Back home on the East Coast, I started to reflect on the trip that had occupied the past month of my life. There were so many things I learned about traveling, driving, relationships, the outdoors and my own personality.
Overall thoughts: This trip was meant to be an exploration into parts of the US that I hadn’t yet visited. I think it served that goal very well. A breadth-first exploration into what the midwest and west coast have to offer. If I had to go back I wouldn’t change the overall format of the trip, but I wouldn’t do the same thing again. I wish I had much more time – a month for each leg of travel would be ideal. With that in mind, my future travel in the US will be more focused and directed.
Final stats: 9800 miles, 30 states, 32 days, 8 National Parks, 1 breakdown and over $900 in gas.
Items I couldn’t have done without
National Parks Annual Pass: for $80 you get a pass covering admission into all National Parks and National Historic Sites. This turned out to be one of the best deals out there. It paid for itself at least twice over and gave me a freedom to visit what sites I chose without worrying about cost. It speeds up entrance into the parks, and I’ve even been able to use it at some federal recreation sites since being back in Boston. Bottom line: if you are planning to visit several NPs in a year, get this pass!
Osprey Hydration Bladder: I bought a 3L “camelbak” before the trip and used it daily. Always convenient when hiking, and actually really nice when driving. I stuck it in the cooler behind the drivers seat and extended the hose over my shoulder. I always had ice cold water without having to fiddle with a bottle.
Slim Cooler: Fit well in the back seat of the car and gave me more options for carrying food. Refilling ice is a pain (especially when driving through the desert) but was well worth it. Gave me a spot to keep my water cold and chill beer also.
Things I didn’t really need
As much canned food: I brought a lot of extra stuff I had when I moved out of my apartment. I ended up enjoying shopping for fresh ingredients when in town, and returned with some things I hoped I would never see again!
What I wish I had packed
The filter cap to my Aeropress: critical mistake that was realized early on.
My road bike: Definitely not a practical choice with the size of my car and the companions on my trip, but there are so many incredible bike routes out west. I would love to go back and bike through the Tetons into Jackson WY, for example.
More downloaded music: I relied on Google Play music for much of the trip, which didn’t hold up in a lot of areas because of lack of data service. I would have created more playlists and cached them on my phone beforehand. And I would have made them LONG – 12 hours of music might sound like a lot, but it can go by pretty quickly…