2020 epic 7000 mi cross-country Christmas road trip

Discussion in 'Let me tell you about my trip' started by theatleeclan, Jan 18, 2021.

  1. theatleeclan

    theatleeclan Member

    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    26
    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2020
    Location:
    NC
    Our story begins, as many stories have recently begun, with a pandemic. For Christmas 2019, we decided to eschew the typical Christmas gifts and give our kids (from 14yo to 26yo at the time) a number of "experiences" that we would do together as a family in 2020. This included things like a trip to New York City, a water park trip, and many more. What a great idea, right? We thought so, too... until COVID showed up and cancelled almost all of them! Needless to say, we were all pretty bummed.

    As the pandemic progressed into the summer, my longing to camp grew, although my wife had little interest in outdoor living without air conditioning. This led me to start my search for something that had been on my personal wish list for years: a pop-up camper. In my mind, it was the perfect compromise; it was not far off from tent camping unlike many of the hard-sided campers, while at the same time offering may of the "creature comforts" like air conditioning for the rest of my family who preferred less "rustic" accommodations. After finding an excellent deal on a well-maintained 1997 Coleman Bayport on Facebook Marketplace, my wife and I conspired to do something drastic. We were going to make up for all the missed experiences by planning a three-week, epic, great American cross-country road trip during our school system's winter break!

    Once we acquired the new-to-us camper in early August, we set about planning our epic adventure. We planned to leave on December 19, 2020, and we knew we needed to return before January 10, 2021 for the kids to return to school the next week. I purchased an annual subscription to roadtrippers.com, and we began laying out our trip. After prepping the camper by repacking the bearings and replacing all tires, getting a Mr. Heater Big Buddy to solve for heat, purchasing an annual pass for the National Parks, getting our TV (a 2016 Ford Transit) set up with a hitch, and collecting all of our essentials, we were ready to hit the road.
    The first leg of our journey started from our home in Winston-Salem, NC heading west across Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, the northern tip of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before reaching Zion National Park in Utah. On the way, we saw the impressive faux Parthenon in Nashville, marveled at the size of the Mississippi River, and discovered an endless array of windmills. We also stopped at Horseshoe Bend, which was much larger than we expected! Sadly, Antelope Canyon was not open for visitors at the time. We did stop at some historic route 66 sites, like the Slug Bug Ranch and Cadillac Ranch. We tried our first Whataburger (big winner for all), although most of our meals were from our own supplies we carried with us and refilled at grocery stores. We stopped at a few different campsites, but our favorite locations were dispersed sites I found either through campendium.com or the iOverlander app. We arrived in Zion on 12/23 and stayed at the Watchman campground through Christmas. None of us had ever been this far west before, and the open land was breathtaking. Camping in Zion valley exceeded expectations; the light on the rock walls around us in both morning and evening was stunning.
    After leaving Zion, we continued west through Nevada, following the Loneliest Highway in America. When we reached California, we diverted north into Oregon enough to circle around and come down to the Jedediah Smith State Park, famous for its massive redwood trees. Not only did we love being in such a jungle-like atmosphere with some of the world's largest trees all around us, but we were only a few miles away from Crescent City, where we got to experience our first Pacific Ocean sunset. No filters were needed on the photos we took there!
    After staying a few days, we continued our journey down the coast, across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, before finally turning toward the east. With the shutdowns, our goal was to get all the way to Nevada, as there wasn't anyplace for us to stop and stay in the central or southern CA area. We made it to Las Vegas, where we stayed the night at a casino hotel, and we saw the lights of Vegas at night. The next day (after we did successfully net $40 at the casino - winner winner!), we visited the Hoover Dam, which was honestly much more interesting than I expected. I think I was just expecting a big dam and nothing more, but the architecture was impressive. After that, we continued our drive to get to the Grand Canyon's southern rim on New Year's Eve. We arrived later than expected, and paid the price. There was snow on the ground, and the Mather Campground was full. Thankfully there was an RV campground just outside the National Park which was pretty empty, not ridiculously overpriced, and even included hookups, which Mather did not have. We also got a little stuck in a snow drift while I was backing up with the camper, but thanks to some newly-acquired snow chains and a friendly ranger, we were able to get out of a jam. The Grand Canyon was impressive, but it was also the coldest place we stayed the entire trip, which surprised me. On the coldest night, it dropped to 11 degrees Fahrenheit, which is pretty chilly for a pop-up! Thankfully, our Big Buddy did not let us down!
    After staying at the Grand Canyon for a few days, we continued to Alamogordo, NM and did some sledding at the bright white gypsum sand dunes at White Sands National Monument. We also discovered the World's Largest Pistachio, and picked up some petrified wood at a kitschy "museum" (gift shop) outside the Petrified Forest National Park. Our next stop was at Carlsbad Caverns, also in NM, which was another impressive National Park destination.
    By this time, we were well into our third week, and frankly, we were all looking forward to getting home and sleeping in our own beds. With some adjustments to our itinerary, we were able to complete our journey back through Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina in a day less than planned.

