A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: mormolyke

Trial Run 3

In which we are thrown out of a Walmart lot.

sunny 65 °F

Less than four weeks to go now until we leave for the big journey. The end of my semester is approaching, with its requisite deadlines and procrastinated workload, so this may be the last time we do a sleepover test run in the Magnum.

On Saturday, we were in Central PA for our friend Tony's birthday, and since there are far more state parks out that way than there are closer to Philly, we decided we wanted to stay overnight. Unfortunately, all of their campgrounds aren't open until the second weekend of April, so we had to seek other options. Was it finally time to try boondocking in a Walmart parking lot?

Also unfortunate: neither of the York Walmarts allow overnight parking. But we decided to try and see what happened. Worst case scenario, they would just kick us out, right?

They did. After about two hours, at one in the morning, we heard a sharp rap on the window, and a mall cop told us to clear out. ("There's a Holiday Inn around the corner." Uh, yeah, not really the point.) I suppose she was alerted to our unconscious presence, despite the sun shades we use to block the windows, by the rivers of condensation on the panes. We finally found a spot in another strip mall where a few other cars and at least one truck were also boondocking, and slept undisturbed until daybreak.

We spent most of Easter Sunday at Gifford Pinchot. It's quite pretty.


Other things we tested out:

The Cooking Rig

The Cooking Rig

The MiFi wireless internet. Hooray, I can surf the web on my laptop in a forest.

The MiFi wireless internet. Hooray, I can surf the web on my laptop in a forest.

Posted by mormolyke 18:53 Archived in USA Tagged planning gifford_pinchot Comments (3)

Trial Run 2

Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge

overcast 53 °F

Matt and I took another test run of our sleeping cabin on wheels this weekend, with a trip down to Delaware. Initially we were hoping to see NASA fire some rockets, but it became clear on the way down that thick mists had rapidly descended, and I began to worry there would be nothing to see at all even after we woke this morning.

Fear not. We always find something to see. True, visibility was so low that we couldn't see the ocean, but on the way back up the coast, "Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge" caught our eye, and we ventured in to take a look.


Prime Hook scenery

Prime Hook scenery

Heron at Prime Hook

Heron at Prime Hook

Every misty cloud has a silver lining.

Posted by mormolyke 21:34 Archived in USA Tagged birds planning delaware Comments (0)

Solar Eclipse May 20!

OMG I am accidentally a genius

View Roadtrop on mormolyke's travel map.

I was idly browsing the National Park Service website this evening, as one does when one is obsessed with planning a giant roadtrop, when I stumbled over this page:


Ohhh, holy moly! How is it possible that I did not realize that, on the same trip during which we are visiting not one but two Space Centers, and for which I have purchased the first telescope I've had since I was a kid (an Orion SkyScanner I nabbed on eBay), there is a beautiful solar eclipse occurring? Imagine my ecstasy when I realized that we are going to be in *exactly* the right place at *exactly* the right time (if we pace ourselves)!


On May 20, we will be traveling through Arizona from New Mexico to Utah, and in the early evening, we will be somewhere around Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The annular eclipse begins at 6:30PM. Perfect.

I just picked up some Mylar to make my own solar filter. We already have a T-ring attachment for Matt's T2i, so expect lots of pictures.

Posted by mormolyke 19:52 Tagged eclipse planning canyon_de_chelly Comments (2)

States we're hitting

Because I like lists

Lists are fun. For example, I have a packing list that I've been working on obsessively for literally months now.

Today I felt curious about how many states we'll be driving through on the roadtrop. So I compiled a list.

  1. Pennsylvania
  2. Delaware
  3. Maryland
  4. Virginia
  5. North Carolina
  6. Tennessee
  7. Georgia
  8. Florida
  9. Alabama
  10. Mississippi
  11. Louisiana
  12. Texas
  13. New Mexico
  14. Arizona (twice)
  15. Utah
  16. Nevada (twice)
  17. California
  18. Idaho
  19. Wyoming
  20. South Dakota
  21. Minnesota
  22. Wisconsin
  23. Illinois
  24. Indiana
  25. Ohio
And back home to PA.

Only 25 states! For a five-week tour I was expecting the number to be higher. Then again, that's an average of only 1.4 days in each state. Damn, I guess I moved to a big country.

