It was a Tuesday. I’d come home early from SLAC and was in the workshop, just finishing up putting my fancy new car seats in the Dodge when I heard a familiar rumble coming up the driveway. Cleo’s head was poking half out the window as Dan rolled in. It hadn’t even been two weeks but it felt like more. Welcome to California dirtbag! The back of the Cabana was basically touching the ground thanks to the scooter and mountain bike strapped on to the back, not to mention the bed that was piled high with his stuff, including two massive solar panels! The scooter was the most exciting addition to our dirtbag family, a 150cc beast purchased for the high price of $350. I’d already bought myself a helmet in preparation for a whopping $30 – thanks Craigslist!
It was Dan’s first time seeing my new beast so I gave him the royal tour. He was suitably impressed and nostalgic about the way his van used to be. We got the tape measure out to compare our two vans and discovered they are built on the same chassis with slightly different bodies and engine bits – might come in handy for swapping parts in future? Such nerds.
Into the apartment and Cleo was drinking from the toilet bowl while Dan wowed himself about the place. The word “mansion” was used – only a vanlifer could think that of a 350 square foot pad. After we got Dan all unpacked, we had to go for a spin on scoot. There was just enough room on the seat for both of us with my ass hanging over the back maybe just a little. I held on tight as we blew through the streets of San Mateo and straight to the closest pub. Steamies is a nice little local where we shared a celebratory beer.
Not enough hours in the day, I had to be in bed early for my first ever shift as a Duty Operator at SLAC the next day but that didn’t stop us staying up till about midnight…
My shifts went well! I managed to keep the place from burning down and even had to handle a few problems. Wednesday we had our first guests over at the apartment – Vanessa & Kyle. It was an interesting concept to have four people and a pitbull in such a small space, but we managed, eating steaks on the floor over a good catch-up, looking forward to seeing each other more.
By my second shift on Thursday I fell asleep on the job. I’d sat at a table outside for lunch and just thought I’d rest my head on my arms for a bit. Who knows how much time had passed when one of the guys pressed my elbow gently saying my name to wake me. The DO phone was bloody ringing and I was sleeping through it! I jolted out of it and carried on, embarrassed and understanding that eight hours of sleep is necessary to stay awake for 12 hours on shift!
Thankfully I got through Friday ok and, as coordinated, Dan came and picked me up at knock-off time and we drove into the forest. I was taking him to Alice’s Restaurant for dinner on our way down to Santa Cruz, it is one of the favourite local spots that sits on a busy mountain road intersection that boasts many a nice car and motorbike to admire while sitting under redwoods sipping brews and good food. Before the sun fully set we drove south on a beautiful winding highway descending down to the coast, the views were stunning and with Dan driving it was nice to be a passenger in my own van.
We rolled into Paradise Park around 9pm Friday night. Ross and Jen were expecting us and we had beers in our hands within minutes of walking through the door. Sitting on their newly finished wood floor, we introduced Cleo and Ross and Jen got to know more about the guy they’d heard so much about. Emily, Jen’s sister, popped in for a night cap – one of the benefits of Paradise Park – there is always company around the corner (and they’re normally on for a drink).
Saturday we were allowed a minor sleep in until Jonah was up. Jen and Ross’ 6 year old son is an absolute legend. I was happy to see him again and he got on with Dan immediately – he was a new prospective games partner! Jen cooked up an amazing breakfast of eggs, hashbrowns and green stuff which we ate under the trees in the backyard. Just as we were hatching a plan to head out riding, Michelle turned up – another SLAC friend, she was to join us for a mountain bike.
With two cars, Cleo on Dan’s lap and too many bikes to count, we drove up to Twin Gates and got ourselves riding. Cleo was happy to be out on the trails again as Jonah led us through the forest. I was stoked to see Dan on my old mountain bike tearing through the forest with me. Michelle had to be the highlight though, no matter where she was on the trail you could hear her. Her shouts and whoops of joy resonated through the pines, putting smiles on all our faces. On her hybrid purple bike, she tackled everything we did on our big wheels and wide bars and she did it in great style.
