This is a guest post from Chris W., a Ford fan.
Ever since I bought my first Ford F-150 when I turned 16, I wanted to drive to the Grand Canyon. My cousin and I were going to do it over spring break our senior year, but those pesky high school jobs got in the way. And, then nearly 20 years passed before I started getting the urge again.
The opportunity presented itself when my company decided to relocate my business unit to Atlanta from Indianapolis. I had been working there for nine years, so I decided it was time to take a break and travel. There was little notice, so I needed to act fast. Most cumbersome to deal with was the house that I owned, but I got that on the market quickly and it sold in three days. I wanted to sell that just so I had a completely clean slate with no safety net.
My first thought was a trip around the country with a travel trailer. I traded in my 2009 Camry for a new 2013 F-150 with EcoBoost® so I could pull the trailer with no hassle – specifically, get a jump off the line so the folks behind me wouldn’t get impatient with me. But I ditched the trailer idea in favor of camping, staying in the truck, and overnighting in hotels. That also freed me up to negotiate those mountain hairpins and switchbacks without worries, and to take to some narrow, unpaved roads if the opportunity presented itself – which it did several times. And the flat floor and fold-down rear seats allow plenty of room for my five-inch memory foam mattress. More space and comfortable sleeping quarters make the late nights after long drives more than bearable.
The journey began the week after Easter in 2014. That was a couple weeks after one of the most pivotal points ever – I turned over the keys to both my house and office the first week of April. With no job, no house, and no real plan or deadline, I headed west on Route 66. I quickly learned that to actually travel the historic Route 66 would take weeks, but it was easy to move between the old road and the Interstate. I saw unique sights along that road – some long-standing monuments to the Mother Road and some recent additions, but all fun to take in.
Though the younger me wanted to specifically see the Grand Canyon, today’s me wanted to see everything. I set out to see the touristy attractions along the roadside, visit national parks, and drive through the most rugged places this country has to offer. As of this writing, I’m just over halfway done with the adventure, and I have not been disappointed.
My top five spots so far:
1) Antelope Canyon – Page, Arizona. Only accessible by a Navajo tour guide, this sandstone slot canyon offers incredible photo opportunities, and the guides are very accommodating.
2) Canyon de Chelly – Arizona. Uniquely managed cooperatively by the National Park Service and Navajo, I thought this was a very interesting national monument. Navajo crafts are sold by the residents of the canyon, which makes the visit more personal.
3) Moab, Utah – all of it. This place is an adventurer’s dream, catering to ATVs, 4×4s and mountain bikes at every turn.
4) Meramec Caverns – Stanton, Missouri. Hundreds of millions of years old and miles long. Very impressive caverns with an excellent tour.
5) Crater Lake – Oregon. The most beautiful lake I have ever seen. Brilliant crystal blue in color and completely still. When I visited, it was sunny and 75 degrees, but there were still road closures due to the massive amounts of snow.
Even though I have now been to the Grand Canyon, notice that didn’t even make my top five! There are so many hidden gems in this country, and I haven’t even scratched the surface. I drove more than 11,000 miles in the first six weeks of this trip, and I’m sure I’ve missed a lot. There are places I definitely want to go back to, and places that I didn’t have time to stop for. I took a short break in Indiana to catch up on mail, get estimates on a new bumper and hitch, and reload on supplies. I’m on the eastern loop now, which will take me down to Florida and up to Maine, and should round out my tour at about 15,000 miles in just under three months.
I’ve loved every minute of it, and can’t wait to get up every morning for the next segment. In my truck, I’ve driven to the mountaintops and across the plains and long ocean bridges. From the big cities to a town with a population of 44 people. From my truck, I’ve seen bears, alligators, bison, and prairie dogs. There has been blinding sunshine, glistening snowfall, torrential downpours, and what seemed like a hailstorm of insects. But I know that I have nothing to worry about (even after being slammed from behind on the Golden Gate Bridge), because my Ford F-150 has my back.