Monthly Archives: October 2012

Travelling Across the Country? There’s an App for That!

Although our entire trip has been focused on getting back to nature, we’ve relied quite heavily on modern technology, including computers, smartphones, and the Internet.  Technology enables us to research parks, select our hikes, and find campgrounds, restaurants, and gas stations.  Previously I wrote an article about all the technological hardware we use.  This article is focused on the software.  Most of the apps listed below run on iOS, in other words, on our iPhones and iPad.  A few run on our Windows laptop.  Here are the apps we’ve used the most on our trip, in alphabetical order:

ACDSee

acdsee

ACDSee by ACD Systems International Inc. ($49.99)

I’ve taken A LOT of digital photos on this trip, well over a hundred photos per day.  I’ve used successive versions of ACDSee on Windows for over a decade.  The program strikes a good balance between power and ease of use.  It helps me organize all these photos, plus it has most of the basic editing functions I need, such as cropping, rotating, enhancing, red-eye repair, etc.  The biggest downside is the price, but I usually skip a few versions before upgrading.

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Best Marshmallows for Roasting

On our year-long trip we’ve roasted a lot of marshmallows over open campfires.  And since we’ve shopped at many different grocery stores across the USA and Canada, we’ve tried many different brands of marshmallows.  Normally we like the quality and taste of store-brand foods, but we found that the store-brand marshmallows had an odd “chemical taste” when roasted, and the roasted marshmallow’s top layer didn’t peal off nicely so we could make double-roasted mallows.  After much experimentation, we’ve decided that the very best marshmallows for roasting are Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallows.  The marshmallow bag says “America’s Favorite,” so apparently the rest of America agrees with us!

Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallows

You Can’t Think of Everything

When we made the decision to go on a year long RV trip, we had zero experience RVing.  We bought the RV on faith that we would enjoy traveling and living in it.  To learn how to use it, we spent a total of 4 days camping at Big Bone Lick State Park which was literally across the street from our house. That was the extent of our experience living in an RV before departing on our year long trip.   We hoped we could think of everything we needed to bring and what we forgot, we’d buy along the way.

As it turns out, we did pretty well imagining living in an RV.  To equip the RV, we brought many household items such as dishes, pans, utensils, toaster, clothes, sheets, towels, tools, outside table/chairs, etc.  However, there are a few things we brought that we often say, “Wow, I’m sure glad we brought that!”

Darby models her extra blanket that keeps her warm on cold nights.

1. The Dogs – Almost a year ago I wrote about our consternation on whether we should bring the dogs or leave them with a friend.  It turns out, we’re very glad we brought them.  With some patience and consistent training, the dogs became very good RV dogs.  We also ended up spending more time in parks that allow dogs on trails than we originally thought we would.  In fact, to date, the dogs have hiked 480 miles.  We have hiked 800 miles so the dogs have hiked with us 60% of the time.  We’ve never had to board them as they do fine in the RV while we hike in national parks that do not allow dogs on the trails.  It’s been a joy having them with us.  They are an integral part of what has made this trip enjoyable and we’d miss them terribly if they were not with us.

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Sunny Florida, Here We Come!

We wrote earlier about how our trip of a lifetime is coming to an end.  We listed four options that range from heading straight home to dilly-dallying along the way and ending our trip in Florida to visit my family.  Many of you emailed or commented with your opinions, and we truly appreciate your input.  We are so fortunate to have family and friends who are so supportive of our dreams!

You have probably figured out from the title that we are choosing “Option 4: End in Sunny Florida”—but with a twist.  Instead of visiting every park along the way to Florida, we plan to visit only a few of the best parks, just to break up the long drive. 

As I mentioned in the previous article, when eating a delicious dessert, we always want to know when it’s our last bite so we can really savor it.  So we are ending our trip with three spectacular bites, er, parks:  Snow Canyon State Park, Zion National Park, and Grand Canyon National Park.

As I write this article, we have already visited Snow Canyon and arrived today for five wonderful days in Zion. But we’ve also visited each of these parks before.

Theresa enjoying lunch on a petrified sand dune in Snow Canyon State Park

We visited Snow Canyon when Theresa got me a hot air balloon ride there as a gift for my 40th birthday.  Snow Canyon has some of the most colorful rocks in the world and giant petrified sand dunes. 

