The Anatomy of Coffee

Coffee has never been a big deal to me. When we’d run out of coffee in the office, I didn’t really care and I’d sit back and watch my fellow coworkers start pacing, wondering if the world was going to come to an end. That’s all changed after moving into a van full-time. Mornings that start with coffee tend to go a little smoother than mornings without and I’m not proud of this basic move of mine, but dang Gold Status at Starbucks feels so good.

There’s no way I’d call myself a coffee connoisseur, all I know is I want it dark and bold, filled to the top because cream and sugar just takes away from the au naturel taste of coffee. One thing I have noticed is that coffee has an anatomy. There are five distinct layers to coffee that should never go overlooked and should always be recognized for the ultimate coffee drinking experience.The Anatomy of Coffee by The Weekend Warrior

Ouch That’s Hot!

The cute barista hands you your coffee and you cannot wait to feel that strong jolt of caffeine in the morning. You take a sip and spit it all over here because you couldn’t tell it was hot by the steam flowing out the top. That’s one way to get her attention, I guess, but next time you may want to slow down and start with Hello, my name’s (insert name here). What’s yours?

Almost There…

We’ve established that freshly brewed coffee if piping hot, but it’s never clear when it’s at the right taste of enjoyment. Instead you wait a while and take a small sip. You clinch your face from the hotness, but it’s not so hot that you’re able to choke it down, killing the nerves in your mouth and giving yourself a case of heartburn in the process.

Sweet Nectar of the Gods

This is what we’ve been waiting for people! The middle of the coffee is where it’s at. You’ve peeled back the layers of hotness and you’ve found that sweet spot that elevates your day, mood, and life. I swear, if Obama, the leaders of ISIL, and Kim Jong-un could meet and this is the only liquid served, the world would be a peaceful and perfect place again.

Beginning of the End

You’ve grown comfortable with the Sweet Nectar of the Gods and in doing so, you’ve let the end grow cold. You thought it’d last forever, but good things must come to an end. Rather than sipping on that Sweet Nectar to the very end you find yourself chugging semi-warm coffee.

Grounds!

There’s no denying it. It doesn’t matter who brewed it or how great it was. You’re always going to come across coffee ground at the bottom of your cup, mug thermos, or whatever drinking apparatus you use. There are only two ways around them. Leave them at the bottom with some liquid or grow a mustache that’ll act as a filter.

Vanlife Lows are Better Than Office Highs

My van, Jolene is in the shop again. At the beginning of March she needed a new EGR Valve, two weeks ago she needed a new air mass flow sensor, and now a motor mount broke which ricocheted and messed things up even more. Every time she’s in the shop I’m brought down to my lowest of lows. It’s hard to get excited about where I am, what I’m doing, and the life I’m living.Vanlife Lows are Better Than Office Highs

No one likes it when their car breaks and is in the shop. They’re out of an easy form of transportation. Think of having your only means of transportation and house being worked on all at the same time without any access to either. That’s what this is like. I’m out of control, have to make quick plans so I don’t end up on the street at night, and have to completely adjust my life. Then once all that’s said and done, I have to fork over a briefcase full of Benjamins just to get my girl back and life moving forward again.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve thought about quitting. Throwing in the towel, calling it quits on this whole dream life of a year to move back east and get another safe office job. That’d be easy and would possibly be the “safe” thing to do.

When I had a desk job and had a great day in the office, I was capped at a certain point. It felt like there was this glass ceiling where I could see more, what I wanted, but it was unattainable. Work was just something to provide a steady paycheck with benefits that brought along with it some happiness.

My friend Megan said it best when we were in Big Sur. The lows on the road are so much lower, but the happiness potential is so much greater. I’d even venture to say that the happiness potential is infinite. At least with the low moments, like handing over Jolene’s keys to the mechanic, there’s a bottom. They’re definitive and unless things really go awry, something else in the past has been harder to overcome. The flipside is that something better’s on the horizon and the potential for that is infinite.

