The Six-Month Road Trip: the results are in.

We are three days away from being back in Canada. After 191 days, 56 distinct stops, one accident, one flat tire and one possible concussion, we are ready to bring this trip to an end and get off the road for a while. We drove over 22,000 kilometres.

We know that after a few weeks, we will be restless and ready to go again. That is our new reality – the blessing and the curse of being unhoused means that “wherever we lay our hat that’s our home.” Every new home feels exciting.

We chose to stop in Las Vegas for a three-night respite before the long drive north. We had a wonderful time here in November with our friends and we were craving space, comfort and relaxation. The Tuscany Suites are set on several lushly landscaped acres a 15-minute walk from The Strip. Our room is 600 square feet, compared to our 120-square-foot trailer.

It was too cold to use the pool in November, but with temperatures in the low 30s in April, this was a different scene.

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Back in November those fire pits were lit and warming; we met our friends here each morning for coffee.

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After we left Vegas in November, I had no desire to return.  I realize Vegas needs to be accepted and enjoyed for what it is, but the ability to do that escapes me.  I still see the ugliness, excess and wretched souls.  Hustlers, jittery addicts, rock-bottom street prostitutes, aging C-list performers and the endless swath of tourists – it feels jarring to be here.

So back to what we wanted to share with you all – the gritty details.
I’ll begin with what you really want to know – how much did this cost us?

Expenses
Insurance.
 Costs vary tremendously depending upon age and duration of stay, but our insurance for six months  in Mexico and the U.S. (we’re both over 65) = $1700 (with a $5000 deductible)
Mexican car insurance – 2 months – we overpaid (long story)   = $850

The U.S. dollar costs roughly $1.35 – $1.38, which means everything cost at least one-third more. The difference for four months in the U.S.?   = $5000

Food, accommodation & misc.  – this figure is a moving target, as it will be affected by the type of campground you choose, whether you cook or eat out, if you take a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon, etc.

Since we follow a fairly strict budget, we tend to cook most of our meals and to stay away from the luxury RV parks. With the cost of campgrounds,  groceries, wine and beer,  restaurant meals, firewood, laundry, three oil changes for the truck, museum and entry fees, we averaged $120 a day.  We never felt as though we were skimping or doing without and if we were more adept at boondocking (camping on beaches or public lands for free or very little), that figure would have been much lower. This lovely beach in Baja  was one of our best camping experiences and cost us nothing.

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If you are travelling through the U.S. for any length of time, make sure you pick up an America the Beautiful card.  It costs US$80 for a year and grants admission to all National Parks and National Monuments. With most of the big parks charging $30-$35 entry and the smaller ones charging $10-$20, it pays for itself very quickly.

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Our grand total for travelling for 191 days through the U. S. and Mexico?         $25,000

Campgrounds – reserve or take your chances?

If you want to guarantee a campsite in any of the National Parks and many of the state parks, you will need to book ahead – often six months or more. We were very lucky to snag spots in Zion and Grand Canyon, but they were last-minute cancellations and Steve happened to be online at the right time. A couple of hours later and we might have lost them.

It is a hard call – we changed our travel plans a number of times due to snow, and a few times we extended our stays because we were enjoying ourselves so much.

However, we met a couple who are on the road for a year. She booked up all the parks almost a year ago and they are simply making it work.

Campgrounds – private, public or boondocking?

We tried to stay in national or state parks as much as possible. Usually the setting is attractive, the sites are spacious and the campers are often of a similar mindset – they are there to enjoy nature and tend to be more respectful. Most sites offer dry camping or have electricity – they seldom have full hook-ups. Usually there are restrooms and showers and almost always there is a sani-dump and potable water. Occasionally, but not very often, you get wifi and cell reception. They cost from $15-$30.

The private campgrounds run the gamut from high-end costing $75 – $80 a night to more modest campgrounds that charge $30-$40. Private campgrounds almost always offer full hookups, wifi, and other amenities such as a small store, showers, laundry, firewood, book exchange, etc. We appreciated the private campgrounds when we needed to clean up ourselves and our trailer.  But private campgrounds are often cheek by jowl sites with little privacy and a couple of times we had  bad experiences with inconsiderate campers.

