Current Work




Posted by Jay on June 18, 2017

Unexpected Unemployment & Arrival in Anchorage


Interesting news:


I was laid off from my job recently – last day was May 19th. It’s too bad because I was excited to get into water infrastructure engineering, but we just didn’t win the proposals we hoped to and I was low man on the totem pole. Never fret, I’m back in Alaska for the summer, and I plan on traveling around and picking up work over the next three months.


It’s sort of like my blog was left in a time capsule for one year and here I am to pick it up again.


June 15, 2017 – 11:50pm


Ok I’m finally on my own. My friend and point of contact here in Anchorage was incredibly hospitable, picking me up from the airport, taking me on her guided hikes, giving me a place to stay, a bike to ride, a place to cook… the list goes on.


There’s a lot to get down in writing already, namely two local day hikes, but it’s late, I’m tired and I wanted to write tonight mostly because I wanted to fulfill my goal of journaling everyday. My first day with internet is tomorrow – then on to “The High One” – Denali!


June 16, 2017



June 17, 2017


Dangit! Already broke my one day streak of writing everyday. Habits are tough. They’re tough to form and tough to break.


Plato talks about the existence of an idealized or “perfect” form of a thing. How do we know a circle or a rabbit when we see one? Well he argues that there must exist an ideal circle and an ideal rabbit that we compare the actual thing to, and after comparison we can decide “eh, close enough” or “No, that looks more like a hare.”


Somewhere drifting around my mind is the ideal version of Jay, with all the good habits saved and bad habits kicked, and he trots through life even-tempered, reliable, and warm. The humbling part comes when I compare myself to ideal Jay, and the best I can cash out is a “Well, he is trying.”



I should point out that this theory of Plato’s has been thoroughly dismantled and rebutted because while it holds true for things like a circle, most objects and concepts exist on a continuum. For instance, what the heck do you call the offspring of a rabbit and a hare? But this doesn’t keep me from imagining what being my ideal self would be like, with all the knobs and dials relating to efficiency and congeniality tuned just right.


I blame the multiverse theory where somewhere out there that other Jay might exist.


The new pine cones come in purple. Who’d have thought.


As I write I’m rolling up Hwy 3 from Anchorage to Denali. My plan is to stay there for a week before hitchhiking back to Anchorage, then out to Matanuska Glacier, then over to the town I lived in last year, McCarthy.


I went on two day-hikes since arriving, both in Chugach State Park, their separate trailheads are surprisingly close to Alaska’s largest city, being only a 25 minute drive from downtown Anchorage. The first was a 4-mile one-way climb up Falls Creek Valley. It was a steep, well-beaten incline for the first two miles and a steady incline after that. It felt good to wake up my legs and lungs despite the fact that I was operating on 3-4 hours of intermittent sleep collected during my 10-hour layover in Juneau and patches of wakeful dozing on the plane.


Falls Creek Trail in Chugach State Park. This is towards the top of the Falls Creek valley, my guide friend on the left with and her client on the right.


Towards the top of Falls Creek we were afforded a V-cut window back down to Turnagain Arm. The low tide drain down of the arm inlet reached its lowest point around 4pm, two hours after the oceanic low-tide. Tidal currents into and out of Turnagain are restricted by its relatively narrow inlet. This causes the Turnagain water level to chase the ocean’s, cyclically overshooting and over-drawing during high and low tides. My understanding is that this phenomena all relates to the waters momentum.


During high tide there is a delay period between the time the Turnagain Arm water level matches the oceans and when its water level stops rising. This period is how long it takes for the incoming water to react to Turnagain being full in order to slow down and reverse its flow. This delay in the water direction reversal “packs” the Turnagain and raises the high tide level. Basically, the tide goes in real far and out real low, and in the process creates some totally tubular hydraulic events known as bore tides.


View back down the Falls Creek valley with Turnagain Arm barely visible.


My pictures can give you a sense of the landscape, but not captured in them is the bald eagle that strafed up the far side of the valley coming to ground near a flat mossy side creek. Not to put off what few international readers I may have, but seeing that majestic bird, wingtips unfurled and bowed upwards, its white head scanning from point to point, is enough to make this here patriot a mite bit misty eyed, I tell you whut.


