Day 5: Oregon

Today was a travel day. We packed up our things after breakfast and hit the road stopping only for gas and food. One of our stopps was the “Traveler’s Oasis” in Idaho – a truckstop with lots of food options, free WiFi, and gifts. We spent a few hours there.

Chilling out with that free WiFi

For one reason or another we kept delaying our next campground destination until we found ourselves in Oregon. Where it was going to be near freezig that night. We pulled into a Walmart to resupply for the cold night, ultimately deciding to get a hotel instead of braving the harsh cold.

Trunk Burgers!

Using Snuggie for warmth

We were all starving and exhausted. We used our butane burner to make burgers in the Walmart parking lot and went straight to our hotel and hit the hay.


Day 4: Utah

A crow visited our remote campsite at about 6 AM. Its incessent squaking woke me up like an alarm clock. Some combination of jetlag (it was 8 AM at home) and going to bed a bit earlier that night meant that I was ready to start moving. I woke followed by Jose and Guillermo; Nina took a few more hours to get moving. We made breakfast and passed the soccer ball for a bit before deciding to pack up the campsite.

Packing up

We all were ready to hike one of those nearby mountains. We set off down one of the trails which abruptly stopped at the base of the largest mountain. Signs at camp read “Climb at your own risk”, so we did. At first, it was scaling large, mostly horiontal and flat bolders but as we got higher, the gaps between bolders grew and it got much harder to climb.

Trail leading to the mountain

SOOOO strong! – Nina uninterested

Group picture break

Found this little guy

“Its not that far of a jump!”

“I’ll wait for you guys over here.”

View from the top. See the snowy rockies in the distance.

The top of the mountain wasn’t high enough for Guillermo

It proved equally difficult getting down the mountain. Nina led the way and got us back to the base safely.


We drove for a bit to the nearest McDonald’s for a snack and a healthy dose of Free WiFi. We regrouped to check our budget and plan out our destination fot the night, Salt Lake City.

A little more than an hour of driving later, we stoped for Thai food and grabbed some groceries from Walmart. We drove nonstop to the hotsprings in Utah. We were more than excited about a refreshing dip in natural hotsprings but were disappoainted to find that this privately owned hotspring had been turned into a swimming pool that attracted hudreds of people. Also, it was $7 to get in. We passed and instead used their showers to freshen up.

We burned some firewood that we bought nearby and made a rice, egg and tuna dinner. I carved chopsticks out of twigs for us to eat with. We went to bed early again after watching the sun set behind the rocky mountains afar. It began to rain.


Day 3: Wyoming

I woke up to a dull pain in my upper back. The others woke for other reasons. We packed up, took our showers at the campground facilities, and hit the road stopping immediately for breakfast at McDonald’s and to refuel.

Packing up our Nebraska campsite

We aimed for Salt Lake City, Utah by the end of the day. Along the way, got to experience the super-flat Nebraska landscape.

The clouds looked sureal

The first plateu I’ve ever seen

One of our stops for gas had this amazing roadside attraction:

Gift shop and mini museum

Behind the museum – A replication of a pioneer dirt house

Right beside the museum

The Lasso Espresso had free WiFi. Needless to say, we stayed there for a bit and enjoyed some coffee bevereges. Afterwards we stopped at a nearby Walmart to pick up firewood, ice, and a IcyHot patch for my back which had not relented aching.

Guillermo shopped for campgrounds while we sped along the highway to Wyoming.

Wind turbines!

Oil pump!

Soon after crossing the Wyoming border, we began seeing some wild looking mountains that attracted our attention after several hundred miles of Nebraska’s flatlands. Then we drove by this guy:

Soon thereafter our GPS instruted us to “Turn left” and we discovered that our campground was at the base of this mountain! It kept getting better the closer we got to teh campground. The terrein here was wild to us and it begged to be explored. We picked our campsite and set up. A tree had recently been cut down and chopped into firewood nearby. We enjoyed our first campfire and finally used our groceries that we’ve been hauling since Missouri.

Our nearest neighbors

View from our site

Making our first fire

Road Trip Meal #1

“Camp Oh Yea!” (Campoya)

Ingredients: 2 eggs, peperjack cheese, baby sausage links, salt

Instructions: Make an omlette using ingredients.

Campoya is served

Road Trip Innovation #1

“Holding Bread”

Pan handle too hot? Use a slice of bread to hold the handle.

Figure 1

Noticing the clear and stary sky, we paused for a moment to watch the stars. Finially, we stowed away in our tents for an extra chilly night.


Day 2: Nebraska

Woke up early (6:30) in the cold next to the roaring creek. The air was moist so there was no chance for a fire; no chance for breakfast. We worked much faster to pack up camp.

