The silence was spectacular.
Just days ago, Cynthia Freund was minding her store on Main Street in Seal Beach.
But on this morning, she stood solo high atop a peak in Mount Zion National Park performing her daily yoga routine.
Her thoughts interrupted only by one or more of the canyon’s more than 300 species of birds.
Waking up in Utah was the sporadic result of a week-long adventure for Freund; a trip she did not plan but is now very thankful she took.
Freund, the owner of the trendy Station 17, said, like most everyone else, for months she has been slogging through the ups and downs of trying to run a small business in the pandemic.
“It’s not easy,” she says, but at least when the lockdown was lifted, Freund said her business boomed for a bit.
Nevertheless, when Akoni Kama invited her to join him on a test drive of his new “living van” project, an odyssey that would take them through Southwestern America, she said yes.
Freund, always the free spirit, said she has not really slowed down since her days at University of California film school in Santa Barbara.
Always interested in fashion, her first gig out of film school landed her on the wardrobe team for the hit show “Friends,” which was then, and is still now, a major television success.
“I dress people,” said Freund.
After the popular show ended, she moved on to a series of other shows, including the Chelsea Handler show, even as rock video producers for Mötley Crüe, and other groups hired her to dress the rock and rollers. Then it was commercials with Lindsay Lohan, etc.
“I never slowed down,” she said.
In fact, Freund said she ended up with so many leftover celebrity clothes that she started going to swap meets to sell them.
“It worked out so well,” said Freund, that “I decided to open Station 17 in Seal Beach.”
“We call it Boho chic,” she said.
In fact, if customers do not get a Bohemian vibe when they walk through the door, they have probably walked into the wrong store.
“It covers the whole spectrum of hippie,” she smiles, sometimes calling it “street sassy.”
But recently, when the invitation came to take the pandemic road trip, she said, “let’s go” and they were off.
“I’ve got cameras in the store that I can view on my phone,” said Freund, so even while on the road, she can monitor her business and able to speak to her employees or customers.
Freund said she and Kama have a daughter, Lexington, who is now 12, together.
They met when Kama was customizing Airstream trailers, converting them into DJ concert stages for Red Bull, she said.
His new venture is customizing Mercedes Sprinter vans into mobile housing units.
“He’s always been into industrial design,” said Freund, noting Kama has done “some amazing work.”
Kama has completely redesigned the inside of a Sprinter van (which is similar to an Amazon or FedEx delivery vans), and customized it to include a small couch, a bed, a shower, toilet and a stove. “The toilet is inside the shower” to save space, said Freund.
“You can s***, shower and shave without moving much,” she says, chuckling at the same time. “But it works.”
Kama had just finished the prototype and wanted to know “if Lexington and I wanted to go with him on a test drive,” she said, “you know, to work out the kinks.”
The new van is a kind of “ready-made life for wandering gypsies,” she said. Have fuel, will travel, and live, said Freund.
More importantly, she said, a growing number of people are apparently finding a home, quite literally, on the road, noting Kama and his investors expect to do well with the new product.
Practically, and “somewhat surprisingly,” she said, “it slept three very comfortably.”
First stop was to see friends in Las Vegas, said Freund, as they adjusted to living in a rolling box. Notably, the more it rolled the more she liked it.
Always a bit on the earthy side, Freund said she was taken aback once they reached the real country roads of the southwest, where the buffalo once roamed free and native Americas ruled the west.
“Everyone thinks you need to travel overseas,” she said, “including me before this, but I began to really appreciate the beauty of America.”
She said the AK Sprinter has four-wheel drive so they “climbed mountains too.”
Visiting major monuments along the way, Freund said they headed for Zion National Park in Utah, known for its reddish peaks, incredible valleys and canyons carved by the Virgin River over millions of years.
After just a few days away from her Main Street store, Freund said she began to deeply appreciate the magnificence of rolling hills, green valleys, white mountains, brown peaks, and the general beauty of the American landscape.
The variety became breathtaking. They passed abandoned gold mines, beautiful marble cliffs as every day along the American byways of the old west began to etch wonderous images of places she had never taken the time to visit.
“There’s nothing better than opening your eyes to simple pleasures of life,” said Freund, admitting the van life was a spartan one, but a transformative experience. Suddenly, she was front and center with a slice of the American continent and which she had never experienced.
Once they reached Mount Zion in southern Utah, they camped and hiked the “amazing trails at sunrise” before moving towards the park’s famous “Narrows” and “Angels Landing.”
Freund did her morning yoga amid the beautiful serenity of Mount Zion, looking deep into a canyon once populated with native American tribes.
She said Lexington has a half-sister in Colorado, so for sure they would eventually stop there, but she had school to worry about. Not a problem, however, as her daughter’s 7th grade Huntington Beach class is still in virtual mode, so Lexington attended her first day of class while at Buffalo Bill’s gravesite in Lookout Mountain, CO.
Quite interesting, she thought, that surrounded by such natural beauty, Freund said she could still turn on the Wi-Fi on her mobile device and get the bandwidth she needed for her daughter to attend school.
She also did not miss the contrast of leaving wildfires and 110-degree heat of California to running into a snowstorm and blizzard along the way.
“It’s a crazy world we live in,” she laughs.
For a woman who spent her entire working life in the make-believe world of Hollywood, this was far away and far out, even though her phone did buzz every time there was a transaction back in Seal Beach.
“This was perfect for me,” she said, “how many people get to do something like this with family and enjoy the people you care most about,” she wondered?
Freund lives her life much like she stocks her store. She is determined to produce “one of a kind” experiences for her customers and tries to fill her store with “one of a kind” fashions and other unique items.
Ironically, Freund said she found a “natural jewelry designer” in Colorado which will now supply her store with products.
“I’ve learned to really appreciate the beauty of America,” she said. “America is so beautiful,” she says. Somewhat surprised by its grandeur, Freund admits she has always jetted off to other “destinations” on vacation.
More importantly, however, the trip began to matter on a deeper level.
“It was an awakening,” she said.
Freund admits the trip was very personal, which taught her, and her daughter, life lessons along the way.
Gone now is the hustle and bustle and working seven days a week.
Kama is now tweaking his prototype and Freund is now back at work at Station 17 in Seal Beach.
“I’m learning to slow down,” she says. “I take a day or two off every week.”
Her business is up and down, but growing, as she knows her customers want “unique” experiences and products.
“I just sent three pairs of roller skates to Hawaii,” she says, as her skates and bell bottoms blue jeans lined with fabric are jumping off her shelves.
Nevertheless, “I’ll never forget those mountain ranges, the beautiful vistas and pretty blue clouds,” she says, now that her seven-day pandemic road trip is now a memory.
“Never again,” said Freund, “shall I take for granted the simplest pleasures of life.”