Solo Female Road Trip Q&A (with dog tips!)

Since my first 33 day cross-country solo trip after a bad break-up, traveling alone has been one of my favorite ways to adventure. I’ve slept in gas station rest stops, remote forest campsites,  cheap motels, KOAs off the highway–you name it, I’ve stayed there alone. Most recently, I hit the road to tick off my last 8 states on my quest to hitting all 50–my first solo trip with a dog in tow. You all had a lot of questions about traveling solo, so I wanted to create a resource to answer ’em all.

Before I dive into the nitty gritty of solo trips, dealing with anxiety + safety, finding places to stay, and more, I want to address my privilege as a solo female traveler. I am a queer Latinx, but I am totally white-and-straight-passing–and that creates an ability to travel with a level of inherent ease that is not a given for solo women of color. That said, if any non-white women have specific advice for solo travel for WOC, please leave a comment and I will add it to this guide as a resource.

The #1 question: How do you deal with safety?

I received this question in every iteration possible, especially in regards to overnight stays alone and hiking alone. There are many steps I take to prioritize safety when I travel, but the most important idea is: I always trust my gut. It doesn’t happen often, but when I get a bad feeling, I boogie, no questions asked. It doesn’t happen often, but if my gut tells me to go (which is very different from my general this-is-scary anxiety, which I’ll address later), I go. While Spaghetti and I were hiking on a paved path at Sleeping Bear Dunes, we heard a pop! pop! pop! in the near distance, and I remembered that it’s hunting season. We weren’t wearing any bright colors, and I felt uncomfortable, so we left.

I make a habit out of being hyper observant. At a trailhead, I scan all the cars in the parking lot and totally judge them based on bumper stickers, etc. On the trail, I keep mental notes on the folks I pass and sometimes tag along behind other groups to feel an added sense of security. In cities, I avoid dark streets, and prefer to be in my hotel at night. When I camp, I prefer to do so in places where I have cell service–or I’ll bring a satellite phone in case of emergency (most in case of car trouble vs. ‘safety’). Also when camping or sleeping in my car, I always have my car keys within reach and a clear path to the driver’s seat so I can hop in and speed off if I need to.

I turn on ‘Find My Friends’ on my iPhone and allow both parents and my partner to see where I am at all times. This makes them feel better, and it makes me feel better too. And when it comes to social media, I only post content that shares my location after I’ve left that place.

Get yourself some pepper spray. I also always carry a Buck knife my dad gave me many years ago on my first solo trip, and often sleep with it under my pillow. I chatted with a few women who have taken self-defense classes, and I highly recommend that path if you want to cultivate confidence in your ability to protect yourself. As for guns, yes, I did once consider getting one before my four-month solo road trip–but quickly realized that guns make me uncomfortable and I didn’t have confidence that I’d be able to use one to effectively defend myself.

Related: Whats the scariest part of traveling solo as a woman?

Men.

An uncomfortable subject to address because I am not asking to be harassed when I wear make up, nor is any woman who chooses to wear whatever she pleases, but: I also often don’t wear make-up while traveling alone. Men tend to see any solo female traveler as an invitation for suggestive comments, so I often find myself not presenting myself the way I want to be while traveling solo, purely in an attempt to deter men who apparently cannot control themselves in the presence of women. Men, do better so I can comfortably wear my eyeliner and leggings while traveling solo kthanks.

Do you decide where you’re going to stay ahead of time, or do you wing it?

Both. I spend a lot of time on Google Maps figuring out the drive times to various distances, scope out options for where to stay in each spot, then I’ll either settle on a destination for the day, or just start to wing it. I always try to keep it flexible so I can go with the flow depending on how tired I am, how much time I spend at pit stops, etc. Giving yourself options and knowing that you have ’em helps cultivate that solo traveler confidence.

What are you travel essentials?

I want to do a dedicated post on my must-have road trip essentials, but briefly:

  • A paper map. Technology will fail you, so I always road trip with my trusty road atlas.
  • My use-less-plastic kit: a giant Hydroflask water bottle, a Hydroflask growler that is always full of water for back up, reusable utensils + straw, a tupperwear for leftovers when eating out, and a few different sized zip-lock bags that I wash + reuse.
  • My go-to Ursa Major skin care kit: their balm, face wash, and wipes for when I can’t wash my face.
  • My ‘tech’ kit where I keep: all my device cables + plugs, my Garmin watch, a collection of Goal Zero mini chargers, etc.
  • An iPhone tri-pod so I can take selfies. No shame.
  • Blankets, all the blankets. And a full-size pillow.
  • Whatever creature comforts will make you feel more comfortable and confident on the road. It’s a road trip, so you don’t have to pack light. If it makes you feel better, bring it.

