Highway Miles - Lander, WY


Active member
Apr 9, 2022
sometimes you get fed up with life and need to check out for a bit, this story started last year over the 4th of july. i was working another holiday and was over it. went in on monday and submitted my request for 2 weeks off. throughout the year i knew that i was going to create waves but again i was over it. through a series of events i ended up leaving that job in mid june, was at the new job a week and then off two weeks. based on my rough calculations i had accrued about 240hrs of vacation in my 3.5yrs, my last check showed 205.3hrs of vacation. easily 75% of the time off was to take of care of mijos in one way or another, so to say i was burned out was an understatement.

so after consulting my fake internet friends on www.irate4x4.com (spin off of pirate4x4 after the VS syrup suckers bought it and covered it in ads) on where to spend the 4th other than socal and within a 1,000 miles. after looking through the suggestions Lander, WY was the winner. wife is from ventura so the 2-4hr trip depending on traffic from riverside happens on the regular, but 6-8hrs (planned which did not happen) was going to be a whole new experience for the mijos (7, 5, 4)

quick and dirty route - staying off interstates as much as possible
riverside - lake panguitch campground north, ut - flaming river gorge lurcerne campground, ut - lander, wy - carbondale, co - kanab, ut - zion NP, st. george, ut - riverside

trip prep

tires - couple of stripped studs (ended up replacing 2 on the rear, 2 on the front) to start that party, thankfully you can change front and rear studs without pulling axles/unit bearings on the gmt-800 platform


the plan was 10 days on the road, there was no way i was chancing it with a cooler of water logged food. so many meals in my single days ruined with a container getting a hole in it. so after years saying im going get one, i bit the bullet and got a 12v fridge. buddy has a 55 litre arb and says its a little small for his family of 4. like most things right now trying to find a fridge was a PITA. was hoping for a snomaster since they come with all the accessories youd want (cover, cables, bluetooth) and also have a low profile line to keep things from being too tall. due to availability and some internet reviews i went with a dometic 75dz after some didign i went dual zone to allow for less opening and closing. the 'smaller' zone was from drinks and one time a day items. the larger was the mainly used zone. i ran some tests and it wouldnt be able to hang just off the main battery. so i installed a dedicated battery, solid state isolator ( https://www.waytekwire.com/item/44419/InPower-ABS3-200A-Auxiliary-Battery/ ) and upsized the alter output wire. after some interneting the car audio dudes discovered that there is an OEM tray (Dorman 00085) that bolts into the fender for a second battery for the HD stuff, which works on the 1/2 ton stuff. so that was super rad and saved a ton of effort because i was struggling for an "easy" solution.



fully dedicated 10awg wiring run to the back


obviously i cant overland without a slide, so i whipped one up using the factory seal mounts as attachment points. the internet use kitchen draw slides then complain about them failing because the ratings on the cheaper ones are low. these slides were not cheap ( https://www.mcmaster.com/6603A56/ ), but are rated for 450lbs extended, good enough for kids would hang on stuff because they think everything is a jungle gym, when the fridge is full. would like to upgrade to double locking slides in the future for some more rigidity.


next up was the deck over the fridge because everything for 5 people camping/vacationing for 2 weeks was going to be in the vehicle. quick and dirty, could have been better in some ways, but it was done and did the job.


all the stops on this trips were randoms based on where they were in distance, which mostly worked out. ive done a lot of solo miles or even some with just my wife, but 3 kids things dont go as quick as i anticipated. all the drive times were off a min of 2hrs, some more.

stop one was lake panguitch in utah. rolled into the campground at dusk, took a while to find the spot since i ASSumed there would be cell coverage and didnt know our site number, i quickly learned that the rest of america isnt living in the modern age. we were here for two nights. some amazing country going in


lake was nice, quiet and overall just relaxing. got a small thunder shower, which would be the first of many. we suck at fishing, but had fun.


