Back in June/July of 2016, my husband and I embarked on an epic motorcycle trip. We left Las Vegas bright and early on a Saturday morning and started our extremely circuitous route up to Minnesota and back again. We mostly tent-camped on the road, but 3 nights, the lure of a hot shower and guaranteed wifi was just too much. 🙂

Planning Is For Beginners

Our aim was to take our time and enjoy, and while we mostly had specific places to stop at the end of the day, we had no real time goals other than being there before dark. We wanted to enjoy it, and while I know it was hard for him, J did an amazing job of letting go of his “must get there” mentality. More than a couple of times, we were close to a destination before sitting down and figuring out where we’d sleep, something I never thought I’d see him do (and boy, did we find a couple of incredible spots!). He didn’t stress out when the GPS took us the wrong way (160 plus miles through some awesome scenery – and an encounter with a homicidal condor* – in the back of New Mexico), and he didn’t blink an eye when I said “Hey, there’s an old Civil War fort near here. Wanna go?”.  Seriously, J, if you’re reading this – I want that guy alllll the time!

We rode through Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas,  Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota.  On our way home, we did Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and back into Nevada again.

What I Read On The Road

TBT: 2016 Epic Road TripThe Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel
Published by Grove Press on May 3rd, 2016
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Purchase: Amazon · Barnes & Noble · The Book Depository

Reina Castillo is the alluring young woman whose beloved brother is serving a death sentence for a crime that shocked the community, throwing a baby off a bridge—a crime for which Reina secretly blames herself. With her brother's death, though devastated and in mourning, Reina is finally released from her prison vigil. Seeking anonymity, she moves to a sleepy town in the Florida Keys where she meets Nesto Cadena, a recently exiled Cuban awaiting with hope the arrival of the children he left behind in Havana. Through Nesto’s love of the sea and capacity for faith, Reina comes to understand her own connections to the life-giving and destructive forces of the ocean that surrounds her as well as its role in her family's troubled history, and in their companionship, begins to find freedom from the burden of guilt she carries for her brother’s crime.

Set in the vibrant coastal and Caribbean communities of Miami, the Florida Keys, Havana, Cuba, and Cartagena, Colombia, with The Veins of the Ocean Patricia Engel delivers a profound and riveting Pan-American story of fractured lives finding solace and redemption in the beauty and power of the natural world, and in one another.

What Was The Highlight?

That’s a tough one! So, so many. Spending time with family, and experiencing my first ever proper in-person July 4th Parade. South Dakota and Wyoming, definitely. I love those two states and getting to take our time and explore Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Deadwood, Yellowstone etc was absolutely amazing. So was spotting random places on the map and choosing those for our stops. Like Las Vegas, NM, which we did to be “ironic”, and it turned out to be a wonderful stop in one of the original wild west towns (Doc Holliday was almost hung there!). Also, as a New Zealander and an Invercargill girl, it was fantastic to be able to do an unscheduled detour to the Bonneville Speedway and pay homage to a hometown legend.

Anywhere You’d Pitch Your Tent Again?

Yes! Smithville Lake Campground near Kansas City, MO was one of those places we found last minute and it was gorgeous! We would love to go there again. Also, the Deadwood KOA. You know you’re going to get great amenities in a KOA, but it was an added bonus that there was a regular bus line that stopped in the campground to take you into Deadwood. And finally, Buffalo Bill State Park in Wyoming. It’s a gorgeous campground and the perfect launchpad into Yellowstone.

Are There Any Photos?

Why yes! The photo up above is me, stuck in traffic on the last leg of our trip. What better to do when stuck in the middle of nowhere than to pull out that book and keep on reading?

Below, you’ll see just a few of the pics from the first couple of days. I’d like to be able to randomize them but haven’t figured that out yet. The entire gallery is right here.

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* We came around a corner into a copse of trees. Several birds flew up, clearly irritated at being disturbed by such noisy beasts. One of them was a rather large condor, which decided it needed to investigate and immediately hovered about 4 feet above my head. So I leaned the bike and went left. The condor went left. I leaned the other way. So did the condor. Not quite knowing what to do but knowing I couldn’t stay there, I leaned down over the handlebars and opened up the throttle. (Catch me now, Condor!)  It was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time and we were still incredulous and laughing once we hit Texas and stopped for BBQ ribs 🙂