Category Archives: southwest

#45 – Go Camping, Legitimately, in a Tent, in the Middle of Nowhere

This past trip was very nature-centric and unlike any I’ve done before, and so I was very excited to be able to be out of my element and check some things off the Life List.

When we were planning out logistics, the idea of cutting camping from the trip came up and I probably did one of my “wide eyes, tight lips” glares at John in which he could sense my internal freak out.

That was the end of the camp-cutting convo.

We don’t have room in our apartment for an ironing board much less camping gear, so it’s not something we’ve ever thought of purchasing. Plus, we’ve never seriously considered going camping before this. Plus, how would one suggest I travel cross-country with a tent? And a lantern? And those roasting marshmallow pokey things? Am I allowed to carry those on? And a small stove, right? Because we’re going to be cooking fancy campsite meals, aren’t we? OMG sleeping bags! Duh! But those are kinda big . . . but maybe we should bring our air mattress, too?

This was not helping the case for camping.

So we decided that the easiest solution would be to buy all of our necessities before we headed out on the road at a Wal-Mart outside of Vegas.

Wow, this really was an All-American trip.

When we got to Wal-Mart, there was some more hesitation about whether this really was a good idea or not. Pretty valid points like, “uh, what are we going to do with this stuff when we’re done?” and “is it worth spending all of this money on camping stuff when we can probably find cheap hotel rooms for the same price or less? Isn’t staying at a Motel 6 kind of like camping anyway?”

Even I was being swayed.

Plus, everyone was speaking German and so I was off looking at bullets and bait and DVDs.

Eventually, however, it was decided that we were doing this for the experience, not to necessarily save a ton of money, and so we started piling stuff into the thankfully gigantic carts.

We ended up buying the very bare camping necessities: two small tents, two fleece “sleeping bags” (in quotations because these were more like thin, cheap blankets that had zippers), an LED lantern, and that’s it. No tools for s’mores, no fancy-pants camping stove, no fun stuff. We then bought copious and completely unnecessary amounts of snacks. I chose surprisingly sensible things like granola bars and apples. Omesay othersay oschay ingsthay ikelay an eakingfray FUN PACK of 24 agsbay of ipschay. Oh, and a Halloween bag of oppersWhay.

Ateverwhay.

It wasn’t totally planned out where or what nights we’d camp, but I definitely tried to slyly suggest instances in which it would work out to be a day that I had taken a shower in the morning and wouldn’t need to wash my hair that night, things like that. “Tonight? What? Didn’t you just feel that raindrop?” It pretty much worked out for me. I think the trick is to be high-maintenance one or two nights a week so that you can be low-maintenance the rest. I did that with the following tools:

Flat Iron: straight hair is just easier to take care of and wear for a few days of non-washing

 

 

 

 

Oscar Blandi Dry Shampoo – this makes the non-washing thing possible. I’ve been intrigued by the idea of dry shampoo because I don’t like to wash my hair everyday. Sprinkling a good amount of white powder into my hair made me a little apprehensive, but it works!

 

 

Andrea Eye Q’s – the best eye makeup remover I’ve come across. Is gentle, works like a charm, and no water necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

Huggies wipes – ditto. There are fancier makeup removing wipes, but I don’t mind using plain old Huggies because they’re cheap. You can clean your whole face in-tent, without having to trek out in the dark to the slightly creepy bathrooms.

 

 

And no, not wearing eye makeup is not an option. My ipchay-ovinglay endfray was earingway ivefay oundspay of akeupmay every day, and I didn’t want to look completely slovenly. Plus we were taking like 5,000,000 pictures . . . I don’t want ugly memories.

Anywhoo, where was I? Oh yes, right, camping.

This trip was the first time I’ve heard the term “backcountry camping”, which basically means camping in a place, typically after hiking to the bottom of some canyon with your crap strapped to your back, that has no facilities . . . like toilets or showers or power hook ups. Like real manly man camping. This is what I wanted to do, but . . . see the photo of “dry shampoo” above.

We camped on campgrounds with campsites and toilets that flushed – the fancy kind. I was sort of disappointed but mostly relieved. I don’t know about the backcountry campers, but the campsite campers? Soooo hoity-toity. They’ve got all of this sexy camping gear and gadgetry that, I mean, I’m my pathetic little “sleeping bag”, I really looked down my nose at. Why not just stay home if you’re going to completely replicate the comforts of your own living room to a campsite? Wusses.

Not us, though. We didn’t even have pillows!

Correction: I didn’t even have a pillow! I brought one inflatable pillow because over the years my mom has given us some really random crap that at the time seemed totally useless. “Um, thanks mom, a solar powered radio, wow, cool, this is going to be, like, totally useful to me seeing as I don’t even listen to electric-powered radios.” Or, “yeah, this mini-flashlight with your company logo on it is super-rad, thanks.” “An inflatable pillow, how did you know?” I let John have it because I’m the perfect girlfriend like that. Plus he was doing all of the driving and, you know, he sort of deserved it.

