In our day and age, there is a whole new order to how we meet people. No longer do we sit at a bar and order a drink for an admirer, or uncomfortably ask for a stranger's number at a coffee shop. Instead, we swipe right and hope to god we aren’t being catfished on a dating app. Falling in love is a process, and I’m excited to share how a mini adventure in a Texino Camper Van sealed the deal for me and my partner Lauren.
once upon a time...
This story begins a little over two years ago when a beautiful woman named Lauren May swiped right and I did the same. Couldn’t tell you the exact day that happened because I deleted that app long ago. There was a bit of back and forth on the app at first, but my preference is to actually talk to people in person (my thumbs get sore after a while with the digital banter). With the intention of setting up a date, I asked for her number. Getting that real phone number ushers you from dating app fairytale land into reality. Before this, there was plenty of Instagram creeping and googling to make sure that both of us were, in fact, the people we said we were. It turns out she was pretty dang interesting and super cute. I’d learned from her dating app photos that she was also a mother, which would have been a red flag for some thirsty f-boys. To me, it meant that she wasn’t f@%king around, and was looking for someone to eventually introduce that little one to. Possibly build a life with. We were pretty cautious because I think we both thought there might be something there…but how the hell is anyone supposed to know from a couple of pictures? Highly curated pictures, taken many years prior when there may have been more muscles and fewer wrinkles. The next move was to meet.
I prefer getting the heck off the digital device because I’m more of an in-person conversationalist. We made a plan to meet for a glass of wine at a spot nearby. I was only in town for a few nights as I was traveling a bunch for work at the time, and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss this meet-up. Weirdly, I didn’t have those typical nerves you get before you meet someone for the first time. Usually, there’s this weird fear with the dating app process because you have no idea what you are going to get in the flesh…
She walked through the door and was even more stunning than the photos she had shared on her profile. Her style was perfect. Effortlessly and naturally elegant. Toned down with a vintage military jacket bringing the beauty back to earth. We only had an hour or so because she said she had a dinner date with some girlfriends later that night. Little did I know it was actually a date with another suitor, haha! Spoiler alert…I won. We quickly got past formalities and jumped headfirst into the real stuff: family, life, death, lovers of the past, and psychedelics. It was effortless — different from other dates. Because of the time crunch, there wasn’t a chance to get too drunk, or move too quickly and make decisions we may have regretted at the time. Instead, it gave us the chance to be very real and direct. We both left that first date saying that there was something special between us. It wasn’t like any other experience, and whether we became lovers or good friends, we were going to be a part of each other's lives.
We went on a second date, where we confirmed it was a bit more than friendship, but I again had to be on a flight the next day. I actually missed that flight because we made out on the street next to her car for hours. At this point, I was going to be back on the road for a bit, which was torture because I really liked this girl and wanted to hang out more. This was all at the end of the year around Thanksgiving and I wasn’t going to be back in LA ‘til after Christmas.
the road trip test
In the time before our third date, I decided I needed to make sure this date was the real deal. It needed to be a date neither of us would forget. I have this theory that if you can go on a road trip or travel with a lover then you are good to go through life together. Being in the car for hours is a great test as to whether you truly like being around each other or not. It’s a bit of a gamble though because if you don’t, you can end up with a lot of awkward silences and discomfort while rolling down the road. I had no doubt this girl could hang and I secretly started planning the greatest of adventures.
I have a 1971 Ford F100 named Frida that I have built to be my adventure vehicle. I have taken her all the way down to Southern Mexico and all over the United States. She has been a loyal steed but has many long, tired miles under her tires (also a bit of a gamble!). The plan was to load up in Frida and drive north. Big Sur was the chosen destination because it is one of the most magical places on earth. I’d told Lauren that we were going on an adventure and to pack for three days in nature. I didn’t tell her where or how we would get there. I had just flown in and only had a day to get the truck prepped and tuned up before we set sail. I was ripping around LA pulling every favor with mechanic friends to get this thing back into shape to be able to handle the 6 hours (7 on Frida time) drive up to Big Sur. Coming off the freeway on the way to my buddy Todd’s shop I heard a pop and then saw smoke. I had thrown a rod and essentially blown the engine. After the thousands of miles I had shared with Frida she decided on this day that tomorrow's adventure was not going to be with her. Poor thing was tired and I understood. I had her towed to a spot where she could rest and I could figure out how to fix her, but that wasn’t going to happen in the 24 hours I had before we had to get on the road. So what the hell was I supposed to do??
Texino to the rescue!
I have this friend, Sinuhe. He’s that guy that’s always somewhere rad, doing something cool. He is the king of really cool vehicles and has built an amazing career documenting these vehicles and the adventures he gets to go on in them. A few weeks prior I’d seen Sinuhe post a photo about a trip he had done with this really cool company called Texino. I recalled the beautiful built-out Sprinter Vans from his Instagram. What threw me about these vans was their minimal, utilitarian, but stunning builds. This was all saved in my memory banks for a later day and in that moment, covered in oil and grease, towing my old girl to her resting place, Sinuhe's photos popped into my head. I quickly gave him a ring and said, “Tell me about this Texino thing… what's the story?” He quickly connected me to Nick and Lane. I told them my story and they set me up with one of their first Sprinter builds for the next day. I lucked out massively and the Texino gang saved the day!
