Posted by: Mark | May 14, 2009

Road Trip Re-visited

So over a month ago I wrote that my wife and I, with her new leisure time, would be road-tripping this summer. Since then, our dog got really damn sick, we paid a lot of money to get him better, and in general our enthusiasm for the trip waned.

Well, we’re back, and we’re doing this sucker.

roadtripYesterday I picked up the book “Roadtripping USA” by the Let’s Go! travel book company. It looked pretty solid at the bookstore, it definitely had the best cover and I always judge a book by its cover. It’s also marketed as the book for the budget traveler, with an emphasis on things that a free as well as fun, so that’s definitely a plus. Here’s a passage from the first page, also available on their website

What is it that makes a roadtrip different from an average, ordinary vacation? Like the car and the open road, the roadtrip has acquired a specific meaning. The type of roadtrip ingrained in American tradition revolves around the journey and the experience of travel itself.

At one extreme, a roadtrip can be a marathon, a test of endurance, a major undertaking. Visiting one category of sight is a popular way of planning out a trip—taking a tour of America’s mystery spots, hitting up all of the missions in California, or visiting all of the lobster shacks on the East Coast, for example. Event-based trips are also popular—baseball roadtrips from one stadium to the next are an American tradition. Pilgrimages to rock concerts (ask your parents about Woodstock), Shakespeare festivals, and historical tours, like the Lewis and Clark Trail, are all fair game.

At the other end of the spectrum, a roadtrip can also evolve with only a vague direction and a desire for knowledge and experience. Exploring a specific region or driving a historic two-lane highway are both good ways to start out, as is following one of the cardinal directions. This kind of trip revolves around discovering the lives and culture of the people who live along the way—seeing every historical site, stopping at every diner, mingling at every bar. It is all about the digression, all about the culture, and all about the detour.

All I gotta say about that is Hell yeah! This is bad, because I always tell my students that when they include a line of a quote, they should spent almost as much space analyzing the quote. Well for 3 paragraphs, my analysis is two words: Hell yeah.

So I’ve been working on the route. I’ve got a very vague sense of things, but the plan is:

-Start on the “Pacific Trail.” It’s kind of a no-brainer to do this. I’ve never been further north than Point Arena on the California coast, and we’re going to go all the way up to see our friends in Portland, Oregon (a state I’ve never visited). The plan is to do a huge first day drive up to Humbolt, where we’ll camp for a few days, then a one-stop somewhere (not sure yet) on the way to Portland, to spend a few more days.

After the Pacific, we’re going to head from Portland down the Oregon Trail. This will take us through some pretty awesome spots. For some reason I’m really excited to experience Idaho. I’m not sure why, but I am. This leg of the trip is still very un-detailed, in my planning, but their map shows that there are some awesome hot springs/parks along the way. The plan is to take about 1 week to get from Portland to Kansas City, maybe a day or two longer, but 9 days maximum.

From Kansas City we’ll beeline it on 50 to the DC are for the end-of-June wedding. That will be terrific.

After the wedding, and a week of rest and good times, we’ll beeline it to Nashville for a 4th of July weekend with my brother in the South. That should be sweet, and our last rest before out big haul coming home.

I’d like to go from Nashville back up to Kansas City, and from there head back to San Francisco via Rte 50. This is of course the famous “Loneliest Road” in America, and I can’t wait to cross the mountains, go through the desert, you name it. This part is extremely vague in details. In fact, I have no clue really what this part will look like. But I got some time. I need to prioritize getting the Oregon Trail lined up first.


Our timeline is leave June 10 or 11, get back somewhere between July 15-20.

So there’s a lot still to do, a lot of details to flush out and places to plan. The first step is to line up camping in Humboldt, as we definitely want to commit to that. Traveling with our dog is going to be an extra challenge, as we’ll need to make sure that the places we stay are dog friendly. There’s a couple things on the “to buy” list right now, such as:

-headlamps. my flashlight sucks.
-a collapse-able, comfortable dog crate for Goose
-those baby shades that you put on the back windows of your car, for the dog. He doesn’t do well in the heat, so those will be clutch.
-as many camping permits ahead of time as possible. It’ll make it so much easier than rolling into a campsite and not having a spot, and then being screwed.
-possibly a new spare tire. I gotta check in with my guys as the Honda dealership. That’s actually another thing I need: a nice big tune-up, and some basic knowledge in car maintenance. Like, what to do if things overheat, etc.
-cake. I really want cake. Ok I’ll get that now, before the trip.

A huge heads-up is that I’d really appreciate any thoughts or feedback on ideas/suggestions. I know that there’s no way I’ll be able to process every piece of advice, and we are committed to these two routes, and so will have to miss a ton of potential things. So be it. The biggest thing I’m currently ooking for is a good online mapping software that can help me plan things out. I can always go old-school and get one of those huge fold-able maps, but those are a bit of a pain in the butt to manipulate, and I’d prefer to use something computer based. In other words, I want a place where I can trace out my anticipated routes, with destinations highlighted, etc. Any ideas out there?

I can’t believe our launch date is less than a month away. It’s going to be awesome. So for about 5-6 weeks in June and July, this blog will become a roadtrip blog. I hope you don’t mind. Oh come on, who am I kidding. You will love it.



  1. #stoked !

  2. We can’t wait!!!

  3. I’m currently in the middle of a month long planless road trip right now. We sort of just go from place to place and it’s been absolutely incredible so far. Planless or planned, you’re gonna meet the coolest people! I’m so excited for you guys!

    Anyways…one of my favorite things about the driving for long hours part is the music. Whether you have an ipod adapter or you’re kicking it old school with cd’s, I highly recommend listening to entire albums from beginning to end rather than putting it on shuffle or making mixes. I don’t know of a better way than this to really getting to know and understanding an album.

    Also, I don’t know how tight your budget is but it helps a lot to buy (mostly) imperishable groceries (ie. bread, peanut butter, cereal, etc.) and keep the perishable stuff in a cooler, if you have one. Sandwiches are lifesavers. This has saved us SO SO SO much money.

    If I think of more stuff, I’ll definitely be sure to tell you. Good luck on planning!

  4. My family and I took a road trip to California five years ago which included “The Loneliest Road”. At one point I believe we passed one truck in two hours. Strangely enough, we had several hours of driving through Kansas with similar results.

    This may be a duh thing, but make sure you have blankets because temperatures change quickly through the mountains and deserts.

    Also, if you are baseball fans, you might be able to catch a few ball games along the way. You will be going by the Rockies, Cardinals, Royals to name the obvious ones. My wife doesn’t like baseball so I didn’t get to stop. :<

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