There is a lot to be said for road trips, for one they usually are cheaper than trips taken by commercial means. You also get to see a lot more of the countryside and you can, if time permits stop whenever you want. You can also stop and turn around whenever you want. A good time to do this is when your money is half used up. There are no penalties incurred by shortening it or altering the route or even destination because it is your trip and you have total control of it. As long as you don’t have any reservations made, there is no problem with making these changes, unless you are counting disappointed family members.
There is also no real issue as long as you have room, you can bring whatever you want on the trip. You can bring as little or as much as you want, whatever suits you. You can use your economy car or that big SUV with a pull-behind trailer loaded with all kinds of travel goodies or even a fishing boat if that is what you want. A few years back, I came across a hybrid trailer that allowed the owner to haul a small SUV and a small fishing boat on a level above it. This person certainly had the best of both worlds.
We have a van that has a memory foam couch that opens up into a queen sized bed. It is very comfortable and allows us to stay at a campsite overnight when we are traveling. If I want to save even more money I can bring my portable generator, and a small porta potty with me which allows me to camp on BLM land for free. I have a small single axle utility trailer I can use when I decide to bring my mountain bike and our kayaks with us. Eventually I will buy a quad to take with us as well. I have two spare tires on the trailer which makes it safer to take on cross country trips. Redundancy is always a good idea when you are going on a long journey.
I just recently bought a new hydraulic floor jack with a metal skid plate that allows me to use the jack on softer ground to jack my van up. I don’t like the jacks that come with the vehicle, they are very unsafe unless the location for the tire change is optimal. I don’t know about you but I have never had a flat tire in a nice well-lit Walmart parking lot. Always bring jumper cables, emergency road reflectors and a spare gas can. If you are going to areas that are more remote, not only bring extra gas but bring a couple of gallons of water for your vehicle in case it overheats. Also bring a roll of duct tape or even better gorilla tape to patch a ruptured car hose. If you can’t change your tire, bring a couple of can’s of fix-a-flat with you (one may not be enough).
When we plan out our road trips we allot enough money to stay at a hotel every night just incase campgrounds are not conveniently located. I take every night that I can camp as a plus because it saves us more money for later on in the trip. Who knows we might want to splurge one night and stay at a really nice hotel.
When we took our road trip to Florida we spent 17 days on the road. You may ask why it took so long to make a round trip of about 4,500 miles? The answer is that I limit myself to 300 miles of driving a day. By doing this, I have ample time to sightsee along the way. It also means that I am not killing myself driving. We usually stop driving around 4:30 PM so we can find a nice place to stay, whether it be a campsite or hotel. On our trip to Florida and back we only stayed in campsites five of those nights. This was far less than I had hoped for. The reason this happened was that many of the campsites along the way cost almost as much as the cheaper motels. In a lot of cases, we were only talking about a $10 difference, so it made more sense to stay in the motel rooms. Even a cheap room is more comfortable than my van. I also stay at hotels if is either raining or snowing. It is no fun camping when it is raining cats and dogs. I have done it too many times. I have also frozen my ass off in the snow, again no fun. There is a lot to be said for a hot shower in the morning when it is 10 degrees Fahrenheit outside.
When you are trying to decide if you want to just stay close to home, say 100 to 200 miles away or drive a thousand or more miles you have a few things to consider. First, is how much time to you have, second how much money do you have, third what do you want to do and see and fourth who are you going with? Why would I say who you are going with? Well, a few years back I agreed to act as a tour guide for one of my spouse’s friends. She paid all the expenses and I did all the driving and planning. Her only request was that she wanted to see a lot of cool stuff. By that I mean beautiful scenery. By the second day, her voice grated on my nerves like fingernails being scratched on a chalkboard. By the third day, I was ready to leave her behind at a rest stop. By the fourth day, I was fantasizing about dismemberment. Thank God there wasn’t a fifth day because who knows what I would have done. Because she paid for the trip we were treated like vassals or servants. Oh, to top it off when we got back to our house, she wanted us to take her to see Death Valley as well. Well, I did and I included a little anecdotal account of what happened on that road trip below.
Now that we made it back home, Dory’s friend wasn’t through with us yet, she wanted to see Death Valley. On the roof rack, I had put two spare tires. I have never given it much thought in regards to the weight of the tires. So now it became an issue because we’re driving on uneven and bumpy roads. It was then that I heard a scraping noise like metal on metal. So, I pulled off the road, oh yah, I forgot what road? I just stopped my truck. Well, guess what… the weight of the tires with the bouncing and vibrations had broken my roof rack. So the roof rack went into the ditch for the next round of desert scavengers and the tires went into the back of the truck. Dory’s friend was fast becoming a major bad luck talisman.
