Sabbatical Off/Road Trip Across the West


Active member
Apr 4, 2022
San Diego
I had mostly documented this trip I took through instagram and never actually wrote anything down, but for the sake of remembering the shit I did later in life, I'm feeling compelled to share this here as well. Maybe someday I can give some pointers to folks who are looking to kick around the same areas I did and we share notes.
The background here is that in ~July 2020 I had decided to take my Sabbatical from work. At the time I was working at SpaceX and they have a program that employees who worked full time for 5 years were elligible for this sabbatical program which is basically up to 3 months off, unpaid, but you keep your benefits & your unvested equity until you come back. The idea being to help stave off burnout & retain more folks. It worked for like ~6 months until I eventually quit. Suckers.
In any case that's not super important to the tip report. Basically I kitted out my 2014 Raptor with some base-level overlanding gear and planned a trip across the west trying to loop in as much dirt as I could manage and only a couple of planned stops along the way to see some friends who I wouldn't otherwise go see.
The first 2 weeks I had some company from my friends Trevor in his Tacoma & Matt jumped in with me..
Trevor lives in NorCal and we met up in Vegas for the first night.
The following morning we drove out to mesquite and turned off into the first dirt of the trip.
The goal here was to follow the colorado river as much as we could all the way to Denver.
From Mesquite we headed into Parashant National Monument, just west of the grand canyon & a VERY remote section of desert with damn near nobody in it. wild.



Our first camping night was in Kaibab National Forest, up near the north rim of the grand canyon


Next day was time to check out the north rim. So we went in to the park, did the tourist thing, then took some forest roads out to Sublime Point and hung out there for a while. Much recommend, very wow.



That night we camped out on an overlook just to the east of the park, taking fun dirt roads out to get there.
Met some dudes who were just enjoying the view in from Flagstaff. I don't remember much about it except that one dude described Flagstaff as poverty with a view & I also had the worst middle of the night emergency shits of the trip in this beautiful campsite. I took my port-a-shitter bucket and hustled to get away from camp but only made it like 40 yards. Thanks to the full moon, i had a lovely, sweaty, windy grunter with a view of the grand canyon and two of my best friends sleeping away right behind my back. Ahh the memories.

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From the north rim we kept heading east trying to roughly follow the river.
Ended up exploring Vermillion cliffs national monument. sandy driving, very fun. actually needed 4x4 for the first time here.
couldn't get permits to hike the wave though, sad.

kept on charging, stopped a few places to take a dip in the river. refreshing in the crazy desert heat of July/August.
Saw horseshoe bend.


Ended up at Lake Powell for a few days of fun.
Camped right on the water after driving through sandstone canyons.



Drove out to Alstrom Point

Rented a boat & checked out the slot canyons. Gorgeous.
Then proceeded to get stuck in the back of a slot canyon because our boat was shitty & the radio didn't work. Not gorgeous.
Had to use my GPS communicator to get a hold of people back home to call the marina & come get us.
what a mess, but we had plenty of water & some snacks thank goodness.

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Kept on keeping on, and got to go see a bucket list destination for me: Monument valley.
Left the offroading to a minimum at this point because monument valley is in Navajo Land and you're effectively not allowed through there without a guide. With Covid unfortunately there were no tours or guides available.
The roads look wide open but it didn't feel right having read that stuff on the 'net while researching, best leant to the side of respectful.
but maaaaaaan oh man would I have loved to explore that area via dirt.



Down the road a ways and we ended up near Moab, Utah at this point. Checked out Canyonlands National Park. Super underrated, very much worth the trip. Epic location. Grandeur everywhere.
Ahead of time we got campsites reserved & permits to drive the White Rim Road which is a super remote and rocky road through the back of the park.
We camped at the first site on the road on the way in & at this point were getting pretty sick of hot & dusty. So we talked about our pace for the next day and all conventional wisdom was saying it takes 3 days to do the white rim road. we had the campsites reserved to take it slow if we wanted.... but... well, we're not driving subarus here, we did that shit in 1.
We didn't even have to drive stupid, our trucks are just good and we don't suck. Reward: beers, hotel, air conditioning, pool in Moab.





Next day we checked out Arches National Park & did one more "4x4" trail.
well if you've ever looked at a map of a national park you know they're being very conservative on most of these roads that are marked as dangerous and high clearance required etc etc.
well this one was not undersold, what we thought would end up taking 30 minutes based on the other maps we had followed took most of the day. Steep & rocky.



At the end of this one, Matt & I parted ways with Trevor. Trev went home via highway and the Raptor gang was headed to Denver.
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Matt & I ended up taking highway to Denver so we could make good time, see some of Denver and not just drive into town and straight to the airport for Matt to catch his flight home.
but we did end up getting to see the headwaters of the Colorado River, which is up by Rocky Mountain National Park.


Couple days in Denver doing city boy things and I was left solo for the rest of the trip.
My first day solo I ended up driving from Denver out north west through Steamboat Springs to Wyoming and camping on the west side of the Green River in Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. went through Ashley National forest. Gorgeous country with aint a damn soul to be found anywhere, lol.
Here was my campsite for my first solo night camping.


From here I drove out to Jackson, Wyoming & got to see the Grand Tetons which left me with a view that I'll never forget.
Hiked out to some lake, camped out in the forest near an Elk Preserve & had my first night of gun-in-the-tent ready to fuck up some bears.
Begin: bear anxiety.




Now if you're wondering why TF am i holding a steel thing in that photo, gimme a minute and I'll explain in a post later.

From Grand Teton I went to JellyStone, saw old faithful surrounded by ants (people) & went on a hike to a neat little waterfall.


And then kept choochin' up to Bozeman, Montana to visit a friend of mine who moved out from san diego.
We shot cool guns, drank beer, and floated down the river. Not bad.


Left Bozeman with Coeur D'Alene as my destination to visit the next friend. with some detours.
My bozeman friends sent me on my way with Bear Bullets for my 9mm and I felt better but still nervous AF about getting eaten in my tent & sleeping bag like a chonky boi bear taco.

On the way I drove past Flathead Lake, and vowed that someday I'll come back on a lake vacation there. so gorgeous.
Then left that area and saw some jabronie towing his camper trailer and trying to pass the car in front of him. he went too fast, swerved like he didn't have a trailer and did this right in front of me:


Offroaded my way through Glacier National Park to a bitchin' lake up near the Canadian border
Also worth noting that I drove my raptor to the top of the "going to the sun" road in Glacier NP and i'll never do that again. Jesus christ, tons of people on a narrow road and I thought i was going to smash into rocks or some tourist family's minvan probably 50 times on that drive. I would absolutely do the drive again though. the view is definitely worth it.

Camped just outside the park on the banks of a river again.
It's worth pointing out here that having grown up in southern california I was surprised to learn just how big the culture of river recreation actually was. Basically since the point when we entered colorado, there were folks enjoying the rivers at nearly every pull-off & put-in accessible. Really neat to see & learn.


Outside of Glacier NP is a lake/reservoir called Hungry Horse. I drove in there on i think like a wednesday or something and had this bitchin' cove all to myself for a day. one other family showed up the next day but the place was so nice I just decided to stay put for an extra day. i snacked, read a book, and floated in the water for pretty much ~2 days and it was stupendous. I didn't think about math, or engineering, or money or anything of the sort and god damnit if that wasn't exactly what the doctor ordered.



Eventually i had to make more progress and drove west towards seattle but not before stopping to check out some rapids & a neat suspension bridge that some folks from a local brewery had recommended to me.

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Made it to Coeur D'Alene to visit my friend Rob & he took me wheeling in "northern Colorado."
he says that Idaho sucks and nobody should ever go there. Northern Colorado is beautiful though, so feel free to move there.


I left Rob, and drove to Seattle. Saw some more ol' friends, drank more beers & had a great time.
Left seattle and headed a touch east with the intent to drive the WABDR or Washington Backcountry Discovery Route.

