9 Podcasts to Drive Your Road Trip

When I go on road trips I start off beaming with excitement for all the things I’ve planned to do. All those big plans will come, but there’s a lot of open road between here and there. The excitement can quickly fade if you’re not keeping your mind occupied while you’re on a long stretch of highway with nothing to look at.

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I listen to podcasts in the car more often than I listen to music these days. Traffic jams are my least favorite thing on the road, but even heavy traffic doesn’t annoy me when I’m listening to something that engages me. There’s just so much content out there and even if you have a 20-minute drive you can learn something. Long drives are the perfect opportunity to put on some long-form interviews or listen to a series of one-hour shows. From fictional content to video game reviews to political discourse, there’s honestly something for everyone. I’m going to share a few of my favorites.

This American Life

This might be one of the most well-known and popular podcasts and for good reason. Ira Glass has been doing this show for over 20 years for radio and the content has been quality the whole time. The themes can range from a very personal story of one person’s life to an embedded reporter talking to a career senator about why she is leaving government work. Even the most unlikely topic is made relatable and crafted beautifully by skilled reporters. The most recent 4 episodes are always available to download for free, but the full 600+ episode archive is available on the This American Life app for only $2.99. It’s definitely worth it for all the great content, and it supports the show continuing on. I’d suggest a favorite episode, but honestly just pick one that sounds interesting. I promise you it will be.

www.thisamericanlife.org

Radiolab

Another NPR podcast, this one often investigates scientific ideas and makes them easy to understand. Hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich talk to experts on myriad topics to dissect grand ideas like the structure of language or how the Supreme Court was formed. If you’re interested in things like this I would suggest starting with the episodes “Time” and “Numbers.” Two things that seem so simple will blow your mind.

www.radiolab.org

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The Tim Ferriss Show

Tim Ferriss is known for his book, The 4-Hour Workweek as well as other books, and his podcast is just as inspiring. He talks to people in business, tech, entertainment, and really any other area who are at the top of their game, and he dissects their methods to find out how they became successful and how they stay that way. As a big fan of stand-up comedy I really enjoyed the Mike Birbiglia episode. The techniques he discussed really have changed the way I work on writing. There’s something for everyone on this podcast, and I can assure you you’ll learn from it.

www.fourhourworkweek.com

Reply All

This show began as two guys talking about internet ephemera and has turned into one of my favorite shows with deep stories. PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman joke around a lot. They have a segment where their boss brings them a tweet he doesn’t understand, and they proceed to explain it to him while laughing at the absurdity of the whole thing. On the flip side they recently did a story where Alex travels to India to track down a call center who contacted him in an attempt to scam him for money. It’s a great balance of good reporting and fun antics.

gimletmedia.com/show/reply-all/all/

Up First

Staying informed about world events isn’t always easy on the road, so I like listening to this NPR podcast that is released every weekday. It gives a succinct report of the most important news stories you should be aware of without going too in-depth.

www.npr.org/podcasts/510318/up-first

Savage Lovecast

Dan Savage has his Savage Love advice column in newspapers around the country, and this podcast is an extension of that. People call in, ask questions about love, sex, and relationships, and Dan answers them in his singular decisive voice. It’s more fun than anything else. Maybe you can learn something or you can take solace in knowing other people have worse relationship issues than you.

www.savagelovecast.com

Women of the Hour

Lena Dunham talks with women who have inspired her as well as some of her friends and co-workers who also fit that description. The topics range from abuse to creative techniques for writing. It’s very much just a chat show most of the time, but the topics are engaging and keep you interested.

art19.com/shows/women-of-the-hour

Invisibilia

This show makes you think. Alix Spiegel, Lulu Miller, and Hanna Rosin explore invisible forces that shape our lives; emotions, beliefs, assumptions, and a slew of brain science that they cut through to make everyone understand. It’s a light show for such heavy topics, and I always finish an episode wanting to sit with the information and think about it a while longer. Check out the episode “Emotions” for a very… emotional story of a court case that takes a turn you won’t expect.

