A Solo Trip West
By Alex Hardgrave \
5 States, 3 Weeks, 1 Woman. Just me and a Cricket Overland.
Earlier this year I took a solo road trip from our current home base outside of Austin, TX to Kanab, UT. I’d traveled alone before and it wasn’t something I was uncomfortable with, but I’d never been on a solo trip quite like this.
“Never have I ever…”
- Driven this far
- Towed a trailer solo
- Towed a trailer with a lock n roll hitch
- Had to hitch, unhitch, back up, or set up/break camp on my own
- Empty a gray tank
- Figure out how to set up a cassette toilet
- And many other small things that accumulated over the course of the trip
As you can probably gather, my lovely and amazing wife, Ally, did most of the practical stuff for our family when we traveled. While I understood the basics, knew where things were, knew how they functioned (more or less), and even got the chance to tow our Mantis for like 30 minutes (Ally gets car sick, so prefers being behind the wheel), I was obviously not a seasoned pro. Luckily for me, I’m too proud to ask for help, so I end up learning pretty quickly.
For my trip, I had one destination in mind: Kanab, UT. Having traveled there last Fall, I already knew the area, but even more than that, it was a magical place that held so many good memories for me. So when it came to planning where to go, it was a pretty easy choice. It also meant that among all the new challenges, there would be something familiar, too.
To make the trip there less stressful, I relied on places we stayed previously that were safe and easy to access.
Leaving the Texas Hill Country, my first stop would be Fort Stockton RV Park in Fort Stockton, TX. It’s about a 5-hour drive and having left at the tail end of the “snowpocalypse”, it was going to take me even longer.
📌 Pro-tip: when mapping out a road trip, figure out what your max drive time per day can be and make sure to not exceed that amount. For our family, 7 hours is our max amount of driving for a single day, but 5 hours is preferable, especially with the kids + cats. For just me, I estimated my max would be around the 8-hour mark. Once you know what that number is, you can start figuring out how many stops you’ll need to make to get to your destination and build in adequate travel days. Going over your max will not only leave you feeling exhausted, but it can also make for a rough start to any road trip.
Fort Stockton RV Park is a great, medium-sized RV park that had all of the essentials we look for: showers/bathrooms, Wifi, and safety. For a solo female traveler, safety is my number one priority, and finding suitable places to park overnight wasn’t something I was willing to take off my “never have I ever” list.
From Fort Stockton, I was heading to an RV park just outside of Albuquerque, NM. It would be my longest travel day, clocking in at just under 8 hours. I chose to take a longer route through El Paso, TX instead of the most direct route. Partially because we had driven this way before, but mostly because it kept me on a major highway (I-10) the whole way. I knew there would be more opportunities for places to stop for gas than if I took a route on smaller state highways.
📌 Pro-tip: mapping your stops for food & gas should be considered ahead of time instead of just winging it. Taking the longer route, as I did, may provide more options and ease the stress of trying to find a gas station out in the boonies.
🌮 Pro-pro-tip: El Paso, TX is home to several Taco Tote restaurants. You can thank me later.
Before making it to the park, I made a few stops in ABQ and because of how compact Cricket is, I was able to park in standard-size parking spaces and not have to worry about finding somewhere to park and hoof it to wherever I needed to go.
After spending a little too much time (and money) in the downtown Target, I headed to my place for the night, Route 66 RV Park; another park we visited on our last trip that checked the same boxes as the night before and then some. This park is new, really well maintained, has great facilities, and if you like gambling, it’s within walking distance to a huge casino. They also have excellent security: the entrance is gated at night and the park is patrolled by security.
After a good night’s rest, I was headed to my next destination: Dark Sky RV Campground, aka my happy place. This little slice of heaven in Kanab, UT was my home base for the next 3 weeks. I could honestly write an entire book on how amazing this place is, but to sum it up: it’s the perfect mix of modern campground conveniences (hookups, laundry, fiber Wifi, and bathhouses), privacy (75 feet between you and your neighbor), and location (a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts).
