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A Man, a Van, & a Good Cup of Coffee

The outdoor community is full of unique people with inspiring stories, zest for life, adventurous spirit, and passion for developing deep connections with both the natural and the human world. In its Unscripted series, Basin and Range seeks to tell the unfiltered stories of some of these real people who have taken their lives off of the beaten path. Erik Gordon is one of these people; he took his first sip of coffee on an intensely cold Oregon day during a post-college solo cross-country bicycle trip, and he’s never looked back.

Carabiner Coffee “…is about the things that coffee allows you to do and the interaction that it allows you to have with each other,” Erik says.

If you had told a college-age Erik Gordon that he would go on to own a coffee business, he’d have thought you were crazy. But now serving great coffee to rock climbers, backcountry skiers, hikers, boarders, and mountaineers is one of Erik’s biggest passions in life. His others include developing strong friendships with these people and driving his 1971 Volkswagen van named Ol’ Blue to the deserts and mountains where they spend their time. “Carabiner Coffee is a traveling coffee company that is all about spreading love and passion for life and showing people that you can really do anything you want if you love to do it,” Erik says of his business.

Erik attributes his zest for life, his sense of adventure, and his passion for forming deep bonds with fellow nomads to his father, who spent a decade of his own youth hitchhiking across North America. Erik loves listening to his dad talk about past adventures. "I’ve heard a lot of those stories,” he says, “and they’ve definitely had a big impact on how I live my life now … on the decisions I’ve made and the things that are possible in life."

Erik’s goal has always been to choose his own path through life.
"Carabiner Coffee, and what I do out of the van, fosters a lot of things, and friendship is definitely one of the strongest things that has come out of it."
— Erik Gordon
Keeping the old van on the road is an adventure in itself.

Erik spent his life savings to buy the van off of Craigslist, and then spent the entire next winter consumed with fixing it up and trying to keep it running throughout the frigid Summit County, Colorado nights. He remembers the first time he drove it, a trip up and over the continental divide, not knowing if the old van would make it up the steep incline. Now he loves that the van intrigues so many people. “You’re looking into my room,” he says of the numerous people who approach him, eager to take a look around inside Ol’ Blue. "You’re looking at my office, the place that I break down and the place that I’m the happiest."

After working in a small Colorado coffee shop, Erik knew that this is what he wanted to do with his life. While he very much enjoyed the coffee, his passion came from the special interactions he had with so many people in the community. "I figured that that would be an awesome thing to do around the country," he says, "and serve coffee to the climbers and outdoor people that I love to be around."

Erik plays his ukulele to keep his attitude positive and his life playful.
The Carabiner Coffee motto, "Find Your Line," is something Erik came up with as he started the adventure of becoming an adult, knowing that he wanted to veer from the scripted life so many of us lead. "I knew I didn’t want to go the path that was already set," he says. "I wanted to find my way through these things." He has certainly found it, a life dedicated to friendship and camaraderie, to nature and the outdoors, to climbing and the gorgeous places where the best climbing is found, and yes, to coffee.
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