Vanlife may not be the answer to your happiness though. With those lows it’s given me a ton of joy, but breakdowns, tracking down a safe place to sleep every night, working in coffee shops for hours on end, little stability, and having a finite income (to name a few) may not be your idea of fun. That’s totally cool, whatever is your idea of fun, it’s worth chasing. At least that’s what I think. Sometimes it might be scary, seem impossible, or bring you to some dark places but it’s worth it.

Those infinite high moments are so worth it.

What Makes Something Highly Illegal?

The other morning Adam and I were hanging out with our friends Megan and Michael. We were putting together a tentative plan for the upcoming week. They’re from California and know some of the best spots and were leading the charge. While Megan was looking up camping locations she stumbled across different activities to do around the Central Coast and it said boldly on a page that

Cliff Jumping is Highly Illegal.Cliff Jumping is Highly Illegal

We all had a good belly laugh, not that someone would jump off a cliff, but we were all wondering what made something highly illegal rather than just being illegal. If you’ve ever planned an outdoor outing and did some research or noticed a sign on the highway saying it’s highly illegal to litter chances are you too had a belly laugh and wondered the same thing.

After careful consideration (and a few beers) I’ve been able to decipher, for all of us, what makes something illegal and highly illegal.

Illegal

This is something stupid that the 5-0 can slap you with a fine. Do you live in a town where you can’t mow your lawn between the hours of noon and two on the second Wednesday of the month where there’s more than six letters in the name of said month? Chances are you’ve done something illegal and quite possibly got slapped with a fine for mowing your lawn.

Highly Illegal

Think of the worst consequence out there, aside from death. It’s probably jail, right? That’s what gives something that status of being highly illegal. In this case jumping off a cliff is so frowned upon that you can go to jail over that. Then again, you might jump and never come back. So don’t jump off a cliff…even if your friends are doing it.

Bonus

Legal

What makes something legal? Of course doing no harm to yourself or someone else is the obvious answer. But if you want to have a little that’s also a little risky…

Don’t Get Caught!

The Desert, It’s Wild

Just be careful and don’t get lost, we’ll come looking for you in a couple days if  we don’t hear from you.

That was what the staff said at the visitor center at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. They didn’t tell me I’d potentially go to jail or get a hefty fine if someone caught me exploring the different areas that are a little off the beaten path. All they did was smile and actually started to encourage me to explore new areas. They didn’t care, they just didn’t want to have to come rescue my butt. That was the perfect introduction to the west.Justin Fricke poking a cactus in the desert of Saguaro National Park

Photo: Adam Fricke

A couple months later I got to Big Bend National Park. Adam and I met up with our friend Sean, who works in the park, and he took us to the hot spring that sits right on the Rio Grande. It was dark and as we started walking down the trail, Border Patrol drove by. My first reaction was to duck and try to escape from being seen by their headlights. Sean kind of laughed and told me Dude, relax. As long as you’re not doing anything illegal, they don’t care. No one cares around here.

I’ve been in the west for a couple months now and the best way I can describe it is by saying It’s wild. It’s the wild, wild, west. I love it here: the vastness of the never-ending landscape, dry air, and all the dust (although my van would disagree about the dust). It’s a wild place that I’ve quickly fallen in love with, not just for the scenery, but also for the mindset. No one care what I do, as long as I’m not causing any harm, it’s all good.

Back home in the east, it’s a lot different. It was kind of easy to get into trouble, so many people telling me I can’t do something or go somewhere for no reason other than you’re not allowed. It bugged me like no other being told that, so I’d go somewhere and do something anyways.

Now no one cares, they wish me well, ask me to come back and show them pictures of what I find; oh and don’t die. They tell me not to die or get lost. I appreciate that.