The next day we got an earlier start and hit the trail just before 10am, this time tackling a 12-14 mile loop out to Willowaw Lakes.


Willowaw Lakes Loop Trail. We started from the Glen Alps Trailhead at lower left.


Low clouds in the morning made navigating difficult and after gaining the first ridge we got slightly turned around, backtracking briefly and setting our course correct with the help of every wilderness adventurer’s best friend: Google Maps.


Approach trail to the Willowaw Loop in Chugach State Park.


Into the clouds.


About 6-7 miles into the hike we came to a half-frozen lake where we decided to take lunch. The three miles leading up to that lake were the kind of hiking that, in my limited experience, is unique to Alaska. Us three picked our way over the lichen splatter rocks and tufts of spongy tundra grass. Something about hiking cross country and choosing each footfall speaks to me.

In a happy little fog induced mistake we hiked up the ridge between our lunch spot lake and the larger lake to its north (I only mention this because I have a neat video overlooking them both – but the Wi-Fi in the Denali Visitor Center is too weak for me to bother to upload it. Stay tuned). Back on the right track we descended down alongside the larger lake and followed its lower valley past the Willowaw Lakes and on down its gradual decline stoping twice for distant moose sightings.


Hiking down to the second frozen lake (right) and Willowaw Lakes (distant center).


Thus capping off my sensational first two days in Alaska, the greatest of the sensations being fatigue – in my calves and thighs to be specific – followed closely by gratitude and excitement. Or perhaps it’s best to think of they three hiking cross country on their chosen trails, each taking point at their leisure.


Looking back up-valley during our gradual descent.
Posted by Jay on July 11, 2016

Overnight trip to Bremner Historic Mining District


Last week I was dropped off at Bremner Historic Mining District (wiki) by our flagship bush plane, a 1949 de Havilland Beaver. We approached with a slight tailwind and landed in a heap.


Posted by Jay on July 3, 2016

Alaskan Get-togethers

I’ve glimpsed something that those who don’t know, hope still exists.


Posted by Jay on June 28, 2016

Living in McCarthy, Alaska

Work work work


I’ll shut up about work for a minute and jog you through a few other notable goings-on in McCarthy and Kennecott.


Three weeks ago (June 4th) McCarthy held a community yard sale. Anyone looking to free up valuable storage space could get rid of unused clothes, blankets, and knick knacks.


Here is an overview of the scene:





And this is what I walked (rode) away with:




  1. Big Blanket: $1
  2. Small Blanket: $1
  3. Blue Sheet: $1
  4. Mosquito Hat: Free
  5. Cheating Death Book: Free
  6. French Press: $1 (!)
  7. Survival Radio with hand crank and solar panel: $2 (!)
  8. Super Janky Mountain Bike: $1 (!!)


Grand Total: $7.00



Alaskan residents are permitted to fish 500 salmon per year from the Copper River (north of McCarthy Bridge).


Those 500 fish must be for private use only. Individuals cannot sell their fish unless they have a commercial license. This means that a lot of salmon is gifted to friends. Twice now we’ve gotten a call about fish out of Chitina.


We fly them back that evening and have an impromptu fish cleaning and cooking event.



– An exciting thing to see unfold for this beach bum from Orange County.


There’s not too much to filleting these fish, but it’s a technique intensive skill.


Essentially, you pull the knife from the tail to the head keeping it as close to the spine as possible. Then you make a vertical cut down behind the gills to completely separate the fillet. Once the two fillets are cut you discard the guts, head, and backbone. Lastly, remove the blood vein (black line in picture) and cut off the dorsal or pelvic fins if they’re still attached. The skin stays on.


If you know what you’re doing you can remove the ribcage from each fillet. I don’t so I didn’t.



The cutting, cleaning, and packaging took the 8 of us about an hour to complete.

There’s something special about having an unplanned crew dinner at 10pm on a work night.


Kennecott is a popular place for weddings, what with the whole place oozing with ye olde tyme charm. It’s a goal of mine to offer you all my honest perspective – what I call “the camera behind the camera.”


