I consider myself a roll with the punches type of gal, but I was sad. Real sad.
But I hadn't stopped poking around online, trying to find a way we could at least make it to the family reunion (on my husband's side) in Estes Park. I came across Rocky Mountain Camper Vans. They offer good deals for renters who will help return a van that someone else used on a one way trip. And there was a lovely little van that was going to be in Phoenix, needing to be returned to Denver.
So now with a combination of a killer deal on the van rental and some in-laws who were very gracious in helping us get to the reunion, the road trip is back on. Rough plan: fly into Phoenix, straight up to the mountains (Sedona/Flagstaff), Grand Canyon, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Rocky Mountain National Forest, end in Estes for Family Reunion. Since one of the main things we wanted out of this road trip was to see The Southwest, we feel insanely lucky that the trip. albiet a much shorter version, is working out like it is.
But we still had a lot to plan, and Tim is not quite the planning type. But he is the like-having-a-plan type (I could give him a hard time for this, but I like planning but don't like having a plan, so there you have it) so, I started planning. I might not say "ferociously," but I might say "obsessively." You know how they say "Taking a vacation won't make you happier. But anticipating it will"? Although, I have some thoughts on the first part of this (like, do I really take vacations to be happier?), the second part, about anticipating vacation making you happier? Heck yeah.
And I've tested this theory thoroughly. In the past six months I've planned four road trips and don't feel like a second of it was wasted time. Without the planning of road trips that I will not be taking, I would have missed out on a lot of good stuff. I had great conversations with a student about the wonders of Lake Tahoe. I realized that a lot of people want to take road trips but don't and that they are genuinely excited to hear you are taking one. I learned there is a lot of free camping out there, you can see dinosaur fossils in Utah, and you need to plan way, way ahead if you're going to get one of Sunset's best camping spots.
- Google Maps works best for planning a trip. I tried using a couple other trip planners, and I have a feeling the ones you pay for are worth it, but the free ones were pretty cumbersome and slow loading.
- Most the awesome things that the trip planners do can be done with Google Docs and hyperlinks.
- Don't despair when you can't find a camp spot: sign up for a free alert letting you know when a campsite opens up. This has worked well for us!
- Tell people where you are going! We've had so many great conversations with people (strangers at REI mostly) who had little tips of what to do or lived where we were going and wanted to share their experiences.
- Try dispersed camping with this website that helps you find free camping! I can't totally recommend this yet, since we haven't tried it, but these people have and they look pretty happy, right?
- Find some good travel blogs. Here are a few I've been looking at and plan on continue to look at until we plan our next trip:
If traveling halfway across the country isn't in your time or money budget or on your wish list, Out There Monthly and The Inlander have very helpful guides for people looking to take treks around the Pacific Northwest. When we get back, we're going to tackle as many of these one day adventures as possible. And lakes, lakes, lakes! It's one of my favorite things about where we live. Plus, after ten years of rocking mostly the same swimsuit, with two brief appearances by unflattering replacements, I took the plunge and bought a Mollusk Swimsuit on sale. I love it and need to use it as much as possible.