Tag Archives: road trip adventure

three college friends in car road trip

Petey, The Other “Man” In My Life.

A car is more than just a mode of transportation. It is your sanctuary, your vehicle to escape the outside world. I have a greater relationship with my car than I might like to admit.

I came to this conclusion recently while running errands. Before I had a car, who I call Petey, I felt trapped. I hated not having the freedom to just get up and go somewhere, whenever I wanted. I didn’t like relying on other people to take me places.

Besides the rewarding independence owning a car gives us, I think it’s the things we do inside our automobiles that really says something about our connection to them. For example, I love singing when I’m alone. But this is difficult to do when you’re living in a dorm or a sorority house. Now that I have Petey at college, I make sure to listen to my “Sing Along” playlist every single time I’m in my car because I know it might be a week until I have that alone time again. A fifteen minute drive to the grocery store where I have my own little private concert is a simple pleasure that often gets taken for granted, but when gone without, leaves a huge hole in my life.

Cars are our little safety blankets where we can truly be ourselves without the outside world seeing. We can pretend to be Adele, explore our deepest thoughts, practice what we’re going to say to the person we’re driving to meet.

Once we get to our destination, it’s back to the real world. So never take for granted the time you spend in your car.

shool black board

Never Stop Learning…

There are a lot of factors that make a road trip worthy of being called great. There’s the people you travel with, the people you meet along the way, the planned stops, the unplanned stops, etc.

I was thinking about the road trips I have been on- what my favorite ones were and why- and I have come to the conclusion that all great road trips have valuable life lessons.

When my friends and I drove to Portland for a spring break in high school, I learned that I naturally step into a leadership role when needed. I also learned that it’s okay to be irresponsible now and then.

When I went to Whistler with my sorority sisters, I learned that texting while driving is a real issue and that my friend is a terrible driver. That same trip, I learned how to drive in the snow and how to convert kilometers to miles.

My most recent road trip was with a big group of my friends to The Gorge. We fit eight of us into my friend’s camper. I realized that I can handle way more than I thought I could (camping, smelly sleeping bags and gross bathrooms… ). Most importantly, I learned that I have the best group of friends I could’ve asked for.

I believe that if you don’t take away a new insight from a road trip, it’s just another long car ride.

Driving by cars on Intersate 5 to seattle

Hula Betty vs. I5

night traffic“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” -Greg Anderson

I don’t know who Greg Anderson is but he could not be more wrong.

When I’m moving at 5mph on I-5 North through Portland, just ten miles away from the bridge that will get me to my home state, there is absolutely no joy in focusing on the journey. There is road rage, but not joy.

Maybe I don’t like focusing on the journey because it is too predictable. I know the drive from the University of Oregon campus to my house in Poulsbo, Washington like the back of my hand. I know how long it should take me to get to certain landmarks along the way, I know the top speeds I can get away with driving at, & I know that the destination of home is much better than this 5 hour journey.

I’ve done this same back and forth drive up and down I-5 for three years now and it doesn’t get better. The most pleasure I get out of it is when I break a personal record in the amount of time it takes me to get from school to home or vice versa.

(I’ve made it in five hours flat, my goal is to shave twenty minutes off of that time.)

Another game I like to play is testing how successful I am at weaving through traffic, changing lanes at the right time to pass a certain car/truck I’ve picked out of the crowd. This is my entertainment, my distraction from thinking about the journey.

I know this blog is about road trips- great ones, last ones- so me bitching about least favorite ones seems a little pointless, right? I am not writing this to deter you from taking future road trips. I am writing this to encourage your automotive travels. Even though I hate the drive from college to home to college, I still do it as often as I can.

Why put myself through this? Because the destination is worth it, and much better than the journey.

Road trips can be a lot of fun and you can learn a lot from them. But the next time you are stuck in traffic, angry at the world, remember this: Focus on the destination, not the journey. It’s worth the cramped legs and expensive gas prices.

utha state welcome sign

All About Getting There – Day 2 UTBDR

butterflyLet me start right here… if you came back to read about the other thing, then please look away while I quietly hang my head in shame and prepare to symbolically attempt to disembowel myself with a dull camp spoon. We tried… We found it. We walked up to the abyss and looked over the edged. But the gods were not smiling on us this day and we decided we would do the other thing on the way back.

