The Last Straw

We were on tour in Florida with our old band, Before Dawn, which was just us at that point.  We we were a duo. It was October of 2009.  It was hot and humid, surprisingly so for Halloween.  We had played several shows.  It was our thinking that October should be a good, comfortable month for camping. Instead of paying for hotels on our drive back to Texas, we decided to tent camp at a State Park.

As you might imagine, tent camping when you have hundreds of pounds of guitar amps, monitor speakers and instruments in your car is a little different than say having a cooler with food and an extra sleeping bag.  We went very minimal with our camping gear.  After all, it was only going to be an overnight…We had our tent, our air mattress, a sleeping bag and a quilt.

It was actually turning out to be a really beautiful evening.  We had driven as far as the panhandle of Florida and it was quite a bit cooler, pleasant really. We were staying at, Falling Waters State Park.  Yay, a waterfall!  After spending late nights playing loud rock music in dirty bars, and days on end driving, despite being rather exhausted, we were excited to go on a little hike and try our damnedest to change mindsets, relax and enjoy camping?

We really wanted to hike to see the waterfall for which the park is named, but it was getting dark fast and we only made it halfway there before we disappointedly decided we better turn around and go back to camp.  We still needed to set up our tent and bed, get firewood and make some sort of dinner from the items we were able to find at the only store that was around for miles. It was a very weird old Walmart… If you spend time traveling the country via interstate, you know exactly what I am talking about.

We were trying so hard to enjoy ourselves!  We were trying so hard to accomplish these normally fun camping tasks with enthusiasm.  We were trying not to be the tired, cranky babies that we really wanted to be.  And, ”jeeze, the temperature really is dropping now that the sun went down.”

We ate our dinner. I don’t remember what it was. We went on our requisite “camper walk” whereby we walk around the campground and voyeuristically observe others enjoying the conveniences of motor homes and travel trailers. We sat by the warm fire and fantasized a bit about what kind of camper we might want some day. Then we turned in for the night.

From the screen window on our tent we had a clear view of a travel trailer at a campsite across the way from us.  We could make out the outlines of comfortable, warm, cozy people watching television.  We had camper envy. We were really jealous.  Also, we were VERY cold.

After nodding off, we both woke up around 3:30 am absolutely freezing.  There was no going back to sleep at this point.  This was Florida!  What the hell?  We put on pretty much every single piece of clothing that we had with us.  We were getting cold from the ground up, so we let air out of the air mattress thinking that the air in the mattress was keeping us cold. We took the quilt that was covering us and put it underneath us. Now we were cold on top. We tried to both cram into the only sleeping bag we had with us.  We were miserable and I was pretty sure I was starting to get a sore throat.

Even though, at this point we were probably more tired than we have ever been, at first light we got up and started packing our stuff.  There was no point in staying.  We were in no mood to hike and all we wanted to do was get home.  When we got up, we realized that there was frost on everything!  How cold was it???  I looked at the thermometer I had recently added to our camping gear.  It was 35 degrees and all we had had with us to keep warm was a summer quilt!

Thirty five degrees!  That was the last straw!  We were now officially in the market for a camper. Consuming large amounts of caffeine, we drove 13 hours from the panhandle of Florida back to Austin, Texas and spoke almost exclusively of our necessity for a camper.  We were going to somehow make it happen!  This was now more important to us than the vague social concept that one must buy a traditional home first.

On Our Radar

Because of my parents RV, the concept of RVing was now on our radar, though it would be at least ten years before we would entertain the idea of getting one ourselves.  Rob and I started to take notice of them everywhere we went.  We started to realize that the different kinds of RV’s that exist is vast!  We noticed them on the road, we noticed dealerships on the side of the road that for some reason had been completely invisible in the past, and we noticed them in campgrounds, now with some curiosity rather than scorn.

We went on a few overnight trips and did various fund raising events with my parents in their RV for their dearest cause, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. We had a ton of fun!  We met other RVrs.  They are some of the most friendly and warm people you will ever encounter.  They are also extremely enthusiastic about their rigs and will gladly answer any questions you might have.  We started to amass a bit of experience and jargon to go with it…. Despite being somewhat fascinated, it still seemed like something other people did, not us.

