Could We Do That?

Back in 2016, Could we do that? was the spark that began The Occasional Nomads’ Big Adventure. We were trying to pick a first location to visit after YaYu left for college from a list we’d put together when Brett said outlaid that he wished we could see them all. We looked at each other and both said, Could we do that? Everything that followed stemmed from that one question.

This past week we once again found ourselves asking each other, Could we do that?

Although we’ve been planning to relocate to Mexico when we leave Tennessee in 2024 we’re still feeling itchy to do a bit of travel first. This past week Brett and I were talking about possibilities for that and road trips came up. We’ve long dreamed of a road trip to visit all the western U.S. national parks, and it wasn’t long before we were asking each other, Could we do that?

We have a car again, and Brett loves to drive. I don’t enjoy driving as much as he does, but can do it and am otherwise a good passenger; long days in the car don’t faze me. Other than my remaining student loan balance we have no debt. Once it’s time to move on from Nashville we will have no obligations, nowhere we have to be at a certain time. It would be an ideal time to head out west and fulfill another dream and it would honestly be our last opportunity to undertake such a journey.

Could we do that?

Someone came up with an ultimate national park road trip map, but we’re only interested in doing the western portion.

We’ve been crunching numbers for the past few days, looking at maps, and gaming out what a big road trip like this might look like and involve. For a couple of days we got excited about camping along the way, and even looked at lightweight campers we could tow, but eventually realized that option didn’t really interest us – for a few days maybe, but not months of it. After figuring out possible expenses (primarily gas, lodging, and meals, storing our furniture) we figured out that by staying in pet-friendly budget motels/hotels and Airbnbs along the way, and sticking to a set daily food budget it would be affordable. We have a lifetime pass to national parks and monuments. We’re still trying to figure out what could be a workable route based on when we could leave but have also realized we need to research more about which parks are open when, which accept dogs and which don’t, and so forth. There’s lots to learn.

While we’re having a good time with this right now we’re still not quite ready to commit to something this big. There are too many unknowns for us right now, things like future gas prices or whether we will even feel up to taking on such a big project in another two years. Is this really even a good idea, we wonder? In spite of the unknowns, the idea is out there now and the big question has been asked.

Could we do that?

We’re beginning to think we just could.

26 thoughts on “Could We Do That?

  1. We are big campers and bring our (large) dog with us, and in the last couple of years we’ve spent a lot of time touring through some of the big western national parks. (We haven’t made it to California yet, but spent a lot of time through the parks in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and a bit in New Mexico.) Unfortunately most of the western parks are not very dog friendly, due to all the animals. Every park we have visited is ok with your dog in your car, in the campgrounds and in parking lots – so if you just want to do a lot of the beautiful drives or take turns hopping out at overlooks, you’ll be fine! But dogs are banned on most trails, although a lot of the parks do have one or two trails that you can walk your dog on to get them a bit of exercise if you’re in that area. There are almost always other parks/national forests/etc around the national parks that DO allow dog walking on trails, but if you don’t have a nice safe air conditioned camper to leave Kai in while you’re exploring the park it could be tricky. I think it goes without saying, though, that they are incredibly beautiful and worth the time!

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    1. Oh, this is good to know now! We’re already getting good at the splitting up, where one of us takes Kai with the other checks out a place, but can’t see wanting to do that for months on end. Definitely something else we’ll have to consider as we decide whether we want to do this or not.

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  2. I know what you said below the picture, but having g seen so many of them I would avoid the keys and the humidity and head east and north. Either skim Maine (although I would not especially after reading all the Paul Diron novels) and cross east, or cross Canada to the UP and miss Ohio.

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    1. Our idea would be to head northwest to South Dakota, then North Dakota, and then up into Canada to see Banff NP before heading down in to Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado. We’ve seen everything in the east except the Ohio park.

      We lived in Key West for two years . . . and loved it, humidity and all! I would love to go back, but it isn’t necessary.

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  3. You guys are so the opposite of us! All we want to do is nest now. Bake bread, make art, rinse, repeat! LOL….never-the-less I do enjoy reading about all your plans and ideas! I thought of you this week as there is an interesting article in the New Yorker about the hippies of San Miguel de Allende. It is NOT what you think. Check it out.

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    1. This is definitely an ambitious plan! We discovered on the way down to Tennessee though from Massachusetts that we enjoyed the road trip, and we’ve always wanted to do one out west. To be honest though, part of us also wants to settle down somewhere. But where is the question.

      Thank you for letting me know about the article – I looked it up and enjoyed it very much. Nice to read about what some expats are doing there.

