Travelling the western United States ~ Added Pics Page 2

Discuss those "what if" or "what would you do" scenarios you've been wondering about.

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Travelling the western United States ~ Added Pics Page 2

Post by survivaljoe » Sun Oct 20, 2013 6:57 am

First let me warn everyone; this is not a zombie thread. There are no zombies here. :gonk: Sorry.



My wife and I have decided that we would like to spend 5 or 6 months traveling the western states of the USA. Oregon,Idaho,Montana,Wyoming, then down through the plains to Arkansas, and finally across the Southwest and into California. Our tentative route is roughly 7000 miles, with very little Interstate Highway travel. We have a full size van, with a bed and toilet, and equipment for cooking, bathing, washing, and the general enjoyment of the outdoors. We plan on driving 150-200 miles a day, to visit the national forests and parks, monuments, and small towns, spending anywhere from 1-5 days at each destination.

I have searched the forum looking for similar stories or advice, and unfortunately found none.

Has anyone done this before?

What would you do if you were going on this vacation?

Any places of interest, things to avoid, etc., etc.?

Anything else?



Thanks ZS, I know I can always count on you! :clap:

Edit to add: I completed building our van out and I have posted those pics on page 2. Enjoy!
Last edited by survivaljoe on Thu Jan 09, 2014 1:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by TacAir » Sun Oct 20, 2013 12:38 pm

The State Parks in Nevada are worth the time to visit.
If going the 'Southern route' - Cathedral Gorge State Park
Image

If you are taking the 'Northern route', South Fork State Recreation Area. Good fishing.
Rye Patch State Recreation Area, near Lovelock. Also good fishing, bike riding and 4 wheeling.

Confirm fees and openings in advance, as you would any Gov't sponsored park.

Mont, try Flathead Lake. Tons of different RV and boondocking parks, so take your pick. Consider Giant Springs State Park. Day use only, it would be a good place to take a long break from your driving. It is outside of Great Falls.

Good luck, hope you have fun, I would love to do this myself, and just might in the next couple of years...
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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by JayceSlayn » Sun Oct 20, 2013 12:39 pm

That sounds like an awesome way to spend some months!

I am an Idaho native, and I love it there, but I recently moved to Utah, and we have some awesome stuff here too! Too much great outdoors to see. My sampling of places I've visited (and some I haven't yet :cry:) worth checking out if you're in the area (tried to group by geographic location, but there's no optimal route to them all):

Oregon
Oregon Coast - Just gonna lump this all together, has some beautiful coastline.
Evergreen Space Museum - Don't know if you're into aviation/space at all (I am), but it is a really impressive museum even if not. It has (among hundreds of other things) an SR-71 Blackbird, Gemini capsule, Titan missile, and most-importantly: The Spruce Goose. Comically/unbelievably large, that Spruce Goose is. They have a DC-3 comfortably parked under its wing, and it doesn't even reach the pontoon. :shock: Expect to spend a full day.

Idaho
Boise National Forest(-ish):
Bonneville Hot Springs - Short hike from Bonneville Campground. Arguably my favorite hot springs in Idaho, and that is where hot springs pop up just about everywhere (we have a lot of hydrothermal activity from Yellowstone moving through long ago). Could stay a night or two soaking.
Deadwood Reservoir - Approx. 2 hours drive on dirt roads (northeast approach is a little more forgiving than southern approach), off-road clearance advisable, though you will still see people with trailers and small boats there. Absolutely gorgeous reservoir in a forested valley, difficulty of reaching it keeps visitors lower, even in prime seasons. Some improved campgrounds and established primitive campsites along the waterline. Also several lake-side campgrounds around the perimeter, reachable only by hiking/boating. Lots of other fishing, hikes, etc. possible. Could stay a while exploring etc.
Stanley and Redfish Lakes - Picturesque lakes with quite easy drive-in access. Some places to camp (or resorts), fishing, hiking, etc.

