When you don't know where to go, only that you ARE going, you train yourself for flying by the seat of your pants. Take the roads you want, go the direction you generally want to travel, pack your things, put the car in gear and GO.
So my friend Ron and I knew we were headed to Colorado to meet up with his family, which included an 8 month old grandson. We knew the address of the VRBO rental they had booked for us. We also knew the general area from a previous trip near the area. As I have traveled to Colorado over the last 4-5 years, in earnest road trips, I have been making mental notes on what I enjoy, what was 'ok', fantastic, never going back~equipment that might be helpful. I've been building my knowledge base and it is now proving to come in handy.
Staying at a rental works~it's a perfect solution for trips with friends, family and if you want to stay put in an area, a basecamp per se. You use your vehicle to travel. The sticking point for me~ I always want to go up the road that is narrow, rough and labeled 'pass'. I'm a sucker for an uphill 'pass' , a narrow slot canyon or a road to a remote location. Up until NOW my vehicles just didn't quite fit the bill for my desires. My former F150 was too big for me, I never felt comfy in the seat. I have short legs and therefore I was 6" from the steering wheel, leg extended~ which just wasn't comfy. Plus it was just too big for what I envisioned some of these trails allowing. My Explorer fit ok, but the traction going over the rocks and through the waterways always left me concerned. I began looking for my dream vehicle and it has always been--a Toyota 4Runner. I waited until we had gone through the holidays, then through tax season and then through all of the used ones being sold off the lot at the local dealer.
Gosh~ I waited too long! It took me a while to find one, but I finally found one that worked for me~ a 2019 with 15K miles on it. Perfect~ except that vehicles are so scarce I know I didn't get the best 'deal' on it. But I own it.
Happy to have it.
Love to drive it.
LOVED driving it up, over and through all the county 2 lane gravel roads we hit through a 2 day trip extension AFTER the family visit.
Some of the most beautiful photos I have taken have been snapped along the long, flat roads in western Kansas and eastern Colorado, with a rain storm in the distance. The clouds rolling in, the flashes of lightning and the swollen tentacles dropping rain across the horizon. I want to stop and watch it all evolve, but the road is calling and our destination is an 8+ hour drive. We keep moving.
Here are my road trip rules, loosely followed.
1. If there are State highways available, paved, 2 lane, in relatively good condition, plan on using them. They take you through the small towns, the hidden gems, the diners, dives and small history museums. The oddball stuff, like huge balls of twine, the Garden of Eden, the small county lake with beautiful bluffs and not along a 4 lane interstate. You have to be willing to get off the 'speedway' and onto the scenic byway. Do it for yourself. Open the horizons and go find something interesting.
2. If I'm pulling my trailer, we stop by 4 pm, well before sundown. We have time to unwind, set up camp, check out our overnight home. There is something about feeling 'settled' in for the night that is important to me. Flying in late, no time to see where you're parked, who is next to you, or if you're dispersed camping, being able to navigate is key.
3. Expect a great trip, but also plan for something to go wrong( the worst). Each trip it is something different. Read blogs, ask questions, have a safety checklist. Take extra water, always. Take a filter in case you go through all that water. I mean pack water containers in your vehicle, your trailer and your backpack. Don't be the 'dude' that shows up without water.
4. Day of travel~ get up and go. Have things packed the night before. My dad taught me this. He would pack everything for all 6 of us in the pop up trailer. Mom packed the food for the trip. We always had food in the car, rarely did we stop and buy food. They couldn't, they had 4 kids to feed. They would wake us up at 3-4 am, put us in the station wagon with our pillows and hoped we slept the first 4 hours. I'm sure it was peace to them.
5. Have a plan of where you want to go, but don't over plan. Who knows~ you might be driving through 'Coolville' when the best festival happens to be going on. Traveling with a loose itinerary allows you to make the trip into whatever it evolves into.
6. Off road vehicles allow you to go up roads and over scenic passes that normal vehicles shouldn't be going. Doesn't mean you need to own one. Rent one, at least 1 time.
7. Go places that your cell phone has no service, where you can find firewood within a 50' diameter of your night stop, set up camp. Enjoy.
Florissant Fossil Bed area for a hike
I've been to this area before. It is technically called the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. It is quite interesting. This time we drove to the trail head, where there is a NPS visitor center, but we didn't do the fossil and petrified wood tour. Today was all about getting outside for a walk. Trail name: Boulder Creek Trail. Approximately 3 miles around. We took our lunch, the baby in a backpack, set out and had a moderate hike. I always have to remind myself that the increase in elevation does make a difference to me the first 48 hours. Hydrate!
Slideshow shares the various places I thought were worthy of a photo. The blue sky and white pops of clouds over arching the multi-green valley was stunning. The way the wind taunted the grasses and pushed it around was mesmerizing. A beautiful meadow in late August. Follow that up with the 'Boulders' that the hike was named for. We sat and had lunch along one side. A perfect place with shade, perfectly placed rocks for seats and absolutely no one around. Can't beat that!
We stayed around Florissant for 3 evenings and about that many days. We said goodbye to family and set off down county road 3, which was supposed to take us all the way to Highway 67. Kinda worked out that way...eventually. It was then when it became a true "adventure" and you can't have a memory making road trip without ADVENTURE. Just keep moving. Fill up with gas when you see it, have water in your car, some sort of food, a general idea of where you're going and let go of the worry!! MAPS! Gazetteers and state maps are a MUST for every state you'll be traveling through. Preparation is key.
Take a photo of the maps the NPS provides, help verify what you think you read, because I can guarantee you no one remembers it the same way. True story. See how county road 3 looks like it is open? We saw no sign that indicated otherwise. UNTIL we got to the cut off between 3 & 33. Once we got there a sign "Road is damaged beyond this point" Brand new OHV drivers here. Does that mean GO or NO GO> an hour later, after traversing 33 we came back to #3. We decided it meant it was a GO because 33 was a dead end into someone's property. It wasn't a total waste~ along the way we found a beautiful lake and several adventure 'camps' for the adventure seekers that must arrive by bus. County rd 33 taught us that we weren't really in charge. Push comes to shove~ we've got gas, water, a tent, food. We can do this.
We started to see remnants of fire along several mountains. They are stark and it is understood it will take many years to replace the burned down trees. We honored the stark 'untree' lines with a quiet passing. We do appreciate the firefighters, volunteers and others that MUST have worked hard to keep it from advancing. There were clear areas of fire and of no fire.
I'm going to stop for now...I'm leaving you on County Rd 33, about 1/2 of the way up to what will be a futile attempt to find Highway 67 or Deckers, CO. Come back for the 2nd installation, where we take the 4Runner up, over and through. A good test for us as drivers and the vehicle teaching us to trust its capabilities, IF you know how to use them. We didn't.
Go outside and ADVENTURE!!
Until next time~
Be safe and happy travels.