Time Period: Oct 25 – Dec 31, 2009
Miles Driven: 2125
With plans to spend the holidays with family in the St. Louis area, we looked ahead to doing a mid-country run very much similar to the path we took earlier in the year. We decided to sign on to workamp at Amazon’s distribution center in Kansas on the way to kill a month, which would mean the trip across country would be at a much quicker pace than our normal.
San Diego, CA
Upon discovering that we had potential vehicle issues with our Jeep that might need additional attention before attempting another cross country jaunt, we decided to relocate from Hemet, CA to San Diego – where there would be more resources for repairs. It also helped that our technomadic friend, Ben Willmore, was also hanging out there – so for only the fifth time in our travels we stayed in a commercial RV park.
And much to our surprise, the park was able to place our tiny 17′ rig right next to his 40′ bus. It was nice to be temporary neighbors with Ben for a week while we took care of our chores and he took care of his. And as it was the San Diego Beer Week, we spent many an evening sampling some fine craft beers together.
In the end, it turned out that repairing the Jeep didn’t make sense, so our focus shifted to finding a replacement tow vehicle more suited for full time towing. We said good bye to our beloved diesel Jeep Liberty CRD, and hello to a 2006 Toyota Tundra.
Exploring the Salton Sea
With a new tow vehicle procured, it was time to start our eastward journey – but not before a long anticipated rendezvous with nomadic photographer Sandi Wheaton. She had been put in touch with us several months ago after she lost her job and decided to spend several weeks doing an epic phootography roadtrip down Route 66 in a small travel trailer. During the course of conversing about the lifestyle, a friendship was formed.
With her now in Los Angeles and ready to start her eastward trek back home – we rendezvoused back near Hemet at a paragliding field that Chris had been practicing jumping off mountains at. While we just missed the opportunity for him to have a sled ride down, we had an awesome time meeting Sandi – so much so, we called our awesome artist friends Sean Mahonney and Helene Lohr (who we had spent the past 6 weeks with). They came out and joined us, and an epic Salton Sea photo exploration for the next day was conceived.
Arriving after dark, our first night on the Salton Sea was spent boondocking at the old Niland Marina and doing some epic light painting. Both with Cherie doing fire and LED poi dance, and of Sandi’s triangle trailer.
In the morning, we all spent several hours photo exploring this area – coming up with some amazing shots! And then, Sandi offered to give us a tour of Slab City and introduce us to her friend who lives there.
Went spent the rest of the day in an artistic wonderland that is known as East Jesus in Slab City, and exploring Salvation Mountain – both of which we’ve written about separately. We ended up staying the next two nights at East Jesus before continuing on our way eastward. We will be returning for an extended visit.
Eastward to Kansas
As we had previously gone a very similar route through Arizona and New Mexico earlier in the year, we opted to traverse this section of the trip on the interstate and make good time.
We did stop off for a couple nights in Lake Havasu City to visit our Oliver-owning Burning Man friends – where Andrew was sweet enough to help us track down some problems we were having with our tail lights.
We made good time through Albuquerque, then decided to slow the pace down a bit and started taking our preferred backroads once we hit Tucumcari. We got across the great state of Texas in record time by just crossing the tip of the panhandle, and explored around Oklahoma. Spotting a sign for the city of Laverne, we took a detour to do a special photography holiday gift for Chris’ grandmother – of the same name.
We arrived to Independence, Kansas and began scoping out our camping options for our month long stay in the area while we worked at Amazon. We checked out the closet options in Coffeyville – but at the time the only spots left were spack dab in the middle where we’d have neighbors on all four sides. While the commute would have been nicer, we opted for the open meadows and lakes that Elk City State Park offered, which is also where another Oliver owning friend of ours was staying as they workamped too.
The month of December was mostly working at Amazon.com’s fullfillment center in Coffeyville, Kansas. It was a physically intense experience that left us with a lot of illumination on many aspects of American culture we might not have otherwise received. We’ve already written some of our initial impressions about the experience, and did an interview with Gizmodo that has been since featured on Slashdot. We find it a bit humorous that us normally tech-enabled nomads taking on a manual labor job gets us so much publicity!
We will be following up in the coming weeks with a lot more information on our experience at Amazon – mostly we’re just waiting on our final paycheck to make it through our forwarding system so that we can show exactly how much money can be made at these sorts of gigs.
We’re now in St. Louis spending the holidays with Chris’ family. Mostly we’ve been catching up on sleep, readjusting back to daylight hours and catching up on all of the chores that can accumulate in a month.
In a few weeks, we’ll start heading south to warmer climates and time with Cherie’s family.