Monument Valley & Gooseneck State Park

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Over our 2,000+ mile journey this was probably my favorite 24 hours. People always ask, “where was your favorite place?” That’s a really hard question to answer and it may change day to day, but this little corner of the country is often the answer to that question and will always have a very special space in my heart.

After leaving Aztec, New Mexico we headed to Monument Valley, a beautiful 17 million acre park in the middle of nowhere on the Arizona/Utah boarder. As we drove past reservation land and beautiful land formations we really felt the freedom of the road on this drive, we left the crowds and strip malls and busy roads all behind. There’s a nice cafe, overlook, and visitor center that goes through the history of the land, from the Natives who still call it home to the John Wayne westerns shot on location in the valley. Monument Valley has some pretty rough roads and you can opt to take a guided tour, but we drove it ourselves. There’s a stop along the way where you can take a picture on horseback on a spot called John Wayne point. At this point there is also a small fried bread stand and 2 small gift shops.

 

After our adventures in Monument Valley we realized the sun was setting quickly and we needed to find a place to spend the night. We were in the middle of nowhere and had no data service to google anything or pull up our maps on our cell phones. So, we called my brother and told him we saw a campground on our paper map and asked him to check it out and see if we could get the trailer into a spot down there. After being on the phone for awhile and burning more sunlight we all agreed we’d make it down the road to Gooseneck State Park.

Gooseneck State Park. was probably my favorite camp spot. After driving down a dirt road we passed the entrance of the park passing a sign that read, “Tent Camping not recommended (high winds on the canyon’s edge).” Along with us there were only 2 other people camping, both in tents (thrill seekers). There were no hookups, just picnic tables and a few vault toilets at the park. We pulled right up to the edge of a canyon and spent the entire night watching the most beautiful meteor showers. It was exciting to wake up and get a good look into the canyon the next morning and a look at where we were.

 

 

 

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New Mexico & The Four Corners Region

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We spent a night in Santa Fe, New Mexico at a little RV park right off Route 66. We went into town for dinner, and after being told by several people about the green chili burgers in New Mexico, that’s what we were on the hunt for. We enjoyed burgers and beers and walked around the city. Santa Fe is a small city with lots of character in all their Pueblo style homes and buildings, there’s also many art galleries, beautiful jewelry, and other handmade crafts in the downtown stores. The bar scene that night was hoping and the town was bustling. We enjoyed our night in the big town before setting off for more rural scenery.

After leaving Santa Fe we headed to Aztec, New Mexico, a little over 3 hours Northwest. Aztec is a great spot to bounce around the Four Corners region, we were about 45 minutes from Durango, Colorado, 45 minutes to the Arizona boarder and just over an hour from Utah. While we were in Aztec we bounced around all four states, visiting Mesa Verde National Park, Aztec National Monument, and driving around BLM land in Utah. We also celebrated Paul’s birthday while we were there which was great, we spent the day exploring the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde.

After spending a few days in Aztec we stored our camper at a local storage lot and went into the mountains of Colorado to do some backpacking. We did a beautiful 4 day hike up to an alpine lake. I may have cried after having to climb over the 100th downed tree on switchback trails at over 10,000 feet, but we pushed on and it was totally worth it. before picking up the camper we regrouped after the hike with burgers, beers, and hot showers in a cheap hotel room.

 

 

Holiday Gifts for the Road Tripper

Gift giving for people living in small places can be hard, but fear not, her are a few ideas that you can’t go wrong with.

  1. American The Beautiful Pass
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    This $80 pass gets you into all national parks, and in most place, into national monuments, national forests, and some state parks for one year. When you realize that the entrance fee to all of the major national parks (Yellowstone, Zion, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, etc.) is being raised to $70 per car for a weeks visit, this pass is totally worth it.
  2. Gift Cards
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    You can’t go wrong with gift cards, they give the road tripper the ability to spend them whenever and wherever they need to.

    1. Fast Food (McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Subway, Domino’s)
    2. Amazon
    3. Gas (Shell, Flying J, Exxon, BP)
    4. Dollar General (they’re everywhere)
    5. Walmart (also everywhere)
  3. A Taste of Home-
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    If there’s one thing we miss about New Jersey, it’s the food. With all of the places we’ve been around the United States, there’s no place like home, at least when it comes to the food. No matter where you’re from, sometimes a taste of home is all you need to cure a little homesickness. Check with local markets and food stores to see if they will ship their food directly.
  4. Games
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    Because music and good conversation won’t always keep the car from being too quiet. Mad Libs, trivia games, scavenger hunts and other little games that can be kept in the glove compartment are perfect for entertainment on the road. A Frisbee or another simple outdoor game can be fun too, think small.
  5. AC Inverter
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    Any road tripper knows the convenience of a car charger, this charger is great for charging a laptop or camera when you’re on the go, and you can charge 2 phones at once.

Cell Service Across The Country

We visited almost 30 states on our cross country road trip, we drove down the East Coast to Georgia and Florida and then headed out west. We covered a lot of ground and got to test our cell service in a ton of places.

 

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Our Route

Before leaving Paul and I decided we would switch our cell phones to be on the same plan. Prior to switching, I had T-Mobile and Paul had Verizon. We knew T-Mobile service wouldn’t cut it, because even in places in New Jersey I would have spotty service, and Verizon was the most expensive carrier, so we met in the middle and signed a contract with Sprint. Sprint claimed to have 99% of the coverage of Verizon and they gave us an unlimited plan for less than what we would have paid with Verizon.

After traveling for over 100 days and over 2,000 miles we switched both our phones to Verizon once we settled down in Idaho. Not only was Sprint’s service terrible once we left Georgia, their customer service was a joke, and no help to us at all as we traveled. As we traveled and met up with family and friends who have Verizon it was obvious that we were duped by Sprint, our friends and family would have full service on the Verizon network while we were constantly roaming. We hardly had full service once we left the East coast, we were always roaming (unless we were in a big town/city), so we would make phone calls to our family and if necessary have them google things for us.

In the end, Sprint didn’t ruin our trip, in fact a lack of service in a lot of places was peaceful. Towards the end of our trip we both broke our phones, and because we were traveling Sprint would not help us replace them, but we found the silver lining in that situation too and basked in the solitude of no social media or apps. If someone were to ask me, I would only recommend Verizon to those looking to travel, not only is their service much better but their customer service has already proven to be superior as well.

Something that we didn’t have and I wish we would have was a WiFi hot spot. Many of the RV parks that we stayed at had their own WiFi but with everyone in the park trying to use it, it was usually too slow to upload pictures or stream videos.

Happy Trails…

 

Our Travel Playlist

For much of our journey we didn’t have data service, so whenever we came across a decent WiFi connection we downloaded music and podcasts. When we weren’t listing to our Spotify music or podcasts we enjoyed scanning the local radio stations, and sometimes just sitting in silence and taking it all in.

I created this playlist in Spotify, if you have an account feel free to give it a listen.

Enjoy…