So, yes it is important on who you are traveling with. I also would not want to take a long road trip with a bunch of whinny and bratty children.
So if you have either of these as your travel companions, do yourself a favor and opt for a local road trip. You will be happy when you get to dump them off at your destination. When they are outside your vehicle you can just take off and leave them behind. LOL
Well, let’s get serious. Local road trips can be highly satisfying and can be done fairly cheaply. The options are almost limitless. It all depends on your needs and desires and what you like to do. I live in Las Vegas, so casinos are a very close option for us. These casinos are amazing, they are virtual cities unto themselves. If you are a gambler, you may even get a comped room and meals. I am not a gambler, so I don’t enjoy these freebies. But my Uncle Herman used to come to Las Vegas all the time to gamble and he would get comped at very nice hotels. During the winter months, a lot of people go for a nice three-day weekend to go skiing. We have a mountain and ski lodge close by to Las Vegas that a lot of people enjoy going to for just the day. More advanced skiing options would require that three-day weekend. Road trips can be just for the day as well. There are no rules when you plan them. They can be on as small of a budget as you wish. A lot of times we will bring food with us if we are just going out for the day.
We are lucky in that in six hours or less we can be at a variety of destinations from a wonderful range of not only national parks but state parks as well. We can go to the ocean and enjoy playing in the surf in any number of beautiful beaches. Within a couple hour drive we have Lake Mead though if the water levels drop much more, we will have to start calling it a pond.
You may gather that local road trips don’t necessarily require a lot of planning or prepping or even saving of funds and you would mostly be right. Again it all depends on your plans. Cross country road trips require by necessity a great deal more planning and time and mental fortitude. If you are dating someone you are serious about, take them on a cross country road trip first. If you still want to marry them afterwards you are golden. It can try the most patient of souls, but its rewards can be almost limitless. That is one of the reasons I limit my driving to 300 miles a day. If I were on the east coast I would consider chopping off 50 more miles. The reason being is that travel is much slower in the east than it is in the west. You also want to limit your time in the car as much as possible especially if you are planning on taking a really long trip.
The endless hours of driving can truly be mind numbing and grueling. I drove a moving van from New Port Richey, Florida to Las Vegas in three days. The distance was just slightly over 2,700 miles. I did this by myself. Never will I do something so stupid as that again. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should do it. The whole point of a cross country road trip is to enjoy yourself and see the countryside. If you just wanted to blast through the drive, why not just fly there instead, it might actually be cheaper?
I have discussed the planning binders that I have. I have been doing this for a few years now and I have a lot of really cool places listed in those pages. I used my US notebook to help plan my road trip to Florida. Once I see a place listed in my notebook, I simply put a line through it. It makes me feel good to see all the places that I have been to. I also have a map of the world mounted in my office that I stick a pin into for every place that I go to. I wish there were more pins, though I am making some progress.
Just a little side note, do yourself a favor take plenty of photos of your trip. Memories become fuzzy with time. It is also a good idea to take pictures of the signs of all the places that you go to. It helps to break up the photos a little and it helps you to remember where the photos were taken. If you visit a lot of parks that have similar scenery they can get a little confusing. I post all my best photos in Flickr.com. I also label them as well, so the more information you can include with your photos the better. It will make it easier for you to document them. I will spend more time discussing my photographs and sharing my experiences in Chapter 23.
I want to include a brief discussion on a hybrid trip mainly because I already mentioned this trip already. Due to the distance to our planned destination, we took a plane trip to a strategically located city in this case, Denver, Colorado. By doing this, it shaved off over 750 miles on each leg of the journey. This is a great way to save valuable vacation time for stuff you really want to see. We rented a mini van for the second part of the trip. We brought a tent for our stay at both Yellowstone and Grand Teton NPs. For most of our loop we stayed at hotels. We, however, out of necessity camped at Devil’s Tower, of course, it rained like hell that night. I already mentioned my wife’s floating phone in a previous chapter, so I won’t regale you with the details. I guess it was worth it because I make fast friends with a very sweet little light colored bunny rabbit while we were at the park. Of course, I called him “Bugs.”