Well, here you have it:



Wedding photo shoot in Kennecott.



Summer Solstice is a big deal in Alaska.


It holds weight as the delineation between summer approaching and winter encroaching. On the evening of June 20, the longest day of this year, McCarthy turned out for the burning of a straw effigy, the expressed purpose of which was to bring people together in solidarity for the stewardship of Alaska’s water resources.


For the curious, legal sunrise for McCarthy was 3:56am, and the depth of sunset crested at 11:21pm, totaling 19 hours and 25 minutes of light – not including the after-dusk/pre-dawn glow that ebbs but never goes.



Summer Solstice effigy burning near McCarthy Creek.



Last but not least, and ranking in as perhaps the coolest perk of any job I’ve ever heard of, Wrangell Mountain Air offers empty “flight-seeing” seats to its employees free of charge.


Two weeks ago I got to tag along on a 35 minute flight through Kennicott Valley, and it went well.




Pictures can not communicate the size of these mountains.


Large mountains that are far away appear to be medium size mountains that are a medium distance away.


In the above picture the snowless peaks in the foreground to the left are around 6,000 feet above sea level. Mount Blackburn (background left) is the tallest peak in Wrangell St. Elias National Park and the 5th tallest in the US, topping out at 16,390 feet (5,000 m) tall.


That’s a 10,000 foot change between a thumbs-width difference on your screen.


The enormity sinks in only when you realize how far away the mountain remains after flying towards it for 15 minutes.



My video is grainy, but know that it was crafted with love.

Posted by Jay on June 26, 2016

Working in McCarthy, Alaska

I drive the shuttle van between McCarthy and Kennecott 6 or 7 times a day. Each full circuit takes an hour. It’s an ok gig.


Posted by Jay on June 18, 2016

Overnighter Backpacking Trip to Donoho Basin

Donoho Basin is one of the most popular backpacking destinations in Wrangell St. Elias National Park. I met a guide with five years of experience, and she described it as the most scenic single day hike-in site in Alaska.


Posted by Jay on June 6, 2016

Introduction to McCarthy and Kennecott



The remote mining town of Kennecott and its supporting outpost McCarthy have their roots in the early 1900’s, long before the Wrangell St. Elias National Park was established in 1980.


In 1899 two prospectors bushwhacked their way into the Kennicott Glacier Valley and discovered what was then the richest copper deposit in the world.



Posted by Jay on May 27, 2016

Orange County to Seattle to Anchorage to Glenallen to McCarthy

Last Saturday I flew into Anchorage from Orange County after a quick lay-over in Seattle. Two days later I caught an eight-seater dual prop plane from Anchorage to Glenallen (186 miles / 300 km) and then squeezed into a Cessna mail plane to get from there to McCarthy (100 miles / 160 km). (more…)

Posted by Jay on May 22, 2016

Overnight backpacking trip to Joshua Tree National Park


About a month ago I went to Joshua Tree National Park with my brother and my cousins who live in Ridgecrest. We hiked the California Riding and Hiking Trail (weird name, I know) to Quail Mountain from the Juniper Flats staging area.


Posted by Jay on May 19, 2016

How to Plan a Road Trip: FAQ and my Personal Suggestions


[Canyonlands National Park, Utah]

How to plan an Extended Road Trip and Live out of your Car: Frequently Asked Questions


I’ve seen a few posts on the internet about taking extended road trips and living out of your car, van, or bus, and some of the same questions come up each time. I’ve tried to address the most common questions here.


What do you drive?


There are a few things to consider when choosing a vehicle or deciding if the one you already own will work. Some of them are obvious, like how big a rig you want to move around in, and some are less obvious.



[River Road in Big Bend National Park, Texas]



Sleeping outside your car in a roof top tent or regular ground tent will free up storage space inside your vehicle but you won’t be able to set them up in urban areas.


If you sleep inside your car on a bed or folded seats you will give up storage space, but gain security and the ability to “stealth camp”. Many RV parks do not allow tent camping, and I got myself out of a couple sticky situations by being able to sleep in my car and technically qualify as an RV.


