Driving from Tucson to L.A. and back every other week is hard to keep up. The seven-plus hour drive each way is exhausting, no matter what or who is at the other end. But instead of just settling in one place, travel became part of Ty Hathaway and Julia DeConcini’s relationship. That’s when the van comes in.
Hathaway and DeConcini spent four years taking road trips to go mountain biking in beautiful places while each ran their own companies from their van: Hathaway runs a bicycle business, while DeConcini deals in stoneware.
Hathaway, half of the team that owns Golden Saddle Cyclery, was living in L.A. in 2015, and found most of his working time was spent on a computer, time that could be spent anywhere. DeConcini was living in Tucson, running a nonprofit photography lab and dabbling in stoneware. A year into their long-distance relationship they began weighing the “stupid expensive” Los Angeles rent to the quality of life in Tucson.
“We chose to be here so we could afford to have the things we wanted and still be able to travel,” Hathaway said about choosing to make Tucson their home base.
DeConcini had joined the clay co-op in Tucson and had begun her stoneware business, called “Stoneware Wolf.”
“It’s mud, I love mud,” she said. “Playing in the dirt, it’s what I’ve loved my whole life, doing things by hand. It’s craft but made out of something so simple. It’s nice to get to work in the studio, outside, with the doors open making a mess.”
Motivated by memories of building adobe houses with her dad, DeConcini acquired a pottery wheel and kiln, and started crafting coffee cups. Having worked in the coffee industry, she loved making little espresso and cortado cups, and her friends all wanted them.
“Social media has such a big part in this stuff,” DeConcini said. “We have such a sweet community of friends who are supportive in that way and positive. It was exciting and rewarding.”
Now, Stoneware Wolf mugs can be found at Five Points Market and Restaurant, Presta Coffee Roasters and Hotel McCoy, along with her online shop.
When Hathaway joined DeConcini in Tucson, he owned an old van with nothing in it. Together, the duo built it out so they could stay in it during their trips. The vehicle ended up with a bed, refrigerator and battery, and they lived out of it for two months on a trip to Canada and back.
“Our buildout was done from plywood and cardboard,” Hathaway said. “It wasn’t pretty, but it was functional.”
According to DeConcini, the van is where the pair truly got to know each other.
Since the first van, there have been others, and now they’ve downsized to a truck. None of them, coincidentally, have had AC.
“Our tradition on road trips is to stop at the Colorado River, jump in, and eat lunch while sitting in the river in all of our clothes,” DeConcini said. “That’s our evaporative cooling, with the windows down. Jumping in the river has always been a nice tradition.”
They based their travels around Hathaway’s bike races. Hathaway isn’t just co-owner of Golden Saddle Cyclery. He has ridden competitively in bicycle trials, as a professional BMX, cyclocross and mountain bike rider. According to his mom, he could ride a bike better than he could walk.
DeConcini and Hathaway also go on trips to bike together, driving up through Colorado or more recently out to Baja, California to ride mountain bikes along the cape. Originally, Hathaway was sponsored by the bike company Specialized. Part of his sponsorship was to give Specialized photos and content for their social media. Many of those photos were DeConcini’s.
“Julia is a really good photographer,” Hathaway said. “She started taking a lot of photos of me riding, and we became a team giving them content.”
This year, Specialized reached out to DeConcini separately.
“My gig with them is a little different,” DeConcini said. “There are a lot of people giving them sports photography. They gave me the freedom to do whatever I want. Like get weird, get artsy. Be the wild card.”
Coming from an art photography background, DeConcini always preferred film cameras. She uses an adapter to fit her old lenses to a digital camera, capturing light a lot more like her old camera. Shooting with old Nikon or Pentax lenses dramatically changes the aesthetic of what her digital camera can do. The result is a dreamy, deep image with hazy light and soft edges.
Her photos are different from the content other people are sending Specialized, and are now often on the Specialized’s social media, from their Specialized Women page to the Specialized Adventure page.
Hathaway and DeConcini recently took a trip to Baja to visit a timeshare Ty’s family owned in Cabo san Lucas. Finding the timeshare too fancy for their tastes, they decided to head out to go whale watching instead and bike their favorite part of the divide trail.
“That was the vacation from vacation, getting away from the insanity of swim-up bars and limbo contests and all-you-can-drink margaritas.”
They ended up scratching the chins of baby whales, camping on the beach in a whale preserve, and being treated to margaritas in the struggle to find a working ATM. Because there is always something that goes wrong on bike tour, but the fun is in being resourceful.
“It’s about being able to chill out, figure it out,” DeConcini said. “Instead of letting it destroy our trip. We have options. ‘What are our options?’ is the game.”
Hathaway and DeConcini made it back to Tucson okay, to their cat and 16-year-old Pomeranian Oslo, the adobe house that DeConcini helped build with her father, to the pottery studio that has her childhood handprints in the foundation.
They chose Tucson as their home because it allows them to go on these trips: to ride along rocky beaches, soak in hot springs, and find that perfect chocolate ice cream at the end of a salty, sweaty day riding. It’s not that they have endless resources – it’s that they’ve made the choice to forego forced pool games at a fancy hotel for a well-earned whiskey by the beach bonfire.
Meredith O’Neil is a University of Arizona journalism graduate student and Tucson Local Media intern.