Posted by mormolyke 13:10 Tagged planning Comments (0)


View Roadtrop on mormolyke's travel map.

T minus ten weeks today! Preparation is going very well. I have now ascertained that we'll be able to take the roof rack off the Magnum, since all our luggage will fit easily under the bed; this will probably save us a couple hundred bucks in gas thanks to reduced drag, believe it or not.

I am experimenting with having a pixie cut so that I won't have to brush my hair on the road, but it turns out, no, my hair needs brushing no matter what. It's very fine, and there's a lot of it. Too much of it; it always takes twice as long as the typical customer for me to have it cut. I kind of adore having super short hair, though. I might just settle for wearing spiffy hats in the morning to tame the bedhead.

One of my developing concerns about this roadtrop is bears. Stephen Colbert knows what he's talking about. Bear in mind (bears on mind) I grew up in Australia, where there are no large predators out in the bush, unless you are a baby and count dingoes (I'm going to hell, by the way). It's astounding to me that Americans become hysterical about our spiders and snakes when in this country, there are BLOODY GREAT BIG THINGS WITH TEETH AND CLAWS THAT EAT YOU. Hello. Also, you have plants that cause people to break out in hives just by touching them, and they're everywhere, what's up with that?

Anyway, back to bears. My own hysteria was awakened after I bought and read Yellowstone Trails: A Hiking Guide.

At the very start of the book, the authors launch into what seems to me a huge section dealing with the threat of bears, which contains such sage advice as "Bears are unpredictable. Avoid meeting one in the backcountry." I understand that there are crazy people in the world who might actually seek out a bear instead of avoiding them (see: my favorite documentary, Grizzly Man), but to me this is kind of like getting a horoscope that says "Avoid making mistakes today." Here's where things get really interesting, though:

Leave your pack on. Lie on your stomach. Interlock your fingers over the back of you neck and bring your elbows up to cover your face. You pack offers protection for you back, leaving only your buttocks and legs exposed. The bear may bite and scratch you, but you must remain still and silent. This sounds incredibly difficult, but many "ordinary" people have done it. People who have played dead and been bitten and scratched by grizzlies have told me that they weren't aware of any pain during the attack. Once the bear leaves you, don't move, as the bear may be watching you from a short ways off, looking for signs of life. Continue listening, and only move when you are sure the bear has left the area.

So, apparently if you are being eaten by a bear, you should do everything you can to squash your survival instincts. Let the bear have a bit of a nibble. Whatever, you didn't need that buttock anyway. Oh yeah, if the bear is eating the person you love most in the world next to you, just, you know, just lie still and don't say anything. Easy. His body will be in such an extreme state of shock that he's not feeling anything anyway, so just let it be. Bleeding to death? Wait until the bear leaves. That might be a while. Oops, you're dead. Easy.

But before you think that maybe bears aren't so bad - they are just enforcing the rules in some bizarre Mother Nature-adjudicated game of Sleeping Lions - read on:

If the bear enters the camping area while you are asleep and pulls you or one of your party out of the tent, this is the time to fight back. Do not play dead in this situation. This is one of those extremely rare situations that have occurred periodically in Yellowstone and other areas in bear country. The person being attacked usually isn't capable of resisting the bear, so it is up to the rest of the group to distract or deter the bear. I would definitely use my pepper spray. This is a volatile stituation and everyone is in danger of being injured, bit without help, the person being dragged off will almost certainly be killed.

Well, shit. I am not sleeping in the woods. Nope. And I may need to take a Valium before hiking anywhere. And I'm buying some bear spray and an airhorn and a little bell, and maybe some tactical weapons and full plate armor. And maybe I should take up bear blasting.

See, I'm sure some Americans work themselves up into similar froths about our spiders and snakes. The thing is, I can kill a spider with my foot or a quick squirt of fly spray. Snakes bite once, usually out of fear, and then they generally fuck off into the undergrowth so you can immediately tourniquet your wound and head off to a hospital. They certainly don't sit around a couple dozen yards off waiting for you to try to move so they can attack you again.



This is still not dampening my enthusiasm for this trip. I'm just taking into account the fact that I might be eaten by a bear, that's all.

