The Bradley Mountain Blog
Titus (Our adventure photographer) and myself (Tyler, founder), have talked a lot about featuring and discussing the glorious journey of owning, fixing, and road-tripping with adventure mobiles. As of late, so many people are finding and restoring all these amazing old trucks, vans, and campers. We thought we'd keep our eyes out and interview folks we know or have just recently met who are doing cool stuff with their road-warriors. We don't know how many vehicles we will feature yet but we are excited to find the next few that will turn our heads and make us curious about the stories behind them. Enjoy!
Photos and interview by Titus Haug
Featuring: Koji Yamasaki (Father) and Yamazaki Yuu (son)
I’ve known Yuu since I was in Kindergarten. I had the token position as the only foreigner in the class and apparently back then I was a bit selfish with the toys. Those days are far behind us now. Yuu still lives in Japan and runs his own coffee shop. I have since moved to California and work as a freelance photographer. Growing up, Yuu’s dad Koji stood out among others in Japan rolling up and down the narrow streets with his 4 x 4 Land Cruiser. Amazingly, he’s still driving the same vehicle now. Last year, Yuu picked up his own Land Cruiser to complete the dynamic father-son duo. We were able to catch up with them in Japan recently to hear about their journey with these old vehicles and how it has affected their perspectives. Enjoy!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am originally from a place called Ube which is North of here. I ended up moving down to Shimonoseki for work about 25 years ago…Actually, I think it was 35 years ago (laughs).
During the day, I am an electrician but I have a leatherwork business that I do on the side. That’s pretty unique in this area so people are usually interested in that aspect of what I do. I actually think I have too many hobbies though. I like to fish, ride motorcycles and back in the day, I used to off road a lot.
I was born and raised here in Shimonoseki.
For me…well, I have a lot of hobbies that I never get around to doing (laughs).
Tell me about how each of you came to own your Adventure Mobiles?
I originally purchased this Land Cruiser over 20 years ago. I used to be in a 4 x 4 club and I ended up buying it off of a friend who was also in the club. Ever since I saw the Land Cruiser I was drawn to it, but they were a bit pricy back then. I couldn’t quite find a way to make it work until my buddy offered his to me. At the time I was driving a Hilux pickup made by Toyota. My friend was upgrading his vehicle and looking to find it a new home. At that time he basically asked me if I would take it off his hands for a killer deal that I couldn’t refuse. Later on I ended up selling the Hilux and have kept my Land Cruiser ever since.
I purchased my Land Cruiser about a year ago.
I had asked a car dealer to find me one and it took them about a year and a half to come up with what I was looking for. My dad’s Land Cruiser always inspired me. I knew that someday that I would also own one. He would let me borrow his from time to time and it just felt so good to drive…and it looked so epic.
In reality, I didn’t care what the price tag was, I just knew that this was the vehicle I would drive.
Have you had any crazy adventures in this vehicle?
I wasn’t often able to take this car on crazy roads because the winch in the front sticks out a bit far but I’ve always loved taking it out for drives in the snow. It doesn’t snow a lot here but when it sticks I enjoy cruising about in the snow.
You never know what’s going happen with an old vehicle like this, so I really feel like every time I hop in the drivers seat it’s an adventure in itself.
I’ve certainly had it breakdown on highways and what not, but I think the real adventure is the feeling you get with an old car like this.
I definitely want to take this thing out on some trips. Since the vehicle is still pretty new to me there haven’t been too many excursions up until this point. However, I definitely feel that sense of adventure by simply having an old adventure mobile as my daily driver.
Has driving an Adventure Mobile inspired how you live in any ways?
I’ve definitely become a very relaxed driver. I never really feel like driving faster than I need too, I just enjoy being in the moment. In life, I think it’s helped me to slow down in some ways too. When I’m frustrated by something, I might be more inclined to let it pass by or something like that. I do feel that influence from the car.
