I Quit My Job Then Drove 3,000 Miles to Clear My Head Episode #141

Aaron McHugh


Last month, I quit my job. I decided I needed to clear my head before starting a new gig. I just returned from a 3,000-mile road trip out west in our 1974 VW Bus. I put together a Best Of list from my experience. My Instagram @aarondmchugh feed has all of the photos I posted from five National Parks, the best hikes, the kindest human I met, quirky roadside Route 66 Wigwam Motel, impromptu unplugged acoustic guitar set in Sante Fe, to our favorite camp spots and sunrise.


Instagram post @aarondmchugh “Tomorrow I roll out on a lifetime first-ill defined road trip wanderlust. I’m aiming towards Cali to see friends and family. Back home by Thanksgiving but everything in between is fluid. Embracing The mystery.”

Pulling out the night before hoping my adventure will go well.

Best place to rest your weary head

The best camp spot Sawtooth Campground 17 miles outside of Barstow, CA. Cheap solitude with fire pits and desert awnings.

Favorite Desert West Camping Spot outside of Barstow, CA

Questioning my adventure plans

Instagram post @aarondmchugh “Unfiltered-this moment was beautiful and driving away I wonder “What AM I doing?” Not specifically but Really-I quit my job, hop in our Bus, hope it will make it 1k Miles -to meet a few friends-see my son-see my Dad – pick up my brother at the airport-to drive to our childhood home in Bishop, CA, to meander our way back to CO via Blue Highways, whiskey, fly fishing, Lord Huron, Johnny Cash, Jackopierce and God’s wind at our back? YES that is the plan-loose as it feels-timid as it feels-audaciously bold as it feels. And we’re not quite half way.”

The Joy Buses in Laguna Nigel @ Jake’s house changing my oil for the return trip.
Jake and I alongside our Joy Bus Adventure companions

Favorite sunrise in Bishop, CA

We spent eight nights camping in our bus. Waking up to the snow capped Eastern Sierra’s reminded our souls of why we love mountains.

Bishop, CA is four hours from Las Vegas, LA, Reno, and Yosemite reigned over by the Eastern Sierra’s.

The kindest human

Norm deserves the kindest human award. Owner of Mesa West German Auto Center. “I just drove my bus 1,000 miles and I could use some help.” Norm, “I’m backed up for two-weeks. But if you get here soon, I’ll take a look”. Instagram @aarondmchugh “Adventures have uncertain moments. Back on the road again”

Norm, the kindest human and 40+ year owner of Mesa West, Costa Mesa’s VW repair show.

Epic hike underneath giant walls

The Narrows passage is incredibly unusual. When do you hike in a gin clear mountain river below two-thousand foot desert towers? Nowhere but in Zion National Park. 4-6 hours round trip. Narrows rentals run $43 to rent river pants, boots, and walking staff from Zion Adventure Company. Instagram @aarondmchugh “Day two scoping the infamous Narrows river route in Zion NP”

The entry to the Narrows in Zion National Park.

Most isolated stretch of road

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument serves up a spine of endless blacktop threading the needle between dual 1,000 foot drops. My friend rode this same stretch of isolation on his motorcycle in 2004. “I remember one section of road that particularly incredible-like several miles of riding the back of a massive dinosaur-stair steps. And the view to east and west was UNREAL”. Instagram @aarondmchugh “Morning #2 Utah. Slept at Capitol Reef NP last night. Bryce Canyon NP today.”

The most isolated stretch of road Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Proudest moment impromptu acoustic unplugged live music

I convinced my brother (which didn’t take much) that we could play just as well as another vagabonds playing the neighboring park. We grabbed our guitars and offered up a few brotherly riffs. Instagram video @aarondmchugh “Truth be told we made $1 in tips on our first ever live park pickup jam acoustic unplugged session.”

Proudest moment Acoustic unplugged guitar pickup in old town Santa Fe, NM.

Unexpected highlight sleeping on my son’s couch

My son Holden lives in Costa Mesa, CA. I’ve never stayed at his place before, they’ve never been great for guests. A true milestone that fondly recall.

Holden is a cool cat.

Fellow curious explorers from Spain

We met Noli, ivan, Dhara and Kiram in Death Valley National Park. They were our favorite fellow travelers (although there are a couple close seconds-honorable mention Blue Bird crew in Sante Fe, NM). Check out their multi-continent adventures on Instagram @laestrellaviajera2016 last I checked, they are still exploring Death Valley.

Noli, Ivan, Dhara and Kiram wandering across the planet together in their VW Bus.

Quirky find: sleep in a Teepee

Built in the 1950’s the Wigwam Motel rents to curious Route 66 travelers for $70 x night. Originally there were eight Wigwam Villages, now only three remain, two are along Route 66 Holbrook, AZ and near San Bernardino. Full history here.

The Wigwam Motel looks like the Cozy Cone Motel from the Pixar town Radiator Springs.

Transcendent Moment

My brother and I visiting our elementary school, our childhood home, and saw some old friends for dinner. The last time we were together in Bishop was when we drove away in 1981. It was good for our souls.

Our double-wide mobile home hadn’t changed much. Most especially the view of the mountains.

Favorite quote

When asking where to buy a fishing license, “Just drive out of town and look for the Big Chicken”.

Soundtrack for the Late Shift

“I can’t be satisfied” Muddy Waters

“Moving Right Along” The Muppet Movie 1979

“Death Letter Blues”, Son House

“Chocolate Jesus”, Tom Waits

“You Got to Walk That Lonesome Valley”, Mississippi John Hurt

Curiosity starter

I love this guide. I’ve used it now on two significant trips. Worthy of the $18 price for thousands of aromas you’ll miss without it. Wildsam Desert Southwest Field Guide, American Road Trip Series Vol. 2.

“For tireless seekers of the authentic” The Wall Street Journal

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