It’s a little hard for me to come to terms with this, but the trip we’d been dreaming of for years is over! In case you missed it, we just spent five of the last six weeks out west exploring our beautiful continent, and four of those weeks were in an RV rental. And boy, was it an adventure! I had no idea what to expect, and it turned out to be a great way to travel, aside from all that driving of course—my poor husband (although I did get behind the wheel three times myself)! There really was no better way to explore our country, though, and we feel so incredibly fortunate to have had the experience!
And after all that fun, I am here to report on our adventure in eating real food on the road.
What We Ate
A month is a long time to be tracking your meals, but I took as many pictures as I could. I would like to say up front that creativity and variety were not exactly my goal on this trip. I was honestly just going for simple, easy, and “no real recipe required” kind of meals. So this is what we got (starting at the top left and going across).
- Snacky lunch with fruit, cheese, cashews, caprese salad, and some good whole grain bread we stocked up on in San Francisco
- BLTs – a family favorite
- Camping eggs (which is what we call eggs that we fry in bacon grease) with fruit and bacon, of course
- Kale and mushroom pasta
- Grill packets (I got the guy at Whole Foods to go ahead and dice the organic meat for me, which was a life saver at the time!)
- Pimento cheese sandwich, deviled eggs, fruit, organic potato chips, and whole grain pretzels (from Trader Joe’s when we found one)
- Another grill packet with just potatoes, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper (super easy and tasty)
- Baked tostada with slow cooker refried beans, cheese, and sour cream, along with watermelon
- Fried egg, crispy prosciutto (that I also fried in the pan), cantaloupe, and simple yogurt crunch in the cup
- Pimento cheese with whole-wheat pitas and watermelon
- Hummus, cheese, and tomato sandwiches
- Spaghetti and salad (we had spaghetti twice with a jar of organic sauce and some good grass-fed beef we stocked up on when we found it)
- Whole-wheat banana pancakes
- Grilled sausages, peppers, and onions
- 4th of July BBQ: The best pulled pork in the Crock Pot, potato salad, cole slaw, watermelon, and garlic toast
- Grill packets – again! :)
- The best whole chicken in the Crock Pot with salad and boiled corn on the cob
- Potato skins made with leftover baked potatoes (I baked them in the oven while we were driving back to our campsite!)
- Refried beans topped with cheese and sour cream, and a salad
- Chicken salad (with the leftover slow cooker chicken) on lettuce with cheese, avocado, and fruit
- Granola – don’t look too closely, my first batch was burnt on the bottom!
- Sautéed fish, mashed sweet potatoes, and steamed green beans
- Another BLT with random leftovers and fruit
- Guacamole with a rare treat—fried tortilla chips
- Simple yogurt crunch, scrambled eggs, toast, and fruit
- Quiche, salad, and bacon – This was one of the few times I used the oven, and for some reason that quiche really hit the spot (for all of us)!
- Tacos and fruit
That’s a lot of food! :)
The Pantry, Fridge and Freezer on the RV
My apologies in advance for not spending too much time making the cabinets and such pretty for the picture. This is just how it looked in a vehicle that throws stuff all around when you’re driving! We learned the hard way to open the fridge slowly (after losing a dozen eggs)!
One thing we learned quickly—it was super nice traveling around with a fully equipped kitchen wherever we went! If we were out exploring Glacier National Park later than expected (true story), well then we just pulled over in a parking lot and made dinner there before we were on our way again! We could even have the girls go ahead and get in their pajamas and brush their teeth before we kept driving. It was so incredibly convenient.
I will say though, that shopping in unfamiliar stores without a solid plan wasn’t exactly easy, but I did know that some exceptions would have to be made. For example, at home we don’t do boxed cereal for the girls, but that’s what they ate the entire trip. I didn’t have a lot of time to bake granola, so when I did, there just wasn’t enough to share with the whole family (and trust me, they were fine with that). I also didn’t make my tortillas from scratch like I do at home, but I was able to find whole-grain corn tortillas by Food for Life. And I think that’s the next best option.
Kitchen Tools We Brought
I made my best guess on what to bring along with us on the trip. We did rent a kitchen kit from El Monte RV, which included pots, pans, plates, utensils, etc. So I was only trying to fill in some gaps. Here’s what I brought:
- My slow cooker: This is one of my most used appliances at home, but I ended up using it only three times on the trip. So I am on the fence about whether it was worthwhile to pack! The problem was that most days we were on the go, and I wasn’t so sure about where I could put it while the RV was moving all around. I did use it twice at night and quickly learned that it was a rather small space in which to be smelling food all night. The second time I set it up in the bathroom, opened the vent, and shut the door, and that helped tremendously! I was super happy to have those meals (including the plentiful leftovers) once it was all said and done.
- Cheese grater: We didn’t actually bring this with us. We bought it at Target after picking up the RV! I guess that was an oops, but we could use an extra one at home, so it worked out in the end.
- Hand immersion blender: I did use this one, but not exactly for what I was picturing. I thought I’d be making smoothies (never did), emulsifying salad dressings (our salads were not nearly that fancy!), and blending up homemade soups (not sure what I was thinking there), but instead I found myself needing a way to puree the slow cooked refried beans and mash the sweet potatoes I boiled. While it was not an ideal appliance for these jobs, it totally did the trick without taking up a lot of space!