Since it’s an adventurous vehicle, I do feel that it influences my daily life in some ways. I find myself tossing my luggage in instead of neatly assembling it in the back. Sometimes I’ll drive with the windows open in the winter and let the engine’s sound fill the cab. It’s that nostalgic freedom-esque mystique that this vehicle carries…
I think that's part of why I wanted it.
We primarily make bags with legacy in mind. We want the children and grandchildren of current Bradley Mountain customers to pass down the same backpacks for generations to come. What is the legacy that you hope to have with this vehicle?
This vehicle is built to last and that’s an aspect that I really like about it. It’s nice how you can just throw your luggage in the back and hit the road with this thing without worrying if things will fit or scratch the suraface. I definitely want to pass it along when that time comes.
I run a coffee shop here in Shimonoseki. For me, running this shop is the greatest adventure in my life. It’s definitely important for me to take time off for trips and what not, but for now, the risk involved in running my own business and all the elements that surround that give the most tangible sense of adventure in my day to day.
As far as the vehicle is concerned I plan to keep it for the long haul. I would only sell it if it was a final resort of some sort. I will probably just keep this thing till the day I die haha.
by Keet Veylupek
Iceland was one of those places that seemed untouchable, it was distant, cold, a foreign frontier. My understanding of this arctic island came from the images I saw in magazines like National Geographic. I dreamed of summiting mountains and trekking through untouched snow. However, what people don’t know is, people live there. Seriously, a lot of people actually live there. There’s a fully functioning society and economy.
When the US economy crashed in 2008, the Icelandic economy crashed even harder. In recent years, there has been a large push towards tourism in an attempt to bring income back on to the island. That's where I came in. My visit was a direct result of Iceland’s efforts to promote tourism. And, thank God for tourism.
My first encounter in Iceland was with the Icelandic customs officer. She asked what the purpose of my visit was. “To drive the Ring Road and explore the north,” I said. “In the winter?!” She laughed and stamped my passport. It didn’t matter what other people thought, I had made it there and I was going to embrace every challenge and every opportunity. I was traveling with seven other guys, some of my closest friends, and nothing could stop us. After our fair share of complications, we were on the road.
Iceland is built kind of like an adult Disneyland. Everything can be accessed in a central location via bus, and instead of roller-coasters, they have waterfalls. We didn’t come for Disneyland though. As we drove further north, we began to get away from all the tourism. We started to see fewer cars, then even less cars, then eventually none at all. This is where the real adventure began.
Somewhere along the eastern coast, it really started to set in. We had actually made it half-way across the world to an icy country we only dreamed of visiting. I think the biggest turning point was three or four days in. I had been driving all day, trying to get as far north as possible. The sun had set, the weather was shifting, and we hadn’t found a place to stop for the night. The fog rolled in, and the light rain turned into a snow storm. We had lost almost all visibility. Normally, we communicated from van to van via walkie-talkie, but at this point, no one said a word. Everyone was on the edge of their seat. Finally, we came across a side road where another car had stopped. We pulled off, parked, and went to sleep with our hearts still beating fast.
When we woke up, we couldn’t believe where we had chosen to spend the night. Our vans were parked directly in front of a glacier, next to a place called Diamond Beach. It was surreal. I was terrified the night before, surrounded by nothing but darkness. And now, we were surrounded by some of the brightest blue waters and clearest ice I had ever seen. Chunks of glacial debris floated into the ocean and washed onto the black sand. They looked like monuments guarding the island shores.
As we continued along the Ring Road, we were astonished by the dramatic change in landscape. Often times, within the course of an hour, the scenery could change from snow covered mountains rising into the clouds to rolling moss-covered hills to endless plains of black sand. Every site we saw quickly became the most beautiful place we had ever seen. I won’t claim to be the first person to have these experiences and I won’t claim to be the most adventurous Icelandic traveler. There are some experiences, however, that can’t be replicated. I could write an entire book about our time in Iceland, but words don’t do enough justice to describe the landscape or the people that made the trip what is was. Somethings are better experienced in person.
