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How-To

May 28, 2019

The Wonders of a Weekend Warrior

Part-Time Writer, Part-Time Server, Part-Time Substitute Teacher... Full-Time Weekend Warrior

WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

For the past several years, I have been a full-time nomad. No steady home, no rent checks, no cozy bed to come back to after a long day on the river. My “home address” is legally listed as my parents’ house in Missoula, Montana, but out of the past three years combined, I don’t think I have spent more than 60 days there. My real home is a 2003 Toyota Tacoma. I travel from river to river, parking where I please, and sleeping where I please. An old, beat-up topper covers the bed of the truck. One of the biggest learning experiences I have had from my life as a nomad – do not buy items off Craigslist at night, when you cannot fully inspect them.

Truck life. Photo: Seth Ashworth

“Nah, this topper is solid. No cracks!” is what I was told by the man selling it to me. Turns out,  I will believe anything I am told if it comes at a cheap price. Multiple days spent working with fiberglass and caulking glue have ensured that I have a dry place to sleep every night. Well… dry enough, at least. The topper, combined with a savvy carpentry project by myself, my dad, and my uncle, has provided me with a home for the past three years, which, not including the price of the truck itself, cost a whopping $150.

A recent illness acquired while traveling abroad has left me with some fairly intense food intolerances, which, as it turns out, are much easier to manage with access to a real kitchen. Reluctantly, I moved my minimal belongings into a real house and settled into a life as a weekend warrior. Hesitant to leave my nomadic lifestyle behind, I have vowed to work as much as possible during this strange and uncomfortable “house phase”, thus saving enough money to ensure many more nomadic days in my future, once I am healthy enough to get back on the road. Working as a part-time writer, a part-time substitute teacher, and a part-time server at an Italian restaurant, my “weekend warrior” routine evolved more into a “monthly warrior” routine. An unfortunate side-effect of working three jobs at once, I am finding myself paddling less than I would like. But the motivation of getting back to my full-time adventure lifestyle in the future is what is keeping me going.

A couple weeks ago, I unexpectedly found myself with a full THREE days off of each of my jobs in a row! Not wanting to waste a second of it, I hastily threw a random assortment of warm clothes, kayaking gear, sleeping bags, and food necessities into my truck and took off on a mission.

Bouncing up and down, back and forth, all I can think about is keeping all four tires on the ground and not bottoming out. I am in a high clearance Toyota Tacoma, but the road is so bad, I am still occasionally hearing the nails-on-chalkboard sound of rocks against the truck’s undercarriage.

I am heading to Peace Wave, on the Salmon River in Riggins, Idaho. Situated on a sandy beach, deep in the canyon without cell service or contact with the outside world, the wave is a freestyle kayaker’s dream getaway.

I eventually reach my destination, pull into a sandy lot next to the river, and start setting up camp. Pulling my kayak out of the back of my truck, I am careful not to whack it against any of the other numerous items I have stashed away back there. I am only planning on being away from home for three days, but for some reason I have brought nearly every item I own.

Anxiously peering out at the river, I spot the wave that I came to surf. A beautiful, glassy, green wave, with the perfect amount of foam. This wave isn’t nearly as big and scary as the usual river waves I surf. In fact, in comparison, it is actually quite small. But I didn’t come here for a thrill. I came here alone. For the experience. I came here for some solo soul surfing in one of the most beautiful canyons in the western United States.


As I am sorting through my gear, getting ready for my first paddling session, I check my camera only to find the batteries are all dead. Typical Brooke… I bring everything I own, but don’t manage to check if the things I brought will actually work out there! I had promised myself that I would film my sessions, so I could at least pretend to be training and taking it seriously. 

I decide to put off paddling for one more hour while my camera battery charges. I dig my Jackery Portable Power Station out of the back of my truck, hoping it still has some charge leftover from the last trip I took with it. I plug in my camera, and right away the USB connection light starts blinking and I know it is getting some juice. 

Everyone needs to charge their phone, even while camping! Photo: Brooke Hess.

I spend the next hour pacing around camp, eating snacks, and anxiously checking my camera’s battery. A short 40 minutes after plugging it in, the battery reads 80%. Enough to go kayaking for two hours, and then some!


I quickly throw my gear on, set the camera on a rock, press record, and hop in my boat. I spend the next two hours throwing trick after trick, trying not to let the cold, October water dampen my spirits. Eventually, exhausted and hungry, I crawl out of my boat and walk up the rocks to check the camera. Still recording… perfect!

It’s just past 6:00pm, which in October in Idaho, means it is starting to get dark. I quickly get out of my kayaking gear, into some warm fleece, and start cooking tonight’s meal of turkey noodle soup. While cooking, I decide to plug my laptop into the Jackery Power Station to charge that up as well. If it is going to be getting dark this early, I might as well get some writing done in the evenings!

Screenshot from Brooke’s camera during her training session on Peace Wave.


Sitting on the tailgate of my truck, I eat my soup in silence as the stars begin to shine. I haven’t seen another person since I arrived at the river four hours ago, and probably won’t for the next three days.

After dinner, I decide to settle into work.  I am working on an article about River Access Fees. It is fitting that I am writing this article while camped next to a river with an access fee for multi-day rafting trips.

Several hours of transcribing interviews, picking out good quotes, and writing later, my eyes are so heavy I can feel my head slowly nodding towards my laptop screen. I stash my laptop and the Jackery Power Station, crawl into bed, and dream of surfing Peace Wave until morning, when I wake up and do it all over again.

Brooke working in her truck on a cold day in December. Photo: Sierra McMurry

Cover Photo by Sierra McMurry

 

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