6100 Miles. 15 States. 18 Days. (Part 1 of 4)
Our journey of 6100 miles, 15 States in 18 days will be told in a four part blog by taking excerpts from my travel journal. This was a life changing experience that I hope can inspire others to take the chance on a road trip across the beautiful Northwest.
9/13/17 Day minus 1: The Dodge Journey I rented is packed to the brim with camping gear, freeze dried meals, dog food, dog toys, and a spread of clothes appropriate for all four seasons. In less than 12 hours, Chance and I will begin the longest road trip we've taken. We will cross 15 states lines, we will camp a lot, and we will drive more than 86 hours in 18 days. I'm ready. Well, at least I hope I am.
9/14/17 Day 1: As we left Nashville in our rear view mirror today, lots of emotions were going through my head. Excitement for the miles ahead of us, gratitude for the opportunity to take a road trip with my pup, inspiration for the places we will go, some fear in doing this alone and a little bit of sadness for those people I know I'll miss.
I realized today though how lucky I am that Chance rides so well. He slept most of the way across Tennessee and into Arkansas. We stopped at T. R. Pugh Memorial State Park in North Little Rock, AR to see the Old Mill that was used in the opening shots of Gone with the Wind. It was there that we experienced our first of many "NO PETS ALLOWED" signs, so we stretched our legs, took a few pics and left.
We arrived at our first campsite at Petit Jean State Park in Morrilton, AR just before dusk. I set up camp and rigged up a zip line for Chance. While he chased bugs, I worked a little before lighting my pocket stove to cook dinner. Tonight's cuisine was Mountain House's freeze dried chili mac with beef. I have to say it was not only fulfilling, but quite tasty! To help with budgeting on this trip, I bought about 20 freeze dried meals, lots of cheap healthy snacks and food that doesn't need to be in a cooler to stay good. Day 1 is behind us, time to get some sleep.
9/15/17 Day 2: We survived what was Chance's first official night in a tent. Well, sort of survived. The air mattress I bought sucks and kept deflating, so by 4:00 a.m., we got in the truck to finish our sleep. We woke a little before 7 a.m., just in time to watch the sun rise over our tent and to boil water for a good cup of coffee and an instant oatmeal pack for breakfast while I worked. One of the agreements I made with my company, given we are a small company with only three in the finance department, was that I would work as much as I could in order to take 18 days out of the office. So not only do we have a challenging trip itinerary, I am working as well, so time management is key in order for us to do it all.
I have found as a single female traveling alone with her dog and setting up camp, building fires and cooking on a pocket stove, one might start to feel like a badass . . . well, until it takes almost an hour to take down camp. I must figure out how to do that a lot quicker if we are going to get the most out of our time on this trip. So, due to my problematic way of packing up, we lost precious minutes and only did a short hike in the park. I think we will come back here for a weekend trip soon to take in the many trails Petit Jean State Park has to offer.
Today we crossed two more state lines. We stopped at Joe Station Dog Park in Tulsa, OK to give Chance some play time with other dogs and let out some energy. He loves meeting new dogs so I know I'll incorporate many dog park stops along our way.
I don't have a lot to say about Oklahoma other than it is flat and every time I saw a farmhouse in the middle of a field, I couldn't help but to think of the movie Twister. Not being a fan of tornados, I may have gone over the speed limit as the dark storm clouds moved in on us today, just to get the hell out of this state.
We have safely landed at the KOA in Wellington, KS for the night. Tent is pitched, the air mattress that I trashed in Arkansas, has been replaced by a thin green mat, and Chance is chasing bugs again, which I think has been one of his favorite things on this trip so far. And me . . . well, I am just enjoying a whiskey and solitude before bed.
9/16/17 Day 3: Ok, badass status has been restored. I tore down our tent and packed up in 15 minutes. YES! We got on the road by 6:30 a.m., but before leaving Wellington, we stopped at this cute little coffee place on the square called No.7 Coffee House. Sweet staff and great lattes.
As we rolled through Kansas, we had a little preview of the movie Wizard of Oz with passing storms . . . no witch appeared, but I did sing an off key version of "Somewhere over the Rainbow" to Chance as a double rainbow peeked through the clouds. We stopped in Great Bend, KS to let Chance play at a dog park while I enjoyed the conversation with the other local dog parents. Then we followed the red brick road to a chique little bistro named The Paisley Pear in downtown Hays, KS to enjoy some delicious tomato basil soup and chicken salad on a croissant. (highly recommended stop for lunch)
Throughout our drive through Kansas, we stopped along the back roads we were traveling, snapping pics of the windmills and wild flowers lining dirt roads. This is also where I realized how a missed photo opportunity can haunt you for a moment. We passed this beautiful red barn in a field of yellow flowers, but because someone was pretty close behind me, I decided not to stop and take a picture, thinking I'd find something similar up the road. I didn't, so it made me wish I had captured the beauty of that farm. I'll be more mindful of opportunities like this in the miles ahead and turn around next time!
Tonight we crossed into our 4th state, Colorado, to stay at an Airbnb in Loveland. I love Colorado and reminisced about my trip here with my daughter in 2010. I wish she was with me on my road trips; she would love it. The Airbnb left much to be desired, but it was just for a night. I ended up giving them an "ok" review but I probably should have been more honest which makes me wonder if I was like the other guests before me, leaving rave reviews out of courtesy. Hmmmm.
These last three days, we've done a lot of driving (1500 miles so far). It has been a great bonding experience for Chance and me, and has helped us establish a good routine. It has also put to rest the fears I had before we left Nashville. I doubted that I would be able to do this alone with Chance. I was scared that during the drive through the first couple of states, I would turn around with my tail between my legs and go back, shameful for not being brave enough to face the miles ahead. I didn't share these feelings with anyone at the time, because it's hard to be vulnerable when so many were commenting on my Facebook posts about how brave I was, and that they were living vicariously through me. Yet here I am on Day 3, restored with confidence, knowing that I can and WILL continue this journey. I am proud that I made it through Arkansas (State #1), Oklahoma (State #2), Kansas (State #3) and are here in Colorado (State #4). I am a little impressed that I can set up a tent and build a fire by myself. BUT mostly I'm blessed to be on this journey with my incredible furbaby. That's what the last 1500 miles has given to me . . . now I'm just curious what the next 4500 will bring....
In parts 2-4 of this series, I will share some of the most beautiful sites as I take you on our adventure through the Northwest states. I hope you will continue this incredible journey with us of 6100 Miles. 15 States. 18 Days.
Until then . . . Keep Wandering!