We are home. Work has begun. The trip is now a memory. Everything is so normal that I’m struggling with the feeling that the trip never even happened. Is that how Susan, Peter, Edmund, and Lucy felt when returning home from Narnia?
Unlike Jules Verne’s characters in Around the World in 80 Days, we were not mistaken bank robbers, hounded by the police and thwarted with unbelievable obstacles along our journey. We did take in some overwhelming and heart stopping sights. We did make it back a little before deadline. Unfortunately, there was no fortune waiting for us.
We learned a lot about each other. Anna’s repeated phrase throughout the trip was, “I’ve never seen this side of you guys before.” No, baby. Drill sergeant-taxi-maid-mom doesn’t get to laugh and play as much as she used to. Your dad and I really do enjoy each other and laugh a lot. Brandon would sneak a lot of winks and knowing looks in my direction as he watched the wonder of Anna. He ate that up. I gushed at him enjoying her. This goes in my top 5 best trips ever. Maybe I’ll blog about that one day.
Top 10 Travel Lessons Learned:
1. Take a camper or RV or take a longer trip than 3 weeks. We were cramped in the car for most of the trip and each stop required unpacking the luggage. With a camper you have more options for pulling over to sleep and no unpacking required. The other option is to take a longer trip so that you can slow down and enjoy some of the places you visit. We actually showed up at some amazing places, jumped out for a photo and kept driving. NUTS!
2. Choose fewer destinations. A trip to Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon is trip enough. A drive up the coast of California with a few stops along the way is a great trip. I don’t know why we chose to do a crazy marathon of a zillion places. That might not be for you.
3. Research the temperatures. We were unprepared for cold July weather. I had a lot of tank tops and light t-shirts in anticipation of extreme western heat. I was always cold. I checked a few temps before we left, but didn’t check many. My mistake.
4. Do not pay full price for a hotel. Ever. With travelocity.com, priceline.com, expedia.com, tripadvisor.com, hotwire.com and more, you do not have to pay the listed price to stay in a hotel. Go crazy. Do some bidding. Set your own price. Take a chance. Use the extra money for a great meal or an extra activity. Most of our hotels were 20% off. Some were 50% or more. It actually became a game to see how much we could save on the hotel. Another option is stop at the Rest Area after each state line. Pick up a couple of coupon books. We’ve saved on some hotels with the coupons.
5. Save money on food. You do not have to eat every meal out. Many hotels have microwaves and refrigerators. Resist the urge to buy drinks or snacks at every gas station stop. For the price of 2 bottles of water at the gas station, I can get 24 bottles of water at Walmart. It adds up. You will also eat healthier if you pre-purchase some of your food and carry it around with you. Trust me, there is a Walmart or grocery store in most every town. Most of our breakfast meals were fruit, granola bars and yogurt right out of our ice chest. OR we would eat the free breakfast a many of the hotels, and eat the fruit and yogurt for lunch.
6. Ask the locals where they like to eat. Don’t just go to the familiar food chains. You don’t want to miss the food adventures. Some places we tried were terrible. Crazy locals. But some were amazing and we would have totally missed that experience without asking.
7. If you are an actual photographer, take your good lenses and go for it. If you are not, don’t worry about the camera. The photos will never capture the grandeur of what you see and experience. Just snap away with what you have to jog your memory, but don’t invest in an expensive camera just for the trip. You will luck up on a few really good pics even if you are a total dork with a camera. Statistically, it just happens.
8. Talk to a lot of people. Be friendly. Don’t be stupid and give away all your itinerary and personal information, but ask people how they are and what they’ve seen and what they liked. Offer to take a pic for their whole group so they can all be in the photo. Make friends. It’s easy to be isolated while traveling. Surrounded by strangers and cut off from everyone. Make the effort to connect. It always pays off.
9. Donate $5 to some crunchy people in a VW with a cardboard sign asking for gas money. They are on an adventure that we can only imagine. I came really close to being one of them. We were glad to contribute. Be generous on your trip. Think of Christmas gifts and friends at home. Put a quarter in the gumball machine for the kid whose mom can’t find any change at the bottom of her purse. Let someone else take the last turn on your game token. Let people in a hurry in front of you in line. You are on vacation. Where do you have to be? Brandon and Anna are very good at this mindset. I learned a lot about it and got to practice on this vacation. I challenge you to step outside yourself on your vacation and be generous! It’s a win-win.
