After living and working in Pittsburgh for the last two and a half years, Karrie and I decided that the Rocky Mountains were calling us back to our life of adventure. I took a job with the U.S. Forest Service as a Wilderness Trails Technician in Routt National Forest (where Karrie and I first worked together) and Karrie would be leading her first course for NOLS as an Instructor.
Our living situation in this new life was going to be complicated. To smooth out some of the challenges we decided it would be best to buy a van and convert it into a camper van. I had shopped for months, but everything I looked at in Ohio and Pennsylvania was either out of our price range or covered in rust. Just two days before we moved out of our house in Pittsburgh, I finally found a 2002 Ford Econoline 150 that I could live with (and in!) It wasn’t perfect but it would do.
I loaded everything we owned into the van and we drove to Karrie’s parent’s home to store some items that were too big to bring along but too important to throw out. Karrie’s dad is a mechanic so he helped us make some improvements to the van. We removed the back seats, replaced some light bulbs, and gave it a tuneup. The next day we drove to Ohio, where my dad helped us build a platform for our bed out of plywood and even laid down a bamboo floor from extra material he had from a remodeling project. Karrie cut our foam mattress to size and we were ready to roll. (Many thanks to our parents for all the help on our fast paced camper build!)
A day later and we were on the road. There wouldn’t be much time for sightseeing this time around because I needed to start my job in a few days. However, I was determined to make a stop at Monument Rocks in Kansas. I had seen a video of the area and was enamored with the idea of these sandstone towers jutting out of an otherwise flat Kansas landscape. With it being just a short jaunt off of I-70 it wouldn’t slow us down significantly.
To get to Monument Rocks you pull off of the highway in what feels like the middle of nowhere. A small gas station and convenience store has mementos confirming you’re not lost. From there it is still a solid drive off deeper into nowhere. Dark storm clouds built to the west as Google Maps told us to turn onto a dirt road.
We drove for about an hour, taking what seemed like random turns down nameless sandy roads. Then, without warning, we were there! No signs, no buildings, no parking area, and no one else around. The sandstone seemed to have just climbed out of the ground. As if they just appear to weary travelers once they have strayed far enough from civilization. It felt good to be exploring again. We walked around, marveled, and took photos.
The sun was shining overhead, and the air was still, but purple black clouds continued to grow and creep our direction. We decided it best to get a move on. As the storm pressed in, the wind picked up and scenes from the movie Twister floated through my head. I had just touched the pavement when the heavy rain hit us like a wave. Enormous rain drops splattered across the windshield and pounded angrily on our big metal roof. If we were still on the dirt it probably would have been very stressful, but given our improved location the storm was just impressive and thrilling. Before long the storm passed and we were back on I-70, Colorado bound.