The next day came around and I told Lauren to Uber over to the Texino in Silverlake. I just gave her the address and not Texino’s name so as not to blow the surprise through a simple google search. We got there around the same time and we were both floored. I could see the excitement in Lauren’s eyes when she saw the van, but I also knew there were some nerves too. I was floored by how nice this thing was — especially in comparison to my old girl Frida. It was luxury on wheels: a whole kitchen, beautiful cabinetry, captains chairs…it even had a damn heater! We were set up and ready to go.
We loaded up, grabbed some bagels from Bells Bagels (if you haven’t been there it’s a MUST), and set sail down the highway. There are many reasons why a road trip is a solid way to test out whether you could be with someone. Above all else is music. Music choice says everything about a person, and if you don’t align on what to listen to, there are probably a lot of things you won’t align on. Thank the Rock and Roll gods in the sky, Lauren and I had the same taste in music. Both brought up on the classics by our parents, and expanding in our adult life into music of all types. Have a listen to our Texino Radio Playlist to hear all of the tunes we played on that first road trip and our third date.
The other test of a connection is the test of time. Does it feel like it is taking forever and you can’t wait to get out of the damn car and awkward silence, or does time not exist because the conversation is so damn good? For us, it was the latter. We just clicked.
As we pulled off into San Luis Obispo and jumped on that classic stretch of Highway 1 heading towards Big Sur, Lauren figured out where we were going. I know now that she is the adventurous type and will jet off on her own in any which direction in her trusty Prius for days at a time. Crazy thing is, she hadn't been to Big Sur yet so this was an extra special occasion. If you haven’t been to Big Sur before, it is hard to contemplate the vibrations and beauty that place holds. They say it is “where the mountains meet the sea” and as soon as you turn the corner onto the winding section of the highway you realize what they mean. Waaaaaay back in the day, they carved this road out of the side of the mountain which is pretty incredible. The sheer rock face that slides from time to time…silhouettes of the Pampas grass gracing their shadows on the road in the golden California evening light…all leading to the most beautiful jade-colored water, sprinkled with boulders and waves rolling in generated from storms raging miles away. It’s powerful! That all said, as we turned up this scenic drive the sun had set and it was pitch black out. Lauren had no idea what we were rolling into. Our destination for the night was one of my favorite Big Sur secrets: the campground at Ventana. Ventana is a super swanky hotel/resort in the Post Valley, and not many folks know that they have a campground. In addition to a whole section of glamping tents that you can spend a ton of money to stay in, there is a normal campground below that isn’t much more expensive than your average National Parks campground. They have a couple of handfuls of sites, spread out beautifully in a grove of redwoods with a creek running through the whole thing. They also have amenities that you don’t typically find at a normal campground like clean bathrooms that aren’t long drops, and showers with real warm water (not that we needed that — the showers in the Texino vans are amazing). We checked in and parked our van at our campsite. With the door open and the sound of the creek below us, we cooked a meal that couldn’t be beat and drained a couple of bottles of wine effortlessly. The details of the evening from this point onward are a little blurry and probably slightly x-rated for this journal post. We had made it. Not only to our destination, but through our first long haul on the open road and it was perfect.
We proceeded to do all of the things one can do in Big Sur. We hiked ‘til our legs were wobbly, we cooked, we ate at Nepenthes while tripping on mushrooms (apologies to the waiter for our relentless giggles).We flipped through books at the Henry Miller Library, wandered through the cabins at Deetjen’s, soaked in the magic waters of Esalen. We even splurged and somehow finagled a night at the Post Ranch Inn(didn’t know you could spend that much money on a hotel room, hahah). One of the memories that sticks the most was one parking spot. It’s just South of the Limekiln Trailhead and has an insane view of the meandering coastline and you can pull off enough to feel like you are in your own little world. We rolled in early from camp and made breakfast and made love. The sound of the waves crashing against the rocks below blended seamlessly with our playlist. We left our car in that spot, hiked up to the waterfall in Limekiln, and took a dip under the falls. Then we headed back down to the beach where we ran into some old friends and had a beer. After that, back up to our parking spot where we took photos, drank beers, and chatted for hours with those same waves still breaking below us. We spent a solid 12 hours in that parking spot from that early morning light till sunset… It was perfect. I think it was in that moment that it all clicked…we were in love!
a campervan family
It is now two years and three months later. We have a cute little house up in Altadena, two dogs and I am helping Lauren raise her little girl Zoey, with plans of having one of our own someday soon. As a family over the last few years, we have shared countless adventures on the road together. Many of those are in Texino vans. Camping and the outdoors is our happy place. The connections you make with each other and nature through adventures like these are the glue that keeps relationships strong and the love real. We have that to thank for this amazing family we have built. We also have to thank Texino for providing us with the vehicle that took us on the journey of finding true love. Thanks, guys!
Love, Lauren and Stefan
Related Blog Posts