Map Our Journey

Map Key:


Start trip: Chicago, IL: we left on Saturday, October 1st, 2011 after 8 years in Chicago.

October 2011

  • Start month: Lake Geneva, WI: visiting Paul’s mom.
  • Cleveland, NY: visiting Lisa’s parents.  Finding our favorite route across NY State.
  • Binghamton, NY: Lisa’s brother’s wedding.
  • Onalaska/La Crosse, WI: Paul’s cousin’s wedding.
  • Madison, WI: visiting friends Chris and Sarah.
  • Lake Wissota State Park, outside Chippewa Falls, WI.  We got there a day after the shower building was supposed to be closed, but it was still open!  I decided to shower the next morning.  The next day, at the bathroom door, I was met by a man in hip waders, who said: “welp, we just shutting down the water, so you’re just a little too late!”  Moral of the story: when you find an unexpected shower, get in there without delay!
  • Cable/Drummond, WI: visiting family friends Gary and Sara, touring northern Wisconsin.
  • Green Bay, WI: visiting the stadium of the best football team ever.  Detoured through Door County, WI.  We loved Fish Creek, WI.
  • Milwaukee, WI: Paul’s grandpa’s memorial service, visiting friends Josh and Ashley.
  • Chicago, IL: visiting friends Sarah and Justin and a trip to Lisa’s trusty dentist.
  • Indianapolis, IN: best concert by best band ever, Matt Pond PA.
  • Terre Haute, IN: visiting friends Ben and Gina.
  • Kansas City, MO: visiting sister, brother-in-law, and little nephew.
  • Cheney Reservoir State Park, KS: a totally deserted park on the “best sailing lake in the state of Kansas!”
  • End monthBlack Mesa State Park, OK by way of Dodge City, KS: this wraps up the month of October.  Google maps shows a lake here, but most people are disappointed to arrive and find that the lake has mostly dried up.

November 2011

  • Start month: Raton, NM: a snowstorm strands us here and kicks off November.
  • Rio Grande Gorge State Park, NM: our favorite campground host yet, outside Taos, NM.  He was probably in his mid- to late-40s and had worked in Chicago for eight years doing something that allowed him to retire early.  He didn’t want to talk about the job or the city.  He moved out to New Mexico and has been a campground host here for two years. He had a sweet setup, three cars, one of which was a flashy Mercedes, a wordworking shop, and all kinds of man toys.  He loves it here because the living is cheap and he can ski in the winter and raft in the summer.  He hates cities.  We talked about our next steps and a strange look crossed his face when we mentioned Albuquerque.  “Albuquerque is a dangerous place: out here, people are desperate.  It’s really bad in Albuquerque.  People think, because they’re in the middle of the desert, they can just murder someone and leave their body in the desert and it’ll never be found, and it probably wouldn’t.  People will steal anything, so keep an eye on yourselves.”
  • Albuquerque, NM: by way of Santa Fe.  Visited Gruet winery and got a speedy oil change.
  • Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, NM: finally got a chance to slow down.  Visited White Sands National Monument.  Loved this park and the surrounding trails.
  • City of Rocks State Park, NM: explored Silver City and Gila National Forest.  Cool park with the tent sites located among the rocks.  You could just scramble around the rocks — it was fun to be utterly lost for a few minutes.  It’s a little trampled, though.  Well-loved.
  • Bisbee, AZ: stayed at Double Adobe Campground (and Shooting Sports), walked just about every street of Bisbee.  We loved Bisbee.
  • Tucson, AZ: stayed at Tucson Mountain County Park, which had a great setting but no hot water or showers.  Explored downtown and Saguaro National Park.  Moved over to Catalina State Park, which is my favorite park to date, and spent lots of time exploring the Santa Catalina mountains.
  • Side trip: Milwaukee, WI: jetted back to visit Paul’s family for Thanksgiving.
  • Picacho Peak State Park, AZ: nice setup, but only has electric sites available, which means you pay $25 whether or not you can use that electricity.  That and the proximity to highway 10 made this a one-night kind of place.
  • End month: Back at Catalina State ParkJust can’t get enough.

