Packing For CBCG American Road Trip

When the weather gets warm in my neck of the woods I tend to get the travel itch. It gets positively HOT/HUMID by April 15 on the Gulf Coast so I like to head to less humid areas. So far, some of my favorite destinations have been NorCal and the Pacific Northwest. They have such a vibrant culture, great food, beautiful vistas, and mountains!

We are heading west on I-10, north on I-5, and then east on I-90 for the first part of our 2017 #transAmericanroadtrip.  Since I really love to get a mix of everything when I travel to a new destination, I spent quite some time planning and wanted to share what my packing list is for such a trip. We will spend our days driving, setting up camp in the R-pod 180, hiking, lounging, touristing, etc. When we stay in one place for more than a day we will spend time there doing a large assortment of activities, from relaxing on the beach with a drink in hand, to lighthouse viewing, to wandering the grounds of a National Forest or National Park. Needless to say it will be a glorious trip! Below you’ll find a list of everything I packed for three months of travelling around the USA.

Bags

Ever since my first travel disaster where over-packing put a serious damper on my trip (Atlanta to Milan with two 28″ roller bags, a 22″ roller bag and a duffel), I have become a huge advocate of traveling light and bringing versatile pieces that can pull double duty. This trip was no exception! I was able to fit everything for a three-month trip in my Eagle Creek 120L cargo hauler duffel bag, Timbuk2 Wingman, and Sak cross-body purse. My favorite bags to bring along for daypacks and biking packs are the Eddie Bauer Stowaway Packable Daypacks and the Timbuk2 Catapault Sling.

Clothing

Even when I think I’m being minimalist with my packing, I always seem to bring too many clothes. That said, I strongly urge you not to bring more than is listed here unless absolutely necessary because chances are you really, really won’t need it.

3 leggings – I brought 2 cotton/spandex and 1 wool. I skipped the jeans, as I find they are bulky and aren’t fun to wear when it’s 90 degrees Fahrenheit out!
1 pair of convertible hiking pants – Again, not jeans.
6 tops – I brought 2 ultra lightweight wool tees, 1 tank, 2 cotton t-shirts, and 1 lightweight blouse.
3 meeting/service dresses – I had 2 knee length dresses and 1 maxi dress.
1 swim cover-up –I brought a sarong which can also double as a towel if need be.
1 swimsuit – If you’re heading to the beach for most of your stay, bring 2.
1 workout outfit
1 nice evening outfit – blouse & capris for an evening out or a nice meal.
Underwear/socks/bras – I brought 1 brown and 1 black, as well as a sports bra (they should cover all of your needs), 7 pairs of underwear and 7 pairs of socks. These can all be washed in the hotel sink if you’re in a pinch!
2 pair pajamas
2 pairs of sunglasses
1 hat
1 lightweight sweater and/or scarf – I covet the Chrysalis Cardi as a double duty scarf, but for now I just brought a red silk blend cardigan.

The weather out west ranges from arid desert to coastal rainforest so I recommend bringing lightweight layers that will work for all the temperature zones you’ll travel through. Fabrics that are good to have in this kind of weather are wool, linen/cotton and quick drying sports fabrics.

However, evenings out can get downright chilly to this Gulf Coast girl at times, so I would recommend bringing something lightweight but warm to keep you cozy during the evening. I ended up buying a fleece jacket and neck scarf at the Redwoods National Park.

Shoes

I do a lot of walking on my trips to make up for the calories I consume so I recommend bringing comfortable walking shoes, my preference is Birkenstock, just be sure they won’t give you blisters.

1 pair of trail/cross-trainer hiking – I brought La Sportiva shoes.
1 pair of strappy evening Naot sandals/wedges (or flats if those are more your style).
1 pair of walking sandals – I brought Birkenstocks (which I basically live in).
1 pair shower shoes/ hot tub flip flops.

Toiletries and First Aid

Don’t worry about forgetting something because you’ll definitely be able to purchase it there!