How do you keep entertained on long rides? How do you stay awake?

I love driving solo–I used to want to be a semi-truck driver. As long as there’s light out, I can drive forever. I listen to podcasts, livestream my local NPR station from home, jam to the trashy Miami music I don’t usually get to listen to, and use the time to reflect.

I find that once I hit a groove of driving, the time flies quickly. I also stop whenever I want to, and try to break up long stretches with short hikes. When I stop for gas or to pee, I always do a little lap around the car doing knee-highs and shaking my arms above my head like a wild person to keep the blood flowing.

As for staying awake: I have realized that I don’t do well driving at night, primarily because I’m night-blind and can’t see super well in the dark. So, I don’t drive at night. The beauty of solo travel is, you’re running on your own agenda, so you can stop whenever you want. When I get tired on the road, I stop.

How do you stay organized?

I don’t. The chaos tends to spread quickly on a road trip, so I use a pitstop a day to reel it in and clean up the mess. I use a lot of Topo Designs travel bags in various sizes and try to have a place where everything belongs.

what’s the hardest part of traveling solo?

It’s expensive. Traveling with a partner means  gas is split, park entry fees are split, hotel rooms are split, everything is a bit more affordable. When I’m solo, all the costs are mine to bear. Since I stayed in hotels each night of this trip due to the snow and winter conditions, I made peace with the reality that it was going to be way more expensive than my usual camping + dirtbaggin’ trips.

Do you get lonely? How do you get over missing your partner? 

Solo travel is lonely, but I love it for that. I am an introvert, and thrive on alone time. Lean into that idea, and fully embrace the spirit of solitude. Knowing that it’s for a finite amount of time really helps me dig into the rad feeling of being alone. As for missing my partner, I of course miss him, but he travels so frequently that we’re both used to be apart. Plus, time spent apart and focusing on our independent pursuits only strengthens the relationship.

Let’s talk about dogs + solo travel

To be honest, traveling with Spaghetti doesn’t make me feel significantly more safe than just purely traveling alone. She’s a 25 lb. muppet with a soft bark and a tendency to get really scared, so it’s not like she’s going to attack anyone. She does provide excellent company and make me feel less alone.

Solo travel with a dog is harder than I expected, especially during this most recent winter trip. All outdoor seating is closed for the season, so there wasn’t a single restaurant I could eat at with her. Instead, I ate most of my meals in the car or in our hotel rooms. And since we weren’t camping, I had to find dog friendly lodging each night. Pro tip: Motel 6 allows dogs and doesn’t charge an extra fee for ’em! 

When I had to leave Spaghetti in the car (never for more than 30 minutes on this trip), I made sure all food was packed away. The one time I didn’t, she stole a slice of pizza. She has separation anxiety we’re still working on, so having to stay with her all the time did impact my ability to do a lot of things. And traveling with a dog completely changed my relationship with National Parks. They’re inherently not-dog-friendly (for good reason), so I found myself spending less time in them.

And lastly, my favorite reader question: Have you had to pee in a water bottle yet? 

Yes, many times. Ladies, I prefer to pee into something like a large yogurt container because my aim is not very good. You can also get a device like the She-Wee to pee with, but I get fussy about the idea of needing a penis-mimicking device to complete a function my vagina is perfectly capable of handling on its own, so I pee into yogurt containers instead, ha!

Have more questions? Want to share your own advice for traveling solo? Leave ’em in the comments!

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Outdoorist Guide to Glacier National Park

I spent a week in Glacier National Park–my first time there–and just, whoa. Montana has a reputation for being one of the last wild frontiers, and this parcel of public land is a true testament to that. My experience felt particularly charmed. It was a multi-sport trip, rewarded with huckleberry treats, and made even more special by my boyfriend’s park ranger sister, who knew everything about the area.

