Ready, rewind. (***Warning, picture heavy & long!***)
Much of the last 8 years as nomads, it’s been for work—starting with speaking tours for Backpacker Magazine and individual gear companies and now with Leave No Trace. Life on the road for work means we have a pretty regimented schedule, but map out our driving route and free time to include fun places we want to explore. So when we were planning out our April to June non-work-yet-freelancing-still stint on the road in our Sprinter, we wanted to be more flexible and make more time for detours and unexpected discoveries. Now don’t get me wrong, this road trip was still dictated by destinations—specific national parks, state high points and visiting friends/family—but it definitely had that lackadaisical feel to it. We still had work projects to complete, so in between the exploring, we bid our time as digital nomads, with a view.
Final stats (of course)
2 Canadian provinces
8 paid campgrounds
2 stealth spots
3 Cracker Barrels
2 Nights in our Tent
(The rest of the time at people’s houses, plus Justin spent some time apart from me in Denali)
20 Miles Hiked
5 National Parks
1 State Highpoint
Key West (April 23-26)
Justin had been to Key West twice before. He always raved about it, yet when prompted to tell details, he either couldn’t remember, or politely pleaded the 5th. The truth is, those trips were confined to debauchery on the mile-long infamous Duval Street … need I say more.
Key West has so much history and beauty. Dangling at the end of a 113-mile highway with 42 bridges, the drive along the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico is stunning. There are 822 “keys” in Florida (different from an island because they are part of a coral reef) and Key West is the southernmost point of the US.
Sitting under a canopy of ferns and palms are Bahamian-influenced pastel Victorian homes and quaint cottages. Included in this is Ernest Hemingway’s property, still preserved and open for tours. His writing room (a separate structure) was to die for, but more importantly was the fact that the property still acts as a cat sanctuary. Hemingway was a big fan of six-toed (polydactyl) cats. He received his first one (Snow White) in the 1930s as a gift and they literally multiplied from there. There are now 40-50 polydactyl cats roaming the property!!
Justin & I stayed at Boyd’s Campground on the outskirts of Key West, which we highly recommended. There’s no freedom campervan camping along the Keys, so you pay a pretty penny no matter where you stay. We were right on the water and it was just super clean and friendly. We used the public bus system to get in and out of the downtown from Boyd’s.
Pray, Montana (April 29-May 1)
Montana is known for many things, especially its remarkable scenery with the vaulting Rockies abutting Yellowstone. But another main reason to visit: fly fishing. Montana’s streams boast more fish per mile than anywhere else. The whole trout family is found here!
Through our work at Backpacker, we get occasional invites on press trips. Stanley, the brand that makes coolers, cookware and bottles/cups/mugs, invited Backpacker on a trip out to Pray, Montana, to go overlanding (off-road driving) and learn how to fly fish. The timing wasn’t great for either one of us, and Justin was dying to go, but it coincided with a trip to visit Justin’s dad in Savannah. So off to Montana I went!
First of all, most press trips are paired with first-class accommodations and Sage Lodge was no exception. And yes! I learned to fly fish! I even caught a fish! And I want to go fly fishing again!
Subaru Car Manufacturing Plant in Lafayette, Indiana (May 2-3)
Subaru flew all the Leave No Trace Traveling Teams out to their plant in Lafayette, Indiana. It is the one and only zero landfill car manufacturing plant in the US, and they’ve been doing that since 2004. We had the honor to tour the plant, seeing the making of 4 different car models (Ascent, Outback, Legacy and Impreza) from the roll of metal to the end. It was fascinating!! Not to mention, we learned and saw in action all the ways the plant creates zero waste. For example, they send back the styrofoam that packages car parts to Japan to be reused and this life cycle sometimes lasts 10+ times! For us and the zero landfill message we are spreading this summer, it was neat to see everything in action.
Family Time (roughly May 1-25)
Justin & I have heaps of family (and friends) along the East Coast, from Savannah, GA, up to Newtown, CT. So naturally, there’s a lot of visiting we roll up and down the East Coast! I don’t have pictures for all the peeps we saw, but here are some of them.
Canada (May 25-28)
As Justin and I were planning our trip back out west, we immediately decided we didn’t want to go the typical route through middle America. So we dipped up through Canada via Montreal. We don’t typically do the “city tours,” but I visited Montreal in college and was impressed. So it was just something to do.
Despite the influence of anglais-speaking-Canada and US, Montreal remains a bastion of French culture. The thing to do there is to see all the churches and we visited two. The 1824 Basilica of Notre Dame has a stunningly rich interior.
The thing that stuck in my memory from my previous trip though was St. Joseph Basilica, where there are walls of crutches from those who climbed the 280 steps for miracle healing!
South Dakota (June 3-4)
Last, but not least, I was so looking forward to camping for a few nights at this stealth spot overlooking Badlands National Park.
Shortly after we arrived, we were taking a walk and I fell into a massive gopher hole!! My ankle blew up, so we reluctantly decided to leave the next morning to get it checked out. Thankfully it was not broken, but damn it hurt!
The end!!! Now back to real time.