The Long Road West
Updated: Jun 12, 2018
For the past six months, I’ve been “planning” a summer road trip out west. I use the word planning pretty loosely, as I’ve come up with only a general route and sense of timing. The specifics will be decided on as I go!
I have never taken a real ‘vacation’ from life before–sure, I’ve done short camping trips over long weekends, a 4-day trip to the coast, etc., but that’s about it. I felt it was time! I’ll be driving, running, hiking and biking my way across the United States and back again. See below for my road trip route and more details!
I’ll be leaving on July 9th, 2017, and returning on (approximately) August 16th, 2017.
Background: The only place I’ve actually been outside of the east coast is Albuquerque, NM, and I never left the city, so I’m excited to be seeing huge sections of the country for the first time. Once I get west of NY/PA, it’ll be the furthest west I’ve really seen. This road trip is something I’ve always wanted to do, but always seemed a bit out of reach for various reasons. In recent years, I’ve thought about something as simple as driving out to Colorado, staying for a week or two, and driving home. This year, I just decided to go for it!
Cost: While I signed on to do tutoring and work two weeks of summer camps to help pay for the trip, the goal is to do this as cheaply as possible. It’s going to run between $500 and $650 for gas and oil changes, depending on how much extra driving I do outside of the general route. I also had to buy new tires, as mine were about shot, but that was a planned expense this year anyhow. My personal goal is to spend less than $250 on lodging and dining for the whole trip. See below for my shelter and food plans and tell me whether you think it’ll work! The ultimate goal is to have less than $800 of extraneous expenses, or expenses I wouldn’t have if I just stayed at home. Since I’d spend $300 in five weeks on gas and food just staying around home anyway, that gives me what I think is a realistic goal of spending less than $1100.
Shelter: I have three options for shelter each night.
The HabiTent is pretty neat; it’s a tent that attaches to the back of my car. I’ve slept in my car many times before, but it got either very hot with windows shut, or very buggy. I kept thinking about designing a screen to fit over a window, held in place by magnets, but much of the trim around the window is plastic. A few helpful friends linked me to these tents, and I ended up ordering one. It will let me sleep just about anywhere it’s legal to park. Wal-mart is the famous choice of economy-minded RVers and folks that are down on their luck, so that will be my fallback option. It’ll also make traveling to races MUCH more comfortable in the future.
My backpacking tent is a MSR Flylite 2. It is incredibly light at less than 2lbs for a 2-person tent. It uses trekking poles to save weight. It’s a bit more labor intensive to set up in order to have good ventilation, but it’ll be a great backup.
I’ll also be bringing my ThermaRest NeoAir XLite pad, an Enlightened Equipment down quilt (35º) and a Grand Trunk bamboo sleeping bag for very warm nights. I may borrow a larger, full-length pad from my parents specifically for the car camping, as it’ll be a bit more comfortable.
Lastly, several people I know have offered their couches for me to crash on as I swing through. Frankly, even just a more secure place to set up my tent (or put my pad and bag on a living room floor) helps a lot!
Food: I am planning on cooking for myself as much as possible to save costs. I am bringing my Jetboil Minimo stove (you can adjust the flame to a simmer now!) as well as my Biolite Camp Stove and grill, which burns wood and charges your phone at the same time! I have been watching the discount stores for a few months to stock up on food, and I have a pretty good stock now. I’ll be prioritizing quinoa over pasta as it’s higher in protein, but sometimes you just need comfort food, aka mac and cheese!
9lbs of Quinoa (48 servings, should be plenty!)
12lbs gluten free pasta (36+ servings)
15 servings Gluten Free oatmeal (I’ll buy more, this was all they had discounted)
50oz Turkey Jerky (I’m pretty sure that’s several turkeys)
6.5lbs Gluten Free crackers (they were so cheap I bought them all; 70% off and not expired)
7lbs Honey Nut Cheerios (does anyone really count servings on cereal? Ok it’s at least more than 7 servings)
Nutritional Yeast – 20oz (for protein, flavor and to reduce my reliance on cheese)
2lbs peanut butter
2lbs of covfefe (with my grinder and french press)
1 metric ton (approximate) of expired Kind bars (which still taste fine)
Olive oil and sprayer
Some spices including chipotle, smoked paprika, and salt, coriander and pepper grinders.
Running fuel. I’m not big on running specific fuel while training, but I’m bringing:
Generation UCAN Fuel
Generation UCAN Recovery Mix
Vega Sport protein powder
Packets of peanut butter
Maple syrup (a pint container and a gel flask to put it in)
During the trip I’ll have to shop for milk, cheese and vegetables, as well as chicken or other protein when I get sick of turkey jerky. I will likely have a few meals out, especially if I meet up with folks, but I’m hoping to keep that to a minimum and do it only when I want to, not because I need to. I know I have 50% more food than I need at least in terms of calories.
Gear: (not an exhaustive list by any means)
Shoes: Altra Escalante, Altra Superior 3.0, Altra King MT, Altra Torin 3.0, Hoka Clayton 2, Hoka Challenger ATR 2, Salomon Sense 3 Ultra, Topo MT2, Birkenstocks.
Mountain bike and bike shoes (hopefully I can fit this inside my car while I’m sleeping… TBD!)
Salomon S-Lab Skin 12 Vest w/ reservoir and bottles
Salomon Hydro Handset – far and away my favorite handheld.
Hillsound Ultra Crampons – Just in case!
Watch: Garmin Fenix 5x. Maps on the device so I won’t get lost in new places! Look out for a review of this coming soon!
