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That Mama of Mine

Back in early August, I turned in my notice at work and started planning an epic national park tour (a decision long in the making as you can see here and here). A few weeks after my life-altering decision, my mom invited herself along for the family portion of the trip (Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota). Well, she’d always wanted to see Yellowstone, and that would be my next stop after family, so of course she had to extend her time by another week. And Yellowstone is so close to Glacier NP and she’d heard of Glacier's beauty, and well, then, we’d be close to Washington and she could visit her Aunt. So, eventually, the jokes started that she’d just join me for the full two months. Haha Poor dad, stuck at home, working, while his two favorite girls road trip across the USA!

I had no problem with an additional person joining the trip (especially since (1) it was my mother and (2) she came with her spacious truck!). I looked forward to splitting the drive time and gas costs (only negative about the truck) but worried about staying in a hotel every night we weren’t with family. A few times here and there would be great but 30-50 nights? Yikes. In my head, my bank account started dwindling before I even started my trip! No, thank you. Time for a heart to heart.

I explained what I was looking to achieve from this trip: time to write and hike in each national park, low spending on lodging, eating mostly grocery bought food, interacting with the locals, and some me time to figure out life.

Mom agreed and said that she’d be willing to try tent and truck camping but that she also had "mad money" for the hotels (up to a certain amount). Then she said she most likely would only stay 30 days because she didn’t want to stay two months away from my dad (aww moment). So, we consulted the master itinerary and figured she could fly out from Sacramento around October 25, but we would wait to book her flight until a week or so before, because who knows when and where we would actually be on October 25. Best laid plans, California fires, and all that.

In conclusion, after spending 31 days and nights with my mom, non-stop, no break, 100% of our time together, I can tell you one fact: my mom is a trooper. My goodness. She’s the best. We’ve always been close, talking on the phone, texting, emailing, but this trip highlighted our crazy similarities and strengthened our closeness. To her, this trip was about me: whatever I wanted to do, what I wanted to see, she wanted to make it happen, was only along for the ride and the views. So, she hiked up mountains and around lakes. She climbed over fallen trees. She took umpteen photos next to the “World’s Largest ____”. She slept in the truck and in a tent. She faced her fear of heights multiple times. She listened to me sing for miles upon miles (this was probably the hardest for her to do…I’m a horrible singer!). She made me laugh and giggle and snort. She drove and drove and drove. And she let me be, in comfortable silence, in grumpiness, in joy, and in excitement. Her patience, her love, she is the best person I know and I’m so thankful she’s my mom.

What I learned Road Tripping with my Mama:
 …earplugs really do work to drown out the sounds of snoring (sorry Ma!), loud neighbors, highway noise, and nocturnal animals (highly recommend investing in a pair).
…mom prefers to drive and I prefer to ride (perfect plan until I started traveling solo, ha!).
…each national park is absolutely beautiful and the people in them friendly, welcoming, and honest (I’m still nervous about leaving all my camping stuff at camp sites when I’m not there, but everyone seems to do this without any worries of theft).
…mom is the most selfless person, worried about me having a good time, worried about everyone in her life except herself.
…after days exploring national parks and barely seeing anyone, venturing into the city causes me anxiety and so much annoyance…at crowds, at traffic, at the fact that so many people are just breathing around me (there’s probably a syndrome about this but I haven’t discovered it yet?).
…It’s difficult for two people to sleep in the truck cab (unless the front seats magically turn into a bench seat), but mom tried it…twice!
…Chick-fil-a does not exist in wilderness areas (pick up the expansion pace, CFA!).
…Mom likes to fall asleep early and wake up at 6:00am; Steph likes to fall asleep late and wake up at 8:00am.
…it’s frustrating attempting to find lodging, visitor center hours, directions, (etc.) when you don’t have cell service (the printed atlas came in handy more than once!).
…All the parks we visited hyped up bear sightings and precautions to take, yet the bears remained elusive…20 parks! Darn Elusive Bear (not even in Yosemite, can you believe that? sigh, sigh, sigh).
…California gas prices offering higher credit card rates and discounted prices if you wash your car or buy a 6-pack or pay with cash (and an additional fee for credit/debit card use on top of the higher gas price) is silly and frustrating and I will not miss you, California.