We backpacked out to Cracker Lake in Many Glacier, where we spilled ourselves over easy trails and windy ridges and past a grizzly mama + her cub to camp lakeside below a cirque. When we woke up–in a storm–we were greeted with a rainbow that stretched from one end of the lake to the other. We rode bikes up Going to the Sun Road before it opened up to cars, and I slowly pedaled my way through my longest and hardest ride ever. We paddled on Lake Macdonald–which the natives called “The Place Where They Dance”, which is a much more suitable name if you ask me–and camped + paddled at Tally Lake (not in the park). We hiked trails. While Brody and his sister rode Going to the Sun Road again, I explored creekside wonderlands and lounged next to gushing rivers while writing poems in my notebook. I became a Glacier Junior Ranger. We drank huckleberry lemonade and huckleberry iced tea and huckleberry soda. I ate a lot of cinnamon rolls. I said hello to grizzlies, black bears, beavers, caterpillars, mountain goats, songbirds, and one black slug.

Glacier National Park was so enchanting, we extended our trip.

When I got home, my padrino (that’s godfather in spanish) reached out that he too was planning a trip out to Glacier, and asked if I had any advice. I ended up sending him a pretty long e-mail, and realized that maybe my readers would benefit from all the beta too. So, here you go:

A (Very) Brief Guide to Glacier National Park:

  • First of all, you have to drive up Going To The Sun Road. I rode my bike up it (40 miles total, about 3500 feet of elevation gains) this weekend while it was still closed to cars, and it was amazing. They say you should plan 2-3 hours to drive the road.

  • Want to learn more about the native history of the land we now call Glacier National Park? (You should.) This site has a great dive into the original names and historical significance of many places in the park.
  • If you drive Going To The Sun Road and start from West Glacier, you’ll end up in St. Mary, and then you should go check out Many Glacier as well. We went backpacking to Cracker Lake (6 miles each way) and saw a grizzly + her cub right by camp.
  • If you spend a lot of time in the backcountry, consider getting a can of bear spray. You can rent them from the ranger stations now. If you don’t get spray, just make sure to travel in groups and make lots of noise when you come around blind corners. If you see a bear, keep a big distance and make lots of noise to scare it off. We saw 7 bears and had no problems with ’em.

  • Definitely plan to rent kayaks and paddle on Lake MacDonald. The MacDonald lodge is beautiful too, not sure how expensive it is to stay there though. There’s a historic boat that does sunset tours of the lake from the lodge. Note: If you bring your own watercraft, you’ll have to get it inspected by rangers before putting it in the water. It only takes a few minutes, but make sure your kayak/canoe/whatever is clean and free of any leaves or debris.
  • If you need to camp, anywhere in the park is stunning, but Fish Creek seemed to be pretty prime. There’s also a campground near Avalanche that was right on the water and I saw lots of friendly deer wandering through when I spent a few hours there.
  • Eat huckleberry everything. There’s huckleberry pie, huckleberry ice cream, and really delicious huckleberry lemonade that’s not to be missed. You can get huckleberry ice cream in the park and eat it at the lake right at Apgar Village.
  • This is a great article with a list of things to do in Glacier. The Red Bus tours are legendary and historic. We didn’t take one since my boyfriend’s sister is a park ranger there (talk about the ultimate hook up!) but they seem like a blast if you’re into tours.
  • You’re right by Canada, so consider bringing passports if you guys want to visit the Canadian side of the park.
  • If you want to do some shopping and soak up a bit of the local culture, downtown Whitefish (only like 30 minutes away) is a cool little town with great local stores and lots of walking around to do.
  • I loved coffee + baked goods from Montana Coffee Traders in Columbia Falls, which is the closest town to West Glacier. If you’re there in time for breakfast, Uptown Hearth is an awesome community kitchen restaurant. The breakfast pudding is to die for.

Got questions about Glacier National Park or adventuring around Montana? Leave ’em in the comments!

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Weeks 8-9: Snowstorms + Outdoor Love in Asheville, NC

Oh, Asheville. With only 20 days to immerse myself into the weird and wonderful world of Western North Carolina, I found myself literally feeling stressed out about making sure I soaked it all up. Spoiler alert: I didn’t. There was no way to properly experience all of the magic of Asheville in such a short time–but I sure did try.

Here’s a quick highlight reel from my favorite Asheville moments, sights, and sounds:

Katie Boué hiking DuPont State Forest in North Carolina.

Hiking in DuPont State Forest

Holy waterfalls! You like waterfalls? You got waterfalls, if you make the short drive out to DuPont State Forest near Brevard, NC. The area has six main waterfalls, and five of ’em are easily accessible on a single trail. Obviously I had to hike it. It’s a wide trail, packed with people on a weekend, and not exactly a full “wild outdoors” feel, but still worth it for an afternoon adventure. Mcgoo and I hiked to Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls. I spotted a covered bridge higher up in the hills, but we got lost trying to find the trail out there and eventually gave up.