www.npr.org/podcasts/510307/invisibilia

Stuff You Should Know

This is the podcast that got me into listening to podcasts. Josh Clark and Charles W. “Chuck” Bryant tackle anything and everything that they find interesting. That’s anything from LSD to impeachment to Jim Henson. They talk about everything, and they make it fun. The best part of the show is the relationship between Josh and Chuck. It feels like you’re hanging out with your friends who just happen to know everything about bat feces and want to tell you about it. They digress often, but it’s endearing, and that has become my favorite part of the show. I would pick one episode to suggest, but they’re almost all fantastic. Check it out!

www.stuffyoushouldknow.com/podcasts

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Honorable Mentions:

WTF with Marc Maron – Comedian Marc Maron chats with other comedians, actors, and even President Obama.
The Nerdist – Long form interviews with people all over the entertainment industry.
TED Radio Hour – Expanded TED talks and interviews.
Blabbermouth – Dan Savage and friends discuss/yell about politics.
Under the Skin w/ Russell Brand – Brand discusses deep topics like slavery and identity with experts in those fields.
More Perfect – Jad Abumrad of Radiolab examines Supreme Court cases in depth.

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I could go on, but I’ll stop there. Besides helping to pass the time on the road and feeling like I learn things from podcasts they also often recommend documentaries, books, or other podcasts that further delve into topics I want to continue learning about. It sometimes turns into an endless list of things I’ll never get to, but it’s a great resource to start on a topic. These are just my favorites, but if you search I guarantee you can find a podcast suited to whatever niche topic you might want to hear about!

dm.rt

 

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Success is Not Final; Failure is Not Fatal

While watching a movie tonight I heard a quote that caught my attention. That led me to another quote. Both are attributed to, but most certainly not actually said by, Winston Churchill. Regardless of who said them, the words hold meaning:

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

“Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

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Philadelphia Water Works 1.7.18

Welcome to 2018. People make resolutions and break resolutions because they are, in my opinion, fleeting optimistic traditions, fundamental miscalculations of time, and overestimations of willpower. That might be a bit reductionist, but that’s how I see it. I could say “I’m going to lose 20 pounds this year!” but this can of root beer and half a vegan reuben sandwich next to my laptop would beg to differ. I think there is something to be said for optimism, but I also believe in a heavy dose of self-awareness.

I’m not anti-resolution. In fact, I really enjoy making lofty goals for myself that I almost always fall short of. Falling short isn’t the part I enjoy; I believe that making plans alone is enough motivation to actually follow through on a lot of things. In my experience the key to staying motivated and excited about something is to always have something to be working towards. Something to look forward to. Having something on the horizon towards which you can steer your ship is crucial to making even a little headway. Otherwise you’re just drifting out to sea, and that makes it very easy to lose interest and forget your initial goals.

I do prefer to use the word goals instead of resolution, just to keep myself from feeling like I’m doing this for someone else. Thus, my GOALS for this year are:

  1. To be honest with myself. This is something of a general goal that bleeds into my other goals. It seems prudent to be genuine, but also to take stock about the real reasons for my motivations. Why do I choose to eat or drink the things I do? Why am I choosing a TV show over exercise or reading? What do I really want out of life? That got a bit existential at the end, but you see the point.
  2. To commit to making better art. At the end of the day, I really enjoy creating. Whether that means taking photos, making videos, writing poetry, or playing music, it all comes down to making something from nothing. I love the process as much as the finished product, but I find my enthusiasm waning at times. This goes back to taking stock and being honest, but I know that once I get started on something the desire is there, and I am committing to remember that and start things!
  3. To travel to a new country! This is cliché, but what would a New Years Resolution Goal be without one? Even though I find myself traveling often for one reason or another, I also make vague plans each year to finally get to Switzerland or Iceland or Thailand. All the while I take no steps toward actually doing it, thereby putting it off for another year. Not this time. I fully intend to step foot in (at least) one new country in 2018. I need some content for this blog after all..