saw this salty old dude at the general store. single speed and having driven the old road to the lake, dude has some juice in them legs

did some hiking

stop two was the flaming river gorge, lucerne campground just outside manila, ut. 4 nights, 3 days. giant reservoir on the ut/wy border. this is where the travel efficiency really showed. not sure if screwed up on the mileage or route but we rolled into camp in the dark around 9pm. couple of things i dropped the ball on - when you head out into the country, grocery store are far and few between, the ones that are out there dont have much and the most dangerous one is restaurants close at 6, so when you roll into town at 7 you selections are sparse. the plan was to get food in vernal, ut and roll into the campsite around 7. so we get to vernal, with slim pickings on food unless you wanted fast food. the road into manila, ut is in the wilderness and it was dusk. we saw deer and that was no big deal, then we saw elk and i got more nervous, then there was moose in the road and the drive go significantly more stressful.

on the way we saw a lot of beautiful country, free range cattle.




ooh and rain, every day we were on the road we got rain.

we stopped in the town of emery, ut for lunch/bathrooms at a park/rest stop. these kids probably 8ish, come out nowhere in a power wheel. they unload a bunch of solo cups and the one kid rolls out solo back to where ever he came from. rolls up to the highway (major route for doubles hauling coal to the power plant) looks both ways and drops the hammer crossing the street/highway. apparently he forgot the drink they needed to fill the cups. things are different outside of socal.


as i mentioned we roll into camp around 9:30 or so, setting up a tent in the dark, kids are wound up, its past quiet house. wife comes back from the bathroom flipping out about mosquitos, went in to brush my teeth and quickly realized this could be a disaster in the making. thankfully they werent skeeters, but still annoying. i picked this camp site based on proximity to the lake without realizing it was an RV site, so yea nothing like bringing down the value of the neighborhood. on the upside i could plug the fridge in to shore power


day one was amazing, just spent the day in the water attempting to fish and relaxing

that evening the wind starts to pick up, i am getting nervous because well we all know how tent camping goes in the wind. it was pleasant enough for smores and dinner.

as the sun goes down, this are not looking so good

well my nightmare becomes reality, the storm blew all night, shaking the tent like crazy, then the rain started, pulled the tent stake out on the rain fly. my son slept through it all, the wife, girls and i slept ok. i took some video, maybe ill upload it to youtube

day two was a boat trip. got a slow as hell pontoon boat to cruise around it. the reservoir was amazing. tried fishing with no luck.




as we start heading back things start to turn for the worst, get sprinkled on some, get some thunder and lightening and then as well pull up to the dock ... HAIL and DOWNPOUR

head back to camp, find a lake in front of the tent, its still pouring, lots of wet clothes, no where to dry them, turns out the tent is leaking. after much deliberation it is decided to pack up and leave. still slightly bothered for bailing as a sign of weakness, but it was the best decision in the interest of domestic tranquility. got a break in the weather and packed up camp and rolled out. plan A when we got signal, which was hours later was to see if we could get into our airbnb a day early, plan b was a hotel, which for 5 people is challenge. thankfully we were able to get into the airbnb early and the drive was only a few hours.


as we were leaving this started rolling in

if you ever find yourself in green river, wy go to the hitch post and get a burger. DO NOT get the chicken fried steak, it was terrible. the drive to lander was fairly uneventful short of a small detour because i missed a turn due to looking at scenery. 20 minutes later, i was like uh yea we need to turn around. lots of beautiful desolate country out there.

red caynon coming into landers, i didnt realize it when we passed it but if you look there is a road through it. absolutely amazing drive we did later
in landers, wy we had an airbnb, it was a single wide, inside was nice, but overpriced for what it was. not many options with kids, but being able to cook made it kinda worth it.

landers has a parade, 2-day rodeo with fireworks, the town turns into a war zone and lots of outdoorsy stuff to do. the world headquarters of NOLS (national outdoors leadership school https://nols.edu/en/ ) is located in landers. there is a weird vibe in town that is tough to describe as they are a TON of small coffee shops and boutique bakeries in town while we got straight pipe manual trans'd flatbedded 12v rolling through town. lots of vanlifers and i suspect the town will be less 'rustic' in the coming years.

day one we just poked around town, stocked up on supplies. kids played at the park and ate happy meals.

ooh one nice thing about the fridge was it came with baskets, so i just pulled em out and they went into the house fridge, super handy to avoid unloading everything.

day two we went on a 4 mile hike to see the popo agie falls. delightful weather and nature along the way.


so many butterflies

kids are funny, she wanted to carry the rock

gotta have fun and take some chances now and then

and then ...

