April 1 to 96, 2024

They said it couldn’t be done: a 9-day roadtrip to the southwestern desert with a toddler.

They were right.

OR, another way to look at it: our performance edition toddler enabled us to complete a 9-day road/camp trip in only 6! Incredible. Now accepting consulting requests and booking reservations for our toddler if you or your loved ones are looking to set an FKT on your next adventure!

April 1, 2024: Leavenworth, Washington to Bruneau Dunes State Park, Idaho

With Abby getting older (2 ½ later this month!) and Hannah having a full week off for Spring Break, we decided to head south to one of our favorite spots: Moab.

Something about that desert air and slick rock. This will be my fourth trip to the area and Hannah’s second. Technically, this is Abigail’s second time in Moab but only the first on the outside.

Abby was a total trooper and crushed the 500-mile day from our house to Bruneau Dunes State Park just a few miles SE of Boise, Idaho.

The park was largely empty, except for the two sites adjacent to us of course. And both of those groups were playing music and/or true crime shows well into the evening. I’m not sure when or how people forgot how to “outside” but it’s getting bad out here. Fortunately, the van provided enough insulation we were largely undisturbed once we headed for bed.

Abby slept the first night in her new “adventure bed,” a super cool creation from Greg at It deploys over the steering wheel, dash and swiveled front seats. I’m sold!

Tomorrow, another 500-mile push to Moab. High desert, here we come!

April 2: Idaho to Moab

Originally, our plan was to take three days to get to the Moab area, but Abby seemed raring to go so we called the audible in the morning and decided we’d push all the way. Two long days of driving, but it would buy us one, maybe 2 extra days “on the ground”. Or so we thought (foreshadowing).

Abby almost never sleeps in the car so we did find it a bit strange that she seemed to be nodding off quite a bit. Maybe just settling into roadtrip mode? Does she seem warm? Of course, there was a mandatory stop at the Spanish Fork In-N-Out burger with Abby napping the van for half of lunch. She woke up to have a few french fries and then we pushed the final 3 hours to Moab.

The Sand Flats Recreation Area is generally my go-to spot for camping. Close enough to town, but tucked into some very picturesque landscapes with the La Sal Mountains playing peekaboo. As we chugged up the hill to Sand Flats fee area, we saw 2 “Campground Full” placards. Hmm… Jeep Week was the week prior. We took a gamble and continued in. Sure enough, the first 8 loops were full (or had some non-van-compatible sites available). At the Juniper Campground, we found our huckleberry: a beautiful flat and level site with tremendous views.

April 3: Moab

Ahh, the desert. This is it! We made it. A morning hike, with Hannah’s perfect blend of snacks and Trail Magik carrier made our 1.5 mile hike pretty easy.

During nap, I got a lap in on Falcon Flow and Kestrel Run trails and then pedaled the road back up to camp for an almost 12 mile loop. I forget what pedaling at 6500′ feels like. It’s hard!

In the afternoon, we ventured into town for some needed groceries and water (sourced, of course, from the Lions Park Spring on the 128 highway). Abby enjoyed digging in the sand, spraying juniper berries with her water spray bottle and reporting the movements and activities of the red ant colony she found. “They didn’t bite me right here.” she said pointing to her index finger on her left hand, which made me suspect that they did bite her right there.

April 4: Moab, and the Beginning of the End

This is the morning after it all fell apart. Abby essentially did not sleep the night of the 3rd. She was awake every 30-40 minutes coughing and hacking and crying. It was brutal for everyone. We had plans to hike to the Mill Creek waterfall, but only made it a few hundred yards before turning back to play at the river’s edge adjacent to the parking lot. This lasted for a few minutes and then it was time to head into town to try to nap her in the shade somewhere. It worked only slightly. We spent the afternoon at the city park and Hannah and Abby snuck in a shower at the aquatic center. We were trying everything we could think of to break the runny nose/cough cycle but to no avail.

Sadly, as predicted, the winds really picked up Thursday evening and night (with even higher winds forecasted for Friday) so after dinner, we all three climbed into the van with Hannah’s and my fingers crossed for a better night of sleep for everyone. No such luck.

April 5: Moab to Brigham City

The winds picked up dramatically as forecasted and around 0500, I nudged Hannah awake and we dropped the penthouse and latched it. The sustained winds were about 30 mph with gusts of 50+ (and higher gusts on the way). We “slept” the last 60-90 minutes of the night on the van floor wedged between the cabinets behind the bench seat. Not that Abby was really sleeping anyways. Her cough and runny nose was still doing its thing.

At sunrise, we packed the van into driving mode and headed into town for coffee and breakfast since we didn’t feel like trying to do anything in the wind. We found a delicious breakfast spot on the main drag and bade our time til our Arches entry reservation.

Our timed-entry reservation for Arches National Park was 0900-1000 and we were only 5 cars back at 0930 when we hit the fee booth. Probably a huge part of the small line was the high winds. They were really ripping. We toured through the park, making it to Balanced Rock when the combo of high winds sick, sleepless and grumpy toddler and our own sleep deprivation made our decision to turn for home pretty easy.

At 1030 we were rumbling up the Sand Flats Road the final time to collect the rest of our camping gear and then aired up tires at the Exxon station before using the Southwesterly winds to propel us northward.

Again, mandatory stop at the Spanish Fork In-N-Out and then we drove another 90 minutes north to Brigham City and a randomly selected hotel that had a pool. The pool was out of order. And the hot tub was–I’m fairly certain–110 degrees. So Hannah and Abby used the room bathtub for a half hour as I repacked the hastily packed van and tucked the mountain bikes inside for the night.

Abby slept better that night, but not tremendously. Thankfully instead of waking up crying every time she coughed, she was largely able to resettle herself. At any rate, it was a lot nicer being in a permanent structure for all that than having to navigate a small van penthouse ladder to a bench seat all night. Small conveniences.

April 6: Home

Seven hundred thirty-six miles. Abby’s longest day of driving by several hundred miles. She did pretty dang well. The sickness was starting to wane a bit and the coughing was far less constant. Still, I think both Hannah and I felt relieved to be only “a few hours” from our own bed and our own space and our own home.

Plenty of snacks and movies (I can quote 100% of Frozen 2 to you) got us home before dinner time, which felt great. Abby’s mode at home was much improved, running around the house and giggling before bedtime.