A couple years ago I thought I hated the desert and the west of America. I’d never been here before, I just knew it was hot, arid, and full of nothing. Well all that’s true, but I love it here. How no one tells me I can’t or shouldn’t do something or go somewhere. It’s a lot different than what I expected. The desert’s become my solace, my go-to place.

Who would’ve thought a kid from Florida that loves the ocean so much would actually love the desert? Crazier things have happened before, I guess.

The Price of Fun

 We loaded our packs on our backs and started the one-mile hike over the sand dunes to our campsite. Adam and I got to White Sands National Monument later in the day and had last choice of backcountry campsites. A mile hike isn’t bad, but the weather decided to make us work for our fun.The Price of Fun in White Sands National Monument New Mexico

The two of us hate wind, with a passion. It can be a beautiful day and our moods turn sour with a constant wind of even 10mph+. That’s what happened at White Sands National Monument; except the winds were 20mph with gusts of 30mph+. It was miserable. Still we walked out to our backcountry site hoping to get some awesome shots of a lit up tent with a starry night in the background.

In pictures, you could’ve seen smoke coming out of my ears, but the wind blew it away. The tent was blowing in the wind as we tried to get it staked down. Snot started flowing out of my nose from the cold wind. Finally, we had the tent secured down to the hard gypsum sand. The dunes were glowing with colors as we clicked off some photographs of the fading light.

For some reason I had a hope that the wind would die out as the night grew darker. That turned out to be a dream that would never come true. Gypsum sand swirled around all night and the wind only started blowing harder. I’m amazed my 3 person tent didn’t snap from the wind. By 8:00pm it was evident that we weren’t going to get any photos that night. Sand was bound to get into the nooks and crannies of our cameras, ruining them, and they’d topple over if we get up our tripods in hopes of getting some star trails.

One thing I’ve begun to pride myself with is being able to fall asleep anywhere. It started out warm, so I didn’t even bother to blow up my sleeping pad, but the ground got colder and somehow I slept like a baby when I wasn’t tossing and turning. Adam, on the other hand, got beat up all night by the tent pole near him that kept on getting lifted by the wind.

The morning light didn’t make things much better. It got colder over night and the wind was bitter cold without the sun’s rays beating down on me. I grabbed a couple pictures and walked back to the tent, fighting the wind and sand to get Adam up. Right when he was done grabbing pictures; we packed up and got the heck out of there. Accepting defeat, my head hung as we crossed the tall sand dunes back to the van.

For the longest time I’ve debated whether the monetary cost of a trip would be worth the reward of a great time. Countless times I turned down a good time because I wanted the money to get all moldy in my bank account.

Now there’s a new price of fun and that’s the weather. It’s like the weather’s saying Hey! I see you wanting to have a fun time. Respect. But I’m going to make you earn it. Now it’s you’re choice: will you earn it and enjoy yourself or will you accept defeat and hate everything about where you are and what you’re doing?

I think we all place a price on fun, whether it be monetary, how much we have to work for it, or even a specific suffer factor. Whatever our price is, it’s up to us to take advantage of our chance to have fun and not let a moment pass us by because of the cost. Whatever that cost might be.

Keeping the Orange and Green Flowing on the Road

Life on the road can get a little stressful, believe it or not. There are deadlines to keep up with, the trip planning never ends, and Adam and I are always trying to find new work. Truth is, I love this stress, but sometimes it’s awesome to go off the grid and take a quick break. That’s what I’m doing this St. Patty’s day.

In the past I’ve sat behind a desk working at a computer in a swanky office for St. Patrick’s Day, but not this year. This year’s different, very different. This year you can find me in the desert. The desert you say? Yes, the desert, I say. There’s just something so calming and relaxing about a little desert oasis in New Mexico.Mike's Hard Mango Punch

Interested in a St. Patrick’s Day desert party of your own? Here are a few awesome suggestions to make your desert party epic, St. Patrick’s Day or not.

