Three days, four gas stops, and a 5-cent coffee at Wall Drug later we are currently residing in the luxurious Butte, MT Wal-Mart parking lot.  As some of you may know, Wal-Mart generously offers their parking lot to any weary traveler looking for a spot to crash for the night.  No hassle, no questions, just 24-hour bathrooms with a parking lot lit up like the halftime at the Super Bowl.  In terms of safety and accessibility it has been essential and will continue to be a big part of our travels.

The first night sleeping in the van (decked out with a full mattress, solar string lights, and plenty of food and clothing bins) proved to be a great experience.  Condensing our SSP life into a 60 sq-ft mobile base was a feat in itself and one that only Libby could accomplish.  She has a knack for battling wire shelves and playing Tetris with all our possessions.  There were many items on the wishlist that were able to come along for the ride (chess board, guitar, 1/6th of Libby’s ridiculous succulent collection) due to the fact that she is a Jenga master.  Let’s be honest, if she left me to my own devices, the entire van would have been packed 45 minutes before we left and in various unmarked black trash bags.  Green beans and gym shorts are logical storage partners, right?

Today consisted of seeing the pock-marked landscape of the Badlands and testing the limits of the van’s cruise control on the hills of South Dakota (there are limits to Red Ned, I promise you) and Montana.  We also rolled past premium prairie dog land plots, a fox with dinner, the Corn Palace, and a city called Lame Deer (somebody please send me the Wiki link for name origin).  There were many jaw-dropping moments filled with landscape photos and chucking a few rocks down the cliff side to watch them tumble to the ground below.  The park’s ever-changing landscape due to rainfall and human exposure has worn down some spots by nearly 24”. It’s expected that over time – as in thousands of years from now – it will be ground down to a flat land.  If there was any sort of shock to the system for either Libby or I it was going from working and city life to seeing mostly 18-wheelers and a dilapidated house every 30 miles or so.  If you enjoy solidarity, HWY 212 through MT is for you.  It has it’s breath-taking views and tree-spotted ridge lines and outed without a modern service for a hundred miles.

I know this is the landscape that we will be experiencing for a great deal of our trip.  With that said, based on my preferences, I am not sure if it is something I could do full time.  I am too proud of being within a two hour Amazon prime delivery area and enjoy the fact that I have five grocery stores to pick from.  Call me a city slicker but I am grateful that my daily battles consist of trying to recall the house wi-fi password and picking which new brewery to go to next.  This trip and it’s temporary isolation will be a challenge for both of us.  It will include battling the mountains, battling my psyche, and eating way too much canned tuna, but I am excited to see what version of team Jibby (Joe & Libby) a 5,024 mile trip can produce.

So as the sun sets on the first short chapter of our story I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all for the donations and support.  Each and everyone of you are remarkable and your generosity makes my eyes sweat as I choke back the pride of knowing so many wonderful people.  Breaking 10K in donations – something we didn’t think possible – will help so many families and will add welcomed happiness to wherever they are in their journey with cancer.

Thank you, talk to you soon, and love yah.  Back to the highways and playing our favorite road game: “shredded tire, or dead animal?”.




3 thoughts on “Badlands, breathtaking views, and Butte

  1. Hi there! I love hearing the day-to-day operations of life in a van. Thank you for putting out this newsletter.

    I am interested in the mental and physical health of you both as you make your travels. I think it will be worthwhile to catalog these details as a starting place for your reflections in the future.

    I’m so proud of both of you. Know that you have a lot of support behind you.


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