The fellas from Bro’d Trip have a vlog that shows a bit of the hike–I totally went back the next day and re-hiked it with them, actually finding the covered bridge this time. Check out the video here, and skip to about the 1:07 mark to get to my cameo + the DuPont hiking.

Bonus spot: Make the short drive up to Buzzard Rock right before sunrise–and you’ll get epic views of the city below like this one: 

The sunrise view from Buzzard Rock in Asheville, NC.

Caught in Asheville’s 2015 Snowpocalypse

Somehow, I always end up in the southeast when there’s an epic snowstorm. And by epic, I mean usually just a few inches of snow that shuts down the entire city. This time, however, a whopping 13 inches dumped downtown–and totally shut everything down. The resulting adventures were probably my favorite part of my time in Asheville. Cars were rendered useless, and the people took back the streets on foot. Bar hopping across town while riding in a sled? Yes please. Whiskey just tastes better when you’ve trudged 3 miles in the snow to get to it.

Sledding during the big 2016 Asheville snowstorm.

Food and Beer and More Food

You guys. Asheville has a jammin’ food culture. The best trout (hell, the best fish. period.) I ever had in my life from The Market Place. Jamaican food so good we went two days in a row at Nine Mile–and yes, I ordered the same thing both times, it was that good. I had a religious experience eating the cheese plates at Wicked Weed. Pro tip: Get a beer flight the first time you go to Wicked Weed, because you will be back multiple times for those cheese plates, so you might as well figure out what kind of beer is your favorite to accompany all that cheesy goodness.

The amazing cheese plate at Wicked Weed Brewery in Asheville, NC.

For a full dive into my time exploring the Asheville outdoor industry scene–and peeks into my visits with outdoor brands like ENO, Farm to Feet, and more–check out my OIA Roadshow: Asheville Edition story on the Outdoor Industry Association website. Here’s an excerpt:

“If you’ve ever been to Asheville, North Carolina, you’re already in on the not-so-subtle secret that it’s one of the greatest outdoor destinations in America–but for those of you who haven’t received the memo: This Southeastern city was voted one of the country’s best outdoor towns by Outside magazine in 2006, and made it to the voter’s choice list in 2014, too. It’s a recreation mecca in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, right at the confluence of the French Broad and Swannanoa rivers. You can hike, bike, paddle, climb–and sometimes even ski–all within a short drive of the downtown area.”

I know, I know, there’s so much more to be said to fully encapsulate how incredible Asheville is. I wish I could have stayed longer to spend more time soaking up this vibrant city and its culture–but alas, there’s so much more America to explore!

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Weeks 0 & 1: Goodbye Denver, Hello Boulder!

It’s been about two weeks since I turned in the keys to my adorable house on Grant Street in Denver. Packing up my entire life and downsizing to accommodate my new mobile lifestyle was a whirlwind. At first, I skimmed my belongings and clung to sentiments, barely making a dent in the massive amount of stuff I had accumulated during my two years living in Colorado. As go-time lurked closer and closer, I quickly converted towards the “Purge all the things!” mind set. On November 30th, I slid the key to 159 S Grant street off my carabiner and locked the door behind me.

My darling old house on historic South Grant Street in Colorado.

Since then, I’ve stayed in two Airbnbs in Boulder while wrapping up work at OIA’s HQ. Why two? Well, the first one turned out to be a major mistake in judgement–I actually don’t even have any pictures of the place. It was a charming property with tons of house plants and a very kind (but super chatty) host, but we eventually had to cancel our reservation after Mcgoo literally became allergic to the funky air and houseflies + a noisy heater rendered us sleepless. It would have been a good spot if we were just staying for a night or two, but we’ve learned our longer stays = being a bit choosier with our Airbnbs.

Thank goodness for a flexible cancellation policy.

Our new Airbnb in Boulder is divine. I can’t wait to show you pictures next week. It’s a gorgeous two-bedroom house owned by a climber couple with impeccable style. The walls are adorned with mountain paintings, polaroids from Yosemite, and concert posters featuring bands like TV On The Radio, The Roots, and The Black Keys. Bookshelves are lined with climbing guidebooks, beautiful animal bones, and tchotchkes from the hosts’ travels. I am seriously kicking myself for not booking this place originally. A fresh coat of snow only makes this place even more flawless. I’m in love.

