Coming Home

The 23 Feet tour has come to a close…


After four months on the road, we wrapped things up in Portland last week.  Closing off a downtown block outside of the Lizard Lounge, the Airstream was surrounded by cobblestone streets and tall buildings.  But the urban setting wasn’t the only thing making this show unique from the others we did this summer.  We were home!

Peter Murray of John Heart Jackie started things off by playing an acoustic set as people settled in.  Pizza was being sold from a food cart and we had a few Widmer kegs for folks to enjoy.  After Peter’s set, we played The Love Letter by Fitz and Becca Cahal.  Followed by that was 23 Feet.  We were finally screening it on our home turf.

Home has become a much talked about topic for Allie and me.  We’ve come up with all kinds of answers to the question Where are you two from?  Pointing to the Airstream we’ll say excitedly, Right here!  Or looking at each other, we’ll simply shrug our shoulders and say, Well, we’ve got a PO box in Portland?  That one tends to sound more like a question as if we’re asking if it’s an acceptable answer.

Where is “home” when you live your life on the road?

Well, I believe it is the people that enter our lives, and the community we create along the way that define the word “home” for us.  Allie was interviewed on the Dirtbag Diaries earlier this summer, and her words echo in my head everyday… “A life of travel isn’t about being alone, and a life of community isn’t about staying in the same place forever.  If you really believe in travel, it doesn’t mean you can’t have community.”

Before this summer spent in the Airstream, I thought that it would be impossible to balance the two most important things in my life – travel and home.  It seemed like an oxymoron to blend the two as one.  But I was wrong.  Incredibly wrong.  So many amazing people came into our lives these past few months!  New faces and old friends alike, we felt so lucky to be surrounded by inspiring and creative souls.  Many of these people are living similar lives as us – on the road.  They are living between the lines… a tricky place to form solid friendships, I had once thought.

But again, I was wrong about that.  Conversations under dark starry skies by river banks in Yosemite, climbing and hiking with new friends, staying up all night on a weekday when the rest of world is sleeping just because you want to know someone a little better, skipping over rocks and fallen logs with grinning faces, strangers opening up their homes to a couple of road weary girls, people coming up to us after a show to share a story from their dirtbagging days… this is the stuff friendships are made of, proving that home can most definitely be found when you’re on the move!

That said, the final screening in Portland did indeed feel like a homecoming.  We started our journey there, and we made it back.  Looking out in the crowd was that blend of home and travel that I never thought was possible.  I saw some of my closest friends looking up at me, proud of what we had accomplished.  But there were also new faces excited for Allie and me, each with their own unique story.  They had come out to see the film, be it their interest in the Airstream theater or that they were living similar lives as those in the film.  Whatever their reason for being there, it was a reminder to us that there is a big, huge world out there to see and experience with many friendships and communities to be made along the way.  Between our families and oldest friends that remind us of where we come from, and the new friends and communities we make along the way, home can be found wherever you are.

Thank you so much to each and every person who made this tour possible!  We had incredible sponsors who believed in Allie’s dream of showing the film off the side of the Airstream – Osprey Packs, Horny Toad, Alite Designs, Sterling Rope, and Nemo Equipment.  Our Kickstarter backers – Allie and I will never fully understand the success of that.  So many people who we still have yet to meet supported the tour by backing us online, and for that we are truly grateful!  To our friends and family, you know you rock!  Our new friends that we met this summer – thank you for inspiring us with amazing conversations and stories.  Thank you all of you who opened up you homes, parking strips, and bathrooms to a couple of gals on the road!  And thank you to all of you who came up and talked to us after the film!  We heard a lot of incredible stories along the way that the film only touches on.  You inspire us!  Keep on keepin on!

On the Road – The Home Stretch

Santa Fe was spicy.  The flavors, the colors, the temperatures… everything was hot!

After a few days of taking in the city, we got back to the tour.  Outside Magazine hosted us at their headquarters in Santa Fe.  The people there are amazing, and it was the perfect way to get reignited for the second half of the tour.