Back near Twin Gates, we navigated our way through a horse festival but got separated in the process. Cleo’s leash got caught in my back wheel (we were scared she’d chase a horse) and so we lost the others. I put my useless navigation skills to work and to make a long story short, we ended up losing a tonne of elevation, gaining it all back again, bush bashing towards the noise of a road and finding our way back to where we’d been parked only to find out the car was 100m from where we’d got lost. Whoops. Without service we couldn’t get in touch with the others but we managed to meet up again. Jen, Michelle and Cleo drove back down the hill to the brewery to get some beers chilled for us while me and the boys did a bit of exploring around UCSC before shooting down Yukon trail & Emma Macquarie. I had a slow OTB going over a tall log, my first on Scottie and right in front of Dan. He was impressed and helped get my bike off me. Jonah’s OTB was way more intense at the bottom of Yukon. He’d gotten massive air off a jump and whipped a little too much near the landing. Ross, after making sure not to run over his son, consoled him and got him back on the bike in no time. Tough kid, I’d have cried too if I hit the ground that hard.
We were happy to arrive at the Shanty Shack to some cold beer and sunshine. We stayed for a couple rounds than rode/drove back to Paradise Park for showers and another beer before Dan and I went out for the night. This whole weekend was orchestrated because my good mates Kimberly and Anthony were getting married. Saturday night was to be a pre-wedding BBQ before the big event on Sunday. Predicting an evening of drinking, we rode our bikes to the nearby park to find our friends. Cleo happily stayed behind with her new friends. Dan rode with his shirt off so he didn’t arrive in sweat, suiting up at the park entrance like a pro. We spotted the biggest group of people and head in that direction. Dan found Anthony before I did and we were excited to say hi. People were shouting my name before we’d had a chance to lock our bikes up – these were mates I knew from Tesla.
Over some brilliant food, I got to see Kimberly, meet her Mum and catch up with some great people I hadn’t seen in over a year. Better yet, Dan got to meet all of them! With the park closing, the party was far from over, we were on our way to 99 Bottles to continue the festivities. We cruised down the hill and into town – careful of traffic thanks to our lack of lights. At least we had helmets! We had the upstairs section of the bar to ourselves talked loud and happily over the music and awkward online shopping channel playing on the TVs. When there was a call for speeches, I got right up and did an impromptu, feeling so lucky to be a part of this, witnessing two great people get hitched.
We were home by about 1am, having successfully navigated the back way into Paradise Park and entering the right combination at the gate to creep in to our spot. Jen and Cleo were waiting at the door, apparently Cleo had sensed us coming.
Not long after the sun came up, we heard a quiet voice from somewhere near our heads. “Dan! Sarah! Do you want to play Bears Vs. Babies?” Ha ha ha, Jonah. Dan caved first, turning himself over in bed to play cards with Jonah while I snoozed some more. Within an hour, Jonah had me, Jen and Dan playing the addictive game. It’s not even worth me trying to explain it but it was fun. We were still pretty much in our underwear eating breakfast when Shane rocked up. One of the neighbours, he was around to see if there was to be any surfing action this morning. Well yes there was! Breakfast done, Shane, Dan, Ross, Jonah and I piled into Shane’s truck with enough surfboards and wetsuits to make some fun.
At Manresa, we sussed out the surf. I was concerned about the strong cold wind and lack of sunshine that made me hug myself and wonder what the hell we were thinking. But everyone else was putting their wetsuits on so I got my shit together. Shane didn’t have much luck on his shortboard thanks to the smallness of the waves, but they were plenty big for me! I managed to catch a few on his funboard and Dan was ripping it up on a SUP board, standing like Posseidon above the rest of us in the line up. Ross didn’t put his feet on any board, he was busy pushing Jonah into waves who was performing much better than I was. We figured out it had been over a year since Scorpion Bay so I was pretty happy with my performance.
After a couple hours out in the water, we dried off and got warm in the truck on the way back to Paradise Park. We thanked Shane profusely for the use of his boards and sat out in the backyard for a farmer’s lunch. It was nearing wedding time but we went for a post-lunch wander towards Tom’s place. Jen’s father was one of the original duty operators at SLAC. Tom got Ross the job and Ross got me the job so I effectively had Tom to thank for my presence. It was great to see him again, even if only for a few minutes. He’d labeled me “a curious woman” and I liked him for that.
Before we knew it, we were running late. Dan and I rushed home, showered, dressed and drove out of the Park. Fearing a failure of my navigation skills, we picked up Tom on the way out who was walking home. He hopped in the van and directed us towards the exit before getting out again and sending us on our way. Dan drove like a champ through the forest until we reached the state park. We were thoroughly late. The guy at the entrance moved painfully slowly, making sure to apply a perfect amount of tape to our receipt so we could tape in to the windscreen and he seemed reluctant to give us directions. We broke all speed limits getting to the spot and when we saw Kimberly arm-in-arm with her mother at the head of the aisle we knew we had cut it way too fine. We parked and shuffled around the edge of the picnic area to some seats just as Kimberly turned to face the crowd.
