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Over two months have gone by and I’m still constantly day dreaming and talking about the experiences from my road trip. As inspiration or encouragement to anyone who has yet to explore the west, I offer my 5 on 5 favorites from the trip. Ah, to be on the road again…

Learning life lessons with my trusty Patagonia in tow

Learning life lessons with my trusty Patagonia in tow

5 Favorite Items:

  • Patagonia travel bag (didn’t do anything without it!)
  • Fleece blanket (made by Jennifer)
  • AAA TripTik map guide
  • Petzl headlamp
  • Nike Gortex jacket (best impulse buy ever)

A great run at Sugar House Park

A great run at Sugar House Park

5 Favorite Activites:

  • Tram ride to the summit and hike down to the lodge at Snowbird Ski Resort, UT
  • Fastest carousel ride in the west, Missoula, MT
  • Group night ride on cruiser bikes to party, Bozeman, MT
  • Ranger presentation on natural history, Glacier National Park, MT
  • Running at Sugar House Park, Salt Lake City, UT

A beautiful sunset at Lake McDonald, Grand Tetons

A beautiful sunset at Lake McDonald, Grand Tetons.

5 Favorite Places:

  • Paradise Valley, MT (Drive from Bozeman to Yellowstone)
  • Salt Lake City, UT (Holy canyons!)
  • Canyons along Colorado River, UT (Rte. 128 from Grand Junction to Moab)
  • Grand Tetons National Park, WY (Amazing glaciers)
  • Stanley National Forest, ID (Drive from Sun Valley to Wallowas)

Hot off the skillet!

Hot off the skillet!

5 Favorite Meals:

  • Scrambled eggs and salmon from the camp stove, solo by Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park
  • Buffalo Burger and fries at the Garage with Kiefer, Bozeman, MT
  • Amazing appetizers at the Shallow Shaft with Mike, Alta, UT
  • Shrimp cocktail and fried bananas at Temple Square with Edna, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Eggs, fruit and muffin at Shade Cafe in Jackson Hole, WY

A whole different thermal world

A whole different thermal world

5 Favorite Insights:

  • Better to get gas now than stress out looking for a few cents cheaper.
  • “May my life provide how I desire…if it is in the best interests of all things in the universe.”
  • Time is irrelevant. Time does not tick in nature, it passes.
  • Life is not stressful – emotions are stressful. Don’t be attached.
  • Don’t think, just be present.
  • BONUS: Big rocks don’t get out of the way and driving over them makes dents. Go around!
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I admit: I’m a late adopter. I am a bit old-fashioned and thus, skeptical of technology. I love hard-bound books, hand-written letters and impossibly folded maps. While I realize technology is necessary to make these, it is not inherent in their use. Most embarking on a road trip to new states/cities/the middle of nowhere would find comfort in a GPS system and a British female’s voice telling them what to do, but I wanted to follow the road.

My new BFF - the AAA TripTik

My new BFF - the AAA TripTik

Let me introduce you to my good friend, TripTik. How did we meet? A few weeks before the trip I stopped by AAA to pick up state guide books and learned of the greatest thing known to road tripping – the TripTik (though i-Trips and snacks are close behind). As a AAA member not only do I get free tour books, but apparently a free personalized map of my trip. Side note: No offense, AAA, but the tour books suck. The hotels and restaurants are not helpful – especially on a budget – and there is barely any information on local attractions. The camping book has somewhat complete listings, but the directions couldn’t get you around the block, none the less to obscure campsites.

But, the TripTik is sweet. It is a reporter-style flip book individually hand-created per your route with each page covering a chunk of the highway with mileage marked and icons for exits, rest stops, gas/food/lodging etc. Each page opens to a broader contextual map of the highlighted area. Best part about it is no-folding necessary, which is perfect for a solo pilot sans shotgun. And, of course, for those nostalgic folk like me, it is a great diary of the trip and pit stops.

If you are not a AAA member now, if not for the free towing and unlocking services, the *free* TripTik alone is worth joining!

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26 was a defining and adventurous year for Julie Williams, a Portland, Ore.-based communications consultant.

This blog chronicles Julie's crossing of the quarter-life threshold and coming of age on her solo road trip across seven Western states from Aug.-Sept. 2008.

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