- High quality frying pan: This one really came in handy. I used it almost every time I cooked!
- Silicone muffin cups (these allow you to bake muffins without a muffin pan): Looking back, it’s funny I thought I’d be sitting around baking muffins. Let’s just say I didn’t even come close to using these! Luckily, they didn’t take up much space.
- Percolator: This is what my husband used to make espresso on the gas stove (we did not pay the extra fee to rent a coffee maker). I drink maple mochas at home (not regular coffee), so I just skipped having my daily dose of that, unless we happened to see a coffee shop.
- Other tools: Tongs, pot holders (the white and red things), cutting board (note we’ve since replaced the pictured one with a better option), a good knife, a few measuring cups and measuring spoons, a meat thermometer (that we didn’t use), a small silicone spatula (not pictured), and one good stainless steel spatula.
My Biggest Mistake
A couple days into the trip, I was kicking myself for not bringing along a single dried spice! So for every meal that needed a 1/4 teaspoon of this or a 1/2 teaspoon of that, I had to buy a whole new spice bottle, and those added up fast. We did manage to bring all the new bottles home, but it still would have been so much better and easier if I would have been smart enough to pack myself some homemade taco seasoning mix or The Best Whole Chicken in the Crock Pot seasoning mix to really make things easy in the RV.
I also wish I would’ve purchased a jar of minced garlic instead of fresh garlic. We’re in the habit of using fresh garlic at home, but when clean dishes are hard to come by (see below), it would have been wonderful to be able to spare a clean cutting board and knife whenever possible! Live and learn, and in the end—not a huge deal :)
What Happens When Your Gray Water Tank is Full
As you can see above, I used a lot of paper plates on this trip. At home, we don’t even use paper napkins, so that’s definitely not the norm for us! But once again, we learned the hard way that if you’re staying in a campsite without hookups, and people actually want to shower, your gray water tank (i.e. dirty water that’s from anywhere except the toilet) fills up fast. So our kitchen sink in the RV unfortunately looked like this more often than not. With only 4 place settings, that meant the plates weren’t clean very often, and when they were clean, we hesitated to get them dirty!
Please don’t judge. I promise this is not a regular occurrence at home!
In case you missed it, I shared a map of our route a couple of weeks ago. But since many have asked, here are the places we stopped (and the duration) in a list format:
- Portland, OR: 3 Nights (We lived there many years ago after college and couldn’t wait to go back to visit.)
- Crater Lake National Park, OR: 1 Night
- Northern California (Redwood National Forest Area): 1 Night
- San Francisco, CA: 3 Nights (We picked up the RV just outside of San Fran on the last day there.)
- Yosemite National Park, CA: 3 Nights
- Big Sur, CA: 3 Nights (One of our favorite stops!)
- Ventura, CA: 1 Night (Simply because this was halfway to our next stop.)
- Las Vegas, NV: 2 Nights
- Grand Canyon National Park, AZ: 1 Night (We went by Hoover Dam on our way here.)
- Lake Powell/Glen Canyon National Park, AZ/UT: 2 Nights (We rented a houseboat with a water slide, and it was awesome!)
- Moab/Arches National Park, UT: 1 Night (My husband went mountain biking here.)
- Park City, UT: 2 Nights (Mountain biking was our attraction to this stop as well.)
- Yellowstone National Park, WY: 2 Nights
- Lewis and Clark Caverns Stat Park, MT: 1 Night (This was on the way to our next stop.)
- Glacier National Park, MT: 3 Nights (Our favorite US National Park by far!)
- Canmore, Canada (Just outside of Banff): 1 Night
- Banff National Park, Canada: 2 Nights (Backpacking)
- Lake Louise National Park, Canada: 1 Night (Absolutely breathtaking!)
- Just south of Kamploops, Canada: 1 Night (Because this was the halfway point to Seattle.)
- Seattle, WA: 2 Nights (This is where we returned the RV, and then we rented an apartment) 36 Nights Total
I will add that even though I tried to work in extra nights (2 to 3 nights minimum at most places), there still was very little downtime on this trip. It just didn’t feel right to sit around and relax when you could be exploring the next amazing destination! I told my husband we could do nothing when we got home (which sounded good at the time, but in reality isn’t actually true, as most busy families know).
What if you don’t have that much time?
I know some have told me how they’d love to go on a trip like this, but would never have five weeks in a row to do it. So if this sounds like you, I just want to say that a shorter version of this trip would still totally be awesome. If you could swing two weeks, I would recommend to either start in Salt Lake City (and go a tad south to start at the Arches Park) or Phoenix (if you don’t want to miss the Grand Canyon). And then I would suggest driving north and finishing up at either Glacier National Park (our favorite in the US) or go six or seven hours further and make your last stop in Banff/Lake Louise (another amazingly gorgeous place).
This itinerary would allow you to see a really nice variety of landscapes. My husband and I both feel that week after week of snow capped mountains and streams would of course be super nice, but it would be even better to squeeze in a little bit of time in the desert, just for more variety.
A Few Trip Highlights
We had a feeling this would be the trip of a lifetime, and it did not disappoint! Here’s a little recap of some of the highlights. I had trouble narrowing things down, if you can’t tell. :)