Effectively runs a strip north-to-south of dirt roads that get you all the way through washington.
I started near Leavenworth, WA... which turned out to be the weirdest little German reproduction town. had some pretzels and sausages before hitting the dirt again.





in this photo, you can see both Mt Rainer & Mt Evans in the background.

And here's where the shenanigans started.
Coming off the WABDR into some town that I can't even remember, somewhere east of Packwood WA, my truck started running like total bollocks.
Misfiring, stumbling, stalling, no power. It was an absolute mess.
I had to limp it into some town of like ~5k people, found a Napa.
those people were unbelievable. So cool.
they let me borrow tools out of there shop & helped me try to figure out what was going on. I was pulling codes for a misfire on just two cylinders so I ended up replacing the coils in their parking lot.
some bubba came up while I was fighting with a connector and helped me sort that out. He even offered to drive me out to the ford dealership one town over to talk to the techs there and figure out why the coils weren't solving my problem.
The truck was still running though, so I limped it to the 5 & basically had to do 40 mph down the 5 freeway to get to Vancouver WA for an overnight.

calling dealerships all along the way trying to get an emergency appointment for someone to diagnose the problem.
eventually did get in somewhere north of vancouver the morning after and they figured out it was a clogged catalytic converter.
the dirt roads & bouncing around on the WABDR disloged the elements and had plugged up the exhaust system.

sick. so cut that thing out plz so i can go home.
No shop was willing to do that. they'd all lose their licenses or something & i didn't have the tools to do it myself.
My only option was to replace it, which is part of a larger pipe system that requires dropping the transmission crossmember to do. on top of it being ~$1000 of a part.
aaaaaaand the part was only available in Portland. So i limped it from Vancouver to portland, got an airbnb and waited for my service appointment on monday. Told them to order the part and make sure you have it in your hands for monday so I don't burn more time - at this point I was ending the trip and had stuff to do on the california leg.

I get there on monday, sit around for hours, and they go "oh yeah so we forgot to order the part, can you come back tomorrow?"
i almost punched that person right there.
limped my ass down the road to the place that had the pipe, picked it up, and kept driving further south.
at this point my boy, Mitch, hits me up and says that he's visiting family out near Medford, Oregon.
I explain my woes and he tells me they've got all the tools to fix this thing so I drove out to his family's property in the cuts of Oregon and we replace this thing in a field.

You can't trust dealerships but boy does it pay to have great friends.
at this point, my offroading was pretty much over. the exhaust debaucle had made me cut short all the cool shit I wanted to do in southern oregon & northern california.
So I drove to sacramento, saw some friends there, and then ended up meeting some more polygoats at their family Cabin near Arnold & tried wheeling my raptor like a Jeep. It didn't work. I broke the running boards & the winch on that mess. but no body damage.
Drove back home to Los Angeles & tallied up a total of 6200 miles, about 2k of which were dirt. Roughly a month on the road. I think it ended up being like 5 weeks? maybe 6.


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hokay, so the weird thing in the pictures.
Just before I started the trip my buddy, Adam, hit me up asking to buy the Bumper guards off my 74 prerunner project since I'm not trying to preserve the OE look on the bumper and he wanted those parts for his more street mod build.
I said, well, yeah you can have them, but i'm about to leave on my road trip. i'm actually heading through Sac but it won't be until the end of the trip like a month or more away.
He told me that If I was willing to haul them the whole way that he'd buy them and then "I'm fully expecting a selfie of you and the bumper guards in front of ol' faithful"

so..... i one-upped him

Old Faithful

Grand Tetons

Arches NP

The grand canyon

Coeur D'Alene

Glacier NP, Going to the Sun Road

Glacier NP, Kintla Lake

House of Fuckheads

Delivery to their new Owner:
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Such a rad trip dude.

Been working at my job for almost 9 years now... would be great to have an option like that! Maybe i'll bring it up :rolleyes: