Prime Directive

50 States and 50+ National Parks

The Breakdown:

I’m headed out on a road trip around the United States. I plan on visiting all 50 states, and around 50 of our national parks. I expect it to cost between $10 – 15k to drive 25,000 miles over the course of 8 months. The plan is to camp out for the majority of the nights either in a tent or out of the back of my car. I’m taking 50 state flags with me that I’ll trade with the people I meet along the way – my new flag for their weathered flag. I’m excited and anxious.


People ask why. Sometimes I ask myself why, and the answer I have isn’t straightforward. Of course it’s a combination of reasons – adventure, bravado, attention, experience, curiosity, confusion, identity, fear, and just for laughs. How each of those reasons are weighted is the complicated part.

More Explanation:

The first 3, adventure, bravado, and attention, are pretty self-explanatory. And even though they are the most obvious reasons, it doesn’t make them any less true. The search for experience has more intrinsic value to it. Experience the people, the wilderness, the cities, and experience myself in different settings. Curiosity – I’m not the smartest person in the room. I’m not the most creative. I’m not as persistent, passionate, or patient as I’d like to be, but I do have curiosity in spades. And it’s my curiosity that I think might carry me the rest of the way. It’s my secret weapon. Curiosity leads easily into my discomfort with Confusion.

There are plenty of stereotypes scattered across this country – but what’s the real deal? The south is racist, and the northeast is pretentious? The northwest are hermits, the southwest are terminally superficial, and everything in the middle is forgettable? Unlikely.. so what’s with this perception? Then there’s the biggie – identity. It means something different to everyone, and if things go according to plan, you’ll hear more about what it means to me in the upcoming months. Lastly, fear. The fear of regret mostly. Sometimes my fear of what my “future self” will think, or do, or not do is overwhelming. It can be motivating and healthy sometimes, other times it’s paralyzing. For now, I’m feeling motivated.

And who doesn’t appreciate a good laugh. I cant decide what would be funnier – if by some rad chance I actually see this trip through, or if my car gets totaled before I get out of California, forcing me to call the whole thing off. Sure, I have my preference, but for sheer comedic value, I’d call it a toss up.

The Route:

Shown below is the general route I plan on taking. Starting out East from Southern California and moving counter clockwise around the country.

TTA Route
Most of these checkpoints are national parks. A few of them are major cities.
  • Costa Mesa, CA
  • Joshua Tree NP, CA
  • Grand Canyon NP, AZ
  • Petrified Forrest NP, AZ
  • Seguaro NP, AZ (FEBRUARY 1st)
  • Guadalupe Mts NP, TX
  • Carlsbad Cavern NP, NM
  • Oklahoma City, OK 
  • Hot Springs NP, AR (MARCH 1st)
  • New Orleans, LA 
  • ~ 4,350 MILES
  • Biscayne NP, FL
  • Everglades NP, FL
  • Dry Tortugas NP, FL
  • Congaree NP, SC (APRIL 1st)
  • Great Smoky Mts NP, TN
  • Mammoth Cave NP, KY
  • Shenandoah NP, VA
  • New York, NY
  • Providenca, RI
  • ~ 9,400 MILES
  • Arcadia NP, ME (MAY 1st)
  • Cuyahoga Valley NP, OH
  • Detroit, MI
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Madison, WI
  • Isle Royal NP, MI
  • Voyageurs NP, MN
  • Theodore R. NP, ND
  • Badlands NP, SD (JUNE 1st)
  • ~ 14,300 MILES
  • Wind Cave NP, SD
  • Scotts Bluff Nat. Monument, NE
  • Grand Teton NP, WY
  • Yellowstone NP, WY
  • Glacier NP, MT
  • North Cascades NP, WA (JULY 1st)
  • Mt Rainier NP, WA
  • Olympic NP, WA
  • Crater Lake NP, OR
  • ~ 17,600 MILES
  • Redwood NP, CA
  • Lassen Volcanic NP, CA
  • Great Basin NP, NV
  • Captol Reef NP, UT
  • Arches NP, UT
  • Canyonlands NP, UT (AUGUST 1st)
  • Rocky Mt. NP, CO
  • Black Canyon OTG NP, CO
  • ~ 20,000 MILES
  • Great Sand Dunes NP, CO
  • Mesa Verde NP, CO
  • Bryce Canyon NP, UT
  • Zion NP, UT
  • Death Valley NP, CA
  • Yosemite NP, CA
  • Kings Canyon NP, CA
  • Sequoia NP, CA
  • Channel Islands NP, CA (SEPTEMBER 1st)
  • ~ 23,000 MILES

*Hawaii and Alaska are not shown – more info to come later..

This route will be modified as I go along, but I wanted to have something to reference back to in order to track my progress. I will be staying with friends and family where I can along the way, but I expect the majority of my nights to be spent camping out of my Honda Element.

Lastly, I am not too experienced with bloging, but it’s a nice way to keep everyone up to date with where I am and how I’m doing.  I hope to entertain you, keep myself sane, and improve my writing all at the same time.

29lbs of Nylon.

6 Comments on “Prime Directive

  1. Hey man, I’ve been doing a little traveling myself this past month. I’ve flown from Iowa to Corvallis, then road tripped down to San Francisco, and all the way up to Sequim, WA. I’ve loved being able to set my own pace, drive when and how long i want to. And have enjoyed the gorgeous views. It’s no where near what you’ve accomplished, but I see it as my own start to my adventures. What has been your favorite places you’ve been? If you had to slim down the amount of time to travel, what few places would you say would be worth most? You’re thoughts and input would mean a great deal to me. Thanks Jay for reading this.

    1. Hey Sam,
      Thanks for commenting. Your trip sounds excellent, hope you got to drive some of the coast between Washington and SF. Favorite places are tough, but I have a few. I’ve driven on the Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego to the Olympic Peninsula in WA, and it will always be one of my favorite roads. Southern Utah and northern Arizona are like nothing else on earth. The Blue Ridge Parkway is popular for good reason, but if you want something with less traffic check out The Natchez Trace. Coastal Maine, Upper Peninsula Michigan, and the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska are amazing too. Hope that gives you some ideas.

  2. Jay this is amazing! I doubt I will ever have the opportunity to do this and can not tell you how jealous I am. I have bookmarked your site and plan to read all your adventures. 🙂

  3. Wow. I’m just… I’m going to keep reading. Congratulations on an amazing adventure. I stumbled on your site and this is very inspiring.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.