The longer your trip, the more important it is to make your bed easy to deploy. If your vehicle is small you will have to take time every night to move your stuff out of the way and set up your bed. This may sound like a minor inconvenience, but it becomes a hassle when its raining, when you’re “stealth camping,” and especially especially especially when you’re dog tired from the trail or feeling homesick.



[North of Destruction Bay on the Alaska Highway, Yukon Canada]


Off-road Capability


Adventure vehicles, AKA Overlanders (think zombie apocalypse), are rising in popularity, but you don’t need a high ground clearance 4-wheel-drive vehicle to travel cross-country.


I love off-roading. It’s exciting, and you get to see more remote landscape. However, a large, off-road capable vehicle is going to get worse gas mileage. It will take more effort to lift equipment into and outof. They will be less reliable mechanically, and they will require more expensive repairs.


I reasoned that an off-road vehicle would have tempted me to take rougher roads that I had a higher chance of breaking down on. Actually completing my trip unassisted and on a budget was a higher priority than seeing landscape that was exclusively 4WD accessible. A little counter intuitive, I agree, but that was my reasoning.



[Capitol Reef National Park, Utah]


The common perception is that you have to get a big van or heavy duty truck to travel cross-country. I lived out of a light SUV for 10 months, and @Walkusa has been doing it for over a year. A friend of mine lived out of her Subaru Outback for a month. Another photographer friend did 15,000 miles while living out of his Prius for 6 months.


Lastly, the only way to know if your vehicle will fit all your equipment is to throw it all in there. There is no shortcut. Organize things by assigning each of them an “accessibility value”. Keep food and clothes easily accessible. Jumper cables and laundry detergent can be stuffed deeper down.



[Highway 24 near Caineville, Utah]


Where do you sleep?


Ideally you sleep for free, parked on a remote wilderness side-road, lulled to sleep by the sweet sounds of wind, water, and wild animals – but that’s not always possible.


Walmart – I slept 1 out of 4 nights in Walmart parking lots. It’s not glamorous, but hot-damn is it convenient. Being able to grab breakfast, brush your teeth, and have a morning sit-down is great. Be ready to deal with the occasional loud turbo-diesel truck, zippy rice-rocket, or thumping bass music at 3am. Some Walmarts in big cities don’t allow overnight parking – call ahead. (comfort = 2; convenience = 3, sketch factor = 2)


Rest stops, truck stops, and casinos – they can be noisy and showers are expensive (Showers at Flying-J cost $10). Truckers run their generators at night and they can pull up right next to you at any odd hour. (comfort = 1; convenience = 3; sketch factor = 3)


National Forests – Camp for free at least 300’ away from paved roads and waterways. (comfort = 3; convenience = 1; sketch factor = 1)


Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – Camp almost anywhere. (comfort = 2; convenience = 1; sketch factor = 1)


Residential Neighborhoods – See “Stealth Camping” (comfort = 2; convenience = 3; sketch factor = 1)


Parking Garages – See “Stealth Camping” (comfort = 2; convenience = 2; sketch factor = 2)



[Camping gear in black box, cooking gear in clear bin, tool box and stove folded vertically.]



[Bed unfolded with end flap flipped out.]



[1 weeks worth of clothes and  2 weeks of underwear in the clear totes. Firewood up top]


[To set up my bed I fold the seats forward, flip the hinged flap out, and screw in two legs.]



[Cooking set up accommodated by pivoting bike rack]

This website is a good tool for finding campsites on late notice.


If you know exactly where you’re going to be a week ahead of time you can stay with locals using


And lastly, if you’re in a pinch, don’t feel bad about paying to stay at a hostel or motel. If the weather is crumby or if you’re feeling wiped out or weirded out then recharging under a solid roof on an actual mattress with other travelers might be just what you need.



[Red Mountain Pass (Highway 550) south of Ouray, Colorado]


“Stealth Camping”


When you just don’t want to spend the time, effort, or money camping legitimately you can try your luck parking in an urban (city or residential) setting.


It’s best to scope out your options before dark. Finding a good spot is a balance between a few things. For example, it’s tough to sleep under bright lights or near noisy traffic, but you don’t want to park so far away that you stick out to police or troublemakers. When you find a good spot, park nearby and stake it out for 15 minutes to get an idea of the car/foot traffic.


