out of my own pocket to put this event on free for everyone... and I really want to be able to pay the bands this year... a $15 - $20 donation is really needed to help pay the set-up costs, permit fees, portapotty rental, event insurance, misc expenses, bands and keep this festival going year after year! **** There will be a cash donation box up front near the main stage, please put what you can in there to help make it possible to continue bringing everyone together every year at this festival**** Or even better, donate to the KICKSTARTER which you will see on this webpage soon!

DIRECTIONS: Drive 1 hour south of Anchorage on the Seward Highway towards the town of Hope. Main festival grounds are located at mile 3.4 of Hope Road. Look for festival signs.

PARKING: You can park off the shoulder of the road, but DO NOT park over the white lines or you will be towed. Don't block anyone in and make sure sure sure your car is completely off the road. They are very serious about towing, so please spread the word!!! Please be respectful and don't park on anyone's private property! Be creative and use your common sense.
*** there is a good chance that you might have to drop camping gear off at the festival area, and go drive your car down the road a ways and find a shoulder big enough to pull off over the white line. There is another large camping area around mile marker 1.

CAMPING: * Free camping! around the main festival grounds, no room for RV's at the main festival area though, tent camping only. There are plenty of free camping areas along the road to Hope, just be creative. There's a large field, so just find a spot to nestle into, it's a beautiful camping area! There is also an official campground about 10 miles down the road past the town of Hope. Once again, be creative and use your common sense.

* PLEASE PACK OUT YOUR OWN TRASH!!!! It would be awesome to have everyone's help on Sunday morning cleaning up the area... the Chugach National Forest rangers will be assessing the area after the festival and it needs to be BETTER than it was before the festival to have the festival next year... I need everyone's participation to do this (pick up any trash/paper, fluff up the grass where your tent was, pick up any left-over food on the ground, etc)

** If you get to the main festival grounds at 1:00pm on Saturday and wonder where folks are at... YOU'RE MISSING THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE FESTIVAL!!!!... the extreme, mass-start sprint races 5 minutes back up the road!! (look for lots of parked cars off the Seward Hwy about a mile north of the Hope Road junction).

DIRECTIONS to the extreme race area mentioned above: *Competitors & spectators will leave the main festival grounds & drive up the road to the 1st canyon race area just off the Seward Highway about 1 mile north of the Canyon Creek bridge overpass on Saturday at 1:00p.m. sharp...*** you'll notice people leaving the main festival area, just use your intuition and follow them***

* If you want to volunteer, all you have to do is contribute somehow. I need volunteers to
- make a fire pit/collect firewood
- pick up trash and bring it to town/the Hope dump on Sunday morning
- help break down the main stage on Sunday morning
- help pack up Sunday morning
- help direct people towards parking
- river safety/rescue racers by boat/throwbag
-etc etc etc

IF YOU WANT TO VOLUNTEER, please contact me at kayaker35@hotmail.com or just help at the festival when it looks like help is needed.

*Competitors* If you want to compete in the river races, you must have a proper life jacket and helmet... a drysuit is highly recommended because there's usually swimmers involved;^) See schedule below for sign-up info...


SATURDAY, AUGUST 13th, 2016:

11:00 am : all competitors/racers need to walk down to the main festival tent/dome on the shore of the river, grab a racing bib and sign your name, Bib number, and phone number on the sign up sheet. PLEASE return bibs to the main stage tent immediately after the races!

12:30 pm: racers and spectators leave main festival grounds at Boston Bar area and carpool/drive back north to the 1st canyon extreme race series site (5 minutes back towards Anchorage from the main festival site, about 1 mile north of the Seward Highway bridge over Canyon Creek, just before the Hope cut-off road... look for lots of parked cars off the side of the highway at 1:00pm.