The morning mist floating above the creek

Our campsite for the night

Packing up

We traveled to Ironton, MO and pulled in to the Subway for a bite for breakfast. I used my electric kettle and french press to make coffee. We stopped by Arcadia Sporting Goods and strolled around the front of the store for forty minutes until the gun shop upened at 9:00. The gang enjoyed holding the guns and we had an excellent salesman who was very infomative and friendly.

On the way back to Fredricktown, we passed our campsite again. It had warmed up a bit and I urged the group to at least go and look at the swimming hole. The obliged and after getting an upclose look at the clear water, we decided to take a quick dip.

We didn’t last long

After the dip, we walked around a bit and discoverd this guy:

After drying off, we packed ourselves back in the car and drove back towards Fredricktown, then to Farmington, then to St. Louis to see The Gateway Arch.

I had been to the top of The Arch nearly a decade ago. They were renevating the landscape at the base of The Arch to make a park. Lots of it was off-limits but it was very beautiful. Much better than how I remembered it.

New pathway to the right side away from The Mississippi

We walked around the arch. There was a huge line to go inside. Instead we plotted course for the Missouri Botanical Gardens. It was SUPER crowded on this Mother’s Day weekend. We were a bit put off by the $12 entry fee but decided to take a chance. We were not disappointed. After the first few exibits, we all felt we got our money’s worth.

Amazing shot by Nina

Plants from all around the world

My favorite succulent

This HUGE greenhouse!

We could have spent hours there but we needed to hit the raod and we were getting hungry. We drove the car a few blocks to a BBQ place and enjoyed filling up on overpriced sandwiches.

Next, we hit the road only stopping for gas. Searching for a campsite along the way we settled for Pawnee Campgound in Lincoln, Nebraska. We arrived very late in the night. We were all getting loopy from tiredness and spent WAY too long trying to find the actual campground in the unlit wilderness. At last, after some useless directions from a more than likely stoned local, we found the campsite and set up in the light of the car’s headlights once again.

We immediately hit the hay. I woke up with a very sore back.


Day 1: Missouri

At approximately 8 o’clock my Impala set course to Nashville to pick up Guillermo, Nina, and Jose at Nina’s home. I arrived at about 2:30 to a meal prepared by Nina’s mother. After the meal, we began to pack the Impala; worried after seeing Nina’s two large luggage bags by the door. We got the lot in the car by filling up the back left seat with two guitars and all the odds and ends.

It was about then that it began to rain. We finished packing and crammed into the car that would be our home base for the next five days. Immediately, we took the wrong highway ramp and travel 20 minutes in the wrong direction before turning around. “Great start!”, we thought to ourselves. Once we affirmed that we were actually getting CLOSER to Portland, the dread and melancholy of leaving home began to give way to excitement.

We passed the time with an assortment of games until we stopped for refueling at a tourist shop in Western Kentucky. Shortly thereafter, I suggested that we visit a small region in Southeast Missouri with wich I was very familiar. We set a new course for Fredericktown Missouri and planned to stay in the Marble Creek Campground aff HWY E. On the way we crossed the Mississippi River. We had dinner at the Pizza Hut in Fredericktown and stocked up on groceries at the local Wal-Mart.

Missouri Sunset

We arrived at the campground well after dark and set up our tents. Jose and I struggled to get a fire started with the damp twigs while Guillermo and Nina set up our tents using the car’s headlights to see. No fire tonight.

The biggest the fire ever got.

I had dreams of waking up to a crackling campfire. I awoke to a damp pillow and cool air.


Packing and Plans

“It’s really happening.” is the thought that keeps playing on repeat in my head as I pack and distil all my belongings into a single suitcase. “What am I doing?” is the thought that usually follows the former.

I’m packing my things and tossing them in my car. I’m picking up three of my best friends and together we are driving my 2007 Impala nearly 3000 miles across the United States. Why?

Do you ever have those moments with friends when someone says something outlandish over a casual lunch? Something like, “Guys, we should all go to Portland Oregon together sometime!”? Usually, everyone agrees, “yeah we totally should!” or “wouldn’t that be great!?”. But it never happens.

That’s how those interactions usually go. My friends are anything but usual in the best ways possible. So when my friend Nina said, “Guys, we should all go to Portland sometime!”, I responded, “Sure, how about Spring Break?” We all looked nervously at one another and in that moment we decided it was GOING to happen.

Plans changed. A week-long road trip in the spring turned into 2-weeks in the summer which turned into the entire 3-month summer.

The plan: Road trip from Nashville, TN to Portland, OR. Spend a week in Portland, then find work in Mountain View, CA for the entire summer.

Who knows what’s in store? Fun? Adventure? Discovery? Disaster? That’s what this new blog segment is all about: my journey to The Great American West with a suitcase and less than $2000 in my name.