The Family Road Trip That Started It All : Southwest USA Part I

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Midyear brings so much fun memories for me. Summer is meant for BBQs, beach hopping, mountain biking, running along the trails, whipping up refreshing snacks and drinks, and of course road tripping.

Summer 2015 ushered in our thirst to wanderlust! The years we spent in Okinawa from 2012-2015 were not meant for traveling. It was a time to heal, to grieve, to build, nurture relationships, strengthen a marriage, raise a young child, and to journey towards self-discovery --it was our season to do more of inner work.

My hubby, Gabe and I thought that a road trip was in order for Elise to discover the USA ,and start with her first journey to the Southwest. We planned for a 4,000 mi drive from Los Angeles, California to see the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Arches National Park, Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower, Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, South Lake Tahoe and back to Southern California. For two weeks, we drove our rental van from Escape Camper Van.

We have a few rules in place before we headed out for the great, open roads of the Southwest USA:

1. Do not drive at night. No point in rushing.

2. Camp out as much as possible to enjoy the outdoors.

3. Prepare meals and be creative.

4. NO electronics for recreation or entertainment. Elise will have to complete her activity sheets, will sing songs, and play "I Spy" games.

5. Have fun and enjoy the ride!


The Itinerary

 We started our trek by hopping on an Amtrak train ride from San Diego to Los Angeles to pick up our camper van. From Los Angeles, headed to Murrieta at our family's house to stock up, gear up and get started. Of course, when in the city of Angels, a stop over at the Hollywood Sign and the Griffith Observatory were two must stop sites.


Amtrak Ride from San Diego to Los Angeles


Our Supplies from Trader Joe's that totaled to $200+

All the way from Murrieta, California after stocking up on supplies, completed our safety checks and got ourselves ready. We drove all the way to Las Vegas to meetup with our friends, Febe and Rod and watched Jabbawockeez. We arrived very late in Las Vegas and Elise was delighted with the city's lights, glitz and glamour from the brief drive along The Strip.

After experiencing Las Vegas for a little over 24 hours, we hit the road towards Havasu City with one goal in mind: SUP (stand up paddle) Lake Havasu. The water was a reprieve from the summer heat. With our goal checked off, Sedona was our next destination. 

SUP under the London Bridge, Lake Havasu

Our first night camping out brought a bit of anxiety but after preparing and cooking our first camp meal of chicken adobo, asparagus tips, and steamed rice plus fresh cantaloupe slices for dessert, we were ready to rest for our first evening outdoor.

First Night Camping

It felt like a slow drive on our way to Sedona but when nature's beauty of unique red rocks started to peek in, we were all mesmerized! We were not able to find a camp site so we opted for a hotel stay in the area. What a relief to be staying in a hotel for at least 2 nights (happy me!).


Our goal for Sedona is to go vortex energy hunting ,we discovered as we chatted with the locals and asked around on interesting places to visit a peaceful location. We were directed to the Amitabha Stupa Peace Park, a land designated for spiritual transformation and healing with the back drop of Sedona's red rocks. It was a serene place and many believed a vortex for enlightenment.


The 36-foot Enlightenment Stupa

As we get ready for the rugged roads up ahead and perhaps lesser opportunities for hotel stays, my hubby "The McGyver" made our portable air conditioning to keep us cool during the night. One stop at a Wal-mart store and voila!

DIY Camper Van AC

Our psychedelic Escape camper van became our "home away from home" and we named him Austin (Austin Powers...remember that movie?), he jived well with several KOAs (Kampgrounds of America) that served as our refuge for the evenings to get some rest and recharge for another full day of adventure on the open road.

Escape Camper Van and Kampgrounds of America (KOA)

Our family of three a.k.a. 3Os became very creative in preparing breakfasts and dinners on camp. Our lunches are made up of sandwiches and quick stops from local food places. Good thing our camper van has a mini fridge to contain perishable items!

Traveling with young children is not an excuse not to go on adventures. We made sure that we add frequent breaks so we can all stretch out, stop and smell the flowers (literally!). This journey has tickled my interest in educating Elise. She is a natural adventurer, a curious little soul and she has been a good sport tagging along for this road trip. As parents, we modeled things we wish for her to learn, who else could teach her best in preparing camp meals and rigging a DIY air conditioner

Redirect your thoughts to making learning moments with the littles. While the thought of claustrophobia and boredom may ensue which may eventually cause some ruckus. Water calms kids and even for adults! A swim in the lake, a water activity or just let them collect stones from the river bed. Life is an adventure and happiness on the road is what you make of it.

Preparing Our Own Meals

There are days we decided to get cozy cabins so we can charge up our electronics, keep tabs with family, execute a graduation ceremony for our preschool business overseas, and even build a website! Yes, more on that later. In short, our cabin days gave us ample time to get the comforts of home and get wired up for 21st century living. Just enough time to pause, get on routine and be on the road again. After all, this road trip is a capstone project on long term family travel on a camper van.

Camping For A Bit of Luxury: Cottage

This article is broken down into two parts, the next part tackles the nitty gritty details of our road trip to southwest USA.