Betty's First Roadtrip
Betty’s First Roadtrip. So you might have gleaned from my previous posts here and on Instagram that my boyfriend and I just spent 2 weeks in our outfitted camper van, Betty White. It’s taken me a little bit to write this because I have been soaking in the wonderful trip & just vibing off of all the good karma. Also, because I dove RIGHT back into school 2 days after getting back to Boston. So, Let me just start with, it was amazing. End of story, moving on.
Kidding… I wanted to share with you all a little bit about the build out and what our adventures looked like. I found it really useful to read others blog posts on build out and traveling in the van before going out so I hope I can help someone out here.
Let’s start with the buildout…
Chris bought a 2005 Sprinter van in End of October/ Beginning of November used from a very nice man in Western Massachusetts. We drove out there together to check it out, decided we were all in and Chris drove it back with me following behind. I think Chris had a mini panic attack on that trip back to Boston and a very “holy shit what did I just buy?” type of thing going on. After making it back safely to Brighton we kind of just stared at each other. Personally, I was thinking holy shit and saying this will be an adventure. We explored the van a little more that day and took inventory of what we needed to do. We had 2 months to get it all done and it just so happened to be my hardest graduate school semester to date and Chris’s busiest fall work schedule in a couple of years. (I think the universe wanted to see how committed we were to this Vanventure)
Very early on we realized that good old Betty was covered in rust and had a few mechanical issues that needed to be taken care of. She didn’t pass her first inspection but all was good, we had 60 days to get on the road anyway (Fact: You need to get your car re-inspected with in 60 days of an inspection failure.)
Our first day was spent trying to get the captain’s seat out of the front and start to get the nails out of the storage cabinets. Everything was covered in rust so another thing we learned early on was “When in doubt, cut it out.”. Thankfully, Chris had a ton of tools for all the work that needed to be done and the rest he bought for his future collection or borrowed from his roommate. (They have quite a good collection.) In first couple of weeks, I personally learned the difference between all the saws, a welder and all the various drills. Seriously, there was a bit of a learning curve for me. But, I had a wonderful teacher (daaaw how cute right?) and I’m a pretty quick learner.
We had a few set backs and struggled with rust and mechanical issues (broken parking break and crappy muffler). One day we would crush the to do list and the next day it would take us 5 hours just to get access to the part we needed. Like I mentioned earlier, we only had two months and we were both insanely busy but we made it work, no matter how frustrating the day was.
First lesson from Betty: Patience friends, Patience.
The main goals for us to be able to go on our trip were:
- Cut Everything out: rust & all
- Fan (because boys are smelly)
- Insulate the Walls & Ceilings
- New Muffler
- Fix the Parking Brake
- A bed to sleep in
- A cabinet to store things
- New Speakers
Slowly but surely we started knocking things off our list. First the fan, then the insulation, the floor and so on. Oh and cleaning! Lots of cleaning along the way. Betty was old and rusty and dirty. We were bringing her back to life. To be honest, most of our work was done in the last three days before we left. We worked our asses off (Chris especially) until 2 AM on New Years Eve so we could leave on New Years Day. And we did. At 3 pm….. Because even though the van was finished, we had to pack
Second lesson from Betty: Things don’t always go as planned. Which is okay. Let’s be real, half the reason we did this is so we could go where ever we wanted whenever we wanted, with NO specific plans. Keeping that in mind, made the whole trip a lot less stressful.
So there is me, the slightly Type A, extra organized, overpacker, trying to put everything in perfectly so we could access what we needed at all times. I was practicing the art of caring too much and not caring at all (because I just wanted to get on the road). By 3pm we were packed, fed, freshly showered and ready to go.
Sitting in the passenger seat of Betty I could not contain my excitement. I was smiling like a goofball. Chris was more introspective and relieved and I think a little in awe. We had actually done it. We were going on a 2 week road trip together to chase some snow and live the camper van lifestyle.
And so it began....
Day 1: Boston --> Middle of Nowhere (Chittenango), NY
It took us a while to get off the ground, we had to stop at Walmart and pick up supplies and get some air in the tire. We stopped at good old Denny’s for some breakfast for dinner (my favorite) and settled at a rest stop in Chittenango, NY for the night. The only thing we needed was a bathroom otherwise we were pretty self sufficient. Our first night in the van was cozy, comfortable and damn did we insulate well. Seriously, most nights it was too hot in the van. We usually slept with the heater on low and very light blankets and clothing.
Day 2: Chittenango, NY --> Muncie, Indiana
We made breakfast on our little (but absolutely amazing) camper stove and headed out. This was our first long day of driving- we drove about 8 hours total with stops here and there. I learned that there is no Erie, NY only an Erie, PA and that we would in fact be traveling through Pennsylvania (#blondemoment) We stopped at another Walmart for some food and Chris changed the oil. Funny enough, I don’t think we were the only ones that were doing an oil change or the only ones that had before. We had goals as to where we wanted to get to each day but we weren’t panicked if we didn’t get there.
