Follow by Email

Follow by Email

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hey Check This Out!

Dear Friends and Family,

We’re driving to Panama! And… we would love your help! Brian, Elliott, James, and Josh are trying to make it to the southernmost country on our continent. If you want to pitch in and be part of our journey, we would ecstatic. We have all been saving for the past year for this trip but realized that we might need some help with car repairs and miscellaneous happenstances (ransoms?) and any assistance that you would be interested in offering would be extremely appreciated!
The CREW! James, Brian, Josh, and Elliott (L-R)
On the way down we will be writing about and photographing our experiences at We want to share the cultures, sights, and people that we encounter with YOU, our friends and family. We sent you this message because we think you might be interested in hearing about our journey and maybe even helping us fix a fuel pump in Acapulco, Mexico, a serpentine belt in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, or a tire in Puntarenas, Costa Rica- any little bit helps!

Donor Levels:
($0.50)          “Ceviche Taco Donor” (while waiting for car fix)
($3)               “Gas Cap Donor”
($10)             “Spark Plug Donor”
($50)             “Fuel Pump Donor”
($200)           “Carburetor Donor”            
($????)         “Radiator Donor”

Five years ago four strapping young men settled into McNary Dorm on the outskirts of the Oregon State University campus. It was in this dorm, on the fifth floor where a goofy, long-legged hometown boy first connected with a fiery, bleach blond product of Scappoose, over camping in the beautiful Cascade Mountains. These two boys met a gangly rock climber from the depths of the Appalachian Mountains (pronounced with hard a’s, not those garbage soft a’s northerners prefer) who befriended a scrawny Seattleite with a mop of curly hair.
Together these four boys became good friends and eventually (arguably?) men, together, sharing a multitude of adventures- driving cross-country, shushing down steep slopes, climbing ridiculous routes, backpacking tough trails, disc golfing on sunny afternoons, and drinking IPA at local watering holes.
A year and a half ago after a few (many?) northwest nectars (IPA), someone suggested that we drive our butts to Panama. While most booze-induced ideas evaporate in the bright sun of the morning, this seriously far out idea grew into a serious thought, and grew further into a serious plan. Please think about donating!

Basic Facts:
     Who?       Brian Verwey, Elliott Finn, James Teeter, Josh Courtney     
     What?      We are driving to Darien, Panama.
     When?     We plan on Departing on January 3rd, 2014.
     Where?    We will be traveling through Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.
     Why?       Because we enjoy each other and the outdoors.
     How?       We are in the process of outfitting a rig for a four-month trek.

Thank you for all that you have done to support each of us already! Donate today!

With Love,
            The Crazy Crew

James, Brian, Josh, and Elliott

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Workin' on the Rig?

aka playing with Carlos...
Josh removing the antiquated air-conditioning unit

With Elliott battling a post-Thanksgiving food induced coma and James weathering the high Sierra winter storms in northern California, it was up to Josh and me (Brian) to design and construct the storage unit in the back of our 1986 GMC Suburban.  Knowing that this isn’t your average road trip, Josh and I spent a considerable amount of time the day after Thanksgiving sitting in the back of the rig bouncing storage designs off each other while drinking PBRs.  After getting a good lay of the land, we agreed that among the more important details, the storage unit needed to be:

 (1) Accommodating for four travelers while remaining spatially economical
 (2) Relatively thief resistant
 (3) Comfortable and homey to keep our spirits up for the duration of the trip  

With these ideas in mind, we headed over to Josh’s Grandpa’s house where we were going put pen to paper.  Grandpa Courtney has years of experience designing living spaces in the many RVs he’s owned over the years, so it was no surprise when upon arrival he brought us into his workshop and showed us a design he already had drawn out on graph paper.  His design nearly matched ours and within five minutes he had the table saw ripping apart boards we had brought over from Josh’s house.

Safe box frame
            The storage unit is ostensibly divided into two sections.  The section nearest the backseat is approximately 36x36x20” and is going to hold gear that warrants “protection.”  It is an enclosed box that has a sliding door on the top that can be padlocked when away from the vehicle.  Although not completely thief proof, the design will safeguard our gear in the inevitable smash and grab robbery. 
The safe box fully enclosed
Fixing the Coleman

           The second section of the storage unit is going to store our kitchen items including cooking utensils, food, and our 3-burner Coleman camp stove.   Although this section is unsecured, we are crossing our fingers in hopes that any thieves will be uninterested in pots and pans.
As I mentioned before we wanted to make our rig and homely as possible.  Back in college “family” dinners were a way for us to kick back, relax, and eat good food with each other.  To keep this tradition alive we raised both storage sections off the floor of the vehicle in order to slide a table underneath which we will then be able to use to prepare meals and eat at. 

Spice Rack
The back with the table partially pulled out

Brian fixed the stove!!
Because of our limited post-graduate funds, we created a YouTube video detailing the construction of the storage unit.  Considering the quality of cinematography and overall aesthetic appeal, we are expecting this video to become a YouTube sensation, providing funding for our adventures. 



