11,000 Miles: The Long Road Home

The long road home

After weeks of driving, exploring, and introducing Rylan and Roman to their country, Tina and the kids had had enough of spending their summer days watching the miles tick by in the truck. For them, the adventure was over and it was time to go home and get ready for a new school year. With thousands of miles left to go, I dropped them at the airport in Denver, and Kai and I set out on the long road home.

First through Kansas, then Saint Louis, then Nashville, and finally a very long day and a hard push back home to Port Saint Lucie.

Dinner at Wilson Lake, Lucas Park Recreation Area, Kansas

I counted up the days. We were away from home for 49. Tina and the kids saw 14 states and Kai and I saw 19. The total was eleven-thousand miles, almost exactly. We visited more than a dozen state and national parks. We met up with family members from both sides of the family for adventures in many places. We hiked during sunrises and into sunsets.

Coming home through Florida thunderstorms

By the end of day 6 of driving from Wyoming to Florida, I learned what “road weary” meant. The last few hours on the Florida Turnpike left me in a daze. Every bump in the road was magnified. The roar of the engine sounded different, like it couldn’t go on. The miles took longer and longer to pass by. I finally made it home around midnight – and as quickly as the trip of a lifetime came to be, it was over.

Would I do it again? Probably not. Not like this. I would have chosen 1/4 of the destinations, and spent much longer at each. Does this mean I regret the aggressive timeline? Not at all. We saw a lot of places and had adventures nearly every day. I’m glad we did this once in our lives, but I probably won’t do it quite like that again.

So what’s next for us, the truck, and the camper? I’m not sure. I’ll let you know next summer.

11,000 Miles: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

In the moment, we thought nothing of the distance; but in retrospect, this was a terrifyingly long way from Florida. The grand finale of our trip was the farthest point from home, in Wyoming. Yellowstone is as expected – beautiful, remote, serene. Okay, I lied about the “serene” part. During the height of the season it was pretty overrun with people, bordering miserable. But it was nice to imagine it as a peaceful place.

I’m glad we visited, and I’d love to return in the offseason sometime.

11,000 Miles: Death Valley National Park, California

We didn’t spend a lot of time in Death Valley, since it was one of the hottest days on record. We did our best to safely tow the trailer up Death Valley Pass toward Lone Pine. In retrospect, this was probably the dumbest route we could have taken, and it was the only part of the trip where I worried that our truck actually might not make it. If that had happened we would have been in trouble.

Beyond the stress of this part of the trip, the park was absolutely beautiful and I’d love to return in winter sometime. The heat was unreal so we didn’t do very much exploring.

11,000 Miles: Las Vegas, Nevada

The road from Kanab to Alabama hills was interrupted by Sin City, so we decided to stop and spend a night at the Bellagio. It was nice to get out of the heat for a day, and did I mention that the kids tagged along with Silvana and Don for this leg of the journey? Tina and I had a quick date night before continuing on toward Death Valley.

11,000 Miles: Kanab, Utah

The next stop for us was Kanab, in Southern Utah, at Dark Sky RV Campground. If you’ve been following along with these posts, you’ll notice I haven’t called out any of our campgrounds by name. Most of them are pretty much the same, with the basic amenities – electricity, water supply, and a place to connect a sewer hose. Most have some sort of atmosphere for children. Most have bathrooms and showers. Most are extremely overpriced.

I’m calling out Dark Sky RV Campground because not only is this possibly the best run campground we went to, but it was the cleanest, had the most/best amenities, was run by some very fine human beings, and was one of the least expensive places to boot. And did I mention the location? It’s gorgeous out there. The night sky is as dark as the Patagonia night sky I saw years ago.

Enough gushing about the campground, and on to the adventures. We had so many adventures here that it’s going to be tough to list them all in only one post. And this post won’t even contain the national parks. But … here we go!

Light painting with sparklers