And we’re back! We just returned from 31 days on the road. Even though we didn’t plan for a specific number of days, we ended up traveling for a full month pretty much on the nose!
We had so much fun and got to check out so many places we’d never been to before. Along the way, we had our share of headaches as well (that comes with traveling!) but I’m glad we did this trip while our daughter’s still young enough to want to hang out with us.
We also purposely made the trip after leaving our home in Panama and before starting to rent a place in Ohio. That helped us cut down on the costs somewhat since we didn’t have to worry about paying rent, utilities, etc. for a month.
Of course, as fate would have it, we made our monster road trip during the peak of gas prices. That’s life, my friends!
When we took a big road trip in 2020, I didn’t keep track of the numbers so much. This time around though, I thought it would be fun to create a spreadsheet (yeah, that’s my kind of fun) and record some more of the data while on the road.
I already filled you in on the first half of the road trip, which had some not-so-pretty variables in it. Today, I’ll tell you what transpired in the latter half of the trip and give you some of the interesting stats on the trip as a whole.
The second half of the trip… plus COVID!
On the first half of our road trip, we had a blast checking out so many cool places. That was the case even though we needed to make some spur-of-the-moment changes along the way.
The second half of this trip started in Las Vegas (I love Vegas!). I already wrote about how we saved several hundred dollars during our 8 nights there.
We somehow saw three shows while there:
- Michael Jackson One by Cirque du Soleil at Mandalay Bay
- America’s Got Talent Las Vegas Live at Luxor
- Tournament of Kings at Excalibur
All three were great but I think “America’s Got Talent” was probably my favorite. We also went through The Hunger Games: The Exhibition, which was just ok, but it ended on a high note with some hands-on interactive bow and arrow fun!
Additionally, we crammed in time for walking the Strip and checking out the usual freebies like the Volcano at The Mirage and the Bellagio fountains. And we spent some time with family and friends while there.
So we had a lot going on… maybe too much.
On the last night there, I started not feeling well. I just figured I had picked up a cold along the way.
The next morning, we were back on the road. We checked out and headed east. I felt like crap and Lisa started not feeling well either.
The good thing is that we were keeping to ourselves anyway. We did a night of dispersed camping just west of Flagstaff, Arizona.
Then we spent a couple of nights at a KOA in New Mexico…
During that time, Faith had one day where she wasn’t feeling good, but then she was fine. Lisa wasn’t 100% but didn’t seem to be as sick as I was. I wasn’t in horrible shape either – I was just congested, coughing a lot, and a little achy.
We then headed back on the road toward Oklahoma. Why Oklahoma? Because Faith had learned online about a place where you could dig for crystals (for free and without needing to schedule anything). It just seemed different and fun. So we found ourselves in Great Salt Plains, Oklahoma…
We had already been discussing at this point whether or not we had COVID or just a cold or flu. One nice thing was that if it was COVID, we had managed to stay isolated almost 100% of the time anyway. And if we’d run into a gas station to use the bathroom, we were putting our masks on just in case anyway.
The other thing that was a little reassuring was that we knew we had gotten whatever it was while in Las Vegas. We were there for 8 nights and the symptoms showed up on our last night there. That meant we were well past the CDC’s recommendation of isolating for 5 days of symptoms onset.
At this point though, we decided to get tested just to know for sure if this was just a cold/flu or if we had COVID.
So while we were in Kansas City, we scheduled an appointment at a CVS testing facility. An hour later, we got a call… we all tested positive for COVID-19.
Again, we were past the contagion period but I’m glad we had inadvertently “played by the rules” even before we realized what we were dealing with. It also made some sense regarding the severity of our symptoms.
All three of us had previously gotten the double jab (I still don’t know why it’s called a vaccine when it’s just supposed to lessen your symptoms). With kids generally not as badly affected, that makes sense as to why Faith just had a bad day. Lisa had gotten the booster and I didn’t so maybe that’s why my symptoms were a little worse than hers.