Josh raising the 'Burb
Mr. Electron

The back
Cushy carpeting

Coleman Stove compartment
Where are we now!!!!????

We all congregated at Smith Rocks State Park three weeks ago to cure separation anxiety and iron out a few remaining trip details

After three months of phone conversations, everything seems to be coming together all at once. The blog, the letters, the car, the shots, the food, the gear, and for some of us (ahem Elliott), our passports, have each made it to some stage of completion. Our calls seem to always be so short but yet two hours have passed by the time we’ve managed to cover everything. Ok, 1 hour was spent listening to Elliott ramble, 45 minutes spent trying to understand one of James’ zany ideas, and the other 15 minutes actually getting work done. But we have been disciplined. Working on hammering out car purchases, fixes, and improvements. Planning routes, activities, and trip timelines. Creating blogs, photo sharing devices, and document photocopies. Discussing timelines, gear necessities, and vaccination requirements. Buying flights back to the homeland. Generally we relished the company of four of the coolest dudes that any of us could ever want to hang out and stay caught up with. We mostly spend the time laughing and having a good time
It’s true; we have managed to plan our way through most of our trip. We have a 1986 GMC Suburban. The car in two words; pure sexy.
Josh found this gem on Craigslist. He made the purchase and $1300 dollars later; we had an awesome vehicle complete with a 2004 Corvette motor allegedly giving us 21 mpg (we ‘aint fools, we estimate 14 in reality), a faulty transmission ($1600), rough tires ($100), and a bad fuel pump ($250). Altogether the fixes were rough but a great learning experience. We know what to check out when purchasing a car and the mechanics of replacing a fuel pump! The car is beautiful. More on that to come later.
Elliott managed to bumble through the State Department warnings, travel advice, and world maps to make a tentative route. Meanwhile James toiled away, designing a roof rack, and water purification system with five gallon buckets and bike pumps. And Brian? Brian did as mama bear Brian does and designed a huge packing list- personal and group, gear and goods, utensils and tools,  Frisbees and balls. He also developed a first aid kit with mama bear supreme Theresa that will keep us safe and sound in the southerly sands.
We’ve been getting ready but most of our prep time is still in front of the screen or on a phone line. It has been great but we are all itching to go. We have tons of places on our lists to see. We want to go now! One month left.


The Crew

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Meet the Team!!

Meet the Crew 
James, Josh, Erik, Elliott, and Brian (Left to Right)
 All of us together. Ready for Country Fair


        Seen in typical form above, Brian aka mama sleeping bear, likes to hibernate. We hope he does this for no more than half the trip! Brian is the chiller of the group, happy in any situation and down to try anything new.
        If you looked at him and thought, huh, he kinda looks like a snow bum, you would be right! The dude is a ski-bum with a delightful lease on life. He loves shredding the gnarliest gnar in the woods and killing back-flips on kickers when the mood strikes. When there is no snow in the mountains you are liable to find Brian catching the latest swell on the coast. He managed to out-surf, in days on the ocean, all of our friends by double (Shelby Merrick excluded!) last year.
       While most of us questioned whether Brian actually ever went to school- I mean, who salmon fishes two days a week and then springs for a weekend of mushroom hunting and still does school!??!? The answer to this riddle is Brian Verwey, a Seattleite, born to Mama Bear Supreme Theresa and Jeff Boeing. They produced a brilliant kid with a noggin and a half. While we only saw him sleep (we hypothesize that the sleeping is related to the nourishment his large brain requires, possibly his head of hair though too) and have fun, he somehow managed to graduate Magna Cum Laude with an honors degree in Fisheries and Wildlife AND submitted a kickass honors thesis which described the distribution of giant salamanders in second and third order streams in the cascade mountains as impacted by light distribution. This paper is on its way to publication. The man has some serious scholastic chops. Brian also happens to be the leader of a research crew in the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest working on a multitude of forest stream studies. Whether grad school or the Forest Service, Brian will be an asset to conservationists and the earth for years to come.


      Meet Elliott the resident Space Case. You've likely run into him as he sprinted across campus, town, or house to meet some deadline, after two meetings with four people, followed by a slug of coffee, followed by a study session in the library until 3 am followed by a cold bike ride home, followed by four hours of sleep when he gets up to do it again... and wait!... oh  S$*?! he forgot to do something and that's when you see him, sprinting, again.
      Amazingly he manages to live a serendipitous life where these things always seem to work out for the best. He hitchhikes with people who take him hours out of their way. He gets adopted by French families in the Alps, fed fresh croissants and coffee every morning, followed by alpen hikes and happy hour. He has his friends pick him up in the middle of farm fields in Central California and promptly taking him on hiking adventures in the Sierras and the Rockies. Each experience is sure to be filled with warm, tasty food and cheer. Yes, his life is serendipitous and he does not forget this fact.
      While a space case, Elliott does manage to produce some quality items and ideas. He graduated Magna Cum Laude, much to his parents surprise?, delight?, ambivalence? with degrees in both Biology, and Environmental Economics, Policy, and Management as well as a minor in Chemistry. Additionally he surveyed individuals environmental worldviews and determined whether there was a connection between the outdoor recreation that people participated in and their environmental worldviews, investigating this connection over both time and place of residence. As his 16 and 17 year old Coloradan backpacking, rafting, and mountain biking compatriots (part of the leadership development program he co-ran with Hannah Eckert) would attest, he is a giant nerd. They half-joked that he would make the perfect "Weird Dad" someday.
     Spend an hour in the forest with this guy and it is likely that he has already found and named, genus and species, four separate mushrooms. The guy sweats mushroom hunting like Swedes sweat sweat in sweat lodges. For Elliott, a fresh patch of Boletes is akin to Christmas, Hanukkah and Ramadan all in one moment. While his passion for 'shrooms is deep, his passion for teaching is deeper. Spending the summer teaching incredibly bright young folks about the natural world convinced Elliott that teaching is his true calling. He cannot wait for grad school, publishing papers, and teaching.

