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

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The truth about travel blogging is this: it is a painstaking process to record your memory of all the events happening, at the same time admire the beauty that surrounds you. In my quest to be mindful, I made a decision to write this adventure at a later time. You see, the road trip happened in 2015, 3 years ago, life happens quick and the many things we add to our "things to do ", some would be left untouched. 

However, I believe that there is always 'rhyme and reason' to why some tasks must be delayed. This road trip awakened my creativity and rediscovered blogging as a creative expression. This road trip made it possible for my hubby, Gabe to look at things from an artist's lens. He discovered that photography is an ideal outlet for his artistic skills. There it is, you will see how everything starts to unravel for our future adventures. 

Since I wrote Part I of this story, I have been reminded by my crew that we stopped by Hoover Dam after we left Las Vegas and ventured towards Lake Havasu. I am pleased to share additional photos of that leg of the trip.

 Backtracking before Havasu City...

Hoover Dam- at one side you are in the state of Nevada on the other, Arizona

Hoover Dam: a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River

To recap, our camper van road trip started in Los Angeles, California and headed towards Sedona, Arizona with two pit stops in Las Vegas and Lake Havasu to meet up with our friends Rod and Febe and SUP under the London Bridge, respectively. One unforeseen circumstance, we skipped to share with our families to avoid scaring them, was our E.R. visit at the Flagstaff Medical Center. Absolutely nothing major but mainly due to an on/off minor kidney problem by our usual patient (not me nor the little one, guess who?). Things like this could happen; and this is important to factor enough driving and sightseeing times for each location. Create a buffer to adapt to unexpected events easily.

Our second camp night is at Williams KOA, our refuge for an early night's rest to get us started at dawn for our visit to the Grand Canyon. Can you tell Elise is getting excited?

Camp Life at Williams KOA

The 3Os (a.k.a. 3 Obedozas) woke up at 3am to get ourselves ready for the Grand Canyon at sunrise. Thanks to the free annual pass for active duty military and family members from the National Parks Service that we are able to enjoy over 2,000 federal recreation sites for free, one of which is the Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. The best part of our visit to the Grand Canyon is not about our yoga pose nor the selfies we took, rather it was our family breakfast of cereals, fruits and milk inside our camper van while the magnificence of the Grand Canyon is just a few feet away. There's another tip for you: Make sure to rise up early for the more popular sites to avoid the crowd of visitors.

 

Fourth vehicle in line to enter the Grand Canyon National Park at O'Dark Thirty

Yoga Pose at the Grand Canyon during sun rise

From what looks like an endless road, most times we felt we were the only vehicle in sight, until we finally gazed upon Monument Valley, Utah. 

Monument Valley

We decided to stay at Goulding's Campground for the night. While on our itinerary, we have planned out our stops and identified our camp locations, sometimes tiredness and miscalculation come to play that you have to be ready to adjust your sail. If you are interested in following our path and staying at the same locations, I will be listing down all the campgrounds and hotels close to the end of this article. I will even add the breakdown of costs for you!

 

A simple breakfast at Goulding's Campground, Monument Valley, UT

While the road trip may seem to be a fun vacation, there are still chores that need to be taken care of, such as laundry and cleaning the camper van. After our simple breakfast at Goulding's: Monument Valley Camp Park we made our way to the laundry facility to check off our laundry duty. While folding clothes, we overheard other campers about heading to Four Corners, USA. We immediately "googled" the place and made a family decision to go too!

The little side trip to Four Corners USA is what I will consider a quirky side trip. Some people claim it as a tourist trap, but for us 3Os, it was symbolic that we even sent our photo  with an accompanying message to one of our favorite travel bloggers, I Am Aileen and she even posted it on her website

The famous jump shot at Four Corners, USA

After visiting Monument Valley and Four Corners, USA we plugged in Moab, Utah in our GPS. Next stop, a hiking trip and Arches National Park.

