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Thread: Solo Road Trips

  1. #1
    2 Bit Hack
    Join Date
    Feb 2014

    Solo Road Trips

    I am getting really itchy feet. I was thinking of packing the gear up and hit the back roads bearing west. I want to eventually end up in 4 corners area and wander for a week or so. How far west? I do not know, but Mammoth Lakes would be nice. It might be too much of a haul from S. Georgia. Obviously, photography is the objective of this trip so photo gear will be included. I have no intentions of wandering from the vehicle, not much anyway. Camping is probably out of the question this time of year except maybe in Death Valley or Saline Valley.

    Here is the deal. I cannot find any traveling companions. I have been on many road trips but the only times I was alone across country was either going home or in route to another populated place. Never an open ended trip with no real destination other than an area that is known for isolation and its unforgiving nature. I am not a f%&kup. I have excellent common sense (so I've been told) but sometimes things just happen.

    How many of you are willing to strike out on your own? Have you actually done it? What challenges did you find on the road as a solo traveler? Are there any special items needed that one would not normally consider? What are situations to avoid? AND by all means what are the advantages to being alone?

    What do you think? Would you set out without a destination or even a path to follow................alone?


  2. #2
    Christopher Barrett's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2014

    Re: Solo Road Trips

    I've never done it but have been thinking about it a lot lately. When I'm with someone else, I always feel like I'm making compromises to be considerate of what they may want to do. I explore better alone, even in my commercial work.

    Of course it's much safer in general to travel with a companion.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Rondo, Missouri

    Re: Solo Road Trips

    I love making trips like you describe. Once I set out from my house to the corner store to pick up some little item or the other. I realized I had my cameras in the car and lots of film, because I'd started to do a trip the weekend before and never unpacked the gear. Three days and two states later, I finally got home, and couldn't for the life of me remember what it was I wanted from store. That was before I was married, but with the lovely wife I have, I can still do stuff like that. Back in September, we took off on a "day trip" with all the gear. We got to talking about the trip I took back in May with my daughter to Prince Edward Island, and she said she'd love to see it. And that's how our Saturday trip turned into a 3-day trip. Good thing it was a long weekend! Of course, that's not a solo trip, so it doesn't count.

    Back in my college days I decided to make a day trip to one of the larger lakes in Arizona. Wound up walking the circumference of the lake before heading home. That was with a Nikon, a backpack, two lenses and a fly rod. Would have gotten really hungry without the fly rod.

    Just make sure you either have plenty of cash or a good balance left on a credit card. If the car breaks down away from home, you got no choice but to pay their rates. I've had that happen twice now.
    Michael W. Graves
    Michael's Pub

    If it ain't broke....don't fix it!

  4. #4
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Albuquerque, Nuevo Mexico

    Re: Solo Road Trips

    I've pretty much always done solo trips. When I am into shooting seriously, I can visit the same spot day after day waiting for the right clouds etc. My schedule when shooting does not really allow for much normal site seeing except when scouting locations. Then when i drill down to s a handful of shots that I want to concentrate on the site seeing is over and only being in the right location at the right moment matters. Here is an example from my AIR at the Petrified Forest that I have shown before. I spent hours every afternoon in a small area on the north edge of Blue Mesa during the monsoons waiting for something like the first shot to happen-it did finally on the 6th afternoon. In the meantime other images arrived in the same location. This "wait was one of my ,ost enjoyable time I have ever spent with a camera. But I guess my question is who would want to fit their needs on a shooting trip into my schedule? So I guess I prefer to shoot alone as I don't then worry about whether the companion is enjoying the trip.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Walking Rain Min 8x11.jpg   Portal 8x11 Min.jpg   AMus 8x11 Pillar.jpg  

    at age 68
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  5. #5
    2 Bit Hack
    Join Date
    Feb 2014

    Re: Solo Road Trips

    Many years ago I decided to go camping, by myself. I drove to a little place called Boxley, Arkansas then took a road up a mountain. I drove for a bit till I found a place to pull off the road and have the truck out of sight. I hiked several miles into the Ozark Nat'l Forest and pitched camp for two days. The first night I heard large heavy tromping outside the tent. Never saw what it was. The next day I came back from a hike only to find a skunk sleeping in the tent......on the sleeping bag. Strangely enough I have had this happen more than once.

    Since then, that that area has now become pretty famous. It is called Hawksbill Crag. Look it up the area is fantastic. It turns out that if I had only driven a couple more miles down that road I would not have had the long hike through the woods. So it goes.

    I got no real real excitement from the trip. But is was a learning experience as well as a reflective period. I have had several wilderness travels like it and would highly recommend it.

    The new idea is different though. It involves much longer distances and time not to mention cash, and I am not as young as I used to be. I did a similar trip with my wife to be (at that time). But was disappointed by having to outrun an early storm.........the goal was Monument Valley and we ended up in Tucson.....where it still rained.


  6. #6
    matthew blais's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Riverside, CA

    Re: Solo Road Trips

    I did a 30 day trip about 6-7 years ago. Up the Coast here, camped for several days in Oregon, got soaked, did a hotel for a night (laundry and dry time), then continued up the coast and onward Eastward to End up In Michigan for a week to visit family.