Here is a breakdown of the day-to-day itinerary:
Things to do in Reykjavik:
Hallgrímskirkja - Giant cathedral in the center of the city. You can go inside for free or go to the top for a small fee. The top of the cathedral is the only place you can see a bird's eye view of the city.
Reykjavík Roasters - By far the best coffee in Iceland, and probably one of the only specialty shops. There are two locations: the one on Kárastígur is the original location (small and quaint), the one on Brautarholt is the new location (a little bigger and has WiFi).
Kaffitar - Kaffitar is another coffee shop that has a few locations. The coffee is pretty average, but its a good place to just sit and plan for the day if needed. Kaffi is the icelandic word for Coffee/Cafe, so most coffee shops will begin with Kaffi–.
Brauð & Co. - This is by far the best bakery in Iceland, if not the world. Seriously. Go there!
We arrived in Reykjavík at around 5am. The streets were dark, empty, and cold. The only place that was open was Brauð & Co. They let us in to their warm shop and we bought bread and pastries. I can not express enough how much you must go here. In my opinion, this is the best bakery in the world. Next we went to Kaffitar because it opened early and had wifi. We took a local bus to pick up our van and then we started to head northwest of Reykjavík to the western peninsula. There are a couple different routes to get there: we took route 1 to 54 to 56 (which requires tolls), but there are ways to get around the tolls. There are also mountain overpasses you can take instead of the highways if you’re feeling adventurous. Our end destination for this day was the iconic coastal town of Grundarfjörður.
We went back through Reykjavík because we were trying to ultimately go east, not west. We stopped at Reykjavík Roasters for a quick coffee, it was incredible, a staple of Iceland. The Valley of Reykjadalur will be the first destination you’ll pass if you take Route 1 east. It’s a long river with a hot spring. Stop if you want, but there will be cooler things the further you get from Reykjavík. Next we stopped at a waterfall called Seljalandsfoss. If you walk down the path to the left of the waterfall, you’ll find several smaller falls which you can climb alongside and reach the top of the plateau. The view from the top is amazing. Skógafoss is cool but way too touristy. We camped at an empty campsite in Vik. Not sure about the summer months, but during the winter, if the campsite is closed you can camp for free.
Early in the morning we drove to spot called Black Sand Beach, very close to the town of Vik. We went early in the morning so there was still a thin layer of fog and not too many people. Black Sand Beach looks exactly like it sounds, it’s bizarre. After the beach we headed further east along the ring road to Fjaðrárgljúfur, an incredible canyon with a river below. You can either hike along the top edge of the canyon or traverse through the river. If you keep driving further east, the landscape will start to change pretty dramatically. About 10 min after you pass Kálfafell, there will be a large mountain on your left and then all of a sudden there will be nothing. This area doesn't really have a name, but consists of miles and mile of black plains. If you’re careful, you can drive on one of the small roads out into the middle of the plain. Once you’re out there, it feels like you’re on the moon. That night we camped at Jökulsárlón - Glacier Lagoon. This was a parking lot literally at the edge of a glacier.
Directly across the road from the glacier lagoon is a magical place called Diamond Beach. You’ve probably seen photos of this place. Its one of the few places in the world where chunks glacier wash onto the shore and stand there in the waves like giant diamonds. Our next stop was a mountain range and coastal area called Stokksnes. To get here, there is a turn of a couple miles past Hofn. The mountains are beautiful and there's even a picturesque viking village at the foot of the mountain. There is a gate a place that you have to “pay” to see the view, however, if you stop on the side of the road when you see a small, abandoned house sticking out of the hill, you can sneak up and over the mountain pass for a view that’s even better than what the tourists pay for. If you get back on route 1 and drive another 30-60 min east, you’ll get to an orange lighthouse on a peninsula called, Hvalnes Lighthouse. Hvalnes is a great place to rest or have a picnic. From there we backtracked to the black plain/flatland I mentioned before. We drove out to the middle of the plain along one of the small dirt roads and camped for the night. It was here that we had an incredible view of the Aurora Borealis.