Make your sleeping arrangement as simple as possible to deploy. It will save you everyday effort, and you don’t want to attract attention. If you’re going out for a drink or to a show I suggest you set up your bed beforehand. That way you can simply hop in at the end of the night.


I had good luck staying behind supermarkets, in bar or restaurant parking lots (if its not the weekend), and on residential streets in more rural areas. Some people stay in parking garages. Avoid city parks and vacant industrial parks because you vehicle will stick out to local police. Use a window sunshade for privacy. Crack your windows, and lock your doors.



[Memorial Union Terrace in Madison, Wisconsin]


But isn’t it illegal to “Stealth Camp”?


I was discovered by police 5 times. Most times they didn’t even realize I was sleeping inside. They were just checking out a suspicious looking vehicle.


After I got out of my car and explained that I was just passing through and needed a place to sleep, they were able to relax a little. They still call in your license plate number and check your registration, but it is not an intense situation if you have your paperwork straight


Three out of five times they let me stay where I was. Twice they had me follow them to a better place to park for the night. All of my police interactions were good experiences. Frustrating, yes, but they’re just doing their job.


Get in late and leave early, and you won’t have much trouble.



[HIghway 20 through the Cascade Mountains east of Winthrop, Washington]


How do you decide on destinations?


For this question I have to turn it around and ask one of my own: What are your hobbies or interests? I recommend you find a theme, make a list of destinations, and stick with it.


I read about a guy who went to a baseball game in every MLB stadium. I talked to an Imgur user who wants to go to a handful of railroad museum in the U.S. -> Maybe you can go to every major city? Take a picture of every state bird? Go to every hot air balloon festival you can. Drive the Pacific Coast Highway.


I decided to spend at least one night in every state and to see as many National Parks as I possible, and those 10 months exceeded my raddest expectations.


Pick a theme and schedule in enough “fluff” time to do the interesting things you inevitably come across on your way



[Highway 1 through the Ouachita Mountains, Arkansas]


What do you eat? How do you cook?


Preparing your own food is a huge money saver, but it is made more difficult without refrigeration and running water.



[Fresh Dungeness Crab in Anchorage, Alaska]


I bought a high quality cooler ($250) that allowed me to keep leftovers and dairy products for longer. It was durable and it could keep a 5 pound bag of ice for 3 or 4 days too. One nice thing about living on the road is that you can stop in at grocery stores frequently so you don’t have to stock up.


I used a propane camping stove and a cast iron skillet with a few spices and sauces. Dirty dishes are the bane of every campers existence which makes cast iron appealing. You can scrape it clean(ish) without water. I used disinfecting wipes for my metal utensils and threw away disposable plates and bowls.


It’s fun to incorporate fresh regional food that you might not otherwise cook with, and cooking can help bridge the boring parts of your day – or it’s a chore. Frame it however you like.



[Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, California]


How do you shower?


Beyond being a necessity, showers are a huge morale boost. You can only wipe yourself down with a damp rag for so many days before you start to lose your gusto.


Here are my shower strategies listed in descending frequency.

– Nationwide gym membership (PlanetFitness was the cheapest and second most widespread provider – $20 per month)


– Campsites.


– Community centers and public pools.


– Hostels and Motels.


– Oceans, Rivers, Lakes – Better than nothing, I suppose.


I averaged about one shower every three days. The longest I went without a shower was nine days. After day four you stop noticing.



[Iron Horse Mud Ranch just south of Perry, Florida]


How do you get internet?


Without a doubt my favorite place to find internet is at public libraries.


They’re relatively quiet, and they have desks you can spread out on. Most public libraries appear to be on a tight budget so I started donating $1 for each visit. One major critique people have of those who live on the road is that we never give back to the public spaces we use so frequently. I want libraries to continue providing internet access and quiet working spaces, so please consider supporting them. Plus all those little ol’ lady librarians just the sweetest.


There are apps for your phone that can show you where free wifi are located. They’re kindof hit or miss so call ahead and ask.


Places like McDonalds and Starbucks have internet, but it’s super slow and you have to buy something.



