Six Month Solo Road Trip – Austin Texas to Portland Oregon

Toyota Yaris dashboard - purple steering wheel cover and colorful beads hanging from mirror

Yar-Yar – my Toyota Yaris with added beads and purple steering wheel cover because too much grey is boring!

The end of March marks 6 months on my solo road trip adventure, taking me from Austin Texas to Portland Oregon. Here are the places I stayed, so I could wander and explore, while enjoying my new nomad life adventure:

  • Alpine TX – October
  • Big Bend National Park TX – October
  • Las Cruces NM – October
  • Tucson AZ – mid-October through November
  • Palm Springs CA – December
  • Carpinteria CA – January
  • Oakland CA – February
  • Ashland OR – March
  • Portland OR – March

 

Pink magnolia blooms cover a tree beside Crystal Springs Lake in SE Portland Oregon

Magnificent magnolia blooms along Crystal Springs Lake in Portland Oregon

 

One of the best parts of this road trip is all the people I meet along the way. Meeting new people brings some magic to each destination. Visiting in person with Facebook friends has been fun – so cool to meet internet friends in real life. My sister joined me in Carpinteria for a long weekend! In Portland Oregon I met up with my cousin – 35 years since we saw each other and my first time meeting his wife. In a few days I’ll meet up with my artist friend Ruth in Olympia Washington – we have been online friends for over 10 years but have never met in person!

 

  • Miles traveled – I have traveled 7,295 miles (11,740 km) in 6 months on the road
  • Parking tickets – just one in Tucson Arizona – $64 for an expired parking meter. I was only 15 minutes late! Ouch!

 

Tucson Arizona $64 parking ticket for expired parking meter

Tucson Arizona $64 parking ticket – if you pay late it doubles to $134 – ouch!

 

I still love you Tucson! But I’ll never get another parking ticket – lesson learned!

Tucson painted in colorful capital letters

 

 

Woman with painted face for All Souls Procession event in Tucson AZ

All Souls Procession is a beautiful event in Tucson, honoring the dead

 

  • Speeding tickets – zero, nada, none! Woohoo!
  • Number of times I got lost/took a wrong turn – too many to count! But these were all minor incidents. And I have not made any major errors while driving from one nomad home to the next. Since I always print out Google maps before I leave and highlight the important interchanges, turns, etc. Yes, I am aware of GPS but I like good old-fashioned maps. Getting lost is all part of the journey for me. Today it took me 4 tries before I found my way to the Portland Aerial Tram – the reward is greater when there is difficulty reaching a goal.
  • Number of haircuts in 6 months – None so far, but I have thought about getting a haircut…maybe in April or May I will get around to it.

 

Road trip in White 2009 Toyota Yaris sedan in Big Bend National Park

My road trip adventure could not happen without Yar-Yar – posing in Big Bend National Park

 

  • Best clothing purchase for nomad adventureMy Ahnu hiking shoes are by far my best investment for this road trip adventure. My Ahnu hiking shoes are waterproof and that has come in handy many times! While I do plenty of hiking these are also the best walking shoe out of all the footwear I brought with me – 7 pairs of shoes and boots in total…plus my Havaianas…I bought them on my trip to Rio de Janeiro in 2010 and they are still going strong!
  • Best food prep tools/gadgets I brought with meHamilton Beach mini-size travel blender.Most of the Airbnb places that I stay at do not have a blender. I make a healthy smoothie every morning for breakfast. The Hamilton Beach travel-size blender has been great!
  • Biggest food habits besides the morning smoothie – fish tacos are one of my constant purchases. Guacamole with rice crackers or tortilla chips is often my homemade dinner….with a glass of wine. I make my own meals a lot. Mostly I like to eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits and I prepare simple meals.