Southern Desert Idaho:
Bruneau Sand Dunes - 1 hour drive from Mountain Home AFB area. Largest single-structured sand dune in North America - neat! Some hiking nearby - have to try to climb the main dune at least once, but expect to get sand everywhere. It is actually a pretty difficult climb, but some good views and a sand-sledding opportunity from the top. Probably only spend a day and night or so.
Shoshone Ice Cave - 1.5 hour drive from Mountain Home AFB area. Was a naturally-occurring (since restored to function) collapsed lava tube that is half-full with permanent ice, formed due to a sort of open-ended refrigeration cycle due to venturi effect. Used to be used by locals for ice harvesting. Really strange, but very cool. Only about a 2 hour tour.
Craters of the Moon - 1 hour drive from Shoshone Ice Cave. Large expanse of lava formations, was used by NASA for lunar mission training. Extremely large park in all, but kind of desolate. Most interesting parts are numerous lava tube caves you can go spelunking in. Some other volcanic features of interest.

Yellowstone - Because, ya' know, it's a big deal.

Utah I haven't explored a lot here yet, so hopefully some others can chime in, but I'll give it my best. EDIT: Not strictly on your route, I guess, but more here for reference...
Unita Mountains - Mirror Lake area, 1.5 hours out of SLC. High mountains with hundreds of alpine lakes. Good, but sometimes difficult hiking, trees below treeline. Lots of improved campgrounds and primitive campsites accessible by hiking. One notable hot spring, Fifth Water Hot Springs - I will say Utah has nothing on Idaho hot springs.
Bells Canyon Waterfall - Just outside of SLC/Sandy area. Moderate to difficult hike to first waterfall (the best), about four to five hours round-trip from parking areas.
Donut Falls - Relatively easy hike, except for last scramble over wet rocks to reach the interesting bit of the falls. No camping opportunities, two hours round-trip.
Mighty 5 - I haven't made it to any of the Mighty 5 lately (a few when I was much younger, but that doesn't count), one weekend when I had the opportunity lately, the parks were .gov shutdown. :roll: Just watch the official video to get the idea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlKOcyf915M.
Last edited by JayceSlayn on Sun Oct 20, 2013 2:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by Halfapint » Sun Oct 20, 2013 1:52 pm

JayceSlayn wrote:That sounds like an awesome way to spend some months!

I am an Idaho native, and I love it there, but I recently moved to Utah, and we have some awesome stuff here too! Too much great outdoors to see. My sampling of places I've visited (and some I haven't yet :cry:) worth checking out if you're in the area (tried to group by geographic location, but there's no optimal route to them all):

Oregon
Oregon Coast - Just gonna lump this all together, has some beautiful coastline.
Evergreen Space Museum - Don't know if you're into aviation/space at all (I am), but it is a really impressive museum even if not. It has (among hundreds of other things) an SR-71 Blackbird, Gemini capsule, Titan missile, and most-importantly: The Spruce Goose. Comically/unbelievably large, that Spruce Goose is. They have a DC-3 comfortably parked under its wing, and it doesn't even reach the pontoon. :shock: Expect to spend a full day.

Idaho
Boise National Forest(-ish):
Bonneville Hot Springs - Short hike from Bonneville Campground. Arguably my favorite hot springs in Idaho, and that is where hot springs pop up just about everywhere (we have a lot of hydrothermal activity from Yellowstone moving through long ago). Could stay a night or two soaking.
Deadwood Reservoir - Approx. 2 hours drive on dirt roads (northeast approach is a little more forgiving than southern approach), off-road clearance advisable, though you will still see people with trailers and small boats there. Absolutely gorgeous reservoir in a forested valley, difficulty of reaching it keeps visitors lower, even in prime seasons. Some improved campgrounds and established primitive campsites along the waterline. Also several lake-side campgrounds around the perimeter, reachable only by hiking/boating. Lots of other fishing, hikes, etc. possible. Could stay a while exploring etc.
Stanley and Redfish Lakes - Picturesque lakes with quite easy drive-in access. Some places to camp (or resorts), fishing, hiking, etc.

