Solo Summer Road Trip Essentials

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Hi, friends! I am no stranger to road tripping, but this July (2019), I took to the road solo. This was a big step for me. I’ve always been comfortable with independence — I find being alone to be easy and enjoyable and I’ll often go where I want no matter where the “group” is. But, somehow, travel has always been in a category of its own. It’s strange not having validation that your plan is the “right” one. A lot can go wrong while traveling, so solo travel is a practice in trusting yourself and your competence to solve problems. It also takes courage to be alone with your thoughts for that long (lol) and to drive through extreme temperatures that pose a safety threat. My word for this year just so happens to be courage, so off I went.

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I learned a lot over the past couple of weeks. Over all, I’m really pleased with the experience and glad I went. It was great to meet my friend Cory in Moab and do some adventuring with her before staying at her place in Denver for 5 days. I also met some great people along the way, including fellow campers, Airbnb hosts and a couple adventurers visiting Zion from the northeast.

So, if you’re curious about my experience or getting ready to hit the road yourself, here’s the full download from my solo roady.

Wheels

2,784 Miles | Avg. 42 Miles Per Gallon | ~$215 on Gas

After researching and test driving vans for several months and contemplating what it would be like commuting in an old VW to work every day, I decided now was not the right time to make that purchase. I’m quite glad because the AC systems in the ones I drove were either weak or non-existent and Ellie and I wouldn’t have lasted long going through Utah, Nevada and Colorado in 100+ degree heat.

Instead, I took my 2017 Honda Fit. After living and working in Hermosa Beach, I have a LOT of miles left on my lease. She did great! Here are a few things I learned along the way about driving long distances in general.

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  • If you’re traveling through extreme temps, double check that you have enough coolant in your radiator system. I saw so many people broken down on the side of the freeway in 90-112 degree heat (Mojave Desert is no joke). Overheating usually happens because of a leak or otherwise problem in your radiator so it’s best to know everything looks kosher before you go. Read your car’s manual or find a quick youtube video that’ll teach you how to check coolant levels (it’s easy). Even if you carry compatible coolant in your trunk for an emergency top off, know that you have to wait several hours for a hot engine to cool down and de-pressurize before accessing this area. When all else fails, call AAA.

  • Check your tire levels. Most gas stations have air machines that take quarters and/or credit card, and a quick youtube vid will teach you how to test your tire pressure and top it off as needed. After coming down from Colorado’s elevation, my back tires were fairly low and my tire pressure light came on within one exit on my last day of driving. Knowing how to handle this before you leave will keep you cool, calm and collected. Driving on a low tire can lead to its failure / shredding on hot roads, which can be super dangerous.

  • Be sure to figure out how to start a new “trip” on your odometer so you can track your mileage!

Recommended Purchases

  • AAA membership

  • I’d recommend a classic windshield shade - something like this. But measure your windshield first as I bought one only to realize Honda Fits have giant windshields and so I had to use it sort of jankily.

  • I did some good research on window shades and these are the only ones that don’t suction to the window, thus allowing you to still roll the window down. I also felt more comfortable leaving the windows cracked with the shades over them knowing my belongings were within.

  • Lumbar support like this make for greater comfort on six or seven hour days.

  • Adventure sandals like Tevas. You’re not gonna want to be wearing thick hiking socks and boots on summer hikes. As long as you’re not bouldering, a good pair of sandals should be fine.

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  • A gallon of water to keep in your trunk as back up. If something happens to your car on the road and you’re waiting for help without cell service, you need water preserves. Also recommend a Hydroflask, Yeti or otherwise water vessel that will keep ice water cold. I drank this only when I was close to my destination. Another just in case.

  • Extra pair of sunglasses … if you lose a pair a day like me.

Where I Stayed

Camping. I camped only one night by myself (with my dog). For a moment, this was a scary experience and not because of other people but because of wildlife. A coyote approached Ellie and I in the dark and all I could see was glowing eyes and a long bushy tail..scared the crap out of me so I found a German couple to park my tent next to so we could at least face the wild in solidarity. They were kind and fun to get to know. If you’re going to camp alone, I’d recommend choosing a popular site where you know others will be around.

Tent set up at Jumbo Rocks in Joshua Tree National Park

Tent set up at Jumbo Rocks in Joshua Tree National Park

Airbnb. I ended up staying with a family in Hurricane, UT en route to Moab and stayed with them again on the way back. Really enjoyed getting to know everyone. When I can choose between Airbnb and hotel, I always choose Airbnb because of the personal localized touches and character.

Hotels. Because of extreme temperatures and mosquitos, my friend Cory and I opted to stay in a hotel in Moab (Aarches Inn). It was very nice to come back to AC after a long day of exploring the parks. We also boarded Ellie with a doggy daycare lady which worked out great. Most National Parks have boarding either in or just beyond their entrance.

Where I Stopped

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Zion National Park, Utah

I just passed through Zion en route to Moab, but it was totally worth it to reflect on fond memories from a few years back. This might be my favorite National Park!

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Arches National Park, Utah

It’s easy to experience Arches in a day because most of the arches you’ll want to see are just a short walk or hike away. We started the day with a 3-mile moderate hike to Delicate Arch, which is perhaps the most dramatic in the park. And then we worked our way back to the entrance.

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Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands is weird because it’s actually three different sections, which are each accessible via different routes. The section that’s closest to Moab is Island in the Sky. From here, you can expect ridiculous canyon views with staggering drops. We spent the afternoon here after spending all morning at Arches and stopping at Moab Kitchen for lunch. It was a lot for one day but allowed us to explore Colorado more on the route to Denver the following day.

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Glenwood Springs, Colorado

I didn’t get to experience the famed natural springs here (which I’ve been told is a lot like a swimming pool but more of a novelty) because Ellie was with us, but a local told us about a park where you could dip in the river and it was the absolute best. I stopped there for some quiet writing time on the way back as well. This is a super cute little town with a peaceful soul.

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Denver, Colorado

I was working remote all week in Denver and pretty much hit the coffee shop circuit close to Cory’s casa. My two favorites were Black Eye Roasters and Huckleberry Roasters. Good vibes and full of people hard at work like me. We did venture just beyond the city to Red Rocks Amphitheatre to see The Head and the Heart play. Amazing venue. Definitely something everyone should experience once in their lives!

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Horseshoe Bend, Arizona

Horseshoe Bend is a cool little inlet of the Colorado River in Glen Canyon, about 100 miles from the Grand Canyon. It’s certainly worth a stop. The short trail down to the lookout point takes about 20 minutes and you can walk right up to the edge. A fee of $10 cash is asked at the entrance to the parking area. Dogs are allowed but note the path is hot. I carried Ellie the whole way in 96-degree heat and I was pretty certain I’d perish right there on that trail but, low and behold, here I am.

Tunes

I could tell you about my favorite road trip songs, or you could have a listen yourself! The below playlist contains my heavy rotation from this trip. I also listened to a lot of the How I Built This podcast and the entirety of Arianna Huffington’s audio book Thrive. I got a library card before I left and this was my first free audiobook on the Libby app.

Thanks for tagging along via IG! If you have any questions about this experience, the route or anything else, don’t hesitate to ask.