Project Adventure: Stack ‘em, Pack ‘em, and Rack ‘em.

When I first contemplated packing up the car for this trip, I admit that it gave me a bit of a panic attack. The thought of figuring out what to bring and how to best organize for two months on the road was very overwhelming.

I began to make lists (really long lists) of what to bring. As I started making these lists, I ended up asking myself lots of questions. What should I bring? How will we fit it all? What can we leave behind and then simply grab on the road if necessary? What must absolutely go with us?

It became easier when I began to think of the car in terms of zones. The primary zones are our Thule Atlantis roof box and the trunk. That is where the majority of the items for our adventure will be stored. But if I’ve learned anything from living in an 830 square foot apartment in the city, it’s that there are always creative ways to utilize space. So, I began to think about secondary zones – the glove compartment, the middle console, and the back seat.

We want to keep the majority of the backseat clutter-free because we will meet up with friends and family along the road and therefore may have additional passengers at times. But, there was still space to utilize. I purchased two over-the-seat organizers to give us additional storage without compromising the seating.

So, with 2 primary zones, and 3 secondary zones, we began the task of designing our traveling home.

Primary Zone 1:
There was much debate over how much we would manage to get into the roof box. I was determined to get all of the camp supplies into the box so that on nights we aren’t camping, we won’t need to access it. From the outside, it seems relatively small, but the Thule Atlantis didn’t disappoint. Up on the roof we have secured our tent, 2 sleeping bags, 2 pillows, an air mattress, 2 camp chairs, a camp stove, a folding table, a tarp, our camp kitchen (a picnic backpack that I modified a bit for our purposes), our lantern, a bear canister, and a handful of camp tools. We also tucked a bag with those really light weight, down jackets for each of us up there just in case we need ‘em at some of the higher altitudes. Every piece of camp equipment was tucked nicely inside with one exception.

The only thing that didn’t fit were the poles to our tent. They are too long for the box. We toyed with different ideas to make them fit (there was talk of sawing parts off), but in the end we simply adjusted the placement of the box from the center of the car to the right and added to the rack two Thule clamps typically used for carrying oars or a mast. The clamps will hold the poles nicely, problem solved.


Primary Zone 2:

The trunk will be doing triple duty on the trip. With the camp supplies out of the way on the roof, that leaves 1) personal items, 2) food and 3) car supplies. The car supplies were the easiest. We put together a small tote of potentially necessary supplies: jumper cables, fix-a-flat, oil and transmission fluid, etc. We’re AAA members, and I just had the car serviced and checked out in every way we could think of, but we figure it’s also good to be prepared should we need anything in a remote area. But the box started to become a little overwhelming (those darned jumper cables are unruly). It finally occurred to me that a few of those items could be stored down in the wheel well with the spare. That solved that problem and kept the items contained to one small tote.

My friend Bridget was nice enough to loan us a cooler, so we’ll keep that stocked with ice and short term perishables (we’re hoping to hit up lots of farmer’s markets along the way for fresh foods), and then the dry goods in the canister up top, but that’ll be up in the roof box for travel. We’ll also have a small collapsible cooler bag in the back seat for immediate need items along the road (drinks, some string cheese, and some fruit).

That leaves about 2/3 of the trunk available for personal items. Realistically speaking, I’ll likely take up the majority of the space. I think I have 7 or 8 pairs of shoes making the trip (though in fairness, 2 are flip flops, one are water shoes, and then another are a pair of hiking boots, so not many “real” shoes). We each have one suitcase with clothes and such. My husband has a day pack for hiking. I have a beach bag, a day pack and a toiletries case. There are a couple other small totes, and somehow I think we’ll still have a bit of wiggle room for souvenirs along the road.

So that’s the big stuff. The smaller zones are for more immediate items to keep us moving.

Secondary Zone 1:
The glove compartment is easily the most accessible area in the car while traveling. It’s a decent size, though not too big. I typically carry all of my car papers in there in a sleeve (car manual, inspection info, I even keep repair receipts so everything is in one place). By shifting the folder into the car door pocket, I was able to free up the glove compartment as a mini pantry to keep a variety of road snacks on hand. Definitely planning to keep it stocked up with fun and healthy snacks that won’t melt in the heat of the car.

Secondary Zone 2:
Inside the middle console we’re storing a basic first aid kit (you’d be surprised how often I end up hurting myself inside the relative safety of the car – or by opening my purse, or tripping over traffic cones – I’m a bit of a menace to myself). The more extensive first aid kit will be in the camp supplies or day pack, but Band-Aids, some basic meds and supplies (Tylenol, allergy meds, tweezers, etc.) will all be on hand. We’ll also keep a variety of chargers in there for our phones / gadgets.

Secondary Zone 3:
The over-the-seat organizers have easy to reach items that we’d either want while on the go, or before exiting the car. I’ve stocked them up with tissues, extra sunglasses, a sun hat, sun screen. Additionally I’ve stocked two umbrellas and a few rain ponchos. If we roll into camp (or anywhere else) and it’s pouring we’re not going to want to have to get out of the car to find rain gear. Having things that we can easily reach will be extremely helpful. I also have a few tote bags to bring along when shopping, and a few items that simply had no other home (a deck of cards, my travel scrabble).

In the end I’m sure we’ll re-organize things a bit as we go. But I think we have a really good starter system in place. Now I just have to figure out how many sun hats is too many sun hats.

Stay tuned … next post will be from the road!