     And we have James Teeter. James is our resident oddball. He is a unique man with myriad talents. James has the distinction of earning an incredibly difficult Chemical Engineering Degree, passing all the FE ‘s, engineering final tests, was Certified as a chemical engineer; and…. decided to take up plumbing down in Lake Tahoe, CA. Anyone on the outside might look at this decision as crazy, but to those of us who know James Teeter, this was classic Teets Mageets (affectionately). 
      He knew that cubically exercising his brain and body would break his creative soul and so while he dedicated to finishing his degree, he knew that despite a couple of positive interviews in the corporate world, he preferred a different route. James needs a rock to climb, even better? Lots of rocks. Heading south was an easy decision once James found out about the copious outcroppings in the Sierra Nevada.
This is not the first time that James decided to blaze his own trail. Coming out of high school in North Carolina (Cackalackian?), James uprooted and headed for the Beaver state with the intention of heading back to NC State his Sophomore year. As Freshman year pulled to a close, many of his close friends pleaded that he stay on the Best Coast, ok so really just Elliott begged, and he remained noncommittal through the Cherry Pie Invitational Bike Race in spring 2010. At this race, Wes Stein powered up the final pitch for a top five performance and more importantly, James realized that he had not read the fine print, and he would not be able to transfer to NC State until Junior year and by that time he would already be in pro-school at OSU! OOps! Classic Teets. On top of that, he fit in the West coast. His heart was Oregonian, the man loves coffee, IPA, and the outdoors- in any order. The West coast snagged a good one, someone who adamantly demands that the Appalachian Mountains be pronounced App-A-Latch-an's and brings a sly smile to every situation.
     Tahoe was next on James' itinerary; Belay on! He currently spends his time crafting beautifully simple, efficient, and attractive plumbed jobs when he is not off packing his ropes into an alpine granite field, sending routes, and summitting boulders. Equally brilliant with a shovel, hoe, and pruning shear as he is with calculator, pencil and MAT-Lab, James brings an incredible mind to the group, offering us interesting solutions to tough problems.


       Josh, our resident burned out hippie, cough cough, ha ha, not, in reality the only one of us whom has figured out the big question, what do I want to do with my life? The kid might look like a ski bum (he was, see below), and be known for his love of 40’s and subsequent need for Rolaids but he really is a wise man. He is matriculating to graduate school at Denver University next fall to follow his true passion; electrons!! 
       How Josh got here safely is a much debated point in the Courtney family. As an adolescent, Josh was part of the Warren, OR Menacing Maniacs, a group of testonsterone filled youth who terrorized the community with illegal fireworks, frozen raccoon roadkill, and errant arrow shooting. Upon graduation, Mom said, "whew,.... thank goodness". While Josh was once a bucking bronco, he has matured into a stately stallion with occasional acid reflux issues. Whenever one of the rest of us felt like complaining about the workload that we were dealing with, we would always look at Josh and shut our mouths. He worked his way through school, selling Blue Sky energy, hawking hot dogs, and managing troubled youth among a multitude of other jobs. And he still managed to write incredible essays and ace his tests!
      Entering a specialized energy policy program will allow him to focus on what he loves most and does best, energy policy; whether in the field pitching Blue Sky, or in the classroom challenging assumptions, Josh is an energy wiz. He again showed his ridiculous work ethic, spending the summer canning salmon in Alaska, impressively supervising 35 others, making sure the cannery ran as smoothly as belly-fat. All the while he was saving up money for our trip to the south, dreaming about the possibility of warm sun after spending 18 days in miserable deluge conditions in Bristol Bay with little to show for it. He is presently stoked the trip and the break before jumping into the graduate school ring of fire. 

Blasts from the Past:

Typical Brian

 Cuddle Puddle Love!
And yes, we love and hug trees.
Tooling around Tides

Summiting The Three Brothers (Yosemite)

Keough Hot Springs in Eastern California

Teeter's National Park- Teton NP

Hanging out in Death Valley

Josh and Bri shredding the Gnar, drinkin' pbr.... is this the start to a new Country Radio Hit!!?

     Elliott Finn