Travel

I live in Denver. My family lives in Ohio. My best friends live all over the country and I have a job that requires moderate travel. Needless to say, I rack up a LOT of frequent flier miles and hotel points.

Here you can find highlights from my personal and work travels.

Personal Travel

Work Travel

And below, you will find all Travel posts!

CarMax for Car Shopping

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of CarMax. All opinions are 100% mine.

Almost 6 years ago, I stuffed my post-college life into the back of a 1998 Ford Contour, affectionately named Connie, and set my Garmin GPS for Denver. And for the better part of those six years, Connie has been my go-to gal! We’ve driven through mountains, across the country to visit family in Cincinnati, to the US/Canada border to canoe through the Boundary Waters, around Utah and Colorado on ‘Coloradocation’. We’ve trekked to Keystone and A-Basin to ski, skis and snowboards delicately stuffed inside the car. We’ve spent so many hours of commuting together, jamming out to our favorite songs while we battle rush hour traffic.

Moving day! So long, Cincinnati.

Moving day! So long, Cincinnati.

Sleeping at the trailhead in the tiny Contour

Sleeping at the trailhead in the tiny Contour

Bound for the Boundary Waters, MN

Bound for the Boundary Waters, MN

In recent years, though, Connie’s been showing her age and Alex and I have started talking about what happens in the coming year(s) when we have to officially acknowledge that it’s time to replace my beloved Contour.

When we bought our Outback, Alex spent a lot (a LOT) of time researching cars, reviewing trim details and negotiating price via email with dealers. We knew we wanted a new-to-us, gently used car so we visited multiple dealers, drove multiple cars and, ultimately, found OsCar the Outback in Pueblo. While we’re very happy with the car, the car buying process was tedious and draining.

An option we’ve been looking into is shopping at CarMax. One of the two Denver locations is just a mile down the road from a Subaru dealership we visited a couple of times for test driving. Last year, it wasn’t on our radar when car shopping but this time, the hassle-free car buying process is very attractive to us!

Carmaxsmaller

Because CarMax entered the used car business to combat a perceived lack of integrity with the used car buying process, the CarMax mission is to provide transparent and honest experiences for the consumer. CarMax also offers low, up-front prices so there’s less need to negotiate (my least favorite part!) and their sales team is paid the same commission, no matter what car you buy – so there’s incentive for to sell you the RIGHT car and not upsell to a car that will bring in more commission.

So whether we’re living in Denver or somewhere else, we’ll be looking at CarMax - with 2 Denver locations and more than 140 nationwide – as an option when it’s time to replace Connie Contour. I mean, a streamlined, no-hassle, transparent car buying process? Sign me up!

Visit Sponsor's Site

Road Trippin’ Through The Southwest

When I knew I might be facing a job change, I also knew two other things: I was going to make sure I took a week off in between and I was going to do something BIG. I considered buying a plane ticket to visit my sister who moved to Las Vegas last year…but then realized it was definitely driveable. And driving would be so much more interesting!

I recruited my brother to join me on my adventure; I Google Mapped out a route that would take us through Moab/Arches National Park, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon National Park and Mesa Verde National Park, so many places I’ve been dreaming about visiting! We planned to car camp when we weren’t in Vegas, see as much as we could and soak it all in.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT

We left on a Friday evening, just barely escaping the evening rush hour traffic, and found ourselves at Colorado National Monument late Friday night. Crossing our fingers, we tried the campground on the monument, Saddlehorn Campground, and to our delight, found many open campsites. We parked, pulled out our sleeping bags and slept under the stars.

And then we woke up to find ourselves surrounded by this.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

It was incredible! We spent as much time as we could exploring our immediate vicinity before it was time to hit the road. We wanted to stop at Arches National Park before parking in Vegas that evening.

ARCHES NATIONAL PARK

A few hours west, we rolled into Arches National Park and hiked the Devil’s Garden / Primitive Trail. A short, relatively easy trek, we climbed up some rocks to take in the view.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

After about an hour and a half though, in the midday heat, we climbed back in the car and drove south a few miles to Moab for gas and lunch before hitting the highway again.

Throughout this whole trip, we spent a lot of time driving in the car but DAMN was it beautiful! We hardly minded the long hours because there was so much to look at.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

We finally pulled into my sister’s apartment late Saturday night. We filled our bellies, caught up with my sister and her boyfriend and new pets and hit the sack. We had exploring to do in the morning!

