Walking Across America with Points: Week 2

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I hope everyone had a fantastic fourth of July! We’ve been following Mike Hammari for a bit now as he makes his way across this nation of ours on foot, soaking in the scenes in a very different way than most of us are accustomed to. Slowly!

Mike is covering a large portion of his accommodation along the way with travel rewards. This series takes a look at how and why he chooses the redemptions he does. Today he shares his original spreadsheet of planned accommodations (split between hotel award stays, paid hotel stays, camping, couchsurfing, etc.) and each of their costs, as well as Week two’s redemption adventures on the road. Watch Mike’s youtube videos embedded below for a taste of the trials and tribulations of his journey.

Walking Across America with Points, By Mike Hammari

Before I left I mapped out a route and calculated the associated lodging costs of walking across the United States. Whenever I started to make significant changes I would make a copy of my spreadsheet and archive it in case I wanted to revert bag to previous plans. To convey how much my plans have changed: I have 14 distinct versions saved

At the time of writing this, I actually just made it to Texas and took a peek at the spreadsheet I was working with right before I left. Below is a breakdown of how I was planning on dividing my nights.

Accommodation Point NightsPoints RequiredPaid NightsCash CostOther Nights
Totals62934,00048$1,83064
Marriott25302,50000
IHG12208,0002$232
Radisson10251,00000
Hilton9129,00000
Chase Travel Portal643,50000
B&B005$345
Other Hotels0011$680
CampgroundsN/AN/A30$573
Couch SurfingN/AN/AN/AN/A24
Rogue CampingN/AN/AN/AN/A40

One of the first things I’m noticing is that this plan is already significantly different from my actual stays. I’m also recognizing this as a working plan because I didn’t have and still don’t have all the points I need to account for all these nights. So I knew I would have to make adjustments. My second week also had its share of adjustments.

On The Road

Day 7 – 21.7 Miles to Bueamont/Banning, CA 

Hampton Inn | 27,000 Hilton Points (0.56 cents/point)

This hotel was chosen solely based on its location. At one point I had planned on heading a few more miles down the road to a KOA campground but I decided I should be more cautious with the distance I intended to cover each day. (Actual cost 29,000 / Earned 2,000 points with 2019 Points Unlimited promotion)

Day 8 –  23.5 miles to Whitewater, CA

Camping

On Highway 10 near Whitewater, CA there is a rest stop.  You aren’t allowed to camp at rest stops but technically I slept in a tent near the power lines, on the other side of fence. 

Day 9 – 22 miles to Yucca Valley, CA 

Travelodge | 5,623 Chase Sapphire Reserve Rewards Points (1.5 cents/point)

I was actually planning on couchsurfing again in Desert Hot Springs, CA but at the last minute I decided to reroute.  My original route was going to take me on a dirt road through the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. After accidentally ending up on dirt roads the previous two days I decided I wanted to stay on pavement as much as possible and headed up to Yucca Valley, CA on HWY 62.

I booked a smoking room at the Travelodge through the Chase Sapphire Reserve Travel Portal. I wasn’t aware I had booked a smoking room and paid another $11 at the desk to get a non-smoking room. I also ended up paying another $1.50 for an in-room safe fee but it wasn’t worth the time to have them reverse it.  I booked this hotel because it was the closest hotel I could get to that didn’t require that many points. I identified it earlier in the day but didn’t book it until I got closer as I was worried that I wouldn’t actually manage to get there.

Day 10 – 18 miles to Joshua Tree, CA

Camping | Free

As I continued to reroute I decided I would take it easy and only go 10 miles to the town of Joshua Tree.  However, once again the hotels were sold out. While I did laundry I called around to all the hotels in the area. I finally found an unaffiliated hotel that had a space left but when I arrived there was nobody in the office. I knocked and waited and finally a woman popped out adn in broken English stated there was “no room” before abruptly disappearing back inside.

With no options in Joshua Tree I started heading 10 more miles to Twentynine Palms, CA where I knew there was a Fairfield Inn and Suites. I didn’t make it. There came a point where I just wanted to stop for the day.  I was passing all this open desert land and… I just found a spot to set up a tent.  

Day 11 – 3.5 miles to Twentynine Palms, CA

Fairfield Inn & Suites | 17,500 Marriott Bonvoy Points (1.29 cents/point)

I had made arrangements through couchsurfing.com to stay with a host but because I rerouted I was ahead of schedule. When I finally got a hold of him again and got an address I realized that I had already passed him by 5 miles. Backtracking would essentially cost me half a day of walking so I checked in early to that Fairfield Inn and Suites I wanted to hit the night before.

I was hoping it might become a good strategy for those times I wanted to stay two nights in one place. Frequently I’m checking in quite late so I’m unconscious for the majority of my stay.  If I camped relatively close the day before I could check in earlier and actually spend some time in the hotel working and resting. This would cost me half the points if I was willing to camp somewhere close the first night.

I did some grocery shopping for the week ahead and went to the hotel in the late morning. I couldn’t check in but I was quite productive working in the lobby for a few hours while they graciously stored my cart in a conference room.  That afternoon I took a nap. It was wonderful.

Day 12- 17 109 miles through the Sheephole Valley Wilderness 

Camping | Free

This was a section I was most worried about before I began. I was a Boy Scout and even a Scoutmaster for a few years as an adult, so I’m no stranger to backpacking. However, I was worried about traveling 100+ miles with no services or access to water. Planning for this, I loaded up my cart with eight gallons (64 lbs) of water and six days worth of food. I found a camping spot each night as the sun went down. By the time I got to Parker, AZ I realized that I had little to be apprehensive about. I’m still going to stay in hotels as much as possible but pitching a tent away from the road was actually pretty comfortable.

Next Up…

Arizona!

Mike took a break from his walk across America to get a glimpse of the total solar eclipse that just happened a couple days ago down here in South America. He watched the eclipse in Córdoba, Argentina, but as he’s flying out of Buenos Aires so we managed to cross paths today!

Myself and Mike in Buenos Aires today

It was great to meet you, Mike, and thanks again for sharing your journey with MileValue readers. Until next time!


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