Bethany-Martin Islamorada Paddling

VANdal: From the Sunshine State to the Sunset State

Well, it’s summer in South Florida… Time to either grin and bear it or escape the oppressive temperatures, menacing mosquitos, and sweat-the-moment-you-walk-outside humidity that, among other things, define Florida.

Keeping our cool between paddle sessions with Coach Mike.
Keeping our cool between paddle sessions with Coach Mike.

We have chosen the latter.

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Katie’s ready to escape the heat in favor of cool, crisp mountain air.

For the first time, VANdal will embark on a two month expedition of extraordinary proportions, making adventures happen from Chattanooga to Colorado, California to Canada, and everywhere in between. We plan to pay particular attention to Oregon, once coined the “Sunset State” because, at the time it joined the Union in 1859, it was the most westerly of all the states. (And where we look forward to finding none of the menacing mosquitos).

Much as she loves rolling in stinky Gulf seaweed beds, Katie will not miss the Florida heat.

Our plan is: No plan. For two Virgos, this is a pretty impressive feat. Armed with a collection of articles & trail descriptions we’ve devoured on various blogs, we leave with a bucket list of adventures to check off one by one.
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(As Virgos, you knew there was bound to be some checklists, right?) The vast majority of our plans will be made on the fly based on spontaneous whims, hints from Mother Nature, and the availability of friends along the way.

Goodbye, Sunshine State... Hello, Oregon Coast!
Goodbye, Sunshine State… Hello, Oregon Coast!

Friends: PLEASE share your own favorite spots — Know of any destinations that allow overnight parking? Must-eats for foodies like us (with a preferred emphasis on high quality, organic/local fare)? Roadside stops that cannot be missed? Parks, MTB trails, paddles, or hikes that we need to check out, etc? As long as we’re moving in the direction of the Pacific Northwest, no place is off-limits in our quest for an adventure-filled summer of paddling, trail running, mountain biking, kiting, and exploring great places.

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Bethany & Katie play in the flats at Anne’s Beach (a dog-friendly destination in Islamorada) after picking up fresh shrimp right off the dock.

Speaking of an active agenda, we kicked off our packing preparations with a gear check and inventory of VANdal’s garage. If you didn’t think our Outside Van’s gear storage was impressive before, check this out:

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Gear check complete. Hard to imagine all of this fitting inside the back of VANdal — but it does… and then some!

This is just a chunk of what we store in the back garage of the van when we travel. And, yes, it all fits with room to spare.

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There’s a little something back there for any day, any occasion. From whitewater & flatwater SUP gear, to kites, hiking/backpacking supplies, mountain bikes, longboards, and camp VANdal necessities, we’re pretty much covered. All we need to do is pack some clothes & food, and we’re off!
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With gear check out of the way, we were able to get one last Florida trip in before heading out — And what better place than a visit to Coach Mike’s training center in Islamorada.

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The legendary Coach Mike
The legendary Coach Mike
Katie & Martin lead the group on a mangrove tunnel tour of Islamorada.
Katie & Martin lead the group on a mangrove tunnel tour of Islamorada.

It was a fun-filled, chillaxing weekend of paddling the Keys, hanging out at Camp Tania’s (our special stealth camp spot behind the Sea Dragon store) with friends Craig & Barb, and getting our coffee on at Cafe Moka in Tavernier while planning our escape.

The gang enjoying pre-paddle coffee and treats at Cafe Moka in Tavernier
The gang enjoying pre-paddle coffee and treats at Cafe Moka in Tavernier

We’re interested…what would YOUR bucket list include on a trip out west for the summer? Let us know by messaging us or leaving a comment below.

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