A photo summary of our favorite times on the 9 week park-hopping journey. The memories we made on this trip are once in a lifetime and worth every moment of temporary joblessness and homelessness post-adventure. Like the designer Stefan Sagmeister, I highly recommend injecting a few years of retirement into your younger years. It completely reinvigorates creativity and appreciation for everything in our great big world.
Sadly, our amazing 9 week adventure across the United States is over… for now. While we settle back into our hometown, here are some of the best stats and tips from our trip:
We traveled: 12,730 miles (a smidge over our estimated 8,000. not only did we grossly underestimate the hundreds of miles traveled in parks, but we went 1,200 miles out of our way to Texas and Louisiana when the parks closed.)
Gas mileage: 27.2 mpg
Parks visited: 12.25 National Parks and dozens of Forest and State Parks (I’m only counting 1/4 of Death Valley since it was closed.)
Parks we missed due to the Government Shutdown: 6 National Parks (Joshua Tree, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Canyonlands, and Arches)
Nights we tent camped: 17
Nights we slept in the car at a Walmart parking lot: 17 (two of those nights were actually rest stops)
Nights we slept in the car at a campground: 12 (pitiful, I know, but this was mostly due to cold or rainy weather, sometimes bears.)
Nights indoors with friends or family: 13
Most expensive gas price: $5.38 (just outside of Death Valley in the Mojave Desert, CA)
Cheapest gas price: $2.89 (in St. Louis, MO. but we didn’t fill up in Texas, where I think gas was as cheap as $2.50)
States we visited: 22 (only states we missed West of the Mississippi: Kansas, Oklahoma, and North Dakota)
Weight of our supplies and sleeping platform in the car: 400 pounds
Number of tickets we got: 0 (although we were pulled over once in Minneapolis for driving on a bus-only road. I blame it on poor signage.)
Number of bears we saw: 4 (two safely from the road, two semi-safely while hiking, zero while camping)
Number of oil changes: 2 synthetic (one in Casper, one in Colorado Springs)
Did we stay on budget? YES! (And we’re happy to dish out tips on how to camp across the country for 9 weeks under $3,000.)
We researched and planned our car camper for months, and it paid off because our systems worked out even better than we could’ve ever anticipated. It wasn’t hard at all to stay organized and clean, allowing maximum time for exploring.
Later this week, I’ll post a picture of our anticipated route versus our actual route. See photos of our car/camper organization below.
Before heading to St. Louis, we visited Clyde’s Uncle Al and Aunt Chrissy in Fayettville, Arkansas. We had a delicious barbecue dinner, went on a tour of Fayettville, then played some euchre. But I didn’t get any pictures!
In St. Louis, we got to spend a day in the life of the newlywed O’Connors! As our trip started a few months ago, I was sooo excited to spend time with Jon and Nicole. But as our visit drew closer, the more and more depressing it became—this was our last stop! We didn’t want the adventure to end, but we had to face reality eventually, right? :)
We had a day to kill, so we chose to spend one more day on a beach. Waveland, Mississippi was the closest beach to New Orleans with a campground. It was a cloudy day, but still a great way to end our last “free day” as our epic adventure came to an end. If you look closely, you can see a big piece of a house stuck in a tree at our campsite. Eight years later, we still saw lots of remnants of Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi coast, but they’re rebuilding really well.
It was no coincidence that we found a ton of dead things washed up on the beach — I think it was symbolic of the end of our adventure.
Fate (and bananas) brought us to New Orleans! Because we didn’t want to camp or Walmart in the Big Easy, we were either going to skip it or just breeze through NOLA on our new southern route. BUT Chiquita happened to have a tradeshow there, so we lucked out and got to see some old friends! My college friend, Christian, was there, too — we were in the right place at the right time! Clyde loved his first visit, and I suddenly remembered how the sludge-lined cobblestone streets ruined a pair of boots on my visit for the Sugar Bowl 4 years ago. :/
Everything is seriously bigger in Texas. I never believed people when they said this, but really.
After accidentally passing Cadillac Ranch, we headed towards my cousin’s house—the Texas Lampes! Mark, my cousin, is the oldest of the 30ish grandkids and I’m the youngest! I love his family, but we never get to see them enough. Spending time with them in their natural habitat was so much fun! They treated us to authentic Tex Mex and they even had a birthday cake to celebrate when they found out it was my birthday.
We’re off to more Texas fun—updates to come! :)
Our trip took an unexpected (but exciting) turn south when we determined it was too late to backtrack to the Grand Canyon by the time it reopened. We’re adding on many more miles by going way south in Texas and then onto New Orleans before heading back to Cicinnati, but the memories we make with friends and family on our detour will be totally awesome!
Sante Fe is the most unique town I’ve ever been to. Loved the adobe architecture, old art, contemporary art, and a town full of people who really appreciate everyone’s unique artistic capabilities. This was definitely a great pit stop on the way to Texas (thanks to everyone’s great recommendations of this beautiful city!)