Road Schooled

Lessons from the Road to Somewhere

America: Land Where Women Wrestle Men in Public Parks

Posted on | July 7, 2009 | 1 Comment

American Flag - USA

“You perceive I generalize with intrepidity from single instances.
It is the tourist's custom.” - Mark Twain

While I was eating lunch in the town square at Jackson Hole Wyoming I witnessed for the first time in my life a girl wrestling a guy in a public park.  Not just playful wresting, but hardcore freestyle wresting with arm holds, leg holds, and takedowns.  The group of Asian tourists eating pizza next to me commented — whoa, women in America wrestle men in park.

Based on that one experience the group of Asian tourists extrapolated that it is normal to see women wrestling men in a public park.  It is American as eating pizza.

I have been an American my entire life and I’m here to tell you it is not normal to see women wrestling men in public parks.  When I go to the park sometimes I see gray squirrels wrestling or maybe some kids.  But no women sweeping a guys leg out and putting him in a half nelson until he is ready to cry.

But it would be cool if someday tourists would look in a guidebook and the headline would read:

America:  Land Where Women Wrestle Men in Public Parks

A girl can dream.  This is America after all.

Show & Tell: Lifestyles of the Poor and Ordinary

Posted on | July 6, 2009 | Comments Off on Show & Tell: Lifestyles of the Poor and Ordinary

Deer in Grass at Olympic National Park

Proud owners of a grassland home

Olympic National Park - Mountains and Grasslands

with a million dollar view.

Location:  Olympic National Park, WA

Show & Tell: Spray Paint Storefront

Posted on | July 6, 2009 | Comments Off on Show & Tell: Spray Paint Storefront

Hole in the Rock on Highway 191 Near Moab Utah

Sometimes tourism feels worse than graffiti.

Location:  Highway 191 near Moab, UT

3 Free Campgrounds Near National Parks

Posted on | July 1, 2009 | 2 Comments

Visiting the most beautiful places on the planet doesn’t have to be expensive if you don’t mind forgoing a few luxuries.  If you are traveling on the cheap and looking for a free place to stay, check out these 3 free campgrounds.

Free Camping on the Beach at Padre Island National Seashore

Padre Island National Seashore

Padre Island National Seashore has 70 miles of beach available for camping right next to the Gulf so you never have to worry about not being able to find a place to camp.  Just drive your car or RV onto the beach and set up camp at the base of the sand dunes.  If you want to drive the entire 70 miles of beach you’ll need a 4 wheel drive.  But a 2 wheel drive vehicle will get you about 5 miles down the beach leaving plenty of space between you and your nearest neighbors.

Pros

  • Camping on the beach right next to the water.
  • Sunrise over the Gulf and sunset over the Laguna Madre.
  • Fresh fish – cast your net out near the southern barrier of North Beach for an easy net full of a variety of fish.
  • Windsurfing on the Laguna Madre.

Cons

  • Extreme winds at times – good for wind surfing and keeping the fog away but you’ll have fine powdery sand in your food and belongings.  Bring long sand stakes and a sturdy tent if you plan on tenting.
  • Garbage – due to the convergence of currents a lot of garbage washes ashore.  Also be on the lookout for the stinging Portuguese Man o’ War.
  • Salt – if you stay for an extended time your vehicle and gear need to be washed regularly to prevent rust.
  • The beach is a Texas public highway – watch out for traffic.  On the upside, there is a 5 mile closed beach near the visitor’s center with no traffic except for the occasional ranger on patrol.

Amenities

  • Pit toilets at South beach.  Flush toilets and cold showers at visitor’s center.
  • Gift and snack shops at visitor’s center.
  • Windsurfing and kayak rentals.

Directions

Padre Island National Seashore is about a 20 minute drive from Corpus Christi, Texas.  From Corpus Christi, head east on Highway 358.  After crossing the causeway, Highway 358 changes to Park Road 22.  Follow Park Road 22 until it turns into beach.  Park anywhere on the beach and set up camp.

For more info, visit Padre Island National Seashore.

Free Camping Minutes Away from South Rim of the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park

Visit one of the seven wonders of the natural world and camp for free in Kaibab National Forest.  The campgrounds are only about a 10 minute drive to the south rim of the Grand Canyon.  For an easy day hike, walk the Rim Trail and experience the breathtaking inner canyon overlooks along the way.  Free shuttle buses are also available along the Rim Trail.  For a more strenuous day hike, descend down into the canyon on the South Kaibab Trail.  Pack a lunch and eat at Cedar Ridge or hike down further to Skeleton Point for lunch overlooking the Colorado River.

Pros

  • Shaded campsites.  A few sites have fire pits.
  • The town of Tusayan is nearby for picking up supplies.

Cons

  • There are no toilets, showers, or water available at the campgrounds.  Pay showers are available inside the park at Mather campground – $2 for 8 minutes.  Laundry services are also available at Mather campground.

Amenities

  • None.  You’ll have to drive to Tusayan or into the park for everything.

