When Rob and I were asked to sing in our longtime friends wedding in Malibu, CA, we jumped at the chance to take our RV on a trip out West and park it in Malibu for a week.
Staying there for a full week really gave us the sense of living there and if I had the cash, I would move there in a heartbeat. You know what is expensive in Malibu? Pretty much everything. Except, liquor. For some reason, liquor is ridiculously cheap there.
The RV park we stayed at overlooked the Pacific and we could hear the waves crashing on the shore as we drifted off to sleep at night. You could also hear all of the action down on the PCH, it didn’t bother us though. Looking out at the view, our morning coffee never tasted so good! Sunny loved Malibu too.
We hiked at Leo Carillo State Park. We took surfing lessons and strolled along the beach in Santa Monica. We hung out with some of the greatest people and friends a person could ever have or even hope to have and laughed until our faces were in pain. It was glorious! We also saw David Duchovny in the parking lot of CVS in Malibu, though I think he was probably coming from the Sushi restaurant next door. I even got a chance to take a mixed aerial class atHollywood Aerial Arts with a dear friend,Sarah, from high school. All of this awesomeness and excitement and the wedding was still yet to come!
Rob and I even had the chance to entertain guests at our campsite twice! My filmmaker cousins April and Jordan came over one night for dinner and film project swapping entertainment. A few nights later, we grilled fresh fish from the Pacific that we bought at the fish market that was just down the hill from the RV Park while taking in the scenery of the expansive Pacific Coast horizon with a great girlhood friend of mine from summer camp, Sharon, and her husband, Brian.
One day I made the drive through Topanga Canyon to Burbank to have lunch with girlfriends from college, Mandi and Jen. Jen is a very talented costume designer and stylist who took me to L.A.’s fashion district. Bolts of fabric as far as the eye can see!
Rob stayed back at the camper. He did everyday stuff like take pictures of a few items he had brought along to sell on Ebay and a load of laundry at the RV laundry facilities. He relaxed and made like The Dude, hanging out in Malibu. That night we walked down the hill to the fish market next to our RV park. The fresh fish sandwiches were delicious and satiating! The experience was most definitely a version of perfection.
At the end of our weeklong stay in Malibu, on our way out of town, we even met up with more friends for dinner, got a tour of Glendale and had a music related business meeting!
Now that I have actually typed out everything that we did on this trip I realize that we did a lot. Interestingly, the one argument we had while on the trip was because I freaked out and panicked that we weren’t “doing enough” and “seeing enough people”. It is true, I would have had to spend at least a month out there to have quality time with everyone that I wanted to see, hug and have a laugh with. After all, they were working and we were on vacation. I did my very best to cram it all into a week. I was saddest to miss out on invitation to go Rock Climbing atMalibu Creek State Park with my friend Sarah and her husband, Brandon.
Did I even mention the wedding??? We went to the best wedding rehearsal and dinner I have ever been to followed the next day by a beautiful wedding in Temescal Gateway Park. Rob and I sang, “Grow Old With Me” by John Lennon, in the ceremony, requested by the Bride and Groom, and made everyone weep. Then we partied and danced the night away with some of our dearest college buds. The next morning we all went out for brunch in Santa Monica. It felt like a dream that I didn’t want to wake up from.
Getting into a daily groove while far away from “home”, this was a turning point. We realized that we were not missing any of the comforts of the 1800 sqft house that was back in Austin. We became aware that we were spending more time outside and that we were both happy and comfortable, this really made us realize that indeed, “we can totally live in this thing!!!” “Also, moving into it will drastically reduce our monthly bills which will give us more opportunities do amazing trips like this one!”
AND a view of the water is really good for the mind, body and soul!
One of the reasons we moved to Austin is because it has a fine mixture of art, culture, music and outdoor pursuits readily available in addition to being a vibrant yet laid-back and friendly city. You know what? When we made that decision, we had never been to any cities in California, ever! They have all of that, plus beaches with great surfing, plus mountains and snow skiing and multiple National Parks! This pretty much describes paradise to me.
I know L.A. isn’t laid-back and many people don’t consider it friendly… But Malibu, in my experience, is. And since the time I have spent in L.A. has been with friends, it seems very friendly. Also, I am a grounded person without distortions surrounding fame and fortune, I see no reason that I can’t find a sense of peace in any city. Fame and wealth don’t impress me. A generous and kind heart does. Those who make helping others a priority, those who know who they are and “work for their luck” impress me. All of the people I am close to in L.A. have those qualities.
We have wanted to spend more time on the West Coast for some time now. We have played shows out there with our band, Before Dawn, spent time with our friends and family and always had nothing short of an honest to goodness amazing time. I can truly, honestly, and completely free from sarcasm say that, I LOVE L.A.! A big piece of my heart is there. No joke. Rob reminds me that I feel this way because of all of the loving, artistically supportive, fans and side splittingly hilarious people we call friends out there. He cautions, “trust me, the city is not what you love.”
In any case our most recent trip to L.A., the one where we lived in Malibu for a week in our RV overlooking the Pacific was a significant catalyst in our realization that it would be both possible and fulfilling to transition to full-time RV living. I mean, what if we could even figure out a way to travel and work at the same time??? Fast-forward three months and we happily, though not without tremendous trials and tribulations, moved into our travel trailer. We are getting closer everyday to cutting this tether of single location living. You see, L.A. is already making our dreams come true! Viva Malibu!