To watch these two people get married was a blessing, a privilege and a bloody good show! Kimberly is a legend – she’s no fuss, full of energy, selfless and just a wonderful, kind person. Anthony is no different, he is adventurous, lovable, has an enthusiasm for the important things in life and is just a great guy to sit down and have a beer with. To see them standing together, Kimberly as beautiful as I’ve ever seen her and Anthony acutely humble, it’s bringing a tear to my eye now.
They made us laugh the whole way through, it wasn’t just their hearts that were lifting. They cracked jokes about Kimberly’s “one ear”, the celebrant paused to let a noisy train go past, they told us how there’d been a stuff up with the marriage certificate and they wouldn’t actually be married today, they also didn’t have the rings and so they said their vows while exchanging lolly rings. The whole crows was in fits and in awe. These two people are something else.
We caught up with people we’d seen the night before, milling around after the bride and groom had been “wed”. Eventually we all meandered over to the reception venue. Dan drove us over there and we found out my passenger window which had been taped to the doorframe had finally given way and fallen into the door, irretrievable by the window motor. It was a busy carpark too and so, dressed in our best, we got the tools out and I got the door trim off. We managed to lift the window by hand by assisting the lever attached to the motor and fixed it shut. Right, let’s party.
Roaring Camp was the perfect place to celebrate the connection of K&A, it was semi-outdoors with tables laid out in a big open barn. It seems the dancing got started straight away and after a beautiful dinner there were some heartfelt speeches. I’m sure everyone in the room became emotional at different stages of the night. For me, it was when Kimberly danced with her Mum. With hands joined, they shook themselves around the floor to a dancy-tune, seeing no one but each other. Kimberly lost her father too young and her mother had lost her husband. Even I could feel his absence, I couldn’t imagine what it was like for them and here they were dancing and laughing. We all partook in the dancing in separate stints and Kimberly did not once get tired of twirling in her knee-length dress. It was her wedding day and she couldn’t have enough fun.
The party went long into the night, ending for us around the campfire set up outside where James gave me a lesson on how to tie my shoelaces in a more efficient way. Typical James, always finding ways to better people’s lives, even in my drunk state I made sure to remember my lesson. As the place closed down, Kimberly, ever making sure everyone was looked after, shuttled people onto the buses they’d provided and we took our leave. We hung out with James and Mel in the carpark a while, just long enough to finish a couple of beers, then we all made our way to our digs for the night. I drove us back down the hill and into Paradise Park for another post-midnight creep in. Had all this really happened over just one weekend?
Monday was a rough start. It had to be an early one since I had to be at SLAC by a specific time to attend an x-ray school. Cleo was feeling enough at home now that she thought it would be ok for her to sleep on the couch all night. We vaguely heard Ross leave super early and the rest of us left about an hour after him. We said goodbye to Jonah and Jen, thanking them for being such amazing hosts on such an amazing weekend and Jonah seemed concerned about when he would next see Cleo. Dan slept the whole drive north but duly woke up when we got to SLAC and he had to drive himself home. His phone dead, I gave him directions to get home, which he managed safely. The unemployed prick, of course he jumped straight into bed while I suffered through x-ray school, standing at the back of the class to make sure I stayed awake.
* * * *
Dan didn’t know what he was in for when he came west. Over the next two weeks, we didn’t stop. Dan became the proud owner of new climbing gear, then the proud owner of used climbing gear after a spin at the Stanford gym with my mate Bea. We hit a hip-hop show in Oakland with James, ran out of fuel in the Dodge on the way only to find out that a 5 gallon jerry can wasn’t enough to get her going again – a short walk and refill of the can and we eventually got there to nod our heads to the tunes.
Wakeboarding on the Delta was next with my mate Rob and a bunch of people from Tesla. I didn’t know so many people I used to work with had such fancy toys! We had a great day on the boat, drinking obscene amounts of beer and faceplanting the water (well I was anyway). Dan, Rob and Payton managed to jump the wake with their mad skills while the newbies Eric and I managed to stay upright for a stint which I was happy to achieve.
We thought we’d have an easy Sunday and check out SF. Such tourists we are, we were disappointed to find zero electric scooters around the place, finding out the cheap rentals that had once clogged the streets were no more because of new registration laws. Boo. We must have walked ten miles. From the pier to the cable car, to Lombard St, back to the wharf for lunch, Ghirardelli Square and a $4 Uber to get back to the train station, avoiding the one hour line for the return cable car.
The next week, I became a proud owner of a new (Craigslist new) skateboard and we proceeded to skate every day around the streets of San Mateo.