Posted by mormolyke 12:06 Tagged planning yellowstone Comments (0)

Retrofitting a bed into the back of our Magnum, part 2

I bought a new four-inch foam mattress for $80 on eBay. I was thinking about sourcing one secondhand on Craigslist, but then recalled a very unfortunate incident involving bedbugs that occurred when we went to Egypt in 2010. Just thinking about it still makes me crazy. With the help of a cheap electric carving knife, we cut the foam down to size (39"x71").

Remains of the foam mattress

Remains of the foam mattress

Foam is kind of gross to sleep on by itself, so I pulled out some upholstery material I have lying around that I can't even remember buying (it must have been an awesome deal, because it's horribly seventies-licious and I have a LOT of it; I think we used it as a drop cloth in Downingtown at some point) and whipped up a cover today. I wanted to be able to take the cover off to wash, but I didn't have a giganto zipper, so I made do with some of my corsetry supplies.


I was pretty excited to install the finished product in the Magnum, especially since it's a gorgeous day which doesn't even warrant the use of a sweater, let alone a coat.


Here it is with just the sheets:


And here with the double-sized beach towel I found at a bargain price, multi-purposed as a blanket. I love terry cloth blankets -- they're mostly a Chinese thing, and I grew up with them -- but they're next to impossible to find in America, so I have to make do with gaudy branded creations marked down on sale.

Magnum bed by Lacoste (not really)

Magnum bed by Lacoste (not really)


Posted by mormolyke 10:30 Archived in USA Tagged planning Comments (2)

Childcraft Vol. 3: World and Space

I quite like designing things, but I am hamstrung by the fact that I can't draw.

Something I have turned to frequently for design inspiration of late is the 1970 edition of the Childcraft encyclopedia -- the edition with which I grew up. My set disappeared sometime after I moved out of home, but I recently found the same edition in pristine condition (N.B. correct usage of "pristine") on eBay and bought them for nostalgia's sake. I was not disappointed; I remember every page so well, especially the amazing illustrations and graphic design, that flipping through the volumes is an exercise in goosebumps.

How to use a road map

How to use a road map

Aside from the design of this blog, it's impossible to estimate how much of an effect these books had on my life. I read about Mozart and Gandhi and Benjamin Franklin for the first time in a Childcraft encyclopedia. I learned to recite nearly all of the first volume's poems in my early speech and drama lessons. I used to wish I lived in America because so much of the content was US-centric (mostly I wanted to track rabbit, deer, and foxes because Australian animals just seemed so boring).

I hope some of my friends with kids get sets of these for their own children. I know kids have the Internet et cetera now, but there is something wonderful about the permanence of these books. Maybe the best part about reading through them now as an adult is revisiting all the completely outdated information. Sounds syrupy, but it not only pushes all my nostalgia buttons, but makes me feel good about the world to see how far we've progressed.

Posted by mormolyke 16:54 Tagged blog Comments (2)

Our Magnum on IKEAHackers

Following a suggestion in the comments of the below blog entry, I submitted our bed-in-a-Magnum to IKEAhackers, and they just published it:



Posted by mormolyke 14:49 Tagged planning Comments (0)

Accommodation in New Orleans

Celebrating double digits

View Roadtrop on mormolyke's travel map.

In April 2002, Matt and I roadtripped to New Orleans together, after two years of ICQ conversation, and a week after meeting in person for the first time. And we fell in love.

It has been ten years since then. TEN YEARS! Or at least, it will have been, by the time we start our latest roadtrip.

In case you can't tell, this is UTTERLY ASTOUNDING to me.

I just sent an e-mail to the reservations dude at the very hostel where we stayed in 2002:

Hi Steve,

Yes, I would love to reserve a private room for May 14 – one thing, though – would you mind taking a look at the attached photos? If it is possible for you to identify the private room at Marquette House in which they was taken, and if it happens to be available, we would love to book that particular room. (Long story short: ten years ago, my husband and I fell in love in that very room and we’re coming back for our anniversary!) If it’s not available or you can’t tell which room it is, not to worry, we’re still happy to reserve another room, but we thought it was worth a try for nostalgia’s sake!

