photo by parker hilton

Alright, we need to get right out in front of this and say YES the Vanajeros did spend a day at Six Flags in Los Angeles, but NO we did not spend any of our traveling budget on it. We were actually treated to a day at Six Flags by a friend of the Vanajeros who will remain anonymous. This was no average amusement park day, though. No way. This was the full package, VIP status. That meant we would get to go to the front of every line, have our share of free food all day long, and a tour guide who would take us from place to place in the massive maze that is Magic Mountain.

That tour guide was Kevin, our beloved chaperone through one of the most epicly memorable days of our lives. We had only to point at a ride and say “That one,” and five minutes later Kevin would be buckling us into the front seats and collecting our cameras and sunglasses, while we apologized to those in line whose places we just stole.

We screamed, we hollered, we rode almost 50 roller coasters in one day and Kevin held our hand the whole way. Not literally, but you get it. Kevin is the man.


photo by parker hilton

Chris is the type of guy who delivers his daughter’s baby in the back of a car at 3 am on the way to the hospital, and then shows up to work as the GoWesty shop manager at 9 am without a hiccup.  There aren’t that many of those types left in the world.

He was probably the best-dressed auto mechanic we ever met, and had a smoothly groomed goatee to match. During our week at GoWesty, he oversaw every upgrade, every piece of mechanical maintenance, and he did a hell of a job at it too, because this van has been rolling solidly since it left his trustworthy, baby-delivering hands.


photo by madison perrins

I know, I know, it looks like all this hair must be older than time itself, but in fact it is not.  It's pretty old though. It’s the same hair"cut” Nigel was rocking when Joel first met him back on the elementary school playgrounds. Minus the beard of course, that came much later on.

Nigel and Joel grew up together back in Fairbanks, Alaska, and at one point in High School, Nigel even moved into Joel’s house for a time. The two of them did nothing but watch movies, jam on guitars, and talk about weird philosophical stuff. Well, many years later Nigel’s in a psychedelic rock band and finishing up a music degree, and Joel went to film school and is on an international film/photo journey, so it’s safe to say some of that goofing around must have paid off in some way.

Nigel took us to the beach in Arcata, California and we climbed some rocks, drank some beers, and watched the fog roll in before we had to roll out on our way south.

Alexis and Anders

photo by parker hilton

Alexis may be the smallest friend of the Vanajeros, but she has one of the biggest hearts of them all. Not to mention she’s kind of a badass chick who wears patriotic raccoon shirts on the Fourth of July, and has longstanding prank-offs with her local McDonalds cashier.

  She put us up in Portland, offering a warm and inviting living room to sleep in--with an emphasis on warm because Portland was having a bit of a hit wave when we showed up. Joel experienced the first sleepwalk of his life in that very living room, which makes it an extremely special landmark in the Vanajeros timeline.

Right before we headed out of town Alexis brought over the unbelievably cheerful and drooly boy she nannies, Anders, and we snapped some Polaroids of them together. ‘Twas adorable and a half.