Over the next few weeks, I had loose ideas of what I wanted to do, but I also allowed my type-A self to go with the flow. Here are the highlights of my time in southern Utah, northern Arizona, and a little sliver of Nevada:
- Met up with friends for good food, rock climbing, and casinos in Mesquite, NV
- Rocking climbed & prepped for our rappel in La Verkin, UT
- Hiked Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, UT
- Rappeled ~1,200 ft on Moonlight Buttress in Zion National Park, UT
- Camped in my Tepui Ayer 2P roof-top tent in Zion National Park, UT
- Hiked Queens Garden & Navajo Loop in Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
- Rented a Roxor from Dark Sky and off-roaded through Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, AZ
- Took in the Mars-like landscape at White Pocket in AZ
- Hiked Cathedral Rock in Sedona, AZ
- Got stuck (like on the side of a Forest Road alone kinda stuck) in a snowstorm in the Coconino National Forest, AZ
📌 Pro-tip: if you’re looking to hike Cathedral Rock in Sedona and will have your habitat in tow, be aware that parking is limited and you’ll be extremely hard-pressed to find parking for you + your trailer. Cricket Overland is as nimble as they come (found that out real quick when I tried to make fetch happen and had to wiggle out of a tight spot), but this hike is very popular, so the lot fills up quick. When I visited, a church at the roundabout allowed for overflow parking so I could drop Cricket off and head back to the trailhead. As of May 2021, they are no longer allowed to have trailhead parking, so be sure to look up other parking options.
As you can probably gather, I kept busy. I actually only ended up taking 2 days off from work for the whole trip, one of which was a drive day. So even though I was able to experience so many things, I still feel like it’s doable for traveling adventurers who also work full-time.
Depending on where your starting point is and your own interests, there are several other gems along the way that I feel warrant an honorable mention!
- Franklin Mountains State Park, TX
- White Sands National Park, NM
- Roswell, NM
- Petrified Forest National Park, AZ
- Horseshoe Bend, AZ
- Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
Solo travel: What to Know
Interested in traveling solo? Not sure what to bring? Let me help!
Solo travel can be a truly amazing experience, but it can also be risky. Having to rely solely on yourself and your gear is pretty daunting. But with some solid packing, smart thinking, and self-awareness, it’s so much fun.
I recently did a post on how I pack, so I won’t go into full detail here, but feel free to check it out! For this trip, I did take extra care to have the tools and gear that made me feel most secure.
Essentials for my solo travel:
- My shelter, my bed, my kitchen, my living room, my office, my gear storage, and everything in between
Garmin inReach Mini
- Definitely pricey, but the security this little guy provided is unmatched
- Off-grid 2-way messaging, SOS feature, and tracking all gave me that safety net knowing I could still be in contact with loved ones and help was only a button away
- Be sure to check local/state laws and only carry what you’re comfortable using
- It sure is nice to know that if you miscalculated and run out of gas that you can quickly get some more fuel in the tank to get you to the next stop
Portable cassette toilet
- I’m sure you’re wondering why a toilet is on my essentials list, but here’s why: not having to get out of Cricket in the middle of the night alone
- Having traveled on my own before, I’m extra cautious of providing opportunities for me to be caught off-guard (and definitely not with my pants down)
Filtered drinking water
Simple, convenient, and just makes good sense. Especially when dry-camping
- What I use in Cricket: Travel Berkey
- What I carry in my go-bag: Gravity water filtration system
- Simple, convenient, and just makes good sense. Especially when dry-camping
A few staples in my pack:
- First aid kit
- Nuun Sport tablets for hydration & protein bars
- Water bladder or bottle
My last tip for solo travel is to be sure you’re confident with your gear and your habitat. Take the time to practice how to fill your fresh water tank, how to back up the trailer, and how to properly stabilize it before you just wing it (take my advice). Get familiar with the gear you will be relying on and know how to use them when you need them. I got myself into some really dicey (potentially dangerous) situations on my trip, but knowing that I had my essentials (food, water, shelter, and protection) helped keep me calm. When you can only rely on yourself, you’re forced to just figure it out, but don’t make it harder than necessary.
As always, I hope you find some helpful information that you can use in your future travels! Be sure to reach out on Instagram with questions.
— Alex Hardgrave