UPDATE: Life on the Road
We’ve been on the road for seven months… isn’t that crazy?!
I remember so clearly coercing my patient mom into taking a bunch of pictures of us in our driveway… that was like yesterday, right?
Well, we’re alive and well, and if you’ve been following along (here, on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter) then you know that we have visited 33 of 59 national parks. We’ve finally found the lush mountains after living in the desert and on the beach for so long. And we are LOVING it all!
Today, as we explore Sequoia National Park (#34) we thought we’d give a quick update on how we are doing. We get asked a lot about food, camping, driving, and our relationship often, so let’s just dive in, shall we?
(Sort of playing it fast and loose with the term “good.”)
We have finally settled into a comfortable eating routine. It’s absolutely not the healthiest, but we like it and love not having to think about food much anymore.
For breakfast, we typically eat eggs + fruit + tea. Sometimes we get fancy and add avocado, tomato, and/or cheese to the mix. We almost always grab clementines, a grapefruit half, or an apple to complement the meal. I’ve gotten better at actually drinking my tea and not just forgetting it in the cupholder. (Cole’s biggest pet peeve, as he is the one who usually preps the breakfast…)
Our lunches vary depending on whether we’re on a trail or not. If we are near our car, we like to make salads with carrots & cucumbers alongside a sandwich or wrap with deli meat, lettuce, and cheese (plus a Taco Bell mild sauce or mustard packet). This usually fills us up until dinner. If we are hiking, sometimes we’ll pack the sandwiches or go with crackers and cheese instead. I know, groundbreaking!
Dinner is the meal where we really throw nutrition out the window lately. We have narrowed it down to a rotation of four consistent meals: Velveeta mac ‘n cheese with sausage, Rice Sides with tuna, ramen with sausage, and the world’s best can-combo chili (1 can chili beans, 1 can black beans, 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes. Less than $3 and it fills us both up nicely. Extra delish when topped with avocado.) We opt for a fully-cooked sausage with flavors like chicken-apple or jalepeno-cheddar that keeps well and is super easy to add to any of our dinners.
Of course, we also keep plenty of pretzels (good for hiking in the heat because sodium) and something sweet like Skittles around for snackin’. Because when you hike eight to ten miles most days, hunger strikes fast. When we are in town and we feel like we really deserve it, (like after backpacking or, you know, simply finding a grocery store) we treat ourselves to a carton of ice cream. Not a pint. A carton. And it’s getting easier and easier to finish one… while sitting in the grocery store parking lot… watching The Bachelor on our phone. Ahem. Did I lose any followers there? #ColesFavoriteShow
Just like with food, our camping life is running like a well-oiled machine. We can set up fully, including inflating the air mattress, hanging the lantern, and starting the water boiling, in about ten minutes. This speed is nice if we ever have to set up in the dark. Good thing we’re so organized and on top of things and not watching The Bachelor at Walmart that we never ever have to set up in the dark. Never. Definitely not on sketchy BLM land that we’ve never been to before.
Hopefully you caught that sarcasm. We are well beyond the point of having every day mapped out and many nights, we have no clue where we will be setting up camp. Now that we’re back in the west, though, we’re loving the option of camping on lots of free BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land and fewer NPS campsites that are just as primitive but $15-$20 a night. (That’s a lot of ice cream!) We still aim to camp inside each park at least one night to get the full experience.
Our gear is holding up well. We talked about our gear when we last posted a “Camp Life” update, but we’ll recap to let you know:
- Our REI Half-Dome tent was holding up great until we experienced the craziest 24 hours of wind in Death Valley and the fly was torn apart in at least a dozen places. Good thing we received a second tent in December…
- Our Alps Zephyr 2 * is perfect: small enough to truck around when we backpack, durable enough to survive a few rainstorms so far, and big enough to be roomy even with our new twin air mattress. Speaking of which,
- Our Big Agnes Q-Core SL air pads are officially collecting dust. Because from October through February, we had not one night where both stayed inflated. Even the replacement leaked almost immediately. So, you guys. We bought an $8 Walmart twin-sized air mattress and it is a complete. Game. Changer. We figured that even if we have to replace it a couple times, it was $8. And so far, four weeks in, it’s absolutely amazing.
- We still love our L.L.Bean 20-degree sleeping bags.* We especially love that they zip together, because body warmth is for real. We have a couple cheap old fleece sleeping bag liners from Cole’s family that we also zip together and it makes for quite the cozy nest. Since we are heading into colder territory, we are excited to try our Alps Red Creek 0-degree bag.*
- Our L.L.Bean camp chairs * are the best for relaxing with our Kindles or making dinner (especially when our sites are lacking a picnic table).
*Denotes items we have received for free from partners. All opinions are our own.
Driving is going as well as expected. With nine parks in California, we only have a few hours in between each one. I’m a fan. Ask again when we drive straight from a wedding in Kansas City to freaking Skagway, Alaska. Just 53 hours, no biggie.
Cole and I split the long drives fairly equally, but I like to be designated navigator when we approach big cities. The traffic-slash-crazy-driving in L.A. just about did me in, and I was just in the passenger seat. My husband’s a saint.
Other than that, our car is handling everything very well. Although, we just took her in for an oil change and a tune-up and the mechanics found a dead mouse under the hood. (They said, “that’s why there’s that smell” and we had to nod as if we had registered one besides the general grungy road trip smell). But they were going to charge $350 to remove it, so we’re just kind of waiting for it to disintegrate. Is that gross? (Don’t answer that.) We only smell it when the air conditioner is on…
We have long abandoned our original answer to, “how do you guys not kill each other?” A few months ago, we’d gaze at each other and spout off some version of “soooo good / our communication has improved so much / haha it’s amazing.” But we have since been a little more honest. Because whoa. A road trip with just one other person who also happens to be your spouse is not always the prettiest thing in the world.
Cole and I have very different travel styles. You may think that causes a lot of rifts on, you know, a year-long tent fest. And you’re not wrong. But the more we disagree and are forced to talk things out, the more we understand each other. Cole knows not wake me up at the butt-crack of dawn, and we have gotten to the point where he can go off on a short solo hike and I in turn have some alone/napping/reading time where I can just do nothing. Cole truly doesn’t want that time (as much as I have tried to convince him that he does) and so it’s a great win-win. (That all makes me sound lazy. I’m not. And I swear the kid is not human.)
We also are just very comfortable around each other. Funny how that happens when you shower once a week. We can hike one entire trail in near silence, and the next talk through everything we remember about each year of our lives. It gives our relationship a new kind of depth and dynamic that we didn’t experience when we weren’t doing these kinds of things every day. I like it.
Seven months down. Less than five months to go.
Quite a few big-name parks (hello, Yosemite, Olympic, Glacier, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, Denali) are still on our horizon, so don’t go anywhere. We are still learning, adapting, growing in ourselves and in our Switchback Kids project. We have new ideas all the time.
Have we missed anything? Please don’t hesitate to ask! We love comments & questions 🙂