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  4. May I suggest reading the “Dear Bob and Sue” books by Matt and Karen Smith. They are available on Amazon. We listen to their podcasts when driving back and forth to our grandson’s soccer games. You CAN do all 5 NP in Utah, but allow a good 2 weeks time. We did that in 2007.
    Today we listened to their podcast #92, about The Grand Circle Tour. https://www.thedearbobandsuepodcast.com/92-the-grand-circle-tour/

    My husband and I began visiting NPs and NMs and NBs in the 90’s. We are now in our mid 70’s. (We do trails, not hikes like the Smiths do. They do strenuous hikes.)

    This country has so much to offer… let me give you an example: We were in Alaska in 2015 (our second trip their) and ate lunch with a couple from Australia. I asked the gentleman “if we were to come visit your country, what would you suggest we should see”? He quickly answered… “why would you bother? You have everything here geographically that the rest of the world has, and it is in YOUR country!” He was right.

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    1. Thank you for the link – I am going to listen!

      I so agree the U.S. has much to offer. Brett and I are fortunate that a) we both grew up in families that encouraged travel, so both of us saw a lot of our country when we were young; and b) Brett’s navy career took us back and forth across the U.S. several times over the years, and we got to see and visit many more places. Still, there remain many places we haven’t seen and would like to visit if we can. Time will tell if this plan is an opportunity we shouldn’t miss, or if we should just be grateful for all that we have been able to see and do in this country, and it’s time for us to settle down.

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  5. With some planning and flexibility, I can’t think of any reason not to do it. You know me, where there is a will, there is always a way.
    I’ve been watching a Romanian couple traveling through Europe since July and they have a tent on the top of their SUV. They sometimes use hotels, motels, and inns, but most of the time they sleep in the tent ( during the summer months because they don’t have heating in the tent). I thought of you when I was watching them, a rooftop tent is not overly expensive I think.

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    1. A trip like this would take a LOT of planning – I’d be in planning heaven!

      Camping sounded like so much fun at first – we enjoy it – but after a few days and reality sunk in we could not imagine camping for months on end. Plus, we no longer have any camping gear, so there’d be a bit of expense upfront for that.

      But, being on the road with Brett would be fun – we’re good travel companions (after 45 years together we still haven’t run out of things to talk about), we both like to stop and look at things and learn as we go.

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  6. This looks really appealing to me. You can head to the Black Hills and skirt the UP of Michigan and the Boundary Waters of MN IMO, since the national parks there are pretty remote and best suited for campers, canoeists, and hikers with rustic tendencies. (Check out Isle Royale if you doubt me. LOL)

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    1. This trip is very appealing to us and we’re rather excited by the idea of it. We’re in the process of checking out pet policies at different national parks, and Isle Royale and Voyageurs were quickly knocked off the list (no pets allowed). But I agree that coming up through upper MI and across Minnesota over to South & North Dakota would be far more interesting than coming up through Iowa (because we’ve done that).

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  7. I enjoy your blog. We’re your age and just took an amazing, 4-month, western NP and beach roadtrip, driving a car & staying at hotels and cabins. Highly recommended; so fun! Loved the planning too.

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    1. This is encouraging! We said we would give ourselves a year, and if time remains after visiting the west we’d head east to visit the parks there, ending at Acadia in Maine. I can see us spending several months just in California – there’s so much to see and do there beyond the national parks. I will be in heaven with the planning!

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  8. I have always wanted to tour the National Parks. Even more so now since flying has been so stressful lately. I have relatives, old college roommates, etc. in Utah so definitely going to do the big five there, as well as wanting to do some state parks, drive to Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Glacier, and Yosemite eventually. I intend to go to Nauvoo, Illinois, also would like to go to Lehman’s store in Ohio ( they sell to a lot of Amish and have well made products). I intend to pack a tent but I am short and could sleep in the back seat with an occasional cheap motel. I want to go all over the Midwest also, the Dakota’s, Michigan, as well as Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Pennsylvania looks interesting also. I have been to some of the places like Arches Park in Utah, but would like a repeat visit. I also want to go eat in the real Cajun country in Louisiana. These are several trips, with a trip back home to rest….lol I looked at getting an RV but decided not to bother. It is too expensive and I walk, but I do not hike with my knees. Plus, I am not going to go real remote alone. I also intend to take more train trips. I have been on four. The train through the Rockies goes where there are no roads in many places so really get to see the sights. This will all happen after I completely retire and the economy improves. Until then, I am doing lots of short day trips mostly or visiting family. I plan to get the “standard” Medicare so I don’t have issues with pre authorization like you sometimes can with Medicare Advantage as you travel different states.

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    1. Your plan sounds great! I love that you’re already thinking about the places you want to visit. Me too!

