Yeehaw, Utawh (Days 1-4)

Leaving Home

This year, our summer trip began a bit unconventionally. We left our house for the last time, walking room-by-room to recount a few of the memories. Then, we locked up and headed northwest – primary destinations being Utah, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

The route will likely be our longest-ever in terms of total miles. To maximize time, we did something uncharacteristic and decided to drive until evening and find a hotel room. I’m normally too much of a penny pincher to stay in a hotel, but we figured it was worth it to get further up the road, plus save time by not having to setup camp in the dark or tear down the next morning.

Day 1 – The Drive

Our first day put us 12 hours up the road at a Springfield Suites by Marriott in Gallup, NM. It was a nice, clean room with 2 queen beds and a pull-out sofa bed. We were mindful to exercise basic precautions in case Rona visited previous guests.

Day 2 – More Driving

The next morning, we pulled out early with priorities in mind – good coffee. Typically I make my own with a hand grinder and metal pour-over filter. But, since we didn’t stay in the camper, I didn’t have those handy.

We happened upon a small joint called Gallup Coffee. I’ve had a number of disappointing cups of coffee on our many adventures, but this one was a pleasant surprise. Their in-house roast was flavorful and just the right amount of fruity. It left me wishing I’d ordered more than a double cortado.

Then, up the road we went toward our first campground, Kodachrome Basin State Park in Utah.

Kodachrome Basin

I don’t think I could have picked a more remote destination. The campground brochure seems to relish in the fact that there is zero cell reception. Thus the reason you’re reading this post days into our journey.

In total, we logged almost 1,300 miles in the first 2 days. Sadly, we thought our campsite had water and electric. But, it did not. Thankfully the June daytime temperatures were moderate. And at night – boy howdy did it get cold.

Setting up on the first night took a little longer than normal. Mostly because of a few repairs and upgrades we needed to make this season.

We added Velcro to our pop-up gizmos to make setup a cinch. We figured this was a must to protect the bunk ends from the Utah sun.

Plus, we put in a new faucet at the sink, and I replaced the fuse holder in the overhead vent, which had been inoperable since we bought the camper.

The first night, I woke up in the middle of the night shivering and had to add my long camping clothes. LaShera says these are the only times I like to cuddle.

Day 3 – Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Then, the next morning we opted for Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument as our adventure of the day.


First off, we decided to drive Hell’s Backbone. An unfinished park road that rattles your bones.

We took a number of misadventures along the way. That included me doing what men supposedly don’t do – I found a boondocker and asked if they could point us the right direction, because the turns on Hell’s Backbone aren’t well marked.

Of course, there are happy accidents. We stopped to have lunch beside a freezing stream.

And our misadventures did lead us up to some impressive stands of white birch trees. Ghostly, beautiful soldiers on the top of a mountain. For me, these trees rival redwoods and sequoias, simply because of the stark beauty of the colors against the skies.

Finally, we found an opening in the trees and the view of the back expanse of Escalante. Best enjoyed from a small bridge (Hell’s Backbone) looking straight down on both sides. Apparently the original bridge was created by some adventurous souls who felled two pines, and then a brave man who decided he could drive a bulldozer across them with a rope around his waist for safety. Today, the bridge is far more sturdy.

The girls were a bit freaked out by the vision of their lives flashing before their eyes.

After nearly 4 hours on Hell’s Backbone, we emerged on the scenic Loop 12. And I don’t think we’ve seen anything as awesome as the front expanse of Escalante.

Ridges of mountains. All different shapes, colors and formations.

After a long day, we returned toward camp. But, not without one last highlight to the day.

There is a song I sometimes play that the girls hate. It’s called Sunday Drive by Hello Dearie. As we were fueling, the song was playing. A car pulled up next to me with a couple from Colorado. In his tattooed glory, he commented on how epic the song was. (It isn’t, and he was being ironic.) Then, he asked the artist and song so he could torture his significant other. She also rolled down her window to ask if we were crossword puzzlers. The answer she was looking for – “a 3-letter word for fish eggs.”

And then, back to camp we went.

Day 4 – Bryce Canyon National Park

I don’t have the words. Honestly, I didn’t expect much from Bryce Canyon. You tend to hear more about places like Zion National Park. And, we chose Bryce Canyon for Father’s Day, because we figured it would be the least trafficked and the shortest of our park visits.

We were right regarding it not being busy.

But, we did not expect the beauty of that first span from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point. It was one of the most glorious views I have ever seen. It ranks up there with the upper peaks in Yosemite.

To make it better, we had opted for a lengthy hike around the upper rim and then down into Queen’s Garden below. The girls were troopers through the first 90% of the hike.

But, what goes down, must come up. And that journey back to the rim of the canyon about did everyone in.

Since the crew were solid sports, we stopped off in Bryce Canyon for some ice cream as a treat afterward.

And then, back to camp.

What’s up for Day 5? Time to visit Zion National Park and see how it stacks up.

Day 19: Front Porch Sittin’ in the Keys and a Whole Lot of Nothin’

We’re at that point in the journey where I always get a bit sad. We’re about 2/3 of the way through. We reached our furthest destination. Everything from this point on is technically part of the journey home.

Our journey will still take us to the Everglades for a fan boat ride. Then, we’ll enjoy some beach time in St. Petersburg, Destin and Louisiana before arriving home.

Still — I can feel the trip winding down, and a little bit of melancholy is creeping in. Of course, sitting around the campfire with these views doesn’t help.