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While in Boulder we’ve been taking it easy as we adjust to this nomadic lifestyle. There’s a lot to learn. Since I’m still working out of the office, I’ve been horrible about cooking my own meals. My relationship with Whole Foods is getting seriously unhealthy–in an ironically healthy way.

These tofu salad rolls from the Whole Foods sushi bar are addictive. I mean, look at them. Who wouldn’t want that for lunch, every day?

The tofu salad roll from Whole Foods' sushi bar.

I’m also getting a little sentimental about leaving Outdoor Industry Association HQ. I’ll be traveling back to the Front Range frequently for important company events and spending time with my colleagues, but damn, I’m going to miss them. Our team is top notch, and I love spending time with my ragtag crew of co-workers. I mean, how many other marketing departments get together to climb during lunch on a regular basis?

It’ll be sad saying goodbye, but I’m stoked to convince all of them to come meet me out on the road at some point…

The view from Lake Standley in Colorado.

Next week is our last before we hit the road down to Miami for the holidays. Confession: I still have a bit of purging and organizing to do before we’ll be able to fit everything in just two cars (Mcgoo’s Subaru Outback–which is what we’ll be traveling in–and my Scion tC). It’s going to be a tight squeeze, but we’ve got a few things like paintings and family heirlooms that we have to transport back to Florida for storage before we finalize our on-the-go packing situation. Wish me luck!

Want to follow along on my adventures? Get connected on Twitter, FacebookInstagram. For all the action in real-time, make sure to follow me on Snapchat – username: kboue! 

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Hitting the Road for the End of Summer

I’m finally surrendering to the seasons – summer (almost, pretty much, but not quite yet) is over. The air is slowly shifting towards a crisp chill, and I keep spying overeager trees with gold and crimson leaves. Fine. I can jive with the thought of thick scarves and cool climbing weather. But first I need to give my beloved summertime a proper send off.

I’m hitting the road for 3,766 miles of road trippin’!

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Here’s what’s really going on: Amble is coming back to Colorado for the fall, and I need to go scoop her cute toosh from Tallahassee, Florida. Given a perfect storm of holidays and PTO and other travel plans, it just made sense to hit the road and live out of the Subaru for 10 days to complete the mission. The adventure begins with the Colorado mountain wedding of two of my favorite humans, then continues southward towards Albuquerque, New Mexico. We’re passing through Durango on the way, so I’m hoping to hop out of the car for a few hours to explore if time permits.

After trucking across Texas–seriously why is that state so damn big–I’ll make a stop in Baton Rouge to visit an OIA member and do an interview + photoshoot at their outdoor retail shop. From there, it’s to the coast. I have a serious craving for saltwater and sand, so I’m spending a few days soaking up as much salty bliss as I can before hitting my most eastern destination: Tallahassee to pick up Amble pup!

IMG_1197The forecast is promising lots of rain, rain, and more rain–but ain’t nothing going to dampen how excited I am about reuniting with my pup and basking in some saltwater. Spending a few nights cozied up in mountain cabins and seaside shacks with my adventure partner doesn’t sound too shabby either.

Do you have any end of summer trips planned? Are you ready to give up the season of sunshine and swimming holes? I want to hear your plans! Be sure to follow my journey in real-time on Snapchat (kboue), Twitter, and Instagram.

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I’m hitting the road – to the southeast!

Since my year in the van ended, I’ve gone on quite a few road trips – but they’ve all been little league status. Circuits around western Colorado, weekends in Moab, driving from Miami to Sarasota for a wedding. All great trips, but nothing quite like the long stretches of endless road and vague plans of a grand adventure.

But on Wednesday, I’m adding another tick to my cross-country map circuit:

I’m road tripping down to Florida for Tally Rock Gym’s Save The South climbing comp!

As it turns out, one of the few downsides of leaving the freelance world is that you can’t just take off for weeks at a time – so I’m squeezing a wonderful 3,350 mile road trip into just six and a half days. ‘Cause I have to be back for work on Tuesday, you know? Here’s what the road trip circuit looks like:

Road trip Colorado to Florida.

The plan is to leave Colorado and well, just drive. I’m planning on snagging the passenger seat for the first stretch so I can finally get some photos of the mountains along I-25 heading towards Santa Fe, then we’ll press on until we hit New Orleans! I haven’t been back to New Orleans since I was a little kid, so I’m stoked. We’re staying at a historic haunted hotel right in the heart of the city, and our tick-list includes beignets, live jazz, and cajun food. After that, we’ll make a pit stop somewhere to touch the gulf (because, saltwater!) before shooting east towards Tallahassee.

