After my first foray into prius living and realizing that I could travel without abject failure, I felt emboldened in my ability to embark on a long-term trip.  

Over the months preceding my departure, I collected map pins and saved places on my Google maps, gathered supplies and recommendations, and studied methods of safety and viable remote work.  Despite my objective ability to leave, it felt hard to rouse myself to get up and go.  I felt afraid of the major change that travelling would present, despite that change being a positive one.  Furthermore, the worsening pandemic contributed an additional layer of complexity to the prospect of travelling; not only did I have to become assured in my ability to practice additional means of safety in the wake of contagious illness, I also had to determine alternate means of hygiene as the popular ability to use gym showers on the road was no longer an option at the time.  

At one point, I finally flipped the switch and made the determination that I was delaying my trip for no reason that mattered “enough.”  I then spent the following day packing, and left on the next day.  

It’s important to also note that I have the ability to work remotely, a change that became extremely clear during the pandemic-related shutdowns.  I modified my work schedule to work 3 12-hour days Monday through Wednesday, which left the rest of the week open for travelling and sightseeing.  

I packed my car and left.  

My interior car setup remained the same throughout most of my trip; the tri-fold mattress on the passenger side of the vehicle with the 60/40 rear seat folded down, bags and clothes and other supplies on the other side of my trunk, cooler and backpack on the passenger seat, electronics in the center console, and various other things stored about.  

I made my first stop at the Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

So here’s the first of many photos of my car in the shop.  When I first purchased the vehicle, I did a safety check, some small maintenance, and figured it was solid, and had a few small repairs after my first voyage.  This time around on my second day of driving, of course, a wheel well fell in, rubbing on the tire and causing a bunch of noise and some damage.  I got it serviced in Ohio shortly, but lost a day of travel.  Thankfully I brought my checkbook on the trip which was super helpful for paying for services like this.

My first major stop after Ohio was Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan.  Absolutely gorgeous place and I was able to watch the sunset over the great lakes.  I chose to stay overnight and look at the stars and slept in the lot with other van folks.  I woke up early to a park ranger ticketing everyone who slept there overnight!  Thankfully I rise with the sun and was awake (brushing my teeth) so he chose not to ticket me because he couldn’t prove I had camped there.  This combined with an extremely sketchy,  stressful night sleeping in downtown Cincinnati convinced me to seek alternate sleeping arrangements.  For most of my trip following this I chose to sleep in hotel parking lots and never faced a problem.

I visited Mackinac Island and it was phenomenally beautiful, like a tropical wonderland but nice and cool.  Then I drove up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan which was gorgeous.  I had planned on just passing through but stayed for almost a week because it was so phenomenal.  Gyms were closed at this point — so all of my bathing occurred in lakes!   The water was freaking cold. 0/10

My sleeping setup — plenty of room.  The WORST thing about covert sleeping in the UP was getting a mosquito in my car — I seriously contemplated suicide from hearing it fly into my ear all night.  I FINALLY found a solution to this after days of torment, which was not cracking my windows (duh, but ugh) and when it was near me, spraying some fucking bugspray at it to murder it since I couldn’t swat it in the dark.  So I would recommend bringing some sort of aerosol if you are planning to camp in mosquitoville.  I also set up my netted sleeping bag in the back of my car one night but it proved less effective at deterring the incessant buzzing, though it may have helped with bug bites.  Go with the bug spray.  

Lake superior!  I cannot believe how ethereally beautiful the whole Upper Peninsula is.  NO ONE was here.  So, great to take a covert skinny dip/rinse.  I brought a turkish towel to use on my trip because it would dry so quickly and not be burdensome.

Also took a trip out to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore — would recommend.

I literally could not believe how many bugs there were.  I spent one late night to watch the sun set over the lake (phenomenal) and was greeted with the sound of rain on the way back.  No.  It was a coating of bugs all over my car.  I had to scrape them off.

Whoopsies!  Bringing a checkbook, stamps, and envelopes was incredibly important on my road trip because I, uh, kept getting tickets.  In a prius!

