How to take a road trip (or not)

  1. Calculate that it is 2200 miles to your destination. Add 200 miles worth of cool stops along the way, then decide that you should be able to cover 2400 miles in about 5 days… Because math… And geography.
    In your deluded, time-and-miles-mean-nothing-to-me state, bookmark fun things to do in all the cities along your route.
  2. Book an RV for your trip, and when they tell you that you’ll be able to pick it up sometime between 1 and 5 pm, assume they really mean you can get it earlier, like 11 am, and you’ll be in Vegas by dinner time that first night.
  3. On the day of your departure, pick up your RV not between 1 and 5 pm as promised, but at 5:15 pm because the RV place got slammed, and it couldn’t be helped, and they’re terribly sorry. Don’t worry; Vegas never sleeps. There will be a very nice man on duty at 3 am when you finally roll into the Las Vegas RV Resort. He’ll hop into a golf cart and lead you to your space and ask you if there’s anything else you folks need. He’ll look like an angel to you, a sweet, reassuring, slightly scruffy angel in Wrangler jeans and a tricked out golf cart. In the wee, wee hours of the morning, after nine hours of driving, the Las Vegas RV Resort will look like heaven.
    You seriously need to sleep.

    Las Vegas RV Resort after a few hours of sleep

    Las Vegas RV Resort in broad daylight

  4. In Vegas, have breakfast with people you adore. (That’s actually just good advice, no matter where you are.) Feel fortunate to have friends like these.
  5. Drive from Vegas to Zion and be, like never before in your life, utterly seduced by the landscape. No place has ever taken hold of you like this before. Take pictures, even though you know the pictures can never capture it, then put your camera down and gaze. No one does magnificent like nature.
    xpost5 Post1 post2post3post4
  6. Wake up at 2 am to the shrieking sound of the RV’s propane alarm. Stumble around the RV (along with all your fellow travelers, including the dog) searching for the alarm, until finally you stumble upon it on a wall near the floor. Hit the MUTE button. Catch your breath until, minutes later, the alarm sounds again. Do this four times, all the while discussing the likelihood of a propane leak that no one can smell. When it seems like maybe the alarm is through going off, fall back into bed. Propane-shmopain. You need REM sleep, and you need it now.
  7. Drive from Zion to Santa Fe… another 9-hour drive. Vaguely remember reading about things to do in the towns you’re passing by. Stop for nothing but gas. Begin to wonder about this whole 2400-miles-in-5-days thing.
  8. In Santa Fe, wake up at 1 am to the shrieking sound of the RV’s propane alarm. Dive for the MUTE button. You’re not even fully awake but you know where it is. Stay right there while the alarm goes off three more times. When it stops again after four alarms, go back to bed. Wake up at 2 am and do the whole thing again, but this time, rip the alarm out of the wall. (Okay, get a screwdriver and take it out carefully. You do want to get your deposit back.)
  9. Pack up the storage unit in Santa Fe (which is why you decided, on a lark, to do this whole thing in the first place). Drive from Santa Fe, NM, to Needles, CA. Five hundred and ninety-two miles. At one gas station, meet a sweet man who tells you your family is beautiful and then shows you the scar from his brain surgery. He says he got injured because he was driving 100 miles an hour. He urges you not to drive 100 miles an hour. Promise him you won’t. Leave your credit card at the next gas station. Notice it hours later. Think to yourself that this is what comes of driving 2400 miles in five days… without REM sleep.
  10. Cross the California state line and feel elated. You’re still several hundred miles from home, but it is your home state, and it will greet you as only it can.
  11. In Needles, accept the upgrade from whatever space you had booked in the back of the park, to the Colorado River view spot you’re offered for the same price. Once you’re settled, wander down to the shore, which is just outside your door. Under a full moon, watch the river flow for a long time, while your dog rolls around in the sand with an exuberance she usually reserves for mud puddles and dead things. Resist the urge to check for dead things. Instead watch the river, your husband taking pictures of the light on the water, your son skipping stones across the slow moving surface. It’s peaceful and quiet, two things that have been in short supply since you left. Love the peace. Love the quiet. Love the ordinary beauty of it all.
  12. In the morning, enjoy a luxurious hour of staying in one place before you hit the road again. You can’t stay longer. You have 500 miles to go. Watch the landscape shift, mile by mile, until finally it is utterly familiar again. Love the feeling you have when you finally get home, like a deep-down, happy soul sigh. Feel all sort of Dorthy-esque when you walk back into your house. Wonder how it could only have been five days since you were here.