Makeup/Toiletries

Anything that is in your usual beauty routine. I would also suggest that you make your mascara waterproof and that your lip balm has SPF in it!
Skin – I brought travel sized bottles of: Face Cleanser, Face Moisturizer, SPF 50 Sunscreen, Body Butter (it is SO DRY out there), and Hand Cream.
Deodorant
Denman brush – this bad boy is able to brush out any knots that may be in your hair, which will be useful when your hair is all tangled up from that salty sea water.
Hair ties and bobby pins
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Wipes – These are great for freshening up and wiping off your face/body around lunch time when you may be all sandy and sweaty but aren’t ready to take a shower yet.
Bar of soap – Depending on the hotel, they may offer some complimentary soap as well. I have sensitive skin so I brought my own Dove bar soaps.
Travel sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner – I simply fill GoToob bottles with my shampoo from home.
Insect repellent – love Burt’s Bees repellant.
Emergen-C – This stuff is a dream when you’re feeling dehydrated or under the weather.
Small pack of tissues – I always carry this in my purse. You never know when you’ll be using a sketchy bathroom.
Small bottle of hand sanitizer – See note above.
Tampons – Consider the Lunette Cup instead of tampons.
Razor.

Other

E-reader/books/magazines – My iPad is the best purchase I have ever made! It allows me to download my Kindle books so I never need to worry about packing a ton of heavy books.
iphone and earphones
GoPro Camera and memory card
Chargers for all of your devices
Waterproof phone case – my iPhone 7 is waterproof.
Selfie stick – I just bought one and it is SO much better than long-arming it.
Reusable water bottle – It’s so important to stay hydrated wherever you go! I love Hydro Flask because it keeps your water cold for 12 hours.

Additional Packing Tips

Use packing bags and cubes (like from Eagle Creek) to save space in your suitcase, compress, and organize your things.
Put all liquids in a ziplock bag to avoid leaks.
Make sure that all clothing pieces work well together – try to stick to neutral colours, with 1-2 accent colours.

 

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Grand Canyon Weekend On A Budget

I say we start a petition to change the name of Grand Canyon National Park.

The current name doesn’t really prepare you for the experience of looking over the south rim for the first time. Maybe SPECTACULAR Canyon or perhaps even SUPERCALAFRAGILISTICEXPIALADOCIOUS Canyon would be more appropriate? When I first walked through the Visitor’s Center to see the movie and walk to Mather’s Point lookout I thought I was prepared. But no! I was left speechless as I peered out over the rim into a Canyon of ridges, plateaus, buttes, water, shrubs, Ponderosa pines, and a veritable rainbow of rock layers showing shimmery sandstone, light limestone, and a myriad other sedimentary rock cross sections.

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Canyon

We stayed the whole weekend at Maswik Lodge in the south rooms which were a great budget price of $112 nightly. Maswik Lodge is in the Grand Canyon Village where rooms can run upwards of $400 per night. Maswik is a cute lodge in a Ponderosa Pine forest just a 7-minute walk to the Rim Trail and Bright Angel Trailhead. The Maswik Lodge registration building has a gift shop, park information desk, food court, and pizza bar just a minute walk from your room door. The shuttle bus for the Park also stops right at the registration building.

maswiklodge
Maswik Lodge

If you bring your bikes, then you can bike the roads and trails. If not, there are bikes to rent and even bike tours.

On this road trip a stop at the Grand Canyon was NOT planned (or packed for). So let me tell you how we managed a pseudo-luxury weekend (for two) there for less than $500.

Where to stay: Maswik Lodge has rooms for as low as $112. Maswik is a 5-7 minute walk to the rim. Bright Angel has nice cabins for $140 and partial view rooms for $184. Bright Angel is on the rim. Call Xanterra for reservations or visit grandcanyonlodges.com for online booking.

maswikroom
Basic Maswik South Room

What to do: Stop at the Visitor’s Center to see the introductory movie (it explains the geology, weather, and life in the Canyon over the ages). While you’re there get your first glimpse of Grand Canyon by walking 2 minutes to the rim at Mather Point. Take a selfie! After that you can linger at the Visitor’s Center to rent bikes, reserve a bike tour, buy a latte, and/or get maps of the park as well as information on all the activities available there.

After check in make plans to hike the Bright Angel Trail. It starts right outside the Bright Angel Lodge and offers a blood pumping 3 mile round trip hike down into the Canyon to the first rest stop with water and restrooms. It takes 2-4 hours to complete. When you’re done treat yourself to an ice cream cone at the Bright Angel Fountain.

brightangel
Bright Angel Lodge

Hike the Rim Trail. It offers you amazing views along a pretty flat rim hike that can take you from one end the Park to the other.