 

Henderson Building in Palm Desert California

Henderson Community Building in Palm Desert California

 

  • Strangest things I brought with me
    • 6-pound dumbbells for working out – it is good to have a portable gym
    • Fan – for white noise while sleeping – so glad I packed this on my trip
    • Rubber gloves for washing dishes. Because I didn’t want to toss the gloves out I threw them in the trunk of my car. And I use them a lot. I hand wash dishes rather than use a dishwasher, and sometimes I don’t have a choice so it’s good to have the gloves.
  • Most extravagant thing I brought with meNespresso coffee maker and maybe the Brother laser printer, although I could argue that it is a true necessity. I prefer to print documents (later to be shredded) so that I can highlight or check-off items as necessary while I am working. The Nespresso maker is pure extravagance on a road trip.

 

Dozens of ladybugs clustered on a branch - Redwood Regional Park in Oakland CA

Cluster of ladybugs on a stick – Oakland’s Redwood Regional Park where the ladybugs spend winter

 

  • Items purchased in six months of nomad life
    • 2 (gorgeous!) leather handbags – I am not much of a shopper and I resisted the temptation everywhere else that I stayed but Palm Spring did me in. The Nordstrom Rack next to Whole Foods in Palm Desert was my downfall. And it was December so everything was on sale. One red-hot Milly handbag and one cross-body Persian blue Fossil handbag and I am set for almost any occasion.
    • I love my tiny wallet by Hobo – it holds all my credit cards, ID, and there is a tiny zippered pouch – perfect for traveling light!
    • Sony a-6000 mirrorless camera – to replace my little Canon SX-700 that I dropped in the tide pool on Santa Barbara beach. While I tried drying it out in a sack of rice, the patient did not survive. Since I purchased the Canon camera almost 2 years ago I did get many thousands of photos before the death by tide pool :(

 

Beach finds near the seal rookery at Carpinteria Bluffs in Carpinteria CA

Carpinteria California beach finds near the seal rookery at Carpinteria Bluffs – one of 5 beaches in Carpinteria – one of my favorite nomad homes so far

 

Random observations and musings about this modern nomad life

  • No alarm clock needed – I have not used my alarm clock to wake up in the mornings! My circadian rhythms enjoy the nomad life and I enjoy waking up naturally. Usually I get between 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Occasionally I wake up after only 6 hours of sleep but feel well rested so I get up. And once in a while I wake up real close to time-to-open-the-laptop-and-work time so I do sometimes (shhhh don’t tell my clients) wear my yoga pants and a tank top to work :)
  • Fill to capacity – just like any handbag I own, I fill my car to its maximum capacity – it’s a law of physics or some such thing.
  • Why do refrigerators make so much noise? It’s not just me being overly sensitive to sounds, I googled, plenty of other people make the same observation about refrigerators – they are noisy beasts!

 

Bright pink and yellow cactus bloom at the Botanical Garden in Tucson AZ

Bright pink and yellow cactus bloom at the Botanical Garden in Tucson Arizona

 

  • I do not miss my things and stuff – I thought I would miss some of the possessions that I got rid of while downsizing my life to this nomadic lifestyle. But I don’t. Not a thing. Life is easier with fewer things. Probably I could downsize more and I plan to do so. For instance, my Nespresso maker could be replaced with a traveling French press – smaller and lighter to carry.
  • Organizing is important – even though I own few possessions it is difficult to find things if I do not keep well-organized. Small plastic bins with lids are helping me stay organized. I have to remember to put everything in the same place each time I pack up, otherwise it takes me ages to find anything.

 

Toyota Yaris on white gypsum sand roadway at White Sands National Monument in NM

White Sands National Monument – road trip adventure with Yar-Yar on white gypsum sand roadway

 

  • I do miss socializing with friends – I figured I would miss my friends in Austin so no big surprise. But I am enjoying long-distance virtual happy hours with my friends!
  • Letting go is getting easier – Just when I begin to feel at home and know my way around a place, it is time to leave for the next stop on my road trip adventure. There is some sadness in leaving a place behind, balanced with the excitement of traveling to a new destination. I am getting better at living in the now and embracing each moment.
  • The driving part is fun too – I am beginning to enjoy the driving part of this long-term road trip. Keeping my travel days down to around 6 hours of driving is a key to my driving happiness. Some people can drive for 10 or 12 hours in a day, but I find it makes me too tired. I am one of those people who could easily fall asleep whilst traveling in planes, trains, or automobiles.