      Buying an RV has been at the top of our “don’t do this” list for forever – too much cost, bother and it really isn’t our style. I looked at motel prices in a few places we’d visit and found good brands at a low cost in many places (for example, Travelodge is owned by Wyndam Hotels these days and gets good reviews and a night there is rarely over $75). Eating healthy on a budget while on the road would be our biggest difficulty, I think, but if we took advantage of an Airbnb now and again, that would take care of having to always eat “road food.”

      We have lost the desire to fly as well. I know we eventually will fly again as we will want to go back to Japan, but for now we’re happy to drive. We also have our little pup to consider.

      I’m glad we have the time to carefully think about this and plan. It feels like a very workable way for us to continue to travel, but we want to see how we feel about it as we get closer.

      You mention Medicare but our biggest issues has been how to get our prescription refills to us when we’re on the road. It’s something of a nightmare, less so though if we stay in the U.S.

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  9. We bought a smaller, lightweight travel trailer last week! Lots of solar, great place to sleep. At 73&65 we are headed out for travel in Idaho state parks, GlacierNP, the Utah/Az corner (and Native reservations), Black Hills and West Coast. The plan is five to seven days out and a different road home. In CA we plan on using military camp grounds. I am in hard core planning right now!
    Have you thought of carrying your scripts and walking in to military pharmacies? My husband has had success with that. We also find Bases and forts not on the beaten path have some very fun/historical/inexpensive lodging. Most are pet friendly and are small apartments.
    Maybe we will see you on the road! You are always welcome in Idaho when we are home.

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    1. We have talked several times about purchasing an RV, looked at them, etc. but pulling a trailer or driving an RV is just not our thing and we know we’d be unhappy if we did it. We also don’t think an RV would a good investment for us at this stage of our lives even if we did decide to set out on a major road trip. And, the car we just bought can only pull an extremely lightweight camper and we’re definitely not interested in having to purchase a larger vehicle to tow anything. So, a good purchase for others but not for us.

      You will be seeing some wonderful places on your journey!

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  10. Maybe there is a compromise here. I am thinking you could travel to Mexico ‘via the scenic long route’ and pick the parks that interest you the most and are pet friendly (this will be an obstacle) to visit along the way. No need to try to see them all or devote months on end to the project, but use it as a transition between points A (TN) and B (Mexico). To me that sounds like a win/win for your situation.

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    1. LOL – on my first visit to Mazatlan we camped on the way down (literally slept on the beach in Guaymas in my sleeping bag)! But, this is a good idea, and yes, a good way to transition between here and Mexico, although we’re not sure whether we would take our car down to Mexico or not – registering a car from the U.S. there is NOT easy or cheap!

      The more we look into which parks are pet friend and which are not, the more discouraged we are becoming. Doesn’t mean we wouldn’t go, but we’d have to rethink several things.

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  11. After retirement we sold or donated most of our belongings and spent two years traveling in a motor home. It was a wonderful time in our lives and has given us many pleasant “do you remember when we” conversations now that we are living in a retirement home. There’s only a window of time when this is a possibility in a life and we will always be grateful we did it while we could. One thing I learned was to pace ourselves, a person can actually get weary of beautiful vistas. Looking back we would spend more time in Montana and Utah. Happy travels wherever you go.

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    1. Your trip sounds like our Big Adventure 2018-2020! It was the perfect window of time for us to do that, and we still are talking about places we went, things we saw and did, food we ate, and so forth. If travel wasn’t so darn crazy right now we’d seriously consider setting off again. Like you, we will always be grateful we had the opportunity to travel when we could. We’re grateful now that we have the time to think things through carefully and figure out the best path for us going forward.

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  12. A friend of mine went on a private group tour with friends to the NPs in Utah and Wyoming last year. She really enjoyed it, but you know on group trips you have to follow the tour schedule and don’t have a lot of time to sightsee on your own. They did the whole trip in a couple of weeks, so I would think you could do a much slower pace. Could you leave Kai with one of your daughters while you travel so you wouldn’t be restricted where you can go? I guess that would only work if you plan to return to the east coast.

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    1. Don’t know if I could handle of tour at this point, but who knows? We would give ourselves up to a year to see everything, and I don’t think we could go that long without Kai in our lives (although our daughters would probably be more than thrilled to have Kai with them for the year).

      There are so many things to think about and consider when it comes to a trip like this. For now we’ve pretty much only looked at it from a financial standpoint, but there’s so much more so no decision until we’ve done a LOT more research.

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  13. Thank you for sharing your thought processes. Your writing is so interesting and is inspiring me to think ahead too.

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