Project Adventure: Plan vs. Wild

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My husband and I, while agreeing on the big things in life (finances, morals, lifestyle, future goals, etc.), have shockingly little in common when it comes to the day-to-day. Not counting the fact that I grew up just north of Boston, while he grew up a world away in southern India, we are two very different people. We don’t share the same hobbies, nor do we gravitate to the same things. I’m Yankees, he’s Red Sox. He’s a Mac, I’m a PC. He suffers from an inability to sit still, while I could sit on the couch and marathon TV watch for days. I recently had a Firefly marathon, but won’t bother to lament the fact that such genius didn’t take days, even with the Serenity movie included. (I’ll never really forgive Fox for screwing that up…sigh…but I digress). Despite our differences, travel unites us.

Our first real trip consisted of 7 days in Arizona. We spent time in Holbrook (Joe & Aggie’s – BEST. PANCAKES. EVER.), the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and Winslow (where, yes, I stood on a corner). Aside from one day where things went a little wrong, it was that trip that sealed our relationship. Since we both had interest in traveling it was important that we be travel compatible. It was a relief that we were. 5 years later, we have countless successful trips under our belts.

Still, when I’ve talked about our upcoming trip and mentioned that we travel well together, people have repeatedly asked me, “But do you ROAD TRIP well together?” The first few times I was asked the question I mentioned the few local road trips we’ve taken with success. But the more people asked, the more I realized that virtually every trip we’ve taken has been a road trip. That trip to Arizona? We stayed in 5 different hotels in 9 days (including the iconic Rte 66 teepees). Hawaii? 11 total plane rides, 3 islands, and 6 hotels in 11 days. Montana? 6 hotels in 8 days, with 1,000+ miles put on the rental car. I could go on, but I’m sure you see my point. Even when we fly to a new place, we never just land and stay put. Every trip is a road trip. We’ve had lots of practice.

But none of that means that our planning process is similar. We attack travel planning from two totally different directions. He likes to dive straight into the travel books. He recently picked up the newest edition of Moon’s Road Trip USA (after already reading the older version over the previous month) and has been plotting out maps and itineraries. We’re in agreement that our trip has no firm timetable or set locations, but we’ll have a general idea and then see where the wind takes us. But he has numerous potential routes mapped out with potential events marked on a calendar each day. I appreciate his hard work, and have provided input to his planning, but I prefer a more freestyle method.

I’m not even sure when that happened. I used to be the girl that would plan a vacation within an inch of its life. Event tickets were usually purchased 6 months in advance. Every minute was accounted for before my bags were packed. I’d always say I was flexible and willing to change things on the fly, but I hated the thought of landing someplace and not being able to find anything to do. Of course, I never changed anything, but then, I was never left without something to do either. These days, I like knowing a few options and then just letting things fall into place.

So, while my husband is pouring over guide books and maps, I’m taking to social media to find ideas. I have a few Pinterest Boards devoted to our trip. One is camping specific, complete with packing tips and tricks, as well as campfire recipes and dos and don’ts. Another is devoted to fun places we might stop. I’ve pinned many articles with specific routes, quirky attractions, or travel advice. I like knowing I’ll be able to access them as we go.

More recently I’ve given a shout out to all of my Facebook friends looking for suggestions for off-the-beaten-path type places that they’ve encountered on their travels (have had a few good suggestions, but could definitely use more). Places that won’t be in a guide book. Places that I wouldn’t think of. We’ll hit up a lot of National Parks, and historical monuments, but then we’ll also likely hit up more off-beat places like Captain Kirk’s future birth place in Iowa and the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, home to the original buffalo wing (Bonus that I have an old friend in the area. Hopefully a reunion over a plate of wings is in order).

So tell me – what are your best road-tripping, travel tips? Where have you been? What’s your can’t-miss recommendation? Because, where you lead, I “might” follow.

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Project Adventure: Roadtrip USA

At the end of last year, with the support of my fantastic husband, I decided to take a much-needed break from the workforce.  2013 had been a particularly tough year, and I was determined to make a fresh start in 2014.  While it wasn’t easy quitting my job without the safety net of a new job lined up, the goal was for me to take a few months off to re-group and figure out what I wanted to do next. I quickly discovered a new sense of self and left the old troubles behind.

I spent a few months working on home projects and volunteering in my community, and around the time I might have started looking for a new job, my husband started considering a serious break from his.  We’d talked in the past about a “someday” cross country trip.  It was always difficult to contemplate and we had mostly had it in mind for after we paid off our condo (still some time before that will happen).  But, here I was, not working, and it occurred to him…why not now?  So he told me to not look for a job while he tried to figure out if this was something we could do. A quick chat with his bosses made it clear that maybe this was indeed the time.

Over the last few months we’ve been doing some casual planning and now it seems we’re really going to do this.  We researched many options for how to make this trip work, including these really cool, tricked-out vans from Escape Campervans  (which we quickly ruled well out of our price range for the trip we had in mind).  We jokingly considered the handy suggestion to buy a $44,895, 2015 Chevy Tahoe from OutsideOnline.com in their article “9 Car Camping Upgrades”. Neither seemed particularly fiscally responsible.

We finally decided that from a cost perspective, the only way we could make this happen was to take one of our cars.  Our choices?  My 2008 Honda Civic or his 2008 Volvo C30 Hatchback.  For a variety of reasons (including the fact that I would have had to finally suck it up and learn how to drive stick if we took his car) we decided to take mine.  Mine already has about 30,000 miles more than his, so what’s another 10,000, right?  We’ll likely be on the road when my car reaches 100,000 which will make it pretty special.

So, here’s our winner:

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Stay tuned as we prepare for our trip.  We’ll be hitting the road later this summer!

Krissy