Guns and ammo go together on an adventure like PB&J… We have one and were low on the other. Driving through Idaho offers a plethora of choices when it comes to outdoor shops that sell ammo… In fact I’m pretty sure that Starbucks has a box or two hidden behind the 43 different selections of travel mugs emblazoned with corporate logo. But Cabela, the grandaddy of all outdoor stores, was there calling to us like Homer’s (not Simpson) sirens.

outdoor outfittersStanding in front of the eight shelf high, 30 foot long, isle of handgun ammo, we were immediately asked if we had a Cabela’s card. Usually I just respond no thank you… but as the words started to form in my head, I heard the sales guy finish his sentence with, and you get a discount and $20 off your purchase. Shifting to the calculator app in my head; a train traveling west with two guys carrying two new Cabela cards and two boxes of ammo at $40 dollars off… “Yes, we’d love to sign up for a card”.

After being ushered to the credit desk, two young outdoor outfitters (yes that is how they are addressed) who I’m pretty sure have seen more tanning booths than deer stands, started us down the process. Name, address, income, blah, blah…

Ok let me be the first to tell you I chat up retail folks… I worked retail… I know how pain in the ass customers can be… And I know most clerks are doing their best… So when I have an opportunity in line to break their monotonous routine, I jump in, with both feet. Since the card printer was down for a few minutes (turns out 40 minutes was the number) I started to chit chat.

I’m sure at first they thought creeper… but they came around. Did you know you can’t buy Everclear in Idaho but you can make a 15 minute to Ontario Oregon and buy it. Apparently you can also get good medical marijuana there too (not sure if Idaho only had bad) pot. We also learned about the pecking order of Cabela retail floor politics, who was dating who and plenty more about the stuffed moose head above then you could ever imagine…The Band

We left Cabela’s with our 13 cent boxes of ammo… yes after all that each box still cost us 13 cents and an hour of our lives we will never get back… but I’m cheap, the company was good and we spent more time laughing then not… I’d call that a win.

We caught up with the Other Paul camping a little past the Logan River. But not before make a couple more wrong turns and spending an eternity in a fast food line with the intention to grab a quick snack.

We made it. Brad, Paul and the other Paul, the band, set to drive UTBDR… Three guys, two trucks and one big sense of adventure.

Next : Utah Backcounty Discovery Route Day 3

walmart parking lot camping

Hillbilly Hand Signaling – Day 1 UTBDR

I’ve been thinking about this adventure since arriving back from the last off-road adventure. High mountain desert, red dirt, canyons and wide open sky. But between here and there is more than 900 miles of asphalt.

After bouncing off walls at work for the better part of the day it was finally time to cut out and pick up the navigator… I can drive but I’ll be the first to admit I’d drive around in circles on a highway overpass without someone to point the way. And while Brad can navigate, apparently the science of telling time completely escapes him. It wasn’t until 4:30 p.m. that we finally had his gear packed and were on the road, just in time to sit in Friday night traffic as everyone in Portland made a brake from their 9 to 5 five lives heading into a weekend.

I enjoy road trips and driving late into the night is a bonus when you have a friend by your side. Brad and I haven’t gotten together much since our Baja way off-road adventure, but without missing a beat we picked up where we left off, chatting, laughing and bickering like an old married couple.

There are two things I absolutely want to do on this trip… One we’ll do on day 2 (I know the suspense will be devastating… but you’ll just have to come back to find out that one). But the other must do thing, presented itself to us at two thirty in the morning as we pulled off the highway and headed into the little city that sits on the border of Oregon and Idaho known as Ontario, Oregon.

Urban legend talks about it. But until you experience it, you really can’t understand the true joy that hilly billy, white trash red necks find in setting up camp in the Walmart parking lot. I’m not kidding here, throwing down carpet on the asphalt parking lot below the pale yellow glare of sodium lamps atop 30 foot poles as bugs dance to their rhythmic hum is the thing I just had to do. And I’m not alone in this quest… easily a dozen campers, horse trails and popup tents fill the back edge of the parking lot as shoppers continue to come and go 24 hours a day.