We were sad to leave Santa Fe, but excited to get back on the road.  We headed toward Flagstaff for a screening at the local climbing gym.  Then on to the Grand Canyon where we showed at the Recreation Center.  Our amazing hosts took us around to show us the area, and we even squeezed in a climb.

The brakes on the truck needed some attention, so we had them fixed in Las Vegas, then left in the wee hours of the early morning to beat the heat, heading for Idyllwild, CA.  This show was very special to us because it was organized entirely by someone we had never met before, but who had backed us on Kickstarter.  When Allie put the question out there of, “Where should we bring the film?” it was Idyllwild that we landed on.  All we knew about the town was that it was near Joshua Tree and between Vegas and LA.  We set things up on a public plot of land surrounded by towering pine and fir trees.  The view above was made up of the tree canopy and the dark sky filled with thousands of twinkling stars.

We left Idyllwild in the evening and caught the sunset on our way down the sinuous mountain road.  The contrast of the dry golden grass against the lush green hills and blue sky was breathtaking.

Just as breathtaking of a contrast was leaving the quiet mountains and landing in Los Angeles.  Coming from Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon, and Idyllwild, LA felt like a completely unknown land.  We had forgotten what city life felt like.  We stayed with family of mine there, which offered the perfect refuge to the buzzing city around us.  We spent the Fourth of July on Catalina Island.  Renting a kayak, we paddled out and did some free diving before watching the firework show.  Allie and I share a strong love for fireworks, so this was the perfect ending to an already perfect day.

We had a small screening in Bolsa Chica, our first show on the beach nonetheless!  We got friends and family out to watch the film.  It was there that we realized Roma was missing something… a window!  Somewhere along I-5, the pane fell out.  Sadly, it was the only window that we hadn’t been worried about – it didn’t leak, it had all of its screws – but the towel that has now replaced the plexi-glass is doing a fine job.  We woke up to the sound of the waves the next morning and headed north.

Driving through LA with a 23-foot soft aluminum trailer in tow was hectic to say the least.  We reached Santa Barbara by the early afternoon and said hello to the folks at Horny Toad, one of our amazing sponsors.  They hosted the screening the following night.  Roma looked so good under the palm trees!

Saying goodbye to our friends in Santa Barbara, we continued north and sought refuge in Big Sur.  Here we caught up on many things – editing, writing, rest.  Winding along Highway 1 was an unforgettable drive.  The hillsides were covered in a soft blanket of wild flowers.  Their rolling features quickly turned into cliffs that dropped abruptly into the sea below.  With such a beautiful and inspiring coastline, our entertainment came in the form of photography.  Swapping the camera back and forth, we took turns snapping photos and would excitedly share the outcomes with one another.

It was difficult to put the beauty of Big Sur in our rear view, but feeling rested, we headed up to Santa Cruz.  We had a showing at Swanton Berry Farm, hosted by Slow Coast, a collective of artists, artisans, and farmers alike selling their goods out of an… AIRSTREAM!  Roma was happy to have a friend.  We had met the North Pacific String Band on the road, and as luck would have it, they came to the screening to play an acoustic set before the film.  It was an incredible night filled with good people, good conversations, and… strawberries!

Another amazing sponsor of our’s, Alite Designs, hosted us in San Francisco at the Sports Basement.  We brought the outdoors inside for this one with tents and mock-campfires filling the room.  Raffles, giveaways, and the Love Letter made this a special show.

We love San Francisco!  There’s something special about the mix of salty air and tall skyscrapers.  The colorful street art and smiling faces makes it feel like a friendly and approachable city.  Sailboats in the bay, clam chowder on the pier, public transportation – I love the BART!  We crossed the Golden Gate into Mill Valley for our next screening.  This one was at Proof Lab – a local surf shop, skate ramp, art collective.

