HOW we planned it—Ohio to Alaska in 8 days… (pt 2)

How do you break a SIX THOUSAND MILE car trip into days, sections, and stops? 

Very intricately—start with day one.

(If you missed the first story in this series, you can find it here before you move on.)

How do you keep the trip CHEAP?

Inexpensive lodging—camping & staying with friends/family. 

Inexpensive food—buy groceries. 

Inexpensive gas—drive a Chevy Spark (41 mpg).

Where it really started…

As many of you know if you’ve read NEVER SETTLED, I grew up moving a lot. Almost 80 times before I graduated high school which meant that I spent much of my childhood in the backseat of a car traversing the countryside time and time again. We never took a vacation, but we definitely saw much of the country by moving by car. And, unfortunately we brought just about everything we owned! 

Traveling long distances in a fairly new 2014 Chevy Spark was not going to be a big deal to me, I thought.

While Heidi grew up in the same town, same house and even the same bedroom her whole life, they took many vacation trips in her childhood. They even owned several different types of RVs. While she can get car-sick from time to time, as a married couple, we almost always traveled by car because flying was just too expensive for us! She loved (and loves) traveling on vacation to see the country.

Three things made this trip more doable for us.

  1. We enjoy being together. That sounds weird to say, but I know many married couples that don’t actually spend much time together because they really just don’t enjoy being together. We do! We enjoy each other and have a lot of fun together. 
  2. We plan well, but practice flexibility. We have learned in our lives and travels to plan our trips with a fair amount of detail, but we know from experience that things don’t always go as planned so we must stay flexible! 
  3. We know how to do cheap. We survived our kid’s childhood by vacationing frugally. We lived on one income most of that time and a very modest income at that. We know all the tricks. We are definitely willing to vacation below the poverty line, while doing all we can to escape it.

Itinerary – I love planning trips so I started the route and began breaking it down into days. We figured we could drive about 15 hours a day, sleep about 8 hours and use the extra hour to get ready in the morning and/or to prepare for bed. We decided to spend about 5 hours in San Francisco and a full day in Seattle.

Lodging – Since the lodging wasn’t a big part of the trip, but a necessary expense, we decided to camp in a tent much of the way. We also scoped out our entire route and began brainstorming people we knew along the way we could possibly stay with. We found my older sister Terri in Colorado, Heidi’s Aunt Wendy near Lake Tahoe and her high school friend Marsha (and my former Marine friend, her husband, Mike) near Seattle.

Food – Heidi and I had just started juicing! Meals were easy… and also challenging! We bought groceries and brought our juicer and inverter so we could make smoothies in the car while we were driving. We also ate tortilla wraps on the move while driving. We only ate out a few times because as we learned from our research, you can’t go to California and not get In-N-Out Burger or San Francisco and not get a Boudin Bakery Clam Chowder Bread Bowl! Oh, so good.

A few things were new to us. While most of us have gotten used to paying at the pump in the last twenty years, we decided to pay mostly cash for gas. That meant going into the station and prepaying so they would turn on the pump. Also, while Morgan had a brand new Chevy Spark, it was the budget version and did not have cruise control. That took a day or two to get used to, but after our first 1,500 miles or so, it was not a big deal. Lastly, this was the first time we had to drive on a fairly tight itinerary. We had a destination six thousand miles away that we had to reach in eight days. We had to stick to our agenda pretty tightly.

Our itinerary went something like this…

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on

Day 1 – Drive to Terri’s house in Deer Trail, Colorado. (17 hours)

Day 2 – Drive to Aunt Wendy’s house in Carson City, Nevada. (16 hours)

Day 3 – Drive to San Francisco, California. (4 hours) 

– Walk the city and tour the sites. (5 hours) 

– Drive to Redwood Forest campground. (5 hours)

Day 4 – Drive to Portland, Oregon. Eat lunch. (7 hours)

– Drive to Marsha & Mike’s house near Seattle, Washington. (3 hours)

Day 5 – Spend the day in Seattle. Stay the night with Marsha & Mike again.

Day 6 – Drive to campground in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada (15 hours)

Day 7 – Drive to campground in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada (15.5 hours)

Day 8 – Drive to Anchorage, Alaska (13 hours)

Remember: An itinerary is one thing, the actual trip is another. In our next blog, you will hear about waking up and stepping out of the tent in Jurassic Park, being kept up all night by the wind & threat of a serial killer, and almost running out of gas with no money on the Alaska Highway. 

Stay tuned…

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Shawn’s wrote a book about his life growing up on the move titled—NEVER SETTLED: a memoir of a boy on the road to manhood

Published by Shawn D. Congleton

traveler, writer, lover of God, thinker, family dude, in no particular order

2 thoughts on “HOW we planned it—Ohio to Alaska in 8 days… (pt 2)

  1. Loved this – easy & fun to follow. Feels relaxed. Know I don’t have to say enjoy bec U did & the memories are on repeat/loop. Thk U.

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