This post is a long time coming (as are all of my post’s these days!), but I’m finally still enough to write it. If you happen to be following along on Instagram, you know my road trip is over. Long over. For the past 6 weeks, instead of driving state to state, I have been hopping around from house to house and working a bunch (but more on that in an upcoming post). I figured I could write a 10,000-word post about the conclusion of my trip OR I could just show you how it all went down. Thanks to my friend Tonya* at Budget and the Beach, that’s exactly what I get to do!!
Can I just say how incredible Tonya is to put that together?? She has insane editing skills to be able to cut some of my inappropriate use of language and bawdy humor and still have enough to work with…not an easy task! Of course, she couldn’t fit the entire road trip in so I feel I would be doing you a disservice to not include the following photos. They say a picture is worth a thousand words so I am adding 10 for good measure…
FRIENDS, FOOD, and FUN (in no particular order)
Had to end it on a high note with those waffles. Damn, that Mr. Wow really knows how to cook!! Don’t even get me started on his baking and tea making artistry. Next level.
Now, it’s so important that I mention the other F that made the whole trip possible – FINANCES. This was not a cheap trip by any stretch. Here is a quick break down of numbers:
Gas – $1113 (efficiency dropped significantly after compression issues plagued The Beast)
Food – $293 (including booze)
Car repair (oil change, check engine light (x2), new tire) – $263
National Parks Pass – $80
Sonoma – $345 (food, booze, lodging for 3 nights)
Parking – $8
Gifts – $172
Tolls – $40
Platform build – $78
Air mattress – $137
misc – $75
TOTAL – $2604
NOT FRUGAL. I spent less on a month-long trip to Spain plus 2.5 weeks in Thailand/Hong Kong (both including airfare) COMBINED than this 30-day trip cost me. If you add in the fact that I missed out on a whole month of work (around $6500), well, the very idea would bring tears to my 2015 self. Thankfully I am no longer that person. Though I tend to be quite frugal in my daily life, there are specific circumstances when I feel it is important to splurge – travel and experiences like this will always be those for me. I don’t worry about each dollar the way I once did. In fact, I barely think about it at all anymore. That is the beauty of being in a good financial position. Of course, I could have spent double, triple, and quadruple what I did but it’s unlikely that it would have given me any greater joy.
A few other stats of importance…
0 – Number of times I have been locked out, raped, or murdered (my biggest fears when imparting on this trip – more on that in a sec)
0 – Number of times updated any of my spreadsheets…somehow I have found better things to do!!
1 – Number of tires I changed while an endless stream of 80 mph trucks whizzed by
2 – Number of Paul Bunyan’s I passed
2 – Number of mechanics The Beast visited
2 – Times I used my stove to cook (and even then it was just to boil water 😉 )
2 – Number of times I went to Starbucks to write
0 – Number of posts I published that I wrote at Starbucks)
7 – Number of ticks I pulled off Bubs in one sitting
11 – Number of nights we slept in my car (out of 30)
16 – Number of states visited
8798 – Number of miles driven across this fabulous country
10000 – Number of songs I belted out at the top of my lungs
Here is what I learned about van life (in my case, car life) along the way…
1. Sleeping Stealth
- California has THE BEST rest stops allowing you to legally park and be stopped for 8 hours (no camping). Of course, sleeping in a tiny rig like mine does not allow for a pleasant 8 hours of sleep, but if you had a larger vehicle this is a great way to go. Bathrooms all night, somewhat safe due to constant patrolling, and did I mention bathrooms all night?? What more could you ask for??
- If you can’t find a rest stop (or get a bad feeling about one), parking in a hotel parking lot is your best bet. Most people say Walmart, but you stick out like a sore thumb (especially if your license plate is from another state). If you DO stay in a hotel parking lot, be a doll and don’t use their bathrooms or grab free breakfast in the morning. #uncouth To avoid that, my nightly routine involved stopping at a gas station, filling up for the morning, using their bathroom, walking the dog, then driving to the hotel to park. Once there, I didn’t get out of my car at all until morning. Be stealth and you won’t be bothered.
- If the above doesn’t work for you, or you have a bigger rig, check out freecampsites.net or boondocking.org. Some of the places listed are a little sketchy for my taste but others are spot on when it comes to the best bang for your buck (which is zero).
2. Hygiene?? Planet Fitness is hands down the best investment you can make!!
- A one-year membership costs $22/month (+$39 yearly fee) for unlimited access to any PF location.
