How to survive a 2 week road trip across America
When I told my coworkers that my husband and I were driving across America to see as many national parks as possible, a wedding, and more....in just 2 weeks, they thought I was crazy.
Shucks, they still think its crazy. I had my boss look me at me and say "Sounds nuts, Becker. Good luck." Queue the eye roll.
Not many people get excited about road trips, hiking, camping, and roughin' it like Josiah and I. We had a very close group of friends that loved it, but at the end of the day, we were still the couple that would fully prepare for a campout. We have it down to a science of how things are packed, in what order, and what foods to bring. Honestly, we should be professional campers. Is there such a thing?
In march, when we were looking at flights to California for my brother-in-law's wedding, Josiah looked at me and said "I'll prove to you that driving out there is cheaper. Gas, food, National Park pass, campsites. I'll prove it." So, he made a list of everything he could think of, and even with a little wiggle room we thought...we might as well do this now!
So on June 26th, we headed off for Knoxville, TN towards Memphis, TN (at this time, mind you, we had no idea we would be looking to live in Memphis.) and on to route I-40. We traveled across Texas through Amarillo, then to Holbrook Arizona, Kingman Arizona, and then to California. The way back was a slightly more northern route through Arizona, Las Vegas, Utah, Denver Colorado, Omaha, Illinois and then back home. Its was an exhausting 2 weeks, but absolutely amazing at the same time. I took tons of video, which got made into this lovely montage:
All said and done, its was a huge undertaking. I do wish I had photos of each piece of planning we do prior to the trip, but I do have the words to tell you, so here it goes!
Plan your route and what to see
We did precise calculations of how long it would take to get to each stop. We made a list of places we couldn't miss, and places we would go to if we had time but could be cut. It was so important to have that communication of expectations.
We are National Parks people. We wanted to see the unique landscape and treasures unique to that region. Because of that, we bought a national park pass that's good for a year. Definitely a plus for us. We aren't big city people so even though we passed through places like Denver and Las Vegas, we weren't spending a lot on sightseeing there.
Plan your accommodations
Plan on camping, using hostels, or staying with friends if you're trying to go the economical route. At the beginning of our trip I posted our list of locations to friends, and a few volunteered a night's stay. #Worthit. Some nights we stayed in KOA cabins with air conditioning which was like a luxury hotel for us. Set your expectations early on.
Plan your gas
Get a gas card or a travel card. OR, if you don't want to be limited to a certain brand, just wing it and look for the cheapest gas. BUT DO NOT wait until your tank is empty. Fill up in cities before you get to the expensive desert regions.
Find ways to make it fun for everyone
My husband just wants to see the natural landscapes. He's an explorer. He wanted to get to every national park and then some.
I am a photographer. I needed a project to work on. So, I bought a portrait lens for my Sony A6000 and in every state or big stop, I took portraits of the baristas that served me coffee. It was awesome, and I'll write a blog about it soon. I even plan on creating a educational talk about starting conversations with strangers. It was the only way to keep my creative mind at ease while being cooped up for 15 days.
Don't be ambitious with food. Plan to eat out a few times
We cooked almost every night. We were doing this trip to actually save money, so we bought food along the way that we could cook on our own camp stove. We didn't cook over a camp fire to save time, which was a very smart choice. Make compromises where you need to, and communicate what local foods you want to try.
Try local food that you can't get anywhere else.
In Moab, Utah I wanted to try the local drive-in and nitrogen frozen ice cream. Those were worthy purchases.
Colorado has a famous restaurant called Beau Joe's Mountain Pies. The crust end is so thick and roll-like that they make honey dipping sauce to go with it. Its a must try.
Establish standards for your comfort, cleanliness, and timeliness
For us, we knew that the car would get dirty and possibly smelly, so we invest in deodorizers. I can't stand bad smells, so that was a priority to me.
We kept the car in order for the most part. Dry goods and cooler were in the same accessible place every day. Snacks, maps, fan, and water were in the same place everyday. Establish a system that you can loosely stick to and not get mad when your car mate changes it up or improves upon it on day 3 or 4.
Keep a good bed time. Especially if you're traveling through the heat and need to be at certain places before the 12-4pm heat hits. We were quite bad at this. We would stay up too late and leave too late. Plan for sunrise or sunset moments because you might never see that landscape at that time again.
Keep a visual record
For us, that was in the form of my video taking and picture taking. You don't know when you're going to be back, so take so many photos. I take a lot of photos of moments that weren't particularly about the locale, but about the people. I'm bad about including myself in photos, so I missed a lot of my own reactions and moments.
But preparing for a road trip is not just a list of practical things to check off. Because frankly, I did everything in the above list, and things did not go as expected.
You know why?
Well, after two weeks on the road Josiah and I had changed. We had encountered a world of possibilities where people of all social classes, backgrounds, languages, and financial means were traveling together on the open road. We had changed, but time seemed to have stopped in our little home town. We wanted to scream out "Does no one else see how different I am?!" "Does anyone realize what else is out there?...WHO else is out there?" Our eyes had been opened to everything we can do, and could do, if we followed God's call to leave the comfort we were in.
We let the experiences change us, and we learned from them. I met people I would never talk to because I put myself out there in new ways, creating imagery through coffeeshops (more on that later). We climbed mountains in sweltering 115 degree heat, and ate Colorado Mountain Pies. We've stood at on top of the mountains of Virginia, the edge of the Grand Canyon, on the cliffs of Horseshoe Bend, and at the shores of California to come to the realization that God is greater than our wildest dreams.
A road trip is an amazing experience. Its not a resort, there are no massages, and showers might be hard to come by, but I recommend doing it, and doing it well.
So what's the secret to surviving a 2 week road trip?
Letting go of your expectations and letting yourself be open to change. Don't hold on to the plan too tightly, and plan on drinking lots and lots of coffee.
Let God be in control, and you'll find yourself finally at peace with the world.