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Camping in BLM Land: Free. Silence, Isolation and Spectacular Sunsets: Priceless

We’ve mentioned before how much we love dispersed camping, also known as roadside camping, random camping, and free camping.  The reasons are many:

  • It’s free!
  • It’s quiet
  • We are isolated and alone
  • We can run the generator whenever we want
  • The dogs can run free off the leash
  • The views are usually spectacular
  • Did we mention it’s quiet?

Timm cooking out with Shadow and Darby hoping to test the ribs

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What Are You Reading?

Back in February when we were just starting our trip, our friend Sean O’Shaughnessey sent us a list of possible blog topics.  When I feel inspired to write, I pull out his questions and pick one.  Sean wrote:

You are both quite intelligent but I don’t know if you have a hobby of reading – any good books that you have started now that you are care free?

As far as the “both quite intelligent” part of Sean’s question, Timm is indeed brilliant.  As for me, let’s just say tenacity, determination and old fashioned hard work can obscure intellectual deficiencies.  Regardless, I do enjoy reading.

I read books in both traditional book form and electronically on our iPad. For the electronic books, I borrow them from the wonderful public library system.  I have 3 library cards: Boone County, Kenton County and the Cincinnati Public Library.  Here are the books I’ve read during this trip.

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Why We Are Selling Our RV

My friend Sean asked me why we will be selling our RV after our trip is over.  The simple answer is because we will be finished using it.

Our RV is for sale!

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Should We Stay or Should We Go?

The end of our trip is approaching.  Our original plan was to finish our trip just after my birthday November 4th at Zion National Park in Utah.  When we reversed course at Death Valley in March–heading in a big counter-clockwise loop across the country instead of clockwise–our new plan was to finish our trip at Yosemite National Park in California.

Last week we spent five amazing days at Yosemite.  After all the parks we’ve visited—on this trip and in our twenty years of travelling together—Yosemite is our favorite park of all.  The weather was perfect, sunny and 70s every day (in spite of a snowstorm two days before we arrived).  The waterfalls weren’t flowing heavily (we would need to come in the spring for that).  But it was like visiting an old friend.  We had a terrific time, and perhaps it seemed like Yosemite would make a fitting grand finale to our trip of a lifetime.

Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

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Our Typical Day

Even though we are visiting a new park every few days, and each day brings a new experience, over time we have adopted a routine that suits us well for life on the road.  Routines are not a bad thing.  They bring predictability, efficiency and comfort to what could be a very unpredictable, stressful trip.

Theresa, Timm, Darby and Shadow in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

In general we have three types of days: 1) Hiking Days, when we remain camped in one place and spend the day hiking in the nearby park.  Of course, these are the best days of all and the reason why we are on this trip.  2) Travel to Park Days, when we pack up the RV and drive to the next park.  It would be nice if we could just teleport ourselves from one park to the next, but unfortunately we have to deal with 21st century technology and drive our RV there.  3) Come Down From the Mountain Days, when we pack up the RV and drive to the nearest town so that we can restock supplies, do laundry, pay bills, run errands, etc.  These are also known as Reality Days.  We try to keep these days to a minimum.

Of course to keep life interesting, some days we mix up our routine, for example by hiking in the morning and driving in the afternoon, hiking on our driving days, visiting a city and doing something “touristy,” or by going to dinner and a movie.  But in general, following are the three typical types of days on our trip:

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Olympic National Park: Three Parks in One

We spent more time in Olympic National Park than any other other park on our trip.  Olympic National Park is very diverse and has so much to see, plus the weather was nearly perfect (except for some fog along the coast), and we were looking to slow down and rest after all the work required and stress involved with selling our house. 

The nearly 1-million-acre Olympic National Park in northwest Washington state is actually like three parks in one:

 

Olympic Mountains

The Olympic Mountains dominate the center of the park.  Please check out our photo tour of the Olympic Mountains.

 

Olympic Rainforest

The temperate rainforest along the west side of the park is the wettest spot in the continental USA.  Please check out our photo tour of the Olympic Rainforest.

 

Olympic Coast

And there is a separate section of Olympic National Park along the Pacific Ocean.  It includes the longest unspoiled wilderness coastline in the continental USA.  Please check out our photo tour of the Olympic Coast.