Don’t ask me why… I don’t even really know why, but to experience camping, not trailering, in a Walmart parking lot was on the list…

Tomorrow we meet up with the other Paul around Bear Lake, the starting point of our Utah Backcountry Discovery Route  off-road adventure. We’ll also get to the first thing on the list. However the adventure unfolds, tonight I have a grin that I can’t explain and feeling that this is going to be another epic off-road adventure.

Next : Utah Backcounty Discovery Route Day 2

kitsap county hills

Day Tripper Diary

hula girl Sure 5,000 mile road trips are amazing… But if you remember to look, a trip around the corner can be just as much an adventure. The other day we went out to scout locations for a video shoot. Looking around at local state parks, old run down buildings, city alleys, or any funky looking place.

Really just an excuse to get out, roll down the windows and feel the road. Somewhere along the way we started to see the same old places in a new way.

If you ever want to make a stir… roll into a Jeep dealership, park your FJ Cruiser square in the middle, hop out with a camera and start snapping pictures of their blow up Hula Girl on the roof. But a 30 foot tall hula girl… Really, what are the chances. And of course we introduced them to Hula Betty.

shellfish harvestShellfish abound on the beaches around here in the northwest and when the season is open, families come together for harvest. Wandering down by sound, we found families, everyone from kids to grandmas, working the beds.  I sat there for what seemed like hours, just watching them dig, listening to the gulls and thinking how this same scene was playing out on coasts all around the world.

bremerton portSome cities are separated by tracks.  We live on the other side of the sound. The trailer park we call Kitsap County. For decades it was only vacation cabins and the Navy base.  Things on this side of the water have changed over the years but the shipyard waterfront is still an anchor for visitors with its museums, docks, restaurants and shops… stray from the boardwalk and you find out just how long a hangover lasts from a no-growth policy instituted in the 80’s.  The water front has perked back up but there is still a long way to go.

The county is richer for growing up around the base.  The richness of the area does not appear in housing values or car dealerships but in the cultural diversity that surrounds most any port town.  Drive through Bremerton or Silverdale and the faces you’ll see reflect all the continents of the world.  mother and childSailors have always traveled to exotic ports around the world, fallen in love and settled down with their families back here when their discharge papers came through.

Between here and there is Green Mountain. Weaving through 6,000-acre working forest is 13 miles of trails mostly used by mountain bikers and horseback riders.  A gravel road will take you most of the way to the top where a short hike delivers amazing views.  No one really uses the road, which means it’s a good opportunity to slowly meander and look for bear and dear who call the woods home.

hiking trailThere is a horse camp halfway up Green Mountain that offers a few camp sites on a first come first server basis.  It’s a dry camp with a couple of holes in the ground for outhouses. This is the kind of camping I enjoy… Rant coming so you may want to skip to the next paragraph: I’ve always thought of camping as getting away from it all and simplifying life, even if it is only for a weekend.  But RV travelers pay top dollar for the hookups these days, camping is big business. The places I used to enjoy in my youth were just a flat spot at the end of long dirt road.  The nice ones had a hand pump for potable water. These secluded spots now have blacktop, yellow lines, electricity, showers and firewood for sale with only one or two tent sites stuck in between the trailers. There is nothing wrong with RVing and I know all things change…  However, when I hear how state parks are closing because they can’t afford the up keep, I wounder if returning a few of them back to a more rustic, pack it in/pack it out, no frills setup wouldn’t help a little with the budget woes.  Of course the campers who leave behind their garbage and feel the forest is their personal junkyard don’t help any of us.

We didn’t find a location that quite fit the bill… but the day provided the break we were looking for… quiet places, rolled down windows and the feel of the road.

easter washington farm land

Back To Our Road Tripping Roots

One of my fondest memories growing up was a road trip where Dad piled the family in the station wagon, you know the one, with fake wood on side and drove the long way from Oklahoma to Saskatchewan, Canada.  By long way I mean we saw Disney Land,  Wall Drugs, San Francisco, and  Glacier National Park along the way as we zigged and zagged our way north.musher with dog harnesses

I remember driving late into the night, sitting up front with Dad while Mom, Bother and Sister were sacked out in the back.  That was back in the day when you could fold the seats flat, through pillows and blankets down and sleep without worry of seat belts getting in the way as you drove 80 down the highway.