1:00 pm - 1:30 pm : Downriver mass-start extreme race through the 3 biggest rapids of the 1st canyon (KAYAK, canoe, inflatable kayak)

2:00 pm: PACK RAFT mass-start extreme race through the 3 biggest rapids of the 1st canyon (pack rafts only)

2:30 pm: INFLATABLE POOL-TOY extreme mass-start race (inflatable pool-toy race...ride an alligator, shark, couch, whatever you want!... (normal whitewater gear is required (aka: drysuit, life jacket, helmet))... pack rafts don't count as an inflatable pool-toy:^

4:00 pm: everyone drives back to main festival area, awards ceremony, bonfire party, & live music begins. AWARDS will be around 7:00pm!

Here's a write-up from a few years back:

and a quick racing video:

and a video of some of the live music that will be happenin!:


* Cook Inlet Keepers
* Mooses Tooth Brewing Company
* Susitna Sled & Kayak
* Alaska Raft & Kayak
* Chugach Outdoor Center
* American Whitewater
* Alaska Mountaineering and Hiking
* Bills Distributing
* Knik Canoe & Kayak Club
* Great Harvest Bread Company

******* Any questions please email or if you want to volunteer help please Timmy @ kayaker35@hotmail.com or sign up at the festival grounds*******

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Alaskan winter RV livin' update!

In this update:
* Toyota motorhome 3.0 V6 to 3.4 V6 engine swap & review
* A few new tips & advice
* Golden Eagle Bike Engine Kit
* The Shoot Dangs! 2nd national tour trip report & upcoming shows
* 1st annual SNOW-JOB Winter Festival

Well, it’s been since August now that the 1989 Toyota Odyssey 4x4 motorhome had an engine upgrade.  I took out the Toyota 3.0 V6 engine w/ blown headgasket and rusted block and swapped a 1999 Toyota 3.4 V6 engine in its place.  If you search the internet for reviews of this swap, you’ll find all kinds of advice, but the general consensus is that the power increase is noticeable and the gas mileage is improved...

1989 Toyota Odyssey 4x4 motorhome on an 8,000 mile road-trip in early-September, 2015

Now that I’ve had this engine in my Toyota motorhome (I couldn’t find anyone that did the 3.0 to 3.4 swap in a Toyota motorhome yet), here’s the honest truth to what I’ve found:

1)         There is a noticeable increase in power, but not a very significant increase.  The horsepower was boosted from the 3.0’s 145 hp to the 3.4’s 190 hp.  With the old 3.0 engine, I could never get into 5th gear, my average highway speed was about 45-50mph, and the motorhome severely slowed down on long uphills, sometimes needing 1st or 2nd gear on main roads and highways.
         The new 3.4 engine gave me an slight increase in top end speed (average speed is about 55 mph now), I can use 5th gear occasionally on flat ground or downhills, I rarely ever shift below 3rd gear on main roads/highways, and I have much more torque to climb long hills (the 3.4 almost feels like a diesel as it just pulls through the hills with its torque).  It’s really nice being able to almost keep up with Alaskan highway speeds now, occasionally I’ll hit 60 mph.

This was about half-way through the swap, before all the wiring and vacuum hoses began...

2)         Most people say you get a boost in miles per gallon (people claim 15-17mpg), but my oxygen sensors aren't hooked up yet (long story), which is giving me a significant decrease in miles per gallon (I went from getting an average of 12.5 mpg with the old 3.0 engine to getting an average of about 9 mpg with the new 3.4 engine). I'll be hooking those up in the next few weeks, still sorting some wiring harness issues out.

3)         You will have a boost of confidence on long road trips knowing you have one of the best engines (3.4) that Toyota has ever manufactured, much more reliable than the 3.0.

4)         While I would definitely recommend this 3.0 to 3.4 engine swap, if I would have known the gas mileage was going to drop 4 mpg instead of increase 4 mpg, I might have just swapped a V8 engine in its place instead of the 3.4 V6.  I still feel like there is not enough power as I would like, so the next upgrade I will make is adding a Toyota Supercharger to the 3.4 to give a significant horsepower increase and truly get me up to highway speeds (65 mph).

