When I was 16, a smoothie place called Robek's opened up not too far from my home. I needed a job to pay for my first car, a 2000 Honda Civic. Before the construction was finished at Robek's, I went in to fill out an application. And I kid you not, as I'm handing over my application to the manager, I knocked over a water bottle without a lid on it, soaking God knows what paperwork.
I did not get the job.
But sure enough after another failed attempt to get a job (this time at Wendy's...), I found my way into a job I really loved at Best Buy, selling TVs.
Eleven years later, now back in my hometown, a suburb of Cleveland, I found myself once again in search of a job. This time I need to pay for a van, among other things...
When this idea of the Million Dollar Mountain was still wholey contained in my mind's eye, my first guess for the most likely places to find the money I needed included bartending, waiting tables, or dealing card games.
What kind of money do I need? At the time I estimated about $1,800 per month after taxes to cover my fixed and variable expenses, which closely fits a $15/hr, 40 hour a week job. In the present moment that number needs to be closer to $2,000 per month. On the foundation of this income, I will build my engineering business.
Now you might guess, correctly, that I could make much more than that as a salaried engineer. The problem is, working for a company as an engineer precludes me from legitamately building my own engineering business, as there is a conflict of interest. So my focus shifted to unrelated industries where I could earn that monthly minimum income, whether that be $15/hr, 40 hours a week, or $10/hr, 60 hours a week.
Now as far as bar tending, waiting tables, and card games go, I figured my best chance to make my minimum monthly income was Vegas, Las Vegas.
I hope this explanation of the whole initial job hunt will help depict the purpose of my home on wheels. The van provides the flexibility to follow the work at the lowest cost. The van is a tool, not an escape.
I didn't want to live in Vegas for "Vegas". I wanted to follow the opportunity. If I felt that opportunity was better in Topeka, Kansas or Orlando, Florida, then that's where my head would be.
Why this job?
What I'm going to walk you through from here are the different jobs I've pursued since finishing the PCT.
But first, why?
Because my PCT thru hike took me a month longer than expected (I really wanted to go to that wedding Dan and Vanessa!), I found myself behind schedule and over budget from the jump.
The cold weather (and lack of experience, mostly lack of experience) slowed progress on the van to a multi-month marathon instead of a single month sprint.
Had you asked me in November if I'd be in Cleveland today, I would've said, hopefully not. At no point in the last 8 years had I ever considered moving back to Cleveland for any extended period of time.
This goal is bigger than my climate preferences, or proximity to real life mountains and the west coast utopia. Everything is on the table.
Out of money, I decided to turn local for job opportunities. While I scanned Craigslist for service industry jobs, including UberEats (because regular Uber in a two seat van isn't exactly accomodating), I first looked for remote work.
Remote work would allow me to remain flexible, and the thought was, if I could lock up my minimum income remotely, I could hit the road as soon as the van was done.
Signing up for the website FlexJobs was a good decision. They categorically highlight legitimate work from home jobs where $15/hr+ is achievable.
But my first run in with this type of work was a flop. The service "Wonder" brought me on to answer reasearch questions for what was advertised as $15-25/hr. The service answers un-Googlable questions, mostly for private industry analysts. An example question I answered was "What is the average number of retailers in a shopping mall?" (The answer is complicated).
After the first day I quickly realized the time these answers required would make it hard to earn much more than $5/hr. I quit.
I applied for many more remote work positions, including cirriculum writer for middle school and high school science, pay per word copywriter, and student loan blogger.
The remote work that stood out the most however, was a position to write letters to Congress, among other tasks. I actually got far in this process which evolved over a month, right up to the point where I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. The job works on a mission oriented 12 week to 12 month basis where 20-40 hours a week are required. And the pay is advertised as $12-15/hour.
After successfully arguing for and against higher Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, I had to respectfully remove myself from consideration for this position as, by the time I had gotten this far, I had already selected traditional job at a fixed location.
On the day I got the job I'm going to tell you about, I had actually gotten a temporary job at a nursing home for roughly $9/hr (less than I made in high school...). Like I said, everything is on the table.
They even made me take finger prints (so there goes my chance to start a crime syndicate).
When I walked out of the nursing home with my paper work for a Tiberculosis test in hand, I was at peace with doing this work for a couple months.
But I wanted to make one more effort at something loftier, something that hadn't even crossed my mind until earlier in the day.
Title-ing the van was a complicated process. New Hampshire was involved. I'll write about it someday.
But on the particular day I've been covering, I was on the phone with the guy that sold me my van, on the topic of the title. At one point he said, "You should sell cars."
Long conversation short, I took his advice (BIG shout out to Chad, Buckeye Ford, London, Ohio).
Where I live there's an auto-mile (or two) with most automakers represented. On the opposite side of town from my home, at the very end of the auto mile, sits a Mercedes Benz dealership (next to Porsche and Aston Martin dealers).
I went home to look the part, and before I left home I took the picture above. My plan was to ask to see the general manager, ask a couple open ended questions, and take it from there. Essentially I went in to ask for a job the old fashion way and left the computer applications be. And it worked.
Tomorrow is orientation. My first day of work since April Fool's Day.
Now why Mercedes? They are the highest end car dealer that sells vans, vans like mine. And it may very well play an important role in my work at Mercedes.
So Wait, Where Am I Going to Live?
Welp, Cleveland man.
This time last year (honestly even last month) I'd say there was a 0% chance I'd live in Cleveland in 2017. At this moment I'd say there's almost a 100% chance I live in Cleveland for all of 2017.
The compensation at Mercedes (which I will be more than happy to share once I get a grasp of the situation) puts me in a stronger position to build my business than previously planned. Cash is oxygen for a small business, and as far as my mountain is concerned, my small business is the route to the top at the moment.
So here I am. Back to where it all started, just to start something new.
And I'll add a little extra easter egg to this story. The tattoo on my right bicep is the year 1804, the year my alma mater was founded (Ohio University), the year Lewis and Clark started off across on their journey to the Pacific Ocean (something I use to symbolically remember my bicycle trip across the U.S.). I got the tattoo during my senior year at Ohio.
That number is the reverse of my child hood address, 4081. In some serendipitous way, reversing my direction in life after college, has brought me right back through the epicenter of my existence. Poetic, really.
The van remains essential, and its purpose has not changed. But how and when Proud Mary will first hit the road remains to be seen.