In other news…

They’re here! Angry animals in Santa hats Christmas cards!



  1. Lucy Pollard-Gott on October 17, 2014 at 5:01 am

    Thanks especially for the angry bulldog. (I think it is just a disguise for them.) Thanks for all of them, although I can’t muster an angry face back after seeing your beautiful photos! I think travel is just hard, unless you don’t go far enough for it to be different from home. Covering distance is hard work. But like labor, at the end you get happiness and lots of photos! Welcome home!

    • j on October 17, 2014 at 7:18 am

      Thank you, Lucy! The angry bull dog gave me some trouble. I drew him really easily and fast, about 2 inches square, in my sketch pad. It took me forever to scale him up to the 5×7 size of all the originals. I never know what the hard part is going to be.

      And yes, traveling. I think the big lesson here is to take longer with our next road trip. A couple of extra days would have meant a lot less hard driving and a lot more actual experiencing of the towns we passed through.

      And there WILL be a next time. : )

  2. terri flynn on October 17, 2014 at 6:32 am

    Loved reading about your road trip, Judy. It sounds wild, crazy and wonderful. Oh! A lot like You. 😉
    It is a breathtaking part of our country.

    • j on October 17, 2014 at 7:20 am

      Thanks, Terri! It definitely is. I was just completely, slack-jaw awed by Zion. We were very limited in where we could go in the park because we had Lexi, but I want to go back without her and hike the trails. We’re thinking next year.

  3. Pam on October 17, 2014 at 7:08 am

    Sleep is for wimps! (Ha ha ha…that’s what people who aren’t sleeping on vacation say to themselves, anyway. Not that I would know from experience. *innocent look*)

    Love this post. Love the photos. The cards are great! <3

    • j on October 17, 2014 at 7:24 am

      Ha! Yes! It’s actually not unusual for us to have to rest up from our vacations, but normally it’s because we packed so much fun into the trip… not because the propane alarm is a prankster.

      Thank you on the cards! I wasn’t sure if people would like them – cranky and Christmas may go together in real life, but Christmas cards are usually cheerful – but this time I decided to draw what I wanted to draw (a decision I know you’d approve of). xo

  4. Deborah Waltenburg on October 17, 2014 at 7:27 am

    NEEDLES? Seriously? I never knew! We had a cat named Needles once 😀 She had very pointy, sharp, destructive needlesque claws 😀 Sounds (sans the errant propane alarm) like an absolutely gorgeous trip! <3 I am indeed envious! I could just sit out there in the mountains and scenery forever. IF I had yarn and needles, of the knitting variety, that is. 😀 xoxo

    • j on October 17, 2014 at 2:22 pm

      Deborah, the boy read your comment and said he may someday have to name a cat Needles. : ) I know just what you mean. I feel that way about water. When I’m on a lake or by the beach (or really almost any body of water) I feel like I’m right where I belong.

      I felt that way in Zion too, only more deeply awed.

  5. Karin on October 20, 2014 at 6:24 am

    I love your list, it’s clever and funny!
    I’ve always wanted to take another vacation with my pets. Well, maybe not with the angry cat, but having the dog and baby kitten would be fun 🙂
    And I love the angry animal Christmas cards! They’re like grumpy cat, but definitely with more character.

  6. Annie Neugebauer (@AnnieNeugebauer) on October 20, 2014 at 8:33 am

    That sounds like a glorious road trip. 🙂 The lack of sleep might not have been fun, but I bet you’ll never forget the experience!

  7. Nina Badzin on October 21, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    I love what Terri said!! Pretend I said it. 🙂

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