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Montana or Bust: How to Survive a Family Road Trip!

Author’s disclaimer: notes taken on iPad and transferred to laptop during a one-coffee-with-wifi stop. I apologize for grammatical errors up front ūüėȬ†

Getting Started.

It’s family road trip time and we decided to test our patience by going a little farther than normal. 1,500 miles farther than normal to be exact! Over the 6 years that we’ve been testing gear, we’ve been lucky enough to form some really strong friendships. Oddly enough, the majority of these friends are based out of Montana, and so…Montana or Bust!

Packing was a pain in the… I have now made it my goal to always have a huge Tupperware box full of camping clothes and necessities. ¬†I will label the box “Adventures Only”. I will not be able to touch this box unless we are going camping or into the outdoors. I will no longer search through all of my belongings at the last minute to try and compile a so-so camping wardrobe. By dedicating money to good quality outdoor gear items and saving them for “adventures only”, I will be able to use them longer and also not worry about my day-to-day clothes getting messed up.

An “adventure only” must item is my trusty bandana and it’s many magical uses!¬†

Our family is essentially “car-camping” so we packed what we needed but also took the luxury of just pilling it into our van and trailer. Even though its a lot of items, my husband has a pretty awesome way of organizing it all. Kitchen/cooking ¬†items all go into a large Tupperware, food in another. Each person has a backpack with their own clothes and personal items. Cody’s toys and activities in one on the seat next to him and dog items in a container on the floor next to her. We keep important items that we might need in the van, and if there is a rainstorm, we can camp in it without getting things out of the trailer. The trailer is mostly “play” items such as bikes, hammocks, slack line and more. It also serves as another place to lay our head if necessary. We borrowed a Let’s Go Aero Gear Wagon 125 that serves as not only a gear hauler but a pop up tent that can sleep a family of 4.

Our budget is a little tight right now but we made the decision to just go for it instead of wishing we would have tried. We’ve made a goal of purchasing more groceries instead of eating out and opted for free campsites instead of reservations. Sometimes, the best adventures happen when you don’t have a plan.

This road trip just got a little better. A gift for the road from our New Belgium Brewing                                Beer Ranger friend Travis! 

On the road. 
The road north couldn’t be any prettier. Colorado doesn’t have a spring anymore, so nature is in the state of what I like to call “springer”. You know, the time where one day the plants are all brown or have barely any buds, then after a little rain and a lot of sun…BAM! It hits you like a brick wall, flowers everywhere, trees look fuzzy with new leaves and the grass is dusted with a light Kelly green color.

I am very excited for our travel itinerary. It doesn’t get much more complicated than “head north”, however, we do have plans to stay in Lander, WY tonight then head northwest to the Tetons, Yellowstone and eventually to Montana and into Glacier National Park.

Always my favorite view of Pikes Peak. Taken from the                                                              Safeway gas station in Woodland Park, CO. 

Sunday: Moose, Medicine Bow and¬†MRE’s.

Colorado Springs-Cheyenne, WY- Sinclair, WY.

Hit the Wyoming boarder around 4pm and checked in on Facebook, lots of friends in Kansas a getting tornado warnings. We’re keeping an eye on the sky here but only getting wind gusts up to 35mph. Roads are dry and only small patches of snow remain here and there. Stopped at a really nice rest area right after the CO-WY border. The mountains of Colorado are more than amazing but there is also something special about the western plains. Nothing but green grass and blue skies as far as the eye can see.

A very “Welcome to Wyoming” view was just west of Cheyenne, a moose! We couldn’t believe that he was there along the highway saying hello to us! The views are very enjoyable, green grass, blue skies, ever changing cloud patterns, snow powdered peaks and the cutest site: newborn baby calves!!

One way our family is saving money on this trip is by using an app called Gas Buddy. It is free and tracks the nearest or cheapest gas and diesel near you! It might only be a few pennies saved, but it sure adds up! ¬†Keeping on the theme of free or cheap, I researched free camping locations near our first stop, Sinclair, WY (named after the gas corporation). We passed through lots of Medicine Bow National Forest but there wasn’t anything near our final destination for the night, so we choose a nice location on BLM land called Dugway Recreation Site.

They have a handful of sites, all free, right next to the ¬†North Platte River. Most sites have a picnic table and are near an outhouse. We parked in a pull-thru site and were one of only three campsites in use. On the way to our campsite, we encountered high winds and some rain and knew we would be experiencing that at night as well. To prepare for that, we set up our pop-up as soon as we got there. It was relatively quick and easy to set up and features a top sleeping bunk platform with tons of storage underneath. We set up our sleeping arrangement and then enjoyed dinner in the van. On tonight’s dinner menu: car camping kitchen special! We couldn’t agree on what we wanted to eat so my husband decided on MREs (Meals Ready-to-eat). Now, while my son was uber-excited to open his and see what was in there, I was uber-worried we would all have diarrhea the whole night. I have to say, they weren’t too bad! ¬†Most MREs come with some form of crackers or bread, cheese spread or peanut butter, then a main course like pasta or meat. They also include some salt, gum and even tiny jars of hot sauce and a dessert! To cook these items, it’s quite the science experiment: first, you take the main course (which is vacuum sealed in a plastic bag) and stuff it into another plastic bag. Then, you pour a few tablespoons of water into the open plastic bag and a chemical reaction causes a heating pad to warm up and heat the food. While that was heating up, we enjoyed our crackers and cheese or peanut butter. The main course meal was not the best but we powered through because we were starving! After that, it was close to bedtime so we enjoyed our MRE desserts and headed for the pop-up. Day 1 in the books, tomorrow we head for Jackson.

Later...Jackalopes, Jackson and Just plain stuck in the mud…


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