- You can bring a guest for FREE. That means a couple only needs one membership.
- FREE Wifi and massage chairs
- Most are open 24 hours
If you decide to ditch the road, you can always downgrade your membership to the $10/month version but keep in mind that only allows you access to your local branch. Also, a fee may apply so depending on how many months you have left on your membership it may not be worth the cost.
3. Safety – This one is for the ladies. It was said to me many times before, during, and after this trip by females of all ages, “I could never do anything like that! I’d be too scared.” DO NOT LET FEAR CONTROL YOU. I am well aware that we have certain disadvantages when it comes to size and stature, but what we lack in those we make up for with our keen instincts and sensibility (not a dig to the dudes by any means). TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. This one point alone has made it possible for me to travel all over the world solo and not get bogged down with unnecessary fears (we all get them, just try to keep it in check). If you don’t feel right about a situation, leave it. No apologies necessary. It doesn’t matter if it is 2am or 2pm, turn tail and walk (run if you have to) away. You will never regret following your instincts, but you may regret it if you don’t.
GENERAL TIPS/TRICKS for Car Travel
- Bring an extra set of keys.
- Carry an extra credit card – hide it somewhere in your car for emergencies (like if you lose your wallet or leave your card at a gas station 132 miles away from where you are trying to buy lunch – don’t ask how I know this).
- If you are traveling with a dog, an old one is a good companion. They sleep most of the day and are ever so grateful to get out and sniff but they won’t wake you up in the middle of the night to play. They will, however, wake you up by kicking you, barking/running in their sleep, or laying completely across your side of the car.
- Load up on music, podcasts, or other things to keep your brain busy and active…especially when traveling alone. Being alone with your thoughts is a good thing most of the time. In the other times, music is a great fall back!
- Have a breakdown kit ready to go – carry extra motor oil, water, toilet paper, hand warmers, matches/lighter, tampons, snacks, etc.
- Carry a legit paper map. GPS is not always available in this grand vast country of ours. Know where you are so when you go off grid you can get yourself back.
- Don’t let your gas tank go under 1/4 unless you are certain there is a gas station nearby. I had more than a couple close calls in areas that I would not want to be stranded.
- Pay the $80* and get the America The Beautiful National Parks PassAmerica The Beautiful National Parks Pass!! It is a sound investment for visits up to one year at all of our National Parks for one car (including 3 guests traveling with you – children 16 and under are free). Also, it may be used by 2 different people and you don’t need to be related or live in the same home. Split the cost with someone who is not traveling at the same time as you! *FREE for active duty military
- Know some basic car maintenance before you set out on the road. At the very least you should be able to:
- Change a tire (PRACTICE ON YOUR CAR BEFORE YOU LEAVE)
- Know where the dipstick is and how to check your oil and add if necessary
- Know where/how to add water/coolant to your radiator if your car overheats
- Know how to jumpstart your car (and carry cables)
- Pack and repack your car before you leave for your trip. Everything should have a place so it is easy to find quickly and/or in the dark. You will lose less of your belongings this way. In 30 days the only thing I left behind was a wine glass (this because, you know, wine was involved).
At the risk of turning this into the 10,000-word post I was trying to avoid, let me leave you with this…OUR COUNTRY IS AMAZING. You guys, FOR REAL!! I know, I know, I travel for a living so you think I would have figured this out by now. And to some extent, I have. But being able to see the landscape change from mile to mile, state to state has been a spectacular experience. And then there are the people. The people I met along the way and all their words of encouragement, to a complete stranger none the less, really solidified my belief that there is good just waiting to be discovered. From the woman who offered her place for the night to the man who stopped to help me change my tire, then following me for a few miles to make sure all was well… I can go on and on.
I’d also like to give special thanks to every one of the non-strangers that helped make this road trip a success. You all know who you are and I appreciate all of your hospitality whether it came in the form of housing, keeping me company via phone/text, assisting with power tools for platform tweaking, advising me on places to see/detours to take, and for feeding me things that didn’t come from a drive-through, can, box, or package (my diet was not the best on this trip!). I know I say this all the time but I am so grateful to have such wonderful and supportive friends!!
It took me 20 years to make good on this idea of a cross-country road trip. I can guarantee it won’t take another 20 before I do it again.
Until next time…
* Seriously, isn’t she amazing?? Tonya has also done videos on some of my favorite people in this community such as Liz Thames from The Frugalwoods and Cait Flanders – both of whom just published books!! If you didn’t catch those pieces before, make sure to check them out now!!