5)         You should probably order the 3.0 to 3.4 adapter kit from Offroad Solutions (ORS).  I ordered their 3.0 to 3.4 wiring harness adapter (which made the wiring much easier) and their exhaust manifold adapter (which switches the side the exhaust is on to fit your old Toyota 3.0 exhaust).  You will also have to custom make engine mounts unless you order them from ORS.  ORS is a great company and they can really help walk you through the engine swap on any complicated questions when all seems lost.  To save a little bit of headache, I put on a K&N Cold Air Intake so I could leave my battery on the same side of the engine as the 3.0 and not have to move the air filter box to the other side either.

Trying to find a swimming hole, turns out the California drought was pretty bad.

Kage removed the passenger seat...

1) RV refrigerators don’t last forever.  If your fridge has a strong smell of ammonia, it’s time to get a new fridge.  The fridge in my Toy home died just 2 days before we left on our 8,000 mile road trip/band tour to Burning Man and back to Alaska. 

      Once your fridge is dead, it’s cheaper to buy a new fridge than actually repair the contained cooling system.  There’s a good chance your fridge won’t fit through your RV house door, but it’s very easy to remove the passenger seat of the Toyota motorhome and just fit the fridge through the passenger door.

Old fridge out, new fridge in.

2) KNOW the exact height of your motorhome! – it’ll take you 3 minutes… just get a tape measure out and do it!  I know the height of mine (12 feet 2 inches to the top of the wind-directional chimney cap)… but I never measured the height when the bikes were on the roof rack… BIG mistake.  I miscalculated how tall the RV was with the bikes on top and hit an old, stone arch bridge in Ashland, OR and broke the bike fork in half, ripped the roof rack off the RV, and spent the next day fixing everything in a parking lot.

     Every time I approach a bridge now I treat my motorhome like an 18 wheeler and look ahead to see the bridge height maximum clearance label before I pass under the bridge, this has saved me a ridiculous amount of times (the bikes on top bump me up to a 13 foot 2 inch clearance).  Something to think about.

The Toy home is toasty: cooking some moose that Kage hunted this year on the Kimberly wood stove.
3) Free internet! If you’re living off-grid in your motorhome, you’ll find coffee shops your best friend.  Spend a couple bucks on a coffee and then you have a place to hang out for hours with free internet and free heat to stay warm in the winter… some coffee shops even give you free refills the same day.

4) Park late and wake up early to avoid trouble! This is one of the easiest tricks in the book of off-grid motorhome living.  First, make yourself a list to hang up in your RV of all the “free” places you can think of to park overnight (public streets, neighborhoods, non-municipal parks, retail stores, abandoned side roads, mountain road or highway pull-outs, etc)… this helps you make an easy decision every night of where to stay. 

5) Never stay in the same spot 2 nights in-a-row, this is how you get busted and ruin it for everybody else that is trying to live unconventionally.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people living on the streets in RV’s that just sit in one spot for several days, sometimes up to a week… and sure enough a “NO OVERNIGHT PARKING” sign pops up and that once-awesome camping spot disappears forever.

     How do you avoid this situation? Get to your camping spot LATE at night (after 10:00 pm at the earliest) and LEAVE by 7:00 am.  Most people are home by 10 pm and won’t leave for work until after 7 am, which means you won’t have a bunch of passer-bys calling your RV in to the local police department.

6) PREPARE for winter!  If you have a wood stove in your motorhome and no where to plug into electricity, make sure you have enough wood to last you the entire season... you can't count on your propane furnace to keep you warm once your RV house battery dies.  On a cloudy week, my solar panels can't quite keep up with using the propane furnace too much, so the Kimberly wood stove is literally a life saver.

Engines on Bikes...

    I recently realized I may or may be a motorhead at heart, cause I just love engines.  Whitewater kayaking in the summer involves driving to the put-in on the river, then kayaking downstream… but how do you get back to your car after paddling the river if you carpooled with friends in one car?

