Plotting the Great American Road Trip

No, this is not our rental vehicle, though I wish it were! This is a van I photographed a couple years ago while traveling. I don’t know what kind of vehicle we’ll end up renting, though I do know that it’s an SUV, and that it won’t be nearly as groovy as this VW bus.

The Great American Road Trip is shaping up. We are driving 3,000 miles or so to see my father and stepmother in California, and then we’re heading back on a different route, making various stops along the way.

Hotel prices are out of sight this year, apparently in sympathy with the skyrocketing gas prices. But we gave up long ago on the idea of being able to do this trip for a reasonable amount of money. I’m looking for rental cottages and apartments when possible, but also standard hotels, and even a few higher-end ones, mostly in places where nothing else is available.

And we’re renting a car, because my 17-year-old Prius is too small and too old to make the trip. We were pleasantly surprised at the price of the rental car. We have not been pleasantly surprised about anything else!

We have the itinerary set. It’s not in stone, exactly; there’s still a bit of wiggle room, but it will solidify as I find the rest of the hotel rooms I haven’t yet booked. On the way out, we’re mostly just driving as much as we can each day to get there quickly. On the way back, we’ll be meandering and sightseeing. We’re planning various stops, including San Francisco, Redwood National Forest, Crater Lake, Hood Mountain, Portland, Glacier National Park, and Walnut Grove (Laura Ingalls Wilder‘s Minnesota home site, the last major LIW location I haven’t yet visited). We’ll end up at a family wedding in Madison, Wisconsin, before heading home.

This is the kind of trip that probably should have been planned a year ahead of time. Rooms would have been more easily available then, and some sites, like the Going to the Sun Road at Glacier National Park, which requires reservations, would not have already been filled. But we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and booking well ahead of time was not really an option, since we actually care about not being exposed to the virus, and needed to know if it was going to be safe to travel.

So, is it safe to travel? Sort of? I am convinced that air travel is not safe. There are no longer masking requirements on planes and in airports, and way too many people are crammed together in an indoor space. By driving, we are taking control of the trip and can decide where we go. We won’t eat in restaurants or spend time in indoor attractions that don’t allow for social distancing. And we’ll wear our masks everywhere.

I think I’m down to just three more hotels or other lodgings to figure out — two, if I can stay at my sister’s place in Tahoe for a night. Almost there….

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