Just bought a Gopro
So I just took the big dive and bought a GoPro camera. I’ve been mulling the decision for about a week now, but after watching some nice YouTube videos and then doing some research, I just went ahead and bought it before I chickened out.
I found a Hero 3 Silver edition at a nicely discounted price on eBay. I plan on using it extensively on road trips and when I go hiking, biking, stargazing, and during my next Lego block bender. What I’m most thrilled about doing, however, is mounting it to my dashboard, setting it to about 1 picture every 15 seconds, and then hitting the road. I’ve wanted to make a video of a road trip from start to finish for years now, and now I can finally make that dream come true!
I’ll likely shoot most of the video from the dashboard, but I’ll also buy a suction cup mount and shoot some video from the outside of the car at a few different angels as well. SO EXCITED!
Here is basically what I will do come August, except mine will be way cooler. Because I made it.
Doubly happy, however, is the man to whom lofty mountain tops are within reach.
Weekend Getaway to Mount Magazine State Park
This past weekend Sarah and I attended the wedding of our friends Danny and Sasha at Mount Magazine State Park. Mount Magazine is easily one of if not my favorite state park here in Arkansas, but up until now I had never had the pleasure of staying in it’s lodge, only the campsite on the other side of the mountain, or at Cove Lake Campground at the base.
First, a quick geography and history lesson:
Mount Magazine is located within the Ozark Nation Forest and is the tallest mountain in Arkansas, which isn’t really saying much. At 2,753 feet, here in Arkansas it’s a bona fide mountain, dad gum it. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to take anything away from it - I love the view from up top and the cool, steady breeze that is usually found up there is quite welcome this time of year and a stark contrast from the suffocating, unholy heat and humidity that is found at ground level throughout Arkansas - but Mount Magazine is really nothing more than a hill by most of the country’s standards. Mount Magazine is basically a long, flat plateau, with Signal Hill, the highest point in the state, rising above. It is also one of the few “mountains” named by the French here in the states that isn’t named after a female body part. Those freaky French really have a one track mind. Actually, they named it for the sound it made during a rockslide that occurred while an expedition was passing by. To them, it sounded like an ammunitions magazine going off.
So now that you are enlightened, back to our weekend getaway.
Sarah and I arrived at the Park kinda late in the day Friday, and after enjoying some catfish at the restaurant settled into our very lovely room with a view. The Lodge at Mount Magazine is situated on the southern bluff of Mount Magazine and offers up spectacular views of the Petit Jean River Valley below. Unfortunately for us, when we woke up Saturday Morning, the view was completely obscured by thick fog that lingered for most of the day and then dissipated into a thin haze that veiled the valley floor. After snacking on some food we brought with us and deciding that it was just to foggy to do any hiking, we opted to drive down to the city of Paris, Arkansas, to see what there was to see.
There wasn’t much to see.
After piddling around in the one Antique Store that was open for the day, we made the drive back up the mountain to enjoy the lunch provided by Danny’s family. After eating another meal, we went back to our room to rest and let our lunch digest. It was still quite foggy. At sundown, however, the fog and haze lifted long enough to make a very breathtaking setting for Danny and Sasha’s wedding on the northern cliffs of the mountain, despite the hordes of bugs intent on eating us all alive. After the wedding, we proceeded to the pavilion to further gorge ourselves on wine, cheese, and other finger-y foods. And finally, around 10:00pm, we headed back to Danny’s cabin to eat yet another meal provided by our friends of burgers and cheese dip, because we’re American’s, damn it!
Sunday morning we woke up to the spectacular view the Mount Magazine Lodge is known for; a perfectly clear, beautiful view of the valley below and a cool light breeze to accompany it. We were sad to leave because the weather was prefect for hiking and whatever, but we had to get back home to feed and love our animals.
As I said earlier, Mount Magazine is probably my favorite Arkansas State Park. Heck, I’ll just come out and say it, it IS my favorite Arkansas State Park! I’ve had nothing but wonderful experiences there throughout my life, and made some great, lasting memories. It’s usually the memories that make a place for you, not necessarily the place itself, but it never hurts if it’s a lovely place to begin with, as is the case with Mount Magazine. I know that I want to spend anther weekend there soon with my wife and myself. Next time I’d like to get a cabin and grill out. Maybe in the fall…
My Top 10 Items for a Road Trip Checklist
So there are plenty of folks who have made list of “Road Trip Essentials” and posted them in their blogs, facebook’s and websites, so you’re probably thinking “Wow Chris, way to be original. I’ll be sure and pack that first aid kit and bottled water. Thanks for reminding me! WATER! What a novel concept!”. Well first of all, no one likes a smartass, and secondly, this is not your conventional road trip checklist.
