Great American Adventure Part One: U.S.A. Road Trip

First of all, I have to give a HUGE thank you to everyone for your wonderfully supportive response to our big news! Taking any kind of risk—especially one on this scale—is so much easier when you have family and friends cheering you on from the sidelines. I was overwhelmed by all the love, well wishes, and votes of confidence. You all are the best and we are truly grateful!!

With just 30 days until we officially hit the road, things are already getting a little crazy over here —wrapping up projects at work, starting to pack up our stuff, showing the house to new renters, making last-minute appointments/meetings/COUNTLESS lists….etc. etc. etc. I meant to post this a week ago, but time keeps getting away from me!

Anyway, since a few people have asked for more details (and I would LOVE to gather as much advice as I can in the next few weeks) I wanted to share some specifics that were too much to fit in the original post. Starting with Part One: the good old-fashioned U.S.A. road trip!


The route

Here’s the big-picture overview of our route that I shared before. (It’s a screen grab from our Roadtrippers site, which we used to help plan. If you want to see where the pinpoints are, click on the image to go to Roadtrippers!)

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 6.26.14 PM.png

And here’s a list of the main destinations that we hope to hit along the way, organized by state:

  •  Ohio
    • Cincinnati
  • Wisconsin
    • Milwaukee
    • Kewaunee/Green Bay
  • South Dakota
    • Sioux Falls
    • Rapid City
    • Badlands National Park
  • Wyoming
    • Grand Teton National Park
    • Yellowstone National Park
  • Montana
    • Jewel Basin/Flathead National Forest
    • Glacier National Park
  • Washington
    • Olympic National Park
    • Seattle
    • Mount Ranier National Park
  • Oregon
    • Portland
    • Oneonta Gorge
    • Crater Lake
  • California
    • Highway 1
    • Shady Dell
    • Humboldt Redwoods State Park (Avenue of the Giants)
    • Death Valley National Park
  • Nevada
    • Las Vegas
  • Arizona
    • Grand Canyon National Park
    • Antelope Canyon
  • Utah
    • Zion National Park
    • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Colorado
    • Denver/Boulder/Lakewood
    • Rocky Mountain National Park
  • New Mexico
    • Santa Fe
  • Texas
    • Austin
  • Arkansas
    • Little Rock
  • Tennessee
    • Nashville

The planning process


Our process basically went like this:

  1. Make a short list of the top 10 national parks that we want to visit.
  2. Put them all on a map.
  3. Plot out a route that connects them in the most logical way.

Then, over the course of several months, we tweaked and refined our route, adding in a few side trips and other nearby landmarks (mainly gathered from internet research, conversations, and random photos found on Reddit or Pinterest). A very scientific approach, obviously. We calculated estimates of things like driving time and gas money in a spreadsheet along the way, to make sure we were being realistic.

But, it worked out perfectly that our route takes us through Ohio and Wisconsin at the beginning—Chris and I have family history (on our fathers’ sides) in these states, so our first leg will be a little bit of a Hoxworth and Panosh family tour. was a great resource for this (especially estimating driving time and how much to budget for gas). We also relied on good old Google Maps.

The strategy


Once we had a basic route, we got a little more detailed and mapped out a rough itinerary in Google Calendar. Our goal was to average about 5 hours in the car on the days we’re driving (not including days we’re hiking or sightseeing)—although we’ll have a few LONG days of driving in there. For lodging, we’ll be primarily tent-camping, staying with friends where we can, and occasionally staying at a (pet-friendly) hotel or Airbnb.

The only things we’ll have booked ahead of time are:

  • A three-night backpacking trip in Grand Teton National Park
  • Lodging in Seattle and Portland
  • A few days in Zion National Park (if we can manage to get the permit to hike the SUPER-popular Narrows route—cross your fingers for us!!)

Our longest stop will be in Colorado, where we’ll be visiting some good friends, hiking in RMNP, and exploring Denver and the surrounding area. Otherwise, we probably won’t be in one place for more than a couple of days. But we’ve also worked in about a week of “buffer” days—either for any problems that might crop up (car trouble, illness, weather)—or, if we get lucky, for side trips and extra time spent in places we love!

The dog

Luckily, our little adventure pup is a pretty great hiker AND car traveler. As long as she’s with us, she’s happy!

She does well sleeping in our tent, and we’re also bringing her crate along to give her some consistency and familiarity. (We crate-trained her as a puppy, and she loves it. We’ve found that it cuts down a lot on travel anxiety if she has her little home with her.)

So far, I’ve downloaded a couple of apps for finding dog-friendly hotels and dog parks, and bookmarked lots of websites and blog posts with tips on dog-friendly hikes, camping spots, and destinations. On days we’re doing a lot of driving, we’ll stop frequently for walks and potty breaks and bring along lots of treats and fun toys to keep her occupied.

The most difficult part is visiting national parks with a dog, since they don’t allow dogs in the backcountry. This limits the amount of hiking we’ll be able to do in the parks themselves, but we’ll still be able to visit any drivable sights. We’ll likely spend a decent amount of time hiking and camping in surrounding national forests, which provide a lot of the same beautiful sights without all the rules and permits.

Our compromise was to pick two parks (Grand Teton and Zion) where we’ll board Callie for a few days so we can hike and camp in the backcountry. A big part of our decision to choose Grand Teton and Zion came from researching nearby kennels (and reading LOTS of reviews) to make sure there was someplace we’d feel comfortable leaving her. We might look into taking her to doggy day care once or twice, in larger cities, to give us a chance to explore some less dog-friendly spots. But otherwise, she will be right there with us (read: you can anticipate many dog photos over the next few months).

So that’s the plan—as much as there is one, anyway. I have to admit, this is probably more planned than a lot of road trips, but I’m still having to reign in my impulses to schedule every last minute. It’s weird for me to be going on a trip where I don’t know where I’m sleeping every night! But that’s what a road trip is all about, right? I’m working on it…

Now’s the part where I ask for your advice: Do you have any road trip tips or resources? Recommendations for things to do/eat/see? Great car games or podcasts to listen to? Friends we can crash with? (kidding. sort of.) BRING IT ON! I’d love to hear any and all suggestions—please let me know in the comments!


3 thoughts on “Great American Adventure Part One: U.S.A. Road Trip

  1. Your itinerary sounds so exciting! Trail to Peak is a good blog (and resource) for hiking- the author is based in California but has articles featuring many other national parks including Grand Canyon.

    Liked by 1 person

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