VA to WA-11 States, 26 days. (Epic Road Trip)

Frozen Camp in Colorado, at Lizard Head Pass.


Back in 2018 we (Katrin and I) moved from Snohomish, Washington (State not DC) to Roanoke, Virginia. Read about it or watch it here.

Disclaimer, yes we moved and traveled during the ‘rona. We did our best to work within the guidelines.

Fast forward to 2020 our obligation to be in Roanoke has come to an end, we simply needed to wait for the lease to be up with our apartment. Then we can roll out / move back to Washington.

On the wet morning of Aug 31st 2020, we hit the road, with my F150 pulling an enclosed trailer and our Jeep Liberty. Katrin has been pulling trailers her whole life, since she grew up around horses. That is partly why she drove the F150 and pulled our tiny trailer. She was accompanied by our 2 year old female Catahoula Leopard dog, Ellie.

I would be doing the navigating and leading, driving the Jeep with our female Cat, Remi. Not exactly a masculine look for me but I take my coffee with extra DGAF.

On the road at a rest stop

Every time we pack up or unpack it never fails. We (Katrin and I) get rained on. The rain never misses an opportunity to be inopportune.

On the 31st of August, while still in Roanoke we were getting hit by the edges of Hurricane Laura. Just like when we moved to Virginia 2 years prior, where we were hit by a similar round of flash flooding. Both times I did as much prep work as possible during sunny days but sometimes you just have to get wet.

Not only did we load our last minute items in the hurricane, but the pets too. I also had to turn in the keys at the office plus make a last minute donation to Good Will. All in the lovely sideways summer rain. At least it wasn’t cold.

Day one: Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, and Missouri

Completely soaking wet and NOT off to an Ideal start we hit I-81 South from Roanoke heading straight for Pigeon Forge TN. Which we decided to skip due to the hurricane. If you aren’t familiar, the area is home to Dollywood and many other attractions. This was supposed to be our first camp site.

We also gave up on hanging out in Nashville, not only because of the weather conditions but having a cat and dog with us. Our original intent was to either put them in an animal daycare or find a sitter using one of the dog walking apps. None of that ended up happening. Nashville was going to be another one night stay camping just outside of the city.

Pressing on, we headed North from Tennessee through Kentucky and ended up one Highway 51 from Kentucky over a bridge to Highway 62 in Illinois for a couple hundred yards on a small island and then across another bridge into Missouri. That is definitely the fastest that I have ever crossed through a state.

From there we then went straight North around St. Louis and onto I-70. Deciding to camp in Jonesburg, at the Jonesburg Gardens Campground.

By the time we hit camp in Missouri the weather had thankfully improved dramatically. We skipped our first few days of planned traveling but with so much to look forward to it was truly bittersweet. Also, it was nice to be dry.

I always joke with people about the humidity zone here in the USA and I was excited to be so close to leaving the humid side of the country. Not to mention fall weather was ahead for September and I am a big fan of colder weather. As a side note, cicadas are spawned straight from hell.

The next morning I was more than excited to get into Kansas, simply because that meant I was finally going to get to see Colorado. Which has been on my bucket list for a long time.

Days Two and three: Kansas

Kansas isn’t much to write about. We stopped near the center of the state at the City of Wilson, which is the Czech capitol of Kansas. We were pleasantly surprised by a the worlds largest hand painted Czech egg. If you’re entering Wilson, you CAN’T miss it.

We camped in the nice grass fields of the Wilson RV Park. Camping was cheap, we had it all to ourselves, and the showers were clean. Didn’t try the laundry facility. This was one of the best spots of the whole trip. Five Stars. Also, the moon was HUGE that night. Adding to the magic of the nice facilities was the amazing weather that day. Perfect blue skies.

The following day after packing up camp, we drove at MACH JESUS SPEED to get to Colorado. Since thus far the whole trip has been a bust and Colorado was where we had some actual plans laid out.

Day Three: Colorful Colorado

Colorado is where the trip really started for us. First up was Fort Collins. We had friends in that area that we could stay with and provide us with a base of operations to leave one car, the trailer, and animals with. Oh and see them too of course!