Go climbing

The desert’s filled with beautiful rock that’s just begging to be climbed. Gather up your friends and enjoy a day of bagging sends. If you’ve never climbed outside, get a group together with some friends that have a little more experience or even hire a guide. It’s a blast and you’ll love it!

Camp outCamping with Mike's Hard Mango Punch

Want to know what’s awesome about the desert? Camping! When you’re in the desert, you’re out there. Usually it’s just you and who you’re with, make sure you enjoy being around those in the group. When the sun starts to go down, get that campfire lit and grab a beverage or two to enjoy with everyone. Feeling festive? Grab a Mike’s Hard Mango Punch, a bright and vibrant way to start your evening around the campfire, or a Mike’s Hard Limeade, with a blend of delicious limes that yields to a citrusy finish, to keep with those festive orange and green colors.

Sled down a sand dune

What’s more fun than screaming down a sand dune in the desert? Not much, I must say. There are some great sand dunes at White Sands National Monument in southwest New Mexico that are just waiting for you to go flying down on a sled.

Take a hikeJustin Fricke The Weekend Warrior on a desert hike

Desert mountain peaks galore await you to stand atop them. Make sure you stay plenty hydrated and don’t party too hard the night before. Bring warm clothes and snack too, those peaks over 8,000 feet can get a little chilly. Be smart, but it is always nice to have a celebratory Mike’s Hard Mango Punch at the peak when you get there. The bright colors will bring a smile to your face as you cool off from a gnarly hike to the top.

Mountain biking

Screaming along the orange desert sand on two wheels with the sun shining down on you. Now that’s a great way to spend a day in the desert. Load up your car with your favorite mountain bike buddy and your bikes and spend a day out on the desert trails.

Find a hot springJustin Fricke The Weekend Warrior relaxing in a desert hot spring

The desert is teeming with unknown places. Do some searching on the internet and find a hot spring to relax in. Nighttime’s the best time to hit up a hot spring. It’s not so hot like in the middle of the day and you can look up and see the stars twinkling high in the sky.

What are some other fun things you like to do in the desert?

26th Birthday Challenge | How I Climbed 26 Routes in a Day

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to to do a birthday challenge. In the past I’d be confined to the climbing gym on my birthday, relegated to bagging the amount of V Point in boulder routes for the age I was turning. It was fun, but it wasn’t climbing outside. Living on the road this year afforded me the opportunity to do something I’ve never done: have a climbing birthday challenge outside and in a new place to me (Video of the birthday challenge is below!).Justin Fricke The Weekend Warrior on his birthday challenge at Hueco Tanks State Park

Photo: Adam Fricke

What’s a birthday challenge?

The way I interpret it to be is anything you want it to be. Turning 23 and want to climb 23 sport routes in a day? Go for it! Turning 50 and you want to run a 50 mile ultra on, or around, your birthday? Hell yea! That’s what’s fun about the birthday challenge, you turn it into whatever you want and you make the rules. As long as you’re doing what you love with people you like being around, you’re winning.

What was my birthday challenge?

Go to Hueco Tanks State Park in West Texas and climb 26 boulder routes in one day. I wanted to only count climbs with a V2 grade or higher, but my body had other plans for me.

How’d it go?

Terrible, awful, awesome, so much fun, and everything in between. I’ve never been to Hueco Tanks State Park to climb, so Adam and I agreed to hire a climbing guide. That was a key to success. Rather than spending lots of my time looking for boulders in an outdated guide book, our guide was able to show me great routes to climb.

Now I’m not in climbing shape. I’ve only climbed a handful of times since hitting the road two months ago and it showed. After a couple V0’s and a V1, my body told me that anything and everything would count as a climbed route. For some reason I thought it’d be a great idea to try and bag a V4. Don’t get me wrong, Moonshine was awesome. It’s got great flow to it, but that overhanging roof climb killed my arms and core for the rest of the day. After I was done screwing around on Moonshine, I only had 6 climbs under my belt and it was almost noon.

