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Planning the Trip
Bill and Barbara Windsor's trip 'Round America covered 50 states and over 2,500 towns.
We did a lot of planning for the trip.
Our pre-trip planning is reported in white below,
and our post-trip comments are shown in red below.
The planning for the trip Round America began in our heads in 2000. But the serious planning began in January 2003.
Barbara and I reviewed a number of travel books. We didn't want to miss a thing that we might not have known was just around a bend.
In charting the course, I have created a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Each segment of the trip is listed with total mileage shown for that segment, and then each town we will pass through is listed, showing the highway that we will use. At last count, there are over 2,500 towns on the itinerary.
I have contacted the Department of Tourism for every state we will visit, and I anxiously await the flood of brochures and maps. I'll review each and add to the itinerary. We've also emailed family and friends for ideas on places to go, things to see, and pie to eat.
Our home and our cat have been major concerns. We wish Kitty B Kitty could be a road cat, but our one long trip with her proved otherwise. We aren't RV'ers, so it wouldn't be fair to keep her cooped up in a little car, and most motels don't welcome animals. Fortunately, brother Tony has come to the rescue. He will look after the house and take care of Miss Kitty B Kitty while we are gone. Barbara wasn't wild about interviewing and hiring a house sitter.
We have prepared a list of things that we must do before we leave as well as things that we must remember to take with us on the trip. Haircuts, dental checkups, and prescription gathering will be done right before we leave. We're rejoining AAA, and we'll make sure we have our AAA card, our AARP card, our passports, our drivers' licenses, registration, and proof of insurance. We'll take just an American Express card and a MasterCard, some cash, and travelers checks. I'm getting prescription sunglasses, and I will take two pair of glasses in case anything should happen to one.
Equipment-wise, we're getting a new cell phone with essentially unlimited long distance and no roaming charges for just $99 a month. I'll get the phone numbers of family and friends programmed in so everyone will be just a few keystrokes away. We're also getting a deal at Best Buy that makes the cell phone hands free and uses the car stereo speaker system for the audio. I'm buying the latest and greatest SONY digital camera with a telephoto lens, wide angle lens, and various filters. I'll be taking my laptop, and I will download the digital photos we take to the laptop, so we are also buying a power gizmo that will enable us to run the laptop off the car battery. That way, we can download photos from anywhere and even recharge the camera battery and cell phone as we drive. We'll take our "old" digital camera as well. We're taking a small markerboard and markers, so we can create a sign with anything appropriate for certain photos. The only other equipment will be a big powerful flashlight, two umbrellas, a fold-up hair dryer, and a tape recorder.
We plan to pack light and hit a laundromat once a week. We are buying a few clothing items from TravelSmith, the folks who specialize in all types of "travel easy" wearing apparel and accessories. Jeans or shorts, golf shirts, and tennis shoes will be about it. We are taking some hiking boots for use in the Northwest and as needed elsewhere.
We have not yet decided which vehicle we will be taking on the trip. We'll get it serviced just before we depart, and we'll get an idea when we will have to replace the tires.
We'll put together a notebook with the itinerary and plenty of space to take notes as we travel. And we'll each carry a pocket notebook and pen so we will always be able to jot notes. We will be printing some business cards to use as we travel. The cards will have our basic information as well as a one or two sentence explanation of the trip, the trip web site address, our email address, and our cell phone number. We'll give these to people we meet along the way.
Between now and April 1, I will spend additional time adding to this web site -- creating pages that will reduce the amount of time I need to spend while we are on the road. I will also be adding a photo search engine that will work off the keywords that we will use to name each of our photos. So anyone visiting the site can see photos from a specific state, city, person, type of activity -- you name it.
The Trip Round America will be well-planned, and we will be prepared!
March 30, 2003:
Busy month. We're just about ready. The list of things to accomplish tomorrow is relatively short.
