Day 25: Home & Wrap-Up

This post is where I’d like to take the opportunity to wrap up a few final thoughts, facts, and figures. 

TRIP AT A GLANCE

Total Miles Traveled:                     6,852 (Jim drove approx. 6, 700 of them)

Number of Different Hotels:        15

Highest Altitude:                            11,990 feet (Loveland Pass, CO)

Lowest Altitude:                             -282 feet (Death Valley, CA)

Highest Gas Price:                          $4.19/gallon (Lone Pine, CA)

Lowest Gas Price:                           $3.23/gallon (Albert Lea, MN)

Average Gas Price:                         $3.73/gallon

Total Pictures Snapped:                Right around 2,000

Number of Traffic Violations:     1 (Jim)

Doughnut Stops:                              3

Fast Food Stops:                              4 (2 In-n-Out Burger, 1 McDs, and 1 Subway)

National Parks Visited:                 15 (listed in order)
Theodore Roosevelt NP
National Bison Range
Glacier NP
Crater Lake NP (well, sort of)
Lassen Volcanic NP
Yosemite NP
Death Valley NP
Zion NP
Bryce Canyon NP
Capitol Reef NP
Arches NP          
Custer (ok, it’s a State Park)
Mt. Rushmore Nat’l Monument
Badlands NP
Minuteman Missile Nat’l Historic Site

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FREQUENLY ASKED QUESTIONS

For anyone considering a Grand Road Trip, I would also like to include a couple of FAQs.  FAQ is a bit of a misnomer, as these questions have not been asked at all, not even infrequently, but having an FAQ section seemed so official and gives this blog the guise of professionalism and utility.

Are your butts completely sore after all this?

No, not even a little bit.  Ok, there were a few long car days, especially at the very beginning and end, and there were times we’d be a little fidgety, but we had rented a 2012 Toyota Camry from Hertz (with unlimited miles) for this odyssey and we were both surprised and pleased by how comfortable a ride it was.  An added bonus was the car’s gas mileage, ranging from 32-35 mpg per tank.

Did you cover too much ground in too short a time frame?

Not when you are beside a loved one and can prattle on for hours about nothing.  Awwww….  That aside, we truly enjoyed getting up and heading out into unknown territory practically every day, and neither of us are what you would call Slow Travelers, lingering in any one spot for very long.  While this travel style doesn’t suit everyone, it suits us perfectly and is HowieRoll.

What was your favorite part/location?

This is almost impossible to answer (aside from the time spent with family and friends, of course).  Of the almost 7,000 miles we traveled, we’d have to say that over 4,000 of them were very scenic, which makes narrowing down favorite locations very difficult.  Overall, though, we were enamored with our bear encounter at Yosemite, loved the entire Sierra Nevada range in California, were taken with western Montana’s rugged beauty, and wish every hotel room was like the Four Seasons.

What was your least favorite part/location?

Death Valley.  Period.

Any regrets?

Yes, not doubling back and doing the Roller Coaster Road (Dips) in California twice.  Which would have meant having to double back on the double back to do it a third time.

Any general road trip tips?

1)  Get an AAA membership if you haven’t already.  One benefit is they will provide all the maps (and some in-depth guides) that you’d need for seeing the big picture the GPS doesn’t give.

2)  Don’t cheap out with the rental car, as we learned back on a trip to Maine.  Not only is it possible the lowest car class will get worse mileage than a higher class, the cardboard seats will put your back into traction for months and subsequent doctor’s bills will negate any rental savings.

3)  Make sure to drink a lot of water.  We spent a fair portion of this trip at an altitude of 5,000 feet or higher, and found that completely cutting out soda and replacing it with water both cut down on expenses and it turns out that water is healthier for you.  Who knew?

4)  We brought our own lunch supplies and snacks (bread, peanut butter, jelly, Chex Mix, crackers, chips, fruit, water, etc.), which proved invaluable for a couple of reasons.  First, it allowed us to pull into any scenic stop throughout the day for a meal in a completely unique surrounding, which not only made a special memory but kept us from getting tired of your usual roadside diner, pub, fast food joint, etc.  Second, it helped keep food costs down.  Third, part of why much of this trip was so scenic was due to it being au naturale, with a complete lack of public services and infrastructure (at least that were open this time of year).  Therefore, several times we found ourselves not in proximity to restaurants when we were hungry but it didn’t matter, as we could just pull over and have lunch on our own timetable.

