Boggy Blog editor’s note: I have no commercial interest in this friendly fellow’s business, nor have we met. (Heckers, I don’t even drink much coffee, and have yet to try his.) I just like his outlook and the way he’s finding and exploring his line… I traveled around a lot in a van, myself, back in the day. So there’s a connection there. Enjoy.
My name is Erik Gordon, and I own Carabiner Coffee. It’s a coffee shop that I run out of my van around the country.
Carabiner Coffee started because I was a climbing instructor,—doin’ that for about five years, and it kinda got to the point where I was done doin’ that. But I still love the climbing community, obviously. And I started to get into coffee a little bit more, and realized that coffee could take me anywhere in the world, and I could meet anybody that I ever wanted to, really. So I figured that if I could be the coffee guy for the climbing community, I would love to do that.
I was looking to downsize life and really simplify things, and start to travel more, and climb. I bought the van off Craig’s List, after working in a coffee shop for about eight months. Learned everything I could; that was the first coffee shop I ever worked in; it was feeling solid; so I quit that shop, and I started my own coffee business.
Breckenridge [Colorado] actually kicked me out for selling coffee on the side of the road. The Forest Service found me, and they were like, “Dude!” — First, the town wouldn’t give me a business license, cuz they didn’t allow any more mobile vendors. So I went outside of town, to the outskirts, to the scenic lookouts, and started selling coffee there. The Forest Service found me, and were like, “Sorry, dude — done-so!” So then I moved to Seattle and started doin’ the whole official food truck deal.
Welcome to Old Blue. This is the van that I live in, and I tour the country with, and sell coffee. This is obviously the living room, and the coffee-making area. This whole rig is solar powered, so I’ve got like a panel up top, Goalzero, makes all this happen. So, all the coffee-making stuff, the sound system. Got like a little home theatre system kinda tucked away in here, so it makes it really nice to listen to music.
I have usually just a water jug in here. Under there I have a coffee grinder, an electric kettle that I make pour-overs an Arrow press with.
When I’m just chillin’, this is the set up in here. I usually have a cooler that I’m like sitting right here on, and serving coffee on the table. But when I’m not, it’s kinda folded out like this. A few pillows. I always make sure I have the uke, because if you’re gonna be on the road, you gotta sing about it, for sure. When I am sleeping, I actually developed this, where the back of this pops out and lays right here, so this entire area becomes a bed. Generally, this is where all the clothes are stored, in here, whenever I’m on tour.
Cooking? To be honest, I actually — I do have like a jet boil, and a double-burner Coleman. But most of the time, I will just pull up to a grocery store, get some groceries, and eat right in the driveway, in the parking lot of the grocery store. Just because it’s – I’m usually either traveling, or like about to go camping for a weekend. I’m just like “Aw, it would be nice to just, like, eat in the van.” So sometimes I do that, other times, actually, there’s a little table, as you’ll see in the back of the van there, where I like to set up the whole kitchen situation [outside]. But in the winters, you’re definitely just in here, you know, sippin coffee and eatin soup and stuff, for sure.
One day, I was selling coffee, and this guy, he hands me this little tag, and it says, “The universe has a message for you…I love you.” Yo, this is the coffee mug that my dad hitchhiked with for an entire decade back in the 70’s. Yeah, there’s tons of stories attributed to that. And it’s kind of cool to have that with to, you know, just have kind of a little legacy between me and my dad of traveling and living on the road. He’s definitely all about — he’s psyched that I chose to live in a van and sell coffee, which is sweet.
We’re all gonna die one day, and it might be tomorrow, and it might be when you’re a hundred and five. But, I would say, if you’re not living the life, right now, that you are psyched to wake up and live, — change it as soon as possible. Just, you know? — if that means quitting your job, or if it means tweaking some things, getting rid of some negativity in your life, — just go for it. And it might be hard at first, but in the end, do you want to live the best story that you thought you ever could? or do you want to, you know? wake up when you’re 90, and say, like, “Shit, I really shoulda done some different things”? Cuz, you know? Put it all out there and live the dream. So, that’s what I would say to do.
There’s a lot of things wrong with the van, as there are with these old vans. I have, let’s see, like the other day, I was going down a mountain pass, and my brakes started to smoke really hard. So, like “you have gotta pull over!” And I literally was dumping Nalgenes [water bottles] on the two front brakes. And then I just, you know, took a nap on the side of the road.
So that’s kinda the average story of how I travel. My flashers don’t work, so — and it’s like a pull switch, — and so, I’m literally, — and when I’m going up a mountain pass, I’m in like second gear, maybe going like 20 miles per hour, and I’m manually flashing my flashers. Also, the blinkers don’t work, like they don’t blink by themselves, so I have to like flip the switch to blink either way. Yeah, I mean, the engine has blown up once, for sure. Yeah, like the alternator pulley literally cracked in half, and just was whipping around in the engine compartment once. I had to like run a red light and go park somewhere, otherwise the van was gonna start on fire….