TRAVEL

RV THERE YET? CROSS COUNTRY TRIP (PART III)

This is the third and final blog post from this amazing trip! Below is a video Bryan put together highlighting all of the places we explored with our sweet Bjorn, we hope you enjoy it! <3

15th Stop: THE REDWOODS

Bryan had been to 47 states before this trip, but somehow California wasn't one of them. He was so excited to see the Redwoods and wow were they incredible. We drove through a number of epic Redwood forests but the coolest was the Avenue of the Giants area. We squeezed Whipley (the RV) through some tight spaces and had a blast exploring. Redwood forests are so different from what we are used to, it almost feels like being indoors. We could have spent months exploring this part of California!

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We were exploring early morning on a Thursday, so we had pretty much the whole place to ourselves. 

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The scale is still hard to wrap my head around.

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I have a feeling that we are going to be back here a lot. 

16th Stop: SAN FRANCISCO, CA

We drove across the Golden Gate bridge and straight to Los, Gatos for a lovely dinner with our good friends Jack and Katherine, who we were very excited to see.

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17th Stop: YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

I have always wanted to visit this park, and it was stunning! We got there in the evening so we immediately found a campsite inside the park. We set up a campfire, made dinner, and Bryan practiced more of his astrophotography. The next morning we drove into the valley and decided to go on a hike. The hike was way harder then we were expecting but totally worth it. Next time we go I want to check out Glacier Point, I'm bummed we didn't get to go there this time because it looks absolutely insane.

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We made a point of cooking our dinner over the fire and it was awesome! The stars were also about the most striking we have ever seen. We could not have asked for better weather during the entire trip.

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Astro photography is about as satisfying as it gets.

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This hike kicked our asses. It somehow managed to be uphill the whole time both ways. 

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Yosemite is another place we will have to come back to for a month. 

18th Stop: DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK

Death Valley National Park may seem like a simple enough concept: it's the hottest place on earth. Cool. In reality, it is one of the coolest places we have ever shot. It is full of so many awesome features like badlands, huge salt plains, sand dunes and super-colorful canyons. It is a photographer's dream park. 

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We were here on Bjorn's second birthday!

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Eight pounds of adventure. 

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Completely out of focus and I don't care because look at Bjorn's smile!!!

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I am occasionally accused of being salty...

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See sea level?

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Probably the prettiest dirt we have ever seen. 

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Unleashing his inner Walter Mitty (but Walter Mitty never had to skate back up his epic hill, haha)

19th Stop: ZION NATIONAL PARK

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Zion was absolutely breathtaking. The park has so much epic beauty in a relatively tiny area. You can drive through the entire park in an hour. We liked it so much that we parked the RV and went back through again on the scooter. There is a long tunnel cut into the mountain that was particularly cool to drive through. A quick hike brought us to one of the most scenic viewpoints we saw on the trip!

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All of the parks in the West had so much natural beauty, we could pull off anywhere, climb around the rocks like a bunch of kids, and get fun shots!

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I'm obviously into bad boys.

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20th Stop: BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK

Bryce Canyon was not on our original itinerary, but as we were making our way back east from Death Valley, we made the very good impulsive decision to check it out. We didn't have a lot of time to spend and people told us that the park was small, and there was no road through it (only into it), so we conquered Bryce Canyon on the scooter. We did an early-morning ride in and out that only took about 90 minutes including stops. The vistas were awesome!

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The area right outside the park had probably the coolest non-park rock formations we saw, so we took the drone up and got some good photos and video. As annoying as it is that you can't fly drones in national parks, it is probably less annoying than having five hundred drones constantly bumping into each other above the country's most beautiful places....

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I figured we wouldn't run into people we knew, so I allowed Bryan to wear those finger shoes in public, as long as nobody was around. 

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Final Stop: CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK

Our last stop was also unplanned. Bryan had heard great things about the park and when we found that changing our route to drive through it wouldn't add much time. This was only a few hours after leaving Bryce Canyon. Again, we weren't disappointed in our decision. The colors were unreal and the rock formations were some of the most striking we had ever seen. It was definitely a good last hurrah for the trip. 

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Look at Bjorn's cute smile!!! Bryan and I are so happy we got to take Bjorn on this epic adventure. He was such a little trooper, always down to explore, he would snuggle on my lap in between adventures and just brought Bryan and I so much happiness. Looking back on this trip brings back the best memories and I'm so grateful for that. We love you so much Bjorn. <3

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I hope you enjoyed following our trip. Next month I will put together a post with details on where we stayed, more things we did, and tips and tricks for taking an extended road trip. 