rain, hail, lighting, thunder and wind for the 2 miles back to the car. wet kids, cold wife, you the recipe for a good time


on the way back to the house we discovered this park, it was pretty legit. ended up coming back a few times, the kids loved it.

day three we checked out the sinks state park ( https://www.sinkscanyonstatepark.org/nature/sinks-and-rise/sinks.html ). the river goes underground for a 1/4 mile or so. pretty crazy.

massive trout that just get fed all day by tourist. the river dead ends so they cant go anywhere and cant be fished. the big ones are estimated to be in the 12-15lb range. this pic is from about 20' up on a platform.

after the sinks we cruised out to lake louis, about 12 miles of fireroad in. the water was COLD but refreshing

after that we headed back around to check out the red canyon road


also gave a cheesewheel a shot ... deep friend hamburger patty, with cheese and bacon. it was good, but not filling

day 3 was rodeo day #1, which was cool. for those that have never witnessed indian relay races, they are legit. rider on bareback, does a lap around the track, jumps off and remounts a horse a handler is holding for another lap. the youth did two laps, two horses, the adults did three laps three horses.


day 4 - 4th of july. now i forgot my beard trimmer so when we got to town i found a barber and get it cleaned up. i may employ this tactic in the future because the lady had all kinds of information. so apparently people put out their chairs the night before the parade to save their spots. sure enough ours and everyone around us stuff was there in the am
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2hrs of floats throwing candy to the kids, it was worse than halloween and easter combined. for the 4th the town allows open containers and fireworks until midnight. everyone on main street was hustling bloody marys and all kinds of other adult drinks.

back to the rodeo that night for fireworks. more relay races, horses are skitish animals. one of them tboned another full stride in this race. it was brutal sounding.

and the fireworks, ooh many what a show. we stood about 50 yrds from where they were lighting them off. the town was like a war zone, everything is legal and they were using them.




we left on the 5th headed for crystal river KOA just south of carbondale, co. more scenery and animals. stopped in glenwood springs for a soak, it was nice.


so when i was planning, i wanted to hit up the million dollar highway but did not want to stay in a tourist town. so some random poking around i found a KOA that had a teepee for rent. since it was a single night it saved me from deal with a tent, i was in. the pleasant surpise was the queen sized mattress and full size futton bed thing. even less work, i was stoked. we arrived in the dark, 2 hrs late as expected at this point.


the fridge made having butter a reality and make from some great pancakes because you cook them in a pool of butter (both sides, got to be quick on the flip to avoid disaster) and then cover them in butter.

teepee got two thumbs up

the next leg of the trip was going be a rough one. on paper it was going to be 9 and half hours on the road. ended up being close to 14. the drive from the KOA to durango was amazing. great scenery, i need to go back to do a engineers pass and a few of the trails in the area. a little touristy for my liking but i think i might be able to deal with it.



glamour shots by deb

we motored through durango, cortez and then i realized were passing 4 corners, but would be cutting it close on time. dropped the hammer and made it with 15mins to check it out, which was plenty.

so this is where things get interesting. there is a GIANT stretch of northern az that is reservation. i was not aware of this and my ignorance created a challenge. i figured we could find a rest stop to cook up some food along the way. there were no rest stops, not much of anything and any road off the highway resembled a driveway. the tension in the car was rising with hangriness. was able to find a spot on the side of the road to get #overlandAF and cook up some dinner with a view.


all in all it ended up alright, got the kids into their pjs, teeth brushed because we still had a 4hrs to get to kanab, ut for our hotel for the evening.
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the trip was planned up to carbondale, the trip from their was adlibbed in wy after some discussion with wife we decided to check zion out. did a hotel on the way in (kanab, ut) which was a disaster in the making that was narrowly avoided. so when youre on vacation for two weeks, dates and days start to blur as they dont matter much, you can see where this is going. so like a bonehead i booked both hotels for a day later than i needed. so at 1:30am i go to check into the hotel when this becomes apparent. so here i stand thinking im going to get to drop a the news on my wife that we dont have somewhere to stay. thankfully i was able to get two rooms (traveling with 5 creates a challenge as a two queen rooms is only rated for 4 people, so i have to book double queen suites with a couch), get the wife and girls into their room wake my son up who was on the floor sleeping and cant get into our room. the batteries died on the lock. so after about 15mins i got the into the room, shower and into bed around 2am.