Boondocking is the way to go if you can make it work. BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands in the U.S. and the beaches of Baja are there for the taking (or for a nominal fee). In some cases, there are pit toilets, garbage cans but in the vast majority of cases, you are on your own. Once you figure out how to handle your water and waste issues, you’re all set. Drive in, pick a spot and set up camp. The camping experience is sublime – dark skies, coyotes howling, and utter peace.

We can boondock for four nights. We arrive after having emptied our grey and black water and filled our fresh water tanks. We have a six-gallon jug for our drinking water and are very careful with our fresh water usage. We have discovered we can go up to four days without a shower (never our first choice, but it is possible). After four days we need to hitch up, go to town, use a sani-dump, refill water, have showers and begin again.

Exercise on the road

Although we hiked a lot, our best intentions about maintaining a formal exercise routine quickly fell away. The excuses are easy – no space, no privacy, too cold, too hot, etc. We have a yoga mat, resistance bands, Pilates cards, and even a skipping rope.  I will freely admit that Stephen is more disciplined than I, and hauling out the equipment a few times in six months does not an exercise routine make.

Grooming

I have “accidental long hair”. After wearing my hair short for decades, I let my hair grow out last winter in India. Indian women have long hair and I was stymied as to where I would find a hairdresser who knew how to cut a short style. I have carried that sentiment forward as we continue to be on the road – how to maintain a style that needs tending every few weeks, without having a tragic cut? My solution was to let it grow long enough that I could pin it up. So far, I am feeling less soigné than I had hoped.

When you camp for a long time, you tend to retreat into a bubble. We are keeping good company with other campers who wander the grounds in their jammies, and brush their teeth into the bushes. It’s always a shock to come into town and see women with mascara and a color-coordinated outfit.

Health Issues

Sooner or later, you may require medical attention, or at least wonder if you should find a doctor.

Several weeks ago, I managed to bash my head so hard in our trailer that I literally bounced off the wall. While Stephen tried not to laugh, I sat there, tears streaming and a bit nauseous. After much online consultation, we concluded I probably gave myself a concussion, as I developed a headache, dizziness and mental wooliness that lasted for several days. If we had been in B.C., I would have gone to our doctor, but in the U.S., far from a decent hospital, I decided to wait it out.  It worked out, but it did raise the question of what to do in situations that aren’t emergencies, but could turn out to be serious.

Libraries

We cannot sing the praises of libraries enough.  Every small town has a library that is welcoming with its great wifi and in many cases – a book sale. We have replenished our books, usually for 50 cents or $1.00, and either discovered new authors or grabbed a book we’ve been meaning to read.

The People

Campers tend to develop a quick and easy rapport with each another. We’re all away from home, and everyone has a story. We have met such wonderful, interesting people – this is one of the highlights of this kind of travel.

The Cost of Travelling in the U.S. 

We were expecting gas to be cheaper than in Canada, but it varies from state to state. California prices are almost equivalent to Canadian, while Arizona, with exchange, runs to about $1 a litre.

I was surprised by the cost of groceries. Again, I expected food to be less expensive, but in most cases found prices to be the same as in Canada or even higher. For example,  fresh pesto costs $5.99 (CA $9), a loaf of bread costs $4 (CA$5.50) and Salad-in-a-bag – $4 (CA $5.50).

Cell Phone Plans: AT&T vs. Verizon 

WE bought an AT&T cell plan, which was supposed to give us unlimited phone and texts in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. Calls out of Mexico to Canada were problematic, and we also found access to cell towers was limited in much of Arizona.
According to many other people, Verizon has much better service and coverage. 

Final Thoughts:

We had a fantastic trip and would highly recommend almost every place we visited. If you are contemplating a road trip, or contemplating buying an RV, or if you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

We are back in British Columbia for a housesit on Gabriola Island, and we are looking forward to welcoming our grandson in early June. After that, we head up north to the Yukon and NWT for the summer.