It turned out that all of her weird, random cast-offs were completely and utterly useful on this trip. It’s like she’s a Jedi or something.

All in all, my introduction to camping was a good one, despite one night of absolutely inhumane temperatures (upper 40s! Come on! I slept in JEANS!), and I’d like to do it again. As with other experiences on this trip, this was a great introduction. Now that I know a bit more about this world and know what to be prepare for, I think I’d actually like to try out the backcountry stuff.

If not, I think I could do something like this . . .

Where Do I Begin? To Tell a Story of How Grand a Canyon Can Be?

Well, here I am, back from my trip, and I am now a full-fledged, red-blooded, low-maintenance, rootin-tootin’ outdoors woman. Bring me a tent and I will pitch that bitch like there is no tomorrow.

No, seriously. Time me.

Well, kinda.

Ok, probably not.

But I loved my trip to the Wild Wild West! I always get a little nervous that places won’t live up to the hype or that I get so excited that things won’t meet my expectations . . . but they do! They always do!

They usually do.

I really can’t wait until I have the chance to go back. There is so much more to these parks than I got to explore, and while it was a great overview and introduction, I am dying to go back and focus on one park to really have a full experience. It sounds like most people do what we did and spend half a day to one day at each park, and that’s awesome, but if you’re serious about hiking or canyoneering or biking or rafting, you really need a couple of days at least to do the real trails, and I have now decided that I’m serious.

No, seriously. I told John that I want to move to California and be a two-armed Aron Ralston.

This is a trip that every American should do. It’s like nowhere else in the world, and I have to say, I did feel some pangs of patriotism . . . even though I had to constantly explain why people are so fat. And why there are so many fast food places. And why people are so poor and dirty. And listen to why everything is better elsewhere. There were times at which I felt like I understood the mindset of Sarah Palin. Mostly the gun part.

So anyways . . .

There is a lot that happened on this trip that I really, really, really want to write about because it would be so entertaining and hilarious and gossipy and fun, but it would come across as mean and when I was little and really into writing in a diary (because I loved Anne Frank and Jo March) my mom taught me not to put anything in writing that I wouldn’t want to have read. Which, hello, is the point of a diary for a young girl, but nevertheless it kinda stuck with me. But you guys . . . really. Some of this stuff is golden, cannot-make-this-scheiss-up stuff that I would LOVE to gab about, so let’s plan a dinner, you’re all invited, and I will fill you in.

Let’s just say:

Me = Maureen O’Hara

Someone-else-on-the-trip-that-shall-remain-nameless-let-me-throw-in-some-untranslatable-words-into-this-like-skidamarinkydinkydinky-cromulent-embiggens-atchison-topeka-santa-fe-dinglehopper-so-that-it-confuses-non-english-speakers = forgettable actress that plays the stepmother

Such an understatement. And while it didn’t uinray the iptray, it did idday akmay emay an ittleay . . . annoyed to say the eastlay.

But whatever, it got to the point of being comical, so not too big of a deal.

Bitching aside, this was the (loose) itinerary . . .

Vegas – fun, but you know, it’s Vegas . . .

Stop in Williams, AZ – typical little town on Route 66 with stores wherein you can/should buy things like this . . .

Grand Canyon – it’s just so . . . grand. Too grand. Literally too large to even conceive.

Petrified Forest/Painted Desert – Interesting. Sort of cool. Skipable, so here’s a picture of the group . . .

Hubbell Trading Post – The only reason I’m including this is because this is an example of precisely the kind of dorky, historic places that I wanted to stop by, but was met with glazed eyes and bored stares. OH god I mean azedglay eyesyay and ordbay arestay! Oops.

Canyon de Chelly – Amazing. So beautiful. Astounding. Needed more time there.

Monument Valley – This is in Navajo Nation, and you can pay an entry fee ($5 per person) to drive and see the “monuments” up close and personal. We did this, but the roads aren’t paved and our family van couldn’t deal. We drove through the “normal” road, however, and it was just as impressive. I think.

Camp in Bluff, UT – You can drive for very long stretches in this part of the country without really coming across any civilization. Or having any 3G connectivity. But then every once in a while, little towns like Bluff pop up and have a campground and a few restaurants. We found (meaning, drove down the one street in town) a really cool restaurant here.

Arches – More amazing than I thought it would be. It’s hard to believe this wasn’t a movie set or an art installation. Visiting this park was #12 on my life list, so I’ll write about it in greater depth soon.

Moab, UT – Not one of the little towns. This place is relatively booming and full of outdoor adventure outfitters, hotels, restaurants, & shops. We went rafting.

Canyonlands – This is sort of like a miniature Grand Canyon. In fact, Thelma and Louise, who supposedly died driving off the GC in actuality died driving off a cliff in Canyonlands. It’s gorgeous and compact in comparison, plus nowhere near as crowded. I’d like to have spent a few days here.

