Hurricane, Utah: a #vanlife love story in three parts
Part1: Van Marino
***Disclaimer: This report summarizes some adventure shenanigans from November, 2019. We hope this three-part article provides a little mental escape during these crazy and uncertain times. Thanks for reading and please stay safe out there…
Let’s face facts: November in Vermont can kinda suck (2018’s stick season powder barrage notwithstanding); New England Novembers are generally grey in color, slightly soggy, and an ambivalent mix of rain and snow.
For all of these reasons, I’ve come to look forward to November as it affords a chance to sneak out of Dodge without the FOMO. In the past we’ve aimed for off-season beach destinations to soak up some sun before the long winter, but this year we had an unsatisfied MTB itch that needed scratching.
Hurricane, Utah has been on the hit list for some time; boasting a mix of mellow and rowdy terrain, proximity to Zion National Park, and a less touristy vibe than the Sedonas and Moabs of the world, it seemingly ticks all of the boxes. We were also on the hunt for an experience that was a little more engrossing than the standard trailside AirBnN. Enter Native Campervans.
Like so many others, we’ve become enamored with the whole #vanlife movement. Having spent multiple months in our Scamp camper a few years back (a tiny, and I mean TINY tear-drop style tow-behind) we were at least slightly familiar with life on the road in a cramped space. But we had also fallen in love with living a simple, totally mobile life (even if only for a few weeks in this case). So after a bit of research we hatched a plan: ship our bikes west, head for the Hurricane / St. George area of Utah, do a bit of sightseeing, unplug for a bit, rinse and repeat.
As it turns out, there’s no shortage of van rental options out west. Wading through the candidates was a bit overwhelming — RV? Sprinter? Mini-van? Ugh. Through serendipity or dumb luck or both, we stumbled upon Native Campervans. Based out of Denver, Salt Lake, and Vegas, Native Campervans offers fully stocked vans that are well-trimmed but also beautiful in their simplicity. And their proximity to several major airports that are each spitting distance to world class riding sealed the deal.
We chose to fly into Vegas and head east from there. Our itinerary, which would shift and evolve about a dozen times throughout the trip was roughly as follows: Valley of Fire, NV (totally underrated); Hurricane / Zion; South Rim of the Grand Canyon; Sedona, and back to Vegas for some In ‘N’ Out Burger.
Since this is MTBVT.com and not EvanandKatie’sVacation.com, we’ll fast forward to the good parts, starting with the star of the show, Van Marino.
Van Marino is an 18’ Ram Promaster Sprinter-style van that we called home for 12 glorious days. The livable space in a van like this is pretty small, but has been engineered to maximize efficiency, minimize clutter, and keep things in place while you’re driving. One of the best parts about Van Marino, which we only came to truly appreciate after a few days on the road, is the understated branding. This may seem like a minor detail, but the last thing we want when we’re traveling is to stick out even more than our pasty-white Vermontness already does. Several of the other van rental companies utilize different artists to adorn the panels of their vehicles, which, while super rad, also draws attention and makes it painfully obvious that the occupants are “not from around here.”
From a purely utilitarian perspective, Van Marino offered us the perfect MTB escape pod. Solar panels kept our laptop, phones, GoPro, and blue-tooth speaker topped off all day (so much for “unplugging”). The kitchen, featuring a 2-burner stainless steel propane stove, and a sink with an actual faucet (not a pump), enabled us to stay off the grid and boondock the hell out of our trip. And a Rocky Mounts Backstage rack, which swivels 180 degrees, allowed easy access to the extra storage under the bed via the rear doors.
We packed a small solar shower to round out our home on wheels and quite literally wanted for nothing. Except maybe more time to be #vanlife road warriors. The Native Campervan folks have the entire process so dialed. For most of us, plunking down $100k for a kitted out Sprinter, or selling our homes and living on the road is simply not a reality. This van though, let us step into the dream for a few days, but without the pesky maintenance costs, registration fees, or crushing debt.
The absolute highlight of our trip was camping at the trailhead for the Jem Trail high atop Hurricane Mesa. Ride-in / ride-out at its best, with mind-bending views, quite literally some of the best sunsets we’ve ever seen, and no setting up or breaking down camp. Consider us converts.
In installment of number two of our #vanlife love story, we’ll dig into some actual riding. Stay tuned…