Tag Archives: planning for career break

A Year on the Road: By the Numbers

Lake at Oak Mountain State Park

Lake near our campsite at Oak Mountain State Park in Birmingham Alabama

Hours volunteered: 550 hours, an average of 10 hours per week

Shoes covered in Black Prairie Soil

Jay’s Shoes Covered in Black Prairie Soil at Community Garden

Organizations We Volunteered for: 

  1. Byrd Elementary School, Richmond, VA
  2. Plano Community Garden, Plano, TX
  3. Garden of Tomorrow, Phoenix, AZ
  4. The Wellness Community, Phoenix, AZ
  5. Flagstaff Cultural Partners, Flagstaff, AZ
  6. Grapevine Mesa Joshua Tree National Natural Landmark, Meadview, AZ
  7. National Association of Volunteer Programs in Local Government
  8. Sparked.com
  9. Scottsdale League for the Arts, Scottsdale, AZ
  10. Vilonia Fire Department, Vilonia, AR
  11. Disaster Response, Phil Campbell, AL
  12. Salvation Army, Guntersville, AL
  13. North Country Trails Association, Allegheny National Forest Chapter, PA
  14. Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, Hungry Horse, MT
  15. Muskoka Foundation and Napi Friendship Association, Pincher Creek, AB
  16. Banff National Park, Banff, AB
  17. Materials for the Arts, Astoria, NY
  18. Meadowood Recreation Area, BLM, Fairfax, VA
  19. Ronald McDonald House, Falls Church, VA
  20. Prescott Mountain Bike Alliance, Prescott, AZ
  21. Grand Canyon National Park, employee bike sharing project, AZ
  22. Capitol Reef National Park, UT
  23. Grand Canyon Trust, Kane Ranch and Utah
  24. Muskoka Foundation & Chinle Junior High School, Chinle, AZ
  25. Wabi Sabi Thrift Store, Moab, UT
  26. SAME Cafe, Denver, CO
  27. Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO
  28. COPMOBA – Fruita and Montrose, CO
  29. Grand Canyon National Park Vegetation Program, AZ
  30. Volunteers for Outdoor Arizona, Phoenix, AZ
  31. Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Phoenix, AZ
  32. Fresh Start Foundation, Phoenix, AZ
  33. Arizona Trail Association, Patagonia, AZ
  34. Trips for Kids, Tucson, AZ
  35. United Way, Valley of the Sun – Project Connect, Phoenix, AZ
  36. StartingBloc, Los Angeles, CA
sharon and jay at the red balloon picnic

Jay and Sharon at the Red Balloon Picnic volunteer project with Phoenix Philanthropists

States & Provinces: 3 Provinces and 32 States, and the District of Columbus (note, we traveled through New Jersey and Delaware, but didn’t stop.  Every other state we actually stayed in for at least one night).

administration building, Banff National Park

Administration building at Banff National Park where the event was held

In the order in which “they appeared”.

  1. Virginia
  2. North Carolina
  3. South Carolina
  4. Georgia
  5. Alabama
  6. Mississippi
  7. Louisiana
  8. Texas
  9. New Mexico
  10. Arizona
  11. California
  12. Nevada
  13. Oklahoma
  14. Arkansas
  15. Tennessee
  16. Maryland
  17. West Virginia
  18. Pennsylvania
  19. New York
  20. Ontario
  21. Michigan
  22. Wisconsin
  23. Minnesota
  24. North Dakota
  25. Montana
  26. British Columbia
  27. Alberta
  28. Washington
  29. Delaware
  30. New Jersey
  31. Washington, DC
  32. Washington
  33. Oregon
  34. Idaho
  35. Utah
  36. Colorado
view of Coke Ovens colorado national monument

view of Coke Ovens, Colorado National Monument

Miles on the car: approximately 20,000

flooded road in Arkansas

the view out the windshield of the flooded road we drove through

Top Posts (most views):

  1. The Accident: Service Driven is on Hold
  2. We are Alabama: Tornado Relief and Recovery
  3. Photo Review: Overland Expo 2011
  4. Photo Review: Dismals Canyon National Natural Landmark
  5. At Your Request: Our Engagement Story
  6. Photo Review: Wedding #1
  7. 25 Years of Life Saved – Celebrating My Sister’s Survival
  8. 18th Week in Review: The Big Announcement
  9. Wolverine Clarification
  10. 6 Questions That Can Make a Stranger Your New BFF
dismals canyon

Dismals Canyon, a National Natural Landmark near Phil Campbell

Top Posts (most comments):

