THE GRAND PLAN
We thought things through. Or at least gave it a good try. Overall it worked pretty well!
COVID NOTE: During the trip we saw some of the parks only half open, others were fully closed (White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns in NM). Many services were not functional, for example the shuttle buses in Zion & Yellowstone were fully cancelled. Generally, no backcountry passes were issued, although the old ones were being honored. All camping within most NP’s was forbidden and parks open for day use only.
Sleeping. Partially because of COVID and partially for the sake of adventure, we went for dispersed camping as our main and only sleeping arrangement throughout the trip. Despite temptation on certain occasions to live it up in a motel (thanks David Eagan for the offer), we stoically would set up a tent every night in a forest, field, desert or simply on the side of the road and pass out in minutes. The attributes of normal life were far away: running water, heat, electricity, other people… Under the stars we slept.
Our sleeping arrangement included: Alps Mountaineering tent, 2 yoga mats that go right on the tent floor as the first level, double sleeping pad (aka the green thing), 2 sleeping bags that zip together (viva la love tube!) and 2 blankets for especially cold nights.
Showers. This might sound discouraging to some people, but we didn’t shower on the roadtrip. Only once there was an exception. The darling memory of a hot *more like warm* and free *100%* shower in a WC building at a free campsite in Texas will stay with us forever.
Otherwise our best friends were creeks, rivers, ice-cold mountain lakes (hello Jenny Lake @ Grand Teton), waterfalls and even empty parking lots (read Grand Canyon adventure). Among the adversaries I would like to name phantom rivers (yes, you Arizona) and cold (Yellowstone). In those and other extreme cases; baby wipes, bless your heart.
Gas & tolls. Ёжмобиль had a pretty good gas mileage: ~40 mi/gal. With comparatively low gas prices now around the US (~$2 /gal) we would be able to get a full tank for about $15–$20. The majority of the roads we took were toll-free (except for a part of Interstate 80 between Ohio and Chicago).
Navigation. We used Google Maps for navigation whenever we had service (~ 80% of the time). Maps with Me with pre-downloaded offline maps came in handy when we got off the grid. They sometimes even had natural trails Google wasn’t showing.
National Parks Access. For Parks access we purchased a $80 Annual pass, good for unlimited entry to every National Park in the US for a year. The pass allows for 2 signatures. The signature has to match the one on your DL. Need to show both when entering. It’s not attached to one particular vehicle. Totally worth it!
Food & Water. For cooking hot meals we used a pretty neat and efficient gas stove (thanks for lending, Nancy Jarvis). Normally we would stock up for a week or two in a huge supermarket somewhere (the quantity of things we bought would absolutely freak Jackson out), and then slowly go thru it as days roll by.
Typical shopping list included: granola, powdered milk, honey, peanut butter, avocados, carrots, oranges, bread, cheese, tortillas, fast cooking rice, couscous, quinoa, unthinkable amounts of ramen, eggs, chips, hummus, trail mix, granola bars, tea and coffee, along with other great things.
In the beginning of our trip with got 2 large jugs of water, 1gal each, and then used and re-used those vessels eternally for storing / using water throughout the trip. All our water came either from safe-to-drink taps in National Parks, or we pumped and purified it from local creeks.
Wardrobe. We brought along a full spectrum of clothes to cover everything from freezing temperatures (Yellowstone) to the unbearable heat of the desert (Utah, Arizona). Hiking boots were essential at all times. A sunhat, swimsuits, towels, bug spray & sunscreen were also a must.
Laundry. Forget about it. Next!
If I were to jump ahead and summarize this roadtrip, I’d say – the overall outcome was a wild mix of experiencing an abundance of different environments and wildlife in the US; overcoming temporal obstacles through creativity and adaptation; a collection of the most amazing nature photos; meeting and observing some bright characters and turning it all into a good story!