Road Trip Planning and What We Did Last Weekend

So last weekend was my (40th!) birthday. I had a great birthday and did many fun things and celebrated with lots of family and friends, and, in short, things were pretty crazy and our kitchen shelves STILL aren’t finished. So I’m taking a birthday blogging break sort of by default this week. Or at least a break from blogging about the house, because I thought I’d pop in with a few updates on our planning progress for The Big Road Trip. You know, the one that won’t happen for two more years, but that I spend a lot of time obsessing over anyway. I’m a planner. And an obsessor.

But here are a few reasons why one NEEDS to plan giant road trips years in advance.

1. Toddler Hiking Training: The older kids are pretty good these days about longish walks and hikes without complaining. But if I’m remembering right, it took them until they were six or seven to get there in most cases. Abe will only be four and a half on our big road trip, so we’re thinking we need to start toughening those little legs up now.

Hiking with Abe is….challenging at the moment. He mostly refuses to ride in the Ergo and wants to walk. But then, of course, he’s slow. And he stops a lot. And tells us that he needs to pee when he really doesn’t at all. Or that he wants lunch. When he already ate lunch. But I’m pretty sure pushing through this part of his toddlerhood and not giving up is the only way to get a four year old who can keep up with the big kids. So we’ve been trying to go for short hikes at least once or twice a week. This is, of course, good for the non-toddlers among us, too.

hike03 hike02 hike01

2. Bear Preparedness: A little story: a few weeks ago I was thinking about the big trip and possibly doing some camping on it, and I started to worry about being eaten by a bear. Because that just sounds terrible. So I googled bear attacks, in an attempt to reassure myself. “Surely,” I thought to myself, “people only get attacked by bears when they’re doing really stupid things.”

After an evening reading the Wikipedia entry that catalogs every single fatal bear attack in North America, I realized that this is not always true. An alarming number of the entries said things like, “Joe was sleeping in his tent in an established campground, and then a bear came in his tent AND ATE HIM.” Or there was the guy who went into his house and the bear came into his house through a window.

Now I have nightmares about bears with some regularity. Thanks a lot, Wikipedia.

(Incidentally, there’s never been a fatal bear attack in Georgia).

But! The best way not to get eaten by a bear (I’ve decided) is to spend a couple of years tirelessly worrying about preparing for the possibility of a bear attack. Or a mountain lion. Or a rattlesnake, but for some reason I’m not very worried about rattlesnakes. Unless you accidentally come between a rattlesnake and her cubs, you really don’t have anything to worry about. Oh, wait…

Here are my plans for avoiding bear attacks so far:

1. Never leave the car.

2. Avoid Glacier National Park. It seems to get more than its fair share of bear attacks.

3. Travel with large, noisy group of boys. Fortunately, I already have one of these.

4. Spend all spare time learning how to stay safe from bears and other predators. For example, I’ve already learned that you should play dead with grizzly bears, but fight back against black bears and mountain lions. One site said, “with mountain lions, if you play dead you’ll be dead.” I appreciate this kind of easy to remember advice.

5. Carry bear spray. I was lucky enough to receive some for my birthday from friends who have maybe heard me talk about my fear of bears once or twice. Also, a bell.

3. Travel Trailer Obsession: We’ve been going back and forth about whether/how much to camp on the trip for awhile now. Truth be told, I don’t love the idea of doing much tent camping (bears! Also, mostly, too much stuff to haul around and too much set up/break down time). But hotels that will sleep all six of us every night would get really $$$ really fast. Hence the resurgence of my recurring travel trailer obsession.

Every blogger gets one sooner or later, right? I don’t want one of the adorable vintage ones, though. Or, well, rather, I don’t think one of the adorable vintage ones would be practical for us with all our kids. No one seems to make what I really want, which is a camper van approximately the size of a minivan that has a bathroom and full kitchen and will sleep all six of us comfortable. It’s like no one even thinks it’s possible or something!

I think we do want something small, because we’re both pretty nervous about pulling a trailer and also because we need it to fit in our driveway or a parking pad in our yard easily. It’s possible I’m being overly optimistic about our ability to survive a long trip with all six of us stuffed into 160 square feet or so. But we’ll see. Maybe. Unless this obsessive phase passes before we actually buy anything.

Anyway, though, for my birthday we went to an RV show in Chattanooga!

