Big Sky Country

Boondocking, release 2.0

May 2019

After last year’s epic trip I just had to do it again. It has been an entire year and I longed to be on the road again with just me and sleeping in the nest of my car. Having learned so much on that trip, this was going to an even better trip.  

Equipped with all of last year’s experiences I was determined to make this a more adventurous and productive trip...so I thought.

I thought I was so prepared for this trip, but was I? Last year I found myself in the middle of WY needing an oil change. That was NOT going to happen this year. I checked. And having just replaced my car battery a few weeks before, I was totally ready. Then the maintenance light came on. Uggggghhhh. Really? What now? Crap! Tire rotation. At least there was a Costco at a sheduled stop. Dinner, a tire rotation and gas, I should be good right? Then the car would not start. WTH? I JUST replaced the battery. Well, apparently this girl did not tighten the bolts really well and they came loose on the first leg. I was lucky that we were able to figure this out rather painlessly and I was on the road again. Phew!

By the time it was all said and done I finally pulled into a pitch dark campground, same place as last year. But this year, it was over casted and the moon was not out. That was sort of eerie, it took a little bit to get settled in. I have discovered that first night is always a test. All of the questions start playing in my head, is this memory foam bed going to work out, did I plan properly for weather, did I have enough blankets, pillows, clothes, etc.

Yes, the memory foam was so much better than the blow-up from last year, until that is,  my butt started sinking, and sinking, and sinking…to ONE side. Note to self, don’t roll the memory foam mattress into thirds, you will rollllll off the side as you sink! Alllll night long. Three position switches later, I finally fell asleep only to wake up the next day with my body and neck completely contorted. Ouch. Good thing I had an electric heating pad! (Yes, it plugs into the cigarette lighter.)

Refolded the mattress into a double and re-arranged the car I was really ready for the rest of the trip.

Two Walmart parking lots, later I arrived in Prescott, AZ for my first shower and bed of the trip before heading to the final destination of Las Vegas. Ironically, the A/C was blowing so hard I was colder in this bed than I had been in my car the previous nights. Oy.

After seven days Vegas for a show, I drove to Denver where my car would be parked at a friend’s house waiting for my return.

What does it take to prepare for a trip that involves:

3 events in 3 states
8 nights on the road
6,000 driving miles
3 plane flights
4 climate changes
and 21 classes?

First you have to first organize it by segment, travels then shows. Then consider the climates, locales of stops and activities. Once all of these things are considered, you can start packing.

Because I flew back home before finishing the last two legs, I would only prepare kits for the first event (Las Vegas) then the rest when I returned to home. Three lists have to be created (one for each show), all of the equipment gathered and packed so that any equipment that does not cross over is boxed separately and labeled to reduce the need to pack and unpack unnecessarily. That was the easy part. The beauty of driving means all I can easily transport all of the equipment.

Next comes the physical pack of the car. Having upgraded my sleeping arrangements from a blow up mattress, which failed last year, the theory was that a mattress of some sort would be an upgrade. So I bought what was listed as a twin size memory foam mattress but turned out to be a queen when it arrived (this is what happens when you buy from an auction site). Hmmm. Not wanting to cut the mattress (because it would just be a waste) I chose to roll it. Sigh, see above. Fit the mattress, all of the equipment plus full size cooler and luggage in the car. Good think I have a large SUV.

It is all about the creature comforts when are on the road. If you are going to travel for any length of time these little things will make or break a trip. Having decided that my truck would be my home for at least 6 days on the road I had to pack all of the things that made me feel like I was home. The sleeping arrangement was first and most important. A down comforter, body pillow and a feather pillow would do the trick. There is nothing like being under a comfy, warm blanket when you wake up in the morning and it is 30 degrees in your room/car. Additionally an electronic lunch pail (mini crockpot) to heat up food, electric mug for hot water for my mornning tea, heating blanket for sore muscles, and lastly electric cooler for homemade meals, because eating out every day is not what it is cut out to be.

Sustenance on the road is vital when you are driving through large parts of the country where there could be hours between real food. A variety of something salty, crunchy, sweet, protein, fiber, tea and of course a gallon of water is so important. Unfortunately, after day one, I hated everything I had chosen for snacks. Good thing I packed regular food too; Proats, green salads, and egg salad.

Then there are the just in case something comes up. Of course adequate hiking gear for every possible climate: 3 pairs of shoes for hiking, hiking poles, slip-on traction cleats, 3 jackets – all in different weights, 2 pairs of gloves, 2 hats, a fanny pack, and a backpack for water and camera. Additional incidentals for the ride a bath towel and a bathing suit for the potential swimming whole. A kitchen towel for eating in the car, trash bag for refuse, and invertor for the electric appliances.

The extra things that people don’t think about. A carabiner for your keys and watch at night so you can hook it in a convenient place near where you sleep. Window shades for extra privacy, this makes me feel like no one can watch me. Invertor for appliances that do not have a cigarette lighter attachment.

What complicates the pack even more are the multiple climate changes. Starting at 39F when I left home, to 72 in Texas, to 29F in New Mexico, 80F in Nevada then snow in Montana. Oy. In the end I would drive through fog, rain, sleet, snow, wind and sunny days. The worse would be wind, fighting windy conditions for more than 4 hours was horrible on my arms.

