38 Day Overland Adventure

38 Day Overland Adventure

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There's nothing better than your boss telling you that you've got too much time saved up, and you need to take a vacation. That's exactly what happened with me. Without a second thought, my wife, Heather, and I packed up that night and set out at exactly midnight on what ended up being a 38-day expedition through the most rural and unforgiving parts of the USA. This sounds easy enough, but we were loaded down with supplies not only for ourselves, but our two girls Emma and Lacy, and 3 Greyhound dogs wit appetites worthy of feeding a military platoon.

On day one we left East Tennessee and drove 17 hours to the TX/OK border town of Texola. We raced darkness and finally set up camp at the only established campground on the entire trip, Double-D campground. That night, we survived a severe storm while sleeping in 2 roof top tents, unbeknownst to us that it was even occurring. Soaked and miserable in the morning, we awoke, dried off, and continued West.

Our second day was hot and dry. We again drove into the night to finally reach our destination, Silver Creek Canyon, just outside Holbrook, AZ. We disassembled our tents to dry out, opting instead to sleep inside the 4Runner. As soon as the sun broke the horizon, we were consumed in relentless heat. We downed 11 gallons of water that day, depleting our stock in only 9 hours. Feeling completely inadequate and unprepared, we continued onward reaching Sedona a few hours later. There we began to realize that what we were doing was quite dangerous, and we needed to plan our next moves before leaving. Everyone had told us ͞Desert heat is a dry heat͟ which sounded promising until I realized that the heat in your oven is dry heat too.

38 Day Overland Adventure  

After staying a couple of days in Sedona, we headed to the Grand Canyon South Rim to escape the heat. We reached the Canyon at dusk and surprisingly, we found solitude. It was us, our 4Runner, and a single tree for as far as we could see. The feeling of dread that I had experienced the days prior was gone, and we sat out under the stars for several hours, admiring this planet we call home. The following day we continued north into Utah. Knowing it would again be quite hot, I searched our maps for hours and finally located a perfect spot on Lake Powell. We stopped to restock supplies at a shady, busy grocery store before going to the lake. We found out later that this wasn't a clever idea. That ͞oven͟ heat hit hard, just in time for us to reach the lake. Becoming excited, I drove into a dry riverbed, only to learn it wasn't the trail. I then had to back nearly a mile out of the narrow riverbed, pushing a trailer the entire time. I became a professional trailer backer that day. We finally made it to the shore and set up where we stayed for several days and enjoyed the cool waters.

The name Poverty Flats doesn't inspire confidence when camping somewhere with such a disparaging name. We took our chances and stopped at this place just prior to reaching the Valley of Fire and Las Vegas. The campsite was flat but there wasn't any poverty as far as we could tell. That uneventful night was a good night’s sleep.

We stopped to refuel in Vegas, but our card was declined. Confused, I checked online and found that while in that shady Utah grocery store, all but $12 was stolen from our debit card. There we were 2,308 miles from home, with $12 and our ͞safety͟ cash. Thankfully, I called our bank and they quickly refunded the cash.

We continued into Death Valley, CA seeing the hottest temperature we've ever witnessed: 119F. We chose not to camp in Death Valley since our goal was to reach the Pacific Ocean. We finally did so when wemade it to Pismo Beach by sunset. The smell of ocean was a relief and the girls enjoyed the sand, while I enjoyed a beer. The biggest surprise of the beach was the fact that Pacific water is cold year-round. This is much different than the Atlantic beaches we frequent. 

We set out the next day, feeling accomplished and upbeat to begin the journey eastward. We made it up to Donner Pass near Truckee, CA, camped and were snowed on. Twice. In August. We left quickly the next day and proceeded back east eventually making it to ͞The Loneliest Highway in America.͟ I found some Hot Springs right off the highway in Nevada. We stayed at these springs for about a week meeting many locals, as well as the very colorful ͞Burning Man͟ crowd that poured in for the festivities. It was hot, averaging 104 degrees, but I learned that you can remove the water from the hot spring during the day, let it cool, then use it to cool down every few hours.

Having enjoyed the ͞healing waters͟ of the springs, we headed to Green River, UT. This is a future ghost town about 1 hour north of Moab. I say future because the town seems to be crumbling, with the youth leaving for bigger, better things. It's somewhat sad since the town has its own little charm. If someone would tap into the rafting opportunities surrounding the town, it might see a renaissance. We explored the canyons around this town for days, eventually making it into Moab. Everyone knows Moab, and rightfully so. It is off-road heaven, resembling Mars with its red and orange rocks and arches. We spent several days exploring Moab and Canyonlands NP Island in the Sky district. Colorado was next.

You see more roof top tents in Colorado than you do at Overland Expo. Telluride looked like something out of an off-road magazine. A small town dwarfed by the megalithic mountains that surround it. The beauty of the town comes at a price though, and we couldn't afford to stay here long. The cost of living was comparable to California! We left Telluride and headed to Gunnison, CO. Here we stayed for several days, before finally beginning the journey home.

The trip was full of strife, laughter, anger, and hard-work. Spending over a month in a 4Runner with 7 living beings was one of the most challenging things I have ever done. As a family, however, we learned that all the things we possess and think we need each day are just that:  things. Everything we needed was with us. 

My daughters, Emma and Lacey, did surprisingly well during the whole trip. I expected a lot more crying and whining but they really enjoyed it. Their favorite place by far was Spencer's hot springs in Nevada. They loved playing in the hot water at night and the wild burros hee-hawing while we were laying in the tents. It was surely the highlight of their trip. 

Overland travel isn't what you see on Instagram, it's not easy, and it's sometimes not fun. With that said, 8,777 miles later, I learned that the only thing we really have in this world is each other, and I wouldn't trade that for anything.

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