Friday, July 31, 2009

2 Weeks Later

It's been almost two weeks since I returned from 6000 miles of road with my 12 year old daughter. We drove from Georgia, to Maryland, to North Dakota, to Florida, and back during June and July. We visited 22 states in four weeks, spotted wild bison, and camped more nights than I care to remember. The highlight of the trip was definitely North Dakota. Rachel and I both listed "no air conditioning through Ohio" as the low spot.

This post contains some tips I would give someone crazy enough to attempt this trip with their almost-a-teenager.

Wow, that's a lot of driving! Tips to make the time go faster -- or to slow things down on purpose
From Cross Country 2009
  • join AAA before you go. Hotel discounts and free maps paid for my annual membership.
  • play the license plate game. We spotted 47 states, several Canadian provinces, and a Mexican state before the trip was over.
  • use the state line rest stops to your advantage -- we ate lunch and rested at many of these
  • bring a portable DVD player
  • get a power inverter so you can plug AC devices into your car's cigarette lighter
  • remember that DVDs rented from redbox vending machines can be returned to any other redbox machine. At $1 a night, it's cheap entertainment
  • get off the interstate and enjoy the back roads
  • 250 miles is far enough to drive in one day
  • on one long driving day, Rachel and I stopped to watch a matinee movie. What a great way to burn off the heat of the day and enjoy ourselves on an otherwise long day in the car.
Camping for 4 weeks? Are you crazy? How we stayed sane in some odd campgrounds
From Cross Country 2009
  • national parks are the cheapest way to go (averaging $10 a night) but usually don't have showers, state parks are next (about $20 a night) with typically nice facilities, and private campgrounds are often most expensive (usually $25 a night).
  • we found state parks via the Google. Ohio and North Dakota were standouts in terms of awesome facilities. We were quite unhappy at Rocky Arbor State Park in Wisconsin Dells because the site was covered in ants.
  • as a AAA member, I got Camp Books which was a helpful way to find private campgrounds. While I prefer state parks, we noticed the private camps usually had an onsite pool and some had free wi-fi internet.
  • even as tent campers, Rachel and I sometimes paid for a site with electricity so we could watch a movie at night. In Ohio, I think it was a $5 upcharge -- well worth it in our opinion.
  • next time around, I would leave the propane lantern behind as we only used it once
  • we found it most convenient to shop for dinner daily
How'd you fit everything in your Jeep? It was tough at times...
From Cross Country 2009
  • everything must have a container or bag. Don't let stuff float around your vehicle or you'll never find it. Trust me, as I had to tear the Jeep apart looking for my spoon.
  • severely limit the clothes you bring. I took only 3 pair of shorts, 1 pair of jeans, and a half dozen t-shirts. I opted for dark shorts to hide dirt and chose clothes that match in all combinations. Laundromats (the campgrounds sometimes had them onsite) are inexpensive and give you time to write postcards.
  • though we didn't get the advice until South Dakota, you may want to try this packing tip: "Put everything you want to pack on your bed. Then put all the money you expect you'll need. Put half the clothes back and get twice the money." (Thanks, Aunt Rachel for this gem!)
  • all of our camping gear went into a plastic foot locker. The rigid case gave us a platform to stack our clothing duffels on top of.

Does this make us Campers 2.0?
On using the web when you can't get cell signal
From Cross Country 2009
  • Starbucks provides 2 free hours of wi-fi internet access per day. Simply purchase a stored value on a Starbucks card and register on their website. We did virtually all of this blogging from Starbucks stores.
  • Twitter updates were a great way to notify our friends about our progress.
  • I have tied my Facebook status to my Twitter updates so my FB friends could also see our progress.
  • Twitpic lets you post a picture taken on your cameraphone to your Twitter (and my Facebook) status.
  • Know that you will encounter dead zones. Mount Rushmore and surrounding areas was awful for my AT&T service. Be patient.
  • I like Google's Picasa Web Albums for photo sharing because I heart their geotagging feature.
Now I'm off to organize my travel journal, a handwritten description of my journey with lots of little bits I scrapped together during the trip.

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