I love to travel (shocker). This love came from my grandfather, who would would take me and my brother on road trips growing up. We would pack up our backpacks for overnights at his house or venture up to Prescott, work his food truck in East Phoenix or even trek cross country to meet family members we had never met before.
He was a modern day gypsy. Family man, provider, care-taker but wonderer and adventurer at heart. Anytime I see Route 66 signs, a truck stop (which at 9 years old felt like the coolest place on the planet) I immediately think of him and the adventures we shared. He taught me how to budget, how to read a map and how to plan one hell of a road trip.
He had "laws of the land" that you had to abide by in order to travel with him…
For example, we could order anything we wanted where ever we ate as long as you ate the whole thing – you order it, you eat it!
And you had to know your role –
-The Driver is in control of the radio (no argument on this one… and my grandfather loved Patsy Cline. He had a black cassette tape carrying case with about 30 of his favorite cassette tapes we would rotate throughout our trips – I remember dreading when Pasty would make her way into rotation, but years later she warms my heart and reminds me that my grandfather gave me a deep appreciation for the classics and true country).
-The CoPilot had one job and one job only… look important!
-The Navigator needed to have a map on hand and had to be able to tell you the direction you were headed and what the next move was (yelling MCDONALDS every time you passed one was optional – but we never missed the chance to stop for french fries).
Side note- I learned to barter and negotiate at McDonalds during road trips. Tripping cross country meant a lot of Happy Meals, and that meant occasionally getting duplicate happy meal toys. So our grandpa made us go to the counter and politely ask to exchange our toys for other toys – skills that often led to swapping toys with other kids in the Micky D's play place. Even if we (my older brother and I) couldn't get exactly what we wanted, we knew trading up to a Black or Blue Power Ranger gave us more trading potential than a Yellow Ranger (sorry Trini – you had little trade potential in 4th grade)… back to the story-
This week instead of visiting the beaches of Hawaii, sipping cocktails in Mexico or island hopping in St. Barths I took it back to my roots and my took a page from my grandfathers playbook – and hit the road to see some of our Nations treasures! And loved seeing so many of the millennials living the #VanLife. I am truly envious of those who are taking their early 20's to live off the grid and experience as much as they can while they venture across the US! Is it weird that I'm a homeowner in my early 30's and want to live in a van?!?!
So weeks before the trip I spent my free time on TripAdvisor, National Park Websites and trolling Social Media researching the best routes, destinations and attractions.
What was the best reviewed? These reviews helped prioritize hikes and travel plans!
What was cooler online than in person – like Mirror Lake in Yosemite – not as spectacular in person as online – but helped us add the Emerald Pools to our hiking plans in Yosemite which was one of the highlights!
And also, what would locals suggest – like Donut A Go Go in Mariposa, CA or Oscars Cafe in Springdale, UT!
Then I enlisted a crew of fellow road trip'ers who I knew would enjoy the trip, all bring different personalities to the trip and had an easy going personality that would keep the trip fun and positive – even if weather or unexpected circumstances changed the game plan.
And finally I had a 10 page PDF of the trip mapped out with AirBNB accommodations, routes with addresses mapped out, entry fees, attractions and daily items to accomplish (I know, doesn't really sound relaxing – but I tend to like to do more in one day than most people do in a week so this trip needed structure and a schedule. And details for another post but – our dog is part of our family and with him aging, we wanted to bring him along for the trip! And if anyone has ever traveled with their pet, there is a whole new level of planning involved with making sure your trip is puppy-proof and pet friendly!
(Note – I do not own the photos used here, replacing with my own images in the next posting)
This is the cover page of the trips "Master Plan." Everyone makes a cover page, right?!??! So crazy to look back at the original version and see how so much changed! I carried the full printout with me on the trip and made notes, revisions and updates along the trip – grabbing every map, visitors guide and handout I could so I could update this document the best I could. Can't wait to update this looking back and archive for future use!
A key detail for a comfortable road trip is a comfortable ride – which meant lots of space. With four adult men and a dog, we needed a lot of space – luckily smart packing and our Ford Explorer Sport was clutch in making for a roomy and comfortable ride! We love our Explorer which has the look and feel of a luxury vehicle with captains chairs (perfect for adult travelers), panoramic moon roof for siteseeing on the go and fold flat third row for extra storage! But also the muscle needed for off-roading in Death Valley, snowfall on Tioga Pass and championing the hills and terrain we left in our dust from California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah!
So to guarantee plenty of extra space I want to all new levels of "control freak" and made a packing list of the essentials needed on the trip with recommended extras from expert reviews online! Sure, it sounded odd to pack waterproof jackets, tank tops, water shoes and a hydration pack all for the same trip – but effective planning had wake-up calls with mornings in the 30's to afternoon hikes in the 100's – so we made sure we packed just what we needed (and very little more than what we needed)! The best thing to make sure you have to start… a comfortable sized bag and rubber bands! If you know the size of bag you are bringing you are more realistic with what you can bring, and rubber bands help you consolidate the clothes after you rolled each outfit! I'm a roller in terms of packing! Since we only spend single nights in some of our stops, it's silly to unpack – much easier to grab what you need and keep moving on! We had 8 days on the road so I packed an outfit (socks, underwear, shorts and a shirt) for each day with two wild cards – extra warm for a snow day and casual outfit just incase I didn't want to wear running/hiking shorts everyday!
I was able to fit all of my clothes in my Zoot Sports Triathlon bag, which opens pretty wide which is great for viewing my inventory of clothes and picking out just what I needed for the day!
Since I knew we'd have a significant amount of hikes, I brought two pairs of shoes to rotate through and flip flops (not pictured).
All of the outfits fit and I gained much more space once I rubber banded each outfit together allowing space on the side for extra socks (moisture wicking non-cotton socks reduce odor and are great for long days on your feet), underwear (briefs take up way less space than boxers or boxer briefs), tights for extra warmth if needed (and they were needed) and a few hats for protection from the sun (and the fact that I wasn't going to attempt to brush my hair for all 8 days)!
Sticking to the strict packing list for the basics allowed for extra space for an extra lightweight jacket and sweatpants
And with each person only bringing a backpack, we had plenty of space for pillows, blankets and gadgets which are needed for 21st century travel!
If you're like me and enjoy taking pictures and videos, having extra battery packs, chargers and USB adapters for the car ride keep you fully powered from Point A to Z and every stop along the way.
Then with the vacation days submitted to work, the out of office email notifications ready to send and the car packed up we hit the road!
I can't wait to share the trip with you all day by day, and hope it encourages you to take the trip(s) and fall in love with Mother Nature and the amazing planet we share – and also spend time with family and friends having conversations face to face and interacting in real life – instead of online!
Stay tuned as I break down our trip day by day! Starting in Yosemite Valley, across Tioga Pass, through Death Valley, experiencing Zion, Fire Valley and everything in between!