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Article: Harry’s Road to Somewhere

Harry’s Road to Somewhere

Harry’s Road to Somewhere

It’s funny how a memory — much like an adventure (or misadventure, for that matter) — stays with you longer, the deeper you felt it. And not like figuratively felt it, but literally did. On Roark’s recent trip to Sardinia, between surf sessions, Harrison Roach played chauffeur in a 80’s Volkswagen camper van, carting the crew up mountain switchbacks and down coastal village lanes in this vibey brick of a vehicle. There was no power-steering, no AC, and the van certainly did not prefer high speeds, however, everyone that hopped in instantly got it. The putt-putting point of reference for Harry’s entire Sardinian experience, he details how there’s nothing like an authentic old vehicle and good ole fashioned road trip to bond humans.

This Old Van

I think there's something really unique about vehicles, and, particularly, old ones, that contribute a lot of character to your journey. I like to think that a big part of my role on that trip was just to be a bit of a hype-guy, or, like, a chauffeur, to just keep the mood high and froth everyone up and get people to where they wanted to go.

I didn't have heaps of responsibility, so I just thought I could help a little bit by keeping the morale up. Whether or not I did that, or it was just a figment of my imagination — I don't know, but the car rides were some of the best times we had. When you're in an old car driving with a group of friends, the cool thing about it is there were different people in it at different stages.

People would just jump in the van for the experience and I'd have a new driving buddy pretty much every drive which contributes so much to the experience. And you’ve got this character of a car where we were just sweating in this thing, you know? There was no power-steering. It was huge, and we were rambling up these tiny mountain roads. I think I gained some muscle just turning the wheel of the f--king thing.

Then there's the character of the person sitting next to me, or the person sitting in the back, and that's really what I took away. We did a lot of driving, and those moments where you're spending time with new friends, just having a chin-wag and talking about what we're experiencing, talking about things we've experienced in the past, or whatever. That was pretty special for me. That’s another kind of adventure. And it was like a new little adventure every time we got in that van.

Long Drive, Open Hearts

The reason I love road trips is that people are honest with you when you take a long drive. It feels like people let their guards down a little bit and you sort of have a level of trust in each other that is hard to find elsewhere because you don't often get those extended periods of time sitting next to someone, really. Outside of that, where do you do it? It's this unique thing, being on the road where people open up, and that was definitely happening on the trip.

I think of the classic highlights where I became a bit more of a fly on the wall as the driver. It’s sort of like listening someone’s music that they put on. Maybe someone’s choice of music, like their beliefs or opinions are similar in ways. Some of the songs, you really take on board and run with, and they become your own. Others, you're kind of like, yeah, yeah, maybe that one's not for me. You’re not always going to dig the same exact music and that’s OK. But sometimes it was like, wow, I love that tone, and absolutely agree with what you're saying.

In an old vehicle like the van — you're sort of at its whim. These days, I think we’re used to getting in your car, and you're closed off from the environment. You've got your music on, you've got your air-con blasting; you're really not a part of the environment outside. Which is why riding a motorbike is so special, because it's a vehicle that puts you so much more in the place. Hitzel, Roark’s founder, says it all the time about running. You literally get your feet on the ground and it's the best way to see a place.

Comfort Kills Memory

Another great thing about an old vehicle is that you’re limited by it, so you’re immediately forced to take it for what it is, rather than having this preconceived notion of how these things should run. You adapt to it, not the other way around. I think that old van was just so cool for that. It was a trip in and of itself. Also, we couldn't drive fast in it. It wasn't going to be nice and cool and comfortable.

You just end up remembering more about a place because of it. I cherish those sorts of memories where we're just sweating bullets on, like, a 6-hour drive. It’s physical. At the end of that 6-hour drive, you get out and you're at this incredible f--king restaurant in the mountains above the ocean. Like, you get out and you're like, ‘oh my god, look at where we are now,’ feeling like, ‘well, that was so worth it.’ That uncomfortable ride was all part of part of the fun. Those same, old purposeful misadventures that makes it more memorable. I dunno if that makes it feels more authentic, or just better.

Everyone that got in the van, from new friends like Mackenzie Bowen to old ones like Jeff Johnson or Jamie Thomas: you could see it on their faces immediately. It was like, oh...oh, this is different. I could see it every time somebody new jumped in the car. And then, you know, we had an AUX-cord, and I'm like, all right, guys — you're the DJ. That set the tone on a lot of the longer trips around the island. 

Sights of Sardinia

On one hand, I started out in a little surf zone on the west coast. I went over with a friend a few days early and was welcomed with open arms by the locals there. I got this really cool experience before anyone arrived. Sometimes when you're solo, it's a lot easier to hang out with a group of people and get them truly how they are. We were eating, surfing, drinking wine, kind of just living the European dream while surfing in the Mediterranean. And the coastline — it's absolutely stunning.

Warm water, cliffs, and headlands. It's just so photogenic and beautiful. It’s very arid, and a unique climate. Then we ended up in the mountains where we went to meet the Roark team. Jeff Johnson and Drew Smith and his partner were doing this big climb, and all of a sudden, it's like a whole other world up there. Still very exciting and very Italian-feeling with incredible Italian food, but a totally different environment. Sheer cliffs and tall mountains and tiny little roads.

Then we hit the east coast, and it was, hands down, one of the most beautiful beach scenes I've ever seen. These rock faces above crystal, turquoise water with white sand beaches and huge caves right on the sand and cliffs going, like, 300 meters vertically off the beach. I was pretty f--king gob-smacked by the diversity, and we still only saw a small part of it. The people were welcoming. Food was incredible. The seafood was just nonstop. Some fun waves, and all the while we're driving around in this Volkswagen bus just having a ball.

It was a real sense of achievement having driven all around that big island, though. And while memories might fade over time, all I have to do is think about that van, and it's just a window into my whole Sardinian experience. That's kind of the way I see it. From the van comes every other memory in dribs and drabs. The van is the thing that initiates everything else. It’s just this real significant point of reference that all the memories are drawn from.

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