Marquette House, April 15, 2002

Marquette House, April 15, 2002

Marquette House, April 17, 2002

Marquette House, April 17, 2002

Crossing my fingers ... so many memories! Best roadtrip ever. (Except for the upcoming one.)

Posted by mormolyke 23:54 Tagged new_orleans planning Comments (2)

Tweaking stops to dig for dinosaurs

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A couple of days ago, I made a fairly major change to our trip plans, deciding we should leave Yellowstone a day early to make our way to Thermopolis. Initially, I was attracted by the idea of swimming in hot springs, but then I realized Thermopolis has a bigger draw. A much bigger draw.

Wyoming Dinosaur Center's Dig for a Day program allows Matt and I to go on an actual dinosaur dig. And dig. For dinosaurs. It is kind of expensive, but my god, this is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

From the brochure we were sent when we booked:

Dig For Dinosaurs!
Join us for a Real Jurassic Adventure

High in the ancient rolling mountains above the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming, at the northern end of the Wind River Canyon, the bones of dinosaurs have lain buried in layers of rock for millions of years. It was not until 1993 that fossil hunters discovered that the bones weathering out of the mountainsides were actually fossilized dinosaur bones. Since that first discovery, over 40 sites have been found in a thick mudstone layer known as the Morrison Formation, dating from the Jurassic period (208-145 million years ago). This area, now named the Warm Springs Ranch dig sites, is actively worked by The Wyoming Dinosaur Center.

Dig with us!

If you’re looking for a “real-life adventure,” join us on the dig site hunting for dinosaur bones. Our Dig-for-a-Day program appeals to all ages, from young children to active senior citizens. Participants dig in the bone bed, where leg bones, tailbones, ribs and claws have been found. Individuals (ages 18 and over) and families are welcome. A parent or legal guardian must accompany small children and young people under age 18.

You should be in good physical health. The hill can be strenuous. Our climate is dry; the dig sites are about 4,500 feet above sea level; and it is easy to feel the effects of the sun at that altitude. Not to worry though – your are not alone. Our staff will be on-hand to answer questions and to help at all times.

What we have unearthed so far

Wyoming Dinosaur Center workers have removed more than 10,000 bones from the excavation sites. Most fossils are from long-necked sauropods (camarasaur, diplodocus, camptosaur, apatosaur). The ranch dig sites include a ‘bone bed,’ formed by an ancient stream that washed bones together in the channel of the river and then buried them in the silt. Another site, currently being expanded, appears to be a feeding site for the meat-eating Allosaur.

If you find a dinosaur bone…

If you find fossils, they will remain at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. They are your contribution to science. Your name, the bone and location will be recorded in our bone registry for all to see! The information and fossils you gather will be used to help our scientific studies. Of course we cannot guarantee you will find a fossil, but even if you do not, you have helped scientists learn more about the site itself.

What to expect

A brief orientation begins at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center at 8 am on the day of the dig. We will introduce you to local geology and paleontology as well as digging techniques and data collection procedures. Transportation to the site leaves about 8:30 a.m. A sack lunch is provided at the dig site.

If you find a dinosaur fossil, technicians will show you how to preserve it while you are working and how to document your find.

Equipment is checked in about 4:20 p.m. The van leaves the dig sites for the Center at 4:30 p.m. You will be back at the museum before 5 p.m. (However, the van leaves the dig site every hour, so you may leave any time during the day if you wish.)

If you arrive the evening before your dig, stop by the museum. We’ll be glad to visit with you about the dig, and you can tour the museum and see technicians at work on bones from the dig sites.

Posted by mormolyke 08:58 Tagged planning Comments (0)

Red foxes diving for mice in Yellowstone

I will see this in real life, right? Right?

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My obsession with this trip has affected my television watching habits. I am one of those strange people who likes to have a TV on constantly in the background whenever I'm doing what might be classified as menial work, like grading assignments or answering e-mails or cleaning the house. Or writing blog entries. Usually I subsist on a diet almost completely made up of police procedurals, but recently travel documentaries have been on the menu, particularly programs about places we'll be visiting on the trop.