Grandstaff Hiking Trail, Moab (UT)

Stone Bridge

Being befriended by a fur baby

Austin (the Escape camper van) is looking good at Arches National Park

We opted to stay two nights at one of Moab KOA's cottages, now this is yet to be considered our most expensive KOA stay (you will see this under the breakdown of costs below) but of course it is also the only 2-night stay in one place during the entire trip.

Make sure to gear up and have things handy during your road trip. Not to create a bulky load of things but just the essentials you may need such as rain jacket, shawl (for women), hiking boots, flip flops, swim suit, and never forget your refillable water bottle! Keeping yourself hydrated during any trip is essential. Plus, a refillable water bottle is both budget and eco-friendly. 

Now, there was this story of a man who hiked Arches National Park with his flip flops. He said that since it is rather a short hike, why bother "suiting up." Now, on the trail, another hiker made a sly comment 'that some hikers are so poorly prepared'. The man wearing his flip flops overheard the comment and decided to go bare feet. Thus, the bare feet hiker man as he is now known came to being. The End.

The bare feet hiker man of Arches National Park

During the drive, we talked stories about legends, nature, poems, count the cows or horses by the hill, basically all things a preschool teacher could think of to keep a little munchkin preoccupied and learning. We made frequent breaks to explore a roadside waterfall, it is a welcoming break for all of us and the water is too tempting not too be enjoyed.

 

Cooling off at a roadside falls

Fact: Husband Gabe and I are Indiana Jones fans! A trip to Antonito, Colorado gave us the opportunity to scout for young Indy's home, while we were at it; of course with an out of state vehicle plate in a rather tiny town, we were easily handed with a speeding ticket by a very cordial police officer. Let's just consider this an incidental expense and a small donation for the town. 

Side note: I am thrilled to know that Indy's house has been maintained as a Bed and Breakfast by a lady originally from California. Ah, maybe a trip back is in the horizon!

Indiana Jones' House in Antonito, CO (munchkin not too thrilled with her headband)

After a barely restful sleep at the Econo Lodge in Monte Vista, yes, cheapest hotel stay during this road trip BUT. Let me just put it this way, you get what you pay for. The town was having a  big event on the days we were there, that we were unsuccessful in getting a camping spot or a more decent hotel room. Well, looking at the hotel's web link 3 years after, it showed that the hotel has been newly renovated. Allelujah! The stopover at Antonito, CO marked the official 7th day on the road. 

Nearby sites we also visited were: The Cumbres and Toltec Railroad (the circus train scene of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) and Cano's Castle.

 

We have reached Wyoming!

Staying at  Kampgrounds of America (KOA) during your camping getaways not only support independent KOA owners but also children suffering from cancer, and their siblings through Care Camps. Aside from the friendliest KOA we stayed at, the Fort Collins North Wellington KOA is also a Care Camp

Fort Collins North Wellington KOA "The Friendliest KOA"

The road finally took us to Mount Rushmore. We took our time to embrace our country's history, unknowing to us that three years down the road, we will be residing in the Nation's Capital no less. Imagine that!

 

The 3Os at Mount Rushmore

 

Ice Cream at Mount Rushmore

One of our rules is not to drive during the night, we had to skip other nearby sights from Mount Rushmore to secure ourselves to be nicely settled at Devils Tower KOA. One of the perks of camping is having the best view at a fraction of the cost of a hotel stay.

Devils Tower KOA " The Most Scenic KOA"

Look, Momma! Is this snow?

How odd that we found this patch of snow in the middle of June AND in the middle of nowhere. Elise's first experience of snow.

 

Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park

Aside from the natural beauty of Yellowstone National Park, the wildlife is also in such a close range. Note to self, go back and spend more time at Yellowstone National Park.

Another tip from the road, if your original camp site did not work out, you may be forced to stay at a hotel that has some 'hyped up' pricing. Yes indeed, a $200+ one -night stay at the Days Inn located at West Yellowstone came up high on the budget. Though, the breakfast buffet was good and not as sketchy as the Econo Lodge in Monte Vista, Colorado (circa 2015).