VEGAS

We had all Sunday with Trisha in Vegas – we’d planned to leave for our next leg on Monday morning – so we packed in as many Vegas things as possible into one day. Upon waking up, we slathered on sunscreen and headed out to Trisha’s favorite trail just outside Vegas city limits.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

We hit the Eagle’s Nest Trail in Kyle Canyon for a toasty 3ish mile hike. It was really awesome to see a different side of Las Vegas – the glitz and glamour are all well and fine but hiking and an active lifestyle? Not something that jumps to your mind when you think about Vegas.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

After hike, it was time for a cool down…what else do you do on ‘Sunday Funday’ in Las Vegas than drink margaritas in a pool? So we did exactly that.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

That night, we ate dinner on the strip and celebrated the eve of my sister’s first day teaching at a new school. If you’re gonna do Vegas in 24 hours, call my sister. She’ll show you the spots!

On Monday morning, we stopped by my sister’s new school on the way outta town. It’s hard to believe my younger sister is old enough to be teaching high schoolers but she is!

Mid-Monday morning, we began our trek to Grand Canyon National Park!!! We back-tracked a bit (drove north from Vegas back up to St. George, UT before heading east) but made great time. As we drove east across Northern Arizona, we watched a spectacular thunderstorm drench the valley around us. The lightning was incredible.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

Chris insisted on pausing to watch the storm (I wanted to ‘out run’ it and keep driving – look at that radar!!). He was behind the wheel so we stopped to watch for a while.

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK

It remained rainy and gray the rest of the drive and we feared we wouldn’t be able to see much at the Grand Canyon. Fortunately, we were able to wait out the rain and as the clouds blew over, we were treated to very cool, moody Grand Canyon view.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

(quite possibly my most favorite photo – Chris matches the Grand Canyon.)Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

As the sun lowered in the sky, we set out to find a campsite for the evening. Grand Canyon campsites fill up the minute online reservations are open (6 months ahead of the date) so we drove 12 miles back out to a forest service road just before reaching De Motte Campground. Alarms set for 5 a.m., we planned to hit Bright Angel trail again for sunrise.

Unfortunately, the time change screwed us up and when we pulled into the park in utter darkness, we realized Arizona (and the Grand Canyon) were on Arizona time, not Mountain Time. Whoops. We were an hour early. Instead, we posted up in a parking lot and napped for an hour, waking just before a cloudy sunrise. Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

Sunrise was tranquil and beautiful, even with the heavy cloud cover. Knowing we had a big day of driving ahead of us, we sought out (way overpriced) coffee, mailed our postcards and hit the road. This time, bound for Colorado/Utah/Arizona/New Mexico!

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

After a quick stop at the Four Corners (which charges $5 a person to get in, by the way), it was on to Colorado and Mesa Verde National Park!

MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK

Chris and I arrived at Mesa Verde early enough to pick a campsite and drive out to the two site we wanted to see, Spruce Tree House and Cliff Palace. Spruce Tree House is the best preserved site at Mesa Verde and offers self guided tours so we did that first. We then drove over to Cliff Palace, expecting to just look from afar as we hadn’t bought guided tour tickets. Amazingly, Chris was able to talk us into a smaller-than-normal tour (don’t worry, we bought tickets after the fact) and we spent more than an hour listening to the best tour guide in all of Mesa Verde tell us about the history of the Ancient Pueblo people.
Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

Seriously, Ranger Arragon (not sure of the spelling) at Mesa Verde is phenomenal – if you find yourself at Mesa Verde  and can request him, do it.

We camped out at Mesa Verde that night and warmed up next to a campfire. As we were turning in for the night, we listened to a pack of coyotes howl and yip in a nearby canyon; in that moment, I felt like, YES. THIS is where I need to be. In this moment. In this place. In this experience.

The campground had posted signs for a pancake breakfast and Chris and I had no intention of missing it on Wednesday morning.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

Absolutely the bomb. Three giant, fluffy pancakes and turkey sausage for the WIN.

Back in the car after breakfast, we pointed our wheels east and north to return to Denver by Wednesday night.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

About halfway to Denver, we were stopped on 285 for the USA Pro Challenge bike race. Every possible route through the town of Salida was closed for an hour so Chris and I parked on a side street to watch the bikers fly through town. Just minutes after parking, the leader group sprinted past us.


Definitely not an expected experience on our trip but it was really neat to cheer on these badass bikers as they raced toward the end of their 96 mile day.

Soon after, the town and roads opened back up and we were on our way back home.

A few hours later, I was back in my apartment, exhausted but so content. The trip was a whirlwind of activity but is definitely a favorite memory already. I can’t wait to get back out to each of the national parks we visited again to truly experience it – we could have easily spent 5 days at each park! There was so much more to see that we just didn’t have time to see or do. Next time!

Ironically, I spent my final days of ‘funemployment’ recovering from my trip – I was so wiped out! Lots of sleeping, lots of alone time, lots of puppy snuggles put me in the right spot to start fresh at work on Monday.

tl;dr had a blast road tripping; saw 4 national parks, 4 states and covered 1800+ miles in 5 days.