Lower 48 Adventures: Exploring One State at a Time

RyanHeller

Observer
This is a story about a man, a woman, a child, and a dog destined for adventure, with no set rules. Our plan is to venture through the lower 48 states to see as many sites and natural wonders as possible; all in a year. We will leave behind our house, sell major possessions, and venture out with nothing more than a truck, in order to explore, one day at a time.

We are Ryan, Sarah, and Harper the dog. Over the past year we got married, bought a house, and are expecting our first child, a girl, in late September. We are thoroughly enjoying life, but both feel like we are missing the adventure and exploration that we need. We are set to depart January of 2018, and have numerous preparations to do in order to leave our full-time jobs, raise a newborn, and prepare our vehicle for the trip. So please follow along with us, share your advice, and give us a swift kick in the rear end when we need it. We will greatly appreciate it!

The Plan:
- Visit all lower 48 states
- Visit all national parks within the lower 48
- Avoid highways
- Have fun

Website: http://lower48adventures.com
Facebook: Lower 48 Adventures
Instagram: @Lower48Adventures
Webshop: Habitat Offroad



Travel Rig:
 

FrenchieXJ

Expedition Leader
This sounds like a great plan and I look forward to following your blog. :)

Your taking the first big step and a bigger step then most with a baby coming.

Your smart to do this while your younger. You will have many more years to relive the adventure. Photos are your friends!
 

Doc Foster

Adventurer
X2 on staying off the highways when possible, you see so much more of the country. I taught school for 30 years and was fortunate enough to take 2-3+ weeks each summer to travel, either camping out of a Jeep or truck or SUV. I managed to either camp or hike in all of the Lower 48 states, and am still getting out 4-5 weeks each year now that I am in a second career. There is so much to see especially if you stay off the Interstate. Best of Luck.
 

RyanHeller

Observer
Thanks everyone for the words of encouragement. If you haven't checked out our backstory page or our first blog post about deciding if an overland trailer was right for us, please check them out. We are slowly adding more destinations to our list, and preparing financially for the adventure.

Bolles, thanks for the kind comments about the website, we hope to add more content very soon.
FrenchieXJ, with this being our first child there are going to be many huge steps coming up. Thanks for following along.
Doc Foster, I have always thought about becoming a teacher for two reasons. Sharing knowledge with other people, and the summer vacations! Maybe after our trip I will decide on a career change.

The Back Story


"Everyone we have talked to about our adventure idea has been super supportive. But they all have the same question, "How did you decide to do this?" Well here is the answer..."


To Trailer, or to Not Trailer, That is the Question

"Now that we have committed to our travel goals, it was time to hash out the major details of our trip. Putting pen to paper we began writing down every place we had ever seen, that we KNEW we had to visit. Bryce Canyon, Devil’s Tower, the Grand Canyon, Mount Desert Island in Maine, Moab. If it came out of our mouths’, we wrote it down! Then came to the discussion of travel vehicles. We knew we were going to utilize our 2012 Nissan Xterra Pro4x, but what we didn’t really know was whether or not we were going to build a trailer, or try to run light and travel only with the rig..."
 

bigskypylot

Explorer


Packing for a yearlong adventure is no easy task. In our newest blog entry we talk about packing and organizing all of our items inside of our little Nissan. Will it all fit? We will soon find out. We may have to downsize to a smaller stroller. :Wow1:

The Great Unknown: Organizing an Epic Year of Overland Adventures
Hey Ryan... Looks like a good set-up. One thing I would recommend is a Fridge/Freezer combo if you are going to be on the road for a while. That's next on my list of things to get. I have a Yeti 105 (for hunting) and been using that but fond that using a combo of ice/dry ice was a PITA over 6 weeks out in the sticks. I think maybe a smaller cooler for drinks etc would work well and then a medium sized fridge/freezer combo. I am using a GZ Yeti 400 with Renogy 100W solar briefcase and it works awesome for all my needs. I do have a Yamaha EF2000is generator that i will use on occasion. My friend has a Whynter fridge hardwired right in to his FJ (No dual battery yet) and has not had a single issue with power.

By the way, where do you want to go? I would recommend the Black Hills, Badlands (SD/ND), Anywhere in Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Montana (I'm biased towards Montana obviously), parts of Colorado and Western Nebraska (Sand Hills), The UP of Michigan and Northern Wisconsin are awesome. So many places, so little time!

Here's my set-up currently.

13418559_1294893910538522_1436139854361452104_o.jpg
 

bigskypylot

Explorer
I'd also recommend a 15F sleeping bag with a Silk Liner (Sea-to-Summit), depending on where you are headed. And a bow saw for downed trees (blocking trails and for firewood if you don't wanna bring a chainsaw with).
 

RyanHeller

Observer
Sheller73, nice setup and good looking X! Looks a lot like what we have planned. We are going to replace the Bison cooler with an ARB Fridge/Freezer real soon, but we are trying to lock down the exact size that we want and can fit with all of our other gear. Both a portable solar panel and possibly a solar generator are on my inquiry list, just have to do some more research.

For destinations, we are looking to go everywhere. Our plan is to visit all lower 48 states, and at least have a meal there to qualify as visiting. In January 2018 when we set off, we are most likely going to start in the southeast and slowly make our way to Florida, stopping off in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi along the way. Spend a month checking out the southeast making it down to the Florida Keys, and then start to head north again as the weather warms up in the rest of the country. Living out of a roof top tent, we are going to be chasing warmer temperatures. Once it warms up, we may B-line it over to the western United States and explore all those areas. THEN when fall hits, pin it to east coast again to check out the fall foliage. Everything is still up in the air, but as of now, that is our rough plan.