One day I’ll make a great retired person. I’ll take my grandkids to some of these places and think back fondly to these moments spent with my kids.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

For now, we have about 8 days left to milk for all they’re worth.

So, we did a bit of rooftop swimming.

We did a little bit of feeding the key deer. These critters weren’t the least bit shy. In fact, they often ate out of our trash can like dogs. So, when I went to hang my swimsuit under the back bunk to dry tonight, and I saw movement in the dark, I had a bit of a scare.

We did a little bit of sitting around the community fire pit. The girls also hung out along the shoreline looking at fish and brightly colored crabs hiding among the rocks.

I had a little hitchhiker on my water bottle.

The day was crazy hot. So, we spent quite a bit of time in the clubhouse playing pool, ping pong, and Rummikub with the girls. The air conditioner in the camper worked. But, when the weather feels like 99 outside, the AC unit isn’t going to be able to keep up — at least not until I buy those Pop-up Gizmos for the bunk ends to help reflect solar heat.

All-in-all, it was a nice, leisurely day.

Tomorrow, we head up the keys toward the Everglades. Hopefully we’ll see some more alligators, iguanas, snakes, or whatever other critters make the Glades home.

It’s hard to believe we’re already leaving the Keys.

Somewhere along the way, we will stop at a key lime store. We figure we stopped at Peach World in Georgia, we need to find a Lime World and an Orange World while we’re in Florida.

Day 9: The Big Disney Reveal That They Thought Was a Trick

In 2017, LaShera and I were planning our first cross-country camp excursion with our children. For us, it was ambitious — from Texas to the far western coast of California, up, and back again.

On that first trip, we contemplated whether we should go for the big bang and bite off a couple of days in Disneyland. After an initial price check, and after comparing Disneyland to Disney World, we decided that perhaps that once-in-a-childhood experience for our kids would need to hold off for if we ever took a Florida trip.

As you know, we are currently on our third summer cross-country trip. This time, we were Eastbound, with a trajectory straight through Orlando.

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Day 6: Scenic in Savannah, the Random Tortoise, and Happy Bathrooms

As I begin today’s musings, I must mention one thing I neglected yesterday — Coosahachie. Most people think the name of Waxahachie, TX, is strange. But, when we drove into Georgia yesterday, we passed a place called Coosahachie. Even funnier, the initial sign was obscured behind trees. So, it took many forms by the time we saw the full word.

Coosa —
Coosaha —
Coosahach —
Coosahachie —

I think it ranks above Waxahachie, because it sounds oddly gross — like saying the word “moist.”

Now that I got that out of the way, let’s talk about today.

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Day 3: The Longest Drive, Ticks, Photos, and Possible Truck Repairs

We struck out this morning from Aberdeen, Mississippi. It was scheduled to be the longest drive of the trip, and it measured up. We crossed through Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and finished in North Carolina. Total drive time was around 11 hours.

The drive through Alabama and Georgia was beautiful — rolling green hills and beautiful pink flowers. Plus, I20 allowed for a quick pace.

We took one small detour near Birmingham, Alabama to eat at Shoney’s. It isn’t the swankiest of establishments. But, I have fond memories as a child. When we took family trips, somehow we always managed to stop for their breakfast buffet. For a husky child with an affinity for breakfast meats, it was a dream come true.

A fat boy’s breakfast dream — Shoney’s.

My mom said, “That was your dad’s and your happy place. Unlimited bacon.”

Indeed. Emmie was more than happy to eat her fill of sausage. And everyone enjoyed the french toast sticks, which were also enshrined in my childhood memory.


We finally rolled into camp in North Carolina in the dark. At this point, I know that our campsite is nice, since I could at least see that in my headlamp.

A fat raccoon paid an early visit, rustling through the foliage. He was brave — rising above the leaves to let his creepy eyes reflect the light back at me.

Beyond that, it was complete darkness when we arrived. So, I won’t know what the campground is like until morning. I do know that it has a marina, and there are at least 3 beaches nearby.

However, I also know that this place has ticks. Within 20 minutes of setting up, I felt a tickle inside my shirt and found that I had a passenger. He is no longer tickling anyone.

I did stock up on insect repellants for this trip. So, we will be testing 3 heavy duty options over the coming weeks.

Addie’s Photography

Addie is experimenting with photography. Before the trip, she saved her money to buy a nice point-and-shoot digital camera. We have had discussions about composition, the rule of thirds, and Fib’s Golden Spiral. It is fun to see how her skills are progressing.

Addie observes the different light hitting a tall pine.
Addie experiments with depth of field.
Addie tests the rule of thirds with the tree, while capturing the vivid sunlight.
Addie explores varying perspectives.

Auto Repair

Oh, and I forgot one last thing. While we were pulling into camp tonight, I noticed a creaking in the front wheel well of my truck. It sounds like it may be strut or shock related. It could also be steering related.

So, in the morning, I get to try out a local mechanic.

Let’s hope it’s nothing serious. And, let’s hope I don’t have to spend the entire day in the waiting area of an auto mechanic.

Se la vie.

My ninja suit vs. angry bees in the Valley of Fire

It was the tail end of a 26-day camping trip that took us from Texas, to New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada and Home again. It was at the peak of the 2017 Phoenix heat wave — 117 degrees outside — and we were journeying toward a place known as the Valley of Fire.

I opened the car door at a gas pump 15 miles from camp. The wind blew the door wide open — as if it might rip it from its hinges. I stepped out into what felt like a giant hair dryer. I might have looked like Beaker from the Muppets if not for my shaved head.

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