Running shorts – 8x (3 tight, 5 loose)
Shirts – 13x (4 singlet, 7 short sleeve, 2 long sleeve, not all running)
Tights – 1x just in case
Pants – 3x (1 jeans, 1 running, 1 convertible hiking pants/shorts)
Windbreaker – Salomon S-Lab Light, and an acidotic RACING jacket
Rain Jacket: NorthFace HyperAir Goretex (see my review video… whole new world of breathability)
Puffy: Mont-bell ExLight
Running gloves 1x, bike gloves 1x
Hats – 5x (I sweat a LOT)
A few other miscellaneous items like a sweatshirt
Backpacking gear (much of it located elsewhere in this gear list) minus a bear canister I’m hoping to borrow/rent if I decide to go.
5 gallon water jug (keeps it cold for a long time)
Sawyer Mini water filter and bag
Gadgets, etc: I am bringing the following things, mostly to help document my trip.
dSLR, lenses and tripod for real photography
GoPro and gimbal for running/biking videography
Journal (yes, the old fashioned pen and paper)
Laptop for editing photos
Mp3 player. Yes, a standalone audio player. Not videos, not a phone, no camera… Old fashioned!
Several books: Tales from Out There: The Barkley Marathons, Touch the Top of the World, and Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders, as well as some others.
A ukulele. I’m too scared to bring a guitar; the uke is a bit more compact to keep it safe, and obviously MUCH cheaper to repair/replace if necessary.
Driving: I used Furkot.com to create my overall route. I’ll decide on specific destinations a day or two in advance, and use the Waze app on my phone to get me there. If you haven’t used Waze, it uses crowd reporting to report traffic, police, accidents, road hazards and road closures, so it’s extremely accurate. And the more people that use it, the more accurate it gets, so you should too.
Running/biking/hiking: I’ve downloaded routable topographic maps to my Garmin Fenix 5x. I’ve run with the routing feature a few times with the stock topo map, and it worked quite well, but I’m trying these in hopes trail navigation will be even better. (Turn alerts are nicer than having to constantly keep an eye on the map!) I’ll also download topographic maps to the Gaia app on my phone as a backup for longer and more remote adventures.
Battery jumpstarter/charger (I have two, bringing both, one will always stay charged in case I need it for emergencies, the other will charge the laptop, camera, watch, etc. if I’m not using the car actively.)
Firstaid kit: My running first aid kit, plus a few extra things like poison ivy/oak treatments, etc.
Two small battery chargers designed to recharge my phone, GoPro and watch. Both of these are easier to charge from the car than the larger jumpstarters.
I’ll be heading out on the northern portion of the route, and returning via the southern portion of the route. As you’ll see below, there are only a few spots where I need to arrive in a location by a certain date, so aside from those, the entire trip will played by ear!
You can view my route in more detail, and even suggest stops I should make here!
Driving Plan: I’m planning on driving for approximately 5 hours on my longer running days (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday), up to 7 hours on Mondays (full rest) and up to 6 on Fridays (shorter run). I think that will be the best balance of covering the distance while still having some time to explore a new place (especially on the run!)
In some ways, I’m looking at this as a tour of our greatest National Parks and Forests. Regardless of your politics, one of the goals of the current administration is to sell much of these public lands off to private companies to develop/destroy as they see fit. I already purchased a Park Pass, so there won’t be any entrance fees. (Highly recommend it, it’s $80 for a year for an entire vehicle. To compare, Yellowstone is a $30 entrance fee for one vehicle. Yosemite is $15 per person.)
Some of the highlights along the way:
Lebanon 7mi Trail Race – Near Minneapolis, MN – July 12th Badlands National Park Black Hills National Forest Bighorn National Forest Yellowstone National Park Glacier National Park Coeur d’Alene National Forest North Cascades National Park Olympic National Park Mt. Rainier National Park Oregon Summer Marathon – Banks, OR – July 22nd Mt. Hood National Forest Crater Lake National Park Redwood National Park San Francisco Bay area National and State Parks/Forests Eldorado National Forest Yosemite National Park Death Valley National Park Zion National Park Grand Canyon National Park – North Rim Arches National Park Adventures in Colorado Aspen Backcountry Marathon, CO – August 13th
The timing is just slightly off between the Lebanon 7mi trail race and the Oregon Summer Marathon, so I’ll unfortunately be somewhat rushed between those two races. I should have some time to explore each place, but I’ll need to make a plan of where and what I want to see inside of each park. After the Oregon Summer Marathon, I’ll have much more freedom and flexibility. I’d like to be able to train above 8,000ft elevation for about two weeks, but that leaves plenty of time for exploring before I make it to Colorado.
After Aspen, I’m going to have to more or less book it home, as I signed up to do tutoring starting August 16th
Regardless of any timing issues, I’m really excited for the road trip. I think it will help me narrow down places I want to spend more time in in the future.
Show me around: If you live somewhere near my route and would like to show me some trails on foot or by bike, let me know! I am flexible and up for just about anything.
My most frequent updates of daily life on the road will be posted on my Instagram: @joshfieldss
I may post similar road trip updates to Twitter: @miles_mountains
Longer form, less frequent updates will go on my Facebook Page: Of Miles and Mountains
Every week or so, I’ll post a blog post here with highlights from the week!
Questions for you:
Any advice for road trips/traveling/camping on a budget?
Any places near my route I shouldn’t miss?
Did you notice gear I’m missing?