    I often left the freeway to parallel the freeway on country roads. Stopped when I wanted to explore. Spent several nights in (nice) hotel Parking lots sleeping in my truck. Took a different route back. The last 3-4 days were ridden with anxious desire to get home.

    Other than the family visit and desired freeway routes, I had no real plans. It was awesome.

    So the advantages of being alone are stopping wherever and whenever. The disadvantages are I can only entertain my silly self for so long.
    Met some interesting characters along the way, some of which sat for the camera.
    Small town cafe's are great.

    Have a general plan and timeline, and be willing to change it
    Let people know where you are, people who give a damn anyway.

    Have fun if you do it.
    "I invent nothing, I rediscover"
    August Rodin

    My Now old Photo Site

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Westport Island, Maine

    Re: Solo Road Trips

    Last year I did 39,583 miles around the perimeter of the US, with some pleasant diversions into Canada. 8 1/2 months, living in a Chevy cargo van with a mattress in the back. Solo. Mostly on 2-lane roads. Every day was magical. Many, many stories.

    The National Park Pass is the greatest bargain on earth.
    Bruce Barlow
    author of "Finely Focused" and "Exercises in Photographic Composition"

  8. #8
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Seattle, Wash.

    Re: Solo Road Trips

    "Alone" in the Nat'l Forests of my region (not Nat'l Parks) is how I spend 98% of my time under the stars.

    A few personal habits...

    If not a backpacking trip, I trust my 2003 Honda Civic which has no problems – late spring, summer, early fall – navigating some of the loneliest (unimproved) forest roads in our nation. Many times, I pitch my tent near the car, and drive on the next morning. Before departure, I consult my U.S. forest district topo map (the 1:64,000 scale is good for car travel) for that day's exploration – making rough plans to arrive in a good area, by late afternoon, to look for my next tent site. This style of exploration ends by November due to sleet and snow that can force one to abandon the car for the season and hike out on your own!

    Instead of what responsible explorers remember to bring, I'll mention a few items they forget:

    1: A good forest hatchet – not necessarily a full-sized axe
    2: A full-sized shovel
    3: 25-50 feet of rope
    4: A couple of pieces of thick plywood, maybe 18" square

    (Let's just say the condition of the FS road you take into a forest might not enjoy the same condition when you leave. For example, think fallen Alder trees.)

  9. #9's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Winona, Minnesota

    Re: Solo Road Trips

    After a family tragedy I lived, worked and traveled alone for many years. Forty-thousand miles of it was on a motorcycle, and since then it has been in a GMC Surban 4x4, and lately a Toyota RAV4 (V6).

    Tip #1, to quote William Least Heat-Moon, "Life doesn’t happen along the interstates. It’s against the law.”

    I'm an olde pharte and do not entirely trust technology, although I made my career of it, so some of the following might seem silly. I try to have paper road and topo maps. Other items include a first-aid kit for myself and others just-in-case (I was a military medic.) Roadside emergency gear such as flares, a couple flashlights, emergency pump. Space blanket. A high visibility reflective vest for roadside and some field work. (Two well published photographers I know do the same.) Get good stuff. Don't shop where this guy does.

    If you are in wildlife areas, the DNR and Federal agencies have some awesome maps and literature. You paid for it already.

    I have a 12V (soon to be 110V AC) cooler in the truck. It's great to keep film. They work best when full, so fill empty space with sandwiches and beer. Or something.

    The only unpleasant things I've encountered: Drunk shotgun toting back-woods citizen, once. Turned out well, but he drank my last beer. (Do not have any political bumper stickers on your vehicle!) Shot gunned once in the field but almost out-of-range so it only stung like hell. An off-road accident taught me to never leave heavy items unsecured in the back of the truck. A tripod flew by my head. Could have been bad. Cargo nets are my friend. (I no longer do any serious off-road driving, thus the lightweight Toyota.)

    Establish a stash somewhere in the vehicle. The panels in mine pull off with a plastic tool. In there I keep spare IDs and a credit card. Also a transponder, but that's excessive.

    Stop more often than you want to. Mail exposed film home when you can. Parachute cord and genuine Gaffer's tape is a must.

    Trust, smiles, and sincere good wishes are your currency.
    Enjoy. Life is good!

    Oh, send folks postcards. They love it. Nobody gets postcards anymore.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2011

    Re: Solo Road Trips

    I've done a few thousand miles on abandoned logging roads on the Gulf of St-Lawrence North Shore area, on a 4-stroke 200cc dirt bike in the summer, and occasionally in a mini-van with a bed in the back, in early winter before the snow got too deep. Met more wolves than people. No incidents, except for the time I came around a curve a little too fast on the bike, in the dark, and almost ran over a bear cub. I didn't stop to see if he was all right. I've also camped solo in the Canadian high arctic, in polar bear country. No incidents, loved the solitude. I had a Cree guide/freighter canoe pilot scout the area for bear sign before leaving me alone until he felt like coming back and getting me. I would really like to do it again, but responsibilities, the ridiculous price of gasoline and flights to the arctic, etc., have all conspired to keep me within about 30 miles of home for the last few years.

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