 

Sunset over the Catalina mountains in Tucson AZ

Tucson has spectacular sunsets! I stayed in north Tucson near the Catalina Mountains

 

Random observations and musings about places

  • Portland Oregon – I now know why y’all drink so much coffee around the Pacific Northwest – rainy days for days….and days! My favorite is Peet’s or Seattle’s Best but I avoid that other Seattle coffee place like it’s poison. Beginning of March was all rain all the time in Portland but the end of March is filled with sunshine, so I should switch to beer instead of coffee in the afternoon, right?
  • California drivers – why are you in such a hurry? A lot of California drivers could use a chill pill – why the hurry bubba?!

 

Red tiled rooftops against white walls of the Santa Barbara Courthouse

Red tiled rooftops against white walls of the Santa Barbara Courthouse

 

  • Groceries in California were noticeably more expensive. No surprise I suppose. When I researched online to see if I was imagining things I found groceries overall were 20 – 30% higher than in Texas. I have downloaded all my credit card transactions into QuickBooks so I can organize and analyze all my travel expenses.
  • Best grocery store find so far – Berkeley Bowl in Berkeley California has the most ginormous produce section I have ever seen

  • Hendry’s Beach in Santa Barbara had loads of beach glass during January. One of the locals told me that in summer when the waters are calmer there is not so much beach glass. While the downside to the stormy winter waters of this El Niño season is that a lot of the sand washed away from the beaches in Santa Barbara. While in nearby Carpinteria there was still plentiful sand on the beaches despite the storms.
  • Carpinteria is a beach beauty – I had 5 beaches to choose from within a 5-minute drive of my Airbnb home. My biggest decision of the day was which beach should I go to for my sunset beach walk!
  • You can’t pump your own gas in Oregon, evidently it’s a dangerous activity requiring skilled workers.

 

Columbia River Gorge on a beautiful clear spring day in March

Columbia River Gorge on a beautiful clear spring day in March – Pacific Northwest beauty!

 

  • You can’t buy Allegra-D over the counter in Oregon, it is prescription-only, because the risk of anyone buying some Allegra-D and starting their own meth-amphetamine lab (watch Breaking Bad if you don’t know what I’m talking about) overrides allergy sufferers convenient access to allergy medication, which is over the counter in 48 states of the United States.
  • Oregon wines are delicious! Move over California vino and hello Oregon wine – I love you! If I cannot have my allergy medication at least I can enjoy delicious Pinot Noir any day of the week without a prescription!

 

Saguaro cactus against a pretty blue sky

Saguaro cactus against a beautiful blue sky – this is common in Tucson AZ

 

I will finish up with a few more photos from the first six months of my solo road trip adventure around the USA – 5 states visited so far and I will visit Washington state for the month of April. Port Townsend will be my nomad home base from April 4th until May 6th.

 

Ashland Creek in Lithia Park in Ashland Oregon

Ashland Creek in Lithia Park in Ashland OR – my overnight stop on my way to Portland

 

Turquoise doors in Las Cruces New Mexico's Mesquite Historic District

Turquoise doors in Las Cruces New Mexico’s Mesquite Historic District

 

Jack London's cabin - Jack London Square in Oakland California

Jack London’s cabin – Jack London Square in Oakland California

 

Salton Sea with mountain view - Southern California

Salton Sea in Southern California – great day trip from Palm Springs

 

Clusters of dozens monarch butterflies in Goleta California overwintering spot

Monarch butterflies west of the Rockies overwinter in Goleta California – near Santa Barbara

 

The long-term road trip adventure continues north with stops in Port Townsend Washington, Vancouver British Columbia, Lake Louise, Banff, and Calgary Alberta – my home town!

 

What is your favorite road trip dream destination? Or your favorite road trip so far?