We were able to spend a few days working within the Covid-19 guidelines to see Fort Collins, visit our great friends, and the Bellevue Watson Fish Hatchery. All in all a great time. Even with the thick layer of smoke and haze in the air.

Speaking of which, yes, there was a wild fire nearby at the time and conditions would change rapidly from smoky with falling ash, to clear and beautiful. Having smoke on top of Rona did make things more difficult, but we found a way to enjoy ourselves none the less.

Downtown Fort Collins is filled with great beer and a cool martini bar. As always, have a plan and think before you drink.

After overstaying our welcome in Fort Collins and with a “big” winter storm looming on the horizon we headed down to Denver to stay with some other friends and seize the opportunity to sleep in a house and not the Tepui during the coming snow and frigid temperatures. (We stayed in the tent while in Fort Collins)

Once we got settled in with our friends down in Denver the following day was when the snow came in. It was forecasted to be a large winter storm with weather swinging from the 90s one day down below freezing the next. Precipitation levels were forecasted from 2 to 14 inches of snow.

Snow accumulation ended up being around 2 inches in downtown Denver, but since the previous day was in the 90’s the surface temperature was much to high in most places for the snow to stick.

With Remi in the house and safe, we chose to grab Ellie and take the Jeep to go downtown Denver and see the flagship REI store, take a picture with the Denver sign, as well as head up I-70 to Lookout Mountain.

Lookout Mountain had received a decent amount of snow and some was still still falling which was a welcome sight after not having a winter in Roanoke the previous year. Additionally, I love snow.

On top of Lookout Mountain, you’ll find Boettcher Mansion, and Buffalo Bill’s Grave. We saw the mansion first then visited the grave site. From Buffalo Bill’s Grave we went down to Golden, where the streets had a little bit of snow and were still bustling with people. If you’re going through there, I recommend Woody’s Wood Fired Pizza on the main road.

Our Stay in Denver was only a few days and we were primarily there to visit some friends. Once the weather had cleared up and the temps returned to a more normal state, I-70 West bound became passable again.

It was time to hit the dusty trail, and head up to Vail to do some sight seeing and experience a ski town. Even if it was out of season. The town itself is very nice and clean. A tourist trap for sure, and is heavily catered to the ski slopes.

Further along I-70 we hit Glenwood Spring and Highway 82 going South towards Carbondale, where we ate lunch and refueled. Camp that night was at the Bogan Flats Campground where we pulled in after dark. Rain was in the forecast but luckily for us, it was only a drizzle.

The next morning, a little back tracking was on the menu. Since the road hours had grown long and the light dim the day before we hastily made for camp. Now we had plenty of time to drive back North towards the Carbondale.

Our Northern most stop on the list of backtracking was Penny Hot Springs. The springs are on the side of the highway and were not only busy with people but depth of the springs was merely a couple inches. Hardly worth the effort at least at the time. Maybe earlier in the year the water would be deeper.

Facing back South now and tracing the route from the day before, we finally made it back to Redstone, and the Redstone Historic District.

The town of Redstone, like many of the towns nearby was cleverly named. The historic district with its former train station, park, and of course coke ovens is a nice place to stop and admire some history.

Moving along down Hwy 133 to Hwy 3 we arrived at the town of Marble. The gateway to the Crystal Mill.

Pulling into Marble, there is a place on the right near the fire station to park your spare vehicles and trailers before getting off the pavement and going up the mountain to Crystal. So we parked and decided to see Marble on our way back. We were just too excited to get the the mill.

Note: There is a warning sign on the trail/road leading up to Crystal stating that it for 4×4 access only. Some people in an SUV were stuck on the mountain on our way back down. They had blown a tire, then busted the donut(the tiny spare tire) off of the wheel and were driving on the rim. We saw them later in the day off of the mountain but heed the warning signs about it being for high clearance 4x4s.

If you plan to visit, tread lightly and please put a few dollars in the donation box to help preserve this historical site for future generations. Pick up trail trash even if it’s not yours.