We drove through death valley in the middle of a summer heatwave with the windows down.  Not because we didn’t have air conditioning but because Brother would complain about a headache if the air conditioner was on.  At some point we found ourselves in the middle of a cow pasture with bulls looking longingly at our sexy green station wagon.  There was driving through chicago where Mom was convinced we would be car jack and some little country town where camped over night in the city’s park.  The switchback roads took us over the continental divide with Mom screaming each time the wagon got near the guardrail and she could see down the cliff edge.sled dogs howling

We saw Four Corners, Carlsbad Caverns, the petrified forest, Mount Rushmore, the redwood forest and countless little caves (Dad was really into caves that trip).  I learned to fly fish in Yellow Stone.  We wandered through curio shops each time Dad stopped to get gas, spent hours playing road trip bingo and bedded down in KOA camps most nights.  Sister celebrated a birthday on the road with one little candle in a store bought cupcake.  Bother and I fought in the back, Sister cried and Mom yelled while Dad just kept driving.  This was a family road trip that only the Griswold’s could appreciate.  Yet it remains on of my best childhood memories…musher and sled dogs

I recently drove over the Cascade Mountains to the little town of Quincy.  I’ve made the trip a couple of times before but this time I was in no hurry.
Having left at O’dark thirty I was well ahead of schedule as I reached the mountain pass and decided to take a detour and see how the sled dog trails were holding up after the recent weeks of snow.

The lot where the guys with snow machines hang out was empty covered in a several inches of snow and ice.  Motoring around through the lot and around the corner to the sled dog lot, I found a lone trailer with a picket line of dogs resting in the morning’s light.  columbia riverStriking up a conversation with their owner, as he stepped out of the trail, he was eager to tell me about each and everyone of the dogs like a father bragging about his son’s law school graduation.  He explained where he had picked up each dog, it’s personality and where it fit on the gang line.

We exchanged ideas on dog trailers and shared the reasons why we loved the solitude of the trail. The conversation’s volume was soft and low, as if somehow it would be wrong to break the morning calm with our voices.  We continued our
conversation as he dressed the dogs and readied them for their first run of morning. Within seconds of the last dog hooked up he was waving good bye and dashing down the trail behind a handful of four-legged athletes.windmills

Don Quixote of La Mancha tilted at windmills.  These days heading east toward Quincy the windmills generate power, standing out more than ever like hulking giants, towering above the land, armed for battle with their giant swords.

On the east side farmlands fill the landscape and winter fields lie waiting for spring.  Washington’s rich land sleeps through the cold winter following a cycle that has repeated itself a million times before we arrived. But it is the high-tech world that brought me to Quincy and I would now trade in my drive line for a set of hard drives.

I tell you those stories so that I can tell you this one…

Driving to the market this morning I caught myself thinking how much I love a good road trip and realized I’ve never really had a bad one.  It doesn’t seem to matter the destination.  The one thing that has been consistent is how I approach the journey…  Eager to see what is around the next corner, ready to take an unexpected turn and a heart wide open to everything that the road has to offer.

fj cruiser river wiseman alaska

Arctic Circle Adventure – Top to Bottom

Here is a quick index to our Arctic Circle road trip adventure. This father / son road trip adventure is the one that started it all.  It was a once in a life time adventure that took us from Seattle, WA. to the North Slope of Alaska where we stood in the Arctic Ocean.  And just for good measure we went over to Inuvik, Canada driving to the northern most town in the remote Northern Territories. What started as two weeks, turned into three as father and son continued to explore the tundra together.

We hope our stories and pictures inspire you to start your own adventure.

We want to thank all our sponsors, including lead sponsor Metal Tech, who helped make this adventure possible.  Please be sure to let them know you appreciate their contributions.

yreka welcome sign

Baja Adventure – The Fat Lady Sings

two laughing men driving fj cruiserThe route from the Mexican border to the Pacific Northwest took us straight up I5.  The drive was filled with trucks, diners, orchards and the occasional swarm of bees impaling themselves on our windshield trying to cross the highway.  There was a slight detour through Oakland when left to my own directional choices and I apparently made a wrong choice…  That’s what Brad gets for slacking off on the navigation duties.

