The Big Trip: Retrospective

Big Trip #1 was in Spring of 2016; you should also read about Big Trip #2 in 2018, Big Trip #3 in 2020, and Big Trip #4 in 2022!

airstream on the beach

A few lessons learned:

  • Be flexible with route planning. Don’t plan more than a couple stops at a time, if possible. (High season may require more advance planning, when prime campgrounds fill up!)
  • Early or late in the prime tourist season is best for traveling with a dog, and for fewer people on trails and in campgrounds. Bugsy was always comfortable temperature-wise waiting in the car or Airstream if we needed to leave her behind for a bit. We may have missed some evenings hanging out in our yard due to the cold, but we also missed the crowds!
  • You don’t need to bring so many clothes. Except for socks and underwear! Bring extras of those.
  • Amazon Prime is a lifesaver! We had a few shipments sent to the campground-after-next. One of those shipments contained new socks.
  • Buy food as you go–there are always grocery stores, and often natural food stores if you need something weird. And then there’s always Amazon Prime if you can’t find the weird stuff or it’s a million dollars in a random town. (cough*cacao nibs*cough) No need to bring a ton of canned food just in case.
  • Air Forums is great for help picking towns and campgrounds to visit, and AllstaysRV Park Reviews, and Google give ratings and reviews for campgrounds if you need help picking a place.

Total days on the road: 99

Total states visited: 17–NC, TN, GA, MS, AR, TX, NM, AZ, UT, CO, WY, SD, WI, MI, OH, IN, KY. See the map here; we went roughly clockwise from VA.

Miles traveled with trailer attached: ~7,500. The total distance our truck hauled the trailer was 8076.1, but that includes our practice trips to Fredericksburg, Richmond, and Roanoke.

Number of campgrounds / campsites: 42. Our favorites were in Page (Lone Rock Beach), Santa FeDixie National Forest, Valley of the Gods, Houghton, and Jonesborough.

Miles hiked: 282.9 miles. The longest was 15.5 miles, in Colorado, and CO barely topped UT for highest total mileage, at just under 89. Our favorites include the slot canyons in GSENM, Fairyland Trail in Bryce Canyon, Rattlesnake Canyon in Grand Junction, and the hike to the Gunnison in Black Canyon (and don’t tell J, but I’d put a hike he missed on the favorites list: Greyrock Mountain in Fort Collins).

Breweries visited: 78. Wow! Uncle Jim, are you impressed or horrified? Here’s the list, with links to J’s writeups. We were surprised when we tallied them all up, particularly considering we had a near 3-week brewery hiatus in the state of Utah. And this number is despite the multitude of breweries we missed in places like Asheville, Fort Collins, Denver and Grand Rapids.

Fish tacos consumed by yours truly: Two per serving, for a total of 18, in Marfa, TXSanta Fe; Moab; Durango; Cortez, CO; Fruita, CO; Montrose, CO; Fort Collins, CO; and Louisville. Thought it would be a bigger number, didn’t you?

Favorite place for being outdoors: Definitely the Route 12 corridor through southern UT, which runs along or close to five National Parks (Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands) plus amazing national forests, state parks and BLM Land. If we had to pick a specific spot it would be the town of Escalante because it was a cool little town that’s the gateway to the phenomenal Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Favorite small city: In order, it’s probably (1) Durango, CO (but it possibly got bonus points because it was the first real city we were in after three weeks in rural Utah); (2) Flagstaff, AZ; (3) Asheville, NC; (4) Fort Collins, CO

Biggest pleasant surprise: We were surprised at how much we enjoyed the Texas Hill Country and southwestern Texas. In the Hill Country, we had to miss Austin due to SxSW, but we loved the scenery in the area and the little city of Fredericksburg. Further west is the trio of Alpine, Fort Davis and Marfa, as well as Big Bend National Park and the highly underrated Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Second places goes to Michigan; we knew nothing about the the wonderful Upper Peninsula and enjoyed each additional place we stopped in the state: Sault Ste Marie, Mackinaw City, Traverse City, and Grand Rapids.

Favorite breweries, in no particular order: Wicked Weed in Asheville, NC; Ska Brewing in Durango, CO; Station 26 Brewing Co in Denver; Mother Road Brewing Co. in Flagstaff; Palisade Brewing Co, just outside of Grand Junction, CO; Big Bend Brewing Co. in Alpine, TX; and Pedernales Brewing Co. in Fredericksburg, TX. We also really enjoyed the larger breweries we visited like New Belgium, Founders, Sierra Nevada, etc., but this list reflects not only the quality of the beer, but also where we like to hang out, and those fancy tasting rooms are just too big.

airstream in valley of the gods utah

36 Replies to “The Big Trip: Retrospective

  1. It occurs to me that by hiking 282 miles (yeah, you guys are nuts!!) and only visiting 78 breweries you were only drinking beer at the rate of one per 3.6 miles.. That’s plenty of distance to work off the calories from that “near” beer those places con you with. But back in the day when you were just a wee lass I would drink that much beer on a long week-end..
    As for the clothing thing, I have always found that commando is the only way to go while on those long hiking trips—but lots of socks are a good idea.
    Enjoy your new home.

  2. Congratulations on your adventure! I thought your posts were remarkably consistent, covering your stated objectives really well in each segment – good journalistic discipline! Also, good thing our Bugsy is photogenic, huh? She, the scenery, and the Airstream and campsites were well presented.

    No more critique – we’re glad you’re home for a while!
    Lynn and Ed

    1. Thanks for the feedback L&E! It sure is a fun topic to write about. And Bugsy is a fun subject to photograph. 🙂

  3. So when is the book coming out??? Lauren writes so beautifully. I bet Lee didn’t have to harangue her about doing her school writing assignments like I did with you-know-who.

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