40 National Parks Done! Countdown from 10, 9, 8, 7….

So while our blogging is woefully behind, by Halloween we’ve hit 40 of our 50 National Parks and made a full circle around the United States!  We are now counting down our final 10 parks as we round the corner on November and winter.  (See live map here.)  To sum up, here’s where we’ve been after 40,000 miles on the road since January: Continue reading “40 National Parks Done! Countdown from 10, 9, 8, 7….”

50 in 50: Month Four in 30 Seconds

 

The month of May saw us enjoying the Sunshine State at the Southernmost tip of the US in Key West, and knocking out three National Parks in Florida. Then we started our procession up the East Coast, stopping by Jacksonville – Seth’s old stomping grounds – and other lovely beaches before exploring the floodplains (i.e. swamps) of Congaree in South Carolina.  Moving north, we checked out T.J.’s Monticello on the way to Shenandoah, where I saw my first bear and we weathered a big storm with friends and babies alike squeezed into the Whale. Continue reading “50 in 50: Month Four in 30 Seconds”

Unpacking the Whale

Our lives as wanderers means that with each stop, we have to pack up and strap down our home, and make home afresh at each new campsite.  Sounds tedious, eh? But as you can see, from setting up the kitchen to pouring in drain cleaner and fluffing pillows, it takes no time at all…

 

Favorite Campsites in the National Parks (1st-25th)

1. Backcountry/Boondocking sites (Big Bend National Park)

Boondocking in the wild of Big Bend

Big Bend is a huge national park, with several good campsites for trailers, included our shady site in Rio Grande that provided some shelter from the 104 degree heat. But one special thing in Big Bend we have yet to see at another National Park are designated boondock sites for RVs.  Essentially, these are backcountry camping sites that are accessible by car (“Primitive Roadside Camping”). This means there are a dozen or so scenic spots scattered around this huge park where you can pull your trailer off-road — and provided you make it down the gravel side roads with trailer intact — you find yourself completely alone under the shadows of the Chiso Mountains.

Room with a view

Continue reading “Favorite Campsites in the National Parks (1st-25th)”

In the belly of the Whale: Mid-meal Messy Mayhem

So, in my last post on my kitchen, I showed what it looked like closed up and ready for driving, and what it looked like open and ready for some action.  What I didn't show was what it looked like while I was actually cooking…

As you can see, it's a tiny space indeed! But with some acrobatics and a balancing act on whatever tiny ledges are available, we make it work. The good news is that in cleaning my whole kitchen, I don't need to take a single step.

Boondocking 101: On Water

Dry-camping in Colorado. Well worth learning how to conserve water.

Mastering (i.e. attempting) boondocking* (i.e. dry-camping) is a new skill that has taken over our lives in the first months of this year. Appropriate somehow, since we started our journey in the Western deserts and water conservation is a big theme in these lands.

Filling up with our 39 gallons at Joshua Tree

Living in a trailer, we’re living in an odd half-state between “normal” home conveniences and tent camping – all depending on 3 magic lines – electric, water, and sewage. When connected to all 3 lines as a “full hook-up” we get to live like we are in a normal (albeit tiny) home with high pressure running water, tv, lights and air-conditioning, and could go about taking long showers and sudsing up a ton of dishes without a care in the world. Pretty excellent, considering our backyards are some pretty spectacular places. 

Continue reading “Boondocking 101: On Water”

Half way there! 25 National Parks, 25,000 Miles and Counting….


Summer’s in full swing here in South Dakota, and we’ve hit 25 National Parks out of 50, and put 25,000+ miles on the road with The Dude.  With the Whale in tow, we’ve hit 10,000 miles since January and have managed to drive about 3/4 of the way around the United States.

It’s hard to believe that in 6 months we’ve managed to drive down the Californian coast to the Texan-Mexico borderlands and swing up along the wildflower-ridden Appalachians.  Then it was down down down the length of Florida to the Southernmost tip of the US in Key West, and the up up up along the East Coast to the icy lobster-rich waters of Bar Harbor, Maine.  From that easternmost point, we darted westward, exploring the Boundary Waters of the North Woods of Minnesota, and then across the Great Plains to the Badlands.

It’s been a dizzying, amazing ride so far.  And now, there’s only 25 National Parks to go…

 

Guadalupe and Carlsbad Caverns: It’s what’s inside that counts

Natural entrance to the Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns is a national park many have heard of, as it’s famed for beautiful limestone cave formations and the underground fantasy world they create. Guadalupe? I never heard of it. It’s claim to fame is hosting the highest mountain in … Texas. And while it is striking to see any peaks in the barren desert and mild slopes in this corner of Texas, I wasn’t sure it justified us spending a week of dry-camping in a parking lot. (Indeed, the campsite for RVs is a parking lot, and the heat brought out all the loudest generators in Texas.) While I don’t have a favorite park, it’s a running joke between S and I that I have a least favorite.

Guadalupe National Park aka Tip of the Permian Reef

Carlsbad Caverns on the other hand…  Cave exploration there requires reservations for ranger guided tours, which fill up fast (hint: reserve very early), so we had just one day to explore underground.  Much to our dismay, for time seems immaterial in that underground realm, and the hours slipped away too fast. The world below was almost unreal in its spectacular beauty of pale delicate speleothems, moist rooms crammed with spindly stalactites and fragile draperies. Continue reading “Guadalupe and Carlsbad Caverns: It’s what’s inside that counts”

50 in 50: Month Two in 30 Seconds

Month 2 of this adventure saw us in Arizona, zooming from Sedona to Saguaro to the Petrified Forest and then into the Grand Canyon. From there we made our move to Texas where we hung out in Guadalupe and Carlsbad Caverns and Walmart parking lots, found a home in Big Bend, and somehow also made pit stops in the artist haven of Marfa, Lockhart to eat meat in the home of Texas BBQ, and Austin to see bats and hipsters.

 

The roadtrip before The Roadtrip

Before we even picked up the Grey Whale in Portland, S and I took a hunting/gathering road trip to pick up the pick-up, not to mention all the gear and supplies stashed in our family homes from the Midwest to the coast. Rather than rush as we originally planned, we decided to hit some parts of middle America that we’ll miss this year just because there are no National Parks present.

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Sculpture garden in Kansas City

We followed the Mississippi downstream from Wisconsin, then crossed the plains of Kansas and climbed the Rockies via Denver, cut across Wyoming and Idaho and finally Oregon to Portland.  We saw that there is beauty everywhere – even without a National Park Service designation, even in the dead of winter during unforeseen blizzards, hail storms, and bitter cold snaps.  We also learned a lot. Continue reading “The roadtrip before The Roadtrip”