Southern Desert Idaho:
Bruneau Sand Dunes - 1 hour drive from Mountain Home AFB area. Largest single-structured sand dune in North America - neat! Some hiking nearby - have to try to climb the main dune at least once, but expect to get sand everywhere. It is actually a pretty difficult climb, but some good views and a sand-sledding opportunity from the top. Probably only spend a day and night or so.
Shoshone Ice Cave - 1.5 hour drive from Mountain Home AFB area. Was a naturally-occurring (since restored to function) collapsed lava tube that is half-full with permanent ice, formed due to a sort of open-ended refrigeration cycle due to venturi effect. Used to be used by locals for ice harvesting. Really strange, but very cool. Only about a 2 hour tour.
Craters of the Moon - 1 hour drive from Shoshone Ice Cave. Large expanse of lava formations, was used by NASA for lunar mission training. Extremely large park in all, but kind of desolate. Most interesting parts are numerous lava tube caves you can go spelunking in. Some other volcanic features of interest.

Yellowstone - Because, ya' know, it's a big deal.

Utah I haven't explored a lot here yet, so hopefully some others can chime in, but I'll give it my best.
Unita Mountains - Mirror Lake area, 1.5 hours out of SLC. High mountains with hundreds of alpine lakes. Good, but sometimes difficult hiking, trees below treeline. Lots of improved campgrounds and primitive campsites accessible by hiking. One notable hot spring, Fifth Water Hot Springs - I will say Utah has nothing on Idaho hot springs.
Bells Canyon Waterfall - Just outside of SLC/Sandy area. Moderate to difficult hike to first waterfall (the best), about four to five hours round-trip from parking areas.
Donut Falls - Relatively easy hike, except for last scramble over wet rocks to reach the interesting bit of the falls. No camping opportunities, two hours round-trip.
Mighty 5 - I haven't made it to any of the Mighty 5 lately (a few when I was much younger, but that doesn't count), one weekend when I had the opportunity lately, the parks were .gov shutdown. :roll: Just watch the official video to get the idea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlKOcyf915M.
Also along with this I'd like to suggest Crater Lake in Oregon, it is quite stunning.

Any reason you are missing Washington? We have some BEAUTIFUL spots here Mount Rainier National is a fun stop, Along with Mt St Helen's, All of the Cascade passes are quite delightful to drive though, Mt Baker is a nice drive, coming up I-5 and catching HWY 2 into Eastern WA you'd pass by what are known as the Alps of the USA and a quaint little "german" town of Leavenworth. Not to mention the peninsula with Olympic National Park which is where the guys of 005 had our summergeddon, it's the only temperate rainforest in the world. But I digress.

The Western States are quite nice and each has a little something different in it I've traveled all of them and most of the rest of the country. It's why I still choose to live here, not a lot of population and lots of beautiful spots in out of the way places. No matter where you go you'll have a great time doing it! Have fun don't get stuck viewing everything behind a camera lens, and make sure you get off the major roads when doing most of the traveling you'll have a better time doing it as most of the roads are windy and fun to drive.
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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by EBuff75 » Sun Oct 20, 2013 1:54 pm

My parents just returned from a multi-week trip out west and one of the things that they learned was that the visitors guides that the states put out aren't much use. They were mainly full of ads for hotels, golf courses, and upscale restaurants. They had better luck just Googling the cities that they were headed toward to find out what sort of things there were to see and do in the area.

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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by survivaljoe » Sun Oct 20, 2013 7:02 pm

Halfapint,

We don't have a reason for missing Washington, originally we going to pass close to Yakima. However, we decided to cross the Oregon desert and then drive up the Idaho panhandle, then through to MT. We could easily change that by crossing WA and driving down the panhandle, maybe we can get some skiing in. Being both born and raised Hawaiian, we've never done any winter sports before. Thanks for the suggestion!
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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by Slugg » Mon Oct 21, 2013 12:57 am

My in-laws did a similar thing excluding California and Washington. They ended up moving to colorado for 2 years because they loved it so much, but the cold drove them out and they moved back south. They made it around 5-7 months with just a full bed truck. It worked out great for them since they are used to packing light and being outdoors. Good luck to you, I'd love to do that one day once I get the time, funds and consent from the wife.
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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by KYZHunters » Mon Oct 21, 2013 4:00 am

