Well howdy all!
Pull up a chair here beside the fire and prepare to hear a wild and wondrous story. Now it’s no tall tale I’m here to tell, this here is the honest truth of how a young man traveled a very long way in a very odd way to end up home far from home. You see, this story just happens to be my story.
Now I’m certain you’re scratchin’ your noggin wondering, “what in the heck does this fella and his story have to do with soap?”
Well aside from my habitual use of the sudsy cleansers, not much, really.
And now you’re wondering “well, then what does this all have to do with Outlaw Soaps?”
The answer to that is simple: almost everything. But hang onto your britches, we’re taking the scenic route on our way to that explanation.
A little more than two years ago I was working a fancy job in a fancy city and doing everything I was supposed to be doing, and by most folks’ definition I could be labeled a successful young professional. I had a comfortable home, financial stability, and a career that was consistently moving forward.
And I was completely miserable.
Just beneath the confident and extroverted exterior raged a tumultuous storm of self-doubt and uncertainty. Within the previous year I had endured the devastating end of my longest romantic relationship, I was wrestling with deep questions of identity and life purpose, and frankly I was struggling with depression and anxiety like I never had before. I found only temporary solace in the myriad of hobbies in which I participated, and I realized I was slowly retreating further and further from those around me.
As I fought to gain a foothold in the battle for my sanity, I began to take inventory of the places and activities that always helped me get out of my own head and make me feel like the best version of myself and I realized that a majority of them involved mountains, fresh air, no traffic and genuine folk. It was this mental inventory that caused me to start daydreaming about the idea of undertaking a solo road trip just to get the hell out of the city and out to somewhere distant and beautiful.
The place that immediately came to mind was a state I’d never visited but had harbored a secret love for since before I was a teenager.
At first, I viewed such a trip as nothing more than a silly fantasy and quickly dismissed it as being too ambitious to undertake alone. And then I started calculating mileages. And then I started looking at places along the way I'd like to visit. And then I started looking at street views of the drive there. And then the silly fantasy looked more and more feasible and actually possible. And then I realized I was going to make it happen, come hell or high water.
I grew up as an inner city kid just west of downtown Los Angeles in the bullet riddled gangland known as the Rampart District during one of the darkest eras in the city's history. To escape the mire of our neighborhood, my parents often packed my siblings and I into our white station wagon and took us for long drives to locales with fresher air and a slower pace of life. Sometimes our destination had waves crashing onto tranquil sandy shores. Other times our destination was high in the mountains where the cool crisp air uncluttered my mind and made everything seem sharp and vivid. Still other times our destination was the serene high desert of California, where my uncle and his family lived in a beautiful home on a quiet street.
The desert of my youth was a magical place with inky black night skies teeming with stars that shimmered brighter than diamonds and where the days contained activities such as flying kites and playing baseball in the street. It was at a man-made lake in this very desert where I was first introduced to trout fishing. It was in this desert where I first saw the milky way in the night sky. And it was this place that through the tireless efforts of my loving parents would become our home shortly after I finished 5th grade.
In the desert, I was afforded the greatest luxury I could have ever dreamed of: a childhood at ease, safe and with unending opportunities to explore my surroundings without having to be in eyesight of my parents or siblings. It was here that I learned to mountain bike and played little league baseball for the first time. It was here that I had my first kiss and experienced my first heartbreak. It was in the nearby mountains that I discovered and fell madly in love with snowboarding and flyfishing - dual obsessions I still pursue to this day. It was at this point in my life and in this place of freedom and safety and clean air that I discovered the outdoors in a way that was deeply personal and intimate. Unbeknownst to me, the rivers and snow of my youth would slowly carve their way deep into the bedrock of my soul and shape the very foundation of who I am.
In the wee hours of a late August morning I excitedly loaded up my adventuremobile with fly rods, camping gear, clothes, a telescope, tons of snacks and my pillow (and possibly one or two… hundred other things), and I tried to prepare myself for what I might find on the road to, through and from the Treasure State.
Would I meet friendly people or would I hear the dueling banjos of Deliverance?
Would the scenery be as great as I’d imagined?
Would I feel lonely traveling through “the middle of nowhere” without having any friendly faces to turn to?
I started up my rig, said a quick prayer, then paused and said to myself aloud “I guess there’s only one way to find out…” and drove away into the unknown.