Road Trip 2020 - Part 1

I wanted to write a post about this quickly before I forget any of the details because I had a LOT of requests for our itinerary! Originally, Mike and I were supposed to go on a Euro trip with both of our parents starting Labor Day Weekend that we were so excited about.  We had it all planned out to start in Porto, Portugal, then stay at Mike's family house in Usago, Italy, then Mike and I were going to branch off and finish our trip in Greece. We held onto every last bit of faith that we had for this trip to still happen until the very last minute when the flights started to cancel on us.  Sad but not defeated, Mike immediately switched the trip to a southwest adventure we've been meaning to go on for a while but never knew when or how.  

First thing he did was go on Outdoorsy.com to try to find an RV.  Much to his surprise, he didn't just find an RV, but something WAY better for our situation. A 2017 RAM Promaster 1500 (<--it's link on Outdoorsy) also known as @Aspen_Van or as we called her Vanna White, completely renovated into the ultimate camper van by a man named John out in Aspen.  John could NOT be any more accommodating.  Since we started the trip in Aspen and he lived right in town, he dropped off and picked up the van from where we were staying which was so incredibly nice and convenient. For all things/questions regarding his van DEFinitely click on those links and check out his instagram where he shows all the features! Now for our first stop...

ASPEN, Colorado

As the stars align it only made sense to start the trip out in Aspen not only because that's where the van was, but because my sister-in-law, Marielle, has a house there! She and my older brother are moving to San Fran and decided to do a road trip to get out there as well.  They both started a little before us, so by the time Mike and I flew there, they were already at the house.  Not only that, but my younger brother and his girlfriend also decided to go out there for the weekend. So it was the 6 of us and Marielle's good friend Brian. 

We only had 3 days out there so we wanted to cover a lot of ground but definitely enjoy ourselves and relax by the beautiful lake in Marielle's backyard. The hike they planned for us was for Maroon Bells which you could either take a bus to orrrrrrrr e-bikes! Obviously we chose the e-bikes before even really knowing what they were. It's a little difficult to explain how they work so I'm just going to copy and past the description from their website...

"Electric bikes pedal and handle just like a regular bicycle. The electric component is meant to augment human power, not completely replace it. It makes obstacles like hills and headwind more manageable and allows you to travel further without getting as tired. The motor provides extra power every pedal stroke, powering you along the trail with minimal effort."

We got ours from Four Mountain Sports at the Highlands basecamp but there are a ton of shops that had them. The trail to Maroon Bells ending up being around 8 miles one way, which, on the e-bikes seemed like a breeze.  Plus there was a petting zoo along the way.  Here are the insane photos from that trail.

 e-bikes in aspen

maroon bells

moose at maroon bellsmaroon bells view

hiking crew

moose in aspen

kayaking on the lake

aspen bonfire

aspen night sky

Those last photos are taken by my brothers camera (he has a Canon EOS RP) and they came out AMAZING.  

Here's a little drone video my brother put together for the weekend as well :)

For food we ended up cooking a lot but also went out to a few amazing places.  The Wood Creek Tavern (known for being Hunter S. Thompsons favorite bar) for burgers, White House Tavern (get the French Dip Au Jus) for lunch, and Jing Aspen for sushi dinner one night.  All are highly recommended.

 

Then, the van came...

aspen van

And we were off to our next location!

 

Before I start, I should mention that Mike did his research and since he saw all these parks have an admission fee, he thought ahead and bought the Annual Interagency Park Pass. It was only about $80 and you have it for an entire year (every park was around $30 to enter and we went to 6 parks so this was a no brainer!)

MOAB, Utah

I've heard about people wanting to go to Utah but had NO idea how amazing it would actually be. Moab is great because it sits perfectly in-between two national parks that we wanted to go to; Canyonlands and Arches.  We found a campground that I think usually would cost around $100 but somehow (probably due to Covid) it was completely free and we just drove in and found a spot that was open.  This was by far my favorite campground as it was along the Colorado River and surrounded by these absolutely beautiful rock formations.  We used Recreation.gov  to find the campgrounds.  We really wanted to settle in Goose Island Campground which was at the very beginning closest to town, but every night when we got back the spots were taken so we just drove a little further along the river and were able to get a spot twice in a row at Big Bend Campground. We LOVED it, and we were able to have campfires which I'm not sure every campsite had.

Some campsites have more amenities than others. This one was pretty standard and basically just had slots for your car to fit and park in and a few bathrooms all around (which literally consisted of just toilets going into holes in the ground and hand sanitizer stations.... but always had toilet paper!).  This all means that there were no showers, so for us, bathing in the Colorado River had to do :) Here are the views from our camper van.crooked tree along colorado river

view from campervan view from campervan bed in moab

aspen van in utah aspen van view in moabcouple in aspen vaninside of van from backbreakfast with a view in the van

 

We made our own breakfast every morning in Moab.  Our first day we went to Canyonlands National Park and it was amazing place to start.