On Thursday, Dan, Ross, Dave, Wildman and I met at Skeggs for a pre-work ride. A new take on the usual after-work ride, we were surprised how warm it was at 6am in the mountains. We took our time, getting back to the carpark at around 9:30am with only one OTB to report from Dave. To our surprise Dave immediately produced a handful of beers, which is obviously normal practice for an arvo ride, but this? Obviously we sat in the carpark drinking for another hour. We rolled into work around 10:30am and two beers in – not bad!
The next day, Dan came for a tour of SLAC, led mostly by Ross because he knows way more than me. Dan was suitably impressed and completely confused by the end of it. Following the tour, we went to the SLAC “end of run BBQ” which is a good excuse for everyone at SLAC and their families to eat great food, play sports on the lawn, manufacture swings for kids out of sticks and rope and proceed to get ridiculously drunk once all the kids went home. We both had a great time and Dan fit right in. Turns out even the super smart people I work with are idiots when drunk. We played basketball for at least an hour at the SLAC gym before I drove Dan’s drunk-ass home.
Still hungover from the night before, a bike festival was next. We were volunteering for the free shirt and beer but ended up getting spoiled with lunch and ice cream as well! Driving into Oakland, Dan lost his shit, “AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!! AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!” I slowed right down looking for the child I was about to run over until he eventually explained he’d seen an electric scooter, the cheap ones for hire we’d searched for in SF. He was on one before we’d reached the festival.
The volunteering was easy, we helped set up some barriers, bike racks and the e-bike test track. The shirts were descent and we had fun. Dan’s strength was waning towards the end of our 8-12pm shift, probably thanks to the body-slams to the basketball court he’d performed the night before. With some food and coffee in him and a bit of wandering through the festival, he soon brightened up. We couldn’t let our beer tickets go to waste so we ended up having a couple of afternoon pints.
The festival was brilliant – so much free stuff and a bike-powered music stage! We both contributed to the generation of electricity for a stint, me even riding a bike-tree with another guy who was pedaling way too fast. The amphibious bike challenge pitched more than one rider into the water and had the crowd in fits of laughter and support.
All festival’d out, we it the streets of Oakland on the scooters, getting up to 20mph and understanding just how dangerous it was to take a hand off the super-narrow handlebars. We were home before dark and ready to spread out the bounty. The highlight were the flashing yo-yos.
But wait! There’s more! Sunday was James’ birthday and it was to be another day out on the water. We picked up new friends Chris and Patrick on the way and met James and party out at San Pablo Reservoir. The boat was already waiting for us. James had hired both a little dinghy and a small open-air houseboat. It was fun to have Cleo along for the adventure, we hung out all day, drinking, snacking and playing boat Frisbee. By the end of the day, most of us had taken a dip in the water, some against their will. It was a great way to celebrate James’ birthday. We managed to do a tiny bit of slack-lining in the park before heading home.
Monday, Dan’s last day. I thought I’d take the day off. Especially since there was a major purchase about to happen! Dan packed his gear but before he went south-east, we head north. After checking out a place in San Mateo, we drove to a place out on the Delta called Bethel Island. We had a few hiccups on the way, figuring out we needed a tow hitch to tow our prize and when we stopped to buy one we realized we’d need to remove the scooter hitch but alas we didn’t have the keys to the locking pin! We failed there but continued on, accepting we wouldn’t be making the pick-up today. Out in the hot, smoggy Bethel Island, we found Dave’s place and the Prindle 16 boat in the front yard. We’d come all this way (1.5 hours) to see this $500 boat. The “perfect condition” they’d advertised was a stretch of the imagination, but we were caught up in a dream. After talking back and forth and inspecting the sails, we gave them $100 with the promise to come back and pick up our catamaran sailboat in a few weeks. We’d (nearly) bought a boat!
By the time we got back, Dan was late heading back to Phoenix and just like that, he was gone, Cleo hanging out the window as he drove away from me.
Whatever will happen next?
I’d like to point out that during this time we still managed to be productive!
Dan completed his solar panel install, complete with a running fridge and regulator for charging his accessories. I kitted out the scoot with a very custom made phone holder, fitting Dan’s phone perfectly, I was pretty impressed with myself. Dan worked his magic with a dremmel to get the mounting holes right and he was sporting a one-of-a-kind phone holster to suit his Postmates needs! We also built Dan’s idea of a kitchen bar – the perfect breakfast spot for a couple of dirtbags like us!
All the beautiful photos you see in this post were taken by Drew Bird Photography, you can find his website here.