The cliff dwellings in and around Mesa Verde are a great stop. The Mesa Verde Park has a good tour, but the local Ute Reservation does a fantastic 1/2 day trip with small groups of 12 or less.
http://www.mesaverdecountry.com/tourism ... temtn.html
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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by survivaljoe » Wed Oct 23, 2013 1:45 am

Thanks for the suggestions. We plan to visit Mesa Verde on our southwest leg of the trip. Thanks!
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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by ink » Fri Nov 01, 2013 10:01 pm

Might as well plan on spending some time in the National and State Parks of Utah while you are in the area and presumably passing through anyway. Arches N.P. in Moab and Zions down in southern Utah are must-see's. Not to mention if you are into food prepping you would probably enjoy a tour of the Welfare Square operation run by the LDS church.

Also, I assume you meant to say "Arizona" rather than "Arkansas" in your original post right? :)

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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by Yeti » Mon Nov 04, 2013 11:51 am

During my young and dumb years, a friend and I did that going West on I10 and came back East on I90 & I80.
A one month trip during the Summer.
We tent camped most of the time, every 3rd or 4th night we would get a motel room. Definitely an experience I wouldn't trade anything for.

Bits of advice I'd give you:

1. Install a good CB & antenna into your van. Listen to the trucker traffic from time to time as it will be the most accurate of the traffic reports for you. Saved us from being stuck in a rockslide backup in Idaho at one point.
2. AAA membership, you can get discounts everywhere with it on your trip as well as trip maps for your planned route with all the obscure tourist attractions.
3. A good GPS that is currently updated. I wouldn't rely on your phone GPS out there as you have to rely on it's carrier coverage vice a stand alone GPS just needs open sky.
4. If your carrying your piece, check the laws before the trip so you know where you stand with it in each state you go through. Crossing from Nevada into Califorina is a radical difference in what is allowed and how it is allowed to be carried.
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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by DJH » Mon Nov 04, 2013 12:25 pm

I can offer some interesting areas to hit in New Mexico, should you venture through here...

There are tons of ghost towns that I love to explore. A list - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_gh ... New_Mexico

The usual touristy spots, White Sands, the Trinity site, Alamogordo, Santa Fe, etc.

I really enjoyed visiting Sugarite Canyon State Park, and Rockhound (opposite ends of the state tho)
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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by jor-el » Mon Nov 04, 2013 12:49 pm

Before you make any extended trip with a motor vehicle where you may be far from repair facilities:

1) Oil change.
2) Belt inspection. Maybe change out old belts.
3) Coolant, ATF, hell, wiper fluid.
4) General inspection may not be a bad idea.
5) Fuel cans. Perhaps check on intended gas stops to make sure they're there.

Use Google to check the weather you'll be passing through.
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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by grennels » Mon Nov 04, 2013 5:10 pm

Be sure and buy a National Parks Annual Pass. They cost about $80. You'll save it
back in spades.


My wife and I covered similar path on a motorcycle a few years ago but broke it into
2 trips - Northern Rockies-Southern Rockies. 5k miles each trip.

Overall preferred the southern trip.

Utah is amazing. Zion, Bryce, Capital Reef, Canyonlands, etc, etc.

In CO drive the Million Dollar Highway loop out of Durango. Durango is a cool town.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Also little known Unaweep Canyon south out of Grand Junction is beautiful.

Up and over Grand Mesa is cool.

Mesa Verde is a must.

Grand Canyon - do both rims - north Rim is much more rustic. If you get the chance stay
at the Cameron Trading Post east of GCNP.

Lots of really nice jewelry can be bought at little rat shack roadside stands.

Up north the Badlands of South Dakota.

I was disappointed in Jackson Hole. What a tourist trap.

Yellowstone was, of course, great. Be aware of Grizz if camping. Drive Beartooth Pass
just for the rush.

Spent some time around Sula, MT. Nice area.

Little Bighorn Battlefield gave me the shivers.

We didn't make Glacier. Wish we had.

Never pass a gas station in the outback without filling up. Carry plenty of water, it can be scarce.