The thought that we could be a part of this interesting little club had not occurred to us yet; though my mom every once in a while would subtly suggest it and point out small campers that might be appropriate for us… We just thought, “it is nice for you, but no, that’s not us.”  I am certain that this block existed because we are absolutely NOT the typical demographic that the RV market appeals to and we never once saw people like ourselves with an RV.  It is no secret that the largest population of RVrs is retired folks; we actually partied with a lot of retired people during this process…  The second largest population is families with children.  We are a very long way from being retired and we have no plans to have children.

We are artists, we are theater people, we are a fucking rock band!  AND then, that is where this all started to make sense for us.  Touring.  Between 2005 and 2011, we had been doing a lot of it.  There were certainly mornings that we woke up not knowing where we were geographically or whose house we had crashed at, not because of being intoxicated, but rather because we were working hard and constantly on the go.  We thought, wouldn’t it be nice to sleep in the same bed every night?

We are not famous or on a record label, our tours are completely self-funded.  We were crashing at the houses of generous friends and family, staying in really crappy hotels and every once in a while even tent camping while on the road and performing in clubs.  We were often exhausted, getting very little quality sleep and eating poorly (especially bad for someone with Type 1 Diabetes).

The idea of getting an RV started to become a big fantasy.  We would talk about it and imagine ourselves with our own mobile bed, kitchen and bathroom. Even though this fantasy was starting to bloom, it still seemed like it stopped there.  We thought, one day, maybe we will be able to afford such a luxury.  We also thought that it was important to buy a house before we bought something seemingly frivolous and of our fantasies like a Recreational Vehicle, even if it was for work………………………………….

Too be continued!

Update: 2/3/16 – We no longer perform as Before Dawn, from Austin, TX.  We have an L.A. based rock band called JagLyonz, if you want to know more about us go to www.JagLyonz.com.  Here are a few photos from the old Before Dawn days!

BB2279244_192905027438092_114479711947291_526142_5437065_o

BB1

American Dream

When I was in college, and for about a year thereafter, Rob and I lived in a duplex in Orlando off of Dean Road.  I remember being in the kitchen of that place when my mom called and said, “Guess what?  We bought an RV.”  At the time I did not know anyone with an RV.  How strange I thought…  I figured my parents were being eccentric.  An RV?  Whatever, it is probably just a “phase…”

Not too long after that she called to say that they were going to come visit in the RV.  They wanted to pick me up, but they couldn’t come down our street because their rig was too big and there was not a good spot to turn around. Ok?  I guess, I will meet them at the end of the street, on the corner of River Pines Court and Dean Road.

The day I was to meet them came around.  Rob was at work, doing Science Theater at The Orlando Science Center.  My parents had a plan. We were going to the Science Center to eat lunch with Rob and see a few shows and exhibits via the new RV.  My father, a Chef by profession, of course was going to prepare our lunch in the RV.

My mom called to let me know that they were in the vicinity. I went to the corner as instructed to await their arrival.   “HOLY SHIT! THAT’S A BUS!”  is what I thought as the 40’ diesel pusher with the words American Dream emblazoned across the side, elegantly rumbled up to greet me.

I had never seen the inside of one of these things before.  When the door opened, there was my mom, dad and two dogs all excited for me to get in and check this thing out!  It was glorious, and yes, I still thought it was a little strange.  This massive RV had tile floor, gold colored fixtures, leather sofas and a “slide out” that makes the room large enough to entertain guests.  This was a Motorhome?

I was so green.  I had so much to learn.  But this was the beginning… Even though I was initially against that kind of “camping” and said stuff, like, “ridiculous!”,  the truth is I didn’t understand it yet.  This would take some time…
Eventually I would love and even obsess over RV’s.  They have two key qualities that really reach the core of my being: 1. Extreme mobility / opportunity for travel and adventure 2. Minimalist living quarters that demand cleanliness, organization and economical use of space.

A side note to this is that I had just been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.  Deciding where to keep my insulin refrigerated while camping in a hot climate started to become an issue.  Nevertheless, I still was not convinced by the motorhome and its fancy convenient refrigerator!

It would take some time, some trips, some campgrounds and some experiences to win me over.  I initially found it somewhat uncomfortably formal… It kind of bothered me that you could have a full cocktail bar, non “camp food”, watch TV and charge your cell phone while attempting to be outdoorsy.   These activities seemed mutually exclusive to me.  None of it fit into the boxes of preconceived ideas that I had built in my head. Somewhat stubbornly, I thought, “this is NOT how I learned to camp!”