Project Escape Recap: Trip Highlights
Making the decision to pull the plug on our current life to take a sabbatical wasn't easy. But once we decided Project Escape was a go, things moved fast. We sold our house, our cars, and some furniture and we quit our jobs. We bought an RV and a Jeep and headed out on the road.
I think our friends and family truly thought we were nuts.
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But in our minds, big risk equaled big reward. We didn't want to wait until we retired to take a giant road trip. At the start of our trip, I was 46 years old and looking at another twenty years of work before retirement. Plenty of time to make up for one year on the road without a salary and contribution to our 401k's.
I don't have a single regret.
What I did have was a lot of fun! And opportunity. The experience of visiting so much of our country and our national park system in a deep and meaningful way was a gift.
Now we are back to the real world, looking for new jobs, etc. and before it all starts to fade away, I wanted to share a Project Escape trip recap. I'm sharing the trip by the numbers, highlights (and a few lowlights), and how we spent our money.
I'm splitting the recap into two parts, otherwise, this post would be over 2,000 words, which is a big commitment for you the reader!
Lake MacDonald inside Glacier National Park. That crystal-clear water makes for a wonderful reflection and I love those pebbles on the bottom of the lake.
Runner-up: We had two beautiful sunsets at Oxbow Bend and Colter Bay in Grand Teton National Park.
A beautiful winter sunset at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. The orchestra of bird calls made it all the more interesting.
Runner-up: Font’s Point in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
Nearly every meal we ate in Portland! We especially loved Pine State Biscuit, Bollywood (Indian food), and Luc Lac (Vietnamese food, a suggestion from the team at Bob's Redmill). It might have influenced our decision to move here…
Runner-up: My sushi birthday dinner at Kabuto in Las Vegas.
I don’t like to waste my time writing about negative experiences, I prefer to focus on the positive, so I am not going to call anyone out by name. We had a horrible meal at a well-known local café in Sisters, Oregon. I ordered a cheeseburger and the hubby ordered a seafood sandwich, both were inedible and we barely touched our plates.
Runner-up: A seafood restaurant in Gold Beach on the Oregon coast.
Best RV Park
I wasted and wiled away the days at Bluewater Key RV Resort in the Key West area. With my own private tiki kitchen and patio, a soft gentle breeze, and water lapping at my feet, it was pure heaven.
Runner-up: The KOA just outside of Glacier National Park is just beautiful.
Worst RV Park
Again, I won’t name names, but we stayed at a sketchy place for a single night in Houston. They called themselves a resort, but it was far, very far, from it!
New Mexico. Look, I am no lover of the desert or rocks and sand (despite the fact that I spend a lot of time in desert environments because Mr. Misadventures loves them!), but there is something enchanting about New Mexico. We had a great time in Kirtland, Las Cruces, and in Santa Fe on our first trip in February.
And we did further exploring in the greater Lac Cruces area when we stayed in Elephant Butte. We barely scratched the surface. I could never live here but I see lots of future visits on the horizon. We can't get enough of the adobe-style homes, bright colors, natural wonders, and green chile sauce!
Runner-up: Utah. I'm sure many people have seen (at least in photos) the amazing parks: Zion, Canyonlands, Arches, etc. But to see as many parks as we did in 30 days, (both national and state with a follow-up trip this January) it really hits home how much this state has to offer. Although, I still don't think there is anything decent to eat!
Best National Park
Wow, this is a toughie! We visited 21 spots in the National Park System, but I have to go with the classic, Yellowstone. We were blessed with five weeks there and I’d still love to see it in the winter.
Runner-up: Capitol Reef: great sites, and 4x4ing, plus…pie.
National Park I Want to Explore More
Everglades National Park. We just spent a few days there, not nearly enough to completely enjoy all the wildlife and scenery. We will return.
Runner-up: 3-way tie between Glacier National Park and Zion National Park, because the weather didn’t cooperate with us, and Canyonlands National Park because we want to do more 4x4ing there.
Best State Park
Hands down Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California. This park was completely unknown to us. A Google search for RV parks in San Diego led us here and we are so thankful to the SEO gods for it. The largest state park in the contiguous United States, there is so much to explore, and we did! For three weeks.
Runner-up: Goblin Valley State Park in Utah. So much fun!
Bonus: Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is technically BLM land, so not quite NPS and not quite state property, but we absolutely loved it!
Canyonlands National Park. You can do a 15-day 4x4ing trip there, but even when you don’t have that amount of time (which we didn’t) there are plenty of trails to test out your off-roading acumen. We had a lot of fun driving around and testing out our (okay, Mr. Misadventures') skills.
Runner-up: Tied between Anza-Borrego State Park (where we cut our teeth) and Capitol Reef.
The strongest scent of pine I’ve ever experienced in my life while driving through Skalkaho Pass in the Missoula, Montana area. It was incredible!
The Hottest Moment
We avoided hot weather, but Palouse, like Portland, experienced a heatwave while we visited with both spots having temperatures in the 100s.
The Coldest Moment
Sunrise at Bryce Canyon National Park. It was the coldest I felt in the entire year. Six degrees but with a wind chill factor of minus a thousand!
Runner-up: Inside our own RV in Ely, Nevada.
State where we saw the most law enforcement:
Don’t screw up in Florida! But they do have great roads!
