2017 Travels – Road Trip Edition

I packed in quite a bit to this summer, so much that remembering things like where I put this notebook so I could type up the previous post. For that reason, I have just one post about the road trip rather than a before and after.

The idea for a road trip first occurred to me some time this past spring. My cousin and his wife currently live there as do many members of our non-mutual family. The idea of a road trip popped into my head. I have the whole summer off. Why not?

The idea did not remain nebulous for long. As soon as I mentioned the road trip to someone, I felt locked in but in a good way. Taking this solo road trip stretched me. Telling people about it kept me from backing out and taking the easy way out by staying home and vegging on the couch.

Then comes the planning. Although everything came together in the end, I left a lot, way too much, up to the last minute, like visiting my cousin and his wife. By the time the trip was almost upon me. I focused on the logistics and by default figured that it would take too much work to try to plan a meet up. That won’t happen again. In the end, I likely would have had to skip the meet up to get back in time for the funeral.

Back to the point, I planned this trip in fits and spurts, starting with the discovery of a useful tool, tripmaker.randmcnally.com. It’s not perfect but it gave me a great place to start. This tool allows you to put in a starting and ending location and find sites of interest along your route. I found one of my favorite stops, the Mark Twain House, with this site.

I learned, however, that addresses on this site are not always reliable. Sometimes the difference stretched up to an hour longer. The site also omits sites of interest while including many obscure sites that sometimes have out of date information.

Another difficulty with this site comes with its search feature. Perhaps some of the distance estimation difficulties come from inaccurate location approximation. I learned that I have come to rely quite heavily on Google’s “fill-in-the-blank” or “read-your-mind” feature. This site is best used in conjunction with sites like Google, obviously, and tripadvisor.

Tripmaker served as the primary tool for the initial stages of planning. One look at my “first draft” would confirm to anyone that I have a serious case of wanting-to-do-it-all. If I had followed through with that first draft, the trip would have caused far too much stress.

Tripadvisor helped me revise and “finalize” the details for this trip. I have no idea how people planned trips before this website existed. With regards to this trip, I used tripadvisor to research the details of each site to evaluate just how important each site was to me. Each time I went over the printed trip plan I ended up eliminating sites, like Prince Edward Island or rearranging the entire itinerary.

Looking at tripadvisor also helped me plan out how much time to budget for each site which is crucial to a road trip, especially if you book your lodging ahead of time. The wealth of reviews often gives helpful hints and tips. A lack of reviews also helps with evaluations. The website has been around long enough that locations with few reviews are often obscure and perhaps not worth going out-of-the-way to visit. Sometimes hidden gems pop up but not very often.

When it came to what to bring on the trip, I relied on my experience from my 2009 trip, a much more extensive trip. I brought a cooler for water, plenty of snacks (way too many as it turns out) and a container to sit in the front seat to hold toll money and snacks since I wouldn’t have a copilot to grab and hand stuff to me while I drove. Most of the last-minute logistical things came together things to Dad. While I was at the beach he periodically texted to ask if I had various items, some of which I had forgotten all about.

As I headed to the airport to pick up the rental car, Mom marveled at how well I had planned everything. Right then I did not feel that way. If anything, this trip felt like the proverbial red-headed stepchild of my three major trips this year.

Then came the trip itself…

Despite all the bumps in the planning process, I absolutely loved it. I loved it so much that I want to make this a yearly tradition.

I learned a lot on the way. Make sure your debit card works so you can withdraw cash to pay outrageous New England tolls. *Cough* George Washington Bridge *cough* Some tolls are so large you should not pay them with change or face the potential wrath of all the drivers you hold up as the toll operator counts $8.80 in coins. *true story* Massachusetts has all cashless tolls. Watch out. Your rental car company will charge you a $3.95 “convenience fee” for five days worth of tolls when you actually incurred only two $0.90 tolls. If you prefer having your own space, private room is not the way to go on airbnb. Always check behind you to make sure that you have everything. One can’t depend on Good Samaritans to turn in driver’s licenses and credit cards or mail back camera batteries and chargers at no cost. Make a schedule flexible enough tom ix it up should the urge strike you. Sometimes hidden gems away just off the highway. Drink plenty of water so you don’t become a cranky pants on guided tours. I could go on.

This trip far surpassed my wildest expectations. I fell in love with the road trip all over again, even more so than the epic trip of 2009. I cannot wait to take what I learned and apply that to next year’s road trip and the next and the next and … you get the picture.

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