Use the bus/shuttle system. It’s free! It will take you to view points that you’re not allowed to drive to, like Hermit’s Rest and Yaki Point, or to amazing views 20 miles from the Village, like Desert View and the Watchtower.

Sunrise view is best at an east facing site like Hopi Point. Sunset view is best at a west facing point like Yaki Point.

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Bright Angel Trailhead

Where to eat: The food court at Maswik Lodge has dinner specials each night for about $8 and pizza for $3.25 a slice. The Canyon provides spring water and the park offers it for free everywhere. You’ll need to drink a lot of it, it’s very arid up there.

Journey over to the Arizona Room Restaurant at Bright Angel Lodge for meals from $10-$30 a plate. I had the $10 super filling Heritage Tacos (one chicken and one carnitas pork) for lunch one day and dinner the next. A half salad runs $6-$7. Get the house wine, which will run you $6-$8 per glass.

Bring rations! We brought supplemental meals and snacks with us so we didn’t have to eat out every meal. For breakfast we took our oatmeal cups to the food court eating area at Maswik Lodge and used the free hot water and plastic spoons there for a hearty breakfast. We brought the coffee cups from our room and used them to get gratis coffee at the food court, too. For snacks we brought Kind bars, apples, and baby carrots. We also had flat and sparkling water as well as wine in our car cooler. The room had a fridge so we used that too. We had our hydro flasks to keep the water we took cold all day. We also had some protein powder and blender bottles so we could have a quick meal replacement by filling then is with 10 ounces of water and adding two scoops of powder.

What to wear: Layers!! A good base layer t-shirt (I wore ultra lightweight wool t-shirts from Woolly Company), a long sleeved tee, and a three season jacket or windbreaker will take you from morning to night comfortably. Start out with all three in the chilly a.m., shed the jacket and long sleeved t-shirt mid day when the sun is at its highest, and then add them back in as the day goes on and the sun goes down. It’s super windy so a hooded long sleeved t-shirt would be a plus.

I wore wool Capri leggings by WoolX. I found them on Amazon for cheap. Wool is the best activity fabric because its insulates you when you’re cold, wicks swear away from your body when you get warm, and resists odor. It can be hand washed in the hotel sink at night and dry by morning. Plus you only need to wash it every three days or so EVEN IF YOU SWEAT IN IT. Just hang to let it air out and I swear you’ll be amazed. God made wool and it is miraculous!

Also:

  • Take a brimmed hat for full sun hiking.
  • Carry your refillable water bottle everywhere (free spring water offered at all trail heads).
  • Wear sunscreen.

Itinerary & Budget Breakdown For Two:

  • Pack your cooler with wine, sparkling water (or soda if you prefer), baby carrots, and apples
  • Bring water bottles, instant oatmeal cups, blender bottles, and meal replacement shake powder
  • Arrive Friday at 11am
  • Go to Visitor’s Center & Mather Point
  • Go to Maswik Lodge for pizza lunch = $15
  • Check in at Maswik at 3pm
  • Fri/Sat nights @ $112 = $224
  • Friday Maswik dinner for two = $25
  • Friday drinks are free from your cooler
  • Saturday (6am) breakfast is oatmeal you bring
  • Walk to Bright Angel trailhead and hike the 3 mile trail (7am – 11am), have your snacks and water in your daypack
  • Go to the Bright Angel Restaurant for lunch and to the Fountain for an ice cream cone dessert = $30
  • Walk back to your room and rest, change shoes, make reservations for dinner a the Arizona Room
  • Walk (or drive or bike) to Bright Angel Lodge for dinner at the Arizona Room = $50
  • Sunday (7am) breakfast is oatmeal
  • Drive to Desert View (8am) and climb the Watchtower
  • Drive back, check out, load your car
  • Have a meal replacement shake for lunch
  • Drive to Kachina Lodge and walk some (or all) of the Rim Trail as a goodbye to the Canyon before you head home
  • TOTAL = $344
  • Leaves some room for souvenirs and splurging on treats!

It’s An RV Life For Us!

