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Road Trip 2015

Road Trip Gear Essentials

Our Streamlined Life

So you want to go on a roadtrip – awesome! Roadtrips are a fantastic way to see new places, meet new people, and have brand new adventures. But what kind of gear do you need? Does it need to be expensive? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s our definitive list of Road Trip Gear Essentials — all the goods that fed us, clothed us, kept us comfortable, and helped us work during six weeks on the road! We hope it helps you have a great adventure of your own!

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Must-Have Gear for Eating

  • Coleman Single-Burner Propane Stove – While we were living at the campground this summer, I did all my cooking over a campfire. But when we were on the road trip the weather was much cooler and we often returned to our campsite after dark following a long day of sightseeing.  Enter this awesome little stove. We used it for everything from making coffee to boiling water for oatmeal to cooking burgers and warming soup. It’s inexpensive and small and one of the most valuable purchases we made before our trip.
  • OuterEQ 8pcs Pot Pan Set – This little pot and pan set fits perfectly on the propane stove above and had everything we needed to cook meals. It packs up into a little mesh bag and is easy to clean.
  • Chinook Timberline 6 Cup Stainless Steel Coffee Percolator – The first few weeks of the trip we tried to get by on instant coffee. After too many ensuing coffee shop stops for real coffee, we purchased this little percolator at an outdoor outfitter in Buffalo, Wyoming. It’s the perfect size for two cups of coffee. In fact, when we got back to the camper we tossed our big coffee maker and are now solely using this to make our coffee.
  • Reliance Fold-A-Carrier II 5 Gallon Water Container – This water container was a must-have at campsites where we didn’t have water hookups. We’d just fill this up in a bathroom or at a communal spigot and voila — we’d have our own “faucet.” It was perfect for washing dishes and saved us many trips in the dark for filling up our percolator for the morning coffee.
  • Picnic Time Portable Reclining Camp Chair – We’ve had our Picnic Time camp chairs for two or three years now. If you love to camp and don’t already have one … just buy one. Now. You won’t regret it. They’re are basically campfire armchairs. Ryan frequently falls asleep by the fire in his, and we got more than one compliment on them when we brought them to the buffalo roundup. You won’t believe how comfortable they are.
  • Wild & Wolf Folklore Enamel Mug – This item is a “wish-I-had.” Ryan has a mug from his Boy Scout days, but I don’t have one of my own. I’ve put this adorable one on my Christmas list, and plan to use it for everything from morning coffee to campfire hot chocolate.

 

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Must-Have Gear for Sleeping

  • Thermarest LuxuryMap Mattress – We purchased these just a few days before leaving for the trip and didn’t have the chance to try them out before hitting the road. Fortunately, our gamble paid off: we couldn’t have been more comfortable. They come in three sizes, are easy to inflate to your desired firmness, and were perfect for both car camping and tent camping. We were very budget-conscious on most of our gear-purchasing, but these are totally worth the splurge. Don’t underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep!
  • Eureka Amari Pass 2 Tent – We abandoned tent camping halfway through our trip, but it had nothing to do with our awesome tent. We chose this one because it’s small enough for backpacking (in our plans for 2016!) but roomy enough for two people. It’s easy to set up and has a little “vestibule” that’s the perfect place to leave your shoes for the night.
  • Slumberjack Latitude 20 Degree Synthetic Sleeping Bag – I didn’t have a sleeping bag of my own, so we purchased this one before the trip. It’s a newer version of the one Ryan’s had since high school, so we knew it would last us a long time. The material and mummy shape kept me warm even on our coldest night (24 degrees in Yellowstone!).

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Must-Have Gear for Working

  • BESTEK 200W Power Inverter 3 AC Outlets with 4 USB Charging Ports – When Ryan purchased this I didn’t think we’d get much use out of it. Boy, was I wrong. This power inverter (which plugs into the car’s cigarette lighter) kept our phones and laptops running no matter how remote our campsite. It was an inexpensive purchase that made my life much easier.
  • Netgear Unite Hotspot (AT&T Go Phone) No Annual Contract – This is what we use to stay connected on the road. I’ll probably write more about this in a later post, but for now I’ll just say we were very impressed by what great coverage we had across most of the country. The hotspot made sure I could check my email and easily get my work done from coast-to-coast.
  • LifeProof Samsung Galaxy S4 Case – Nuud Series – These LifeProof cases are fantastic (and much cheaper online than in cell phone stores).  They kept our phones safe from mountains to beaches and are a must-have for anyone who lives an active life (or is just super clumsy, like me).
  • All-New Kindle Paperwhite 6in High-Resolution Display (300 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi – My Kindle was  a birthday gift from my sweet husband, and I was SO happy to have it on the road trip. The backlight kept me reading by the campfire and the built-in wifi made sure I could (almost) always download a new read wherever we were.
  • Fintie Kindle Paperwhite SmartShell Case – See previously mentioned clumsiness. This case protected my baby from damage on the road (and comes in way too many fantastic colors).