December 2011

  • Start month: Lost Dutchman State Park, AZ: outside Apache Junction/general Phoenix sprawl.  Great location, but we got hit with some nasty weather — a few days straight of cold, rain, and snow.
  • Phoenix, AZ: cold, rain, and snow force us into Phoenix hotels for a few nights, then we return to the Dutchman.
  • Cave Creek, AZ: visiting friends Scott and Leona, watching the Packers game at the best Packers bar ever.
  • Lake Havasu State Park, AZ: this is a one-nighter kind of place.
  • Lake Havasu City, AZ: spoiled rotten by family friend Mary, we spent a few days hiking, making foods we craved, and sharing travel stories and tips.
  • Katherine Landing at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, AZ: my cell phone thinks we’re on Pacific time, and we soon will be.  We’re heading into Death Valley for a little over a week.  I’d love to return to this area with a kayak or a small boat when it’s warmer to explore the the many sunken canyons and caverns.
  • Tecopa, CA: we meant to explore the Mohave National Preserve, but one of the campgrounds was closed and the other was about to get snowed on.  We pushed on to Tecopa and were very happy we did.  Tecopa has a natural hot spring and we enjoyed soaking for a few days in toasty, 104-degree water while the higher elevations were getting snow.
  • Death Valley, CA: We spent a week in Death Valley and loved it.  The campgrounds and showers are charmless, but the scenery and ghost towns more than make up for it.  We tried out a few campgrounds and think the best one for tents is the lower loop of Texas Spring, but when it’s a little warmer you can’t beat the free Emigrant sites — just get there early, as there are only 10 sites.
  • End monthLas Vegas, NV: Kind of here by necessity, as Las Vegas was the cheapest place to fly to NY from the entire southwest.  We spent five nights here over Christmas, which was about three nights too long, though we did come out $100 ahead.

January 2012

  • Start month: Side trip: flew to Cleveland, NY for New Year’s Eve and a makeup Christmas celebration.
  • Las Vegas: back again…late night flight return from NY means we stay for a night at the Hooters casino.
  • Death Valley, CA: I convince Paul to return to Death Valley for a couple of nights.
  • Los Angeles: determined to dislike the city, we both immediately love it.  Aside from the traffic, that is.
  • Side trip: off to Boise, ID, for a work trip for Paul’s buddy’s site,
  • Los Angeles: back for one more night.
  • Lake Elsinore, CA: we begin to make our way towards Joshua Tree National Park and away from the ocean.
  • Lake Skinner, CA: the lakes are all actually reservoirs. It’s at the end of the Temecula wine trail.
  • Black Rock Campground, in Joshua Tree National Park, CA: finally we’re back in the semi-wilderness, and it feels great.
  • Jumbo Rocks Campground, Joshua Tree National Park, CA: this is a neat spot, surrounded by many scramble-able boulders.
  • Corvina Beach Campground, Salton Sea State Recreation Area, CA: nice showers. Frequent freight train traffic All else covered in related post
  • Yuma, AZ: our boondocking plan went awry, forcing us to retreat to a motel in Yuma for a night.
  • Agua Caliente County Park, CA: located in the midst of the intriguing, unexplored Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Agua Caliente has a publicly controlled hot spring (most are privately owned). An oasis of paradise, until the weekend and the boy scouts.
  • Yaqui Wells Camp, Anza-Borrego State Park, CA: finally, a free camp night! We roughed it for a night in this undesignated spot campground.
  • End month: William Heise County Park, CA: outside Julian, CA. We love the San Diego county parks: well-run (for the most part), interesting trails, showers, and a standard $19 camping fee.

February 2012

  • Start month: Carlsbad, CA: we celebrated our 10 year dating anniversary by spending two days in relative luxury at the La Quinta between Encinitas and Carlsbad. Then we moved to the beach, where we camped at South Carlsbad State Beach for two nights.
  • Sweetwater County Park, CA: this is the closest and cheapest spot to stay near San Diego. We used this as a home base to explore the San Diego area for a few days.
  • Guajome County Park, CA: making our way north, we stay at our last San Diego County Park.
  • Malibu Creek State Park, CA: a hike to the MASH set made this park a necessary stop.
  • Point Mugu State Park, CA: this felt like a side-trip into fall. We stayed slightly off the beach in Sycamore Canyon, where the huge sycamore leaves were everywhere.
  • Carpinteria State Beach, CA: located within the town of Carpinteria, we loved this park — we were able to walk to the local microbrewery, grocery store, restaurants, and the best library used bookstore yet.
  • Lake Cachuma County Park, CA: a chilly stopover on the way to Jalama Beach. This park allows bow fishing for carp, interestingly.
  • Jalama Beach County Park, CA: we loved this beach and its burgers.
  • El Chorro County Park, CA: a stopover on the way to the Big Sur coast, adjacent to a maximum security prison. There were signs instructing you what you should do if you heard sirens.
  • Pfieffer-Big Sur State Park, CA: a cool setting for a campground, in a misty redwood grove, this place is majorly suffering from deferred maintenance.
  • Andrew Molera State Park, CA: great campground in a great location on the Big Sur coast.
  • San Simeon State Park, CA: closest place to camp for Hearst Castle tours.
  • Cerro Alto Campground, CA: potential home base for exploring the wineries of Paso Robles. Better spot for mountain bikers.
  • End month: Santa Margarita Lake County Park, CA: a better home base for exploring Paso Robles’ wineries. With showers.