Jay and I at his brother’s wedding last year

Budget: Well, this one is hard to figure.  We have money left in the account that we had set aside for this trip, but we also spent more than we expected to spend due to Jay’s accident (which came to about $6,000) and our car repairs ($2,000).  In the end we were able to make a little money along the road and were given gift cards which helped offset our costs.
crab cakes and bacon breakfast

crab cakes and bacon breakfast

We tried to track our spending along the way, but we weren’t consistent.  We generally stayed pretty close to our goal of spending less than $2,000 a month.
Of what we recorded, mostly things with receipts, it broke down to:
  • Food: 37%   –  >$6,500
  • Automotive (mostly gas and parts): 29%   –  >$5,200
  • Health care: 14%   –  > $2,500 (this is regular medical, doesn’t include all of Jay’s emergency expenses)
  • Household (mostly consumables): 7%    –  >$1,300
  • Personal (clothing, bike parts, etc): 6%   –  > $1,100
  • Entertainment (fees to parks and museums): 3%   –  > $600
  • Other: 4%   – > $700

We toasted this new milestone with tequila shots as the sun set

Nights under the stars: 113, most of those nights were spent in our 3 person Marmot Aeros tent in free campsites on federal land

Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, Idaho

Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, Idaho

National Parks & Monuments Visited: 

We also visited a lot of state, city, and regional parks and camped on Forest Service and BLM lands.

  1. Congaree National Park, Hopkins, SC
  2. White Sands National Monument, Alamogordo, NM
  3. Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, Gran Quivira, NM
  4. Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, AR
  5. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND
  6. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
  7. Natural Bridges National Monument, UT
  8. Arches National Park, UT
  9. Canyonlands National Park, UT
  10. Zion National Park, UT
  11. Capitol Reef National Park, UT
  12. Lake Mead National Recreation Area, AZ & NV
  13. Death Valley National Park, NV
  14. Great Basin National Park, NV
  15. Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, AZ
  16. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, AZ
  17. Canyon De Chelly National Monument, AZ
  18. Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
  19. Juan Baptista de Anza National Historic Trail, AZ
  20. Saguaro National Park, AZ
  21. Joshua Tree National Park, CA
  22. Tumacacori National Historic Park, AZ
  23. Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, ID
  24. Oregon National Historic Trail, OR & ID
  25. Colorado National Monument, CO
  26. Banff National Park, AB
  27. Jasper National Park, AB
  28. Waterton Lakes National Park, AB
  29. Yoho National Park, BC
  30. Glacier National Park, BC
  31. Mount Revelstoke National Park, BC
Jay looking at Island in the Sky, Canyonlands

Jay looking out on the Island in the Sky area of Canyonlands 

Breweries Visited: 60 different breweries in Alberta, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington

Jay at Brewery in Atlanta

Jay at Brewery in Atlanta, GA


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The Challenges of Holiday Gift Season When You Are Downsizing

As we prepare to hit the road early next year, we suddenly have a new relationship with STUFF.  First of all, we clearly have TOO MUCH stuff.  How did we possibly accumulate it all in the 2+ years that we have lived here??  When Jay and I moved to Virginia in July 2008, we came in 2 cars with only the stuff that fit in two cars.  Now, we are trying to set off around the country in only 1 car, which means downsizing even further.

As we are diving into downsizing, we are also getting ready for Christmas, which in my large family means a lot of gifts to give and gifts to receive.  Here are our ideas for how to give Christmas cheer without adding to our accumulation of material goods and without spending all of our budget for the trip.

Gift Giving

(SPOILER ALERT — if you are family or close friends that we normally exchange gifts with, you may get a sense of what you are getting this year from us ….):

  • Services — As you can tell from the “About Service Driven” tab, Jay and I each have unique skill sets, and some of those skills can be offered as free services to our friends and family as gifts
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, REGIFT! — Clearing out the house we have uncovered so many great things that we didn’t even realize we have, some of which have never even been used!
  • Homemade — with a low budget for supplies, we can also make gifts, which is a favorite amongst our family

Receiving Gifts

  • Jay and I put together a Service Driven Wish List for supplies that we need or would like for use on our trip.
  • We are also anticipating some homemade goodies such as famous cookies and homemade baked bread.  Food in particular is great since it reduces our grocery bill!
  • Donations in our honor are always nice.  In the past I have given DonorsChoose.org gift cards, which are particularly fun because the recipient gets to pick the project that benefits.

What are your suggestions for low-cost or less materialistic ways of handling gift giving?