With a mere twenty days separating our return from Lima, Peru to our departure around the west of the United States, it seemed like we had to be firing on all cylinders to ensure everything was ready. Going Broke, our 2008 Nissan Pathfinder, was purchased through a local dealer in Richmond only a week or so prior to leaving Kentucky, and with no cooking stove, a single sleeping bag between us, and a few other missing items, we were cutting it close to making our planned May 24th departure.
Being unemployed was a blessing giving me the necessary time to make sure our Borealis fatbikes were both built and packed, the tent was mold free, the Pathfinder was finely tuned, and all of our camping equipment securely stowed. We were somewhat ready!
Going Broke was to take us from Kentucky, up through Illinois, Wisconsin, and west towards South Dakota and our first National Park, Badlands. We just needed to ensure we had enough time on day one to stop at REI, Walmart and a grocery store for final food and gear items. This was accomplished without any problems, although I now had to try and make access to our food and gear a little less frustrating. We were definitely now happy to be in transit in our own vehicle instead of carrying our worldly belongings on our backs!
During the course of our travels the inside of the Nissan was arranged, rearranged, then rearranged some more, with storage boxes purchased, tarps, camping chairs, and two weeks prior to our drive home we decided that we should now sleep on pillows instead of rolled up clothing – all of this additional and unforeseen gear made for no spare room, and me a very frustrated traveler! Since adding the storage boxes I was now happy that we had a box for fruit and veg, a box for tinned food, a box for all the cooking gear, and finally another for our backpacks and stuff not used so often – this new tidiness annoyed the crap out of Andrea.
Our road trip was maximized to take in as many US and Canadian National Parks as possible, or at least the ones that appealed most to us, where incidentally neither Andrea nor I had barely experienced outside of magazines or the National Geographic channel. This idea would hopefully take us through some of the most dramatic scenery that North America had to offer.
Entry into all the below parks, plus more than 2000 others that fall within the “Interagency” Annual Pass system, was permitted through yearly passes, one for the US and one for Canada. The US pass allowed Andrea and me to visit National Parks, monuments, and forests for $80, with the Canadian equivalent coming in at just under $127. Both of these passes saved us substantially on entry fees.
Road Trip Stats
The below statistics were for the duration of our road trip, an adventurous 169 days which took us through much of the west US and Canada.
Storage: having to squeeze two fatbikes into the rear of the vehicle was a big inconvenience, one that we could have prevented had we bought the hitch bike rack from our storage unit in Florida, and secondly I had dismissed the necessity of Andrea’s dads rooftop cargo box. This was the single biggest mistake as we had looked at it in a storage unit a couple days before we departed and decided it wouldn’t be necessary! Both of these external luggage carriers would have freed up much of the interior storage space and made our lives far easier.
Portable Power: trying to use an old iphone 4 with a zapped battery, and having Andrea get up for work with a limited laptop battery, as early as 4am in Alaska, was a major headache. A $400 expense we kept delaying, eventually coming to a time when it just wasn’t worth buying. Having a mains inverter for the 12v power outlet was a help, but only whilst the vehicle was running – next time we either fit an auxiliary battery or purchase a Goal Zero portable power unit.
Camping Shelter: fortunately the elements were mostly nice to us, but the week spent outside in the rain whilst in Glacier National Park, and a few nights in Denali, would have been far more comfortable with a rain shelter, just something that would cover the campsite table and chairs to keep us dry whilst cooking and chilling during the evenings. These were available in REI but were way too bulky to squeeze into the very limited remaining space – this goes back to having the additional external storage.
Pillows: finally, we spent the first 155 days without pillows for sleeping, eventually deciding to drop the huge sum of $6 at Walmart for two travel pillows a couple of weeks prior to our return. We reluctantly spent more time shopping at Walmart than any other store, and we probably walked by these same pillows on numerous occasions and did nothing about it – six measly Dollars to sleep like babies!
May24th – November 8th 2014