From there we pointed the Airstream toward Yosemite.  Tuolumne Meadows to be exact.  Wow!  Absolutely gorgeous!  We had a show at the campground there, which was incredible.  Two of the people from the film were there – Katie Lambert and Ron Kauk.  Seeing them watch the film in the exact place where we interviewed them last summer was unforgettable.  Our friend John Swift came out, which added to the already immaculate ambiance.  His music is so beautiful and inspiring, and hearing him play outside under the stars made the night that much more special.

We stayed in Tuolumne for the next few days, giving ourselves some time off – we climbed, we slacklined, we read, we swam, we were lizards on rocks.  I don’t know if it was the trees, the river, or the amazing conversations that we had by the campfire, but Yosemite was powerful.  Allie and I left Tuolumne feeling refreshed and re-energized.

From Yosemite, we headed toward Salt Lake, but not without stopping at the Salt Flats first.  I have never experienced anything like that before!  The top layer was gritty, but once our feet broke through the salt, our toes wiggled in thick, moist clay.  It felt so good on our feet!  We both stood there digging our feet in as deep as we could, staring at each other with big grins on our faces.  A ceramists dream, Allie was in heaven!  We slept on the side of the road and woke up to the salty white vastness, and drove out the next morning.

Next up, Salt Lake City for the Outdoor Retailer Tradeshow.  We had two screenings there.  The first was put on by Horny ToadOsprey Packs, and Telluride MountainFilm.  This was an exciting night for us – 23 Feet will be part of the Telluride MountainFilm tour!  The second screening was hosted by an amazing sponsor of our’s, Nemo Equipment!  All of our sponsors contributed to the giveaway, so lucky audience members left the show with some big winnings!

The tradeshow was an absolute whirlwind that seemed to flash by in 5 seconds!  It was my first OR, and I’ve got to say, I loved it!    I loved the hugeness of it.  I loved the people and the intensity of walking the halls.  I loved seeing all the new products.  I loved dancing at the All Star Industry Jam!  But above all else, I loved our Red Reel stamp that we had made for the event.  With a transient business that moves from city to city, it only made sense to make business cards out of shipping labels.  By Sunday, the stamp made for a fun way to make new friends (and check in on old ones, like Gareth Martins of Osprey!).

Following the tradeshow, we had a screening at the local climbing gym, The Front.  It was hosted by SheJumps, an organization striving to increase female participation in outdoor activities.  We were really excited to work with them in bringing 23 Feet to the Salt Lake community!  We had a great turnout with more amazing giveaways!

We’re now back up in the northwest with the last shows of the tour happening within this next week.  It’s a crazy feeling to be wrapping it up.  It seems like we only just started, but in the same turn, April feels like a lifetime ago.  We’ve met so many incredible people and stopped in such amazing places!  Thank you to each and every person who has supported us along the way!  From our stellar sponsors (Osprey Packs, Alite Designs, Horny Toad, Nemo Equipment, and Sterling Rope) to the backers on Kickstarter, and anyone who fed us or let us sleep on their couch along the way, this tour would not have been possible without you.  Thank you!


The Outdoor Film Tour

It was the end of April and pouring rain in Portland, Oregon when five women packed into the Airstream and hit the open road for a jam packed summer!

Making our way south, our 23-foot space became home to Allie and me, Anna and Emily of Under Solen Media, and Jenny of iLCP.  With Allie at the helm, and me as the co-pilot, I can recall a moment where I looked out the rear window as the edges of the glass filled with the snow, as did the truck bed.  I could barely make out the three girls bouncing along in the Airstream in tow, but I could see that they had switched to down jackets and sleeping bags to stay warm back there.  We’d been planning for months, and this was what our first day looked like.  Rain and snow.  That’s when Allie had the most ingenious idea.  She simply stated, “We need to wake up in the desert.”

We were quite the sight to see as we rolled over mountain ranges and across deserts, bundling up in the snow one day, and letting the sun kiss our cheeks the next… doing handstands and cartwheels at every stop!

