New Partnership Announcement: South Dakota Tourism

We are very happy to announce South Dakota Tourism as one of our partners! South Dakota is home to two National Parks: Badlands and Wind Cave. As a child, Jonathan visited South Dakota with his family and he has wanted to return to photograph it as an adult for some time; it is also the home state of Stefanie's beloved paternal grandmother. We are very exited to explore and capture what is called the land of infinite variety during the National Parks Centennial celebration (and also the 75th anniversary of Mt. Rushmore!)


Photo credit: South Dakota Tourism

New Partnership Announcement: Visit Montana

We are excited to announce Visit Montana as a new partner on the Greatest American Road Trip! Montana is the gateway to two of our most beloved National Parks: Glacier, dubbed "the Crown of the Continent" and Yellowstone, America's first national park. We'll be spending a good deal of time in big sky country, exploring both of the parks by paddle, on horseback, fireside while we camp, and along the trails with our cameras in hand. 




New Partnership Announcement: Opal

I know it seems as though we are gallivanting through the parks, taking pretty pictures and enjoying every minute of our adventure without a care in the world—and we are doing all of those things, make no mistake. However, behind the scenes, there is a lot of creating, processing, and production going on. If you are into multimedia/content development, communications strategy, and the business side of what we're doing this year you'll probably be interested in this, so stay with me...

To break it down for those who are just now following this project—we didn't just quit our jobs to travel, but to collaborate on a creative project. Within that project, we didn’t want to just visit every national park, we also wanted to challenge ourselves to create substantial content in each of them. 59 parks in 52 weeks, told in stories, photographs, video, 360 video (in production), timelapse video, shareable graphics, illustrations (also in production), and social media posts. 

That's a whole lot of content to create and manage while averaging one park every six days, driving to all of them in an Airstream trailer (named Wally), and spending full days of exploration in the field. As such, it's vital that we use the best tools we know of to manage our content. 

Here is a snapshot of just some of the development tools we are using to create content:

Apple computers, iPhone 6S, Fujifilm cameras, GoPro (or many, many GoPros); iPad Pro/Apple Pencil; Squarespace, Dreamhost...

And just some of the applications we are using to process the content: 

Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop; Schedugram; SocialOomph, Instagram (@Jonathan_Irish /@iStefPayne); Facebook (/59in52); in-car wifi (Vinli); gobs of data storage (LaCie); inspiration; our brains...

But what about the production and organization of our stories? Having content and the means to edit and deploy it is nothing without a strategy for releasing it. You know how it goes, sometimes you need to lay everything out on the bed before it goes into your suitcase. The same goes for a story. For this I lined up the best virtual storytelling suitcase that I've ever used—which I counted on nearly every single day at NASA to help tell the story of human spaceflight—it's called Opal, and here's how it works: 

Create story arc – this is the top level Story. Ours is to visit all 59 of the U.S. National Parks during the centennial anniversary this year. 

Plan content strategy – these are the ‘Moments’ within the Story. This encapsulates what we do in each of these parks, the moments that make up the whole of the experience. 

Tag stories/moments – tagging enables filtering so that we can search/find/see content with ease. This feature is excellent for use in out-briefs, presentations, and sharing content with others... not to mention helping us quickly find what we are looking for.  

Collaborate – there are several areas within the platform where Jon and I (i.e. teams) can discuss creative, storyboard ideas, add notes, consider corrections, etc. We live in a small vessel and are basically together 24/7, so we don't use the collaboration tools as much as a larger team would. However, in a professional setting, this is key so I'm including it here.  

Manage assets – this is the area where all of the pretty pictures live, as well as attachments and other forms of creative that are assigned to moments. Asset library editing tools allow us to assign information to each piece of content. I think of it as content meta.  

Those are just the basics. There are many other features that we aren't applying due to the fast pace of this project, such as content approvals, in-platform correspondence, email alerts, custom content channels... it's no wonder that big brands such as Levi, Nike, Nestle, Starbucks, REI, and many others to use this application for planning all of that content that we Like every day on the web and social media. As for us, we are grateful to be able to partner with Opal to help us produce, plan, storyboard, and remember this project and amazing year in our lives.

For more info, head to the official website: 

This is a screenshot of our Asset Library, where we assign what we think of as content metadata. 

This is a screenshot of our Asset Library, where we assign what we think of as content metadata. 

Breaking in New Kicks

"If your nerve deny you - go above your nerve."

– Emily Dickinson

(And Cheryl Strayed) (And Stefanie Payne)

We'll be hiking a lot during 2016 and my other boots have seen maybe one too many miles over the years, so I bought some new kicks. You might recognize them from the movie Wild. (As far as I can recall, these are not mentioned in the novel of the same name.) These are the shoes that Reese Witherspoon playing Cheryl Strayed wore on her quest to conquer the Pacific Crest Trail. I've worn mine only once. 

