Years back, sometime around 2010 I was lucky enough to find time for a sabbatical break combining an educational visit to Cornell University (NY) with my first longer photography expedition. 3 months I traveled Americas National Parks and Scenic Routes driving some 20 000+ miles including Joshua Tree NP, Mojave NP, Grand Canyon NP, Grand Staircase-Escalante NP, Rocky Mountain NP, Zion NP, Arches NP, Yosemite NP, Grand Teton NP, Death Valley NP, Yellowstone NP, and so forth. Some of them I had to visit twice realizing there was so much more to photograph. Coming from L.A. I drove up via Vegas, Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Teton all the way to Yellowstone to realize my tripod, bugging me already for months, didn't do it anymore and I needed a new one. Researching all the fancy brands and injuring my finger with the old one I finally was fed-up enough to drive all the way from Yellowstone down to a small place called San Louise Obispo in California to buy my first really Really Right Stuff (RSS) tripod and ballhead.
It is now almost 10 years I use not only this one RSS tripod and Ballhead but quite some of their other products from lightweight tripods and lightweight ballheads, to all the L L-brackets matching our camera bodies and and and. To-date I didn't regret once the research time and long drive finally finding one of by now our gear providers of choice.
Check them out - www.ReallyRightStuff.com