Road trips aren’t just for families anymore. The following roadlifers are artists, athletes, and master tinkerers. Some are on the road full-time, others only seasonally. Their adventuremobiles come in all shapes and sizes, from DIY build-outs-on-a-budget to top-of-the-line off-roading rigs. Check out their roadlife journeys and tips for some summer road trip inspiration.
Andy + Jess Wickstrom
For the better part of a decade, life for the Wickstroms was good. Having relocated to Chicago in 2003, the couple worked hard to acquire decent paying jobs, buy a condo, make friends. Their creative careers, by all appearances, were thriving. Jess organized art exhibitions and managed the gallery store at the Lillstreet Art Center, while Andy blossomed alongside a growing coffee company, Intelligentsia, to become its lead designer and multimedia content curator.
But all of that city culture needed a little balance, which is exactly what Jess and Andy found in climbing. Nearly every weekend, the Wickstroms piled their gear into the car to make the 7 ½-hour journey one-way to Kentucky’s Red River Gorge. Less than 48 hours later, forearms pumped and fingertips raw, they would load up again for the long trip home. It was an exhausting cycle, but the sense of fulfillment gained after a weekend of climbing made all of those tedious hours behind the wheel worth it. At least, for a little while.
“We started longing to have more time outside,” Andy says. “We were kinda feeling burnt out on the drive and wanted to have more freedom. That’s when we started devising a plan with regards to how we would leave the city and what we would do about work.”
Their first thought? Move to Colorado. After all, many of their Chicago-based climbing friends had already settled there, so they would have a fairly established community. But after visiting in 2014 and even scouting a few apartments, Jess and Andy nixed that idea and came up with a better one—take a road trip.
“We realized we didn’t want to sign a lease and jump back into work full-time and start the cycle all over,” Andy says. “We started brainstorming ways we could somehow connect adventure with design and helping people, and that’s how we came up with the DesignEgg (designegg.org) project. We wanted to have a purpose on the road and not just a selfish climbing lifestyle.”
Between 2014 and 2016, Andy and Jess did just that. After successfully meeting their Kickstarter fundraising goal, the couple bought and renovated a fiberglass Scamp trailer, dubbed it the “DesignEgg,” rented out their condo, and hit the road. Their project attracted the attention of Fractured Atlas, a nonprofit arts service organization. Between Kickstarter donations and the support of Fractured Atlas, Jess and Andy provided over $40,000 of creative services to 29 nonprofit organizations, artists, and entrepreneurs. And, of course, they climbed, from Kentucky to California and everywhere in between.
The Wickstroms have since sold their Chicago condo and upgraded the Scamp to a 1969 Airstream, or “Silver Egg,” which serves as both home base and mobile headquarters for their design firm Silver Egg Studios (silver-egg.org). They operate entirely on solar power and coffee. In the colder months, they’re usually posted up in El Paso, Texas, for the warm weather and stellar bouldering, but come fall, it’s back to the Red.
Jess + Andy’s #ROADLIFE Tips
Plan ahead and prepare.
There’s a reason this is the first principal of Leave No Trace outdoor ethics. Hitting the road without some semblance of a plan, however loose, is a recipe for disaster. “Since we’re climbers, our trajectory is roughly based on the climbing season,” Andy says, “but ultimately, wherever we go, even if we like the climbing in one area, if we can’t check our email or place calls, it’s out. Power, food and water, and cell service. If we have those three things, we feel like we’re effective both as employees of our business and as climbers.”
Measure your power needs before you hit the road.
If you’re trying to work remotely like Andy and Jess, plugging into the car’s cigarette outlet or paying for an expensive electric hookup might not cut it for the long term. Silver Egg Studios runs on a Renogy rooftop solar system, but the Wickstroms initially used GoalZero solar panels to offset their energy usage. The key to maximizing your solar power, says Andy, is to invest in roof brackets that allow you to tilt the panels.
Make Walmarts, Starbucks, and PUBLIC land your friends.
“Walmarts make really great campsites for your in-transit periods,” says Andy. “They’re right off the highway, they’re everywhere, and they’re free.” The only downside, he adds, is that Walmarts aren’t necessarily the most scenic or conducive to a good night’s sleep. Still, it’s a great place to grab a few hours of shuteye, however fitful. Starbucks are equally accessible with regards to caffeine and WiFi. For backdoor access to recreation at an extremely affordable rate (i.e. free), Andy says all roadlifers should be sure to take advantage of BLM and National Forest land.
Incorporate side trips.
Whether it’s finding day hikes or hot springs, visiting art museums or good restaurants, mix it up and get a taste of the local flavor. “We kinda get burned out on the culture of climbing here and there,” says Andy. “It’s nice to recharge by talking with people who have other interests.”