Our group went to a spot that’s tough to get to, but was loaded with Vo’s. Within an hour I had bagged another 7 routes and was halfway to my goal of 26. On our hike to our last spot I was contemplating whether I’d realistically be able to finish my challenge or not. As I was flailing on some V0’s and V1’s, it became a real thing that I’d have to suck up my pride and start repeating some climbs, and that’s what I did.

I think I climbed one route a total of 7 times to get my route count up to 22. Tired, dehydrated, hungry, and ready for the day to be over, we approached our last climbing area for the day. I only needed 4 more climbs and it was a slab wall we came to. I hate climbing slab. It’s my nemesis and ironically what stood between me and finishing up my birthday challenge.

As I pulled the lip on my last climb, I was elated to see the golden hour sun setting over the desert of West Texas. It took 9 hours for me to barely heave my way up 26 boulder routes and almost quit numerous times, but it was all worth it. I got to do something I’ve never done, celebrate my birthday with my brother and new friends in a place unfamiliar to me and learn some things along the way.

Never give up. If something’s worth fighting for, then never quit. I wanted to quit on myself numerous times, but I also hate to quit and lose. That’s half of the fight. The other half is fighting pride. I came in with a way big ego and this birthday challenge crushed me. I never sent a V2 that day and I ended up having to repeat routes in order to bag the 26 I wanted. It’s totally cool to change a strategy to make something work, and I think it’s necessary. It helps to keep things in check and it made me grateful to be doing what I was doing.

In the end, it was the best 26th birthday ever.

Find Your Favorite Office

I’ve had a lot of offices in my career (if you even want to call it a career). When I worked in banking I had a mixture of an open work space, two cubicles, and two offices. Within the past two months of living on the road, I’ve had…we’ll I don’t know how many offices I’ve had. Some offices have had a window, others didn’t have a door, a few have been open air, the worst had terrible wifi, and the best didn’t have any wifi. Each office has been unique, each one is my favorite for various reasons.Favorite Office in Padre Island National Seashore

Here’s how you can find your favorite office:

Know what you want

Do you want an actual office, a cubicle, or an open work space? Knowing which you want is kind of important because you need to actually work in a place or in a field that offers that office you so desire.

Bust your butt

Nothing’s going to be handed to you. You have to work for it. If this doesn’t apply to you and you already have the office of your dream, congratulations. Stop reading this, you’re above me and everyone else still reading. I envy you, no really, I do.

Go find your office

We live in a world that’s ever changing. That’s what’s great about today’s modern era. If we don’t like how something’s done, we can change it or go somewhere else where we like how something’s done.

Same idea goes for offices as well. If we don’t like our office, we can work remote. Pack up, take a road trip, and find your favorite office. I take that back, you don’t have to take a road trip to find your office. Your favorite office could be a local coffee shop, park, beach, or in the mountains near you.

Figure out what you want in an office and go find it. Take a look at a postcard, cruise Google, or find an old map and go. Take advantage of today’s modern resources and find the office that you love the most.

Just make sure the boss is cool with you telecommuting. And if you’re your boss, wi-5!

Where’s your favorite office?

6 Things to do at the Windsurfing Capital of the USA

We rolled into Padre Island National Seashore and nabbed a camp site at Bird Island Basin. We had learned at the Visitor Center that it’s chill there and cheap, $2.50 cheap if you have a National Parks Pass. Within an hour of setting up camp (parking the van), our neighbor let us know that we were staying at the windsurfing capital of the USA. The winds there are strong, the water doesn’t get too choppy, the water isn’t very deep, and windsurfers from all over (even Canada) make their way to Bird Island Basin to cruise with the wind.

We had no idea!

Adam and I surf, but we’ve never tried windsurfing. There were strong winds in the forecast and windsurfers started piling in. We had an absolute blast there, even though we’re not into windsurfing. Should you find yourself at the Wind surfing Capital of the USA and in the same boat as us, here are 6 fun things to do.