March 2012

  • Start month: Bakersfield, CA: we hadn’t spent a night indoors for a month. We treated ourselves to two nights in a cheap motel in Bakersfield.
  • Death Valley, CA: I get my wish to return to Death Valley, for the third time. I already want to go back again.
  • Las Vegas, NV: one thing can be said about Las Vegas: the hotels are cheap. Good place to seek shelter in a wind storm.
  • Flagstaff, AZ: quick visit to the Grand Canyon, just to make sure it’s still there.
  • Dead Horse Ranch State Park, AZ: a home base for exploring Sedona, Jerome, and the area’s Native American ruins.
  • Clear Creek Campground, AZ: stopover on the way to Phoenix.
  • Apache Junction, AZ: spring break (in combination with MLB spring training) gave us difficulties: we were only able to stay at our intended park, Lost Dutchman, for one night. We had to scramble to find a place for the next two nights and ended up at the KOA.
  • Molino Basin Campground, Coronado National Forest, AZ: great home base for exploring the Catalina Mountains.
  • Rockhound State Park, NM: Poppies!
  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park, TX: a new (to us) national park.
  • Carlsbad, NM: if it’s too cold to camp, you can always find cheap and questionable accommodations in Carlsbad, NM.
  • Palo Duro Canyon State Park, TX: here we learned a valuable lesson. If you show up to a place after it has closed, it may have a late arrival camping section, where you can camp for free. This canyon is pretty amazing — it’s the second largest in the US, after the Grand Canyon.
  • Lake Thunderbird State Park, OK: this was a strange one, our second straight 24 hour period in the van, trying to escape thunderstorms and hail.
  • Roaring River State Park, MO: we stopped at the Walmart art museum, then rolled into this neat little place. There were possibly a hundred trout fishermen already on the river when we left the next morning.
  • Kansas City, MO: back to do taxes, visit family, and eat some delicious BBQ.
  • End month: Terre Haute, IN: visiting friends and checking out Indianapolis, which we determined is not a bad place.
March, west portion
March, west portion

April 2012


May 2012

May - east portion
May – east portion
May - west portion
May – west portion

June 2012

June - south portion
June – south portion
June - north portion
June – north portion

July 2012

  • Start month: Yaak River Campground, MT: another episode of interesting Montana characters.
  • Keller Ferry Campground, WA: a quiet fourth of July in the middle of nowhere, Washington.
  • Wenatchee, WA: we break down and stay at a hotel.
  • Mt. Ranier National Park: we enjoy its beauty and sound effects after an interesting drive.
  • Seattle, WA: we house-sit and enjoy ourselves thoroughly, exploring the city.
  • Olympic National Park, WA: location of the trail of terror.
  • South Bend, WA: oysters.
  • Portland, OR and surroundings
  • Cape Lookout State Park, OR
  • Beverly Beach State Park, OR
  • Eel Creek Campground, Siuslaw National Forest, OR: we celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary on the Oregon coast.
  • Eureka, CA: Redwoods.
  • Mattole Beach Campground, King Range Conservation Area, CA: we spend a few nights on CA’s Lost Coast.
  • Roundhouse Campground, Jackson Demonstration State Forest, CA
  • End month: Rohnert Park, CA: along with Point Reyes, the end of our drive down the Pacific coast on the 101/1.
July - north portion
July – north portion
July - south portion
July – south portion

August 2012

  • Start month: Spring Lake Park, Santa Rosa, CA: a good base for wine tasting in Sonoma.
  • Sonoma, CA: my cousin Abbey’s wedding
  • Bridalveil Creek Campground, Yosemite National Park, CA
  • Reno, NV: like Las Vegas, only sketchier!
  • Bob Scott Campground, Toiyabe National Forest, NV: outside the awesome old mining town of Austin, NV.
  • Upper Lehman Creek Campground, Great Basin National Park, NV
  • Baker, NV
  • Starvation Lake State Park, UT
  • Green River Campground, Dinosaur National Monument, UT
  • Grand Junction, CO
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, CO, South Rim Campground.
  • Crested Butte, CO: Cement Creek campground outside town.
  • Aspen, CO: Difficult Campground: the best campground name of the trip.
  • We grab a shower at Golden Gate Canyon State Park, then sleep at Columbine Campground outside Black Hawk, CO.
  • St. Francis, KS: we take advantage of the town’s free campground. Thanks, St. Francis!
  • Kansas City, MO: back at our unofficial address for the third time this year.
  • Chicago, IL: again.
  • Lake Geneva, WI: we use Lake Geneva as a home base to visit some midwestern family and friends.
  • St. Paul, MN
  • Onalaska, WI
  • Madison, WI
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • End month: Lake Geneva, WI
August - west portion
August – west portion
August - middle portion
August – middle portion
August - east portion
August – east portion


End trip: Chicago, IL: we fly to London, UK, by way of the lovely O’Hare airport.


Total mileage: 38,000 miles (not including miles flown!)

Click to view an interactive map using Google Earth!