I cannot wait to get to Tallahassee so I can fill my belly with corn nuggets from Lindy’s, soak up all the springtime blossoms, pull some sweet plastic at Tally Rock Gym, and give some loving to gorgeous miss Amble pup. The 5th annual Save The South bouldering competition to benefit the Southeastern Climbers Coalition is already promising to be a mega rad reason for this road trip – we’ve got a killer event lined up and two local breweries who donated some delicious brew to our SCC after party!

On Sunday morning, Mcgoo and I are going to haul ourselves up to Chattanooga for a day of climbing before hitting the road hardcore back to Colorado. I’m pretty psyched ’cause this is our first ‘big’ road trip together – we’ll see how long it lasts before he wants to toss me out of the Subaru. His adoration for me just oozes out of this photo, amirite?

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It feels so good to have a reason to hit the road again, and this trip combined with all the training I’ve been doing lately feels like a retreat to complete the beginning of the next phase of life. My body feels good, my mind feels good, my Gmail inbox is finally cleared out, my knack for writing seems to have returned, and all the pieces seem to be falling into place. High five, universe!

 

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What’s in my pack? #FLtoCO Road Trip Edition

In exactly 12 hours from this very moment, I’ll be on a red-eye flight down to my hometown, Miami. I’m heading south for a few reasons: I am in desperate need of some sea-time, I’m celebrating my little sister’s graduation, and we’re embarking on a cross-country road trip to move her out to Denver! Instead of the usual two-day haul I usually struggle through during drives from Florida to Colorado, we decided to make an adventure out of it.

First, we’re heading up the Florida coast to Tallahassee to see my pup, Amble, and climb at Tallahassee Rock Gym. We’ll visit my sister’s friend in Atlanta before heading to Chattanooga for my favorite part of this trip: climbing at Stone Fort and a visit to the Tennessee Aquarium! Then we’ll jet westward, stopping to visit family friends in Kansas City and exploring along the way.

Since my sister will be bringing everything she owns in her little sedan, I’m trying to pack as light as possible. I’m only bringing my Topo Designs Klettersack, and my new Keen sling I picked up at Outdoor Retailer last week. Here’s a quick peek into my #FLtoCO road trip bag:

What's in my pack? Miami to Colorado edition. #FLtoCO

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Reinvigorating my appetite for adventure in the Pacific Northwest

Confession: Lately, I haven’t been loving the adventure. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been feeling constantly rushed, dirty beyond my usual threshold, overwhelmed and frustrated by my inability to stay connected while traveling, and worst of all – I just don’t even have a strong desire to climb. It’s been like living in opposite day, for days on end. 

After five months of blissfully living on the road, I really can’t be too surprised that I’ve hit a mental roadblock in my road trip attitude, but it certainly wasn’t very pleasant. Thankfully, I was able to take a quick break from the adventure to spend a weekend with my family in New York City for my cousin’s wedding, and when I returned back to San Francisco (and my big yellow van), everything changed. 

One of our closest friends, Mcgoo, decided to take a much-needed break from his daily life to join us for two weeks of adventuring in the Pacific Northwest. He had never seen the Pacific Ocean before, so to make it a trip to truly remember, we decided to travel up US-1 and the 101 from Half Moon Bay to Seattle. Epic.
Niko and I enjoying our first sunset on the Pacific Ocean during our latest Simply Adventure journey.

The journey began with a pitstop in Sunny Vale for a dinner party hosted by Russ Beebe. Aside from the incredible homemade fare and mint juleps, he delighted me with a surprise appearance from one of my favorite ladies in the outdoor industry, Amy Jurries of TheGearcaster.com. I also got to meet one of the lovely ladies from the new Omniten crew, along with Rebecca from the original Omniten, and my Overland Expo pal, David Croyle. It was a splendid night, and the perfect way to toast the beginning of a new adventure.

We officially began the coastal adventure the next day with a pitstop to feast on my favorite burrito in the entire world at Tres Amigos in Half Moon Bay, CA – conveniently located right on the 1. After the monumental lunchtime gorging, we walked down the road to the coast, where Mcgoo finally touched the Pacific for the first time. Then we promptly loaded up in the van, and hauled north along the slow, winding shoreline.