Directions

The Kaibab National Forest free campgrounds at the South Rim of  the Grand Canyon are on Highway 180 about 10 minutes south of the park.  There are several turnoffs into the Kaibab Forest along Highway 180 near Tusayan.  There are no designated sites.  Camp anywhere at least a quarter-mile from paved roads and water.  Some sites have fire rings.  You can also camp for free in Kaibab Forest on the North Rim of the canyon for a quieter, less tourist-filled trip to the Grand Canyon.

For more info, visit Grand Canyon National Park and Kaibab National Forest.

Free Camping Near Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park feels a little bit Dr. Seuss and a little bit Flintstones.  You can check out the Joshua Trees, do some bouldering or rock climbing, walk through a cholla cactus garden, and camp for free just outside the park on BLM land.  Joshua Tree is one of my favorite National Parks – especially delightful to visit in Spring when the desert wildflowers are in bloom.

Pros

  • If you like sleeping on a dry lakebed, peeing outside, and watching the sunrise over the desert mountains this is paradise.

Cons

  • No bathrooms, showers, or water available at the campgrounds.

Amenities

  • None.  The campground north of the park is near the town of Joshua Tree for supplies.  The campground south of the park is near Cottonwood visitor center where flush toilets and water are available.

Directions

There are free campgrounds on BLM land to the north and south of Joshua Tree National Park.  For a map of the free campgrounds click here.

For more info, visit Joshua Tree National Park.

Show & Tell: A Thing Called Love

Posted on | June 29, 2009 | Comments Off on Show & Tell: A Thing Called Love

Grasshoppers Mating in the Grass at Brookgreen Gardens

After mating, a female grasshopper uses her ovipositor to lay an egg pod containing several dozen tightly packed eggs.

Location:  Brookgreen Gardens – Murrells Inlet, SC

Show & Tell: Be Proud of Who You Are

Posted on | June 29, 2009 | Comments Off on Show & Tell: Be Proud of Who You Are

Seattle Pride Parade Queer Burlesque Troop

Be yourself.  Be beautiful.

Location:  Seattle Pride Parade 2009 – Seattle, WA

Show & Tell: Where the Wild Things Are

Posted on | June 25, 2009 | Comments Off on Show & Tell: Where the Wild Things Are

Camping at Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park

I was too afraid to sleep in my tent in the Hoh Rainforest because I heard growling coming from the woods while tending my campfire. So I slept in my car with a mouse that got in when I was unpacking. It was a long night.

Location: Hoh Rainforest at Olympic National Park, WA

Show & Tell: Home on the Range

Posted on | June 25, 2009 | Comments Off on Show & Tell: Home on the Range

Bison on the Range at Custer State Park in South Dakota

Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam

Branded Bison at Custer State Park

where the buffalo are not branded

Bison Wearing Ear Tag at Custer State Park

wearing ear tags

Baby Bison at Custer State Park

and posing for tourists on a paved road.

Location:  Custer State Park, SD

How to Plan for a Trip into the Unknown

Posted on | June 24, 2009 | Comments Off on How to Plan for a Trip into the Unknown

Road Trip Car, Kayak, Bike at the Badlands

A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown. - Denis Waitley

One of the most common questions I get when I tell people that I solo road tripped the lower 48 is:

How do you plan for something like that? And why don’t you have a van?

The truth is I never planned to solo road trip the lower 48. It just happened. And that is why l lived out of a sedan and station wagon while traveling instead of a much more comfortable van.

My plan was to solo road trip the National Parks of the West and then my curiosity led me to the East coast since I had never been there. And once I had traveled about half of the United States I thought it would be cool to visit all of the lower 48 states. One thing led to the next, and eventually, to more than what I thought I was capable of — solo road tripping the lower 48.

If I had planned to solo road trip the lower 48 I would have never done it. I would still be planning.

I would be overwhelmed with all the what ifs and self-doubt since the longest I ever solo road tripped previously was one week. Too many unknowns to go along with my lack of travel experience.

Even solo road tripping just the National Parks of the West felt overwhelming before I left. I was excited yet terrified. But I went anyway.

Once I was on the road I tried to plan ahead a few times. But something would always come up to foil my plan: bad weather, car troubles, the flu, etc. Within two days my plan was usually obsolete, so I never planned ahead more than two days. I winged it.

While I didn’t have a detailed plan, I did have a general direction – a fuzzy goal.  The National Parks of the West, East coast, the South, the Southwest, and eventually to complete the lower 48. I just didn’t know the pathway that would get me there.

I picked a direction and made a leap of faith.  Jumped into the unknown and figured out the details along the way.  The more time I spent in the unknown the more comfortable I became dealing with uncertainty.  Now I plan on not being able to plan.  My “plan” for journeys into the unknown is:

Pick a direction.  Take a leap of faith.  Make lots of mistakes.  Learn.  Adapt.

If you want to make a major change in your life sometimes you just need to take that initial leap of faith and then figure out the details along the way.  Pick a direction and blaze a new trail into the unknown.  The unknown holds more than you ever dreamed possible.

Show & Tell: The Winding Road of Road Schooled

Posted on | June 24, 2009 | Comments Off on Show & Tell: The Winding Road of Road Schooled

Winding Road at Joshua Tree National Park

The winding road in the header photo of Road Schooled was taken at Joshua Tree National Park.

Location:  Joshua Tree National Park – Twentynine Palms, CA

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