Learn how to windsurf

Wind surfing looks like a hoot. I wish Adam and I had stayed a little longer and came strapped with a little more cash for a wind surfing lesson. Since the lagoon’s fairly shallow, it’s one of the best places to learn how to windsurf. If I ever find myself back there, I’m definitely spending the extra dough to learn how to windsurf.

Take pictures and/or videos of windsurfersWindsurfing at Bird Island Basin Padre Island National Seashore

Watching the windsurfers skip across the water, jibe, and make their turn is a sight to see. Make some memories and take photos or videos. Any camera setup will work, of course, but if you have a lens that’s 400mm+, you’ll be happy. Windsurfers go far out and you need a long lens to capture the moment when they’re far off shore. Make sure you have a high shutter speed, like 1/2,000 high. You want to freeze the action and every drop of water, unless you’re going for a motion blur image, and that’s a whole new animal.

Watch the sunrise over the dunesSunrise over the Bird Island Basin Campground dunes at Padre Island National Seashore

Sunrises at Bird Island Basin are gorgeous. I’m terrible and waking up early enough to catch a sunrise and I managed to drag myself out of the van both morning we were there to see the sunrise. It starts out with all the crazy orange tones and golden hour quickly follows. Photographers will love this place, it might even be worth it to have a model friend come out with you and strike a few poses.

Then watch the sunset over the lagoonSunset over Padre Island National Seashore

Sunset happens in reverse order with golden hour casting this perfect golden light and there’s pristine light right after the sun goes down. Scout a location you want to shoot and then wait for the moment and get to snapping. You’ll love it.

Read a book or write in your journalRelaxing at Bird Island Basin Campground

It’s so peaceful at Bird Island Basin. There’s another campground right off the beach and that one’s much more populated. Bird Island Basin’s very quiet and everyone there does their own thing. Creativity seems to flow off the lagoon because our creativity and thoughts were through the roof while we were there.

Hangout with everyone at the campground

When we were camped out, everyone there was awesome. We could walk along the shore and start a conversation with the RVers and campers there, and we did! Everyone there had a different story and just wanted to shoot the breeze. It was awesome and we made some new friends while we were there. Hopefully we’ll be meeting up with one of them in Big Bend National Park and another in Iowa.

Have you camped out at Bird Island Basin and left the windsurfing to the windsurfers? What other ideas would you add?

The Traveler’s Currency

Wait. What state number is this for you? What’s been your most fun experience on the trip so far? Have you had any close calls? What’s next? How are you and your brother doing?

It’s been exactly a month and a half since setting out on the road and those are some of the questions I get. Most of the time I like to think I have a good story to tell. It really depends on how great my memory’s working that day. Hunkering down for the night at a truck stop in Alabama to wait out a storm that was spewing tornados left and right happened maybe a week or two ago and is a little more fresh on my mind than when my brother crashed and burned, hard, skating down a steep hill in North Carolina.The Traveler's Currency on The Weekend Warrior

Lots of my friends have been very welcoming and have opened their homes to a couple of stinky brothers looking for a fresh shower and a place to do some laundry, and hangout with friends, of course. In this situation I don’t have much to offer in return for their kindness. The most I have to offer are stories and it seems like that’s more than enough.

Stories are the currency of travelers. Almost everyone loves to travel for different reasons: collect things, the thrill of not knowing anyone, seeing different sights, getting away from bosses, learning to put down the phone, reconnect with oneself, etc. That’s a short list of why we travel, but the one thing we want most when we travel is to collect stories.

We love to collect and tell those stories. That’s part of the reason I wanted to do this yearlong road trip. I wasn’t living a great story, in my opinion, and I needed something more. Something had to change in order for me to live a better story. Little did I know that these stories I’m collecting would turn into some form of currency.

Stories, they don’t carry a monetary value. They aren’t much to offer to someone letting me into their home, but I like to think it’s worth something. I like to think that a story is the traveler’s currency.