Not a bad place to spend the day.Since our first day, we’ve traveled over the Golden Gate Bridge, past rolling hillsides teeming with cows, along steep clifflines, and through thickets of redwoods. I’ve still been struggling to find connectivity during our remote adventuring, but the scenery has offered great solace from my woes. It’s hard to gripe about e-mails when you’re hiking past banana slugs in Redwood National Park, or searching for starfish in tide pools.

As we continue on towards Portland, the connectivity promises to improve, and with a freshly charged computer I’ll be able to catch up on all the writing I’ve held hostage in my mind. I’m still a bit weary about all the catching up I feel like I need to do, but at the end of the day, I continue to remind myself of where I am, and what I’m doing. Not being able to update my blog as much as I’d like to is really quite a small price to pay for the experience of spending a year traveling around the United States in my big beautiful van.

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The (Ever-Evolving) Official Beginning Itinerary for Simply Adventure

You’ve all been pressing me for details about our route, our planned stops, what climbing areas we’ll be hitting up, and what our map looks like thus far. We can’t make any promises, and we are certain that things will inevitably change, but it’s about time I gave you some insight about where we’re heading in the upcoming weeks and months.

So here’s what the Simply Adventure road trip route looks like so far:

This is what we KNOW is going to happen.

Since I’m a Miami gal, I’d like to think that the route officially began at our southernmost point in 2013: Miami, Florida. We also visited Tampa and Tallahassee before finally leaving the state on February 1st. After a pit stop at a Mississippi rest stop, and filling cajun fare in Lake Charles in Louisiana, we paused for a day in Houston, Texas (more on that later – who knew Houston was so cool?).

We’re currently holed up at Spin City Washateria in Austin, Texas, and are scoping out some nearby climbing to fill the next few days until we head to Reimer’s Ranch for the weekend with our friend Teresa. Afterwards, we’ll jet across the remainder of Texas to Hueco Tanks State Park near El Paso. Once we get our fill of Lonestar State climbing, the plans get a little hazier, but we’ll be heading to Joshua Tree, then up to Utah around March 8th to meet some climbing buddies for a week or so in Moab. Next, we’ll drive north for a few days in Salt Lake City, then regroup as we plan our next moves.

Here’s a very vague, and totally-going-to-change look at what our journey (kinda, sorta, maybe) will look like through August:

A very rough map of our trip outline so far.

 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in these first few days of van-dwelling, it’s that plans are always changing, you can’t really count on anything, and making plans more than a week in advance are really just a pain in the arse. We have a lot to learn still, but we haven’t killed each other (yet), so I think we’re on the right path.

Cheers, everyone – and stay tuned for more dates and upcoming plans (that will probably end up changing, ha)! 

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Your questions about the Simply Adventure trip, answered!

Seriously, ask us anything about our yearlong Simply Adventure climbing trip! Whenever we talk to folks about our Simply Adventure trip, everyone seems to be bursting with questions about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and why we decided to spend a year living in a van together to travel the country. We appreciate all the curiosity and support, so we reached out and asked people to send us their questions. Here’s what you wanted to know:

Where do you plan to go?

Everywhere. We plan on hitting up basically every state within the continental United States – except for Kansas and Oklahoma, because really, those states are no fun for climbers who have already driven through them a dozen times.

Here’s a very rough idea of it: on Thursday, we’ll drive until we cross out of Florida – finally! We’ll stop in New Orleans for lunch, since Niko has never been, and then we’ll move on to Houston and Hueco. After a few weeks of climbing in Hueco Tanks, we’ll move on to Taos, then J-Tree, then up to Salt Lake City and Moab in mid-March. After that, the plans are less ironclad, but we’ll pass through Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, travel up the pacific coast from San Fransico to Washington State.

After exploring the pacific northwest, we’ll trek through Montana and Idaho before heading back to Salt Lake City. Then we’ll visit Wyoming, Colorado, and head up to the Dakotas before journeying along the border states like Wisconsin and Minnesota. We’ll be at Red River Gorge in September, North Carolina for the Hound Ears competition in October, and then up the northeast for fall.

Did you ever name the van?

Yes! When we first got the van, we asked readers to come up with some potential names for it; Mike from Mike Off The Map came up with “Craggin’ Wagon,” and we loved the name.

Who drives better?