Thank you for following along with us – it means a lot. See you again in July.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

32 thoughts on “The Six-Month Road Trip: the results are in.

  1. Lisa McClintock April 25, 2019 / 6:19 pm

    Great trip you two. So glad everything went well for you. Enjoyed all your writings.

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    • leavingourselvesbehind April 25, 2019 / 8:09 pm

      Thanks Lisa – glad to hear you were following along! This has whetted our appetite for many more trips into the States.

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      • islandguy007 April 25, 2019 / 8:16 pm

        Anytime, we don’t go far due to ferry and doggie.. .ferry is getting nutso already this year. Cheers

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  2. islandguy007 April 25, 2019 / 6:19 pm

    We live on Gabriola, come for a visit. Love your stories and your travels… not for us I fear but would love to discuss over some homemade wine 🙂 ! Cheers, the Island Guy (and girl) !!!

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  3. Joan Fisher April 25, 2019 / 6:52 pm

    Thanks for inviting us along. We enjoyed reading your posts. Not sure we will ever take the plunge, but this is terrific info if we do.

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    • leavingourselvesbehind April 25, 2019 / 8:12 pm

      I love reading travel stories, especially if I know I will never get there! Sometimes someone else’s adventure is all I need.

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  4. Bob and Jeanne April 25, 2019 / 7:28 pm

    We are glad to hear you have made it back to Nanaimo area safe and sound….particularly given the aspect of a unexpected concussion that probably lingered too long. The trip summary is a wonderful commentary of your travel and we look forward to finding another rendezvous opportunity with the both of you.
    Our very best.

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    • leavingourselvesbehind April 25, 2019 / 8:15 pm

      We’re not quite home yet – up early tomorrow to begin Day 1 of a 3-day drive back from Vegas. We are taking Bob’s suggestion of the Great Basin Road – looking forward to that drive. Looking forward to the drive through Seattle less!

      We will hopefully find a way to get together again either this summer or fall.

      Talk again soon. xo

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  5. Shelley and Tom April 25, 2019 / 11:03 pm

    We’ve followed all your posts, marvelled at the beautiful scenery and loved your adventures. Look forward to seeing you soon on Gabriola (at zumba?). Big congratulations on your imminent grandparent-hood! We beat you to it, becoming grandparents at the beginning of February and were able to spend a couple of months with our grand-daughter this winter. So wonderful!

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    • leavingourselvesbehind April 27, 2019 / 6:47 pm

      We heard about your new granddaughter form Robin – congratulations! We have yet to meet an ambivalent grandparent, so we are pretty excited!

      Will definitely see you on Gabe – I’m hoping Vero will take it easy on me at zumba!

      See you soon – xoxo

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  6. Patti Stapleton April 26, 2019 / 3:02 am

    Hi Ginny and Steve: I have loved every moment of your terrific travel log. As I will never go to most of the places you have been, it’s been a great trip for me too. Take care of your head Ginny and have a safe drive home.

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    • leavingourselvesbehind April 28, 2019 / 9:20 pm

      Hi Patti – so happy to have you along with us on our trip. I think my head is okay! We’re home now – arrived back in B.C. this afternoon.

      Like

  7. Ann Sapingas April 26, 2019 / 6:00 am

    Amazing adventures as always, thanks for sharing it all. I live vicariously through you both. xx

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    • leavingourselvesbehind April 28, 2019 / 9:21 pm

      We’re happy to share – and much happier that you want to come along for the ride!

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  8. Patricia Brown April 26, 2019 / 6:40 am

    Sounds like u had an amazing voyage.. Enjoy your time house sitting!

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    • leavingourselvesbehind April 28, 2019 / 9:22 pm

      Thanks Patty – we are ready for a bit of a sit and regroup. There are worse places than Gabriola Island to do that!

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  9. Sharon April 26, 2019 / 7:40 am

    We also enjoyed meeting you both in Los Barriles and have followed your travels. What an amazing journey you have had. Good for you guys that you can follow your dreams. We hope to see you on Gabriola when you arrive. Would love to connect again. Tony and Sharon

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    • leavingourselvesbehind April 28, 2019 / 9:23 pm

      Hi Sharon and Tony
      We would love to see you as well – we’ll be in touch.

