Saturday, October 29, 2016

Lessons Learned from a 12,000 Mile Trip of a Life Time Across America, July - September, 2016

Lessons Learned from a Trip of a Life Time Across America, July 8, 2016 to September 21, 2016

We did it, we drove back and forth and up and down the country during the summer of 2016. In July we sold our house, put everything in storage and headed west. I have been through the bottom and the middle of the country but had always wanted to travel the northern route, up though the Black Hill and Montana. As we were getting closer to the sale of our house and what should we do Louise reminded me about my interest in the Lewis & Clark journey. Why don't we do that with some side trips to the National Parks. And it is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service so what about that.
Red going west and blue returning east.


So that is what we did. Somewhat by design and somewhat by how life works we also had a hole open up in our lives. I had been winding down my business, moved it home and now that we are selling the house we decided to put a hold on buying one and take a break. Everything worked, our car, our car's air conditioning, the road, no accidents or injury's. We got there and back.

We traveled about 12,000 miles over 2 1/5 months. Driving from Boston, Massachusetts to Seattle, Washington, down to San Francisco and then Los Angeles, up to Yosemite and Yellowstone, to Montana, northern Michigan, Chicago then back to Massachusetts. We traveled in a Subaru Forrester staying mostly in mid-priced hotels and occasionally camping. We planned on doing more camping but it was just so hot that we couldn't. We debated about some kind of RV but for this trip we used just the car. If we had a small RV it might have been more comfortable when we just needed a nap but the car is what we did.

Grand Teton National Park, striking and beautiful.

The most beautiful place, maybe Grand Tetons National Park. The most desolate, northeastern Wyoming. For Louise it was the Westport Hotel along Route 1 in Westport, California, just a beautiful place on the California coast. But we saw many, many beautiful places. I was just amazed with the wheat fields in Western Montana, I had no idea. They are Huuuuuuuge.

Lessons from the Road
• A small, 6 pack size cooler that goes in between and behind the front seats is perfect. Put in some cheese, a couple of drinks, some apples and a yogurt with ice from the hotel and you are ready to go. My original thought was for a big one but the big ones are just to big.

• Get your financial life in order. We were able to pay all our bills from the road, mostly online. But it takes some effort to get this all straight. We also had a PO Box.

• Prescription sunglasses, the best decision. I have never been a sunglasses person and need to wear glasses to drive. Before leaving I got an exam and two pairs of glasses, regular and sunglasses. The sun is so much brighter in the west than the east and for half the trip we drove into it. Glasses worked great

• This one can be hard, but try not to set dates to visit people. This is your trip, not theirs. It is amazing how a date even weeks out can ripple back on you if you are doing a wandering type of trip like this. A number of times we ended up hanging around places waiting to get together when in reality we would have just moved on. Put your visits at the end when you are coming home.

• Visit sites in the morning, travel in the afternoon. Drive to where you will be visiting tomorrow.

• Orbitz.com works fantastic for hotel rooms. We didn't really have any places we had to be. We would just pick a hotel once we got some place. I used the web and phone app Orbitz.com. Select a city or area, bring up the hotels and pick one. It worked great.

• Pick rooms with king size beds. We found those rooms to be better. The beds weren't so beat, somewhere on that mattress is a good spot. Queen size rooms the mattresses often seemed well used.

• Apple Maps or Google Maps on your phone are amazing. We used Apple Maps all over the country for all our directions. I also carried individual state paper maps from AAA for the big picture. But used the maps on the phone for daily travel. Travel services from AAA are free if you are a member.

• Small individual packs of cheese along with an apple can give you a very nice boost in the afternoon. Coffee in the morning, a cold juice in the afternoon. We also sometime ate at the food bars in grocery stores. You get what you want.

• Three meals a day in restaurants is a recipe for gaining weight. Still working on getting that off.

• Having a rough route really helps, I used the route from Julie Fanselow's book Traveling the Lewis & Clark Trail. It worked great. Her book took us to many places we would have never gone. With that rough route we then took side trips to national parks. Some people use Routes 66 or Route 6 to cross the country. But kind of knowing where you are going keeps you on a path.

• Car phone charger is a must, a small LED flash light is a must. Keep these with you all the time.

• To keep track of when to pay the bills I carried a paper chart with dates I paid and needed to pay, along with a monthly calendar. To many moving parts. You don't want to miss your car or health insurance payments. Most people these days keep all this in their phone but being able to scribble on paper really helped. I did prepay some bills, others I paid as we went. I kept a file with passwords and key info. We also staged a duplicate set with a relative just in case.

• A roll of paper towels, a bottle of Windex, a set of folding chairs, nice to just sit sometimes along a river, and a beach blanket. There are beach blanket with a plastic side and a cloth side, they are waterproof and work great.

• This is a big one. Figure out where your stuff goes and then put it back into that spot every time. Same spot every time, every day, always. It takes a little bit to figure out where these spots are but if you don't you will loose your stuff. This applies for your car and your person. For me car keys in left pocket, phone in right, my backpack behind the drivers seat. Louse, backpack behind the passenger, my suite case on the left, Louise's on the right.

• Bring your own laundry soap and a pile of quarters. We actually kept all our quarters in the pocket on one of the passenger doors. We did laundry in a number of hotels. It worked great.


Tech
• We took one camera, the iPhone, we each had one. I debated about what camera to bring and finally just settled on the iPhone. It worked great, for a phone, directions, internet, posting on Facebook and Instagram

• I also took a small MacBook Air for keeping up with my bills and for keeping a blog of the trip. It is light and connects everywhere. Include a small bag for all your chargers.

• Car phone charger is a must, a small LED flash light is a must.

• I used Google's Blogger platform for keeping a daily journal. I was going to keep a journal book and even made one, but the online blog worked better. It takes time, often about an hour a night. Louise would sleep and I would blog. But then people can follow and we can remember where we went.

• For social media I used Facebook and Instagram. I would blog and then repost the post on my Facebook page. I was surprised how many people followed the trip. I would also Instagram and share across my Facebook page.

• Have your credit card company send you notices on your phone when you use your card. Great way to keep track of what is being charged. Moving your financial life on line is a bit of work to do but is essential if you are going out on a long trip.