Now, what do I mean by not a conventional road trip checklist, exactly? Well I’m not talking about things like special containers to house that roadkill you picked up east of Amarillo if thats what your wondering. That’s sick by the way. No, I’m talking about very useful things that you may not ever use or need on your trip (sometimes if you don’t need them, that’s a good thing!). Some of this stuff is the typical no-brainer type items you’d expect to see on one of these things, but some of it is not. So I’ll stop rambling and just get to it:
1. A road atlas
OK OK, I know. This is just about the most conventional thing I could have thought of for a road trip checklist. It’s THE staple item of road trips dating back to forever ago. But be honest, in this day and age, how many of you actually keep a map in your car? We’ve got Google Maps on our phones, built in GPS in our cars, Tom Toms, etc. But what happens when that technology we rely so heavily on fails? Don’t risk it. Have a good Road Atlas at your disposal, just in case.
2. Plenty of food and water
Yeah yeah we’ve already made clear that is is an obvious selection. It does however still merit a mention, as you need to drink plenty of water, especially if you’re like me and from the east, heading west into a part of the country where humidity basically doesn’t exist. You’ll become dehydrated before you know it if you don’t drink plenty of H2O. Buy it cheap and always keep some on you. As for the food, on a road trip, the things you spend the most money on are gas, lodging, and food. Now you can cut a big chunk of those expenses out if you plan ahead and stock up on lots of food items before you leave home, Staples like bread, fruit, vegetables, deli meats, peanut butter and jelly, etc. You may not like having to stop and fix your own meals every day, and you may get tired of eating the same stuff (that’s your fault for not planning ahead better and buying more of a variety of foods!), but when you get home and realize how much money you didn’t have to spend on fast food, you’ll thank me (Please send thank you’s in the form of cash, gift cards, or diet coke). And obviously you’ll need to bring a cooler. I suggest two small coolers, one for drinks, one for food, condiments, etc.
3. Multiple pairs of shoes
Plan on going hiking? Or are you primarily gonna be walking the streets of a city? Just going to the beach? Don’t be afraid to bring shoes for any occasion. ESPCIALLY the driving part. You may be spending a lot of time behind the wheel. Bring some shoes that are comfortable. Maybe those ratty looking ones you can’t part with because they’re so comfy, even though they are hideous and look like you just pulled them out if a BP oil spill.
4. Lots of music
Especially if you don’t have satellite radio. I’d bring a lot of CD’s or fill up your MP3, Android or iDevice with lots of music. If you’re gonna try and rely on local radio for the entire stretch of your trip, you’re gonna regret it. As soon as you find a decent station with good music and a clear signal, you’re gonna lose it once you pass over that next hill. Come prepared with your favorite music, or invest in a satellite radio. It’s well worth it.
5. A good audio book, or 2
Music is always a must, but if you wear out that playlist halfway through the first day of driving, and get tired of hearing that same Mumford and Sons song you loved before you left the house, you may want a back up plan. Grab a good audio book or two from your local library, iTunes or bookstore. Get something you KNOW you’ll enjoy, and not hope is good. You don’t want to spend 6 hours listening to a terrible book about ill fated lovers on a cross country trip that Amazon said was 5 stars.
6. Bungee tie downs
I know you think you can get everything packed into your car without having to strap stuff to the roof. You’re a master packer and you scoff at the idea of looking like the Griswolds driving down I-40. But what happens when you find that giant Indian statue you’ve been coveting for years, and it won’t fit in the car?? Have some tie downs with you in case you end up bringing home with you more than what you left with.
Another thing that on the surface isn’t that unconventional, but I know how you are. You’re attached to that debit/credit card and swear by it. Why carry cash, right? Wrong. Believe it or not, there are places even in our country where civilization still hasn’t advanced past the pay phone. I’ve been in gas stations and convenience stores out west where merchants just laughed at my fancy little credit card. Bring plenty of cash, and mix in some $10s with those $20’s. $20’s scream “hey I’m an idiot tourist! Take advantage of me!” I know because I’m in the business to know.
8. Snow chains
Now if you’re traveling someplace warm there is likely little to no need for these, but if you’re in the Rocky’s or the Sierra Nevade’s, regardless of the time of year, I suggest you add these to your list. It can snow at unexpected and unwanted times. Trust me, I learned the hard way. Don’t get stuck at a campsite or in a ditch in a freak snow storm.
9. First Aid and emergency supplies
Always hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Invest in a first aid kit (if you don’t already have one) and a couple of flash lights, and be sure and have your proof of insurance. These are the dullest but quite possible most important things on this list.
10. Wires, cords, batteries, etc.
We rely very heavily on our technology these days, so don’t leave home without all the wires, charging stations, adapters, batteries and what not you need to make your gizmos work.
So there is my top 10. I left a few things out, but I’m counting on you to have the good sense to know what they are and pack accordingly (clothes, being one thing, unless you’re headed to a nudist colony). And this is just a checklist for the items you’ll need for the DRIVING part of your adventure. Perhaps later I will make a list of items you’ll need for a successful camping trip, but not today.