RV THERE YET? CROSS COUNTRY TRIP (PART II)

If you haven't already, be sure to check out PART I of our trip!

Our Wheels

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This RV did such a good job getting us across the country and back in style, that we thought it deserved a little feature. Like I mentioned before, it is a Winnebago Vista 27PE. Whipley is small for a class-A (meaning bus-shaped) RV, at only 28 feet long. It is laid out perfectly for extended trips for a couple (with or without small kids) or a short overnight with friends. It has two slides, a ton of space in the main living/kitchen area, and lots of storage. Probably its best feature is the awesome King-sized bed in the back, which is really the only way to travel, we now realize. We spent five weeks in this little box on wheels and never felt claustrophobic or limited in what we could do. It felt like we spent the entire time going straight up mountains.... and our gas consumption seemed to agree. Over our whole trip, we averaged just under eight miles per gallon, we were really glad we weren't in an even heavier RV! The scooter on the back only got taken down three times, but we were really glad to have it at Zion and Bryce Canyon. 

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8th Stop: GLACIER NATIONAL PARK

Holy. Shit. This place was UNREAL, and we barely saw any of the park haha. When we arrived, we found out there was a vehicle size restriction of up to 21ft to drive on the main road through the park (we were 27ft, womp womp) The "Going-to-the-sun" road is apparently the most epic drive in the country, so I was pretty bummed about not being able to go on it. But turns out a huge portion of the road was closed down anyways due to wildfires. We decided to go on a hike the day we were there, met a really nice guy that walked with us (since it was Bear season and we had no protection). The first night we stayed at the primitive campsite right on the water, it was insane (image below). We were very lucky to get a campsite when we rolled in around 4pm, because most had already filled up (it probably would have been much worse during the busy season). The following night we stayed at a KOA campsite right by the West entrance and it was amazing. It was the last night of the season so we got a prime spot for half the price.

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Look at that Eagle! Bryan took this shot with his drone, pretty amazing.

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We were so lucky to see the most beautiful part of the country during the peak of the leaf change season. The colors out west are totally different than what we are used to, talk about yellow!

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RV parks vary wildly, from converted hotel parking lots to insane, amenity-packed resorts like this KOA south of Glacier National Park. 

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How amazing is this camp spot?!

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9th Stop: WHITEFISH, MONTANA

My cousin and aunt live here, and wow was it beautiful. Isn't my aunt's house INSANE?! She designed it herself and it is perfection. It sits up on a mountain overlooking Whitefish Lake. 

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My cousin has a house in the woods of Whitefish, and he offered to let us park our RV on his land which was incredible and super convienient! We ended up staying there two nights, Will (my cousin) took us bar hopping and my Aunt showed us around town. It was Will's birthday and it must have been the altitude, but we learned that people take their bar crawling much more seriously out west. They both used to live in Virigina very close to us and I completely understand why they moved out to Montana, it was incredible.

10th Stop: COEUR D'ALENE, IDAHO

My other aunt lives in Coeur D'Alene, and Bryan and I fell immediately in love with the town. Why the heck do we live in  the Virginia Suburbs and not in the mountains somewhere next to a lake?!

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Just living the dream! It was FREEZING out and Mike was pushing his pontoon boat to go 40mph, it was amazing! We sipped wine, enjoyed the sunset and they took us to this incredible Italian restaurant called Tony's afterwards. It was the perfect Wednesday night!

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BTW, did you know that you could order a 300-hp motor for the back of your pontoon boat?!?

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How cool is their house?! It also sits up on a mountain overlooking the lake. They were rebuilding their deck when we got there, I can't wait to go back when it is done!

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Water break! Adventure Pom could drink from anything!

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Coeur d'Alene is the coolest!

11th & 12th Stop: LEAVENSWORTH & SEATTLE, WA

Leavenworth is a cool town with a cool story. Apparently a few decades ago, when the timber industry started declining in the area, the town decided to become a major tourist attraction by adopting the style of a Bavarian village, complete with schnitzel houses, and classic alpine styling. 

*We got to Seattle really late, found an RV "park" right off the highway, packed an overnight bag, grabbed Bjorn and took an Uber into the city. We met up with my cousin Kat and Andy and bar-hopped the night away. We woke up and had an incredible breakfast, then my hangover hit and we Ubered it back to the RV and left for the Olympic Penninsala. I didn't take any pictures at all (good job Taylor) but Bryan got some video footage which you can see in the video at the end of part 3!