Days 5 - 7:
The last couple days consisted of us doubling back the way we came. We weren’t able to drive around the entire ring road due to snowfall on the roads in the north. On the way back we mostly just stopped at all the spots we missed. We went the tourists places in the Golden Circle last: Bruarfoss Waterfall,Haifoss Waterfall, Gullfoss Falls, Strokkur Geyser. But trust me, once you see the parts of Iceland that are far away from civilization, these touristy spots will hardly impress you. Also, if you’re looking to go to a hot spring, skip the Blue Lagoon and go to either Secret Lagoon in Hvammsvegur, Flúðir or Myvatn Nature Baths. As we drove back into Reykjavík on the last day, our manual transmission camper van decided it had enough and died right in the middle of the highway.
Buy all of your food for the week at any Bonus mart in or around Reykjavík. Once you start to get out on the road, the only place to buy food will be gas stations. When you do stop at a gas station though, try some Icelandic candy!
Water can be kind of expensive in Iceland, especially when you get away from the big cities. Fortunately, Icelandic water bottles are the same water as Icelandic waterfalls, which are also the same as Icelandic tap water. Either bring large water bottles or buy one large water bottle at Bonus and plan on refilling your water every time you stop for gas. You’ll need way more water than you think especially for cooking and cleaning in the middle of nowhere. A large canteen or water jug would be best.
There is usually one or two gas stations at every town along the ring road, but you can you usually count on passing one every hour or so.
There are two buses that run from the airport to Reykjavik: Reykjavik Excursions and Flybus. Both cost about the same, but I think one has wifi on the bus. Buy your tickets across from baggage claim. It’s about a 30-40 minute drive. If you already have a rental car arranged, usually the rental company can just pick you up from the airport. If you don’t have a rental car yet, I would look into Kuku Campers. They aren’t the best cars, but they’re the cheapest. We rented two huge camper vans for a week. If you need to get around Reykjavik, there are city buses that are super easy to use. Tickets for the local bus can be bought at any 10-11 (basically our 7-11).
Shop the trip:
When we set out to create Bradley Mountain back in 2012, we always had the intention that it would be more than a brand. It would more than just any person or product. We sought to build Bradley Mountain into something that would both transcend and outlast the typical conventions of what a company could and should be. We began forming our identity based around the things that we valued the most. That's how we came up with the term, live adventurously.
We wanted something that could encapsulate the unique thinking and way of life we were striving to create. Bradley Mountain would constantly be an outward celebration of intentionality, minimalism, risk-taking, inspiration and adventure. Our company exists not only to make refined, long-lasting products, but more so to foster a community and environment honoring the best things in life. Bradley Mountain is continually being driven by stories from our customers, our friends and the world around us. So, that is why we are creating this blog. It is a direct extension of our brand's indentity. We are honored to bring you content that is interesting, challenging and inspiring. We're excited to partner with you in building the best experience possible.
Here's what to expect:
- In-depth interviews and profiles
- Stories and dispatches from around the world
- Unique food and drink recipes
- Travel guides and recommendations
- Nature writing and photography
- Exclusive looks at the inner workings of Bradley Mountain
- A bunch of fun and much more!
We'll be updating our articles on a weekly basis so make sure to bookmark this page and check back frequently.
Here are a few sneak peeks from some of the stories we're working on:
A Bradley Mountain Guide to having the best summer featuring:
- Summer favorites from our staff
- Curated summer playlists
- Fun and easy recipes
A dispatch from Keet Veylupek in Iceland (full story coming soon):
"Iceland is built kind of like an adult Disneyland. Everything can be accessed in a central location via bus, and instead of roller-coasters, they have waterfalls. We didn’t come for Disneyland though. As we drove further north, we began to get away from all the tourism. We started to see fewer cars, then even less cars, then eventually none at all. This is where the real adventure began."