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Must-Have Gear for Staying Clean

  • Microfiber Travel Towel XL 30×60 with FREE Hand Towel – These towels were also a birthday gift (this one from my thoughtful mother-in-law). They were perfect for the road — they dried quickly and packed up small, and saved us from any weird, damp, smelly towel nonsense on the road.
  • Burt’s Bees Sensitive Facial Cleansing Towelettes with Cotton Extract – These are for those nights when you want to shower, but the showers are so far away … and it’s so dark out … and there might be coyotes. Or bears. They take off makeup and help you sleep a little fresher. (They’re also great after a long, icky day in the car.)
  • Havaianas Women’s Slim Flip Flop – Because no matter how nice the campground’s showers are, you still better not put your feet in them. (Havaianas are my favorite flip flops because of how durable and long-lasting they are — also, fancy colors — but cheapo Old Navy ones do the trick, too.)
  • LYCEEM Hanging Toiletry Bag – This is another wish-I-had item that’s also on my Christmas list. I spent too much time schlepping my toiletries to campground bathrooms in a plastic Target bag — time to be a grownup and get a real toiletry bag!

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Must-Have Gear for Adventuring in Style

  • Salomon SpeedCross 3 GTX Trail Running Shoes – Ryan’s usual hiking boots, Merrell Moabs, were wearing pretty thin by the time we hit the road. When we stopped at a Cabela’s in South Dakota he replaced them with these Salomons, and pretty much hasn’t stopped wearing them since. They’re comfortable, grippy, and make him look like he can run up walls. According to him, they’re also even more comfortable than his fleece-lined slippers.
  • adidas Performance Women’s Vigor 5 TR W Trail Running Shoe – These aren’t actually the shoes I wore for hiking on our trip. I purchased them when I got home, and wished I’d had them for hiking and walking instead of the heavier boots I did wear (which I’m pretty sure are responsible for my black toenail). They’re lightweight, perfect for trail running, and look pretty cool too.
  • The North Face Momentum Jacket – If you look closely at the pictures from the road trip, you’ll see that in pretty much every picture I’m wearing either this jacket or the vest below. It’s the perfect mid-weight for layering and staying warm and comfortable on the road. I pretty much wore it to death and am looking to replace it with a new one (probably in black this time).
  • The North Face Reversible Caroluna Vest – This vest kept me warm on all those in-between cool and cold fall days, and was slim-fitting enough to layer nicely. It was durable enough for hiking but also civilized enough for city wear.

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Must-Have Gear for Car Sanity

  • Ziploc Double Zipper Gallon Storage Bags – For a while we used grocery bags for the trash that collected daily during long days on the road. Then I had the epiphany that large ziplocs would get the job done while also keeping weird smells (hello, banana peels and McDonald’s wrappers!) from permeating the car.
  • Rand McNally 2016 Large Scale Spiral Bound Road Atlas – Because sometimes your GPS stops working. Or you get tired of her yelling at you. Or you want to take the scenic route. Or you just want to actually understand where you are, instead of blindly following your GPS’s bossy, bossy voice.

What are your road trip and camping gear essentials?

 

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Road Trip 2015 Recap

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Hey guys! Now that our trip is all done, we wanted to take a look back and see the breakdown of what we actually did. We thought you might get a kick out of it too! So here we go:

Road Trip 2015 By the Numbers:

Total travel days: 42
States visited: 20
Nights tent camping: 7
Nights car camping: 7
Nights in hotels: 14
Nights with family: 13
Total pictures taken: 2145
Blogs launched: 1
Blog posts … posted: 33

After a month and a half on the road, we are happy to be back in Virginia — if only for a couple of weeks. A big thank you to all of our friends and family who followed along on our travels through Facebook, Instagram, and of course here on the blog. We loved reading all your comments and sharing our experiences with you!

We’ll be back soon with some posts on road tripping tips … what we’re doing next … and the long-awaited camper reno pictures.  In the meantime, check back through the archives and make sure you didn’t miss a post!

Day 1 & 2: Hitting the Road for Beckley, West Virginia

Day 3: Beckley Half Marathon & Rafting the Gauley River

Day 4: Panerathon & Goodbye to Kat

Day 5: Peoria-Bound!

