5 Lessons Learned on the Road

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After traveling 12,000 miles we learned a thing or two on how to make it work. We spent 24/7 together for over 100 days and managed not to kill each other, these are a few things that helped…

  1. Music/Radio/Podcasts
    Before we left New Jersey we knew we were going to need some entertainment for the long hours of driving we had ahead of us. Paul and I both had not downloaded nearly as much music as we had thought, so we needed to keep reminding ourselves to download music whenever we were connected to wifi. Paul also loves podcast so those were always good to have when we weren’t in the mood for music. My favorite thing was local radio stations, especially as we drove through Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, the South played really good old folk and country music that we couldn’t get enough of.
  2. There’s No Rush
    After we did our big push out west from Arkansas we realized we needed to slow down. As we were driving down the highway we’d see things that looked cool or interesting, but with the camper on the back of the truck we weren’t always able to make a quick turn-off and never knew what parking would be like. Once we got into New Mexico we both agreed that long drives weren’t worth it, we decided 4-5 hours to our next destination would always be the most we’d drive. Because we kept the trips shorter, we were able to drop the camper in a place and stay, usually for about 4-5 days, and then we had the ability to go back and check out some things we may have wanted to see along the way. We never drove at night, we never discussed this but who wants to drag a camper around at night and figure out where to set up in the dark? Not us.
  3. Regular Maintenance
    It took some time to get used to doing all our checks before hitting the road each time with the camper, but after doing it for weeks and months it became routine and it was part of the reason why we successfully made it across the country with no major mechanical problems.  We would check the blinkers, brakes, and all the lights each time we hooked up the camper. Paul faithfully changed the oil in the truck, even if we weren’t supposed to in some places, and we checked tire pressure regularly. At the Utah boarder we did have a slightly flat tire, it was a quick fix because we luckily had a air compressor in the truck, (the air compressor came in handy for our bike tires as well).A maintenance tip that may seem silly but is critical for any road trip, window washing, every time you fill up, wash those windows!
  4. Pack Food (but keep your eye out for roadside snacks)
    Once we started exploring the national parks and spending our days hiking we knew we weren’t going to be able to afford buying food in the parks or in the town near the parks everyday. We also didn’t want to take the time, we wanted to see as much as possible and sitting down to eat in a restaurant or cafeteria wasn’t something that appealed to us. So every morning we would make sandwiches and take them with us wherever we went. We also had our bag of “truck snacks” to rummage through if we needed a little something, we always had chips, granola bars, crackers, cookies, and peanut butter packets.
    Extra water in the back of the truck was always good to have too. We have portable water containers that are always full and in the back of the truck, we drank our weight in water while we were in the desert so an extra 10 gallons in the car was always nice to come back to after a hike.
    *While we were well prepared food wise, we did grant ourselves local cuisine when it was calling to us, like the green chili burger in New Mexico or the fried bread in Arizona’s Navajo Nation or the crabs we got on the docks of the Oregon Coast. Treat yo’ self!
  5. Maps, Maps, and more Maps
    Paul and I really lucked out when it came to navigating this trip, for Christmas before we left we were given a Garmin GPS and a National Geographic Road Atlas. Between the GPS, Atlas, and our phones we were able to navigate across the country fairly easily. It’s important to have multiple forms of GPS because you will not always have cell service and the Garmin GPS can sometimes bring you down dirt roads or closed roads. The atlas really saved us, while Paul was looking t the GPS mounted on the dash I was able to use the atlas and/or my phone to look ahead on the route or plan an alternate route.
  6. *Bonus* Take a Day Off
    While traveling and sightseeing are amazing, it can also be exhausting. After over a month of traveling Paul and I were in Moab, Utah when we realized we hadn’t spent a full day in the camper yet. We had been adventuring and exploring all day everyday and hadn’t stopped, we decided we needed a day to just relax and it seemed like Utah’s 117° summer days were just the excuse we needed. It’s important to not wear yourself out when traveling, keep yourself well rested, hydrated, and healthy because no one wants to be sick on the road.
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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…

 

Arkansas to New Mexico

Arkansas —> New Mexico 876 Miles in 2 days (wow!)

There wasn’t much on our list to see in Oklahoma or in northern Texas so we decided to just continue heading west. We left Arkansas and hightailed it through Oklahoma, a state filled with ranches that make more money from the oil wells on their land than they do from the cows. We slept in a Walmart parking lot in Checotah. Checotah, Oklahoma is a small town of about 3,000 with signs all over letting you know that it is the birth place of the one and only Carrie Underwood. Sleeping in a Walmart is a right of passage to any new road traveler, and Paul was itching to check it off our list.

Walmart’s aren’t terrible to stay at, if you can find a quiet one…good luck. When you pull into a Walmart you go inside, ask if you can spend the night in the parking lot and if you can, the manager will tell you where to park. We parked on the side of the building and lucky for us it was the night of landscaping and street sweeping until 2 AM. So while Paul slept soundly, I stared at the ceiling and listened to what sounded like a street sweeper doing doughnuts in the parking lot at 40 mile per hour. There was also a lovely train that went by a few times, and did i mention the mass of stay cats chasing summer bugs all around the parking lot lights. Ahhh…Walmart parking lots, what dreams are made of. In all seriousness though, for a quick overnight when you’re tired, you can’t beat a free spot at Walmart, it’s also a good time to stock up on anything you might need.

After a sleepless night in Oklahoma I was determined to find somewhere to sleep other than a Walmart. Before leaving New Jersey I bought a membership to Harvest Host. $40 for the year and they give you a list of farms, museums, wineries, breweries and other (usually agricultural based) businesses that allow you to camp on their property for free. I looked up what we had around us and found a winery just outside of Amarillo, Texas to stay at for the night. Our night at the winery was much more peaceful than our night at Walmart.

After a night in Texas we headed out to New Mexico, following the old route 66 until we hit Santa Fe. Route 66 is unfortunately dead and gone through this stretch of highway, businesses and entire towns have been abandoned because of the interstate that replaced the famous highway back in the 80’s. No one is taking the time to stop and check out any of those old route 66 roadside attractions, the interstate has you zipping right past without even realizing it. Of course we had to stop at some of the iconic places along the way like the giant cross as you enter Texas, Cadillac Ranch, and The Big Texan Steak Ranch.

So, what did we learned after this big push to make it out west? Well, we came up with a new and very important rule that we lived by for the rest of the summer. Our new rule, no driving for more than 4 or 5 hours a day, after that we start to annoy each other and get cranky. Driving anymore than 4 or 5 hours didn’t let us see as much as we wanted to either, we felt like we were passing by too much and with the added weight of the camper we were going no where slow anyway.