I’m leaving it at 3 because anything further seems like asking to fail. I will, however, add a 3b: finally get to Alaska. I want to travel more of Canada this year and also cross the 50th state off my list once and for all. I’ve had conversations debating the legitimacy of crossing things off lists in this manner, but, as I argued, this is not at all arbitrary, and I have no intention of sitting in the Anchorage airport and glibly checking the last box off the list on some Facebook quiz. I want to experience Alaska just like I want to experience so many other places. I have lists of hikes and sights I’d like to see, and I also have a couple of friends there, so I have high hopes that it will be a memorable visit!

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Union Lake, Millville, NJ 1.6.18

So far this year I have been skiing in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, seen more snow in New Jersey than anytime I can remember even when I lived here, and had my camera out most days trying to capture a unique shot of the day. I hope to continue this trend of being present, while also continuing to travel to new places, meet new people, and learn new things on a regular basis. It sounds like I’m making a whole new list, so I’m going to quit while I’m ahead! Happy New Year and may you achieve all of your Goals this year! Even if you don’t, just remember:

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

“Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

dm.rt

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Day 3: Living and Dying in the Grand Canyon

When the alarm went off at 4:45am I was somewhere between excited and dreading our rim to river to rim hike of the Grand Canyon. Before I had a chance to think twice about it I got myself out of bed and put on my hiking clothes for the day. Making sure everything was ready the night before is the best way to avoid procrastination and time-killing mundane tasks in the morning. So, after a few minutes of teeth-brushing we were out the door with the leftover pizza for breakfast on our way to the Grand Canyon. It was about an hour drive to the entrance from our Hotel in Williams and a short wait for a bus when we arrived. When we saw the Orange Line bus roll up early we high-tailed it to the stop and boarded for the 5-minute jaunt to the South Kaibab Trailhead.

There are myriad signs and warnings to not attempt hiking to the river and back in one day. That’s just for tourists, though, right? Not to mention Becca had completed this same hike last December and made out just fine. Funny enough, my initial reticence turned to total confidence once we started our hike, yet Becca’s knowledge of what was to come made her a bit more wary of what was to come.

As we quickly descended into the canyon the sun was slowly lighting up the towering walls around us and in the distance. The incredible beauty of this sight can hardly be described as anything but magical. I stopped repeatedly to gaze out into the endless canyon as it lit up in blues, reds, and oranges. The light and shadow play off of one another like great actors in a play, and it’s extremely hard to hike a narrow, rutted trail while you’re looking off into the distance constantly. The path drops steeply in curves and switchbacks, and we get passed by a large team of mules on their way to Phantom Ranch with supplies. We meet other early morning hikers who are taking in the views, some with freshly-brewed coffee they brought with them. Most of the these hikers are heading down to one of the campsites near the river to set up for the night and most likely hike back up tomorrow. Not us. We’re doing it all in one day. It’s not totally hubris; we also couldn’t get a permit to camp.

The hike to the river is long—5 miles—but it goes by quickly. The views slowly become more closed in and remind me of other canyons like Zion. When we first see the Colorado River the rushing water echoes loud enough to make us think we’re close. We aren’t. One of the great deceptions of the Grand Canyon is the scale, which becomes very apparent as you hike and hike seeming to only gain incrementally on something that seemed so near. Hiking down first also has its mental disadvantage of not realizing just how far back up you will have to go to finish.

We finally make it to an overlook where the river is just below us and the bridges we will cross are in plain view. Technically we don’t need to cross the bridges, but it barely adds any mileage to our hikes and they’re just a fun novelty of being down there. To cross Black Bridge, we pass through a dark, carved tunnel of rock that leads us onto it. Standing over the rushing Colorado that carved this magnificent canyon is an amazing feeling. We wander along the banks, where rafters have stopped to take a break from floating the rapids, and we refill our water bladders at the pump before continuing on. Having reliable running water to refill on a hike so infamous for people running dry is a fantastic luxury. No need to carry a filter or triple the weight if you can fill up along the way!

