Part One | What REALLY Happened On Our 15 Day Road Trip

20160625_184055 Although we've been back from our blitz across the US for over two months now (*tiny sob), I really haven't talked very much about it. It's much easier to post pretty pictures to Instagram....

So, earlier this spring my mother-in-law mentioned a 4th of July gathering at the family cabin in the Sequoia National Forest. It was January at the time, and the snow out the window was thick and depressing. We weren't sure what was next for our family (eventually moving full-time into the Casita or finding a rental), but trip planning was something I could do.

We planned to travel westward from Chicago on I-80, spend a few days at Yosemite National Park, hang out with family for a few at the cabin, head out to the California coast to visit more family, and then travel south to see the Grand Canyon before heading east again. It was an overly ambitious, completely naive plan.

This is what REALLY happened....

We traveled westward on 1-80 through Iowa and Nebraska, mostly in heavy rain and took a break at the Council Bluffs, Iowa Visitor Center (which was actually really cool.)


Hit a 50 mile road closure in Nebraska and drove through countless ghost towns to meet back up with the highway. Never did find out what happened. Stopped at a semi-creepy roadside attraction.


Hit Denver at sunset, switched onto I-70 and decided to drive through the mountains in the dark. Yea, that was scary, and I wasn't even driving.


20160626_064942Woke up in Frisco, Colorado surrounded by mountains and had a quick breakfast and stocked up on more food at the natural grocery store. Love us some hippie food!

The drive through the rest of the state was gorgeous, and we stopped to play by a river and started to feel more relaxed.



Southern Utah was like another planet full of immense red plateaus and completely desolate. I both loved it and was slightly freaked out by it.


Then we nearly ran out of gas. Nothing will start a marital spat quicker than admitting you forgot to watch the fuel gauge. We drove off the highway, windows down in the hot, hot heat in search of a gas station in a tiny town. We barely made it, but we found a closed gas station (it was a Sunday) with the pumps on. Hallelujah! Chalk that one up as a MAJOR rookie mistake.


We had hoped to meet up with our traveling friends, the Currens, who happened to be only about 30 miles away, but were afraid of losing time if we headed northward. So we decided to head south toward Las Vegas with an In'N'Out Burger our reward for a VERY LONG day. I could have just slept in the parking lot, but we instead found a slightly sketchy Wal-Mart to sleep at instead. Priorities.

Let's just say it was incredibly, horribly hot in the Casita without air that night. #wereallythoughtthatonethrough


We woke up outside of Vegas and spent the day baking in the car through the deserts of Nevada and Southern California.


We made it to Mariposa County, near Yosemite NP, around dark and rolled into our KOA campsite in total darkness. But we made it! It was a glorious feeling to take a shower after 3 nights boondocking at Wal-Marts along the road.


20160628_080814We woke up early the next morning, packed up our hiking gear and snacks, and made the hour long drive into Yosemite. Having grown up among the flat cornfields of Indiana, I had never really seen anything like Yosemite before. Wild rivers, deep canyons, trees growing out of the side of domed rocks; the drive itself was thrilling, but still did not prepare us for what awaited us in the Valley.

20160628_092448If you've never been to Yosemite before, it's an incredibly large national park. A small portion of it is called the Valley, and it's where El Capitan, Half Dome, and Mirror Lake can all be found.

20160628_092926We drove into the Valley and caught our first view of El Capitan rising out of the forest. Once we finally found parking and made it to the Visitor Center, we decided to hike the trail to Mirror Lake.20160628_164603



20160628_115726The water level was fairly low in the lake, but the Merced was flowing nearby, and there was a swimming hole filled with people splashing in the sun. We quickly changed into our bathing suits and spent the afternoon completely losing track of time, playing in the mountain cold water.20160628_125841

We hiked to the lodge and had ice cream and dinner (in that order) before heading back to the campground. 20160628_141455

But as we were driving out of the valley, we wanted one last close up view of El Capitan.20160628_172803

Then we saw people playing in the Merced by the Swinging Bridge. So we stopped to play, simply because we couldn't imagine that day ending.20160628_180751

20160628_182554It was a perfect first day at Yosemite, and we had ambitious plans to attempt the Mist trail the next day (or at least the lower section of it.) We woke up the next morning and made oatmeal in the camper....everything seemed to be going well....


And then our youngest started complaining of her stomach hurting. What followed completely changed our plans for the rest of the trip.

To be continued....