The Famous Crystal Mill. Crystal, Colorado.

The Crystal Mill remains a historic landmark and is the first thing you see before entering the town of Crystal. We parked at the mill and took photos before walking into town. Which is only a quick walk down the road.

There is a small store in town and a tub full of drinks being kept cold by the stream. Gifts in the store are tasteful and the people working there are nice. More importantly, the views are worth the drive.

Back down the mountain and in the town of Marble, our first stop was Slow Groovin BBQ. I ordered the “Man Eater” and a local beer.

After lunch we took the F150 back to the Jeep and trailer, which were parked at the Historic Marble Mill Site. Where there was once a very large mill operation. You can walk through all of the old mill site and see the various structures made of marble. Some of the marble milled here was used at the Lincoln Memorial!

Marble is strewn all over the town and residences as well, in the form of art and architecture. Overall the town is worth taking a little time to stop and check out.

From Marble we put in as many miles as daylight would allow. Continuing down to BIG B’s Apple Orchards and Campground in Hotchkiss, CO. Where we paid just in time for a camp site and some spiked hot cider. (They closed at 8pm)

I don’t think the clerk there fully understood what I meant when I said a truck, trailer and jeep but we were assigned a very small site out in the orchard.

That night it rained on us and the next day was hell trying to get the trailer out. The trailer at this point was also having an issue with a tire who’d been leaking air faster and faster over the last few days. We did have a full size spare, and an air compressor. So it wasn’t an issue to fix it on the spot. Just inconvenient.

That morning after getting the tire pumped up, camp put away and trailer out, we explored Big B’s store for a bit opting to get a few things. Then putting in some more miles to find a new tire for the trailer. Which it turned out the valve stem was bad, and was fixed for free. Thank you Big O tires.

From Hotchkiss to Telluride was a beautiful drive and Colorado keeps the amazing sights coming. Pulling into Telluride was a great feeling, yet again I was able to travel to an iconic location. We parked well outside of downtown, and walked in with Ellie on leash and Remi in her backpack.

Telluride is one of those place that is great year round. The town sits right in the heart of the mountains and looking East down Colorado Avenue really lets you take it in.

There is plenty of shopping, bars, and sights around downtown if you aren’t ready to hit the slopes or like us, are not in a position to get the bikes out for a ride. We spent the afternoon walking around town, picking up some shirts and taking some photos before leaving to find camp. I have to go back.

The day before we rushed to camp after dark which was the hallmark of some of our past trips, but we really wanted to break that cycle. So we left Telluride in the early evening to try and find camp at a lower elevation. We really didn’t want to suffer through a very cold night. Especially for the animals sake.

All of our plans for a warm night were thrown out when Katrin saw Lizard Head Pass and all of the people camped up there. So after looking at a nearby campground that was pretty full anyway, we headed back up the pass to join the other campers.

Being that the pass is at 10,246 feet elevation, it did end up getting below freezing. We did suffer a little bit, but the views and night shots were amazing. All in all, well worth a little chill. Maybe next time I move across the country I won’t pack my winter gear so deep into the trailer.

After getting warmed up in the morning sun, we packed up camp and put in some serious miles to get to Four Corners Monument. Where Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico all meet.

Day count unknown: UTAH

Four Corners Monument was actually closed to the public because of the ‘rona. Which really sucked.

Disappointed, we pressed onward. Colorado was RAD and we had a blast the entire time we were there. Now Utah is trying to kill our vibes.

We aren’t gonna let that happen.

From Four Corners, we went deeper into Arizona down Hwy 160 over to Hwy 163 and North back to Utah and Oljato-Monument Valley. Where we enjoyed some landscape and took way too many photos. Which we continued to do up through Mexican Hat and on to camp.

We got to camp early this time. Staying at Sand Island Campground off of 163 / 191. After viewing the petroglyphs we chose a campsite and walked down to the San Juan River. The river is muddy and fast so be careful with kids and dogs.

