Road trips seem to come naturally to my friends and I. Niagara Falls, Florida, Boston, Chicago...these were all test runs for the biggest trip of our friendship. July 24, 2009 we are once again going to load up the car and head out for the open road. This time its further than we've even driven before. Destination Las Vegas, but the road between here and there will be filled with a lot of driving, a lot of laughter and a lot of exploration.
This trip has been in the planning stages since August 2007, when driving back from Chicago we started discussing our next road trip. How far should we go? What should we see? Where haven't we been? How long should it take?
As we were driving through Ohio, Las Vegas came from my mouth without a thought, and from that moment on the next big road adventure was taking shape.
There were a few things to work out WHEN was the biggest question. Of course it had to be in the summer, because that is when Pat and I were off. I didn't know it at the time, but before the year was over, Toni would be working with me so her summer would be free too. YAY!! Its a convenient time for all. Now for a date, it had to be after the feast, so I could serve my time in the tent. First we would be leaving on Saturday but that soon changed to Friday, the extra day was needed for driving.
OK So here's the plan. Friday we leave at 3:30 am and drive straight through to Saint Louis...UGH that's a long way but its a must. Up the next day and drive to Denver...YAWN..we are going to be completely exhausted. Day 3 its back into the car driving until we make it to the Grand Canyon. This is why we need the extra day, we are booked at the only Lodge in the park that sits on the ledge. Its going to be great. Day 4 we finally get to Vegas. We are spending 4 days in Vegas, taking one day to drive to California, cant go all that way and not see the Pacific Ocean. Day 8 back into the car and driving to Rock Springs Wyoming. Spending 2 days there, we want to ride with the wild horses. Day 10 driving to Salina Kansas Why you ask? Because we can. Day 12 driving back to Saint Louis this time spending 2 days. See the Arch, Grants Farm, the Caverns, Jesse James, and hoping to find time to visit with family. Day 14 driving to Pittsburgh, home of my favorite NFL team. Day 16 heading home.
As you can see its going to be a long trip, but we have so many things planned I am hoping that there is enough time to do it all.
Its been a almost 2 years since the words Las Vagas came from my mouth. There was a lot to think about. We knew where this trip was headed, but how do we get there? What roads should we take? What do we want to see along the way? What car do we drive? How many stops to make? How much will this cost? All of these questions were asked over and over again. Finally the answers fell into place.
With the help of an Atlas, the Internet and Carm Carm, we found the route that would best suit our needs. Changes were made many many times before the final plan was settled. Four Corners, Flagstaff and Mount Rushmore were erased from the original plan. Replaced with a night at the Grand Canyon, and Rock Springs Wyoming. Toni wanted to drive some of the trip down Route 66, so we compared the route with the one we have now. It would have been great to take that route, but it meant more miles to drive, more hours on the road, and more gas to be purchased. Toni made the final decision to delete it from the trip. I took out Mount Rushmore for personal reasons and my friends understood. Thank you both for your understanding my decision.
OK! Hotels are needed, many of them, but which ones do we pick. Toni and I both love the Hampton Inn and Staybrige Suites. We shop online to compare...Damn...the prices are high. Next we look at the Comfort Inn chain...not bad in price but not our favorite. How about the Holiday Inn chain..hey wait..Toni has Priority points maybe we can use those...Damn..not enough. Then we see it, Toni and I collect Coke points and on that site we can exchange them for Priority points. YAY!!! Its a plan. Our goal is to get 5 nights free, and from the plan we have devised, it seems like an obtainable goal. Its funny what we will do for a free room, its a lot like dumpster diving, I can spot a Coke cap from a mile away, and I am not ashamed to take one from your hand for the sake of a free hotel. Again we are on a mission, finding hotels in every city we want to stay. It takes some doing but we find them all. Now all we have to do is book our rooms. (By the time we booked our hotels, we accumulated enough Priority Points for 8 free nights, we also remembered we had points sitting in Hilton, enough for a free night, and Harrahs comped all four of our nights in Vegas.)
When we first started planning this trip the only person with a car that would make it across the country was Pat. We drove her car to Chicago, it was ok but not very comfortable, OK, I fell asleep just fine but Toni wasn't that relaxed. Last November I bought a new truck. OK we can drive this to Vegas and back, at least that is what the dealer said. Its not brandy new but its in great shape and can handle the ride. Then reality hits. Its a V 8 and its eats a lot of gas. What a stupid move on my part. Back to plan A, Pats car, but the thought of being cramped in there for over 5000 miles wasn't too appealing to us. A few months later Toni sneaks off and buys herself a new ride. Plan C, we will ride in the newest of all the vehicles. Her engine is smaller and it eats less gas, her seats are more comfortable than Pats so we can nap in the back without being cramped, and its pretty. Another dilemma solved.
These are just a few of the planning problems we have overcome. There are more to be finalized, but I will get to those later.