Danner hiking boots, size: not that of Stefanie's feet. 

Danner hiking boots, size: not that of Stefanie's feet. 

Stupidly, I decided to trot out for a full day of hiking along the Sunset Trail in Hot Springs Arkansas without first properly breaking them in. By the end of the day and for two weeks after, my ankles were blistered and nerve-shot and cursing me, as my much less expensive, worn-once-too-many-time Keen's came to my defense.

I still have great faith in these boots and feel that once they are broken in, I'll never want to part from them. So, I enlisted advice from some experts in order to make them work.

One of the park rangers at Hot Springs told me to put the boots on, step into the river, then wear them until dry, allowing them to form to my feet in the process. REI, from whom I bought the boots, precisely says not to do this. I took both of their advice, dabbing them with river water, wearing them around Wally until they stopped making my feet bleed ... Eureka! I didn't need to break them in, they needed to break in me. 

Still, I'm not completely convinced that my shoe troubles are over and I still wonder if these boots will at some point go flying into a ravine this year. In that spirit, I welcome additional advice of how to break in hiking shoes. Feel free to have at it in the comments box below. Thanks in advance!

Welcome to the family, Wally.

Now that we think about it, it's surprising to both of us that it took us so long to name the Airstream, our home on the road this year. We've always known it would take on a persona—the way boats, cars, and other large shiny objects we spend a lot of time in tend to do. Teddy, John Muir, Amelia, Ansel Adams, Clark W. Griswold ... we had a lot of contenders (and some really great suggestions) but none of them were quite right. So we threw a bunch of names onto the table, let up on it, and willed the name to reveal itself when the time was right. 


We named it while sitting in the car, waiting for the stars to show in full brilliance on a freezing winter night in North Carolina. Wally. As in, Wally Byam, the visionary who invented the Airstream trailer. Duh. Of course that's its name. It’s also a tip of the hat to Wally World, the road trip destination featured in a classic road trip movie that also provided our theme song, Holiday Road (ten points for naming the movie in the comments section below.) 

Back to the founder of Airstream, Wally Byam.

Wally was a pioneer, one of the first manufacturers of the modern travel trailer, and the founder of Airstream Inc. located in Jackson Center, Ohio. He was also a pioneer of social media—eons before the idea existed as we now know it—earning grass-roots media attention during overland excursions with pods of people on what he called “caravans.” Wally led mobile Airstream travelers all over the U.S., in Europe, South America, and through Africafrom Cape Town to Cairo, during a famed cross-continental fete that is ever more astonishing when you think of how difficult ground logistics are in Africa today, let alone half a century ago ... and in a travel trailer. It’s astonishing.

An original Airstream Caravan! Credit: LIFE Magazine / Airstream Inc.

An original Airstream Caravan! Credit: LIFE Magazine / Airstream Inc.

These roving communities are still alive and well thanks to the Wally Byam Caravan Club, and the thousands of card-carrying member families that breathe life into rallies, caravans, and events the organization holds around the country each year. We had our first caravan experience just recently, when we happened upon a group of friends traveling in a park in the Southeast. Pulling up to that campsite where they were all aligned was a little bit like moving into a new neighborhood, and we were fast friends with our neighbors. They offered advice, showed us the interior of their trailers, and we traded stories over coffee before everyone went their separate ways, a few honking decorator car horns on the way out. If we weren’t on such a tight schedule, we would be hitting up a rally this year for sure! Especially now that we know others who will be there. 

We are continuing to get to know our new home, and we both feel strongly that we are at home when buttoned up inside of it. On the outside, it's handsome and tough as nails. On the inside, it's cozy and comforting and has every practical need one could want in a home. 

So while this post is titled in a way that welcomes Wally to our family, we actually ought to thank the Airstream family for welcoming us to the proverbial neighborhood, that is, in our case, the highways and byways of the United States. Along these roads we've realized that all we need is what any family needs—a place to call home. 

Airstream Caravans helped create a sense of community on the road from the very beginning. Credit: LIFE Magazine / Airstream Inc.

Airstream Caravans helped create a sense of community on the road from the very beginning. Credit: LIFE Magazine / Airstream Inc.

This Wally Byam Creed: 

"In the heart of these words is an entire life's dream. To those of you who find in the promise of these words your promise, I bequeath this creed... my dream belongs to you."

To place the great wide world at your doorstep for you who yearn to travel with all the comforts of home. 

