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COVID-fueled cross-country trip

It’s a year before the big cross-country trip. Bryce Beyerbach was talking to his friend Aidan Rowley as they planned where they wanted to go.

“We were going to drive across the country and live in my mom’s van,” said Beyerbach, a Glens Falls, New York native.

But just before high school graduation, it was almost time to venture off when Rowley’s dad decided he was going to sell their lake house. Rowley knew he wanted to stay home to spend one last summer at the house with his family, out enjoying the water.

“I was a little salty,” Beyerbach said with a shrug. “I was excited to leave after high school, so after that I just wanted to go as far away from here as I possibly could.”

He decided he was going to go on a new trip by himself.

Bali it was.

Beyerbach figured out that the cheapest way for him to travel would be if he joined a volunteer program. He acknowledged the fact he might have a hard time convincing his parents to let him go so far away at the age of 17 but hoped the fact that a structured volunteer program would help sway their decision.

“I found the volunteer program with the least amount of structure and went there,” he said with a smirk. Beyerbach worked four days a week, Monday to Thursday with infants in daycares and orphanages.

“Me, four or five volunteers and two nuns watched 30 to 40 2-year-olds run around all day,” he said.

Then, from Thursday night to the next Monday morning, he got to explore Bali and experience the nightlife.

“I got the perfect mix of, ‘I’m helping, I’m doing something good and I’m getting to experience life away from my parents for the first time,’” he said.

Beyerbach, a former Castleton University student and a white water rafting guide in the summer, more recently has spent the last year traveling the country in his converted minivan.

It’s his mom’s old minivan that he traded her for his 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe. When asked what she thought about her son’s traveling, Renée Beyerbach laughed and said, “Bryce had different ambitions than maybe the usual route.”

“We thought his path might be a little bit different, but I guess we didn’t really expect that he’d be traveling and studying and taking online courses while living in different areas and visiting different people. But the fact that he gets home now and then a little more frequently is nice.”

It needed flames

On the outside of the burgundy Honda Odyssey you can find bumper stickers from his and his sibling’s colleges, another sticker that’s a silhouette of Lake George, and a few dents and scratches. One dent in the front he got in Nevada, which resulted in him being banned from driving there for six months.

Oh, the van is also complete with red flames on both sides that extend the length of it.

When Beyerbach got the van, he joked that flames were what it was missing. His dad, Bob Beyerbach, decided he would take it upon himself to make that a reality.

“Bryce was impulsive and said the van would look really good with flames on it and I had a guy who could do some flames,” said Bob.

Inside, you will find a raised queen size bed with storage underneath in the place of the back seats, an abundance of pillows and blankets, shades for every window, some purchased and some made out of dark blue felt cut to fit the window and adhered with Velcro. It seems like if you need something, you’ll find it in the back of this van. There is everything from a portable

stove, table, and a large cooler filled with the essentials, to a cowboy hat (custom made to fit Bryce’s head), a hammock always ready to be thrown up just about anywhere, a slackline, boxing gloves and a red and white “full send” funnel.

The decision to travel once COVID hit was a pretty easy one for Beyerbach.

“To be honest, COVID happened and I was home and I was pretty sad because a lot of my friends in college were seniors so college wouldn’t be the same after [COVID]. And then when it seemed like the pandemic was gonna keep going and the schools were gonna stay shut and be super strict. I decided I wasn’t going to do that and I’m gonna stay online so I can travel,” Beyerbach said.

He and his older brother, Brian, who took a year off from school due to COVID, made plans to head out west together.

“The plan was to move out to Bozeman, Montana with Brian and to live with him for the whole year. But we couldn’t find a house, so two weeks before the day I said we were leaving, I called my friend Wade Hirschbuhl and I said, let’s just live in our cars – and he was down.”

“As soon as Wade hung up the phone, he spent $1,200 on a roof tent for his Subaru,” he said.

Two weeks later, they made their way out west for a three-month long trip. They went to a majority of the states during that time and from all six of Beyerbach’s trips back and forth across the country, he has been to every continental state except Washington.

When asked why not Washington he responded, “I’ve just never been up there.”

An unlikely favorite?

Beyerbach’s favorite place is, without hesitation, “Alabama Hills, California.”

“It’s just the holy land,” he added. “It’s a special place to me. Those rocks, they’re all so grippy you can climb all of them. You can climb up to the top of each rock and look up at the Sierra Nevada Mountains.”

Though Alabama Hills was a spur of the moment decision to visit, Beyerbach found himself going back time and time again.

“Before I went home, I ended up going there another three times. I would drive six, eight, 10 hours to get there because I just didn’t care, it’s such a dope place in my opinion,” he said.

Hirschbuhl agreed that Alabama Hills was the highlight of the trip. When talking about the trip in general, Hirschbuhl said “I didn’t register what we were doing.”

“I didn’t know what I was getting into, but it seemed natural. Everyone says they would do stuff like this, but no one does.”

Beyerbach nodded in agreement.

“We never knew what we were doing next. It was like we were free-handing a painting, but somehow it turned out really sick,” Hirschbuhl said.

The guy in the woods

When asked if he’s met any interesting people along the way, Beyerbach responded with a laugh then said he’s met a lot of interesting people, emphasis on “a lot!”

“There was one day Wade and I were just walking around the woods in Truckee, California and then this dude lured us into this old lodge playing music.”

He offered them a tour of the grounds and they thought “f*** it, let’s spice up life a little bit,” and followed him inside.

“We were convinced the entire time he was gonna try and kill us, but Wade and I were on the same page. We decided if he pulled any weapon on us, we were both gonna jump on him. He could have poisoned us though so when he offered us alcohol, we were like only one of us can drink. I was like I have to step up for the team, so I decided to drink, which was dumb because I’m trained in martial arts and Wade is not, but I was confident Wade could knock this dude out.”

After hanging with him for an hour, the guy turned out to be a seemingly harmless lonely person looking for company, who in addition, didn’t have any technology or communication with the world.

“He wanted us to come hangout the next day and play ping pong, but we didn’t because we were kinda creeped out,” Hirschbuhl said. “He was a character.”

Never looking back.

Beyerbach spent last spring out in Phoenix, Arizona training in Mixed Martial Arts at one of the best gyms in the world, The MMA Lab. He got an apartment out west and spent five days a week training at The Lab twice a day.

On the weekends, he would take the van with his friends out to Sedona to go camping.

“I like training in Phoenix because there are so many people that are better than me out there so I get better quicker when compared to training in Queensbury, New York.”

He adds that “it is cool to train alongside UFC and Belator fighters.”

Beyerbach doesn’t regret his decision to transfer to a fully online school in exchange for traveling the world.

“I could never pay attention in classes. Being able to watch a lecture and being able to zone out then rewind it is so clutch. I feel like the way I’m learning now, I am learning more than I would if it was in person.”

As for the next trip, Beyerbach is thinking about planning?

“I might move to Bali for the spring or I’ll go out west again and live in the van, maybe take a little trip down to Mexico.”

Looking back at his first big trip in 2019, “Bali was the turning point for me because then I knew I needed to travel.

“The pandemic happened and it was perfect. I left and I haven’t looked back since.”