Anyway, we still made sure to get some BBQ at Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que. I can tell you without a doubt that COVID didn’t hinder our taste or smell because that food was 100% delicious!!
From there, we worked on making our way back to Ohio. Being sick isn’t pleasant as it is, but being in the car for hours at a time while on the road makes it even more annoying. We still had fun and a lot of laughs but we were ready to get back.
We did make one last important stop though…
Summary of our stats on the road
|Total miles traveled:||5,558|
|Total number of days:||31|
|Number of states passed through:||16|
|National parks visited||6|
|NPS Junior Ranger badges Faith earned:||7|
|Times Lisa did her mystery shopping:||2|
|Total number of days I worked out:||6|
|Free donuts we got at a Krispy Kreme||17!!!|
We had a lot of fun on the road for this trip, but it didn’t go as planned, for sure. In some ways, I felt a little rushed. Because we weren’t able to camp anywhere, it seemed like we were always getting in the car and moving.
Overall, I think we tried to take on too much on this trip.
To be clear, we had an awesome time with some fantastic memories. These are more just some mental notes I’m mentioning on what we could look at doing differently next time.
The other interesting facet of this trip was that my exercise routine fell flat on its face. I brought my set of dumbbells to work out with along the way. I even managed to get in several workouts during the first couple of weeks.
But then I threw my back out after working out at a hotel gym in Idaho. That set me back for several days. I then got back on the wagon for a workout at the hotel gym in Vegas. But then I got the “VID” and I’ve been out of commission since.
By the time you’re reading this, I should have gotten rolling again, but I hate that out of 31 days on the road, I only managed to work out six times. That’s a big fat fail!
I also need to tell you the story about Krispy Kreme. We celebrated Faith’s birthday while on the road and she wanted to hit up some of the places that give you free stuff on your birthday. Unfortunately, she’s 12 and most places require you to be 13 or older to open an account. So we only made it to a few places.
One of those places was Krispy Kreme. You get a free donut on your birthday there. Additionally, you get a free donut just for creating an account, so all three of us installed the app and created accounts.
So we walk into a Krispy Kreme location and the manager, who was super friendly, starts to help us. We tell her that we created accounts and we were hoping to get a donut. She responds by telling us that everyone who walks in gets a free donut as well. So she gives us each 1 donut just for coming in. She then gives Lisa and I each a donut for creating an account. Faith then said that it was her birthday and she gives Faith not 1, but a dozen donuts!
Somehow we walked out of that store with 17 donuts without paying a cent. We were all flabbergasted. The whole thing happened so quickly that we weren’t even sure what happened.
And these weren’t the “we’re closing and need to get rid of these” donuts. The “Hot Light” was on and these were all fresh as can be… and delicious!
I think Krispy Kreme won us over for life!
Overall fuel costs and the Costco effect
As we saw gas prices escalating the closer we got to the start of this road trip, we considered canceling or just traveling a little less. In the long run, though, fuel prices aren’t what generally breaks the bank – it’s just more in front of everyone and discussed more emphatically.
I calculated that for each $1 that gas went up, it would run us a maximum of $300 in additional costs for the whole trip (and that was shooting high). That can add up but it isn’t the end of the world either.
One of the strategies we talked about was bouncing around to different Costco warehouses while on the road. While still in Ohio, we had been seeing that gas prices were about 25 cents cheaper there versus regular stations, so this seemed like a good idea. Throw in that we can pick up a few things at the stores if needed and enjoy some free samples and this seemed like a good idea.
Here’s how everything looked at the end of the trip…
|Number of Costco Visits:||10|
|Number of Times Ate Free Samples at Costco:||7|
|Total Saved on Gas from Costco Visits:||$36.47|
|Average Price Per Gallon Paid (across the board):||$4.68|
|Total Spent on Gas at non-Costco Stations:||1068.45|
|Total Spent on Gas at Costco Stations:||$564.40|
|Total Spent on Gas (including Costco):||$1,632.85|
Every time we’d stop for gas at Costco, I’d use GasBuddy to see how much fuel prices were at nearby stations for comparison.
