It’s no secret 2020 was an incredibly hard year, full of heart ache and heart break. I had 9 patients die in 11 days. For context, that was a quarter of the building. It sounds dramatic, but I don’t think I’ll ever recover emotionally. Then you add a management team that not only laughed at the request for hazard pay for time spent working in COVID units, but then approved company wide pay cuts at the turn of the year. Talk about demoralizing and dehumanizing.
While I strategically turned my $0.78 pay cut into a $3 raise (that’s a story for another day), I knew I was putting a huge target on my back. In lieu of the pay cuts, diminishing morale, and the release of the COVID vaccine, Kyle and I started to plan a summer vacation to get away from it all.
What started out as a dream, 2 to 3 week road trip to see my brother and visit a couple National Parks out west, quickly expanded as our imaginations ran wild and our road trip wish list kept growing. It became clear to us that we weren’t planning a 2 week road trip, but instead a 10 to 12 week cross country road trip.
And thus, the Great American road trip (or GART) was born.
We knew we would need to quit our jobs and decided on the end of July. It just so happened we had no weddings and no other commitments in the months of August, September, and the first half of October.
We jokingly started calling this our first retirement, but the sentiment has really stuck.
Why should we wait to travel when we’re in our mid to late 60s? Shouldn’t we be exploring the USA and National Parks in our 20s? When we physically can climb mountains? Hike 20 or more miles? Sleep on the hard ground? Live off of pop tarts and goldfish?
No pets. No house. No kids. It’s now or never. So we picked now.
In February, July seemed so far away, but here we are, just a week left until we leave.
This definitely didn’t happen over night. The planning nor the saving.
Kyle and I spent about 3 weeks finalizing the list of cities, states, and National Parks we wanted to visit along the way, knowing our 3 main stops would be Lincoln, Seattle, and San Diego because these are the major cities where we could stay for 3 to 4 days with friends and family. From there, Kyle spent another 4 to 5 weeks researching each NP to read up on relevant COVID restrictions, securing back country permits, and getting campsite reservations for primitive sites inside a majority of parks. I’ve been focusing on setting up hotel reservations in the major cities we are stopping through and compiling a list of local coffee shops, bakeries, donut shops, breweries, barbeque joints, pizzerias, etc., and of course, used book stores.
Financially, this has been quite the undertaking. We started saving back in March of 2020, when we were hoping to just go to Yellowstone and Grand Teton in October of 2020. That didn’t happen due to COVID restrictions, but never the less, we continued to save. By February of this year, we had saved about 3k with the goal to have 10k set aside for the trip in total.
We haven’t even left Ohio yet and I think combined we’ve already spent 6 to 7k, cue heart palpitations.
What I didn’t anticipate was how much new camping gear we’d be buying e.g. a new light weight tent, NEMO sleeping pads (2), camping pillows (2), backcountry backpacks (2), light weight day pack (1), trail runners (2) , 2 burner camp stove (1), backcountry stove (1), bear spray (2), bear canisters (2), assorted tools, kitchen supplies, first aid kits and medical gear.
One of the largest expenses has been our new Canon point and shoot digital camera, which we hope to have for years and years to come. Then of course we needed to buy a camera case, strap, and tripod. Our new motto became, another day, another hundred dollars.
We made a majority of large purchases from REI at the end of May when they ran their anniversary sale where we scored a lot of big ticket items for 20-30% off. Given the amount of weight I lost in 2020, I needed to update my camping and hiking wardrobe. I bought shorts and base layer items from REI during the sale, then sourced short sleeve and long sleeve polyester tshirts from Goodwill and found some really great stuff for a couple bucks each.
While the upfront cost of all our new gear has stung, it’s a relief to know we bought high quality gear that we likely won’t have to upgrade or replace for 5 to 10 years, maybe even longer. Other than buying groceries and replenishing first aid kits and medical supplies, our future camping trips shouldn’t cost anywhere close to the cost of this 11 week trip.
This time next week, our adventures begins. We are so excited to explore the stunning and diverse landscapes of our vast country – from the rainforests of Washington, to the Glaciers of Montana, to the deserts of California, to the red-rock formations in Utah, and everything in between.
Until next time, Meryn
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GREAT AMERICAN ROAD TRIP
SUMMER + ROAD TRIP TBR linked here
2021 GREAT AMERICAN ROAD TRIP: TO BUY LIST linked here
2021 GREAT AMERICAN ROAD TRIP: ITINERARY UPDATE linked here
LIFE UPDATE: WE’RE QUITTING OUR JOBS + TAKING THE GREAT AMERICAN ROAD TRIP linked here