Take More Friends. Bring Back More Stories.

Brianna Madia

I think a lot of folks hear that we live in our van and assume we’re on some sort of trip. But there is no Point B to our Point A. While we do live “on the road” by technicality, we very much call Utah home.

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We came here from the East Coast nearly 5 years ago, drawn in by the lure of the mountains and the freedom of the American West…but it was the deserts that kept us here.  We felt an indescribable pull to that undeveloped wilderness. And while Utah has an abundance of National and State parks, we much prefer the complete solitude of the rugged BLM lands of the desert backcountry.

We learned early on in our adventuring that if something is difficult to access, you have a high chance of having it all to yourself. It was this notion that inspired us to purchase our van, Bertha – a 1990 Ford E350, modified with a lift and 4WD conversion. Our “vanlife” dream had very little to do with fancy furnished interiors and everything to do with those 35 inch tires and massive off-road clearance.

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Bertha boasts an incredibly minimal interior. We have some vinyl “wood” floors, our bed, a bench seat with storage drawers we built beneath it, and our swivel front seat. Keith built a homemade AC unit by connecting a plastic hose to our cooler and attaching it to a fan wrapped in copper wire. The fan pulls cold air up from the cooler and pushes it through the metal, making it even colder. We have no kitchen or running water, so we cook on a Coleman stove that we keep in the rear storage area along with our gear and plastic food bin. The easiest way to describe our set up is that we are basically camping 24/7…

We pulled an old ladder and spare tire mount from a pick & pull junkyard, attached an awning for extra shade and shelter in poor weather conditions, and mounted a solar panel to the roof in front of our Yakima rack, which houses everything from extra gas cans to storage bins full of climbing gear to our foldable kayaks to snowboards.

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And while we drive the van, she really belongs to our two dogs, Bucket and Dagwood, who have taken quite well to our nomadic lifestyle. Everywhere we go, they go. Everything we do, they do. We even went as far as to buy them special rappelling harnesses so they could join us on our technical canyoneering trips. Their happiness is the compass by which this van steers.

So, for now, we see no end in sight to this little rolling world of ours. We’ve both managed to keep our jobs, which allows us to finance our adventures, and we’ve fallen pretty hard for a world where less will always, always be more.

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