The 3 months since the end of our extended road trip has been a whirl of activity: family events on the coast and in Mexico, Stuart commuting to Vancouver for a teaching assignment, a last-minute trip to Sweden for Michaela, and spending Canada Day 150 in Halifax. Now settling into a bit of a routine in Penticton, we look longingly at VanGogh parked in our driveway…
We have put together some trip statistics and some highlights for those interested in such things. We are often asked to identify a favourite place which we find impossible to do. Most of our trip involved being in new places and undoubtedly the novelty factor has played a role in those places or activities that first pop into our minds. These highlights in no way detract from the rest.
But first, some stats…
26,300 km [average cost for VanGogh $0.10/km]
Longest single day drive: 965km [Reno to Emigrant Springs State Park, Oregon]
95 unique camping sites [average $32/night]
Cheapest=free (boondocking) 21 nights / Most expensive=$74 South Padre Island, Texas
Highest Temperature: 37C Death Valley (April)
Lowest Temperature: -3C Petrified Forest, Arizona (November) & Emigrant Springs SP, Oregon (April)
Highest elevation: Bryce Canyon 9000 ft (2743.2m)
Lowest elevation: Death Valley -282 ft (89m)
USA National Parks/Forests/Monuments: 28
- Coconino National Forest
- Coronado National Memorial
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Montezuma Castle National Monument
- Organ Pipe Cactus National monument
- Pipe Spring National Monument
- Saguaro National Park
- Hot Springs National Park
- Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
- Death Valley National Park
- Golden Gate National Recreation Area
- Joshua Tree National Park
- Redwoods National Park
- New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park
- Natchez National Historic Park
- Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail
- Vicksburg National Military Park
- Mead Lake National Recreation Area
- Red Rocks Canyon National Conservation Area
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park
- White Sands National Monument
- Shiloh National Military Park
- Big Bend National Park
- Padre Island National Seashore
- Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park
- San Antonio Missions National Historic Park
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Zion National Park
Our attempt to identify highlights (in no particular order):
- Favourite hike: we loved them all as they each offered unique features, but we’d probably identify Grand Canyon (the first and long-awaited visit to GC) and the hike in Bryce Canyon (up close & personal with the hoodoos).
- Favourite bike ride: again, each offered new scenery or new terrain (and challenges). We probably most enjoyed the rides in Saguaro National Park and the San Antonio Missions Park, for opposite reasons. The first was hilly and challenging and hot but we’d do it again in a heartbeat. The second made the sights of the city easily accessible on a dedicated pathway separate from traffic. This feature also applies to Tucson. We would also identify our ride in Zion National Park with the caveat that what made it awesome was that it was car-free at the time we went. Only bikes and bus shuttles were allowed.
- Favourite beach: Cerritos Beach, just south of Todos Santos, Baja California Sur. For the unbeatable west coast sunsets and for being able to go into the surf. Another favourite was Santispac beach on the other side of the Baja peninsula, just south of Mulegé. This one is in a calm, quiet bay, ideal for wading or kayaking, and one can camp on the beach all winter (if desired) for $5/night. For sunrise beach walks (water not safely accessible), one can’t beat East Cape or Los Cabos in the Baja.
- Favourite road: probably Big Sur for it’s unbeatable views at every turn.
- Roughest road: “graded” dirt road in Big Bend National Park (21 miles of sand, rocky wash-outs, washboard surface, and deep ruts)
- Favourite dining experience: Commander’s Palace, New Orleans. How can you go wrong with a 3-martini lunch by tuxedo-clad servers with a choreographed service.
- Best historical experience: Lorraine Hotel, Memphis and the MLK story. Although, in reality, all the historical experiences were moving (Little Rock High School museum, Oklahoma City bombing memorial, Louisiana State Museum, Natchez Trace and the Trail of Tears, slave memorial at Whitney Plantation)
- Most unusual experiences: the history of the Roswell UFO, playing in the White Sands right beside the missile range, clothing-optional spa in the middle of the desert….hmmm, these were all in New Mexico. Nuf said.
- Best underground experience: Antelope Canyon for the sheer light and colour play in a slot canyon. Carlsbad Caverns for it’s vastness and variety of limestone formations.
- Best beverage: Mexican margaritas.
- Best snack: Lays chips with a couple of Coronas. Especially over Scrabble games.
- Best serviced campground: KOA in South Padre Island as they provided Christmas lunch for everyone.
- Best boon docking: three were spectacular, the first on an Oregon beach (county land), the second on BLM lands just on the edge of Joshua Tree National Park, and the third at Cabo Pulmo on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula (and difficult to access).
- Most kitschy experience: Branson, Missouri.
- Poshest experience: all-inclusive resort (Decameron) for 3 nights in San José del Cabo.
- VanGogh’s best experience: Valet parking at Fairmont Newport Beach hotel. And getting a wash and wax at the campground in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico.
We really didn’t have any terrible experiences and we remember different things at different times. So our “highlights” might look very different on another day. That is the beauty and challenge of taking our life on the road.