Anyone who has grown up in the lower mainland like I have, has likely done their fair share of “local” travel. Vedder River, Cultus, Okanagan, Seattle, the likes of those. After 30+ years of driving to Osoyoos I’m torn between my love for the nostalgia, and my hate of a drive I have done more times than I care to count. On the other hand, there isn’t a time I recall being on the I-5 to drive to Bellingham, Seattle, or anything really in which I didn’t dread the I-5. It just may be the most boring highway out there. But here’s the problem – these are destinations within our bubble. Anything within a 3 hour window of home is doable for a weekend. By 5 hours it may be worth it for an extended long weekend. And at the 6-7 mark many may be willing to drive it for a 5-7 day vacation. But the thing is there is SO much out there to see. It’s just that the midwest, the rockies, and all of Canada are GIANT provinces and states, with large vast empty spaces in between. This means beautiful mountains, and beautiful rolling hills with farms, orchards or wheat, and winding rivers like the Columbia. It also means hours of dead grass, tumbleweeds, and scary gas station bathrooms. My point is that to get somewhere, can take a while. A long while. But worth while. There are a few ground rules for doing this successfully.
First – accept it. You can’t road trip east from BC without having to put in the time. It means you need a few long days in your trip to knock back some kilometers. This requires well planned road trip snacks, music, comedy, multiple drivers to rotate, the ability to take a car nap, and a group that agrees that there is nothing wrong with numerous bathroom breaks. If you come prepared – both with the supplies, but more importantly, with the expectations – then you are on the right track for success. This was not a problem for the three of us.
Second – get the familiar part out of the way quickly. Trying to get out of our little corner of the world was the most painful part. The first day we drove 4 hours – down the I-5 a short ways, then headed east through Leavenworth to Wenatchee. We arrived in the dark (maybe try to avoid this – not ideal), and set up our tents and headed in for some sleep. Of course it was 30 C when we went to bed, and didn’t drop below 28 at night. This doesn’t lead to the most comfortable of sleeps. However, it is important with summer road trips to quickly accept that you have NO control over the weather. So choose to adapt. We got up at 5am, and packed up early and were out of the site before 7. This meant I could nap in the car, which has AC. Also a great piece of road trip advice – AC.
Third – let the drive be part of the adventure. Take pictures as you change states, find the funniest street signs (Pickle Farm Road anyone? testicle festival?), take random pit stops (50,000 Silver Dollar Casino), watch the landscape change, follow the rivers, see the dirt change colours and more. Part of a road trip is choosing to marvel in it all. For this reason our 9 hour drive on day 2 felt WAY shorter than the 4 “familiar” hours on day 1.
Lastly – have a plan, and enjoy abandoning it an altering it every day. Having a plan ensures we have the opportunities to take the tours we want, catch the ball game we were after and enjoy NASA guided astronomy viewing parties – but any one of these could be changed. Every night we talk though the next day or the next meal. We throw out some ideas, and add new ones in. As long as you have a group willing to embrace life on the road and be flexible, your road trip is set to exceed expectations. I can say confidently that this is the perfect group for that. Both Ray and Meg are AMAZING – and it’s taken so little time to function together as a team. I feel incredibly blessed to share this journey with them.
We are enjoying a much cooler evening here in Bozeman, Montana tonight – watching the lightning storm in the distance, dodging raindrops, and enjoying being curled up in our PJs by 8pm. Tomorrow morning we stock up on groceries before heading into Yellowstone for 3 nights, a serious number of hikes, an unprecidented number of photos, and a soak in the boiling river.