     Hitch-hiking isn’t an option for half of the remote whitewater streams we paddle, so I sold some stuff I didn’t need anymore in my storage and bought myself a Golden Eagle Bike Engine kit.  Should make kayaking shuttles (and runnin' errands around Anchorage) cheap and fun.  These kits are made in Minnesota and are the only belt-drive, rear engine mount kit available for bikes.  After doing a lot of research, this kit seemed the best way to go for several reasons:

1)    Easy to install and remove.

2)    The clutch can be disengaged and the belt can quickly be removed in a few seconds, allowing for a completely friction free system (compared to a chain drive system which can’t be disconnected and creates drag when pedaling).  The belt drive system is also much quieter to ride around the city/sidewalks than a noisy chain drive system.

3)    The Honda GX35 4-stroke engine is super reliable, requires no mixing of gas & oil (so you can easily fill up at any gas station while riding around, and provides plenty of power.

     The Golden Eagle Bike Engine kit took about 30 minutes to install and was very straight forward.  The only real modification I had was having to drill a hole in the frame of my bike to attach the front engine mount bracket.

REVIEW: I have had the Golden Eagle Bike Engine kit since early December and kit has proven to be very reliable and super fun to drive around town (I’ve put about 450 miles on the kit so far).  I had to invest in some studded winter tires for my bike (26”x2.1”) because of the ice and snow from our Alaskan winters.
     The gas reservoir holds about 1/3 a liter of high octane (91) gasoline, which means it only cost about 18 cents to fill up!  You’ll make it around 15-ish miles on that tiny tank, which means I get about 180 miles per gallon!  Top crusing speed seems to be around 25-30mph and it’s pretty easy to keep up with traffic in town.  The engine mounts seem to be pretty solid jumping curbs and heading off-road.  Pedaling at start up for a few pedals helps take a big load of the engines little clutch and helps keep down the wear & tear on the engine.  The belt seems to be holding up just fine, but I ordered a spare belt just in case.

Rallying through the snow, works pretty awesome!
     I carry a 1 liter MSR fuel canister in my bike’s water bottle holder just incase I run out driving around somewhere.  The Honda engine starts within the first 2 pulls every time, it’s really nice being able to rely on an engine.  My next project is ordering a long drive belt and fabricating a wider drive ring for the wheel so I can install this kit on my fat bike (which was my original plan, but the fat bike has 5” wide tires so the stock Golden Eagle Bike Engine kit won’t fit).  Overall, the engine kit is pretty awesome & I would recommend if if you're looking for a cheap shuttle/transportation solution.  I figured it will pay for itself in gas money saved since us kayakers can just hop in one car and take the bike for the shuttle.


     This past fall our band, The Shoot Dangs!, did our 2nd national tour.  We loaded up in my Toyota RV and left Anchorage, Alaska on an 8,000 mile round-trip, taking the ferry on the Inside Passage of Alaska to play shows in Haines, Skagway, and Juneau then shows throughout Washington, Oregon, California, & Nevada, with Burning Man being the furthest stop of the trip.
Kage, Jerry, stranger & myself pickin on the porch.

Driving Nelly around & found this big shoe, Burning Man 2015.
The Front Porch crew, Burning Man 2015.
     We had an incredible time, made a lot of new friends and connections, and finally got to see all the small Alaskan coastal times, super cool to see if you haven’t seen them yet.  Our band has been on a little bit of a break while band members are out of state, but our first shows of the New Year are this February 11th, 12th, & 13th here in Alaska (Chair 5 Pizza Pub on 11th, Taproot on the 12th, Moose Pass Winter Festival on the 13th).  Looks like we’ve picked up a pretty wicked fiddle playin’ gal from Kentucky, so we’re looking forward to filling in our sound!  You can check out our live show schedule/music samples at www.reverbnation.com/theshootdangs . 

Tobias the wolf dog was tired... yup.

 This has been the first decent winter in Alaska we've had in a while.  The snowmachine skiing has been off the hook! Been trying to get out as much as possible, here' s a few random pictures of the shenanigans.  A few of us are in the process of creating a new freeride, film & music festival in Thompson Pass this April 14-17th (called Snowjob), which will be free to the public.  For more information, go to the event page:


That's about it for now...
Kage skiing a line in the Hoodoo Mountains, Eastern Alaska Range
Mad Maxin' the sled... Jeff & Rene's wedding in Hatchers Pass.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Monday, March 23, 2015

3 years of Toyota motorhome living - how goes it???

