In Between Rapids and Road Trips

Andrew Schwartz might have sandy blonde hair, matching facial scruff, and a deep California tan, but don’t mistake him for a surfer. Once he puts on his shiny red helmet and get his calloused palms around a paddle, it’s clear that he’s a river rat, and thirstier than most for whitewater.

Andrew is a rafting guide on the Kern River in California, where he’s wrapping up his second season of guiding. He leads heart-pumping trips down Class 4 and 5 rapids — just a step below rivers considered too dangerous to be navigable — and his itinerary is jam-packed during the scorching summer months of the peak season, when he’s out on the river for up to 11 days in a row.

After a long day navigating steep drops and menacing boulders, Andrew wants nothing more than to hang up his paddle and hit the sack. When he does, he slips away into his private bedroom: a converted 1994 Chevy Silverado, handed down to him by his grandpa.

It was in between his trips last season that Andrew transformed his pickup into a humble home on wheels. First he slapped a camper shell on the top with custom woodwork to give it some height. Then he laid carpet, built a storage area, and set up a cozy Luno Life Air Mattress on the driver’s side. The final touch was panels on the windows for privacy and temperature control, making his truck the perfect space for a much-needed snooze.

Andrew’s truck lives on a driveway outside of his rafting company’s staff house. He saves on rent, but chips in cash to use the house’s shower, kitchen and living room. And the best thing about his setup? It complements his line of work perfectly.

As a rafting guide, Andrew works seasonally, usually from mid-March to the end of September, when the waters of the Kern River are gushing. When the season ends, he packs up, revs up his truck, and is off in minutes. Without worrying about a place to sleep, Andrew can eye any place on the map — say a cozy campground in Big Sur — and zoom in that direction.

“The season ends and I could literally decide where I want to go tomorrow, and just do it.”

 

Last year, Andrew drove from San Francisco to Bend, Oregon, zipping up to Seattle afterwards and popping over to Idaho before driving back to Southern California.

“It’s a super easy transition from being here to just cruising straight to where I want to be.”

 

On top of flexibility, Andrew never needs to sacrifice comfort. Sometimes, when he gets the itch for luxury, he extends the platform for his bed with some plywood to make room for a double-sized mattress. He can either sprawl out on his own or accommodate for fellow travelers.

During his most recent adventure to Joshua Tree National Park, Andrew’s girlfriend joined him in his Chevy. The desert night-sky made a perfect backdrop as they snuggled in the truck.

At the end of the day, Andrew’s only real expenses are gas and grub. He gladly spends that money knowing it’s going towards his next escapade.

“I’m happy to be spending money on flexibility,” he said. “If I’m putting gas in it, I’m going somewhere.”



Comments