We cross over Silver Bridge, staring through the holes under our feet at the rushing water creating whitecaps on the rocks below. We stop for lunch on the other side, where we eat our Buds sandwich from Salt Lake City that we specifically saved to bring with us for this trip. It’s delicious and great fuel to move us along the river as we slowly begin to leave the bottom of the canyon. The hike up begins very gradually, winding along the river’s edge, offering views of the twisting flow until the trail turns in toward the rim and we leave it behind. From here the terrain and scenery will change rapidly. We pass through an oasis of beautiful trees, some green and other in full autumn color. A pair of mule deer cross the path gingerly as we quietly walk up on them. As the trail becomes steeper we arrive at Indian Gardens, the last stop before the real ascent begins. We have a short break, people watch, fill up our water and start the climb.

This final section is what I think most people think when they imagine hiking the Grand Canyon. It’s steep, mostly exposed, and pretty crowded. We speak to a few people along the way who had stayed overnight by the river, and they are genuinely surprised we’re doing it in a day. I understand why one might want to avoid this hike in the summer months when the heat can be stifling, but on a perfectly cool day in November the hike down did little to exhaust us, and we are perfectly fresh for the hike up. This section does become somewhat of a grueling plod at times. Just one foot after the other and promise of achievement and, more importantly, food at the top.

We’ve passed many people along the way, but suddenly our dusty footsteps come to a halt along with a large group of others behind a mule team. My first thought is the mules are coming down and we have to allow them navigate past us on the narrow trail. My assumption is quite wrong as we find out a hiker has died up ahead on the trail and the rangers are holding everyone until the person can be airlifted out. We take the opportunity to rest, but as it becomes clear the helicopter might take longer than expected the rangers allow us to pass. The unfortunate hiker’s body is covered in a tarp, only boots sticking out as a few dozen of us shuffle quietly by, all seeming to feel the same morbid curiosity and empathy for the lost soul.

From here, the throngs of people who were waiting are now hiking in a long, solemn line for final two miles and two-thousand feet of elevation. It’s impossible to not be affected by the thought of dying in a place of such extremes, but seeing someone dead along the trail really pounds the thought home. If nothing else, it makes you grateful to be alive in such an incredible place. Personally I’d much rather die on a Monday in the Grand Canyon than at home on the couch or sitting at an office. That said, Becca and I made it out alive and happily took our last steps back up to the rim. We were surprised at how quickly we made it. At 3pm we finished in just over 8 hours. I had built this hike up to be monumental, so I was fully prepared to be finishing after dark, but this outcome was very welcome.

We took our extra time to ride the Red Line bus down to Hopi Point, where the panoramic view of the canyon we just hiked in allowed us to bask in our accomplishment and stand in awe of the incredible beauty of this place. The views are incredible. Incredible views. Just ask our bus driver. We walked down the rim trail a bit, peeping other overlooks along the way, before hopping back on the bus and making our way back to the car. Clouds had overtaken the canyon to the east, so we left expecting there to be no amazing light show for sunset. Although the canyon probably wouldn’t have lit up, I again learned the lesson I’ve kicked myself for many times in the past: you always wait for sunset. The sky turned to beautiful fire in the west as the sun hit the clouds from below. We stopped along the road and I got some great shots anyway.

After such a big hike we retired right to our hotel, showered, and relaxed the night away. It was a perfect day, and our downtime was well-deserved.

dm.rt

Day 2: Horseshoe Bend & Antelope Canyon

Besides having a comfortable bed, the best part of waking up at a hotel is the free breakfast. The Page Quality Inn was really cheap, had a great room and king bed, and has a big hot breakfast spread. There were the usual eggs and breakfast meat, and everyone’s favorite: the waffle maker. We opted for the potatoes with hot sauce and I attempted the “blue mush,” which was described as a Native American version of grits. It was not good. The potatoes and OJ were a filling meal and the view was fantastic!