Food I missed most:
Sushi (we ate it twice), dimsum (once), and Korean (once). What can I say, we must have been Asian in another life!
Grocery item we missed most:
Fresh buckwheat noodles. We used to make udon with grilled salmon (sometimes with a fried egg on top). Or pasta with soy sauce and butter. Or Japanese curry. They were the perfect texture and taste and we haven't seen anything like it since leaving Berkeley.
One thing I took for granted from my former life:
Medical insurance. Wow! We paid a lot of insurance and prescriptions! Having worked in corporate America for the previous 26 years, I definitely took inexpensive insurance premiums for granted.
I don't like to write about negative things but losing Jessica was pretty disheartening. We didn't have the best time in Red Bay, Alabama, where we stayed for RV warranty work and that just compounded the issue. At fifteen years, she's had a long life living in the US and Europe and being with us for the first ten months on the road. We still miss her a lot.
Despite any lows, even losing Jessica, Project Escape was a success. We completed the year feeling refreshed and revitalized and ready to jump back into full-time jobs. We will always have this year to look back on. It's a great reminder that it is most definitely worth it to take a leap of faith and just go for it in life!
The next part of the recap will be about the numbers and is coming to you next week. I have a few more posts about the experience of traveling via RV coming up as well. I know a lot of people are curious about RVing and I'm also happy to answer any questions you may have.
How about you? Have you gone on an epic trip? Share! Have you been on a sabbatical? Where did you go? Are you thinking about a trip? Where to? Do tell!
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I’m so glad I came by your blog today because this was fascinating to read!! It’s the kind of year long trip I’ve always wanted to do so all along I wondered how you would feel when it was all over. I am so sorry about Jessica (and how long you had to stay in Alabama). Boy do I hear you re: insurance and prescriptions. Being a freelancer without good health insurance is a bitch. And I totally laughed out loud at your penchant for eating Asian food. My one tip after reading all of this: YES, you must go back for winter in Yellowstone one year. It’s truly INCREDIBLE.
@Kirsten, wild horses are not going to keep my hubby from going to Yellowstone in the winter, he is dying to go. After seeing your Insta shots there along with Jade Broadus who is currently there, I can’t wait until we do! It was a great year, but even with one year, we saw so little! I want to do it again and do New England and parts of Canada. Ah wanderlust, it’s a sickness us gypsies have, as you well know!
How I wish I could do as you did! That would be a dream come true for me. Even as a little girl, I’ve always dreamed of owning an RV and going to places I’ve been longing to visit. The picture of the sunset at the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is so awesome, I was staring at it for the longest time.
@AnneMarie, it was an exceptional sunset that lasted for a very long time, we watched it forever!
Sounds like a great trip!!! I would love to travel by rv like, national parks are so much fun to explore and see.
@Bill, it is such an amazing way to travel.
It’s quite a trip and a memorable one at that. I think it’s awesome that you got to do this when you’re younger and not after retiring. You only have enough time to make the most out of life. I can’t wait to read more about this awesome project escape!
@Elizabeth, thanks, I think more people should do the same instead of waiting for retirement.
What an adventure! Once you get settled, I want to come eat at your house. That’s it — just eat. And sweet baby Jessica! What a lucky cat to have such an adventurous family. I think about my pups and how they would love a trip like this and will likely never get it. She got to see and do many things most cats could only dream of. 🙂
@Katie, funny, I feel the same way about coming to your house, just to eat!
This is so amazing! My husband and I literally did the same thing in our mid twenties before kids. We sold our house and everything we owned and lived in our pickup truck for about six months just traveling the country. I would have to agree that the best National Park is definitely Yellowstone! It is so amazing and there is so many different things to see.
@Katie, I bet you have zero regrets either, it’s a life experience!
What an incredible time! I’ve long known that I wanted to do something like this at some point in my life, but you make me realize that I could do it much sooner than I thought (i.e. before we retire). Now, just to get my husband one board once our kids get just a tiny bit older! 🙂 🙂
@Natalie, a lot of it does depend on your financial situation and the types of jobs you have, been with home-schooling so prevalent these days, it totally can be done.
This definitely sounds like an epic vacation. Never had a sabbatical leave but it’s so nice to see how others spent theirs. Thanks for sharing all the amazing photos. My favorite photo had to be the Sunrise at Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park. So cool!
@Sharon, there is no wrong way to do a sabbatical, it’s just great to have a break mid-career!
This trip sounds incredible. I would love to take a year to journey around the US. I’ve to many of the states, but I would love to say I’ve seen them all. Thanks for sharing your favorite moments.
@Cindy, it was an amazing experience and in one year I didn’t even see half!
WOW! It must have been an amazing year. Your photos are equally amazing and I can sense the excitement as you write to share your story.
First of all your photos are incredible!!! My husband would want to sell everything and take to the road right now also but with having two young kids it’s not in the cards right now. I think it’s so amazing you took the risk and had an amazing experience you can treasure forever! Thanks for sharing!
I’m so sorry to hear about your cat. That’s never easy to deal with. But wow, what a trip. That sunset photo in New Mexico is out of this world. Gorgeous pics! I have never been to Yellowstone but have to get there one day!
I never traveled in an RV however it looks like a lot of fun. This is definitely on my bucket list. I love your pictures.
Wonderful escape and photos. i like the sunset view