Camp in Capitol Reef – We didn’t really have plans to go to Capitol Reef, but we read that the campground is really nice so we decided to visit there for a night. Gorgeous, not fun. So cold. So, so cold. Ground, so hard. But, we did wake up to a beautiful view and ate goodies made from apples from the orchards in the park, so it was in a way worth it.

Bryce Canyon – When we first got to Bryce, I wasn’t that excited. It’s weird looking. But it’s got a few easy-peasy hiking trails, and going that extra mile really changes your experience. I ended up loving it and it turned out to be one of the most memorable (not to mention picturesque) points of the trip.

Zion – Was. Not. Expecting. Zion is one of the most incredibly beautiful places I’ve ever been. Have you seen the Land Before Time? No? Well they make this trek to a place called The Great Valley, a wondrous place where everything is lush and there is water and happiness and an endless supply of love . . . this is Zion. Unreal. I need to go back for a week at least.

Back to Vegas – Ick. Don’t get me wrong, Vegas is fun. And it’s funny. But I’d rather have been in Zion. There is absolutely no reason to be in Vegas for longer than 2 days. You can only eat and drink and spend money for so long. OMG, listen! I really am a wilderness girl now!

I crossed a few things off the old Life List, so stay tuned. And let’s plan that trash talking dinner.

Don’t Let the Sound of Your Own Wheels Drive You Crazy


Stereotypes, you know, in general, are kind of annoying . . . I mean, not to stereotype them or anything.

One that’s particularly loathsome (and yet one often ensuing of much slapstick hilarity) is that of the prissy girl who isn’t “outdoorsy”. “Ugh, (hair flip) I don’t do camping” is a phrase that has come out of many an uptight, high-maintenance city girl’s mouth according to modern pop culture.

As such, we’ve been led to believe that there are only two types of women on the planet: the Mary Anns and the Gingers:

. . . or better yet, the Vickys and the Maggies:

What we can assess from these characters is that nice, smart, cool girls are just as comfortable in the wilderness as they are in pig tails or flannel shirts. It’s the manipulative, sequin-wearing, gold-digging whores that would ship sweet little Hayley Mills(es) off to boarding school who can’t hack it out there in the wilderness.

There’s just one problem, though . . .

I, like, don’t do camping.

And yet, here I am, finding myself in a position where, yup, I’m probably going to be doing some camping-like activities in the next few weeks. I need to un-Vickify myself posthaste.

My next trip is something that every American should probably do, and so naturally it’s something that, as a bad American, I haven’t really done much of: visit National Parks.

It appears that, like the stereotype or not, I am kind of a city girl. I am usually drawn to places because of cultural attributes, not necessarily by nature. I like food, art, architecture . . . “things”; scenery is nice, but it’s most beautiful when one is looking at it from the terrace of a really lovely restaurant, holding a glass of wine. Is the ocean not more magnificent while looking at it through rosé colored glasses?

It never even occurred to me to question this mindset until I met John, and his ability to inspire me to see all sorts of things from a new perspective is one reason why I fell in love with him. We’re like a reverse Pocahontas & John Smith.

Ok, I really need to lay off the Disney movies.

While John has never sung to me about painting with all of the “colors of the wind” or anything (that I’m allowed to talk about in public, anyway), he has been on three cross-USA road trips. He’s got photo albums full of impressive canyons and arches and mountains and wide open space: things that I’ve sort of seen while playing Oregon Trail, but never really felt the need to see in person. He’s done these types of trips several times, so obviously he really enjoys them, and when you love someone, you get a particular kick out of seeing them in their “element”, even if it’s not necessarily something that you get. The last USA road trip John took was with his very good friend from Germany, and so for historical accuracy, he will be joining us along with his girlfriend, which is really cool.

We’re retracing some of their steps, meeting in Vegas, and then heading off into the sunset to the Grand Canyon, followed by Canyonlands, Monument Valley, Arches, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and all sorts of other anti-Vegasy things that will allow me to expand my horizons. Jury is still out on whether the other girl is a Vicky or a Maggie, but the point is, I’m really going to try to not be an uptight whore: I want to be outdoorsy. I want to prove that I can sleep outside and do things like raft or bike or eat beef jerky. I want to be able to survive without my flat iron. I want to wear a flannel shirt, and if I didn’t just have my hair chopped off at Frederic Fekkai, I would try out ponytails too.

These things, combined with living in Manhattan and craving the novelty of unused space, are why I’m particularly looking forward to this trip.

Right now I’m in my typical travel-only-type-A mode, mapping out a route and doing all sorts of research on must-sees and creating The Perfect Playlist on iTunes, you know, the most important stuff. Next, we’ll talk packing for a trip unlike any I’ve ever been on.

Anyone been to these places and have any suggestions? More importantly, what are you favorite road trip songs?

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