5)  Car trips can be dicey to pack for, as there are no weight or liquids restrictions and it’s easy to overpack.  We did.  But one thing that we found extremely useful was an overnight bag we used in addition to our about-to-burst suitcases.  If we had a one-nighter (or a couple one-nighters in a row), we would pull just enough clothes out of our suitcases and put them into the shared overnight bag so when we arrived at the hotel we didn’t have to lug everything out of the trunk.  It saved us from completely looking like the Beverly Hillbillies and getting a hernia.

6)  If you will be near a handful of National Parks, the America the Beautiful Pass is a great value at $80.  It allows you to pop in and out of wherever you want without feeling like you need to spend all day to get the most out of an individual ticket cost.

Speaking of National Parks, we did find one area of improvement we’d like to see and that would be with their map detailing, general information, and trail marking/information.  Many times we’d come across things in the parks not mentioned on the map or we’d go to a trailhead and be totally unsure of how long the trail would be or what the routing was.  And there were times we’d start a trail only to have it fork off here or there with no signage indicating what was what.  It was a little frustrating and it seems it wouldn’t take much effort (or money) to spruce up the joints in that fashion.  Otherwise, most of the park employees we came into contact with were great and helpful.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

On this trip we saw hills, mountains, draws, arches, canyons, bridges, valleys, buttes, rivers, hoodoos, lakes, mesas, streams, tunnels, deserts, prairies, forests, washes, countless cattle guards, wide spots in the road called towns, reservoirs, scenic byways, interstates, grasslands, rock formations, ravines, All-American roads, and more.  At the end of the day, Jim is no longer worried about population density or lumber shortages, and with the number of cows we saw he wonders why beef is not $0.10/lb.

We also found three things to be ubiquitous:  crows, UPS trucks, and country music.  I was amazed at how adaptable to their respective climates crows were, from Death Valley to the peaks of the Rockies, we were constantly in wonder at how far reaching UPS really is, and for better or worse (worse), you could always count on at least one radio station coming in loud and clear wherever you are, and that radio station would be all country music, all the time.

Overall, it was a tremendous experience and one in which we glimpsed “how the other half live,” the other half being a euphemism, of course, for unfamiliar regions of this vast country.  We learned that Jim can’t live anywhere he can’t pump his own gas, neither of us are cut out for desert dwelling, we’re still unsure of why much of the desolate land we passed isn’t being used for wind farms or solar energy plants (power lines were always – always – nearby…), we wonder why California isn’t 3 separate states and why the Dakotas aren’t one, we wish mule deer lived in the Midwest, and finally, this trip really drove home how diverse and expansive this country really is.

Well, that’s about it.  I’d like to apologize for any typos, grammatical errors, or general ramblings and run-on sentences, as most of these posts were written at the ends of very long days and I’d be half asleep already (but still wanting to get pen to paper).  Thank you so much for hanging in there and following along, both of you.  We’ll do it again someday, ok?

The End.

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2 Comments

  1. Jim S

     /  November 16, 2012

    I know I’m biased but I loved reading the blog, even though I was there. It was a tremendous amount of work on AJN’s part, was so well written and just so enjoyable to read that I just had to shout out to my beautiful bride in a public forum. Can’t wait to do it again!

    Love you!

    Reply
  2. Pat

     /  December 23, 2012

    Love your comments Ang. Having traveled much of the areas you and Jim did, it was fun to come back to. I traveled with my parents but usually in the summer time. Our highest peak was Mt. Evens in CO and I remember slipping down the mountains as we came back to Denver in the dark. Even in August, the mist froze and it was very scary. I also remember Iowa just being corn fields and smelling like hogs. The whole damn state!
    I never did get to Wash. or Ore..Must do before I die-I hope. 🙂 I’m glad I asked about your trips because I always feel as I am traveling right along with you and Jim,. Such a pleasure.
    Where are the pictures or having I traversed your blog enough?

    Reply

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