So that was fun, but it was kind of….well–I guess I thought it would be more revelatory or something, seeing all the trailers in person and walking through them. But it turns out a couple of weeks spent watching a million YouTube trailer walk throughs gives you a pretty good idea of what they’re really like. So we saw a few that would maybe work for us, and the kids had a great time running through all of them. I think the next step is figuring out a way to practice driving with one in tow to see if that’s something that would be….not terrible. And take it from there.

This one’s cute. We can totally all fit in it, right?


See? No problem!


Gus and Milo really liked this one for some reason:


And here’s the kind of thing that we’re leaning toward at the moment–20ish feet long, just barely big enough to sleep six:


It’s good I didn’t post this yesterday, right? Because everyone would have been like, “this must be an April Fool’s Joke–what with all this crazy talk about bears and whatnot.” Nope, not a joke. Just scared of bears.



Road Trip Planning and What We Did Last Weekend — 16 Comments

    • But travel trailers DO have bathrooms! and coffee makers, potentially! it’s like hauling your own teeny tiny city around with you 😉

  1. You should have made a pin image about bear facts that will save your life. I feel more educated now. However you will never find me hiking or doing anything that resembles a situation that one could find themselves face to face with a bear. Except the zoo. I’ll do the zoo. I’m digging the trailer talk though!!

  2. Happy BIRTHDAY friend!!!! So glad you had a wonderful celebration!!! You had me cracking up with this one!! Though my brother and his family were camping out west last year and one of the rangers was talking to them about his friend that got hurt badly from a bear…so it is good to do your research! This trip will be awesome with your crew…love the photos of your boys in this post! Wishing you a lovely weekend! Nicole xo

    • I’m surprised (and terrified!) by how many people have stories about someone they know who got attacked by a bear! They look so cute and harmless. Well, the black bears do anyway.

  3. So is it that grizzlies think you are a threat, not food? If they stop mauling you when you act dead, then they must not have designs on your meaty carcass. And black bears, are they not as power trippy? They’ll admit defeat if you fight back hard enough?
    I am worried about mountain lions when we move out West. The neighborhoods we’ve been looking at will post an alert on their Facebook pages: “A mountain lion was seen this morning in the cul-de-sac.” I’m worried about rattlers too! My kids love climbing big rocks. Who else loves a sunny pile of rocks? Snakes.

    • Hmm…I’m not sure. I think it’s just that black bears are easier to scare away because they’re smaller? I think playing dead is okay with them, too, but it’s better to fight them first and play dead as a last resort. But not with mountain lions. for some reason.

  4. Bear safety is a real thing! We have lots of bears in our Utah mountains, so every years we get tons of mailers for bear safety and what to do/ not to do. I do enjoy our little travel trailer very much, but I already feel so cramped in it. Me and Aaron are already talking about upgrading. We have to sleep head to foot to be able to fit on the bed. Apparently people were smaller back then. I really don’t enjoy his feet in my face. We’re hoping that I have a good real estate year and that in the fall when everything goes on sale we can just pay cash for a bigger more comfortable trailer. (we are those crazy kids who are wildly against consumer debt). Also, Abe is my very favorite character in your family. I loved the description of him hiking. I want to meet him some day!

    • Everyone we talked to at the rv show was assuming we were talking about financing…’s really hard to make a trailer make sense financially if you’re paying all that interest! You could pay cash for an awful lot of nice hotel/cabin rental/whatever vacations by the time you paid it off. Right now I’m having trouble making a trailer make sense financially anyway….my trailer dreams might be crushed/on hold for awhile 🙁

  5. its an old joke I know… When hiking,wear bear bells and carry pepper spray for safety against bears. Also watch the trail for bear scat to judge your level of danger. You can tell if black bears are in the area because their scat is full of sticks and berries. Grizzly bear scat on the other hand, contains bear bells and smells of pepper spray.

    In 10 years of wilderness camping, we only ever had one bear run-in. He stole a stove left out by the campfire and licked it clean. It was found in the bush the next morning very shiny, but also with some tooth marks in it. No one I know has ever been mauled or attacked, but we are backwoods wilderness campers. Up here, most problem bears are in the tent/trailer parks where they feed from garbage cans and poorly packed food. People have literally trained bears that if you attack, there is food in a backpack nearby. The bears teach the behaviour to their young, and the pattern is set for bear problems.

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