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inspiring us: American road trip

There’s no denying that travel has long inspired designers of all stripes and fashion is no exception. Immersing yourself in another landscape and culture is a sure-fire way to get the creative juices flowing. Pulling yourself out of your normal environment (office, studio, etc.) and working from the road, although sometimes fraught with challenges and frustrations, can also be very rewarding. As much as I love exotic and far flung places, though, there are also some truly wondrous sights to be seen and experiences to have here in the USA. One of the most eye opening and inspiring travel experiences I have had is the cross country trip that I took with my family in the summer of 2013. In fact, these travels still influence some of the work I have been doing recently. Polychrome’s trend groups “Painted Desert” and “Wild West” are partly inspired by this trip although it was several years ago.


Our journey

At the onset of summer 2013, my husband and I found ourselves in an enviable situation: for the first time we could both work remotely. Knowing full well it might not last forever, we decided that we had to take advantage of this. After only a few weeks of planning we set out on a roadtrip with a very vague idea of our destinations. Our plan was to tent camp most of the time, couch surf with various friends when we could, and concede to a couple of motel stays if necessary. We loosely planned stops for the first third of the trip knowing that my husband needed to be in Las Vegas mid-summer for a conference and put off the rest of the planning to do along the way. Honestly, though, we had an agreement that if the first couple of weeks were totally miserable, we could just turn around and come home (to New England) and he could fly to his conference in late July. The first several stops always ended up with us packing up our camp, climbing in the car, and turning to each other to ask “well, do you want to keep going?”…

With four of us and all our camping gear crammed into one car for 8+ weeks, this was anything but a glamorous jet-setter lifestyle vacation. Some days were just endless driving with no hope of getting out other than to stretch our legs and take a bathroom break. Inevitably, there were so many places we had to pass by where we would have liked to stop, but we simply didn’t have time to go three hours out of our way to see them if we didn’t want to be pitching our tent in the dark at 10pm that night. A particular regret is not going off route to see Devil’s Tower (of “Close Encounters…” fame). By the end of the trip all of us had places we have put on the agenda for the next time. This was the summer my kids came up with the term ‘camping clean’ which, as you can imagine, is much lower than our standards at home and could be applied to anything from your own person to utensils and clothing. It’s a term they still jokingly refer to when they don’t want to clean something (or themselves). There is no better/faster way to get close to people than to all pile in the same tent night after night when an exhausting day of activity is behind you. We would drift off to sleep mumbling about our favorite point in the day or what we wanted to do tomorrow. This was one of those magic summers where we really strengthened our family bond.

Our parks - our national treasure and national responsibility

National and state parks were an integral part of our trip. It would be difficult to imagine making this journey – or even wanting to make it as much – without the amazing open spaces that America has to offer. We spent a week camping in Yellowstone, so thrilled to be able to the see wildlife and spectacular views that makes this place so special. We rode horses through the colorful, time-worn notch canyons in Escalante, UT. We passed a sleepless but exhilarating night at a beautiful state park outside Minneapolis while a fierce rainstorm threatened to wash our tent away and lightening flashed too close for comfort in the meadow behind us. We camped in the dunes of Lake Michigan in Indiana, amazed to see a lake so vast. We pitched tent way too late one night under a full moon outside Bryce Canyon, UT and got scared away from our dinner by a scorpion at our feet. We ran away from a flash flood in Zion National Park and had to clamber up the walls with several dozen other people to escape the rushing water. We woke up to the sounds of wild horses whinnying ten yards from our tent at Assateague, MD and watched in admiration as they raced down to the surf. Through all these amazing experiences, we saw wonders and beauty beyond our expectations: the otherworldly landscape of Badlands National Park, the awe-inspiring rock formations throughout Utah, the vast and sparse beauty of the Midwest prairie, the amazing lightning storms percolating across miles of wide open landscape in the Southwest, the stirring sight of pictographs and petroglyphs made by ancient peoples on canyon walls where we hiked.

Once you have experienced these places, you realize your obligation to protect them. The national parks, state parks, and other public lands are a wonderful gift to all of us living here in the US and also to the millions of visitors that come every year to marvel at the beauty of our country. The government that had the foresight to create these protected areas has an obligation to keep this promise to all of its citizens that it will do whatever is in its power to safeguard them against ravagement by private interests. In turn, American citizens have a duty to each other and future generations to hold the government to this promise and not lose sight of the grand and noble plan to keep these lands public and unspoiled. Getting more people to spend more time in our parks is the best way to defend them from the perilous situation they are in from threats of defunding and legislature that is in consideration to loosen restrictions on using public lands for private enterprise. Familiarity is the enemy of apathy; once people realize what is at stake, they will be much more concerned about losing it. So get out there and encourage everyone you know to do the same.

Did you know... the National Parks Service offers an annual pass for families at the incredibly reasonable rate of $80/year? Military families are eligible for FREE passes as are families who happen to have a child in the 4th grade the year they are traveling, and seniors can get a lifetime pass for only $10 !

Want an American roadtrip of your own? I hope you are inspired to take a trip to your parks soon. In the spirit of promoting the beauty of our parks, I am sharing a copy of our itinerary including info on where we stayed and travel times.

For our next venture, we are dreaming about taking a trip down the West Coast from Vancouver to the tip of Baja.

Do you have any insights for me? I would love any suggestions if you have done all or part of this route!

We would love to hear from you

What have been some of your most memorable experiences in our parks? Where have you visited that has impacted and inspired you? What would be the one take away you want others to know about them? Please share your stories of the US parks.



Devils Tower image | | National Park Service | | Calf Creek - Utah

* We intend no copyright infringement by displaying images from other sources on our site. Unless otherwise noted, all images are the property of their respective owners.

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