Day 3: Muncie, Indiana -->Salomon, Kansas
This was our super long day of traveling. And we were flying. The speed limit in the middle of the country is 75 mph!! Which helped us cruise right along. I expected the scenery to be a little bland but it was astonishing. There were rolling hills, cattle
Day 4: Salomon,Kansas --> Denver, CO
Just in time for a badass snowstorm. We hit Denver just as the snow was beginning and headed straight to Wilderness Exchange and REI for some gear for me. My plan was to buy everything out in Colorado (hoping it would be cheaper) so we could just get up and go each morning and I wouldn’t have to worry about renting. I scored these sweet lightly used Scarpa ski boots for $400 (half off the original sale price!!) at Wilderness Exchange. They are AT or downhill compatible which is what I wanted and they fit perfectly. The guys there were amazing. They answered all my questions, made sure the boot fit perfectly and even helped me get fitted for intuition liners. Highly Recommend this place! We then went to REI hoping to just get soles for so I could rent downhill skis and stumbled on the best deal of the trip. Nordica Wildfire Skis for $125. It was too good a deal to pass up so I grabbed them and we got back in the van. Before heading up to Chris’s friends house we stopped at the BEST grocery store ever. Seriously, Sprouts ruled—it was like Whole Foods but a way better selection and WAY cheaper. Considering we both like to eat (a lot) and we both like healthy snacks we were in heaven. Finally, We headed to Chris’s friends house in Boulder to park outside his house. We had dinner and crashed hard while the snow fell around Betty, snuggling us right in
Day 5: Boulder, CO
Waking up in Boulder to a winter wonderland was one of the many “this is why we did this” moments of our trip. Betty looked beautiful against the white backdrop of fresh powder and oh my goodness, the snow was so light and fluffy. Also, we were so damn cozy in our van it was just the perfect winter wonderland wakeup. We headed off into Denver with Chris’ friend in the good old Subaru and headed back to our second favorite store in Colorado, REI. The Denver REI was amazing—massive, everything you needed, like seriously I could have spent hours in there (and thousands of dollars probably). I was able to get some AT bindings for my skis and Chris’ friend bought the best ski deal ever as well. I left my brand new ski gear behind at REI so everything could get mounted and a fresh wax and we geared up for the Berthound Pass. Betty was a little , cranky after not being driven for 10+ hours but eventually we got her started and started our trek. The Berthound Pass is no joke, at times they shut it down or chain law goes into effect and things get really scary. Our drive up wasn’t too bad. Some trucks were chained up but we didn’t need to chain Betty up. We went slow and steady and only had a few slippery spots along the way. There was one switchback in particular that was a bit frightening but Chris and Betty handled it really well.
Day 6: Winter Park, CO
We woke up to another winter wonderland in Winter Park, Colorado. They have a lot that you can park in overnight that has a shuttle to the base of the mountain. Perfect set up. This was the first night that we woke up cold in the van and by cold I mean the temperature that my room in Boston normally is. To be fair, it was -18 degrees outside when we woke up. We craned the heat up to get dressed and tried to get Betty start. Good old Betty did not want to go. So instead of worrying we decided to leave her in the sun for the day while we went and played in fresh powder. I rented skis because my new ones were getting mounted back in Denver. The powder was amazing but the weather was absolutely freezing. We were out early but had to take a break by 11 am because my poor little fingers just couldn’t handle it. We went back out for a while and as we were getting over to a new side of the mountain they were opening up another lift. This lift brought us higher up the mountain and into all the REALLY fresh snow--- yupp, fresh tracks. We were gleeful, Chris we a goofy grin and me just throwing my poles all through the fresh snow. The powder was knee deep and there were spaces for fresh tracks through the trees. I felt like a little kid in the playground. The snow was so soft and so high and it didn’t matter if you fell.
Because it was cold (-3o with windchill at the top) and we needed to get Betty started again we called it an early day. I made the most delicious sandwiches while Chris tried to start the van. Starting the van was quite an adventure that day. I wish I had taken pictures of Chris our there. He made friends with the 80’s style camper next to us as he tried to start the car. The diesel had gelled because it was so cold and the battery died because we tried to turn it over too many times. Our handy dandy camper van went under the oil pan to heat it up and our new friends gave us a jump. After a little while and lots of help from friends, Betty was up and going.