 

Canyonlands National Park

overlooking canyon lands

Mike and big rock formationwinding road down canyonlandsmesa arch at canyonlandsmesa archview from mesa arch in canyon lands

overlooking canyon landsMike hiking

large rock viewrailroad crossing in Utah

For dinner we went to a pizza place called Antica Forma which was recommended by our friend Lizz and it did NOT disappoint. Definitely one of the better restaurants in Moab. Then we went to the local liquor store, bought some boxed wine, grabbed some twinkly fairy lights from the Family Dollar store and we (Mike) built a fire and chilled at the campground.

Campfire at Moab

van at night

 

The next day we went to Arches National Park!

 

road to Arches National Park

balancing rock in arches arches in utahupclose of archesstanding in archin front of Delicate ArchDelicate Archanother arch in utahWalking along edge in canyonNarrowsArch view

Arches had to be one of our favorite National Parks that we visited for sure, but a MUST trail in there was the Delicate Arch. Everyone says to go there at sunset but honestly, you can go at any time and it'll still take your breath away. We could have sat there for hours and stared at it. The hike is no joke though, but SO worth it.

That afternoon we went straight to The Blue Pig for some well-deserved BBQ and live music and built another fire with some beers and wine at the camp.  The next morning we had a quick breakfast at the Moab Diner (love me a good diner) filled up our water bottles and got on the road again.

Before we got to our next destination though, we drove through Monument Valley which is one of the worlds largest outdoor museums! Online it says it's closed (I'm assuming they mean the trails) because it's on Navajo territory (which is very strict during covid) but you obviously can still drive through it and WHAT a site.  It was like driving through mars with all its insane rock formations and the terrain constantly changing. Definitely one of the most fascinating drives of the trip.

Monument Valley

Road into monument valley View from camper van in utah

 BACK UP:  I can't forget about Bluff Fort which we randomly pulled the car over into to a) use the bathroom and b) check out what this mini pioneer town was all about.  If you go, find Tim Black and ask him about its history...legend.

photo of Bluff fort

Lake Powell, Arizona

Lake Powell is actually across the border of Arizona and Utah, so you're constantly crossing time zones which is pretty confusing, but the camp we stayed at was in Arizona, called Wahweap in Glen Canyon National Park.  Our jaws literally dropped open when we saw Lake Powell.  We had no idea how insanely beautiful it would be! After driving through desert and mountains, to see this giant, bright blue lake appear right in front of us seemed like a mirage. Not to mention the incredible dam you have to drive over to get to it.

lake powell dam

 Lake Powell

 Boats on lake powell

 

A TON of people rent boats and go out on the lake and do tons of water sports and activities which is a great idea.  Seeing as though our trip was packed and long, we opted for the kayaking through Antelope Canyon.  Usually you do the kayak through the canyon and as it gets more and more narrow it turns into a beach and then a dry hike through the canyon which is where it gets REALLY narrow, but since that dry part was on Navajo territory it was closed which was a real bummer.  I have to say though, just the kayaking alone was enough for us, one of the most surreal and peaceful experiences we've ever been on..not to mention our tour guide was a sweetheart!

kayaking through antelope canyonantelope canyon lake powellsun glare at lake powellkayakers heavencouples who kayakkayak viewpanorama of antelope canyon from kayak

Sound On...

After kayaking our tour guide told us it'd be fun to go swimming off the cliffs just past where we parked our cars.  The water was such a perfect temperature being that it was September and still warm from the summer.  Definitely would recommend doing this as well :)

cliffs of lake powell

diving into lake powell swimming in lake powell

We found that Page, Arizona was the closest town to Lake Powell and had a ton of restaurant options.  The first night we just went to a sports bar and ate wings and watched the NFL game (not even listing it here though cause the wings were terrible, but they had TV screens so no complaints) but the second night we went to dinner at a really good Mexican restaurant called Il Tapatio (get the nachos!).  Also the margaritas were giant so that's always a plus.

Ended the night at another camp fire <3

campfire in wahweap

We also took one afternoon to relax and hang at Lone Rock Beach which was incredible.  You can see below where it gets its name from. 

Lone Rock Beach

Before leaving Lake Powell for our next destination, we decided to forego the showers (they were down at the main lot and cost $1 for one token and 2 tokens gave you 8 minutes in the shower, which, surprisingly is a good amount of time) and instead, take our soap and shampoo and bathe in the lake! By the way, yes, I realize I am a run-on sentence queen.

view of lake powell

bath time in lake powell 

From there we had one last stop, and that was, of course, to see the famous/jaw dropping Horseshoe Bend which was only about 15 minutes from our campsite. Must. Do.

Horseshoe Bendview from horseshoe bend

Next up,  Zion National Park!

 

To be continued in Part 2.....

 

 

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