1989 Toyota Odyssey 4x4 (1 of only 6 ever made - I was lucky to come across it!)

  It's been a while and  I've had several folks ask what's up, so here's an update.  First, the Toyota 4x4 motorhome lives on!  Although the V6 3.0 liter engine has a blown head gasket and is limping around, I'm currently in the process of installing a larger, custom V6 3.4 liter engine.  It should boost my horsepower from 145 hp to 190 hp.  55 hp will make a huge difference driving "Nelly" all around Alaska.

  I've done quite a bit of research, and Toyota's 3.4 L is a significant improvement in reliability, power, and fuel economy, so I should literally be a happy camper once the engine swap is complete by mid-April.  It will also
be pretty sweet to have the capability to drive faster than 40 mph down the highway.  Thanks all you patient people out there, I'm sure I've pissed you off at some point, but just remember... I'm not in a hurry cause' I'm already home.

     We haven't had much of a winter in Alaska this year.  It's been one of the warmest and least snowiest winters on record (warm ocean currents have not shifted much from last year, causing oddly warm weather patterns), and you can really see it in the mountains.  Snowmachines are still not allowed in most of the public use areas due to lack of snow.  People are still skiing, but it's pretty sad this year... even my interior RV garden (pictured below) was growing into mid-October this year, unbelievable!

Crow Creek Road, Girdwood, AK
     I just realized this coming April will make 3 years of living in the Toy home.  It's been a crazy adventure and I've met a lot of incredible people along the way.  2 more years to go and I'll have the Toy home paid off!

     I've found Alaska to be an awesome place to live in a camper off-grid, however I have also noticed a lot of potential camping areas and public parking areas have been closing down the last 3 years, and I feel like I need to do my part by speaking up.  There are a few other people out there living in vehicles and some people have been ruining the free camping spots, primarily by staying in one spot too long and then the spot is permanently blocked off or "No Camping/No Overnight Parking" signs are put in place.

     One example of prime spots to stay the evening, but have closed do to excessive, multi-day camping:
Home for the night at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood - skiing and live music, yup!
The Seward Highway pull-offs.  There used to be a dozen different pull-outs to park and stay overnight in (provided you are low-key and move along in the early morning).  Unfortunately, people camped too long, and now there are 3 ft. ditches and large boulders blocking the pull-outs, rendering them completely unusable... even if passerbys simply want to rest for a moment.  It is sad to see these spots permanently erased from the list of places to potentially camp for a night.  To everyone out there staying overnight in their vehicles... please be responsible, leave your spot early the next morning, take your trash with you, and be respectful about using the bathroom (if you don't have a bathroom or porta-potty in your camper, then make sure to dig a hole and bury your waste/burn your toilet paper).  If you ever go to New Zealand, the free camping has literally been ruined by tourists and locals that use the bathroom and leave their waste and toilet paper exposed everywhere.  We don't want Alaska to begin closing our free camping areas down, so do your part!

     That is all.  If we can all educate ourselves on being more responsible campers and stewards of the environment, then we will continue to enjoy free camping and no hassles in Anchorage and all around Alaska.

                      Another free overnight camping spot...  I make sure to camp responsibly and move early the next morning so there are no issues.
Kage & I at an abandoned gold mine in the Talkeetna Mountains.

      Kage and I recently returned from a trip to New Zealand and Fiji.  We had an incredible time overseas and all I recall is a blur of incredible experiences: scuba diving, whitewater pack rafting, speed flying, paragliding, canyoning, hiking, caving, busking and played a few shows with our instruments, fire spinning, stopped by the Lord of the Rings "Shire/Hobbiton," oh... and consumed a healthy amount of lamb pies with an occasional salad.  We bought a van (1992 Toyota HiAce diesel cow), converted the van into a fully self-contained camper (installed a toilet, sink, and fresh/grey water tanks) and toured both islands of New Zealand.