So what had this silly cast of characters gotten themselves into?  An outdoor theater tour, of course!  23 Feet is a film about a community of people who are living simply to do what they love in the outdoors, so it didn’t feel right to show the film inside.  Allie and I spent the spring planning our route, and designing the theater set up for the Airstream, and we had convinced our dear friends to do the first leg with us.  Before we knew it we were in Colorado, the place that inspired the film!

We pulled into Carbondale, CO for the 5 Point Film Festival to support fellow filmmakers and friends, as well as stock up on inspiration and creative juices.  It was an incredible weekend, but still the tour was on the brain, and we were both psyched to kick it off in Boulder.

Jenny left us after the festival, but we hit the road with an Airstream record high: 7 people!  Red Reel, Under Solen Media, and now the Baffin Babes, a group of Scandinavian women adventurers who we became friends with in Carbondale.  As we packed up Roma (the Airstream), we realized pretty quickly that the Babes would fit in just fine with our silly, jumping, hodgepodge group of road travelers.

It was starting to feel like your typical road trip… good chats, loud tunes, snacks… but coming into Boulder, Allie and I quickly snapped out of the vacation mentality we were slipping into.  It was go time!  We had three shows lined up in our first week, which meant we needed to tie up lose ends, and we needed to do so fast!  All the questions of “What if” and “Maybe we should try this” vanished as it was time to go with what we had.

Our first showing was a private party that an editor for Women’s Adventure Magazine had thrown for us in celebration of an upcoming article about the film.  As we rigged up the screen to the awning and set up the projector, the only words echoing in my mind were, “Fake it ’til you make it, Menzies!”  Everything went great!  We had done it!  This idea that Allie dreamt up months prior of projecting 23 Feet against Roma had come true.  And not only that, it was the beginning of what is now our reality, our “normal.”

Boulder was a busy week.  We did another private screening with the organizer of the Pearl Street Music Festival.  Two words: magical night!  Two of the bands from our soundtrack, The Head and the Heart and The Lumineers, not only came to the screening, but they played music!  We all climbed up the top of a nearby hill and fell into a trance of amazement as we listened to the sounds that we used in the film fill the night air.

The following night was the big premiere.  The day leading up to it was filled with nerves as we had no idea what it would look like.  We kept reminding ourselves that we would be excited if even 10 people showed up.  The day went on; we put the kegs on ice, set up the speakers, the screen, the Christmas lights… then we heard it.  The buzz of conversation and laughter that only a crowd of people could make.  We peered around the screen to see the parking lot filling up with people!  We got the film rolling, then stood behind to do a silent celebratory dance.  Strangers were here to see our film… and a lot of them at that!


That was it.  We were now officially on tour.  Next stop was Estes Park.  A beautiful place that we wish we could have stayed longer in to explore the mountains.  The outdoor show was canceled due to strong winds, a natural element neither of us had considered before setting out on an outdoor theater tour.  We quickly moved the show into the Estes Park Mountain Shop, and had a great show indoors.

We woke up the next morning to 6 inches of snow.  That put the brakes on our outdoor show in Fort Collins.  We hunkered down for a few days in a friend’s cabin, letting the weather pass.

Once reaching Fort Collins, we got all geared up for a show at New Belgium Brewing.  This was a really exciting show!  Great turnout, wonderful hosts, not to mention Roma had a friend in Abbey, the brewery’s resident Airstream.

We headed south from there, going through Colorado Springs with a screening hosted byUpadowna.  Then to the Arkansas Valley.  Snow welcomed us to Buena Vista, difficult weather to have an outdoor show in.  But we took to warmth and coverage of the community center, and filled the room with raft guides and locals a like.  The clouds moved on as we went south to the nearby Salida, CO.  Nothing but sunshine and blue skies at the Salida Cafe where we did a show with the river only a few yards away.

