The Back Story: Surviving Winters in Indiana
Since I work from home, I have the ability to work from anywhere. Last winter, every time I scrapped ice and snow off my car, I questioned why I still lived in a snowy climate when neither I nor my little chihuahua/min pin like the snow. Southern California has always been on my radar for the warm weather, diversity, Asian community, and business opportunities, but it is SO far away from South Bend, Indiana. The traffic is bad, housing rates are some of the highest in the country, and it just seemed too crazy and out of reach. Besides, South Bend is a pretty good city with a low cost of living and a good community.
A close friend of mine had a close friend unexpectedly pass away recently. When it happened, we were the same age: 22. It made me realize you think you have all this time to do things, but you may not. A worldwide pandemic, a sudden death, you never know when any moment will be your last. As terrified as I was to leave everything that I know and love behind, I knew I would hate myself if I died only having lived in Indiana when there is SO much of this amazing world to see.
A few months ago, I planned on escaping winter and living with a friend’s parents for two months in southern California. Two months turned into six months, which turned into me thinking of living out there. I quickly realized that the Los Angeles area without a car would be impossible. Renting a car or Uber-ing everywhere would be ridiculously expensive. So that left roadtripping.
In a crazy push outside of my comfort zone, I began mapping out a road trip with my anxious, one-eyed, one-toothed dog and my sister Hannah. We had a limited window with the holiday season (I didn’t want to run into issues on a holiday with no mechanic open) and Hannah’s return to school which gave us a timeline: 12 days.
I found a subletter, sold a bunch of my stuff, packed up the Little Prius That Could, and we were on our way.
- Iowa AirBnb: $58 (one night)
- Nebraska AirBnb: $119 (one)
- Colorado with a friend: $0 (three)
- Arches National Park, UT Lodge: $172
- Zion National Park, UT AirBnb: $272
- Las Vegas, NV AirBnb: $166
- Total: $787
The Zion AirBnb was by far the worst one, which was unfortunate and frustrating since it was 1/3 of our budget. We wish we would’ve stayed at a lodge and found a laundromat. A few tips for finding budget stays:
- Consider campgrounds (this wasn’t a viable option with a dog in winter)
- If you don’t have dogs, consider staying in hostels. (big cities will have them)
- With AirBnb, take note of cleaning fees – they add up quickly.
For one day at Moab, Zion, and Las Vegas, we left Champ with a sitter from Rover. Our sitter in Moab was somewhat questionable and I wish we would’ve chosen a daycare, but we had great experiences with Rovers in Zion and Las Vegas. Always read reviews and ask lots of questions if they don’t!
For the majority of our trip, we packed easy meals we could make in the microwave: rice, green beans, chunky soup, easy Mac, pasta, and frozen dumplings we packed and froze at each location. We knew we’d be splurging on eating out in Denver and Las Vegas so we budgeted accordingly. In the national parks, if you plan on spending the whole day there, I recommend bringing food since none are available inside the parks.
If you plan on visiting several National parks, the $80 America the Beautiful pass gets you into all of the National Parks. The parks are $30-35 each so even if you just hit a few, you’ll be saving yourself time and money!
On My Way: From Indiana to California
Day 1: Illinois/Iowa border
We were originally planning to drive a solid 10-11 hours from South Bend, IN to Grand Island, NE. A last-minute snowstorm changed up our plans and we crashed in a little AirBnb on the Illinois/Iowa line.
Day 2: Nebraska
We headed to Nebraska early in the morning to beat a snowstorm. We arrived in the early afternoon and ate Easy Mac, meatballs, and Cheez-Its while watching Netflix.
Day 3-5: Colorado
We met up with my old roommate Natalie in great Denver, Colorado. About a week before, I had bought trekking poles off some guy on Facebook marketplace for $20 and we picked those up. (Set your Facebook marketplace location to wherever you’re going – nobody in Indiana had them available and I didn’t want to buy new.)
We got to explore Boulder, downtown Denver, and on our last day, made a last-minute decision to visit the Rocky Mountains. The aforementioned Little Prius That Could did not have chains or snow tires, but we didn’t run into any problems.
We hiked part of Deer Junction. We couldn’t find a trail/there were no trail markers so Hannah in particular kept falling in thigh-high snow. We didn’t have winter pants, since it was last minute we didn’t tell anyone we were going, Hannah lost her hat somewhere in the Rockies…umm if you plan to visit the Rockies in winter, please be more prepared than we were. Nevertheless, the views were magnificent.
I made a travel video documenting our journey. 😀 It was shot entirely on an iPhone 12 and iPhone 13.