So… this happened 🙂

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R-Pod 180

While at Grand Canyon we saw amazing sights and felt tremendous awe at the natural landscape around us. We envied those in the campgrounds that got to sleep even closer to nature. We started thinking about boondocking and RVing and, well, we decided to look for an RV.

We *had* actually done a ton of research on living in an RV a year or two ago. We decided that we would really like to have a truck and truck camper set up… which would run us about $75K. So we put that dream aside.

Now, though, since we are planning to take 3-month road trips on a regular basis we thought that looking at an ultra light travel trailer to pull behind our first generation Ford Expedition would be a good idea. We live in the southeast where a myriad of outdoor experiences are available. We also would rather travel in a way we don’t have to load and unload our gear and our service dog’s gear every day or two.

It actually is the perfect time of year to look at 2017 models they are discounting to make way for 2018s. We have long admired the Forest River R-pod, the Travel Lite Falcon, and the Livin’ Lite Camplite travel trailers. Fortunately we were still close to the Camping World at Bellemont, Arizona.

We fell in love with the R-pod 180. It has a good bit of storage, a slide, a dry bath, and it comes with high ground clearance for off road camping in the Hood River Edition.

rpod 180 layout
2018 R-pod 180 Floorplan

We named her “Bandit”. Our Expedition is already named “Smokey”, so it seemed uber appropriate.

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Smokey & the Bandit

They had just sold their 2017 model but discounted their 2018 to be close enough in price that we decided to buy. The salesmen, finance manager, and store staff were so great. We give Camping World Bellemont, Arizona the highest recommendation!

Now, we head west to California and north to Oregon!

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Free Camping and Boondocking Websites and Apps

In our new Forest River R-pod 180 we hope to be able to camp on solar power out under the stars away from RV parks.


Honestly, the amount of food we can store may be the only limiting factor. We already have a dual battery system, solar hook ups, a small generator, and an inverter…  we just need to modify our plans for boondocking up to three days at a time.

rpod 180 layout
2018 R-pod 180 Floorplan

Almost all small travel trailers can boondock, some for a night, others a couple days.


But how do you find out where? The writer at Roadtreking (http://roadtreking.com/apps-websites-help-find-perfect-boondocking-spot/) has a few good suggestions, that I’ve listed along with links below in this post.

There are several Internet sites and apps to help you find places to boondock:

rpod boondocking

AllStays (www.allstays.com) has apps for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. They list more than 22,000 commercial campgrounds, state/national parks and boondocking spots (think KOAs and Walmarts, state and federal forests, military and BLM land). This is a great app and website that offers a lot of detailed information.

Other resources?

Free Campgrounds for RVs (http://www.freecampgrounds.com) has a big database, sorted by state, of state, federal and county land open to camping, most without hookups or services.

For boondocking and camping information about National Forests, check out the very useful U.S. National Forest Campground Guide (http://www.forestcamping.com).

Free Campsites website (http://freecampsites.net). There’s an interactive map as well as comments and reviews of boondocking spots.

You can also check the site http://boondocking.org. It’s a database of free boondocking spots based on GPS coordinates. Enter in your location’s latitude and longitude and it will tell you whether the closest boondocking spot may be.

I also found a site where you pay just a $44 annual fee to stay overnight at over 500 scenic wineries and farms. You must arrive early, before dark, to meet your contact and find out where to park. That day or the next day you can tour the farm/winery, pick your own fruits/veggies, or do a wine tasting. Visit harvesthosts.com to sign up. If you sign up please let them know that countryboycitygirl username “CBCGblog” referred you 🙂

What are you favorite boondocking resources? Comment below!

boondocking

Las Cruces, New Mexico

The drive from Fort Stockton, Texas to Las Cruces, New Mexico was lovely. Driving west on I-10 gave us nice views of the Sierra Blancas to the south and the Organ Mountains to the north. 


I want to go back and hike there. 

Driving through El Paso was crazy. Lots of people in a hurry. Saw two almost accidents. Waved at Mexico from the interstate (it was so close!). Also, we are now in Mountain Time. 


Right past El Paso I saw a Camping World RV lot so we stopped. Wouldn’t it be great to do this road trip with a travel trailer? Then we wouldn’t have to chance iffy budget hotels. Hmmmm. I liked this Launch Mini Extreme 18QB model by Starcraft. Only 3,100 pounds!

Anywho, on to Las Cruces!