Yellowstone National Park

Once we reached Yosemite National Park, we knew that our adventure on the road is about to close. With one more destination, South Lake Tahoe, we were almost back home to California. The road to South Lake Tahoe KOA proved to be a bit of a challenge; we were driving later than anticipated while we made our way to the camp site. We tried as much as we could not to drive during the night, but we under estimated the distance and we were trying so hard to pack in more destinations. Such is our own stubbornness.  Nevertheless, we arrived safely at our camp location, albeit driving in the dark.  We said to ourselves: no more rule breaking, it is in place for safety and a few other reasons!

The Statistics

10 states 
4,000+ miles
20 Points of Interest visited 
14 days on the road
1 camper van
7 campgrounds
4 hotels
14+ camp bedtime stories

1 website created & 5 modules of preschool summer camp written

1 speeding ticket 

Breaking Down The Total Cost

A. Transportation (Amtrak + LA cab + Camper Van) = $1,779.89

B. Fuel (Camper Van) = $707.40

C. Recreation = $122.46

Park Entrance fee (4 corners USA) $10.00

Grand Canyon South Rim Entrance (vehicle) $30.00

Water Sports: SUP at Lake Havasu $47.46 and Pedal Boat at South Lake Tahoe (Camp Richardson) $25.00

D. Las Vegas Entertainment (Jabbawockeez) $150.50 - 2 adult tickets

E. Accommodations = $ 959.15

7 Campgrounds

Needles KOA (first camp night)$30.25

Williams KOA $30.00

Goulding's Campground $27.77

Moab KOA (2 nights, cottage) $168.50

Fort Collins North Wellington KOA $32.62

Devils Tower KOA $29.01

Lake Tahoe KOA $67.20

4 Hotels

Holiday Inn Express (Las Vegas) $107.52

Arabella Hotel (Sedona) $123.61

Econo Lodge (Monte Vista, CO) $78.77

Days Inn West Yellowstone (MT) $263.90

F. Food (groceries) = $327.02

Trader Joe's in CA = $242.33

City Market (Moab, UT) = $84.69

G. Eat Out (Coffee + Meals + Snacks) = $549.93

H. Incidentals = $167.17

DIY AC by McGyver  = $123.38

Wahlgreens (meds prescribed by Flagstaff Medical Center MD) = $43.79

GRAND TOTAL: $4,763.52 or $340.00/day or $113.42/person/day

Under “incidentals”, you may add your estimated budget for souvenir items. To make it easier, you can project a fixed dollar amount per family member for the entire trip, i.e. $25–40 per person. Most souvenir items we collect are “cool” T-shirts, hoodies (I still have my super comfy Yellowstone National Park hoody to this day), magnets and kid’s maps.

Measuring the Return of Investment (ROI)

I gave the details of this 2 week-road trip, in my hope to give you the reality of how we prioritize things around us. Each day we make conscious decisions to allocate our time, attention, and resources. The number may be too high or just right for different kinds of travelers, bottom line is what YOU want to achieve from your trip. 

Pretty much all the goals we have for this road trip were all achieved. We were able to test ourselves if a road trip on a camper van is suited for the 3 of us -- this definitely is the start of many road trips to come. Elise learned first hand about the beauty of the southwest along with its rich history.

Most questions I hear from people are, "Should we do it or should we not?" and "In the future...someday."  The answer lies on what you allow in your life.

I leave you with this Navajo chant, may it guide you in deciding your own journey.

Joyful I Journey (A Navajo Chant)

Joyful I journey.

Joyful with life-bringing rains clouds I journey.

Joyful with refreshing rain I journey.

Joyful with growing plants I journey.

Joyful on the pollen trail I journey.

Joyful I journey.

 

As It was long ago I journey.

Let there be beauty before me.

Let there be beauty behind me.

Let there be beauty below me.

Let there be beauty all around me.

In beauty it is complete.

In beauty it is complete.