So far, my favorite has been BBC Earth's Yellowstone: Battle for Life, narrated by the velvety voiced Peter Firth of MI-5/Spooks. Unbeknownst to me, I had actually watched clips from this documentary before, when they showed up on poeTV. This one makes my heart ache indescribably:

Posted by mormolyke 07:26 Tagged planning Comments (0)

Retrofitting a bed into the back of our Magnum

As Matt reported on the LX forums:

For a few years, my wife and I have been talking about doing a big road trip across the US. Last October, to help move this along, I drove down to Antwerpen MD where I picked up a 2007 Magnum SXT with 50,000 miles and a comfort package. In the year leading up to that, we had narrowed down our road trip vehicles to either a Honda Element or a Dodge Magnum - the Magnum won out because I can fully lay down in the back of a Magnum.

For the last year, we've been driving it as our main car while we finished renovating our house, but the house is done, and now our focus is shifting to the road trip.

I'll probably go into the details about where we're going (it's a five week drive starting & ending in Philadelphia), but the main reason I'm starting a thread here is because we're modifying the crap out of the car for the trip. So yesterday, we removed the rear seats, and today, we discovered that a cheap Ikea bed frame I had fits nearly perfectly into the back of the car. We had to cut a few inches off the length, and repurposed the headboard into support struts.

So, enough jibba-jabba, here are some pics of day 1 of the process.

sAWo7l.jpg yNNY7l.jpg

After we made sure it fit, we cut up the bed frame and added a hinge, for battery & tire access.


I am so happy about how well those Ikea slats fit in the back, with only a little modification to the frame. I was originally planning on something a little less comfortable, but this is a *real bed*, which will certainly make for sweeter dreams on all those Walmart parking lot overnight stops I have planned. And while it's a small space for two, Matt and I have slept on a twin before many times (aw, it reminds me of our early years) - and wedged in a car thus, it's impossible for one of us to accidentally push the other off the edge of the bed.

Plus, while it cuts down on headroom, the higher elevation of the bed gives us more storage room underneath. I think my plan to forego the cartop carrier (and remove the roof rack) might be successful, which would probably save us about $200 in gas thanks to increased streamlining.

Later this week, a 4" foam mattress I picked up for $80 new on eBay should be arriving. I'll cover it in upholstery fabric, throw on some fitted jersey sheets, and it'll be perfect. I'm so excited, I want to start sleeping in it NOW.

Posted by mormolyke 14:42 Tagged planning Comments (3)


Incidentally, you might be wondering why we're calling it a roadtrop. It's a typo I kept making, and it stuck. Plus, we bought the domain.

We tend to do that. A couple of years ago, we bought a rolling toolbox whose label claimed that the compartments would snape shut. We use snape as a verb all the time as a result.

Posted by mormolyke 21:07 Comments (0)

Four months to go

Watch me blow my entire winter break on planning of the Roadtrop

25 °F

I need a vacation.

I really need one.

You can tell because despite the fact I have way too much to do, I am spending the majority of my time meticulously researching and planning stops on our Great American Roadtrop. Which is not until May.

But as it turns out, it is fortuitous that I've been dreaming about the trip early. We would like to camp in Yosemite, for example, which apparently takes reservations five months in advance. The dates we want open for reservations on January 15, and according to the interwebs, they sell out in ten minutes. Yow. Worse, the reservations are actually scalped on Craigslist afterward, by utter bastards who no doubt are responsible for the insane early demand. Thank god I am aware that I need to prepare to be on the web/phone that morning in order to curtail scalpers' profits. At least I'll have practice from all those years of trying to score rock show tickets. If only there were somewhere to camp out for camp reservations.

Meanwhile, I am drooling at the thought of packing, and of modifying our car for use as sleeping quarters. I have so many ideas. I actually bought an electric knife to cut a foam mattress to size to fit in the back of the Magnum, and I plan to construct some sort of storage system in there for important items. If I manage to organize it well enough, maybe we won't even need the car-top carrier, especially if we remove the back seats completely. Also researching making my own privacy panels out of Reflectix for the windows.

But it's too cold for long-term work in the driveway.

Mind you, I just found out yesterday that Yellowstone will likely be as cold as it is in Philly now when we're there at the end of May. Neither of us had any idea. We'll need crazy cold weather clothing, which probably means the car-top carrier is coming after all...

Posted by mormolyke 23:53 Archived in USA Tagged planning Comments (0)

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