After some brief research we headed just down the road to the famous Horseshoe Bend. The trailhead was full of cars from all over the US, and people flooded up the short, steep embankment leading to the overlook. The trail was only about a half mile on a wide path so it was hardly a hike, and the edge was crowded with so many people that they were the most challenging obstacle to get around. Once at the edge the view is breathtaking. The river seems to whip around this massive tower of rock in an inexplicable curve. The scope of what you’re looking at is hard to comprehend until you see a tiny structure on the bank below and then everything feels ten times larger. To escape the crowd (and just to see if I could do it) I climbed out on a small rock outcropping and stood there for quite a while as Becca and lots of other tourists took my photo hanging above the thousand-foot drop. After getting all the photos I scrambled back onto solid ground and we made our way back to the parking lot.

Most people have seen photos of Antelope Canyon even if they don’t know that’s what it was. The picturesque slot canyon with sinuous red walls and shafts of light beaming in through the sand in the air is one of the most photographed places in southern Utah, and it has been featured in countless magazines, default backgrounds, and wonderful WordPress travel blogs. The popularity of this place has always kept me from visiting. You have to book a tour with a large group and pay an entrance fee. Even though National Parks charge fees to get in, I feel like those fees go toward park improvements and places like this are more for-profit. My thinking could be flawed, but nevertheless we decided to give it a try!

First off, there’s a waiting room. We only had to wait about 45 minutes from the time we arrived to start our tour, but the whole commercial aspect was amusing. Once our tour guide, Rihanna, introduced herself we took the short walk to the corral above the canyon entrance where about a hundred people from different tour groups were in queue. Here we waited for the better part of a half hour as people slowly filed down a narrow stairway to get into the canyon. Our guide pleasantly chatted with us about other hikes in the area and where we came from which helped pass the time. As we descended the stairs, guides from below yelled up at people taking photos down into the canyon. It was explained to us that they have had incidents of people dropping cell phones and water bottles from above so they have instituted a “no photos on the stairs” policy. This is a phrase we would hear repeatedly throughout the tour. The long climb down the stairs ended on the sandy wash floor of Antelope Canyon and we got our first views of the slots.

Someone in an online review described this tour as “waiting in line at Magic Mountain” and that description was perfect. The hordes of tourists snaked through the narrow corridors slowly, which ended up being great for getting the shots I wanted. Avoiding the people meant I had to shoot aiming upward most of the time, but that’s where the best views seem to be anyway. A few times I was able to wait out the people in front of us to get a clear shot of the full, open canyon. Our guide actually held me back and told me to shoot with the photography tour and then catch up to them when I’m done. The canyon felt longer than I expected, and I came out the other side with a smile on my face, lots of good photos, and a new, less-jaded opinion of Antelope Canyon tours. It was well-worth the money, and the guides really made the experience better among the flocks of people and their children bumping into one another. I highly recommend checking it out and using Ken’s Tours!

We felt good about our day in Page so we hit the road to Flagstaff, where we attempted to find a park or overlook for sunset. We ended up wandering at the Observatory, but found out it closes early on Sunday so we couldn’t explore too much. We settled on a little pull-off above town where the late-day sun washed over it as the shadow of the mountain behind us overtook the rest. Then we were ready for a beer. Dark Sky Brewing is right down the road from the observatory, and it’s a cute little space with string lights and Brewing tanks in full view. We got a flight of beers that included a great IPA, a rye sour, an amazing coffee vanilla pale ale, and a coconut coffee stout that may as well have been a candy bar. We had a really nice time there looking at photos from the day and talking about our big Grand Canyon hike for tomorrow.