10. Adventure awaits. Make a bucket list and start checking it off. This is a HUGE world. Where do you want to go? There is a way to get there, even if you don’t have money. There is a way. Plan it, research it, talk about it with everyone you know. Pray about it. Start a penny jar and before you know it, it will happen. I’ve never met anyone who regretted an adventure. I’ve met several people who regretted not going on one.
A lot of people helped us make this trip. We did not do this on our own. Vicky and James Davis, and Catherine and Artie Childs, the grandparents, helped Anna with some spending money. Debby and Bill Powers were so excited about the upcoming adventure, they made a sponsor contribution. Our friends Janet and Larry Marvin prayed over us before we left. Jenny Combs is the best house sitter ever. She kept the house safe, and the dog and fish alive. I’m so glad she invited friends over and took advantage of the kitchen. Houston Byrd (Sr. And Jr.) helped keep us out of trouble with the neighborhood by keeping our grass cut. David Karcher and family checked on our garden and took care of our bees. He even split a hive, which is no easy task. Rex Nelson tracked down a dude in Colorado, in a shady part of town, to pick up a tent then ship it to us. Camping would have been hard without that tent. Patti Vincent offered a free place to stay in Colorado and Keith Newman offered many wonderful suggestions on places to visit. Anna’s ice coaches, Eric and Heather Mumper, helped us connect to some fun ice skating places along the way. Mary and Angela at AAA on Acton Road, made sure we had plenty of maps, travel books, a decent/cheap car to drive and helped with hotel reservations on the road.
To everyone who kept up with the blog and made comments on Facebook, you have no idea how that kept my spirits up when the trip got hard. I am grateful for our friendships, your sense of humor, wonderful suggestions, and just reaching out to connect. Thanks to you, every day is an adventure! I can’t wait to read about what YOU are doing now!
Odds and Ends of the Trip:
Miles traveled: 6,215 +/- some backtracking
- Average $gas/gallon: $3.64
- Highest gas price seen: $5.99 on Highway 1 Big Sur. We kept going.
- Hours in the car: Actual driving: 94 hours. Felt like: 10 billion
- Steps hiked in the Grand Canyon: about 40,000. Thanks to the pedometer app.
- State Parks passed through: too may to count, several in every state.
- National Parks: stayed at: Yellowstone National Park, Grand Canyon National Park. Passed through: Grand Teton National Park (Had to cut out Redwood National Forest from the trip due to time constraints)
- States stayed in: Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma, Tennessee
- States only driven through: Mississippi, Montana, Arkansas
- Worst traffic: Los Angeles hands down. San Francisco and Las Vegas tie for 2nd.
Zero traffic: Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming
- Best sunset: Arizona or off the coast of California
- Best starry sky: New Mexico (me), Grand Canyon (B&A)
- Best day drive: Highway 1 up the coast of California
- Worst day drive: Wyoming, after Yellowstone and Tetons
- Places I wish we’d stayed longer: Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Big Sur, Lake Tahoe, Napa Valley, Santa Fe, Carmel, anywhere in Colorado
- Strangest occurrences: Locust storm in Texas, Sand storm in Nevada, Cold temps in California
- Most used travel apps: Cheap Gas!, PlacesAround or AroundMe, Google Maps and Maps, AAA
- Most used packed item: Ice chest. Saved a ton on snacks and drinks
- Least used packed item: Dress and suit. Did not go to one fancy thing at all.
- Most unexpected on trip: Cold July temps. Only Texas (104*) and Nevada (106*) were hot. The avg. temps everywhere else were in the 60s or low 70s.
- Favorite purchase: Anna’s boots
- Top Activities (besides riding in the car): Copter ride over the Grand Canyon, Trolly ride in San Francisco, “O” in Las Vegas, California State Fair, Osteology Museum in Oklahoma, seeing Old Faithful and elk up close in Wyoming.
Mind boggling: Lost iPhone in Grand Canyon. Found while we were in Las Vegas. Shipped general delivery and picked up at Yellowstone. The timing, the honesty of the person returning it, the grin on the Yellowstone postmaster’s face, the relief on Anna’s face.
- Mind boggling #2: You are still reading this.
- Mind boggling #3: We have an amazing creator God. There is so much beauty in the created. I can not imagine the beauty of Heaven or seeing Him face to face.
The End. (For now.)
Start the journey here: