America is a spectacularly beautiful and diverse country. Ken Burns dubbed our National Parks “America’s Best Idea.” I agree. National Parks reflect our democracy and freedom by being open and accessible to everyone. They invite us to examine our past – commemorating our history and gaining insights and respect for the people who came before us – and inspire us to be more understanding, brave and embrace the future.
How does a traveler best see our National Parks? On the Adventure Bus! This small company run out of Moab, Utah is the best way to visit national parks. It’s run by Stephanie and Kyle, and they make the experience wonderful with a combination of charm and professionalism.
A bus? Yes, a bus. A former NJ Transit bus to be precise (Jersey represent!). The bus is named Molly and her interior has been renovated to include both seating and bunk beds – sleeping 20 people. The lower bays store camping gear like tents, chairs, food and cooking supplies. They provide pillows and you can rent a sleeping bag.
They handle the itinerary, the food, the driving. Stephanie selects gorgeous hikes and activities for people of all abilities.
And now to address the inevitable – What about???
I once convinced a friend to join and her biggest question was “Am I pooping in the woods?” No. There’s no bathroom on the bus and they stop every 90 minutes or so for a restroom break. Campgrounds and visitor centers have bathrooms too. I’ve even seen guests bring hair dryers.
The bus usually stays in well-resourced campgrounds like KOAs. Showers are campground showers so you’ll be clean but don’t expect a bubble bath. Sometimes you’ll stay in a more primitive location for a night or two to get a great experience – you won’t miss the shower when you’ve seemingly got the entire desert to yourself sleeping out under the stars.
They prepare all the food and it’s delicious! Breakfast could be banana pancakes or oatmeal, and there’s always coffee, tea, fruit, yogurt, etc. Lunches are usually prepared to take on a hike, so think hummus, carrots, apples, lunchmeat and good ole PB&J. Dinners are amazing – pesto chicken, Navajo Stew (my favorite), burritos (which then lead to migas for breakfast the next day!). Stephanie and Kyle do all the prepping and cooking and guests are welcome to pitch in, and we all help clean up. It’s BYO and there is a guest cooler that we all chip in to keep icy cold. Of course there are smores too for sitting by the campfire!
But sleeping on the ground?
You have options. Some people sleep on the bus – curled up in a sleeping bag on bunks that are remarkably comfortable. Some pitch tents and sleep outside. Here’s the magic – when you sleep outside, you take the mattress off the bus and put it in your tent, so sleeping is amazingly comfortable! Being in a tent is often the only alone time I get on the trip which I need for my sanity.
How to set up a tent?
You don’t need to know the answer! Stephanie and Kyle will help you, and so will other passengers. We’re all friends inside of an hour.
Can I handle the hikes?
Yes. You do you. It’s not a test nor a race. Do the hikes you want to, turn back when you want to. There are always options – including not hiking at all if you want to read under a tree or rest someplace. If you’re determined to get to the top, know that you’ll have travelmates cheering you on, lending a helping hand, and celebrating your accomplishment.
How do I charge my camera, phone, tablet, etc.?
There is electricity on the bus and plenty of outlets, which are always available when we’re moving, and many campgrounds have electricity too. Yes, many campgrounds have wifi but I implore anyone who comes on the bus to keep the phone use to a minimum – go old school and talk to your travel buddies and be mindful of the amazing experience!
What are the people like?
I’ve met amazing people on the Adventure Bus. Other than my first trip, I’ve only had one other trip where I didn’t know anyone, lots of people come back again and again. People come from all walks of life – mostly Americans but some international people too. Many come as singles, but I’ve been on trips with couples and a few families too. I’ve introduced friends to the Adventure Bus. I’ve made friends that I’ve since traveled with to other countries, visited their shore homes, and caught up with when I was in their town.
On my third Adventure Bus trip, day two, we visited the town of Deadwood and about ten of us saddled up to a bar in town. I knew about three people on that trip, who knew three other people and so on. After about a half hour of chatting at the bar the bartender asked “How do you all know each other? You act like lifelong friends but you don’t know things about each other that longtime friends should know.” That about sums it up.