The Road Trip

By Beka Thoning, Founder of the Stillpoint Lodge

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Eventually I reach the point where I have this overwhelming urge for adventure. It starts small, sometimes with an inability to stay focused, to stay seated, but the yearning is like a rising tide, and I know I’ll only feel better if I go. 

The first time I felt it was 2002, the timing was perfect. What I was supposed to do was get a job. I had just graduated college. What I needed to do was find myself a place to live. I had just packed everything from my dorm into boxes. I had just completed a degree and 16 seasons of competitive volleyball. What I really wanted to do was get outside; to see the mountains. There was a push north and a pull west. Chasing the sunset. Now or never - and I had a friend with a truck. The timing was perfect. 

I had a cooler, climbing gear and cotton clothes. Growing up, my dad’s idea of roughing it was a condo with black and white TV… so I had to borrow a backpack, tent, sleeping bag, set of cookware, and a short list of other things I hope I returned. I left all my boxes of stuff in the corner of my friend’s house and phoned my family, giving them a loose idea of what I was planning, because honestly, that’s all I really had. “A camping trip to the mountains to go backpacking, fly fishing, visit friends along the way, climbing, gone just a few weeks, then I’ll come back and do what I’m supposed to do.” 

With very little money or planning we jumped into the 4x4 and left Austin. 

They say wanderlust is genetic… growing up, whenever I went on a road trip with my parents, I dozed in the backseat half the time. This was different. This time I was driving, or wide eyed in the passenger seat, CD case and road atlas cracked open in my lap choosing the next album and route. We were devoted to taking only back roads and free camping. We slept with prairie dogs, hunted block ice, crashed parties, jumped in Lake Superior, visited Crazy Horse, Rushmore, City of Rocks, Old Faithful, fought altitude sickness, hiked in a blizzard in the Wind River Range guzzling trout-flavored water, caused a breakup in Jackson Hole, forded the narrows in Zion, camped with a herd of elk in Santa Fe, and lost my hat in a crack peering a hieroglyphs at Hueco Tanks. I was hooked! 

When we finally drove back into Austin two months later I had just enough money left for my car payment. The timing was perfect. I found a cheap room to rent, a variety of low-commitment jobs, and dedicated myself to earning enough money to go on my next adventure. 

The next time I felt the overwhelming urge for a big adventure was 2009. Into my life of work and travel delightfully had come a husband and a daughter. And work became more worky… and that rising tide came again, with a push to go north and a pull from the west. Again I packed up all my stuff and called my family and gave a loose idea of what I was planning… “A road trip to Alaska, visit friends along the way, just a few months, then I’ll come back and do what I’m supposed to do.” This time we were a family of 3 with a teardrop trailer on what would be a 3-month road trip to the last frontier. 

We’ve been in Alaska ever since, where every day can be an adventure. But I’m planning my next big trip, too.

kelsey bumsted