In any case, one thing you’ll never want to leave home without is a travel companion. Your trip will be cheaper, safer, and infinitely more enjoyable if you have someone to share it with. Bring a friend, mother, father, or significant other. And if you don’t have any of those, go find someone. A trip worth taking is a trip worth sharing.
I’m gonna make one, or two, or twelve of these in August…
The Songs of the Road
So to me the perfect road trip must also have the perfect soundtrack. It’s something I obsess over for days,… no weeks…., actually, I obsess over for MONTHS before a trips. Just today, I spent roughly two hours picking out songs for our summer trip to Utah and Nevada that is still 74 days away!! And every Road Trip needs a “Theme Song”, too. Like, when Sarah and I went to California, the theme song was “California” by Phantom Planet. Last year, during our trip to Utah and Colorado, it was “Into The Wild” by LP, and this past New Years our trip to Washington DC it was “Safe and Sound” by Capital Cities (get it? Yeah I’m the only one that thinks its funny. But it’s a good song and I like a little irony every now and then). This year, who knows, nothing has stood out to me yet, but I’m sure something will come to me before July 29th.
Seriously folks, this is, well, this is serious stuff.
You can’t be stuck in a car for 10+ hours with the wrong mix of music (The playlist I made today is 9 hours long. WHAT!? I have a lot of music and a lot of free time! IT’S IMPORTANT! Get off my case).
I try not to be to picky when it comes to genre, and like to include, when possible, songs that correlate to where I’m going. For example, two years ago when Sarah and I drove to California, that playlist was loaded with songs about California, or that mentioned California (California Dreamin’, Hotel California, California Love, you get the picture). I also like to include songs about driving in general (Route 66, King of the Road), and music that just goes well, with, well, driving.
Luckily for me, I’m not the type that finds driving through long, empty, barren lands like New Mexico or Arizona dull. I love it. I think it’s beautiful and I wish I could visit these places more often. So I don’t NEED a good playlist to keep me engaged, I just like some good tunes to enhance my experience. I’ve also found that sometimes music can help define a place, or experience, or time in my life. Certain songs just conjure up memories for me, and I want music to be with me on my trips so that hopefully a song or two will bottle up a brief moment in time, and every time I hear if from then on, I’m reminded of something, maybe a breathtaking view at Grand Canyon, or a clear mountain stream in Rocky Mountain National Park, or maybe the first time I set my eyes on Yosemite Valley.
So, if you’re ever in the car with me, and I’m playing some music and then, oh I don’t know, say, “Don’t Fence Me In” starts playing (clearly I’m picking music regardless of you), and I get all quiet and misty, and you think I’m crying but you can’t tell because I’ve got my sunglasses on (even though it’s dark out) and I yell at you to “SHUT UP AND LISTEN TO THE SONG!” when you start talking about what happened on The Voice last night (you watch The Voice!? COME ONE!), just know it’s because in my mind, I’m actually driving somewhere just west of Amarillo, near the Texas/New Mexico border, and I just went over a ridge, and suddenly, I’m in the West.
Road Trip 2013 - BOOKED
Tonight Sarah and I officially made our reservations for our summer road trip! We debated several destinations this time around; Glacier National Park, Washington State, East Coast, West Coast, Utah, and my least favorite, no trip at all. What we settled on was really the most obvious pick from the very beginning, our favorite park: Zion.
We will leave in late July for about a week and a half and spend 4 nights in Zion and at least 2 nights in a park we nearly visited last summer, Great Basin. I was pretty bummed that we skipped Great Basin last summer, but it was quit a detour (it still sorta is). This time around, we will be there when there is a new moon. The significance of this is that Great Basin just so happens to be the best place in the western hemisphere to view the Milky Way, or at least thats what the internet keeps telling us. This will be a first for us, as every road trip we’ve ever taken has coincided with a full moon. We’ve never had the pleasure of viewing the night sky out west without the moon to lessen visibility of all the stars in the heavens. I’m especially excited about this fact!
Zion National Park is located in southwest Utah and is about a two day drive from Little Rock, and offers some of the best climbing and hiking in the National Park system. Although it is equal in beauty (IMHO) with parks such as Yosemite, Yellowstone and it’s southern neighbor the Grand Canyon, it lacks the overwhelming crowds and the extreme climate changes that are typical of “The Big Three”.
Great Basin, meanwhile, is located near Baker, Nevada, just across the boarder from Utah. It’s best know features are it’s incredible views of the night sky and the Bristlecone Pine trees, trees that were already saplings before the time of Christ, before Rome conquered the known world, before the Greeks worshipped in the Parthenon, before the Egyptians built the pyramids-trees that are the oldest living things on earth. Trees that are still growing.
I look forward to sharing with you all our next great adventure, I really can’t wait!