We found a local pizza shop, Pizza Patio, that makes vegan pies and got one for the drive to our hotel. We got vegan buffalo cheese and sausage, which turned out to be wonderful. The man running the shop was super friendly and interested in my thoughts about vegan options so he could expand his menu. The drive to our hotel was short and the $33/night room was just perfect! Another great day on the books.

dm.rt

Day 1: Black Coffee, White Snow, and Red Rocks

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When you wake up in a warm, comfortable bed knowing that you’re leaving on a long road trip where you’ll be sleeping in a tent most of the time it’s pretty hard to get up. To that point, we took our time starting the morning. Eventually we got going and packed up the remainder of our stuff into the car and headed out. One of the challenges to living in Salt Lake City is you’re technically not allowed to leave a vehicle parked in any one spot longer than 48 hours so we had to drive my car to a friend’s place to leave it there for the length of our trip. I also stopped to get two cups of my favorite cold brew in town at Blue Copper before getting on the highway. Once the car was dropped, we got some breakfast in the form of vegan buffalo chicken wraps and an Avocolada smoothie from Tropical Smoothie Cafe (those are both as delicious as they sound) and we were finally on the road for real.

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The views along the drive were incredible as usual with the added bonus of freshly-fallen snow on the surrounding mountains. As we got farther south and gained some elevation the snow was all along the road. Luckily the sun had been out for a while, and the roads were just fine. One of the more unusual yet very Utah sights was a herd of cattle being corralled along the side of Route 89 by a couple of real-deal cowboys on horses and some state troopers for backup I guess. That was a first for me. I kept expecting one of the cowboys to start twirling a lasso above their head. There isn’t much to see along the way–that is, the amazingly beautiful sweeping views of desert and red rock stretch on for hundreds of miles and, while they are breathtaking, it does tend to just become part of the background after a while.

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So, when we got close to Bryce Canyon National Park and saw some snow on the ground we quickly made the call to take the hour detour to the park and see if the famous hoodoos were covered in snow as well. The short drive to the park was picturesque enough with brilliant red rock formations painted lightly with new snow towering around us and a couple of carved tunnels to drive through for good measure. Once we got into the park we headed right to the Sunrise Point overlook where you can see for miles into the canyon. The hoodoos weren’t covered in snow, but there was enough along the bases to create a nice accent which made the view I’ve seen many times look like new. We wandered along the rim trail for a short while taking it in from different places and enjoying the chance to stretch our legs and breathe some fresh air before hopping back in the car on our way to Horseshoe Bend.

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We quickly realized we would never make it to Horseshoe Bend by sunset, so our plans changed from racing down the road to taking our time along the way. That’s the way it should be anyway. We took the opportunity to stop at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary outside Kanab, Utah, where we were met by the lobby ambassador cat Robinson and were told the last tours had already departed for the day. There was a human there to tell us that part. He also told us we could stop at the Best Friends location in the town of Kanab and do yoga with kittens. That’s right. Obviously we headed right there, but were informed that kitten yoga was last night. As a consolation we were able to go into the cat room and hang out with three kitties for as long as we wanted. Seemed like a fair compromise. We enjoyed our time there and then drove out of town as the sun lit up the beautiful red rock formations and dropped rapidly behind the mountains to the west.

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Southern Utah at night takes on a whole different feeling. The glowing mountains become massive, ominous silhouettes against the dark sky. It is sometimes hard to even make them out on a moonless night, but you still feel their looming presence. I don’t mean to make it sound so sinister; it’s incredible to make out the outlines of jagged spires and watch stars dance behind them. As we passed by a family on the side of the road taking a photo with the Utah sign we realized we had just passed into Arizona. Page is just over the border and we had decided to spend the night here to do Horseshoe Bend in the morning. We found a hotel for $57 somehow (between the Hotels Tonight app and Google Maps) so we jumped on that and checked in. It’s definitely the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in for the price. Can’t ask for more. We took a short walk around downtown Page, which includes a little wall of information and great photographs of the surrounding natural wonders. Definitely my favorite man-made feature of the town. After grabbing a few things from the grocery we settled in to our hotel for the night, making plans and getting excited to do it again tomorrow!