We have a partial destinations list on our website right now. The list is being constantly updated as we discover more areas we want to visit.
 

bigskypylot

Explorer
Sheller73, nice setup and good looking X! Looks a lot like what we have planned. We are going to replace the Bison cooler with an ARB Fridge/Freezer real soon, but we are trying to lock down the exact size that we want and can fit with all of our other gear. Both a portable solar panel and possibly a solar generator are on my inquiry list, just have to do some more research.

For destinations, we are looking to go everywhere. Our plan is to visit all lower 48 states, and at least have a meal there to qualify as visiting. In January 2018 when we set off, we are most likely going to start in the southeast and slowly make our way to Florida, stopping off in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi along the way. Spend a month checking out the southeast making it down to the Florida Keys, and then start to head north again as the weather warms up in the rest of the country. Living out of a roof top tent, we are going to be chasing warmer temperatures. Once it warms up, we may B-line it over to the western United States and explore all those areas. THEN when fall hits, pin it to east coast again to check out the fall foliage. Everything is still up in the air, but as of now, that is our rough plan.

We have a partial destinations list on our website right now. The list is being constantly updated as we discover more areas we want to visit.
Sounds like a great adventure! Looking forward to seeing it unfold! I see we share the same last name lol
 

galvyork

Adventurer
Sounds a great trip. I would recommend another vehicle or a trailer. With 3 people and a dog it will get tight. I would say a pick up with a shell. I'm a taco guy personally but, a Frontier would be great too. I have found with my taco and my dog I tend to fill up my truck pretty quick so another person and baby will be tight. You could run a rear bumper with a tire holder and storage box. The back of the xterra would be a great spot for a kitchen. I have a Tepui RTT and I would recommend a different brand. It would great but I'm not too sure about the longevity of it. Hope this helps. Don
 

bigskypylot

Explorer
Sounds a great trip. I would recommend another vehicle or a trailer. With 3 people and a dog it will get tight. I would say a pick up with a shell. I'm a taco guy personally but, a Frontier would be great too. I have found with my taco and my dog I tend to fill up my truck pretty quick so another person and baby will be tight. You could run a rear bumper with a tire holder and storage box. The back of the xterra would be a great spot for a kitchen. I have a Tepui RTT and I would recommend a different brand. It would great but I'm not too sure about the longevity of it. Hope this helps. Don
I do believe they were contemplating a trailer.
 

RyanHeller

Observer
Sounds a great trip. I would recommend another vehicle or a trailer. With 3 people and a dog it will get tight. I would say a pick up with a shell. I'm a taco guy personally but, a Frontier would be great too. I have found with my taco and my dog I tend to fill up my truck pretty quick so another person and baby will be tight. You could run a rear bumper with a tire holder and storage box. The back of the xterra would be a great spot for a kitchen. I have a Tepui RTT and I would recommend a different brand. It would great but I'm not too sure about the longevity of it. Hope this helps. Don
I have thought about selling the X and getting something else, like a truck, for more room. But at this point, we know the X, know how it handles off road, and the cheapest car is the one you already own. I am starting the design phase of the rear tire swingout and have planned to keep the outdoor kitchen/camp stove fully contained within the swing out. We are trying to minimize the amount of items we will have to unpack, and pack every night we stop for a meal or camp.

Financially we just couldn't justify building a trailer. I would love to build one, and know that I could make it fit us perfectly, but with a new kid on the way, and Sarah transitioning into stay-at-home mom duty, money is tight and the trailer is out of the budget. Our current plan is to utilize the items we sell, and that puts us into a Smittybilt RTT. We have so far had nothing but positive experiences with them and are truly interested in testing one out for a year. Will it last an entire year? :Wow1: We will find out.
 

Ryan Rogers

Adventurer
I don't know how much you've traveled with your pro4x, but with mine loaded down with stuff for 2 adults, a kid, a dog....and all the stuff we need to keep going, that puppy SAGS.

You may want to think about air springs for the rear when loaded down. You can always deflate if you have stuff out and want to do some off-roading. The set I have on order is only a couple hundred, and it doesn't mess with your normal suspension. (it's also a must if you decided to go the trailer route with the pro4x) (unless your suspension is all modded out) (extra parentheses, just in case) ()
 

RyanHeller

Observer
I don't know how much you've traveled with your pro4x, but with mine loaded down with stuff for 2 adults, a kid, a dog....and all the stuff we need to keep going, that puppy SAGS.

You may want to think about air springs for the rear when loaded down. You can always deflate if you have stuff out and want to do some off-roading. The set I have on order is only a couple hundred, and it doesn't mess with your normal suspension. (it's also a must if you decided to go the trailer route with the pro4x) (unless your suspension is all modded out) (extra parentheses, just in case) ()
Can you tell me your experience with the airbags? I am still on the fence if I should buy a custom leaf pack, or go helper air bags. My main concern with air bags is limited suspension articulation, and reliability. I don't want to sacrifice articulation in any way, and I also don't want a bag failure out deep on a trail somewhere. As of now, I am leaning towards a custom leaf pack for reliability.

Weight and reliability are huge concerns for me during this whole upcoming build (being in racing my whole professional career, it is ingrained in everything we do). I know the negative handling effects of having a high spring rate in the rear of the vehicle while leaving the front close to stock rate, especially without anti-roll bars hooked up. I am going to try to minimize the amount of additional weight added to the rear of the vehicle, and try to even the weight from front to rear. My hope is that I can move up spring rates equally (or as close as possible) front and rear to negate any odd handling woes. After our trip is over, I figured I could always switch back to my current spring set up to make day to day driving easier.
 
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