      Like

  10. Nancy Huot April 26, 2019 / 7:53 am

    So glad you are home safe. Please have your concussion checked out. You two are a marvel and so much fun to follow.

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    • leavingourselvesbehind April 28, 2019 / 9:24 pm

      I need to see our dear old doc just to make sure the duct tape is holding. I think the head is fine, but I’ll run it past him.

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  11. EJ April 26, 2019 / 9:25 am

    Hi Ginny,
    I saw in your note a possible concussion. If you are still having symptoms, Mike is now a font of knowledge about concussion recovery, should you need any resources. EJ

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    • leavingourselvesbehind April 28, 2019 / 9:26 pm

      Thanks EJ – Mike is a font of knowledge on lots of things – please tell me he did not also have a concussion? Symptoms are long gone, but it does make me grateful I’m not a professional hockey player. 😉

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  12. Heather April 26, 2019 / 1:29 pm

    So, another adventure on the road is drawing to an end. I must say, I chuckled when I read the part about only being home a short while before getting the urge to pack up and be off again! Whenever that day arrives, we will be ready and waiting to read all about it!

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    • leavingourselvesbehind April 28, 2019 / 9:27 pm

      We just crossed the border today and so far – very happy to be back home.

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  13. Ron & Verna Mullins April 26, 2019 / 2:06 pm

    Hi Ginny and Steve. We have been following you since our chance encounter in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and enjoyed your blog. We were not in the US for as long as you two were (83 days for us) and agree 100% with your submissions and evaluations. We spent a considerable amount of time Boondocking or dry camping and our daily rate was a little less, but that 35-38 percent increase on the cost of everything begins to hurt the budget fairly early on. We are glad that your trip was accident free as was ours. Until our paths cross again… Happy Trails to you both! Ron & Verna

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    • leavingourselvesbehind April 28, 2019 / 9:30 pm

      You two are some of the wonderful people we talked about! I have a mental image of thousands of people travelling at any given time, and how lucky we are to have our chance encounters.

      Happy trails to you both as well! We’re off to the Yukon and NWT this summer – see you again soon.

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  14. Pippa April 26, 2019 / 10:02 pm

    Although we haven’t commented a lot, we’ve loved traveling along with you – thank you for taking us on and off road in your RV. You brought back lots of memories of our own adventures and introduced us to fascinating new places . As always your writing has kept us entertained and your photos have brought your words to life . You will be wonderful Grandparents with many tales to tell your lucky Grandson . Please get in touch when you are back so we can thank you again for ‘sending us to Oaxaca’ !

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    • leavingourselvesbehind April 28, 2019 / 9:31 pm

      We hope to see you both soon – we just arrived in BC today, and after we get ourselves sorted out, we’ll be in touch.

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  15. jon snipper April 27, 2019 / 8:39 am

    What a great adventure. Safe travels back. Sorry we will miss you this summer. I wish I could give you my scores of travel adventure books collected over the years, most relating to exotic places I’ll never enjoy/endure except vicariously through the books. Hope not the same for the places you so well describe and photograph. Really makes following in your tire tracks an attractive proposition. At least once the Trumpeter is gone!

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    • leavingourselvesbehind April 28, 2019 / 9:34 pm

      Thanks Jon – we are sorry we will miss you and Linda this time around as well. You may not need to wait too long for the Trumpeter to go – each day he appears closer to exploding.
      We’ll see you before long, I’m sure.

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  16. Garry Davey May 1, 2019 / 7:17 pm

    What a wonderful journey you’ve been on, I’ve been loving your blog, and the great photos you’ve been taking. The Grand Canyon is certainly the icing on the cake, wow incredible. Hope to see you some time on Gabriola, once you’re back (No doubt that’s already happened, welcome “home”!). Donna is busy directing a play (Old Love) which is playing May 23-26, hopefully you’ll be able to come! Happy landings!

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