Resources for Roadtripping

Arriving on the East coast of the United States there is one thing that I am certain about :

I am not a Roadtripping Expert

What I am in maticulous to the point of obsessive.

As a matter of fact, there’s a lot of things I can be obsessive about. I hear someone say “I’m so OCD” and for the rest of the conversation I’m just thinking – wow you are yourself a disorder. Why don’t you go get some cash out of the ‘ATM Machine’ and buy yourself some common sense. {If you don’t know how to properly use abbreviations in a sentence you’re probably not obsessive compulsive}

ANYWAY I spent a good amount of time planning this trip and although I can’t count myself as an expert; I’ve definitely learned some valuable things and found some really great resources.

Most of the resources are free from an app store; but there is one physical set of items that I purchased which think have really changed this trip for the better. WATER. It’s easy enough to buy gallons of water as you go; but the convenience and peace of mind that comes with having water readily available is a pretty big deal. And no one should have to figure water into their budget.

Regardless of whether you decide to get the dispenser; I strongly recommend the 5 gallon jugs over anything smaller.

For less than $20 on Amazon, you can buy an attachment that fits into the top of a 5 gallon water jug that will dispense water for you as long as you have a way to keep it charged (USB charger means if you can charge your phone you can charge your dispenser). The one campsite that I decided to not use the dispenser, I actually through my back out wrestling the jug out of its position in the front seat. I’m not disabled – but it hurt like hell for a day and I’ve been pretty stiff since then.

Regardless of whether you decide to get the dispenser; I strongly recommend the 5 gallon jugs over anything smaller. At 39¢ per gallon I can fill the 5gal for $2 at many grocery stores.

The other resources that I’d like to share are all available for free in the app store; starting with one that any android phone already has that we are all very used to using. Google Maps.

I don’t need to explain the features of Google maps; it’s how most of us get around. But when it comes to planning stops; the other apps that I’ve used don’t tend to give you driving directions or show how long it is between locations. If you want to make sure you don’t accidentally pick two campsites that are twelve hours apart because it didn’t look that far on the map, use Google to give you an idea of where you could get to in a reasonable amount of time. I like to plan on 6 hours or less of driving if I can which easily turns into a 9 hour day with stops.

Before I left, I spent a lot of time going back and forth between Google Maps and the ‘Roadtripper’ App. You can set your start and end point on the app, and then look for camping, attractions, and activities along the route. Hopping back to Google to decide how far along that route you’ll be able to get in a single day, you can then mark the places that you want to go and the App will save that all as a trip for you to look back at later on.

I like to use an actual notebook so that I can take notes along the way – something like the Wanderer journals on Amazon or just a plain lined notebook to write down destinations and routes. (It’s good to know what highway you’re going to need to be on in case service is spotty in the areas you’re staying)

The Roadtripper app is also connected with KOAs, which I did not know when I decided that I was going to stay at KOAs all the way across the country. I’ve seen that you can even book your stays through the Roadtripper app; although I recommend getting the KOA app as well and getting yourself a membership.

For a $30 annual membership, you get 10% off at all KOAs and receive points towards additional discounts. In a couple of weeks I’ve more than paid for the membership through the 10% discount AND racked up enough points to save $10 per stay for two stays. I’m at 13,000 points and it takes 6,500 to get a $10 discount. At 20,000 you get a VIP bonus, which I haven’t asked about but I’m hoping it’s worth more than the $30 that you’d get by using 6,500 3 times. There must be some benefit to waiting it out.

Between KOA stops, almost all of our pitstops that weren’t at a rest stop have been found through the Roadtripper app. State parks and outdoor attractions are the most likely to be dog friendly, so we mostly stick to those.

We did go to Cedar Point in Ohio by the lake and ended up having to turn around because the attraction that we’d found was actually inside of an amusement park. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t indicated on the app. I thought it was going to be a water tower by a grassy park where we could walk around and enjoy the view. But we got lucky and there was a really nice nature preserve right next to the amusement park where we were able to walk around and Bruce was able to dip into the water.

As much planning as you do; it’s best to expect delays, detours, and the occasional ‘oh hey, what’s that?’.

In addition to these apps – Google Maps, Roadtripper, and KOA – it’s good to find an online community where you can find answers or just get motivated. I’ve been building up my Instagram presence (@Searchandfindlife) but when I need an answer to a question – such as best route to avoid the worst mountain passes – the reddit community is a much more accessible group (r/roadtrip).

To answer that question, how to get home weighing 1,500 pounds more than I did on the way here, I also found a website that I’m really hoping is going to check out but I haven’t had enough experience with yet to know for sure.

The website is called FlattestRoute.com

The idea is that you can put in any start point and end point and you’ll get the best route to take to avoid extremely difficult hills. I’m hoping that the route I am going to be taking that takes me from Virginia through Nashville and Kansas City, up over Colorado to Salt Lake city and then north to Washington will keep my car from blowing up. But I’ll have to take it easy no matter which way we go.

I don’t expect to be passing anyone.

So that’s it. We are figuring this out as we go, like I do with any trip. I find that if you over plan the beginning of a trip and under plan the end that leaves room for unexpected changes and allows you to adapt to whatever gets thrown at you. We will just have to see how it goes.

But I can say that when it’s all done I’ll be more than happy to be in one place for awhile and work on building out the tiny-home-on-wheels that I’m pulling across the country.

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