Later around camp we discovered a shrew that was living in the truck bed. I did my best to get it out and it turned into a very long ordeal. This was the 2nd time a critter had been in the truck bed. The first occurred in Colorado when our dry food container was left open and unattended overnight. I tried to be careful with food items, to keep mice and such out of the bed of the truck.

The next day we chose to keep the Jeep and trailer at camp and pay for another night, that way we could take the truck out to Valley of the Gods.

Valley of the Gods is a loop road. The road surface is improved but not paved. Signs stated it was impassible if wet. Luckily for us it was dry. The loop should be very easy to drive with most vehicles. There are some spots that might give you trouble in a sedan. The views are great.

After checking out Valley of the Gods, we ventured out on some of the local BLM dirt roads to kill the rest of the day. Then bought some very outrageously priced groceries in Bluff. Some things we had to buy for that nights dinner. By then the day was done and we returned to camp.

The next day’s agenda included stopping in Blanding, Wilson Arch, and finally Moab. Camp would be made in the Sand Flats Recreation area. Camping sites go way back. We only needed to go to loop D to find a nice spot. I paid for a few nights ahead of time, because, MOAB!

Moab, for those that do not know, is the off roading Mecca of sorts. There are legendary trails all over in the Sand Flats area. Lots of rental toys in town too if you don’t have your own modified 4×4. We didn’t do any trails, even though I at least wanted to do Baby Lions Back but that idea was shot down.

Instead of diving into the off road scene we chose to spend time in Arches National Park. Which of course was a great idea too.

Another awesome piece of history is right around the corner from Arches. Just North are the Copper Ridge Dinosaur Tracks. Where you can see the imprints of dinosaurs!

Once we decided to press on and out of Moab our next camp would be on Diamondfork Road off of Hwy 89, in between Spanish Fork and Thistle. We stayed a night in the area just passed the unfortunately closed hot springs. The next day we finished the loop by continuing down Diamondfork to Right Fork Hobble Rd. Then out to Springville.

From there we stayed 2 nights at Deer Creek State Park, located on the Provo River. (Deer Creek Reservoir). One of the days we used to get both vehicles inspected and the oil changed. As well as drive around the area.

On the 2nd day we went out to Antelope Island on the Great Salt Lake. We spent the whole day out there viewing the wildlife, exploring the ranch, and walking the beach. Katrin got in the water and floated around for a bit too.

We spent one more night at Deer Creek before heading out to Idaho.

Idaho, Montana, Idaho, Washington.

We put on some serious miles to get into the Yankee Fork area in Idaho. Not exactly sure where the first camp site was but should suffice to say it was on Hwy 75 near Clayton, ID. Right off the highway with a view of the river.

After that we picked a nice dispersed spot on the West side of Yankee Fork Rd North of the town of Sunbeam, and off the pavement. From there we were able to check out 2 local hot springs, the Yankee Fork Gold Dredge, and Nearby ghost towns and area cemetery. This area absorbed a few relaxing days, and was well worth it.

Due to a wildfire our route had us go back to Challis and North on Hwy 93.

This led us into Montana where we stayed at the Charles Waters Campground near Stevensville. Then the next morning we got onto I-90 Westbound through Missoula. I-90 would take us back into Idaho, then on into Washington. Our next camp was Eagle Valley Campground just passed Thorp. We got there after the check in time but were helped out by a camp host. We paid in the morning. Showers here were nice.

Even though we know this area very well and were near our final destination we still had to backtrack a little to go to the Thorp Fruit and Antique Mall in Thorp, WA. This would be our last big stop before settling into our final destination and new home in Snohomish, WA. The Thorp Fruit and Antique Mall has good coffee and lots of other food to try.

From Thorp it was just a 2 hour drive up to Snohomish. Our last stop. After 26 days on the road, we finally made it. I feel we made the most of moving across the country.

Thank you for reading along and if you like it, share it. Help out other travelers find cool places to go.

Or leave a comment below and let me know what you think.

Lastly, a Special thank you to those who helped us along the way:

Flinn and Lilly.

Bill and Beverly.

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