We left from Virginia, taking about six days to reach our destination: the TBEX Travel Blogger Conference in Keystone, Colorado. The route took us through some places I had never been: northern Arkansas and Oklahoma, along with some for familiar stops like my Uncle’s house in Nashville, TN. After our conference we lingered in the Denver area house/dog sitting for some good friends. It felt good to catch our breath before taking off for our much-anticipated drive through New Mexico.
After enjoying the diversity of New Mexico, we drove through the immensity that is Texas, stopping only for a hike in the Guadalupe Mountains and a few days to enjoy the weirdness of Austin with friends. A few quick stops on the way back to Virginia included the Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL, and Oak Ridge, TN after driving the Natchez Trace from Vicksburg, Mississippi.
I might be accused of being obsessed with fuel efficiency. The nature of travel is carbon-emitting, so I try to do it with the least amount of impact I can when possible. Our 2004 Honda Accord, although not a compact car, still kicks butt at getting the most mileage out of a tank. (I also happen to drive infamously slow.)
Gas Prices in the US fluctuate quite a bit between seasons and state taxes play a big part as well. But…
There’s really nothing like the landscape of the Western US. Driving along remote roads, you’ll just fly between a mesa or through a mountain pass and the landscape will open up so you can see for 50 miles, sometimes more. Lightning will be flashing off in some direction and you may never reach it. They call Montana “Big Sky”, but I think the whole of the West is “big sky” because the landscape makes the sky absolutely enormous.
8 nights camping (3 night of free camping)
18 nights visiting friends/housesitting
12 nights in a hotel
1 night at an interstate rest area
Miraculously we did not pay for one of these hotel nights. Traveling the majority of the year on a blogger income does not afford me the luxury of paying for hotel rooms. So how did I do it? A combination of applying for a credit card which gave me free points, plus a press trip to Spokane, Washington, and knowing the right people who shared a room with us.
How did we get to camp for free? As I cited in my previous tips for road tripping article, camping on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land can be no fee. This means you find a spot that isn’t at an established campsite (with fee zone), you’re allowed to pitch your tent and spend the night for free (and usually can stay for free up to 14 days!)
Is sleeping at a rest area safe? Sleeping in the car is not something I usually do. Neither is driving through the night. In this case we stayed for a star party at the MacDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, TX until 11:15pm and instead of camping a second night in the rain we filled up our travel mug with coffee and hit the highway. By 3 am I was getting sleepy and spending the night in your car at the interstate rest area is normal protocol in west Texas.
If you’ve never driven Interstate 10—there’s nothing out there in the way of settlements. So I squeezed in between a tractor-trailer and an SUV with Mexican tags at the rest area. The guy inside had his chair tilted back and his feet on the dash and I immediately followed suit. Woke up at sunrise and kept driving east.
In chronological order, these are the heroes of our Road Trip 2012: Uncle Jim, Aunt Kathy, John, Kara, Rory, Polar, Billie, Steve, Ben, Apollo, Erica, Shaun, Phil, Susan, and Baxter.
It wouldn’t have been nearly as memorable if it weren’t for our hosts! Old friends, new friends, our friend’s parents who are now our friends, and friends we haven’t seen for 10 years! Thanks for the roof over our head, the good conversation, the lovable pets, and the fried catfish/wine and cheese/Texan beer you shared with us.
(Read the conclusion of Last year’s (2011) Road Trip.)