so into zion we go, i generally hate national parks because i hate people and crowds. well zion failed to disappoint. first off you cant pay cash there, only card which starts the annoyance because im a cash user. the lady said it was because money was dirty as she holds the credit card machine out. the wife was not amused as i explained to her all the germs that crawl up her arm from all the cards getting swiped all day. so we get in ght park and sit in traffic, people parked along the side of the road, running a crossed the road. it pretty but all these people ruin it


told my wife it needed to be at least another 20* hotter to thin the heard, being from ventura she was not of the same opinion.


so more family misery training. by the time we got the west end of the park we found a parking spot and decided to do the watchmen trail hike. ended up being just under 5 miles, 600' of elevation in mid 90*s temps.



so from zion we were headed to st george to stay for the night. since were were headed through virgin i did some digging and stopped into check out the rampage sites. HOLY CRAP some of that stuff is huge, like insanely huge and some looked ridable. need to go back with a bike and some time to check things out.

crashed in st george for the evening and headed home on friday morning. it was weird coming home after being gone for so long. i used to travel a lot for work, so i was a bit surprised how weird it was as 2-3weeks away wasnt uncommon.

that number is short as i forgot to reset the trip when we rolled out, so im sure its over 2700.

sat i ran out to ventura to get the dog from the inlaws and bought some steaks. cooked them last night to put an explanation point on things and to reset the old eating habits. its crazy how sensitive i got to some stuff once i cut way back on the sugars.


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hell yea man...love it. I'm impressed on the mission with the kids. I can only imagine the potty breaks and the bickering haha. Can't wait for the rest of the tale!
Sounds fun man. My wife and I did a trip a few years back in the prerunner. We were supposed to have made a loop from California, to the Grand Canyon, then up to Moab and back around. Plan was to camp most nights. We even brought a generator with heated blankets since it was February. We only made it to the Grand Canyon, camped 0 nights, the GC was fogged in the first day we showed up, the Transmission blew the pilot bearing, and we had one of the best trips we ever have taken... 10x10 would recommend a big long trip that doesn't go to plan.
so a few thoughts to mention
- 2700 miles with the mijos, no radio, just some books, toys and almost not sleep. the wife and i were amazed at how well it went. obviously some fighting and bickering but overall they got along great
- probably time to spend money on some gear to minimize the size of things. cheap sleeping gear is bulky compared to the 'performance' stuff need to research that more.
- the packing relied on everything being stuffed in there, when the kids wanted their pillows for traveling we were constantly dealing with bags falling on them
- the two burner coleman needs to be addressed. something is a miss as i cant run both burners at full heat, need to address that because cooking for a family of 5 with a single burner is a miserable
- pack seasoning, something ive never done before since i was usually rolling solo and well ate garbage.
- fridge was worth every penny and time that went into the setup.
- need to get a small soft cooler since the fridge isnt very mobile. would have been nice on the trip on the boat and when we went to the lake.
- having the fridge slide really made me want to have the 'kitchen' and 'pantry' on a slide. unpacking everything around them and pull them out was a slight annoyance
- stock head light suck, especially when you know there is vehicle destroying wildlife lurking in the shadows at dusk
- i am really intrigued on how people afford/survive in some of the remote places we went. large spread of land, decent looking house. there is something appealing about the remote living
- need to evaluate the kitchen and trim it down, tossing everything into a tote is easy but it makes it a PITA to use as everything falls to the bottom when you pull something out, which means completely unpacking and repacking every time
- if you plan on being gone for two weeks in the summer, plant your garden accordingly, we lost some crops since they was no one there to harvest. it wasnt a huge concern for me but the wife was not pleased.
- remember, its vacation, get the ice cream
Well done sire!

I recommend just tossing that Colemen stove and getting a Camp Chef Everest. 20K BTU for each burner Same size as coleman just twice the BTU output . (I believe the Colemen is only 10k BTU)

Amazon Camp Chef Everest 2 Burner Stove

Funny I was just in St George Saturday AM on our way home from Idaho, I was thinking about stopping off at the Ramage Trails to scope it.. I decided against it... we should plan a forum trip out that way.

That drive from St George to Mesquite was unreal! Virgin River has sculpted some epic canyon walls...