Day 6: A Beautiful Evening in Sioux Falls

Day 7: Our First “Real” Road Trip Day

Day 8: From the Badlands to Custer State Park

Day 9: Buffalo Roundup!

Day 10: A Full Day at Rushmore & Crazy Horse

Day 11: Volksmarch: Our 10K to the Top of Crazy Horse

Day 12: Exploring Longmire Country

Day 13: A Long Drive to Yellowstone

Day 14: Exploring Yellowstone

Day 15: Old Faithful & the Grand Tetons

Day 16: A Priceline Cautionary Tale

Day 17: A Warm Welcome to Port Townsend

Day 18: Turning 30 in Port Townsend

Day 19: A Beautiful Day Boating in Port Townsend

Days 20 & 21: Aaaand Relax

Day 22: Exploring Seattle

Days 23-26: Catching Up & Catching Our Breath

Day 27: Back on the Road Again

Day 28: Battling Raccoons and Fleeing to Oregon

Day 29: Exploring the Seaside Town of Astoria, Oregon

Day 30: We Went to Portland (And It Wasn’t Weird)

Day 31: Oregon Coast, Part Deux

Day 32: Exploring the Redwoods

Day 33: A Sunny Afternoon in Wine Country

Day 34: A Beautiful Day in San Francisco

Day 35: California-Nevada-Utah: Interstate Cruisin’

Day 36: A Morning in Salt Lake City

Day 37: The Air Force Academy + Pikes Peak

Days 38-42: The Grand Finale

The Grand Finale: Days 38-42

At long last, we’d done it. We’d been to all the places we wanted to go. Now — it was time to go home, and the sooner the better. We were both pretty ready to be back in the camper and back in our own bed. We headed east from Colorado Springs, slowly watching the mountains disappear in the rearview mirror.

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We were headed back to Peoria to stay with Rebecca’s sister again, and had hazy dreams of of making the entire 16 hour drive in one day. Surprising exactly no one, that didn’t happen, but I was able to convince Rebecca to try just one more 2-star hotel (part of an ongoing conversation begun during this fiasco earlier in the trip). After showing her countless 4- and 5-star reviews of a tiny little Super 8 in a highway town in Macon, Missouri,  she agreed to be brave, and we were very pleasantly surprised: all the good reviews were true! Everyone was friendly, the room was clean, fresh, and well stocked, and most importantly, nice and cheap!

After a good night’s sleep, we knocked out the last few hours on the road, and spent a very relaxing afternoon and evening with her sister and her family. They took us to explore the Peoria waterfront, which was very pretty.

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Nephews are fun.

In fact, we had such a nice time on Sunday that we got lazy and decided to stay Monday as well, enjoy relaxing with Rebecca’s sisters and our nephew, and get another good night’s sleep in a real bed. Tuesday, though, was time to get back on the road, as I wanted to get back during the day on Wednesday.

It was cold and rainy most of the day, and we were yet again dissuaded from camping. However, we got lucky, and were able to snag a really nice 3-star hotel on Priceline for about $65. We got in at a reasonable time, and spent a very relaxing evening watching Southpaw with Jake Gyllenhaal.

After seeing the very reasonable prices on the leave-this-hanger-on-the-door-with-your-order-for-roomservice-breakfast card, we decided to go that route, and went to bed anticipating a nice hot breakfast delivered to our room. However, the next morning, when the time appointed for delivery had come and gone with no food in sight, Rebecca stuck her head out into the hall and discovered that our order card had never been picked up(!). She called down to the restaurant, and after explaining the situation, they comped us breakfast, and had it up to us within 10 minutes! We very much enjoyed our breakfast, in no small part due to the wonderfully low cost of free.

We got back on the road, and made it back to Harpers Ferry about 1pm — in the middle of a rainstorm. Despite carefully planning our trip back around getting in at midday to make sure we had time to move the camper back to our site and set it up before dark, it was much too muddy to move it. We ended spending the night in a cabin, which my boss was kind enough to let us stay in for free. It wasn’t the camper, but it we slept warm and dry, and even had room to let our wet clothes dry, so we were definitely grateful.

 

The Air Force Academy + Pikes Peak (Day 37)

After a L-O-N-G day in the car, and a solid night’s sleep, we woke up Friday morning ready to explore Colorado Springs! The weather reports threatened thunderstorms, but the sky over our hotel was bright blue and cloudless when we headed out.

Our first destination was an exciting one for me: the US Air Force Academy, my dad’s alma mater!