Minnehaha falls, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Drove through Wisconsin and Minnesota in a long shot and made it to South Dakota.  Passed through Sioux Falls which was beautiful and then spent the day on the long, well-known trek Westwards to badlands NP which was phenomenal and my first National Park visit ever.  I got the park pass, which was a great value.

Because of my schedule and eagerness to drive, I blasted through Badlands and kept going till I hit Devil’s Tower, which was closed, likely due to the pandemic.  My trip began in June when there was still a lot of question about COVID and things were closed all over.  I had to check parks to make sure they were even open.

I went to sleep with the sun and woke up the next day to drive across Wyoming.  What a beautiful state.  The East and West were quite different — it felt phenomenal to hit green, rolling hills.  The drive through Bighorn National forest was breathtaking, and the following town of Ten Sleep was super quaint.  

Next up was the travel to Yellowstone.  I slept over in Cody, Wyoming, and then made my way into the park. 

I was on a mad dash on this trip, and spent only a day here, though there was so much to see that it’s almost certainly recommended to stay at least for a few days, and to camp out, at that.  I did return later in the year in a friend’s Prius to check it out.  

Later that evening I hit up the Grand Tetons just in time to catch a rager of a thunderstorm and see the sun set.  I actually allowed myself a break to soak it all in — the Tetons are a new mountain range and are incredibly beautiful.  Pictures don’t do it justice at all.  

I drove through Jackson hole, taking in the sights of people having fun, as if there almost was no pandemic at all.  I kept driving, looking sadly out my window at the fun times to be had, and steeled myself against the temptation to have a social life again.  And boy, was it tempting.  But I certainly did not want to expose myself or others.  So I kept it going and drove over the mountains into Victor, Idaho, where I slept and then did laundry the following morning.  

After laundry, I checked out Shoshone Falls, which is a huge and impressive landmark.  

Following this, I made my way to Craters of the Moon National Monument, which is this cool place where these giant volcanoes blew each other to smithereens so there’s, like, miles of pumice and hardy plants surviving in these extreme conditions.

This couple I met in Ohio had recommended that I check out a hot springs in Northern Idaho that was next on my list.  On my way up, I saw something fall off my car after being on a long ass rock road and hit a local mechanic again who had to redo my front suspension.  I was over $1000 deep in car repairs at this point.  I planted down in the small town of Salmon, Idaho for the week to work, get my shit fixed, and shower at the locals’ houses.  I used wifi at local spots (libraries are great! this town was too small to have a McDonald’s!).

I would set up my hammock and work in the shade at parks and stuff, it was great. I ended up getting this fucking awful sandal tan by the way, but I wore the Tevas sandals I got every single day of my trip.  I literally did not need any other shoes.  Highly recommend foot powder though, I never knew my feet could smell until I would hike days in them without recourse, ugh.

The rolling mountains and hills of Salmon, Idaho.

And, I finally made it to the local hot springs.  As an East Coaster, this is something that seemed to only exist in movies — but it was phenomenal.  On my way up, I busted my ass, due to being out of shape, and also not being acclimated to altitudes like those that are found out west.  Highly recommend exercise and conditioning before travelling for this reason.

After my stay in Salmon, I continued north to Glacier National Park, Montana.  Sadly, due to the pandemic, most of the park was closed.  I did however have the opportunity to sample some of it, and feel excited for my next trip.  

My diet on the road was mostly convenience meals, fruits and vegetables I could eat without prep, and nutritional shakes.  

I ventured west to the Cascades.  The car was holding up nicely with a spring in its step after the new suspension.  All the mountain driving was rough on my car.  I had met some fellow Prius campers while travelling and a frequent source of complaints seemed to be the water pump, with all the ups and downs.  

What a gorgeous area.

I met up with a friend in Seattle whom I had met while taking an Amtrak from Chicago six months prior.  Seattle was a ghost town.  We travelled west to stay at Bainbridge island, a neat little place that really showcases the rainforest fauna of the Pacific Northwest.  

And I got to sleep in a bed!

I stayed and worked, and took a trip out to the Olympics, where we visited Deer Park campground, which has incredible views and tame deer.

After this section of the trip, I drove down to Mount Rainier. 

There was still snow on the ground!  This was the only part of the trip where it was hard to hike with sandals on.  

Driving around Mount Saint Helens, the roads were a little rougher, and I hit a big pothole that destroyed the exhaust system on my car.  Priuses are notoriously low to the ground.  

It felt very cozy to listen to rain all night in the PNW.

More gross food choices.

Oregon Coast.

I decided to go far enough south to see the redwoods and then double back.  I had initially wanted to drive down the California coast and do it all, but the southwest was facing a pretty substantial covid outbreak at this time, so I had to make the hard choice to hold off.  I first stopped in Pebble Beach, California. 


I drove up and back across Oregon, stopping at Crater Lake National Park.  I sound like a broken record but each of these places was absolutely beautiful.  This is the deepest lake in the United States and is entirely fed by rainwater, leading to unparalleled water clarity and stillness.  

I travelled back to Idaho to stay with friends and have the exhaust leak surveyed.  I had gotten pretty tired of spending money on car repairs at this point.  

After this segment of my trip and catching up on work, I drove south.  A hallmark of my trip was the huge amount of driving in a short time.  Perhaps it was my impatience, or due to covid, but I rarely stopped in towns except to stock up, use the facilities, and sleep.  That day I made it down to Utah; I had drove through Salt Lake at night and made it most of the way south.  I really wanted to stop at Zion but it was mostly closed and I was worried about the shuttle system.  Over the course of most of this trip I avoided contact with folks except for accepting showers from nice humans.

I love Utah.  The moment I see the red rocks, something in me melts.  Here’s Bryce Canyon National Park.  

I then drove east, travelling through Capitol Reef National Park on my way to Canyonlands National Park, where I was treated to a wonderful sunset.  

I let myself be OK with this alone as I was unable to stop at the Grand Canyon due to pandemic concerns.  

So for most of my trip I would stop in a gas station in morning and right before sleeping to brush my teeth.  No one seemed to care or mind.  Dude, the Stinker bathrooms out west were fucking clutch.  Wawa can’t compare (in that way, at least).

I camped on some BLM land outside of Moab.  

And finally, I let myself take my time and spent two whole days exploring Arches National Park.  

There was so much beauty to be seen there.

I met some nice locals, but was worried about the pandemic, so I bathed in the murky, gross Colorado river in the Hal canyon.  It felt worth it because temperatures were about 100 degrees.  Sunscreen!!!

I left Moab after the week and hit up Telluride CO.  This place is absolutely unbelieveably gorgeous.  I had planned to stay there and work BUT I woke up in the middle of the night while sleeping and heard all these little…footsteps… and realized there were mice inside my car with me.  I laid there and listened to them walk around and eat my food and resolved not to keep tacos in the car again.  So I had to leave this campsite at 2am because I had no idea what else to do.

Met another prius dweller, though.

I pulled an all-nighter and drove to Gunnison in CO and parked to work there all day, I couldn’t believe I had cell reception.  I was pretty stressed out about all the car bills, COVID risk, and fucking mice in my car (there was also a chipmunk in my engine) and resolved to visit a friend in CO to shower, a few friends in Chicago, and then return home.

So here’s my trip map.  I drove over 15,000 miles.  I wanted the trip to go longer, and wanted to see more things, but took pause when cases spiked in the southwest.  Ultimately I think I made the right decision — I avoided COVID, maintained my job, and was extremely excited to come home and shower whenever I want?!

After my return, my car broke down completely.  The timing was almost perfect.  I took it in and was informed that the engine had sustained heat damage prior to my ownership and it was fucked.  Then I learned the odometer had been rolled back almost 100,000 miles and the guy who had sold it to me had defrauded me.  I learned DO NOT BUY A CAR FROM FACEBOOK and ALWAYS BUY THE CARFAX from the detectives who finally took my case on after months.  I was able to recoup my money for the vehicle after some pretty successful detective and legal work.  So with this new knowledge and financial means I was able to roll this into a 2015 model of prius!  Things have a way of working out.  I feel very grateful.