    While the trip was long, and there was certainly conflict along the way with seven of us under the same roof, I wouldn't trade that experience for the world. We saw and experienced so many new things, I am confident our whole family will remember this trip for the rest of our lives.
     
    Kaytayqt, RobertZ, woodentoy and 16 others like this.
  2. xxxapache

    xxxapache Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,649
    Likes Received:
    1,745
    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2008
    That was the best trip I have read about in a long time.
     
  3. kcsa75

    kcsa75 Well-Known Member Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    4,621
    Likes Received:
    2,665
    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2013
    Location:
    Kansas City
    Great photos too.
     
  4. Lei Zhao

    Lei Zhao Member

    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    28
    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2020
    Location:
    Spokane, WA
    Cool. That would be the best family event.
     
    southern gal and theatleeclan like this.
  5. Camping Party of 2

    Camping Party of 2 Active Member

    Messages:
    113
    Likes Received:
    47
    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2020
    What an awesome trip
     
    southern gal and theatleeclan like this.
  6. Beatrice

    Beatrice Member

    Messages:
    55
    Likes Received:
    52
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2021
    Location:
    Bedford county, PA
    Amazing trip! Awesome pics! I'm so envious [:P]! Thank you for sharing!
     
    southern gal and theatleeclan like this.
  7. Sjm9911

    Sjm9911 Well-Known Member Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    8,772
    Likes Received:
    6,159
    Joined:
    May 31, 2018
    Location:
    Nj
    Thats one hell of a trip! Thanks for sharing.
     
    theatleeclan likes this.
  8. Arruba

    Arruba Well-Known Member Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    560
    Likes Received:
    265
    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2014
    Location:
    Central Oregon
    All I can say is WOW! Thanks for sharing.
     
    theatleeclan likes this.
  9. MNTCamper

    MNTCamper Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,265
    Likes Received:
    449
    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2014
    Location:
    MN
    Sounds like a great trip and really want to commend you for planning and taking your family on a trip like that. We have had the opportunity to take our seven kids on a bunch of camping trips with our sprinter and now minivan and see a lot of great sights and we have been able to make some great memories. Lots of interesting things have happened on the trips, but it all works out in the end. Great Job!
     
  10. 8lugnutz

    8lugnutz Member

    Messages:
    59
    Likes Received:
    47
    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2018
    Location:
    Colorado Springs
    Epic indeed! This is something your family will remember forever! Take THAT COVID!

    We did a similar road trip in 2017, but from Colorado to North Carolina and back. We traveled ~3709 miles and hit 12 states in 17 days. We started a blog at takeatripwith.us to document only that trip, but we kept updating it with all our camping adventures so our family could share the experience. We grew closer as a family for sure!
     
    RobertZ likes this.
  11. southern gal

    southern gal Member

    Messages:
    55
    Likes Received:
    29
    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2018
    Location:
    South Georgia
    Wow! What an amazing trip. Your kids will remember this experience forever. In my book, that’s what it’s all about. Making memories and seeing this beautiful country.
     
    theatleeclan and Arlyn Aronson like this.
  12. theatleeclan

    theatleeclan Member

    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    26
    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2020
    Location:
    NC
    Nice! We played with doing a blog, but never committed. ;-) Ever since we started planning this and I discovered this site, I couldn't WAIT to come back and share this trip with the community! Thanks for sharing!
     
    Rempop likes this.
  13. mai_lin

    mai_lin Member

    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    10
    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2019
    Location:
    North Carolina
    That is a VERY epic trip! Would you do it again? My husband would love to do the northern western US but I thought doing so from NC would be too far - you'e proved me wrong and you even did it with one more kid than us! We may reconsider! Even worse is that our school system is STILL totally virtual so we could, theoretically, do it right now! uh oh...
     
  14. theatleeclan

    theatleeclan Member

    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    26
    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2020
    Location:
    NC
    Haha! I deny all responsibility for all wanderlust, either real or implied! We definitely would do it again, albeit no time SOON mind you, but even now we all recognize it was a lifetime memorable experience. We would actually love to do further north like Yellowstone, but maybe not in the wintertime. ;-) We are living proof it can be done, and no one killed each other!
     
    Susan Premo and Rempop like this.
  15. Indiobravo

    Indiobravo Active Member

    Messages:
    111
    Likes Received:
    138
    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2020
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    i love love love this. awesome trip - thanks for sharing!
     
    theatleeclan likes this.
  16. Rik Peery

    Rik Peery Well-Known Member Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,244
    Likes Received:
    1,469
    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2018
    Location:
    Virginia
    Nothing I can add! Well done...[CB]
     
    theatleeclan likes this.
  17. Kaytayqt

    Kaytayqt New Member

    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    6
    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2021
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    Hats off to you! We did a similar trek in pandemic times and made great memories! Thanks for sharing!
     
    Arlyn Aronson likes this.
  18. CaratheCamper

    CaratheCamper New Member

    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    6
    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2021
    Location:
    Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    Amazing trip and so many family memories.
     

Share This Page