…Alberta Canada – HWY 1 – is absolutely gorgeous (go visit over spring, summer and fall).
…Showering after hiking is wonderful. Even more wonderful, when you can’t find a bathroom for miles and miles and see a rest area sign (oh heaven).
…Mom is truly afraid of heights but hates sitting in the passenger seat where all she sees is the steep drop down the side of a mountain (I knew it was a thing, but saw first-hand exactly how much fear she experiences).
…We both skip over the sex scenes in romance novels (talk about awkward when you’re listening to an audio book and they start having sex…oh, hey mom, how’s it going…moan, moan….yeah, that’s nice, do you want any of these crackers? La la la)
…Most gas stations allow you to fill up your own cup with free hot water (yay morning tea).
…Mom’s max time in the passenger seat before the bored sighing began…45 minutes (hence why she drove 90% of the time!)
…We both like a clean windshield and floor mats (may even have bought cleaner to keep it looking good).
…Ziploc bags are a must for truck organization (the sandwich and snack sizes were the handiest).
…Mom worries, Steph experiences healthy doses of reality (Mom: Steph, you’re too close to the ledge, back up. Steph: yes, this cliff could collapse beneath me if I go out on it, but what are the odds…and I need an awesome picture for Instagram.).
…we both subconsciously and randomly circle our thumb around our fingers (nervous gesture or just boredom?).
…we have the best family on the planet, filled with selfless individuals possessing warm hearts (I already knew this, but it became a reoccurring theme).

Mom & Steph’s Road Trip Facts:
Dates: September 25-October 25
Days Travelled: 31
# of Countries Visited: 2
# of States Visited: 16
# of Parks Visited: 16 US National Parks and 4 Canadian National Parks
Miles Driven: 7,461
Steps Taken: 276,367 (averaged 9,212 steps per day…not too shabby considering all that driving)
Total Family visited: 60 (3 Great Aunts, aged 94, 92, and 84 – AMAZING WOMEN who are rocking at life, 3 Aunts, 2 Uncles, and 52 Cousins ranging from first cousin to second cousin, once removed).
Lowest gas per gallon: $2.09 in Rapid City, South Dakota
Highest gas per gallon: $3.15 in Lone Pine, California
Total Spent on Gas: $388.19
Averaged fuel: 24.7 mpg
Lodging: family (x15), hotel (x11), tent camped (x2), car camped (x2)
View Map: Click Here

Many thanks to all of the aunts and cousins for welcoming us into their homes and either taking us out to dinner or cooking for us. Mucho, mucho love! It was wonderful to see everyone and y’all made us feel so special and loved. 

On to the next 30 days of travel…solo!


But First: Memories from Mom

Yep! I survived the 31 day "tough mudder" course! Lol A lot of great memories were made on this trip:
-Hiking (up to 6 miles!) up hills and mountains, in the snow and drizzling rain, crossing over streams, climbing over fallen trees (one fallen tree was a huge one that Steph had just peed behind on our hike up - did she kill the tree and cause it to fall?) and of course we can't forget all the rocks and boulders.
-Sleeping in a tent in the drizzling rain with low temps of 41°. Hunters were all around us and we could hear their laughter as we put up our nylon tent (their tents were made of a sturdy canvas in which they could stand up in!). One of the hunters laughingly asked Steph the next morning how our night was…she said we survived and let it go at that!
-We truck camped in Glacier National Park between two lakes, the day after the Visitor Center and all the stores shut down for the season. We parked in the visitor parking lot because of the only open bathrooms. Well, while we were sleeping away in the truck, which was rocking all night long with wind gusts up to 40 mph, a Park employee drained the water in the rest room and locked them for down for the winter! This caused a (new for us) "roughing it" experience with a dirt road!
-As for Steph's singing, did you listen to the video? She can karaoke with me anytime!

-And the part about buying food in grocery stores and eating cheaply vs eating out? Well, we'd buy eggs and hard boil them to eat for breakfast. Worked out great the first few weeks when we travelled in 30-40 degree weather. But on the day we were leaving Reno (aka desert weather), I pulled up in front of a 7/11 to buy
 a soda to go with my hard-boiled egg. Steph pulled the eggs out of the cooler (that we accidentally left in the truck without ice)…Oh man! The smell!! I started gagging on the spot! Most horrific smell ever! Steph had no problem with the smell and threw them in the trash. I went inside and bought my Dr. Pepper along with a couple of donuts. I wanted nothing to do with eggs. Not for the rest of the trip!!
-Not only did Steph stand close to the edge of the mountains, she also got close to the elk. I had to take a picture of her and the sign, while telling her to move away from them! ha
-All in all, it was the trip of a lifetime. A trip that was enjoyed by both of us. She had so much patience when we were hiking. I had to stop to catch my breath and I'd tell her she could go on. But she'd just smile and say we're not in a hurry. 😊 Like she said, we got along great even though we were together 24/7 for 31 days! (I must be part of a family that has reunions that last for a week!).
But . . . she did say I shouldn't hold my burps in and try to be quiet about it. Then she said they were too loud when I quit holding them in. Then it was, why do you burp so much?? lol I'll never burp again without thinking about her (not sure if that's a good or a bad thing! haha).

Would I do it again? Absolutely! But next time we'll do it in a camper...with a bed!!


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