Comparison of our last 3 years' worth of road tripping in our van:
|Length||3 months||2.5 months||2 months|
($4.25 in Canada!)
|Total cost: gas||~$1,500||~$1,300||~$1,200|
|Total cost: groceries||~$3,000||~$2,000||~$1,200|
|Total cost: restaurants||~$1,500||~$2,000||~$1,600|
|Total # climbing days||~30 of 90||~30 of 75||~14 of 56|
|# climbing destinations||9||8||5|
|# National Parks||6 national parks||5 national parks,
3 national monuments
|6 national parks (1 US, 5 CAD),
2 CAD provincial parks
In the 3 years since we've owned our van, we've spent a total of 9 months and 35k miles on the road (the 3 big trips above + other shorter ones). This year's big trip took us to:
- Squamish BC
- Index/Leavenworth WA
- Olympic National Park WA
- A bunch of Canadian National Parks across BC to Jasper AB
- Ten Sleep WY
- Joe's Valley and Little Cottonwood Canyon UT
- Highlight: Canadian National Parks
- Lowlight: Horrendous, hot, humid, smoky weather. Global warming and the Pacific Northwest wildfires.
WalMart has really kicked up its game in the grocery department. More often than not we chose WalMarts over grocery stores like Safeway. Their produce section is usually very well stocked with a range of veggies, as fresh as common groceries. Their Asian and Mexican aisles--sauces, noddles, etc.--were bested only a couple times.
Truck stops for showers, clean restrooms, beverages. If you have the option of stopping for gas at a Pilot, TA, Love's, or other truck stop, do it. Their restrooms are multi-stall, cleaner than WalMart restrooms, their beverage selection is expansive, sometimes even with kombucha, and you can get a shower (can share one as a couple) for $12. Unless you disinfect your home shower every night, I guarantee their showers are cleaner than yours. Each shower is a private room with sink, toilet, shower, with a dedicated 24/7 cleaning staff that cleans after each use. Truck stops cater to truckers and it's a competitive market to stay on top.
Travel after Labor Day. The crowds have dwindled, you can get camping in otherwise full campgrounds, and due to global warming, it's hell to climb in the heat before September.
Overnight camping in WalMart and truck stop parking lots. When you're doing long-haul driving and want a fast, easy place to crash, most WalMarts and truck stops encourage overnight parking in their lots. It's no cost to them, and you'll likely drop in for essentials and food anyways. We always first check the WalMart no-overnight camping site and confirm in-person with customer service. Sometimes in big cities, there's city ordinances that don't allow businesses to offer overnight parking (Denver and Salt Lake are bad). You don't want to get 2am wakeup call to move, or worse, wake up to a boot on your tires.
Best Apps for Roadtripping
- RV Parks and Campgrounds app (Android, iOS). We used this app nearly daily. It's a very accurate map of not only RV parks (which we never stayed at--they're expensive and stacked like sardines), but has state, national, provincial, county parks, and lists the parks' amenities (showers!). It also maps WalMarts, truck stops, and any other establishment that allows overnight parking in their parking lot.
- USA Rest Stops app (Android, iOS). Ever curse with a growing bladder, wondering when the next rest stop is on an interstate? Yes, it's even worse when you're pregnant. This app maps out the next rest stop and is (usually) accurate when one's closed, so that 40mi wait doesn't turn into a disastrous 100mi wait.
- No Overnight Parking at WalMart (website). This site lists by state which WalMart's don't allow overnight parking. The comments at the bottom also give updated info.
Cost - Gas
Wow, we spent relatively more this year on gas! In 2015, the average price of diesel across the country was $2.14/gal, and this year it was $3.04/gal. The average price we paid for diesel in Canada, where we spent half our trip, was $4.25. On top of that, unlike previous trips, we had our crash pads strapped to the top of our van, and we took a ~1mpg hit on fuel economy.
Cost - Food and Alcohol
We saved a lot of money this year on food, finally getting the hang of cooking for 2 without leftovers (a more difficult mission when you have a 1.7cu ft refrigerator and don't want a quarter squash or bell pepper leftover). I was also pregnant, so alcohol consumption dropped dramatically...at least on one end!
Cost - Camping
We spent $22-$25 a night when camping in state, national, and provincial parks in Canada and the US. We spent at least 2 out of 3 nights in parks this trip in formal campgrounds. If we were living on the road, we'd be more cost conscious, but for this trip it was partly due to the terrible climbing weather that we spent so much time in gorgeous Canadian parks, partly due to Jeremy needing cell reception for work vs. being out in backcountry, and partly because we really like showering, and formal campgrounds often have heated showers. Otherwise, we camped in open BLM land, national forest land, or in WalMarts or truck stop parking lots.
Sucked. We had maybe 14 days of so-so climbing in 2 months, spending most all of September fleeing the heat and humidity of the Pacific Northwest wildfires. We were physically present (though often didn't even get a chance to climb) at Squamish, Index and Leavenworth WA, Lake Louise AB, Ten Sleep WY, Joe's Valley UT, Little Cottonwood Canyon UT.
One of the positives out of the month of no climbing was driving through British Columbia. We saw Mt. Revelstoke, Glacier, Yoho, Banff, and Jasper National Parks. The whole drive across BC up to Jasper is one to cross off your lifetime bucket list. See the links for more photos.