You can see that getting gas at Costco did save us some money while we were on the road but it wasn’t anything crazy. But, I will say that we essentially got a free meal by the time we would finish walking around the club snacking on free samples throughout! 🙂
Sleeping here, there, and everywhere!
This was the one I was eagerly keeping my eye on. We envisioned spending most of our time tenting at different campgrounds throughout the country with an occasional boondocking event, hotel stay, or parking lot overnighter.
Well, as I talked about in my post, Our Summer Road Trip So Far… Mother Nature’s Vengeance!, the weather didn’t agree with our desire to tent camp. It was either in the lower 100° range during the day (which would have been miserable), freezing temps at night, or thunderstorms.
When all was said and done, we only got to tent camp once while on the road… and that shouldn’t even count because it was a KOA rather than being in the wilderness somewhere.
Here’s a summary of the different places we stayed during this trip that didn’t include sleeping in the car:
|Total Lodging Not in a Car:||13||21|
That’s more hotels than we initially anticipated but sometimes you just need to roll with the punches. On the flip side, a lot of the costs evened out because we couldn’t do the camping that we wanted to and slept in the car (for free) on more nights…
|Dispersed Camping in Car:||6||6|
|Restaurant Parking Lots:||1||1|
|Retail Parking Lots:||3||3|
|Total Lodging in a Car:||10||10|
Overall, we spent a third of this trip sleeping in the car! What the heck?!
Those nights were far from perfect but we somehow did manage to get a decent amount of sleep during most of those nights.
Was there a lot of dining out?
You might think that being on the road for a month would mean dining out a few times a day. That wasn’t the case for this trip. We were very diligent about doing grocery shopping at Aldi, Walmart, and Costco whenever we could.
We would set up shop and eat in picnic areas, parking lots, the woods, or occasional hotel rooms along the way.
In total, we only got food from 13 restaurants. Out of over 90 meals (31 days x 3), that’s a pretty small amount of dining out.
Of those 13 restaurants, we paid for our meals at 10 of them. The other three were going out with friends and family who generously picked up the tab.
And one of those 13 was when we attended the Tournament of Kings show at Excalibur in Las Vegas so that meal was part of the ticket. That was such a fun show, too!
License plates and truck horns
Have you ever played the license plate game while on the road? See how many different states you can spot?
Even though we do stuff like that for Faith, I think Lisa and I spend more time looking than Faith does! 😂
Not too shabby though – we got all of them except for 4:
- Alaska (no surprise)
- Hawaii (no surprise again)
- Rhode Island (still not a surprise)
- West Virginia (what?! How could we not find this one?!)
As a bonus, we even spotted Washington, D.C. as well.
And do you remember trying to get semi-truck drivers to honk their horns? We added that one to our road trip arsenal of busywork, too, though we didn’t put enough effort into it.
Overall, we were able to get 25 semi-truck drivers to humor us with a honk of their horns… thanks, guys!
So now what?
We rest. But only briefly.
Even though our time on the road is done for this trip, we’ll be heading to North Carolina next week. I found flights for dirt cheap so we’re going to fly ($137 total for both me and Lisa!). We’ll pick up a U-Haul there, pack up an entire condo of furniture, load it all into the truck, drive it back to Ohio, and then unload it into our new apartment.
And then maybe we’ll rest… at least until the next adventure begins!
You can read our entire 2022 summer road trip series here:
- Planning a Road Trip… Learning From 3 Simple Mistakes
- Our Summer Road Trip So Far… Mother Nature’s Vengeance!
- On the Road: The Wrap-Up and Some Fun Stats!
Plan well, take action, and live your best life!
Thanks for reading!!