On the 10th of August, my wife Meghan and I ventured out on another road trip. Seems we do these about once per year. A week prior, I traded in my late model Ram 1500 SLT on a brand-spankin’ new (leftover 2011) Big Horn Crew Cab 4x4, about 3 trim levels upgrade from what I had. The truck performed flawlessly, from 100 ft below sea level in Deland Florida, to 14,110 ft above sea level on the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, from coast-to-coast and corner-to-corner, I could not have asked for a better performing or more comfortable ride. I averaged 510-520 miles per tank, so roughly 20-21mpg, at around 80mph average speed. Drop it to 60-70 and she gets about 23-24. Cant complain I guess, it costs to make good time LOL. We planned on spending roughly $5,000 this trip, we came in under budget at around $3,600 from our front door and back. This year, the National Park Service gave out free Annual Park Passes for US Armed Forces, good at most National Parks across the nation, so we incorporated 7 national park visits into our trip. It saved us roughly $300. We camped at the end of each leg at a KOA Campground in the city we chose to stop in. Total mileage from driveway-to-driveway was 8,402 miles. We spent $1,600 in fuel, including driving our truck for 10 days in Fort Worth TX, 5 days in Deland FL, and 5 days in Gatlinburg TN. Our itinerary:
Leg 1- Seattle WA to Salt Lake City UT: An overnight stop at a KOA Campground.
Leg 2- Salt Lake City UT to Flagstaff AZ: During leg 2 we stopped at Bryce Canyon, Zion Canyon, Grand Staircase and Grand Canyon (North Rim) National Parks. 3 national park entrance fees at $25 per park, and $50 for the Grand Canyon, but that complimentary annual passes saved us the entrance fees. Handed them my Military ID and my Pass and we were waved on through the gates around the literally hundreds of cars that were waiting in line.
Leg 3- Flagstaff AZ to Fort Worth TX: Spent 10 days with my folks, Went to the Ram Truck Club meet I organzed called RamFest. Other than that, lots of FBI (Fishing, Beer and Isolation). Nothing to see there. We did make it to Houston, to see my grandmother, and managed to squeeze in a short dinner with Bob (Lil4x). We try to do that every time we are in TX. Bob, ya’ll are such great people, my family was glad to meet you and it was good to see you again!
Leg 4- Fort Worth TX to Gatlinburg TN: This was just an overnight stop to scoop up Meghan’s parents before going to Florida.
Leg 5- Gatlinburg TN to Deland FL: We followed my in-laws down to Deland FL to see Meghan’s sister and her family. We got there just in time for Hurricane Issac
Figures. I drive to Florida, wash my truck and a freakin’ hurricane. Whatever. LOL. I made it as far south as Orlando, we wanted to meet up with Paul (bitkahuna) but it just didn’t happen, between the weather, my lack of cell service and the amusement parks in Orlando offering free admission for Returning veterans and their families that week, it was all I could do to get sleep.
Leg 6- Deland FL back to Gatlinburg TN: Spent 5 days with Meghan’s parents and Grandparents here. Gatlinburg is always a fun time! I love that town. We did the Hatfield and McCoy’s dinner show, Ober Gatlinburg, Dollywood and some other amusement park type stuff. I could live there and never run out of things to do! LOL.
Leg 7- Gatlinburg TN to Clarksville TN. Had to stop overnight and see friends of ours stationed at Fort Campbell KY. Clarksville is just on the other side of the TN/KY border about 10 mins from the base.
Leg 8- Clarksville TN to Goodland KS: Just an overnight stop in a KOA Campground before heading on through Leg 9.
Leg 9- Goodland KS to Colorado Springs CO: Time for the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. We had a blast, but it was a little nerve wracking. Every time you look over the side of the road it’s a straight drop thousands of feet. For a guy who hates heights, this was the ultimate adrenaline rush. They tell you at the park entrance, 2nd gear going up, and 1st gear going down and if you have less than ¾ tank of fuel, they won’t let you in. On the way up, I had to use 2nd like he said, I also had to take a tube off of my intake before the filter to allow the engine to get more air. It did not care what kind of air it got, hot or cold, so I ran a short-ram intake for a little bit by removing the tube that goes from the fender to the airbox. Get to the top, and don’t plan on doing too much moving around. The oxygen is so thin at the summit, even I, in as good a shape as I am, was having trouble. I was dizzy, nauseous, extremely short of breath, had a splitting headache and a severe walking disability. I was stumbling around trying to take pictures. It was worth it though, as you will see we got some good ones. On the descent, 1st gear was needed along with 4wd-low range in a couple spots that were extremely steep. We got halfway down and they stopped us and check the temperature on our brake rotors. They were 200 degrees, and I was being easy. 12 and 14% grades were not uncommon, if your brakes are 300 degrees they make you park for an hour. Losing your brakes on one of the steep switchbacks was not what I would call a good time. We got to the bottom and started leg 10.
Leg 10-Colorado Springs CO to Rock Springs WY: An overnight stop after driving through Denver. There is some very nice scenery in CO.
Leg 11-Rock Springs WY to Grand Teton, Yellowstone and finally Butte MT: Doing 2 national parks this size in one day was not the best idea I have ever had, but I had no idea how big Yellowstone was until I actually got there. Grand Teton was just mountains and forest, and lots of Bison. Beautiful as it was, I am glad I didn’t have to go out of our way to get to it, it was on our route. Yellowstone was the best national park I have been to in a very long time by far. The bubbling cauldrons of hot mud and water, Old Faithful, the Sulphur Springs, we did all of it that we had time to do. We pulled into Yellowstone at 130pm, we didn’t leave until 8pm, and our campground in Butte, MT was roughly 3 hrs away still. Whose idea was this anyway?
Leg 12-Butte MT to Seattle WA: This leg simply consisted of coming home. Nothing to see here.
So without further ado, the pictures! If anyone wants hi-res versions of these photos, let me know and I will get them to you.
Leg 1- Seattle WA to Salt Lake City UT:
^Signing out on leave, BillMopar and I had a mini Ram Meet. We park in the same spaces every day for work.
^All packed up and ready to go
^Sunrise in southern Idaho
^Marv likes to ride.
^This one time at Ram Camp
^Marv calls it a day in Salt Lake City, UT.