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Our very first trip in our new camper was to Fredericksburg, TX, the cutest little German town in the Texas Hill Country. We decided to do an overnight at a KOA, just to feel out the camper and get aquatinted with our new travel trailer. We even baked cookies in the propane oven, just to see how it worked.
Our second trip was an overnight in preparation for a future work trip to make a music video. We invited our friends and collaborators, filmmakers, Christine Carstairs and Robert Haynes, a married couple who also work together, to stay the night in the camper with us at McKinney Falls State Park right here in Austin. We wanted to test the camper and the situation of actually having four people in it; do a day of hiking and picture taking to prepare for our upcoming journey to Big Bend National Park to film the music video for our song, Deadly Beauty.
Big Bend National Park is an amazing and brilliant park in the extraordinary desert and mountains of West Texas, along the Rio Grande! Having heard about this pilgrimage of sorts, Rob and I took a traditional tent camping trip there, the spring previous to buying our travel trailer. We fell in love with the place so deeply that we wrote a song about it called Deadly Beauty.
There were Bear and Mountain Lion warnings everywhere in this park, complete with bear proof storage boxes at every campsite, as well as warnings about “curious” Javalina, breaking into your tent. Also there was some wild weather that came with this wild terrain. It came and went very fast and included a lot of lightning, a downpour, hail, not to mention temperatures reaching 116 degrees during the day and then dropping into the 50s in the evening! We did not end up setting up our tent, we slept in our car for four nights. To tell you the truth, there was one night that it was so gusty that I thought it might blow the car over… It didn’t, obviously.
Interesting fact: Big Bend is the least visited of all of the National Parks because it is so remote.
Suggestion: Read, Big Bend, A Homesteaders Story,by J.O. Langford before going to Big Bend, it will give you a much deeper appreciation for the land and the journey. I can honestly say that this is in my top 10 favorite books.
Also: Visit Terlingua, it is the weirdest, coolest little desert, formerly ghost town, right next to the park. Also, don’t tell anyone about it. I want it to stay cool.
In any case this trip was inspiring. As an artist and as a human being you can’t help but be changed by this journey.
Less than a year after visiting Big Bend for the first time we released our album,Brush With Greatness, with the song, Deadly Beauty, an homage to that unapologetic, raw, and wild place. We truly felt that being in the presence of and having the opportunity to explore this desert, mountains and river was a quite literal brush with greatness. The song Deadly Beauty without a doubt is filled with visual and aesthetic imagery, how could it not be? Making a video for this song was mandatory.
We asked Robert and Christine, our filmmaker friends who were our collaborators on the photos and album art for Brush with Greatness as well as script advisors cum directors and cinematographers on the music video for the song, Proof if they would want to go to Big Bend for four nights over Thanksgiving and shoot the video for Deadly Beauty. It was on! Four people, twenty hours in the car, four days in the desert, and sleeping in The Apex! It was actually quite magical!
RV Lesson #1: Plan your trip accordingly… It takes at least two hours longer than you think it will when traveling with a travel trailer. Just go ahead and tack on two hours to your journey when you are estimating how long it will be. Also you will go through gas about twice as fast. I can’t emphasize this enough! Fill up when you are at half a tank!!! Especially when you are in the desert, or anywhere remote. We coasted into a gas station on fumes and in a state of panic. Lesson learned!
We stayed at Big Bend Resort and Adventures Park, about 6 miles from the Western entrance to the park. Our thanksgiving dinner was Turkey Chili. We didn’t get in each others way once. Somehow we all maneuvered around the camper like an intricate ballet. Christine, despite being six feet tall and having insomnia, was sleeping on the dinette converted to a bed next to her husband Robert, and reported that she has never slept better in her entire life! These are minor miracles here!
RV Lesson #2: It is very possible for the RV break controller to become unplugged from your vehicle. In fact this happened to us in rather steep and mountainous terrain. This can be VERY BAD. At about hour 10, the vibration of the vehicle jiggled the plug right out of the socket. We have since created a little harness for the plug with zip ties to make sure this doesn’t happen anymore. ALWAYS continue to check the status of your break controller, throughout your journey, to make sure it has not become disconnected.
It rained and was overcast on what was supposed to be our first day of shooting, so we ended up scouting some locations and just taking stills while exploring a bit… The next two days of shooting were intense. We were following our video treatment, sometimes linearly and sometimes not. There were a lot of scenes and locations to get in a short amount of time, before we lost daylight. Not to mention, a horse and horse wrangler that had to be involved on the second day of shooting. Oh, yeah and the detailed and outrageous costume I had designed for myself… I was literally hiking up the side of mountains in a vintage evening gown with a feathered mask and headdress while onlookers and tourists gawked and tried to figure out what the hell we were doing.
Our main goal was to capture the beauty, diversity and wild spirit of this untamed land and share it. I think we accomplished that.
Here is the final product:
I love setting out to do something, and then actually doing it! It is immensely satisfying. Because of the camper, we were able to make our dream of a video for the song, Deadly Beauty a reality. Viva La Apex! Honestly, without it, our artistic vision could not have been realized. Also, we had a ton of fun!
By the way… If you are interested in seeing what team Carstairs/Haynes has been up to lately, check out the trailer for their festival bound horror/comedy short, The Spell Book. In another collaborative effort, Rob Houle, my wickedly talented husband and front man of our bandBefore Dawn composed the original score for the film and I designed and built the main character, the spell book.