[2015 Christmas Tree Burn somewhere in the Mojave Desert, California


How much does it cost?


This one is a biggie. My 10 month trip cost me $20,000 USD, which comes out to $66 per day. That’s may sound pricey, but when you factor in what I saved on rent and all the fun stuff I got to see and do, I think it’s a reasonable figure.



[Wild horse at Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland/Virginia]


Expense Breakdown:


Fuel: $6,000 (36,000 miles with 18 mpg at $3/gal)

Food & Booze: $6,000 ($20/day – includes ice, and propane)

Vehicle Repair and Maintenance: $1,700 (Regular 150,000 mile service ($800), 7 oil changes, tow truck and replaced alternator, replaced shattered rear window)

Tickets: $1,600 (Museums, Tours, Ferry Rides (*except Alaska), concerts, toll roads, parking)

Lodging: $1,200 (Campsites, Hostels, x2 Motel nights)

Ferry to Alaska: $1,200 ($830 for vehicle, $370 for personal ticket – Dang, right?)

50 New State Flags: $1,200

Souveniers: $700 (gifts, books, postcards, stickers)


I already owned my car and much of the camping gear so this $20k figure doesn’t include those. My platform cost me about $500 to build and upholster.


I recommend keeping track of your expenses in Excel. Collect receipts and bulk enter them every few weeks.



[Saguaro National Park, Arizona]

Interesting Financial Notes


I only spent 1/3 of what I budgeted for lodging. My three week trip to Alaska cost me $2,000 total. My budget for gas was developed assuming $4 per gallon (just before the price per barrel dipped in late 2014), but I actually averaged $3 per gallon.


I didn’t keep any of those gas savings though. I just drove more places.



[Farm roads in Mississippi]


Why road trip travel?


It’s “convenient” – you likely already own a car, and your adventure begins as soon as you leave your front door.


It’s “inexpensive” – you can prepare your own food, sleep for free, and experience the great outdoors on a budget.


It’s immersive – Destination travel is awesome, and being plucked from wherever you live – and placed wherever you’re going – is as close to an actual miracle as exists in this world. But if you can afford the time to connect those dots overland you experience a fuller spectrum of landscape and culture.


Just like anything else, road tripping can be both frustrating and rewarding – both boring and exhilarating. I like it for its variety.


The bad times etch the good times in greater relief.



[Cherry blossom trees in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia]


What practical steps can I take to plan a road trip now?


Get inspired.


Print out a map of your route and pictures of your destinations and tape them somewhere you’ll see it often – bathroom mirror, refrigerator, cubical, etc. I’m not huge into the belief of “Put it out into the universe and she will provide =D”, but if you keep your trip in the front of your mind the odds of it happening are much better.


Test out your set up.


Taking weeks off of work or quitting your job entirely is a daunting proposition. Build confidence in yourself and your camping equipment/methods by taking a shorter “pilot” road trip. I took two 7-day road trips before my 10 month one and they helped me prove out my rig and validated my love of life on the road.



[Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia]


Route/Schedule/Budget Planning


I have written out a detailed step-by-step guide for how to plan your route and budget on my website (link at end of post). I show you how to use Google Maps to create a route that goes through multiple waypoints, and how to create a budgeting table in Excel so that you can adjust individual variables like “trip length” and “daily food expense” to see their affect on your overall budget.


(1) Select your destinations.

(2) Determine a total distance via Google Maps.

(3) Use your car’s fuel economy and the total distance (2) to estimate total fuel cost.

(4) Determine how many miles you’d like to drive per day (120miles/day or 190km/day for me personally)

(5) Divide the total distance (2) by your daily drive distance (4) to get the number of days it will take for you to complete your trip.

(6) Estimate your daily budgets for food, lodging, and local attractions individually, and then multiply each by your total number of days (5).

(7) Add together your gas expense (3) and personal expenses (6) to get your total cost estimate. If you set up an Excel table you can adjust each variable in separate rows to see how they affects the total cost.


I know everyone hated word problems in math class, but take heart – I believe in you.



