“The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” –John Muir
As I’m preparing to head to Canada in a few weeks for work I’m starting to get that itch to travel again. It’s going to be a busy second half of the year for me with the Canada trip plus three weeks out on the west coast, a trip to the Florida Keys, and a family vacation to Savannah, GA and I cannot wait to get started on it. Yesterday I sat down with my laptop and ended up on Google Maps, as I sometimes do when the wanderlust in me starts to come out. I planned out an epic 4-week solo road trip that is now at the top of my bucket list. I’d like to share with you what I’m thinking.
- There are only 5 contiguous states that I won’t have stepped foot in by the end of 2017: Nevada, Utah, North Dakota, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. By the end of 2018 I’ll have been in Nevada and Utah, so this trip will include the last three states I’ve yet to go to besides Alaska and Hawaii.
- There are definitely places I will miss, like Colorado. But I’ve been there a couple of times now and it’s not that I don’t absolutely LOVE that place, I just want to make sure that I hit places I haven’t been before first. You’ll notice though that I did include Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks because, well, my soul feels at peace there.
- According to my calculations this trip would take 21 days at driving 8 hours a day. I think that’s a tiny bit too fast-paced for me as I want to make sure I have time to stop and enjoy the things I love most. So I’ll try to get myself on a general schedule but in doing this trip in a month I’ve built in 9-10 days for when I may want to spend two nights in a place or I don’t want to drive 8 hours, etc.
- I say solo… but I think I’m going to take my dog along with me. She’s not a great rider but mostly it’s start-and-stop traffic that makes her antsy. Should be interesting to see how she does on a leash or cooped up in a car for a month straight. And that way I have some company.
- I’m planning to rent an intermediate-sized SUV and plan to lay the backseats down to sleep on an air mattress most nights. I’ll be staying in campgrounds or hotels for showers every few days. If you have tips on how to shower cheaper than that please let me know! Believe me, if I had friends in any of these areas I’d be hitting them up for a place to crash for a night and a hot shower…but alas, I don’t.
- Budget, budget, budget will be the key here. I think I can work with about $4K USD for this–a fourth of that being a rental car. I’m estimating gasoline totals by taking the miles traveled divided by the mileage I think the SUV will get and then multiplying that by an average of $3.00/gallon means I’ll be looking at about $800-$900 in gasoline, so that leaves me $2,200 for food, souveniers, and lodging/campgrounds along the way. I’m planning to purchase breakfast and lunch food for the car at a grocery store for most days and will only eat out for dinners. If I budget myself on $30/day for food that’s about $900 for the month. I suspect I’ll be awful and eat fast food because trying to do a sit-down restaurant with a dog will be tricky in most places. So I may use significantly less than my budgeted food amount each day.
- I will have AAA roadside insurance and protection and an Annual National Parks Pass.
So Google Maps only allows you to plug in a max of ten stops so I’ve broken this trip down into three parts. They’re actually pretty good natural breaking points too, so that worked out well.
Part One: Southern Plains, West Coast, and the Mountain National Parks
Stops on Route:
- Leaving Winchester, KY
- Alma, AR–nothing here in particular I’d like to see, just needed a route that took me through AR and OK
- Marfa, TX–I have to check out the famed Marfa Lights and the random-ass Prada store
- Roswell, NM–this really goes without saying!
- Sedona, AZ–a spiritual home for me
- Sequoia National Park–unfortunately I’m going to have to cut my California trip shorter than I’d like so I’ll have to skip Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and see them during this epic road trip
- Astoria, OR–random location I chose so that I can drive up coastal Oregon
- Olympic National Park–to check that item off the bucket list
- Glacier National Park–this is a definite two-day stop. Maybe more.
- Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks
- TOTAL DRIVE TIME: 84 hours
- TOTAL DISTANCE: 5,165 miles
Part Two: Northern Plains, the Great Lakes, Canada, and the Start of New England
Stops on Route:
- Leaving Grand Teton National Park
- Deadwood, SD–the last time I was in the area I was only able to drive through Deadwood. This time I’d like to explore it and the Black Hills a little bit more.
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park–North Dakota will be the last contiguous USA state I’ll have yet to be in and really I had no clue how I was going to get there without this trip. Turns out Teddy Roosevelt has a national park named after him there so seems like the perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.
- Voyageurs National Park–this one has been on my list for a very long time. It’s also a GREAT spot to watch for Northern Lights if I might be so lucky as to be up there during aurora season. Fingers crossed!
- Mackinac Island–I’m doing this one for my grandmother who always loved Mackinac. I hope the allow dogs on the ferry over! I probably won’t stay on Mackinac for budgeting puposes but it will be neat to ride over and see one of my grandmother’s favorite places.
- London, ON (Canada)–it’s a quicker route to drive through Canada for a few short hours than to try and make my way down and around Detroit and Cleveland. I’ve done that trip a few times now so nothing new to see. But I get to swing by Niagara Falls again!
- Burlington, VT–home sweet home. Not much else needs to be said.
- Mount Washington, NH–the last time I was at Mt. Washington it snowed the night before at the summit and I couldn’t drive up to the top. I hope things are different with this trip and I’m able to drive up there!
- TOTAL DRIVE TIME: 49 hours
- TOTAL DISTANCE: 2,885 miles
Part Three: New England, Chesapeake Bay area, and Home
Stops on Route:
- Leaving Mount Washington, NH
- Bar Harbor, ME and Acadia National Park–Bar Harbor sits right outside of Acadia so I’m combing the two together. Quintessential New England coastal town and top five national park bucket list location. Looking forward to watching the sun rise over the ocean in Acadia.
- Salem, MA–I’ve done a lot of New England and when I got to this point in my planning stage I actually was at a loss at where to go. I’ve done the Cape, RI, Boston, etc. and I’ve done Salem too but it’s still calling me.
- Hudson, NY–I’d love to go back to New England some day but I want to take someone who’s never been. When I had to decide what to do by myself I just shrugged and skipped most of it–and decided to head for the Hudson Valley.
- Scranton, PA–just a drive by because I LOVE THE OFFICE.
- Punxsutawney, PA–I spotted it on the map as I was routing and decided what the hell!
- Arlington National Cemetery, VA–bucket list item. I’d like to do D.C. as well but I don’t think this is a good trip to do it on.
- Williamsburg, VA–another one of those place that is good for my soul. Love it.
- Shenandoah National Park–final stop!
- TOTAL TIME: 27 hours
- TOTAL DISTANCE: 1,570 miles
So, what do you think? I’d love some suggestions if I’ve missed something you think I should see!