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dm.rt

Day 0: Packing and Planning

The day before a road trip is always the day I pack, never sooner. It’s part procrastination and part knowing that what I’m packing is what I use daily. Even though I pack at the last minute, I’m constantly making a list leading up to a trip. You never know when something will remind you of that one little thing you wanted to bring, so I always have my notepad list on my phone ready to keep things organized. It really helps avoid that feeling like you’ve forgotten something when you hit the road. For me, that thing is often pillows. I sleep on them the night before and forget them in the morning.

We will be on the road for three weeks, passing through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and a bunch of eastern states on our way up to New Jersey. The hardest part here is packing for warm and cold weather. I fully expect to be wearing shorts in Phoenix and Texas, but the mountains of North Carolina are often cold and snowy well before the rest of the south gets a chill. My simple solution to this problem was to pack layers instead of whole separate wardrobes. Being able to strip layers off is something you learn quickly when you hike in the cold, and it works just as well on a November-December road trip. Long sleeve shirts, light hoodies or jackets, and warmer coats as well as beanies and scarves are great for keeping you warm when you need it and easy to remove when you don’t.

Food is important on the road as well. Being vegan it’s not as easy to just stop at a fast food joint for a quick bite, but also wanting to be somewhat health-conscious it’s a good idea to cook some food to bring with you. We cook a large stir fry, or in this case we made a big thing of sloppy joes with lentils. Lentils are healthy and filling so they last a while. We also pack plenty of snacks for the car and the old standby: peanut butter and jelly. You can never go wrong with a PBJ in the car or on a hike. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Just bring a cooler and keep it stocked with a little ice and you can have good food with you at all times and save money from eating out all the time.

As much as I like to keep lists of what to bring, I’m much less detailed on the whens and wheres of my trip. I like to keep my options open which can be good and bad. It’s much harder to know where you’ll be staying if you don’t know your exact routing, especially if you’re trying to couch surf. Traveling in warmer months is easier since you can camp just about anywhere, but the winter can prove challenging if you don’t have cold weather camping gear. As much as I try to avoid it, this trip may include some hotels until we get out of the high deserts of northern Arizona. After that we will be staying with friends, couch surfing, and camping anytime we get the chance and the weather allows!

So we said goodbye to Salt Lake City this morning for a little while. I’m sure I’ll miss it, but the road has been calling for some time now and it’s time I finally answered.

dm.rt

6 Amazing Cycling Trails in Salt Lake City

When you talk about biking in Utah, most people assume you’re talking about mountain biking. Utah has some of the best mountain biking in the world, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I have yet to brave the single track downhills and smooth red rock drops that Utah is famous for in the world of MTB. I have sampled a lot of the paved cycling trails and road routes available around Salt Lake City, and they are worth checking out.

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Salt Lake City is famous for its wide streets, and along with plenty of room for cars there are tons of bike lanes. For the most part, drivers around SLC are very considerate of bikers on the streets. You just have to make sure you look both ways even when the lights are green as I’ve found that people run red lights here like it’s the state pasttime. Luckily the traffic doesn’t even come close to what you’d see in other major cities, so once you get out of the heart of downtown you almost have the roads to yourself. There are designated bike routes from North Salt Lake all the way down to Sandy and beyond. It makes it super easy to get around town on two wheels and get where you’re going in a healthy and environmentally friendly way. Anyone from Salt Lake knows we need less smog in the air.

Jordan River Parkway/Legacy Parkway/D&RGW Rail Trail

Map: https://www.myjordanriver.org/

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If you’re looking for something with less cars and traffic lights, then there are a couple of great trails with beautiful scenery to choose from. The Jordan River Parkway Trail runs for 45 miles from the north end of Utah Lake to Bountiful where it connects with the Legacy Parkway Trail (14 miles) and that continues north as the Denver and Rio Grande Western Rail Trail (23 miles). With only a handful of road crossings you can get into your rhythm here, crossing over small bridges and marshes as you take in the views of the beautiful Uinta range to the east. The signage leaves something to be desired at times, but keep an eye on your map and you should be fine.