 

 

About the Author

Susan Moore's first solo travel experience was traveling around SE Asia for 7 months in 1993. It was life changing and extraordinary. Currently Susan is living a nomadic life, working and roadtripping around the USA and Canada. You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter

14 Comments

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  1. Jo Harmon says:

    What a delightful post Susan. You listed some very important issues of traveling by car and your pictures are just gorgeous love the beach picture where you gathered all you finds. Thank You for sharing it with us all.

    • Susan Moore says:

      Thank you Jo! I loved my beach walks in Carpinteria! The 6 months has flown by. It is hard to believe my month in Portland is already up, I could spend another month or two here easily…I guess I must be having fun :)
      I sure am looking forward to the next stops on this road trip adventure! Will be in Port Townsend on Sunday!!

  2. Ruth Apter says:

    My dream road trip would be from Alaska to Labrador across Canada.

  3. Karen Warren says:

    What a wonderful road trip. I’m sure it hasn’t all been easy but the rewards are clear to see. Hoping that the next few months are just as good!

    • Susan Moore says:

      Thank you Karen! On Sunday I moved on from Portland OR to Port Townsend WA – from a modern style home to a Victorian house built in 1890. It’s interesting to me how easily each new place feels like home to me. I thought that part would be more difficult but the excitement of a new place always makes the transition easier.

  4. You’ve organized this post very nicely. I really enjoyed reading through it. And I am pleased for you that you found my own favorite grocery store–Berkeley Bowl–which I look forward to visiting every weekend.

  5. Rebecca says:

    Oh I am bookmarking this post to read again and again, to continue getting tips. I love long road trips, you get more quality than mere quantity.
    My favourite was in the U.S. – San Fran to NYC with Green Tortoise tours, a 1960’s Greyhound that had been refurbished to turn to beds at night. We drove through White Sands NP too – also Hot Springs, Grand Canyon, Galveston and New Orleans (not necessarily in that order). I loved it and think U.S. and Australia (also Canada) are THE places for road trips.

    • Susan Moore says:

      Aw thanks Rebecca! Glad you enjoyed this post – road trips were not my passion but now this is my life and I am loving this road trippin’ nomad life! San Francisco to NYC would be great…not the shared bus mind you! I am realizing just how much of an introvert I am – living, working, traveling alone :) I would love to road trip around Australia! USA and Canada will keep me occupied for some time but Oz is on the radar for later…and New Zealand!

  6. You’re living one of my fantasies, but Mr. Excitement still has a day job he likes. It provides lots of travel opportunities, but not for slow road trips. We have driven from Seattle to Cambria, California over two different road trips, but only getting to stop for one night in B&B’s. It was fun, but different than your experience. If you ever make it to Philly, please give me a heads up. We met IRL in Lloret de Mar, but I’d be happy to show you around the City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection).

    • Susan Moore says:

      Suzanne it’s great that Mr Excitement likes his day job and you two do get to do some traveling. I would love to meet up with you in Philly sometime, and will definitely contact you in advance. Your Philly tips and a personal tour would be most appreciated. Now that I am accustomed to this nomad road trip life I envision doing this for several years. I haven’t spent much time in the Northeastern US but I want to! I have now moved on to Port Townsend WA and I love it here! I love having the flexibility to mix my home base from bigger cities to smaller towns, and experiencing the lifestyle that each offers.

  7. Congratulations on your milestone Susan. when we met at TBEX this was certainly on your list and i’m glad you made it happen. What a lot of ground you have covered. Love the photo of the rooftops in Santa Barbara and look forward to following along. You’ll love the next stops on your itinerary. I’m envious of a long road trip.

    • Susan Moore says:

      Hi Alison! Thanks much! At TBEX I was in the planning stages and it was all still a dream! There was some anxiety over the planning, making sure I took care of all the details of transitioning to nomad life. It all went pretty smooth though, and I am happy with the location independent lifestyle now. And yes the next stops in BC and Alberta will be incredible – it’s been years since I’ve been to Vancouver, Banff, and Lake Louise.
      Hope to meet up with you again sometime, perhaps when my road trip takes me to your region.
      Cheers,
      Susan

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