[Bison in Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota]


Money constraints are the most common reason for not traveling, and that is completely reasonable. However, I encourage you to sit down and spend 30 minutes crunching the numbers so that you can confirm or dispel your expectation that this is too expensive. And if it is too expensive scale back your trip scope.


My greatest anxiety before taking this trip was the unknown.


How much would it cost? How long would it take? Where would I sleep? What would I eat? Attack each of these questions one at a time. I’m confident your trip will sound more manageable the deeper you get into the planning process.



[Wood bison heard on the Alaska Highway, British Columbia]


Here are a few relevant galleries I’ve collected:


– List of underrated national parks ( by @PresidentLeslieKnope)

– Living out of a Compact SUV ( by @Walkusa)

– Husband and wife drive through North and South America ( by @onnani)

– Astro van conversion ( by @gonavy2023)



[The Carolina Cup in Camden, South Carolina]


I want this post to be a resource for anyone who wants to know more about life on the road.


If you have any other questions ask them in the comments. If you have ever lived on the road please help answer these questions – I only have my one perspective.



[The Loneliest Road in America – Highway 50, Nevada]



Further Reading: Route Planning


– List all your destinations


– Use Google Maps to determine approximate Total Distance.

  1. Google Maps > My Maps > Create New Map
  2. Click the “Add Directions” button below the search bar
  3. Add all your destinations (A, B, C, etc..)
  4. Pro-Tip: If you want to take a different route between destinations than the fastest route (which is what Google Maps defaults to), click on the blue route to select it. A white dot should appear on your route. Click and drag this detour dot to your preferred route.
  5. Voilà.
  6. Click the “Layer Options” button (3 vertical dots) and select “Step-by-step directions”
  7. Enter the destinations and their associated distances and drive times into an excel spreadsheet.
  8. Sum the distances and times to find Total Distance (TD) and Total Time (TT).
  9. TD and TT estimations will help you determine things like how many days you’ll be on the road and how much you need to budget for gas.


– Consider printing this map out and posting it somewhere you look everyday. Visualizing your trip is key.


You probably have an idea how long you have to take this trip (two weeks, two months…). Take your TD and TT and divide them by the number of days you’d like to be gone for. TD/#days = Distance per day [D/day]. Likewise, TT/#days = Time driving per day [T/day]


Obviously people are going to have different preferences for how long they want to be couped up in a car but here are a few general guidelines:


These are my recommended daily distance and time ranges:


100 miles/day < [D/day] < 250 miles/day

(160 km/day < [D/day] < 400 km/day)

2 hours/day < [T/day] < 5 hours/day





Further Reading: Budget Planning


Organize your budget by making an excel spreadsheet. I set mine up so that I could enter my daily budget for each different expense categories. This will allow you to see what happens to your overall budget when you adjust your daily budget in each expense category.


Now you can use the route you planned and the daily distance and drive times you came up with to get a better idea of how much this trip will cost you.


– Create another tab on the same Excel spreadsheet. Label it “Expenses.”


– Create a table that looks something like this:


*Red indicates that the value was calculated






Fuel Economy


Gas price


Miles per day


Gas cost per day


5,000 30 20 3 167 25


– Then create your budget table, and estimate the upper and lower limits of your food, lodging, and miscellaneous expenses. My “Baseline” row calculates how much the trip would cost if I used the high limits for each expense column.


Don’t get too hung up on the specifics. The purpose of this table is to get you acquainted with how each expense contributes to your total trip cost. Play with the values and see what happens.


Gas ($/day) Food ($/day) Lodging ($/day) Misc ($/day) Total ($/day) Grand Total ($)
Baseline 25 20 30 15 90 $2,700
Low food $ 25 10 30 15 80 $2,400
Low lodge $ 25 20 10 15 70 $2,100
Low Misc $ 25 20 30 5 80 $2,400
Low All 25 10 10 5 50 $1,500


– If your Grand Total is too expensive even at the lower limit of your budgeting then you need to go back to your route and reduce your trip distance or time.


I realize that none of this Excel work is too fancy, but I am convinced that laying out the cost as clearly as possible is key to reducing anxiety and propelling your trip further into a reality



[Rocky Springs Campground off the Old Natchez Trace, Tennessee]


Best of luck,