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This goofball decided to go for a swim in the near by river, found a large stick and carried it all the way back to the RV (about a mile walk). It was his souvenior and he chewed on that thing the rest of the trip.

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13th Stop: OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK

The rainforest was so magical! We stayed in Forks, WA one night (where the Twilight movies were filmed) so obviously we watched all the movies while eating Twllight themed burgers and fries from this little restuarant next to our campsite that was also Twilight themed. It was awesome.

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He face-planted into the sand, haha poor baby.

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Dip toes in Pacific at pretty much the farthest-West point we could possibly go: check!

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14th Stop: OREGON

We drove down the Oregon Coast, stopped by Cannon Beach for lunch and just enjoyed the gorgeous coastline.

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Cannon Beach! 

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Bringing our house around the country with us meant we never had to unpack or find accommodations. That means more adventure!

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The Northern Pacific coast was an incredible drive. We would love to do another trip spending weeks just exploring Oregon and Washington. 

STAY TUNED FOR PART THREE!!!!!

RV THERE YET? CROSS COUNTRY TRIP (PART I)

Dedicated to the memory of our beloved Björn: 10/16/15 - 11/21/17

This was one of the best trips I have ever taken. Five weeks on the road in our 27-ft Winnebago with just my husband and Pomeranian, Bjorn. It was perfect. I planned on getting these posts out a lot sooner, but it has been extremely hard to go through and put together because of unexpectedly losing Bjorn a month after we got back from our trip. He was killed by a botched blood draw during a routine checkup at the vet. Bjorn was EVERYTHING to Bryan and I. Losing him has left us completely sick and beyond heartbroken. I will include more details at the end of this post, but I wanted to explain the long delay.

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THE TRIP OF TRIPS!

On a bit of an impulse over the summer, Bryan and I took the opportunity to join his parents in buying a new Winnebago Vista 27PE, which we have named Whipley, AKA "The Whip". As the proud owners of half of an RV, we began planning an epic adventure out West. Bryan had taken a few cross-country trips as a kid and between his memory and my love of Instagram, we put together a long list of destinations and family we wanted to see. 

We knew the places we wanted to visit, and the general order in which we wanted to visit them, but that is about it in terms of planning. We wanted to make this trip happen organically, so we left without a single reservation, and never booked anything more than eight hours in advance. The beauty of traveling in an RV is that you never really have to worry about not being able to find somewhere to sleep! Bryan always works from home, so he was able to work 4-5 hours most mornings on the trip, which let us stretch it out much longer than would have been possible otherwise. 

DAYS 1-2: 

We left the morning of September 16 and blasted straight out West as quickly as we could. Bryan drove the whole time and we covered the 1,550 miles to Western South Dakota in just about 36 hours, stopping to sleep for a few hours at a Walmart parking lot outside Chicago (more on that later). We stopped briefly at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD on the way out. Bryan insisted that it was MUST SEE attraction that blew his mind as a child.... Suffice it to say that Bryan is very lucky the Corn Palace is not out of the way to the Badlands. 

1st Stop: BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK

The Badlands are so cool! As far as the eye can see, the landscape is full of shapes and colors that I didn't know nature was in the business of producing. The Badlands seem like they would win the distinction of being the least likely place to survive being lost, but the hostility of the terrain adds to its beauty. The main road through the park is about thirty miles of incredibly scenic driving, with plenty of pull-offs for hikes and photos. There is a lot more unpaved road reaching into other areas of the park, but Whipley is not cut out for washboard gravel and we turned around after less than two miles before she shook herself apart. 

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One of my favorite photos of us. Look at Bjorn staring right at the camera, he was such a little pro!

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We got to the Badlands late on night #2, so the drive in was completely dark. We decided to pull the RV over and try out some astro photography for the first time. Not bad, right?!

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DON'T GET LOST OUT HERE!!!!

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We spent a lot of time waiting for each other to climb/hike out to pretty places, but it was worth it!

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The crazy colors and random lines in the terrain are actually vertigo-inducing if you're not careful.

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Bjorn was a pup with zero fear!

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My little adventure pom!

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The two pics we got of Corn Palace haha. Can we talk about Bjorn's face in the pic above, I think he really enjoyed my kisses haha.

2nd Stop: MOUNT RUSHMORE

Mount Rushmore is a can't-miss only because it is in between the Badlands and Devil's tower. It really is way smaller than it looks and when you see it in person, you can't help but wonder why they never cleaned up the mess they made while carving them... Also, there are no dogs allowed: LAME. We stayed there for about 5 mins and ran back to the RV to hang with Bjorn haha. The previous night we had a lovely time exploring the town of Keystone, which we were glad to visit after prime tourist season!

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3rd Stop: DEVILS TOWER

Day five of the trip was our second wedding anniversary! Bryan loves old Spielberg movies, so Devil's tower is one of his favorite places in the world. We stayed at the KOA there right under the tower, watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind, made pasta, drank a box of wine and it was so cool! He did his first astro-timelapse as well which you can see in the video in part 3.

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Soooo jelly.

4th Stop: COLORADO

We drove straight to Colorado Springs to visit our good friends Jon and Carley! (Going south through Wyoming was a pretty miserable drive) We tried driving up Pikes Peak but our RV was too big and the winds were too strong (womp womp), so we drove through Garden of the Gods and it was super cool! It is a municipal part with a national park feel to it, and has some awesome rock formations and trails. Afterwards we went to an incredible brewery/restaurant with Jon and Carley and parked our RV at the closest Walmart parking to sleep (FOR FREE!). #classy

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OF COURSE we had to stop in South Park, CO. Bryan is OBSESSED with South Park and spent most of the drive that day talking about it. To be honest, it was a really strange little town that did not pay any real homage to the show, besides one gift shop that sold some old bootlegged memorabilia. Trey Parker and Matt Stone should buy it (all 9 buildings) and turn it into an awesome theme park or museum.  

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Some of our favorite shots ever come from moments like this, where we just pull off onto pretty, empty roads. 

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OUR HOT WHIP! A 2018 27ft class-A Winnebago 27PE. After a lot of consideration we decided to name her Whipley. It is about half the size of most the RVs out West and really is best described as "a Whip". She suited our needs perfectly.

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VAIL! We stopped and visited Bryan's babysitter from when he was a tiny little baby! It was so great seeing you Julie, thanks for showing us around!!

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Sometimes, you just have to pull over and fly the drone!

5th Stop: MOAB, UTAH

We left Vail and headed straight for Moab. We arrived late at night so we had no idea what our environment looked like, didn't have a campsite reserved, there was no service and all the roads seemed to be super narrow and only two lanes. Glorious. Bryan ended up pulling the RV off the side of the road and we slept there. When we woke up our view was insane. The MOAB area is managed by BLM and isn't a national park, which means DRONE TIME!

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ARCHES NATIONAL PARK was super cool, very crowded because it was the weekend, but awesome nonetheless. 

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6th Stop: GRAND TETONS

SO PRETTY. Those mountain ranges are just incredible.

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Had to stop the first time we saw snow on the trip. Jackson Hole is the coolest place ever! Grand Tetons during the summer and epic slopes during the winter? Sign us up!

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We drove over this bridge, but then I made let me out and back over again so I could get this shot. Wyoming is SO PRETTY!

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We have been to a lot of pretty beaches, now this is one of them!

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PICK ME UP!

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We got some seriously good work out of our tripod/remote combo. More on our gear later!

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7th Stop: YELLOWSTONE

We stayed here for a day and a half, definitely not enough time to see everything in Yellowstone, but we still had a great time. Bjorn even went for a swim in Yellowstone Lake!

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Stay tuned for Part II & III!

More on Bjorn....

On Nov 21, 2017 (two days after my 30th birthday), we took him into the vet for his annual check-up. He had just turned two years old and was extremely healthy and active. The veterinary assistant who drew his blood pierced through his jugular vein, causing him to bleed internally (which wasn't caught), and his little body went into shock and he passed away three hours later. We never knew he was in any danger when this was happening, and never in a million years did we think something like this was even possible. Because of someone's careless mistakes, we are left without our baby and our lives will never be the same. We plan to fight for justice for Bjorn in every way we can... 

As hard as it was to push through and finish these posts, I'm so happy I did. Bjorn got to go on this trip with us and experience so many incredible places. One of my friends said this trip was meant to be, and I really believe it was.. Watching him run around and enjoy all of these cool places with so much happiness and the biggest smile on his face was amazing. We created memories that will last a lifetime with him. Even though his life was cut way too short, that little dude got to see and experience so much in his short time here and that truly warms my heart to think about that. We love so you much Bjorn. <3