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.
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.
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.
One of my favorite photos of us. Look at Bjorn staring right at the camera, he was such a little pro!
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?!
DON'T GET LOST OUT HERE!!!!
We spent a lot of time waiting for each other to climb/hike out to pretty places, but it was worth it!
The crazy colors and random lines in the terrain are actually vertigo-inducing if you're not careful.
Bjorn was a pup with zero fear!
My little adventure pom!
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!
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.
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
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.
Some of our favorite shots ever come from moments like this, where we just pull off onto pretty, empty roads.
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.
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!!
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!
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK was super cool, very crowded because it was the weekend, but awesome nonetheless.
6th Stop: GRAND TETONS
SO PRETTY. Those mountain ranges are just incredible.
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!
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!
We have been to a lot of pretty beaches, now this is one of them!
PICK ME UP!
We got some seriously good work out of our tripod/remote combo. More on our gear later!
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!
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