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The ride from downtown SLC to Utah Lake is about 35 miles and once you get there you can reward yourself with a very warm dip in the Saratoga Hot Springs! Personally, on a hot day, I couldn’t get in past my ankles before I had enough, but someone with a higher tolerance for heat on a cooler day might enjoy a dunk! I don’t recommend this. One of the best parts about this trail is the UTA light rail runs along most of the trail so you can go one way as far as you feel like then hop on the train to get back to the city!

City Creek Canyon

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If it’s hills you want then you’ve come to the right place. It’s hard to pedal anywhere in this city without going uphill at some point. The serious cyclists will head up Big Cottonwood Canyon or Emigration Canyon for a workout, but I like to get away from the cars. City Creek Canyon offers a challenging workout uphill 5.5 miles through some beautiful scenery following the rushing creek. The best part? It’s closed to cars from October to June and on every odd day of the month the rest of the year! Even when you have to pass people you have a full-sized road to do it.

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There are a few rough sections of road, but it’s a mostly smooth ride to the top. There are picnic areas along the way to rest and even a few water fountains that sometimes work! Once you make the last push to the top, you have a 5 mile downhill cruise ahead of you. Just watch the turns and keep your speed under 15mph, and you’ll have a great time coasting to celebrate your accomplishment!

Downtown SLC to Airport to Saltair/Salt Lake Marina

Map: https://www.trails.com/tcatalog_trail.aspx?trailid=BGR089-011

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My favorite bike trail starts on North Temple heading west out of Salt Lake and goes through bike/pedestrian gates around SLC International Airport. As you pedal around the perimeter of the runways, huge planes soar just overhead and touch down just a few hundred feet away! It’s an amazing sight to see them so close and feel the wind as they blow past you. Don’t stop to look or the police will come ask you politely not to interfere with the radar equipment. From there you pick up an actual bike trail leaving the airport property. You will shortly follow some roads in between sections and pick up another freshly paved trail soon after. It eventually opens up to a frontage road that is very lightly trafficked and has basically become a very wide bike trail instead.

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Enjoy the open space and the distant view as you approach the salt flats. It might look like snow, but it’s really salt deposits from the Great Salt Lake you’re seeing. That big structure that looks like the Taj Mahal isn’t a mirage, it’s the Great Saltair, a music venue on the edge of the lake overlooking the salt flats. Check out the unique architecture, and, if it’s close to sunset, I highly recommend walking out to the water to watch the show! Continue on to the marina and you can sit at picnic tables for a break and walk down to the water to put your toes in. From here you just turn around and head back to the city to finish your 35-mile ride!

Millennium Trail – Park City to Summit Park

Map: http://www.walkrideusa.com/states/utah/park-city-utah

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In the warmer months you might want to escape the heat of the valley by heading up to Park City. The elevation will alleviate some of the heat, but it will add an extra challenge to your ride as well! Beginning at City Park you pick up the Silver Creek Trail and head north to the Park Avenue multi-use trail before finally connecting to the Millennium Trail. This will take you through Kimball Junction turning northwest the rest of the way and climbing to Summit Park. Be forewarned, Summit Park is not a proper park so there’s unfortunately no official stop and rest point here. On your way you’ll pass by beautiful mountain views and a beautiful large pond.

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After visiting the “summit” and cruising down you can take some time to stop at one of many restaurants (or the Whole Foods hot bar) for lunch and treat yourself to a couple of beers at Park City Brewing Company before the easy ride back to the park. There’s even a pedestrian overpass to cross I-80 and get there easily!

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Salt Lake has a few great small trails through the city and some under construction, but these are my favorites. SLC is a very bikeable city, which makes it great for visitors and residents alike. There are plenty of bike racks around town and at local bars and restaurants. There are bike rental kiosks in several places for quick trips around town. If you need any work done there are tons of great bike shops. The Salt Lake Bike Collective does group rides every Tuesday night at 6:30pm and they only go as fast as the slowest rider so no one is left behind. It’s a great social event! This is definitely a bike-friendly city, and it’s only getting better!