To provide a more satisfying, meaningful way of travel that offers complete travel independence, wherever and whenever you choose to go or stay. 

To keep alive and make real an enduring promise of high adventure and faraway lands... of rediscovering old places and new interests. 

To open a whole world of new experiences... a new dimension in enjoyment where travel adventure and good fellowship are your constant companions. 

To encourage clubs and rallies that provide an endless source of friendships, travel fun and personal expressions. 

To lead caravans wherever the four winds blow... over twinkling boulevards, across trackless deserts... to the traveled and untraveled corners of the earth. 

To play some part in promoting international goodwill and understanding among the peoples of the world through person-to-person contact.

To refine and perfect our product by continuous travel-testing over the highways and byways of the world. 

To strive endlessly to stir the venturesome spirit that moves you to follow a rainbow to its end... and thus make your travel dreams come true. 

- Wally Byam


We've Added New Pages to Our Website

Hello! We have been having so much fun between the parks, that we've decided to add some new pages to reflect some of the backstory taken from our adventure this year. We are highlighting two new sections that can both be found in the main navigation bar: 'On The Road' and 'Collections'. What you will find in these sections: 


Many of the photos we are shooting are thematic. These pages provide a look at them as individual collections. These sections are, and will continue to be, a work in process. 

Instagram. Our Instagram feeds where we are posting some our favorite shots taken in each of the National Parks

Fujifilm Instax. Photos taken with the Fujifilm Instax instant camera. Throwback meets future. 

Airstream. Our home on the road during this project, a 27-foot Airstream International Signature.

Apple. Photos taken and edited on iPhone 6S (him: black / her: pink).

Others coming soon! 

On the Road

This section will help us better tell some of what we are looking at in each park, and some of what is happening behind the scenes.  

News. Project and partner updates, and new content announcements, mostly. Look for this section to be augmented as the project evolves (we are thinking 360 shots/video, Fujifilm photography tips, etc.) 

Stops Along the Road. The veins of the 'Road Trip' page, the places we stop between the parks. 

Wildlife Watch. We think of this as the U.S. National Parks safari page. 

What to Read While On the Road. What we are reading, want to read, and hopefully, notes from our readers of what we should read. 

The Greatest American Soundtrack, Albums from the Road. There is no road trip complete without the companionship of great music. This is our soundtrack organized monthly... so we can remember songs that we've loved along the way. Suggestions always welcome! 

Our Dry Tortugas National Park Gallery is Now Live!

The moat wall at Fort Jefferson on Garden Key at Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida. Credit: Jonathan Irish

The moat wall at Fort Jefferson on Garden Key at Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida. Credit: Jonathan Irish

Thank you for continuing to follow us along on the Greatest American Road Trip as we explore all of the U.S. National Parks during 2016. We are excited to share our experience from park 3/59, Dry Tortugas National Park off of Key West, Florida. Please view, share, and enjoy! 

Jonathan and Stefanie

Our Biscayne National Park gallery is live!


Thank you for continuing to follow us along on the Greatest American Road Trip. We are excited to share our experience from park 2/59 -- Biscayne National Park -- in southern Florida. Please view, share, and enjoy!

Jonathan and Stefanie



Everglades National Park gallery is live!

Thank you for your enthusiasm and support during our kickoff of the Greatest American Road Trip. We are really excited to share our experience from Everglades National Park in southern Florida. Please view, share, and enjoy!

Jonathan and Stefanie



Partnership Announcement: Airstream

Today, The Greatest American Road Trip is proud to announce our second partner in this epic road trip project: Airstream! 

Airstream has generously provided us with a 2016, 27-foot International Signature edition travel trailer to use as our home office and home away from home as we travel through the Parks this year. One look inside this amazing trailer and we were blown away that we could live so comfortably while being out on the road. We will not be roughing it living and working out of this trailer!

Airstream was founded by a fellow adventurous soul, Wally Byam, almost a century ago. Wally constructed the first rendition of the Airstream travel trailer in 1929 on the chassis of Model T. Over the decades that followed he continued to refine and perfect the shape of the trailer. Wally didn’t just manufacture Airstreams, he pioneered the travel trailer and the culture of it, living the dream by heading out on endless caravans with friends all over the world. From caravans in Europe to an epic south to north traverse of Africa, Wally lived an adventurous life that was neither common nor easy in early and middle decades of the 20th century. Wally was indeed a pioneer.

Wally challenged everyone to, “strive endlessly to stir the venturesome spirit”, and that’s just what we aim to do on this road trip. Wally, thanks for setting the example.

Take a look at the below Airstream manifesto, which we love and will carry with us on our endless caravan to all of the U.S. National Parks this year: