2018 USA road trip plans

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I spent many hours earlier this week planning for a 2 week road trip around some parts of the USA that we have yet to visit. The road trip will fill the first 2 weeks of October and will be the last third of a 6 week trip to the USA in September and October.

The core of our 2018 trip will be 2 weeks in and around Colorado with friends, Peg and Dave Ertmer. It was Peg who arranged my visiting appointment at Purdue in 2001-02. Subsequently, she and Dave spent a couple of weeks with us in Toowoomba in 2004 as part of a longer trip to Australia. Since then I have seen Peg at various conferences and Majella and I caught up with Peg and Dave during a conference in New Zealand in 2016. They were about to retire in Colorado and invited us to visit them there. On Peg’s advice we have timed that for the last couple of weeks in September when we expect to enjoy the fall colours at or near their peak.

We have sandwiched those 2 weeks between a cruise to Alaska out of Seattle/Vancouver and a 2 week road trip that I’ve been planning. We locked in the cruise, flights and car rental months ago with no firm plan for the road trip except that we would drive east from Colorado across some areas we have not visited before.

Majella has long had an ambition to visit all 50 states of the USA and we have made substantial progress toward that goal. While I was on academic development leave in 1998 we took a month to drive from Los Angeles to Boston crossing 17 states and punctuating work related visits with weekend tourism. While living in Indiana in 2001-02 we added 10 states, mostly on a roundabout trip from Lafayette, IN to Nashville, TN via Texas and Nuevo Laredo in Mexico. On our 2012 trip we added 8 more states.

Some visits to states have been no more than a quick drive-through as happened with Rhode Island and Delaware in 2012 but others have involved much more. When I counted them up I found that we had visited 35 states together. Majella went to Hawaii with Bev Williams in 2011 and I have been to Iowa and Nevada without her. That gets our totals to 36 and 37 respectively with 12 states that neither of us has visited.

We will not tick off all those remaining on this trip but we will make a dent. Our cruise to Alaska departs from Washington and we have a couple of days there after the cruise. Peg and Dave are in Colorado and are planning to take us on a side trip that I think will add Utah. It was up to me to see what I could manage on our 2 week road trip.

Mostly because I know little about the area we will be visiting the planning was challenging. I had an interest in visiting the Mississippi headwaters in Minnesota and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota has been on both our lists. Initially I added Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks in western Wyoming but I soon determined that would stretch 2 weeks beyond breaking point, leaving a trip through Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, North and South Dakota as potentially feasible.

While I was working at Purdue in 2001-02 we visited Samara, a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. That kindled an interest that took us to Kentuck Knob and Fallingwater on our 2012 trip. As I was planning I remembered the Frank Lloyd Wright house in Wisconsin, Taliesin, and looked it up. That set the eastern extremity for our road trip.

RoadtripThe rest followed through a process of locating possible waypoints at achievable daily driving distances and searching the local tourism pages to see what might be on offer at those points or along the way. The result, provided we can stand the pace, should be a fascinating trek along highways and byways through mostly small town USA.

Some of the more interesting discoveries that I have included on our itinerary include:

I’m pleased with the variety of attractions that I managed to find along the route around our targeted destinations. If there are significant opportunities I have missed along the planned route I’d be happy to hear about them and might try to work them in.

It looks like the total distance to drive will be a bit more than 5000 km and we will be on the move every day. That will be challenging though when I went back to look at the distances we drove on our cross-USA trip in 1998 some of the daily distances were substantially greater but we were 20 years younger then.