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The campus, nestled in the foot of the Rocky Mountains, is absolutely gorgeous. The buildings look very modern, even though it was built in the 1950s.  I thought it was cool that the aluminum building exteriors were intended to suggest the outer skin of aircraft or spacecraft.

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Most of the buildings on campus are very low profile, which I loved because they didn’t distract from the beautiful scenery.

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And the low profile of the surrounding buildings makes the striking Cadet Chapel’s row of 17 spires an instant focal point.

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The inside is gorgeous too, with unique, modern stained glass.

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And of course we had to stop and take a picture of the impressive B-52 Stratofortress at the North Gate. The plane, Diamond Lil, served in the Vietnam War, and flew over 15,000 hours and more than 200 combat missions from 1957 to 1983.

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Once we were done touring the Air Force Academy, we headed towards Pikes Peak, the 14,115 ft “fourteener” just outside Colorado Springs. The gorgeous blue skies had turned cloudy, and we weren’t sure what the weather held — but we were determined to try to drive up the mountain anyway.

At the bottom of the mountain we were told we could only travel about 13 miles up the 19 mile road to the top — a little over 11,000 feet altitude. The upper 6 miles of road were blocked off due to snow.

While the lower portion of the mountain looked like this …

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… suddenly, around mile 9, it started to look like this:

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And soon it looked like this:

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We were just getting to the point when fearless driver Ryan was starting to think it’d be smart to turn around when we encountered the ranger blocking off the road at mile 13. He told us the barrier was about to move back to mile 11, confirming our suspicions that conditions were getting worse.

In New Hampshire, bumper stickers proclaiming “This car climbed Mt. Washington!” are very popular. I had told Ryan we should get one boasting about our trip up Pikes Peak … but sadly, it would have to read, “This car climbed 75% of Pikes Peak!” #fail

After descending the mountain we headed back to Colorado Springs, where we enjoyed a delicious lunch at Hacienda Colorado. Then we returned to our hotel room for a little R&R. The long days of exploring and driving were starting to catch up with us, and the rainy weather made it the perfect day to relax in our cozy hotel room. (Did I mention it has a fireplace?!)

A Morning in Salt Lake City (Day 36)

After arriving in Salt Lake City late Wednesday night, we got yet another late start on Thursday morning. After grabbing a quick breakfast, we headed to downtown to check out Temple Square, the 10-acre complex in the center of town owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Salt Lake Temple itself is imposing and beautiful.

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Temple Square is the most popular tourist destination in Utah, drawing 3-5 million visitors a year. In comparison, Utah’s five National Parks typically have a combined total of 5 million visitors annually!

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From Temple Square we drove uptown towards the Utah State Capitol Building. In the visitors center across the street Ryan happened to overhear that there were hourly tours of the building, so we headed inside to learn more about the building.

We were absolutely blown away by the gorgeous architecture inside.

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Our tour guide said that when the architect was designing the building (it was finished in 1916) his main priority was ensuring it had as much natural light as possible.

He absolutely succeeded. In the main hall, in particular, gorgeous sunlight flowed through glass in the ceiling.

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The marble in the main hall came from Georgia — those pillars are solid marble and weigh about 25,000 lbs apiece. And throughout the building, gorgeous murals depict important scenes from Utah’s history. (The picture below is called Discovery of the Great Salt Lake, and shows Brigham Young discovering the Great Salt Lake.)

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This is the State Reception Room, where important guests are received. It’s nicknamed “The Gold Room” because of the lavish use of gold leafing throughout.

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Perhaps most amazing was the attention to detail throughout the entire building.

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This chandelier weighs 3,000 lbs, and the chains suspending it weigh an additional 1,000 lbs.

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It hangs from the dome above the center of the main hall.

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Those marble flowers are hand-carved, and about three times the size of my hand.

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The paintings were tremendous. This painting was in the Senate chamber, and represents northern Utah. (On the other side of the room is a painting of southern Utah.) And look above it … more glass paneling to let in light!

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Our tour of the Utah State Capitol building was definitely the highlight of our morning! We were just blown away by how beautiful it was.

After leaving the capitol building, we took a drive through some of the neighborhoods in the city. We loved how varied the architecture was, and oohed and aahed over some pretty swanky houses nestled into the mountains!

After a quick stop at Chiptole for lunch, it was back on the road. It was about 2pm and we had nine hours of driving ahead of us to get to Colorado Springs. The trip was largely uneventful, until rain turned to snow in the Wyoming mountains! When we arrived at our hotel we were more than ready for bed.