Road trip west - Pittsburgh to Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado

January 04, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

We have prints available from this trip here! 

New Mexico Prints

Colorado Prints

 

In 2022, my husband and I took our three year old across the country in our van from Pittsburgh to New Mexico, north to Colorado, then home. Below is a photographic journey of that trip and some notes between the photos of where some of the locations are at.  nm tripnm trip

We left Pittsburgh and drove west for days, with a small child we didn't put in more then 6-7 hours a day on the road. We stopped in St Louis, walked through the big arch to "officially" cross into the west, as the arch represents. Thirty days later we returned home.

Below you will find my journal entries from the trip that I posted to Facebook along the way.

 

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ENTRY 1

We have embarked on a month long road trip. Will plan to share more of our travels as we go. For now we have officially  driven several states, walked through the "gateway to the west" and have an amazing little 3 yr old copilot helping us decide our next route. Her seventh trip since birth, she is a road warrior for sure... But this will be our longest yet, so wish us luck! We will post some of what we see & hear so you can all travel along with us 


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ENTRY 2

Oklahoma surprised us immensely. The earth was bold in color, the sunset so golden, and winds sounded like music. There were more stars than I've ever seen on a night drive from Ok City to Amarillo. We discovered an amazing state park full of red rocks, Roadside attraction of the friendliest whale on Rt 66, the most interesting BFF potty, and some of the nicest people in every small town we stopped.  As an added bonus we can now say we once passed a sign that said, Warning: Hitchhiker's may be escaped convicts. The adventure continues on...
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ENTRY 3 

Our time in Amarillo was BIG.  There were big steaks, big arrows, big sun, big winds, big cowboys and big cadillacs.  But we did find a great little library in a nature center to swap for some new books for the journey.  The adventure continues westward bound...


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ENTRY 4

Amazing adventures in Albuquerque! 

We are almost 2500 miles in 💪  

Journey continues south...

 

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ENTRY 5

This trip is not without challenges. (in fact many of my friends with toddlers have randomly sent words of encouragement and check in messages to see how we are doing and my sister has offered to fly out to give us two days of babysitting break time lol). There are meltdowns and tantrums of course that probably have woken our hotel neighbors, my child is NOT perfect. But there are nights of jumping on hotel beds and giggles so loud we probably are ALSO  disturbing the neighbors.  There are days of literally dancing to music in the streets of the old towns. Yes, there are exhausting driving days, times of trying to find ways to cook roadside to keep healthy food in our bodies, and digging deep to find the energy for giant hikes while carrying camera equipment PLUS a toddler on your back. But there are things my daughter is learning about life through this exploration and time with her parents we can't begin to quantify.  We have learned how to be better parents in so many ways during the last 10 days that I can't imagine I would have learned at home. The memories made are worth every grueling minute.  While on this trip, we have managed a toddler through 2500 miles so far, Bill has recorded the sounds of nature for his project, I've photographed nearly everything I see, and we have filmed for a documentary.  We are filled with the love of our daughter, the nature around us, and the memories and art we are creating.  We're almost halfway there.

 

ABQ gifted us new friends, wandering old streets full of art, mountains with sunrises and sunsets that Orsa called magical, and petroglyphs that were 700 years old and left you feeling something you couldn't really explain. There was an off road that was meant to be a shortcut, but ended up being 11 miles at 15mph extremely bumpy off road quality which turned out to be a blessing of great  serendipity because beautiful views and immense laughter got us through it - which gave us memories we won’t forget. We took one of the most amazing drives I've experienced, south to the White Sands. And with shaking hands and legs, I crested the top of the first dune as we arrived just in time for sunfall at 6pm the first day - and literally gasped with shock.  I've seen sand dunes before but these were beyond this world. Our country is quite incredible, I encourage you to get out and explore the uncommon, far off places that exist here. The adventure continues...


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ENTRY 6 

White Sands. Leaving here with big emotions after our week here, a truly magical place.  More to share soon. Journey continues north now…

 



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ENTRY 7 

Here are some more White Sands photos of some various days there  before i switch to the next part of our trip.  Can't be more thankful for Bill's photography that captured these moments with Orsa and I. Post WSNP we traveled to FarmingtonNM and Bill explored the unknown wild of the Bisti Badlands while Orsa and I rested a few days, made some local friends in playgroups,  and got the car serviced since we hit 3k miles.  The people of NM have been extraordinary to meet and this state [east west north and south] has truly been an amazing adventure. We immersed ourselves in researching the area and Native American culture. I have learned to love green Chile on eggs and found amazing New Mexico cookbooks. We have just crossed in to Colorado and can't wait for more.