I have a fairly complete journal of the northern leg I could email if you're interested.
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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by Trippy » Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:32 pm

Avenue of the Giants in northern California http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avenue_of_the_Giants" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Go see some big trees, drive through one, and maybe hunt some bigfoots (bigfeet?)

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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by Confucius » Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:47 pm

As far as California, essential stops are Yosemite, Redwood national park & Sequoia national park. If you go down the coast (driving along highway 1 is gorgeous, but slow), hit up Hearst Castle and Big Sur.

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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by DJH » Mon Nov 04, 2013 11:00 pm

Confucius wrote:As far as California, essential stops are Yosemite, Redwood national park & Sequoia national park. If you go down the coast (driving along highway 1 is gorgeous, but slow), hit up Hearst Castle and Big Sur.
+1 to Hearst Castle. That place is amazing. I've done 3 of the tours.

Just south of there, Morro Strand is a pretty cool place to hang out. You can camp on the beach there if you get a spot (it can fill up quick.)
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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by survivaljoe » Tue Nov 05, 2013 8:32 am

Alright! Thanks for all the replies, I really do appreciate them. So far this is turning out to be a vacation/mock extended bugout. Not trying to go too overboard on the bugout side, we were planing to stay 3-4 nights a month in rooms, 5 or so nights at campgrounds with facilities, and the majority in national forests and free campgrounds. I'm in the process of modifying our van and will try to get some pics up of the build. Definitely going to have CB, maybe a scanner, and definitely maps, maps, and more maps!

Grennels, if you get a chance send over those logs. I am interested. Thanks!

Thanks Again!
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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by survivaljoe » Sun Nov 10, 2013 7:19 pm

Some pics of my van. I had an older Chevy Express conversion van but I didn't think it would have enough room or carrying capacity once it was loaded down with gear, water, and supplies. So I opted to trade for a GMC 3500. Its longer than my Express and its a 1-ton.

Image

Image

Image


For now I'm changing the fluids, belt, tires. I also stripped out the flooring underlay to replace that with foam insulation and plywood. I'll post pics when thats done.
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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by survivaljoe » Tue Nov 26, 2013 4:18 am

So I finally had time to finish up the flooring. I used 1x2 untreated pieces (basically the cheapest 1x2) and 1 inch long self tapping screws. I counter sunk the screws so they wouldn't split the 1x2's. I self tapped these to the van's higher floor ribs and then attached my 1/2 inch plywood. The height of the plywood and the seat mounting channels are the same. I used 1 inch coarse thread drywall screws to attach my plywood after measuring and adjusting measurements so none of the ply would be floating off the 1x2's. After test fitting the ply, I laid down a thin bead off "great stuff" type spray foam in each channel. Then I laid the stock vinyl flooring show in my previous post back down.

Here's the pics:

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image


So using the most basic equipment, I now have a solid, insulated, even floor for attaching the cabinets and bed frame. I'll get to that in due time.
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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by Grey dog » Sat Jan 04, 2014 11:36 pm

The Expedition Portal forum has some great ideas on vehicle mods for camping and travelling. They are spread around between various vehicle sections and trailer sections. They also have some trip reports in different areas. May get some ideas.

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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by Tater Raider » Tue Jan 07, 2014 11:24 am

Give yourself 2 days to do Yellowstone. Trying to pack it all into one day is doable but suckish. Go 3 days if you want to relax but still see everything.

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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by leadpulaski » Tue Jan 07, 2014 9:48 pm

Make sure to hit Glacier and stay a night or two. The last time I went we stayed a week and that still wasn't enough time! The park service has a pass that gets you into all of the parks, I'd opt for it.

The North Cascade Highway in Western Washington is definitely worth the extra time one road. While in the cascades go to Leavenworth. I love me some Leavenworth.

My dream trip is down the PCH.

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Re: Travelling throughout the western United States

Post by survivaljoe » Wed Jan 08, 2014 3:43 am

Thanks for the suggestions, I thought this thread had lost interest. Just an update, I completed the van build including the bed frame, storage shelves, gun safe, storage, storage, and more storage. I will post up pics tomorrow for everyone to see.

Thanks again for the responses!
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