We had found our rhythm at this point.  Our set up for the showings were quicker and more precise, and life on the road had become normal.  We pulled into Durango and a whole new side of Allie came out.  These were her old stomping grounds, the town of her college years.  With the river pumping and friends nearby, I could tell she was in her element.  Our show in Durango was especially unique.  We met at a park downtown and did a critical mass bike ride to Ska Brewery where the show would be.  There were 20 or 30 of us biking through town.  It was incredible!  We got to the brewery, and Allie and I quickly started setting up.  Waiting on Trial, who is in the soundtrack of 23 Feet, was there playing music before the film started.  The crowd was filled with both familiar and new faces, making for a pretty magical night.

Heading out a day or two later, we went through Delores.  Osprey Packs hosted our show there, which was held at the community center.  The sounds of the river were the perfect background for the film.

We were then bound for Telluride.  It was the weekend of the MountainFilm Festival, and we were excited to get up there and see our friends.  We parked Roma at a beautiful farmhouse just outside of town, and held a private screening for sponsors and friends that would not be able to see the film on tour.  With the mountains silhouetted behind Roma, and a bonfire behind the crowd, we settled in for an intimate screening with close friends surrounding us.

The film festival was a wonderful energy boost where we both were inspired by the amazing films we saw.  Once it came to an end, and friends filtered out of town, we stayed for an extra few days calling the farmhouse home.  But we picked up a straggler.  We convinced Anna of Under Solen to come back in the Airstream for another week before heading home for Portland.  We winded down the mountain passes, stopping at any chance we could for a romp in the flowers.  We found our way back to Durango where we finally got on the river for record high flow.  Next up was Santa Fe where we  would pick up the second half of the tour.

It wasn’t until I saw the “Welcome to New Mexico” sign that it hit me – two months on the road at this point and we’ve only just begun!

Desert Calm

“Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit…”

With the words of Edward Abbey marinating in my thoughts, we woke up in the desert.  Coming from the rainy Northwest, the morning sun warmed our bones.

We pulled out of Portland, OR last Monday, and if we didn’t know the date, we would have guessed that it was the dead of winter.  The windshield wipers were pumping about as hard as our heart beats.  There has been so much anticipation, so much preparation and planning for the tour, and this moment in the freeway downpour marks the beginning of all that’s to come.

Every mile post and exit that passed by the window reminded us that Colorado was getting closer and closer.  My head was filled with every kind of thought.  Is anyone going to come to the film?  Are we going to get the logistics figured out in time for the premiere?  It’s almost May, is that really snow on the side of the road.

The biggest thought that consumed my mind was support.  There are so many people out there who have backed the project, who have sent us messages and emails of encouragement, and who have been kind enough to tell their friends about us.  When I think about this, my eyes well up with tears and any notion of insecurity or fear for the tour begins to slip away.

I look over at Allie.  She’s talking to a reporter from Durango, telling him about what inspired the film.  Allie’s home is on the road, and with Roma the 23-foot Airstream in tow, I can see that she is in her element.  This too calms my nerves.

The cold grey clouds begin to reveal blue sky, and I know we’re entering warmer temperatures.  But my restlessness and anticipation still lingers.  A year ago we starting filming.  Since August, days have been filled with editing, writing, piecing together this story… and now it’s time to get it out there.

Blame it on the limited amount of sleep I’ve been getting these days, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that Allie and I would be the only two people in the audience.

We pulled off the side of the road just outside of Green River, UT, and that’s when everything changed.

We woke up in the desert.

Sunshine filled the Airstream, the sand was warming up between our toes, surrounding rock faces were a brilliant shade of red, cactus never looked so good!  We quickly became kindergartners on a playground – climbing trees, attempting handstands, laughing… A calm had fallen over us.

The energy of the great outdoors is a powerful thing.  It can transform you.  It transforms me.  Ever since that morning in the desert, my mind has been at peace, and my restlessness has turned into readiness.  Ready for the tour, ready to share the film, ready to put ourselves out there to friends and strangers alike.  That’s the power of the outdoors.  We made this film because we love being outside, and we wanted to share it in a unique way that gets people outside.  It’s no longer about Allie or me.  It’s about you, and it’s about anyone else who has ever felt the power of nature.