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ENTRY 8 FB POST 

After the Bisti Badlands (photos to come later) we headed north for a few day stop to see more sand dunes. The Great Sand Dunes are absolutely huge.  In comparison to the White Sands in NM, the colors are so different and the mountains that tower behind are 14K footers.  The dunes themselves are massive and take hours to get to the top despite what it seems like from far away.  They're quite deceiving.  We were fortunate to see the dunes in several sunrises, sunsets and different weather. 

We continue on in Colorado to Garden of the Gods, Manitou Springs, Colorado Springs, and the Paint Mines! 


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Pikes peak snow to play in!! 

 

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Manitou Springs! 

 

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Royal Gorge Route Railroad! 

 


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Skyline Drive near New River Gorge - with actual dinosaur tracks fossilized (below)   DSC_6707DSC_6707 DSC_6781DSC_6781 DSC_6810DSC_6810 DSC_7017DSC_7017 DSC_6918DSC_6918 DSC_6829DSC_6829 DSC_7270DSC_7270 DSC_7182DSC_7182 DSC_7328DSC_7328

 the paint mines! just an hour east of Colorado Springs!

 

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FINAL ENTRY

 

I love creating art as a family. I’ve come to realize what seems normal to us while traveling, others find foreign. Toddler on your shoulders while both carrying 40 lb packs of camera and audio gear, water, snacks and toys is our norm. Since Orsa has grown a little older, I think she enjoys the process of it as well. She has begun to notice things like mountains and sunsets and point out how beautiful they are, she asks to hear how the sand or water sounds under the surface, and for the first time is asking to take some photos herself with the camera. I am happy for her to learn appreciation for nature and art so young. Kudos to Bill, who woke up daily before dawn to hike mountains and dunes before the first light, because sunsets just were not enough. I can’t thank him enough for capturing the mother/daughter moments of us together on this trip, they’re priceless and as a photographer you’re often not captured on camera. Also for encouraging me to model for him, something I wasn’t so sure about, but creating these images together was really exciting and fun. Something I always tell my clients, to be brave and let yourself be glamorous on camera - I finally listened to my own advice. So as this trip comes to a close and I head back, I embrace all of the art we bring back with our memories. Landscapes, portraits of each other, Bill’s project about earth sound and music, all while creating a documentary about the process. It was a month of adventure, art and family. I am so thankful for all of it. 

I wasn’t so sure midway through this trip, but I realize now, Orsa really did grow and learn so much as a little human on this adventure.  She is different now in some ways and I hope that somewhere, some of these memories will stick in her brain. She still talks about some of the road trips we took the last few years to the northeast and the south, whether they are real memories or not, who knows. But there is hope this adventure will stay with her. Even if not tangible, i know it impacted her. She has been a road warrior since only a few months old and I think that teaches children a lot of patience and instills a sense of wonder.  And so, I encourage everyone with children to hit the road and wander this beautiful earth. Its good for you and them. Go without a plan, let yourself experience serendipity. You’ll fight - no doubt. You’ll have anxiety and nerves. But you’ll learn, see, experience, & feel SO much more. When we left our home on March 1st, we had not booked a single night hotel or airbnb. We just started driving west and planned this trip as we drove our mini van. We knew our key locations we would go to, that’s about it.  It can be done, and yes children are tough on the road,  but malleable too. This was our longest adventure yet as a trio and the journey was more than we even imagined it would be. 

As my little Orsaline and I fly back to Pittsburgh from Denver, Bill is continuing on to finish the journey north - more Rockies, Wyoming, Badlands then turning east.  Help me send him off with lots of safe travel messages! He is officially 40 as of a few days ago, so I think his last month in his 30’s was definitely one to remember. 

 

 

30 days and 4000 miles with a three year old... if I can do it, you can too! Go for it! 
**Peace, Love & Adventure**

-Autumn

 

 

 


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