   Below is a quick video of one of the adventures: 

A Hobbit home in The Shire, Lord of the Rings movie set, New Zealand.

     As I mentioned above, free camping in New Zealand has become next to impossible.  Tourist and locals alike have absolutely trashed the land.  Almost every scenic pull-out we came to or trail-head has toilet paper literally everywhere, and plenty of trash found nearby.  It's actually really sad, as this was my 5th time visiting New Zealand, and now there are "No Freedom Camping" signs everywhere.

     Unfortunately, campervans have become the target for irresponsibility, as locals and police assume that campervans staying overnight without an onboard bathroom or porta-potty are leaving the toilet paper behind, when the reality is that day-hikers or sight-see'ers just passing by also leave behind trash and toilet paper.

     The only way to camp for free in New Zealand these days is by obtaining a "Self-Contained" sticker from local auditors who inspect your van after you have installed a plumbed sink, sealed fresh water and waste water tanks, and a sealed porta-potty system (see pictures below).

Our fully-converted Toyota Hiace diesel van: plumbed a sink and freshwater/wastewater tanks, added a toilet behind the drivers seat.

The required "Self-Contained" sticker you need to camp for free in New Zealand
Kage with a celebration float after running the whitewater upstream on the Kawaru River, South Island, NZ.
The "Embrace" sculpture burning at sunrise completely surrounded by over 50,000 people.  Small-scale tornados were created from the intense heat produced by the fire! Unreal! Another beatiful moment at B.M.

  Another highlight of the year was getting to experience and participate in the Burning Man festival this past August/September, held in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada.  If you are open-minded and want a mind-blowing experience that you can't experience (to this magnitude) anywhere else in the world, then you absolutely have to go to Burning Man at some point in your life.
     Over 50,000 people of all ages, all walks of life, all personalities and oddities, come together for a week in the Nevada desert to create Black Rock City.  I read and heard how large and overwhelming this city becomes, and man did it live up to all the hype!  I think I'm still residualy dancing over half a year later... and we're definitely going back this year!
     What do you do at Burning Man? Well, I remember: riding on pirate ships across sand,  climbing into a box of mirrors and losing all direction, chasing a flaming mechanical octopus,  riding a bike through a tornado, camping with the owner of a pro baseball team, wandering from live show to live show with fire-blasting canons and stacks of speakers taller than a hotel - so much sound the hairs on your arms would stand up...  and I made many great friends I'll know or remember for a long, long time. Incredible!
Taking a break somewhere in Black Rock City.  It's hard to get lost when you can make anywhere your home.

Kage and I playing pickin' some grindage' for passerbys.

  The Shoot Dangs! have had another awesome year of shows in ridiculously awesome places.  Arctic Man, Tailgate Alaska, Salmonstock, Forest Fair, SnowFest, Trapper Creek Bluegrass Festival, Six Mile Creek Whitewater and Bluegrass Festival, I can't even remember them all!  We had the opportunity to play shows at bars and music venues in Valdez, Homer, Denali, Talkeetna, Seward, Girdwood, Hope, Fairbanks, and Anchorage, and we'll be doing it again this summer!  Thanks so much to the fans, friends, and strangers that encourage us to keep keepin' on!

     We're currently in the process of recording a new album, which should hopefully be ready for release at the Trapper Creek Bluegrass Festival on May 22nd, 2015.  A lot of new, original songs inspired by outlaws, freedom and times long gone.

Thanks to our friend Katxia for drawing (a tiny version) of our banner!! We love it!

     The band is also planning a fall tour from Alaska down to Burning Man 2015.  We are hoping to take the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system and play shows along the southeast Alaska coastal towns (like Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Wrangell, etc) the last week of August.  We'll be taking the Toyota motorhome down.  Can't wait!  Well, until next time... oh, and for a list of show dates, booking information or music samples, go to www.reverbnation.com/theshootdangs

A show at Down East Saloon, Homer, AK.