With that, we headed down the mountain again to Denver. We picked up my skis and headed back to Boulder (lots of driving in the early days) to meet A friend to rock climb. We went to Boulder Rock Club for some rope climbing and bouldering and a fresh shower (finally). The climbing was fun and the shower was necessary but it was late and we were exhausted. We slept in our first Walmart Parking lot that night (camper van tradition)
Day 7: Eldora, CO
We let ourselves sleep in a little and headed to Eldora Mountain for the day. Eldora is a smaller mountain with the most adorable little town outside of it. We were a little late so when get got closer our last couple of miles were backed up with cars. It was quite hilarious. This one little mountain road with towns of cars lined up to get in the mountain. I mean it made sense, it was a Saturday and lots of fresh powder. We even saw one guy get of the car and pee quick before getting got the mountain. The quicker you get on the mountain the better, right?
Eldora was great and we had so much fun skiing around the mountain. After spending the day on the mountain, we lounged in the van with some yummy snacks and then headed back down the mountain again. We stopped at the best grocery store ever in Boulder (aka Sprouts) and then continued to make our way to Winter Park again. My parents were supposed to be meeting us there and we were tired from traveling all the time so we decided to post up at Winter Park for the rest of our trip. There was more snow coming in, we had food and we were ready to shill out. We snuggled into our lot in Winter Park and had a delicious home cooked meal.
Day 8: Winter Park, CO
Winter Wonderland Day 3? I have lost track at this point and each morning we wake up we smile at each other with that “this is why we did this” going through our minds. My parents were supposed to meet us but their flight was delayed out of New York so they were going to be a day late. Chris and I had a nice long day of skiing/ snowboarding followed by Apres ski beers & soup. Since my parents had an open hotel room we decided to take advantage for the night. We hit up the hot tub, took a nice long shower, cooked a healthy dinner and slept in a king size bed. Too big for us at this point.
Day 9: Winter Park, CO
Chris’s only comment on Monday: “Pow Pow, Pow” and I would have to concur. A Full day of skiing, apres ski drinks & pizza and we were happy campers. We found knee deep powder int the trees, crushed some massive moguls and hit up the terrain park. Chris being a snowboarder was smoking me in the fresh powder and my legs were burning but it was so beautiful and fluffy I had not complaints. My parents didn’t get in until Late Monday night so we stayed in the van and woke up to meet my parents at the mountain.
Day 10: Winter Park, CO
There were another 8 inches of snow on the ground and we were so excited. The fresh powder was thick and our legs were getting a good workout. Mom called it an early day and Dad, Chris and I went to go back out but it was a short day. Shorty after 12, all the lifts but two were shut down due to high winds (over 45 mph). We tried to take a few extra runs after taking a longer lunch but the two lifts that were open were packed and the wind was scary even that low down the mountain. We headed to my parents hot tub again and got ready for dinner. We went for a brewery for drinks and then dinner at this restaurant Strip & Tail. It was delicious and we were done super early. We showered my parents for bed and all called it an early night.
Day 11: Winter Park, CO
This was our last day of skiing on our beautiful road trip and we got in a full day of skiing. My dad, Chris and I chased fresh powder and went up to the open part of the mountains. Our favorite part of the mountain was all the runs off of the Panoramic Lift and it was by far the best powder of the mountain. We got all the fresh powder off of Panoramic and weaved in and out of some great trees. Mary Jane was also any awesome section, although it let to lots of burning in my quads (not a bad thing). We took a short break on the Mountain and Chris and I went out by ourselves for an hour or two. After another shower (so spoiled with my parents in town) we headed into town again for dinner at Deno’s—another delicious dinner.
Day 12: Winter Park, CO --> Denver, CO --> Manhattan, Kansas
We started our Journey back to Boston. We stopped in Denver to drop of some oily goodness to friends and headed to Boulder for one last Sprouts trip before hitting the road. For our return trip back we started the second Harry Potter audio book. Immediately entranced. We drove all the way to Manhattan, Kansas sleeping at a restaurant.
Day 13: Manhattan, Kansas --> just outside Cleveland, Ohio
We hit the road for a long day of driving. Chris had to work on Sunday am so we needed to get back to Boston at a decent time on Saturday night. WE drove all the way to Ohio. We finished the second Harry Potter book and started the 3rd Harry Potter book. Seriously, we were hooked and barely spoke for the whole day. We had ramen for dinner and Chris pushed driving until 1 am.
Day 14: outside Cleveland, Ohio--> Boston, MA
Home Sweet Home
We woke up decently early on Saturday morning and I started us off driving for the day. We made it all the way from Cleveland back to Boston. We started the 4th Harry Potter book and we stopped at a delicious BBQ joint in Sturbridge. We made it safely back to Boston by 8 or 9 pm and crashed hard. Betty was parked out front but we slept inside.. which felt weird and cold. Betty was safe, we were safe. We were tired and happy to be back but sad to be done adventuring. After all the sweat (and maybe some tears) of build out, the doubts from ourselves and others and the money that went into this trip, we were happy that we made it and even more excited for our next adventure.
Stay tuned of Betty’s next adventure.