The previous post was philosophical about planning vs. spontaneity. Here we move to an actual itinerary. This eighth post recalls last summer as the roads were finally marked and the dates set.
Route lines on a map are beautiful; they are sweet dreams of new places. The lines’ movements, their turns, do not command, they invite. The progress of the lines, rolling over map folds, represents increased vision, seeing more things. A highlighter pen on a map is enabling—we can go here and then we will go there. The corny saying is true—it really is the journey and not the destination alone. To us the route is not the means to an end, but the framework for a story. The itinerary is an unelaborated and bare outline to be filled in later with experience.
So, then, how did we build our itinerary? Here is the method in 8 steps:
- Anchor some key spots to visit on the map–places we have not seen but want to. And even if we’ve been there before, we will explore something new when we are there.
- Connect these anchors with a route that visits some other nice places between them; select some intermediate stays.
- Make the intervals average 350 – 400 miles per day. Depending on how close or far some favored places are from each other, a few days might be 200, and a few in the 400-500 range.
- Realize that we cannot see everything. Choose just a few things, or leave it loose to choose later.
- Stay put about as many days as we drive—no travel, except for area touring.
- Make about every fifth day a hotel day.
- Count up the driving and stay-days, and the trip length is known. Now pick a start date that makes the trip fit the window. For us this window of time had to do with the dates of my sabbatical, the fall colors in New England, and a Boston Red Sox game.
- Now that dates are associated with each stop, research camps or hotels and make reservations. Note the first date a reservation can be made.
- As the first-possible-reservation dates arrive, make each rez.
The anchors were:
- Northern route (W to E, to catch the colors): Tetons (WY), Mount Pleasant (IA), Niagara (NY), New England, Acadia
- Southern route (E to W, the later Fall warmer route return): Boston, DC, Smokies, Ozarks, Southern Rockies
Why these anchors? There’s no particular wisdom to these, they are just our choices. We want to see the Tetons again. No matter how many return visits, my re-acquaintance with that range driving north from Jackson is like my first time.
My Third Great Grandfather Presley Saunders founded the town of Mount Pleasant, Iowa. It’s a small town in Iowa with parks and homes and a college nearby and no doubt many nice people. I doubt I’m related to any of them, but you never know. Anyway, I just want to see it, I always have. In the end, we will be there just an overnight and half a day, long enough to meet a new friend who will show us a few things for the morning we are there.
Why see Mount Pleasant? Perhaps I’m looking for markers that root my life to the land and the past. Or maybe I wonder at whether a person’s life will leave something to show for it. Presley left a town. I also marvel that life goes on and now there are hundreds who could say they descended from this man. I am tracing this heritage, reaching through my genealogy to touch something that resulted in me.
Niagara? Always wanted to see it. New England, Acadia, Boston – love it all, and hoping to catch the fall colors in late September. And though we’ve seen DC several other times, there are things we have yet to cover… like Mount Vernon, the WWII memorial. The Smokies is where we have some history as visitors, years ago (our infamous television date), and we’ve never seen the Ozarks before. Back out west, finding a fun route through the southern Rockies, southern Utah, brings happy re-visits. Across Nevada on the ET highway we find our way back to California, crossing on small roads into the Eastern Sierra, and then over them to home.
These anchors in place, we draw playful lines between them, adding intermediate places, some of them suggested by things we see on the map while studying the map.
Add it all up, with stops and stays: 49 days. Seven weeks x 7 days= perfection. My sabbatical benefit will allow it, I just needed to know the dates. How can we make the trip start just late enough to see the Fall colors, but also allow us to catch a game at Fenway? What is the latest possible home game in September?
You have to wait until the Red Sox publish a schedule, which we did, and try to catch the last home game of the season. We scored some tickets on the first day they went up for sale, by third base. Once that game was known (a Sunday game, Sept 22, against Toronto), the start date from home was figured at Sept 2. That put our return date at Oct 19. Once home, I have about another month of sabbatical left.
Please look at the map and comment. If you open this link and Google Maps is behaving, it should show the route coming and going. You can zoom in to some good detail. The pins expand with some text about the stops. Perhaps you have input on the route, or know of some must-see things along the way, and we’d love to hear from you.