West Coast Spring 2018 – Summary

May 14 – August 19

We’ve had a good run since our first long trip in 2014, completing 3 trips of 3-months or longer in a 4-year span.  I’ve pontificated a number of times to any poor soul who will suffer my rambles about the appeal of lengthy travel.  For those who’ve escaped my rants to date, I’ll summarize briefly here.

cropped-j-and-j-at-jenny-lake.jpgThe comforts of home bring us many things; stability, routine, family, friends, and familiarity.  All good things.  It also means the inescapable pull of media and a relentless awareness of the news and all it holds, the worries associated with day to day necessities (house repairs, that next doctor’s exam, etc.) and a touch of boredom, as we repeat the things we’ve done before and will do again.

Birthday Shot at Dinner

Birthday Shot at Dinner

On a long trip, once you are past the first couple of weeks, you lose that feeling of vacation that comes with any new trip (yes, even we consider it to be a vacation) and each day becomes a novel adventure, full of unique experiences, sights, tastes, and interactions.  Those cares and woes that dog you at home begin to drift out of sight, as your primary concerns now become what activity you’ll engage in that day and what cool thing you might eat or drink later.

J and J at Black Canyon

J and J at Black Canyon

Soon you’re in a Zen like flow, one day melding into the next, each memorable, the change in scenery making even mundane tasks like grocery shopping unique, that next hamburger or fish and chips order a discovery just because it’s in a new place.  Granted, eating out all the time can get tiresome and changing lodging a hassle, but our mix on this trip proved to be a good compromise.  Somewhat like our Europe adventure in 2014 when we camped 65% of the days, this time around we had a more even spread of lodging styles:

Type of Lodging # of Nights % of Total
Hotels and Airbnb 26 26.5%
Family and Friends 35 35.7%
Camping 37 37.8%
Total 98 100.0%
Bags Open

A Comfortable Night’s Sleep Provided

One of the factors that makes tent camping a realistic option is the quality of the sleeping experience and since our 2014 trip when we started using the Thermarest Neo Air Dream (Now named the Dreamtime) inflatable pads, we’ve found them almost as comfortable as being at home.  Although bulky when transporting them, we are still able to get them in a large rolling duffel along with our sleeping bags when we’re on a bike tour.

Bag Construction

A Very Thick Pad

Another key to a successful long trip is not jumping around too much, that is to spend multiple days in each location.  Of the 98 nights on the road, we stopped in 38 locations; of these, 21 were for three nights or longer, most of them lasting four nights.  Last year, we enjoyed the rigor of our three months visit to Europe, but the four weeks plus of traveling on the Camino de Santiago meant that we were switching every day or so, a bit too frenetic to get a sense of time or place.

Two Goofballs

Life in the Tent

Another goal of this trip was limiting the number of long driving days and at this we were quite successful, managing only two ten-hour days, two 8-hour days, and two 7-hour days.  Not a bad accomplishment given that we covered over 11,000 miles in total.

Garden Entrance

Seattle Airbnb Garden Entrance

As for expenses, given our lodging mix it was a relatively affordable trip, at least by our standards.  We ended up spending $127 a day for the two of us, substantially less than the $175 per day during our three-month trip to Europe last year, but that one ran higher as we lodged predominately in hotels.

Deep in the Woods

Deep in the Woods

I set up a budget as I’ve done for all of our trips and we came pretty close to hitting it, coming in less than $200 over.

Category Budget Actual Variance
Lodging $3,410 $3,706 $(296)
Food 5,270 6,092 (822)
Culture 990 7,40 250
Transportation (Tolls, Gas and Public Trans) 2,230 1,340 541
Miscellaneous 400 265 135
Total $12,300 $12,493 $(193)
Campsite at Gold Bluffs Beach

Campsite at Gold Bluffs Beach

We’ve come to find that given our style of travel, once you deduct any big transportation costs (air fare, etc.) a trip like this ends up costing us about $1,000 a month over our normal cash flow.  What I mean is when we’re home, we spend money on food (groceries, restaurants, Costco, etc.), gas, home repairs, and general shopping.  If you add those back to your normal monthly net income, you now have a cash flow-based travel budget.

The Other J and J

The Other J and J

For us this comes in at about $2,800 a month or about $93 a day (annualized); our budget and actual for this trip was $125 and $127 a day, respectively.  In the end, we spent about $35 a day over what we would have spent at home, roughly totaling $3,400, roughly the cost of a one to two week supported bike or guided tour.  But we were gone for three months in total.

Joanna and a Big Tree

Joanna and a Big Tree

At home one of the first questions we get asked is ‘what was your favorite place during the trip?’.  This is a tough one as these long adventures bring so many good and varied experiences that it is hard to single out just one.  Sometimes it is the incomparable physical beauty of a location, be it architectural or of Mother Nature.  Other times it’s a full day of cycling around an island, with tough climbs and many miles that makes finishing such a joy, with that warm buzz of accomplishment s you enjoy a cold beer.

The New Site

The New Site on San Juan Island

For me, it was our nine nights in the San Juan Islands.  We camped the whole time and outside of San Juan Island, there isn’t much to do from a tourist’s perspective.  They are more about outdoor pursuits and an escape from daily life.  Indeed, if we lived closer, say in Seattle, each island would become part of our travel routine, as it is for a number of our friends in that city.

A Tough 30 MIles on San Juan Island

A Tough 30 Miles on San Juan Island

I’m not likely to return these islands anytime soon as there are so many other places to explore, but their value to me is how they so completely embodied what I’d call the Island ethos or lifestyle.  When one has to take a ferry to get to and from the island, it erects a barrier between you and the outside world.  Granted you may follow the daily news and one can’t completely escape the lunacy that often prevails around us but knowing that the forces of madness have to take a ferry to get to your island world must provide great peace of mind.

The Gang in Yosemite

Mitchell’s and Mann’s at Vernal Falls

In closing, this trip was as good as it gets.  Overall, our modes of travel are often varied, but this particular style, traveling in our own vehicle, lodging in different modes (camping, family and friends, and hotels/Airbnb) provides us most of the comforts of home and yet grants us great freedom.  It will continue to be a primary outlet for us and yet, international travel beckons and the challenges it brings are usually offset by the great rewards it brings.  Next year is up for grabs right now.  Any suggestions?

Sunset First Night

Sunset The First Night on Orcas Island


Thermarest Neo Air Dream: https://www.thermarest.com/dreamtime


One comment

  1. What a cool adventure. Thanks for sharing!

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