Niko says, “Obviously, I do.” But really, we’re pretty even. Niko is better at parking, tricky maneuvering, and driving at night (I hate driving in the dark), but he also tends to get a little distracted and fed up with driving. I can go for long hauls and am a bit steadier on the road.

How do you each plan to have your own space (in or out of the van)?

Niko sits proudly atop our new yellow home.

At least once a week, we’ll be taking solo hikes/adventures. To give each other a little breathing room, we’ll take some space for a few hours to do our own thing.

In the van, there isn’t much personal space – but we’ve divided up shelves and drawers. We also have two fabric bins we’ll use as a “catch-all,” so we can dump each other’s junk in our respective boxes when we’re sick of it being strewn all over the van.

It’s going to be a BIG learning experience for our relationship. We definitely want to end this yearlong trip still wanting to be together, so we’re putting a priority on keeping our relationship healthy and balanced.

Are you planning to post inside pictures of the van before and after the trip?

Yes! We’ve been doing before-during-after photos of the van retrofit, but we love the idea of taking a picture of the van on the first day, and another one of it one our last day of the trip.

Where are you going to use the bathroom and shower?

We got this question a lot during our going away party in Miami – some of my Cuban family didn’t quite jive with the whole “living in the woods” concept, haha! The answer? The bathroom is right outside the van door, and the shower is down the trail in the nearest river. The van is stocked with an arsenal of baby wipes and dry shampoo to help keep us clean in between proper showers.

We’ll also be stopping occasionally at truck stops with showers (haven’t tried that yet, we’ll see how it turns out), staying a night or so at campgrounds with showers, etc.

What’s your plan for accessing the internet?

Staying connected is a non-negotiable requirement for me, so I’ve been thinking about wi-fi since the beginning of our planning process. The current plan is to use my iPhone as a tethered hotspot, but if that doesn’t meet my internet needs we’ll invest in an air card.

Bonus: Spending an afternoon holed up at a little coffee shop to use their free wi-fi doubles as a great little escape from van life.

Where do you plan to camp/park each night?

The costs of paying for campgrounds each night would add up astronomically, so we’re planning to minimize our lodging expenses as much as possible by finding free places to spend the evening.

We are seasoned pros at spending evenings camping in Walmart parking lots, but we’re really looking forward to checking out BLM areas once we get out west.

My smelly old coffee container has now been replaced with a sweet new mug from The Crash Pad!

How do you get power to make coffee in the morning?

Our trip is being powered by Goal Zero Solar – and so is Niko’s addiction to coffee. We’ll have a french press to brew coffee each morning, and will use a combination of our solar power and a gas-powered stove to heat up the water.

The only foreseeable coffee-issue is that Niko could down an entire french press of coffee by himself – so it’s a good thing I like to drink tea sometimes!

How did you get the funding to do this? Are you living off savings?

Saving enough money to support this trip has been a yearlong process. We are both planning to live off our life savings, and I moved back to Florida from Denver to save money while I was working with LivingSocial. We have enough money to support our adventure on just the basics, but I plan on using my freelancing work to help us with “luxuries.” Niko will be picking up temporary jobs when he can, like working at Miguel’s in Red River Gorge.

We are also incredibly blessed to have the support of our sponsors, who are supplying us with everything from solar gear to camping food.

How did you decide what was a reasonable amount of money to save?

Honestly, we just saved as much as we could. We calculated some basic costs, gathered support from gear sponsors, and limited our spending (and traveling) during the year before our trip. We won’t be living lavishly during 2013, but we’ll have enough to get by.

A very rough map of our trip outline so far.How long was the planning process?

The Simply Adventure trip has been in the works for over a year. We came up with the idea for a yearlong trip last winter in late 2011, and throughout the year it evolved into a more defined experience with a strong mission. In March of 2012, I left Denver to move back to Florida and begin the saving and preparation for the trip. We bought the van in October 2012, and once we had the van, the trip planning went into major overhaul.

How did you decide what to bring/not to bring?

Niko has always been a minimalist, but I’m admittedly a bit of a hoarder. My purging process has been going on since I moved back to Florida from Denver, but I somehow constantly accumulate stuff. We limited our clothing to last about two weeks in between visits to laundromats, and pre-packed gear for the various seasons to be shipped to us during the trip.

Will you be at summer OR?

We will absolutely be at Summer OR show. We had to miss the winter market due to trip preparations, but we wouldn’t miss the summer gathering at Salt Lake City for anything. See you all there!

Got more questions for us? Leave ’em  in the comments!

 

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