Pack it all up with a little prayer that it will all fit and you are ready to hit the road.

Things that I learned from the first trip.

A blow up mattress has a huge possibility of failing, upgrade to a mattress pad of some sort. Single stalled bathrooms are a lot more private, like the ones at Starbucks. Walmart is actually a really good option for overnight parking. There are lots of rest stops around the country that are safe, clean and allow overnight parking. Window shades are a really good thing when you are in a parking lot that is lit up. Leaving later in the day meant that I would be able to just pull in after dark and go right to bed. While allowing me daylight hours to explore a new area or take in a hike.

What does a typical day look like on the road with me?

Night routine: Starbucks, brush teeth, wash face. Arrive at parking for the night. Pull clothes for the next day so that it can go in the bedding (to be warm in the morning), change underwear, fill electric mug with water, turn in for the night.

Morning routine: Turn on car (to get it warmed up), check the weather, dress, go into a Walmart brush my teeth, wash my face, plug in my water heater, prep my tea, pull a Proats out of the cooler for breakfast. Hit the road.

Day routine: Hit the road and drive for 8-9hours. Take in a hike or go antiquing for the morning all weather dependent. Make a stop where there is something interesting to see. Catch up on the phone with people I have not spoken to in a while or some more recently but still need to converse with. Listen to a lot NPR, I now feel like I know Joshua Johnson intimately. Catch up on all of the current politics I did not know I needed to know. Additional breaks for gas, potty, food and water.

  • And so it begins.
  • Ready for the road.
  • My travel companions, Chippee and Ripley
  • First Costco stop. 7 in all.
  • Walmart....again.
  • and again.
  • Close quarters
  • Tripled up...no good.
  • Re-arranged...double is good.
  • Very good.
  • All done.
  • First hike. Mark Twain National Park, MO
  • Amarillo, TX Cadillac Ranch
  • Prescott, AZ
  • Prescott, AZ
  • Sedona, AZ
  • Red Rock National Park, NV
  • Red Rock National Park, NV
  • Glass Craft & Bead Expo
  • Hanging Lake, CO
  • May in Utah. oh boy.
  • Colored rocks, it's a thing.
  • McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park No filter needed.
  • McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park No filter needed.
  • McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park No filter needed.
  • Enter your McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park Selfie
  • McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park No filter needed.
  • McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park No filter needed.
  • McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park No filter needed.
  • McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park No filter needed.
  • 80!!!!!!!!! that's right Utah!
  • Breaking up the trip with a flight.
  • Thank goodness for noise cancelling headphones. She screamed almost the entire time.
  • If you know me you know what is very wrong with this picture! OMG
  • Random weather. More fog on one trip than I have ever had before.
  • Some random town in MO with a random plane in the middle of the town? so weird.
  • And you wonder why I would prefer to sleep in my car. Would you sleep here?
  • Road food.
  • Costco dinner. Pulled pork in St. Louis. yum, not yum.
  • huh, they don't do chicken here. so weird. Vegas
  • Enter your fulltext here
  • Comfort food in OK. Yup that is Pho, and it was pretty good.
  • New obsession, sushi burritto.
  • More comfort food, Denver, CO.
  • Road trip treat. Brioche french toast in Fort Collins, CO
 

The leg home

After more than 2 weeks of being away from home I was more than ready to be in my own bed. But no, there would be a 5 day detour back to California for a family emergency before I was finally able to go home.

Arriving at the airport I quickly discover the flaws of my packing as I am not prepared with any of my "flying" travel accoutrements. My Pre-check id, my noise canceling headset, my carabiner to clip my water bottle on the flight, my instant oatmeal for breakfast, ugh. All of the things that make my life a little less stressful and more comfortable on a long travel day. Ugh.

I also came to realize how long it had been since I have flown without Pre-check, yearsssss. And how quickly I miss that privilege. So incredibly annoying to not only remove your shoes but take off the sweater I was wearing, remove my laptop and so on. oy. OH, and I got a pat down because there was something suspicious about the collar of my shirt. No there are not collar stays in my collar.  Uggghhhh.

During the stop overs

Not only was there the usual business of teaching at the events, along the way there were several amazing hikes, some great antique areas that I will be re-visiting if I do this again next year. I was able to make time to visit many friends along the way, some of whom drove a long way to meet up with me. I was able to take advantage of meeting with people, rather than just a phone call, about opportunities for 2020.  

The turn around

In the end I was home for 11 days between the first leg and the turn around leg. After CA I flew home to OH then I flew from OH to CO for the second show in Denver, CO for five days; to Logan, UT for two days just a pit stop; to Kalispell, MT for the third and final event for four days. Finally, I would turn around and go home. When I finally got my car back it was interesting how I felt like I was home again. I never thought I would miss just sitting in my car as I did and that it would bring me so much comfort to be in it.

In the end I only spent a total of 3 days sleeping in my car, half the number I had planned because of the kindness/insistence of my friends when they found out I was passing through their hometown. Though it was a joy to visit everyone, I do still love the solitude of my car. 

I was so tired by the time I got home but am grateful for the many opportunities and experiences my job has afforded me. It is quite a charmed life I get to live. 

An Overview
White lines indicate flights, dotted are by car and white dots are stops.