We were closing in on the end of our adventure but continued to enjoy every minute as if it was the best part of the adventure, even the ones in Oakland.  We started the adventure searching for solitude, friendship and answers to some of the questions that haunt a man’s soul.snow covered Mount Shasta

Friends and family ask me why I do these adventures.  Hula Betty would tell you it’s my mid-life crisis.  Some say I’m lucky. Others say I’m just crazy.

I’ve spent a lot of time on this Baja adventure trying to answer that question for myself.  Why do I go out and explore?  Why do I  challenge convention?  Why do I push the limits and chase these adventures.

yreka ca city signI’ve stood in the Arctic Ocean, completed Rubicon, explored the corners of Baja, lived in India, worked in Hong Kong and circled the globe three times.  These off-road adventures have filled my life with unbelievable memories. My life has been dragged across blacktop, dirt and boulders.  I’ve seen countless sun rises and loved deeply.  I’ve driven to places I shouldn’t have and met people who surprised me in so many wonderful ways. My life stories are spread across the Internet and tattooed in flesh. So why is it not enough?

Late at night there’s demons in my head, whispering in my ear.  In the light, Hula Betty’s hand is on my shoulder telling me there is nothing to fear.  I feel a darkness deep in my my soul serving some purpose that is still unknown.  The road shines a light on that darkness, illuminating the empty space that can only be filled by moving past the asphalt, past the ordinary, beyond the usual.  God don’t let me lose my nerve to explore.  Don’t let me stop.  Keep me on the road of exploration wrestling with my demons and making new friends.man driving fj cruiser

This off-road adventure brought me closer to a friend, exposed a side of me I’d forgotten and fed my lust for adventure.  Although I’m closer to the answers it seams each adventure brings up new questions.  It is this craving for the questions, more than the answers that will continue to drive my adventures and search out the next last great road trip.

LA traffic day and night

Drive All The Way To LA (note from the road)

man hat closeup baja off road adventure navigatorHow do I start to tell you about this epic off-road adventure through the Baja?  Two days into the adventure and we haven’t left the blacktop or even the country yet.

We left Portland several hours later than planned.  We always leave later than planned, but we still managed to make it down to Sacramento, 580 miles and 10 hours later.  I would like to describe to you the beautiful Willamette valley, Mt. Shasta’s majestic snow capped peaks, wooded lakes, and star filled clear skies.  I would like to describe these to you with the clarity of a diamond flashing in the sunlight.  But the truth is that it rained buckets the entire way with fog and cloud cover that limited our views to 10 feet either side of the white line that droned in front of us mile after mile.  After dragging our bags into the hotel room and settling in, sleep took us before the lights even dimmed from flicking off the switch.

Our late starts continued into day two after confusing PM & AM when setting the alarm at three in the morning the night before.  Sacramento to Carlsbad is 475 miles straight down I5 and I do mean straight!  The drive from Sacrament to LA put the majority down the majority of the miles.  Driving from LA to Carlsbad, a mire 88 miles, took about same amount of time.  Crossing into LA at 4:00 PM on a Friday managed to embed us in traffic that we slogged threw for the next four hours.  But out of the ashes of city grid lock our spirits were raised as we were welcomed into Bernie and Tammy’s casa.

There are no two people more wonderful in the world.  With nothing more than a phone call to Bernie that we would be in the area soon, they opened up their house, killed the fatted calf and cracked open the good stuff.  Over an amazing meal that Bernie prepared for us we chatted until the 1,000 plus miles of the last two days were washed off.  We talked about Mexico, family, how boys grow up to be men and the influences of Italian cathedral architecture on garden gates.  Tammy and Bernie brought us into their home and gave us a glimpse of how true friendship was meant to be expressed.

42 miles from Mexico to Carlsbad and still a world away.  Tomorrow we’ll cross the boarder and find the desert solitude we seek.  But tonight we were rewarded with company that will forever fill the endless empty spaces.