Roadtrip Route: Intended vs. Actual

Where to even begin with this trip? I guess with the big picture.

Here’s what our original route plan was. We used to roughly sketch out a route and find/add more points of interest along the way.


Jaunty Julie&Amity | My new trip on!

So after months of planning, we set off on our adventure and Murphy’s Law quickly took over. Here’s what actually ended up happening:

As you can see, it sort of looks like the top peak of our route caved in.

The red pins are things we did or saw (not every single thing is included here, but most are). The blue pins are places we spent the night. Our trip was originally three weeks and ended up being extended by just a few days. In my mind, it also separates pretty neatly into three phases, although they don’t correspond exactly to seven-day periods.

If you look at the map, Phase 1 is the “right wing”: from Vegas into the southwest, then up through Colorado and into South Dakota. Phase 2 is what we’ll call “technical difficulties,” and can be mostly represented by that mad dash in the middle from South Dakota, through Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada, to San Francisco. You may notice there aren’t many pins in that part. Phase 3 is our grand finale, the “left wing,” from San Francisco up through the middle of California, then looping around through Oregon and all the way back down the coast to San Diego.

Oy. It makes me tired just looking at it now.

So why did it all go down like this? I shall tell you a story in pictures.

Amity and I had a third musketeer on this trip in the form of our campervan. His name was Kokapelli (yes, we know it’s spelled wrong, but his name was down in the books long before we met him).


Beautiful, isn’t he? Here’s what the other side looked like:


I told you he’d give Hip Hop Yellow a run for its money.

Anyway, Kokapelli was a retrofitted Chevy Astro that was our transport, home, and everything in between for the trip. Though you certainly sacrifice some comforts, campervans are awesome for roadtripping. Bed in the back, kitchen in the way back, the works. It’s like being a turtle. As soon as you decide to stop driving, you’re already in your house. As Buckaroo Banzai would say, “No matter where you go, there you are.”

Kokapelli carried us faithfully through all of Phase 1.

And then this happened:


The balmy –27 degrees F temperatures in Rapid City, South Dakota were too much for him, and he blew a coolant hose and fried the starter at exactly the same time. So after a lost day in a mechanic’s waiting room, we soldiered on from South Dakota into its equally frigid neighbor, Wyoming.

And then this happened:


You can see he’s maintaining his cheerful attitude despite the setbacks.

The script I’ve memorized from listening to the mechanic is: “The rear differential is shot. Yeah, the housing’s bad. The bearings were spinning, if you can imagine.” So I don’t know what that means in technical terms, but in layman’s terms it means we couldn’t drive him anymore. Womp womp.

So then we got this flashy little speed demon:


The van rental company was absolutely unbelievable when it came to customer service. They didn’t try and put any liability on us, didn’t make us feel bad for calling roadside assistance at all hours, and paid for the mechanical repairs on the spot. Basically unheard of. However, when Kokapelli bit the bullet for good in Wyoming, we had a dilemma: abandon the roadtrip barely halfway through, or reroute completely? The latter, of course.

So we hightailed it to California in that little rental – hence Phase 2. We drove from Gillette to San Francisco (about 1200 miles) in less than 48 hours, where we were greeted by this behemoth. His name is Woodpecker.


(He’s behind the tree. I know the camouflage is very convincing.)

He did the job alright but never quite weaseled his way into our hearts the way Kokapelli had done.

Anyway, this whole switcheroo meant that we unfortunately had to abandon most of the northern stretch of our intended route, through Montana and Idaho and over into Oregon. Based on our time and energy (all this craziness wiped us out a bit), we tried to cobble together a plan to still hit most of our west coast destinations. So instead of getting into Oregon from the east and then going down through California from the north, we just did a big up-and-down loop.

In the end, I think it worked out pretty well. It definitely put us to the test in terms of thinking on our feet and staying positive… but when I think about how many things and places I’ve seen that I hadn’t a month ago, all the things I got to do and wonderful people I encountered… it was worth it 100%.

Thus begins the saga of our own Roadtrip: USA. Now that you know the background, I suppose I’d better begin uploading my photos so I can post the real stories soon!

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