Along the way we reserved at the EconoLodge using the Hotels.com app and the hotel definitely exceeded my expectations. The rooms have just been updated so that was a nice touch. Their staff is friendly and the breakfast area looks promising. The price, though, is amazing! I’d definitely recommend if you’re on a low budget road trip. 

We noticed Titan limping when he got out of the SUV and worried it was because he is recovering from surgery and perhaps reinjured his knee. The husband quickly realized that during his walk outside of Camping World he stepped on a prickly seed pod and removed it. Titan walked a little better. Then in the room we saw him limp again. Upon closer inspection there were a couple of the prickles in his paw pad. We used tweezers to extract them. We have to add tweezers to Titans bag especially when he is well enough to go hiking with us!


I’ve wanted Vibram five-finger shoes for hiking for a while now and we found a retailer at Ride On Sports here in Las Cruces just a couple miles from the hotel. I found my size but they only had orange ones. So I’ll order on Amazon and have them sent to the hotel at the Grand Canyon South Rim Village. 

We ate dinner at Pho A Dong (which the blurb in the menu says means “Asian Soup” but I’m skeptical). 

It’s owned by a Vietnamese immigrant family that moved here in the 60s. Downer was that they didn’t serve wine. The food was flavorful, though. The husband got beef Pho and I got Hu Tien Xao Mein (Soft Fresh Rice Noodle).


 It was so good that I forgave the low tech menu insert update. 

All in all I would recommend Las Cruces as an overnight stopping point. It’s the perfect size, has a lot of amenities close to the interstate, and even some outdoor opportunities if you want to go hiking. 

In the morning we head to Scottsdale, Arizona. 

Cotulla and Fort Stockton, Texas

We chose the Microtel Inn in Cotulla, TX and were pleasantly surprised that an inexpensive Hotels.com choice turned out to be perfect for us and our service dog while in town. Their complimentary breakfast included eggs and bacon. 

Early morning started out rocky… or didn’t start as it actually happened. We have a dual battery set up that runs through an inverter. During our trip down to Laredo one of the cables came loose and wasn’t allowing the main battery to charge. My husband fixed the cable and a nice guy in a semi truck gave us a jump. 

The real drive to Fort Stockton started out flat and turned into a bypass of plateaus, draws, and ridges. We saw a good amount of wind energy being collected along the way, too. We also passed a pretty river that I had to stop and get a photo of. 

In Fort Stockton, Texas we stayed at the Super 8 on West Dickenson Boulevard. 


The front desk clerk was super nice and helpful. She suggested a place for dinner and we ate right down the road at K-Bob’s Steakhouse. I loved their “salad wagon”. 


I had the fajitas. 


Yes, they are shrimp. Yes, as a South Louisiana girl I knew they wouldn’t be as good as our fresh ones. I enjoyed them anyway 🙂

The Super 8 is under renovation and should be a lot better looking in a month or so. But, for the price and the fact that it’s a Super 8 it is good for travel in a pinch. Titan didn’t seem to have any complaints. 

Tomorrow we drive to Las Cruces, New Mexico. 

Our TransAmerican Road Trip

So there we were, all prepared for a 3-month Mexican road trip…

Then we tried to cross the border and import our vehicle and get our tourist and resident visas stamped. No go. We were told to go back and get additional paperwork. Back to Louisiana? It’s not so far… but what if this difficulty is simply a reminder that when life hands you lemons that you should make a lemonade spritzer?

So we went back to the hotel in Cotulla and got over our feelings. We looked for the silver lining and guess what? It was right there all along.

It started with the realization that neither of us has been to the Grand Canyon. You know what else? We think it *would* be amazing to visit.


We’ve got friends and family spread out all over the US in some pretty amazing natural settings that we haven’t ever really gotten to enjoy. For instance, places like NorCal, the Oregon Coast, Glacier National Park, the Rocky Mountains, Arkansas Hot Springs, and the AppalachianTrail are all places that we would love to see.

We’ve got time, a beast of a vehicle, and all of the great wide unknown. So we decided to reframe the situation and see the huge window opening just as one door was temporarily closed. We’ve made a two-week tentative plans to head west to CA then north to the PNW.

First, we are off to the Grand Canyon by way of Fort Stockton, TX, Las Cruces, NM, and Phoenix, AZ!