We originally planned to drive around the border of the country, but the idea of visiting all 50 states in one trip was just too exciting to pass up. I was surprised when Barbara endorsed the significant expansion of the trip. The numbers now are 50 states and the District of Columbia, over 2,500 towns, and 19,631 miles! I know we will pass through cities that aren't on the map, and the mileage will be much higher as we will be driving around towns that we visit, and the 19,631 is just a point-to-point calculation.
I'm very pleased with the research that we've done. We have identified a significant number of attractions all along the route -- many things that we would have never known were there. Some state tourism offices came through like champs while others haven't gotten a thing to us. The many books that we bought have been our best resources as well as the Internet. I wish we had done more research on hotels, motels, and B&B's to try to find more special places to stay. Perhaps we can improve on this for the second half of the trip.
Neither of us has found the time to read the books that we bought about the trips of others. I plan to toss a few of these in the car in case I find any time to read.
Tony is all set for cat and house sitting as well as business management while we are away. His help is making the trip possible as I question whether we could have ever been comfortable hiring a house/cat sitter that we didn't know. Those who love cats will understand that we consider Kitty B Kitty to be like one of our children.
I believe I would have thoroughly enjoyed driving our 1955 Chevrolet Police Car on the trip, but Barbara vetoed that idea early on. We have decided to take a convertible on the first half of the trip -- the drive along the southern border of the US and across Route 66. We'll switch to an SUV for the second half of the trip.
We logged over 29,000 miles driving around the United States.
Our planning proved to be excellent. We were very well prepared. I've inserted comments in red under each paragraph above to indicate how well or not-so-well each aspect of planning went.
Boz prepared a first-aid kit as well as a bag of assorted things. Pocket-sized tissues, Handi-Wipes, hand sanitizer, Advil, screwdriver, blister-sized Band-Aids, eye wash, travel alarm clock, and additional tapes for the recorder were all very important. We needed to have Visine Tears as it is a product that can be used daily while some eye washes are dangerous if used daily.
We lost only one thing on the entire trip -- my favorite feather pillow. Many motels have only foam pillows, so if you are a feather pillow person, be sure to take your own pillow. Marriott properties all have feather pillows, so we chose Marriotts on some nights for that very reason. We were very systematic in what we carried into the motel each night and how we kept our stuff in the motel rooms. It would have been really easy except for all the electronics -- two cell phone chargers, the digital camera charger, the laptop and its power cord/charger, and the travel alarm clock.
We should take jumper cables next time and have a dashboard-mounted compass.
We should have purchased the National Park Pass at the first national park we visited.
The beads were a MAJOR part of the trip. It's great to have some type of gift that you can give to people when traveling, and the beads were a nice little gift...and so much more. We ordered 70 dozen beads -- probably would have used 100 dozen if we had them from the very beginning. We encourage everyone to take "lucky beads" when they travel. You can order them at www.mardi-gras-beads.net. We bought 33" 6-style assorted metallic beads for $6.25 for a 10-dozen bag -- $37.50 for a 60-dozen case. You'll meet far more people; you'll have more fun; and you'll have a nice, inexpensive gift to present to those you meet.
We kept the information received from each state tourism office in file boxes in the back of the Cruiser. We pulled the appropriate file for each state as needed. This worked well. We had to leave those files at home when we were in the Porsche.
We took the plastic laundry bag from each room each night and used it to transport our dirty clothes from the room to the laundry bag in the car. We then used the bag to hold all the travel brochures for the previous day. We tossed each bag of travel brochures in a box, and then we shipped a box back to Atlanta every time it got filled. I believe we ended up with somewhere in excess of 500 pounds of printed stuff...and all that hotel shampoo.
The signs on our car attracted a lot of attention and enabled us to meet many people we would not have met otherwise. The beads served a similar purpose, as I was asked again and again about the beads...and I met far more people that I would have met otherwise. We also have shirts and caps with the Round America logo, and these caught the eye of a number of people and added to the number of people we probably would not have met otherwise. The combination of the signs, beads, shirts, and caps made meeting people easy; more often than not, people came to us.
We weren't signed up for all of the frequent customer programs with the various hotels and motels, so Boz got us signed up during the trip. We earned a number of free rooms from all the room nights for which we paid. We also tried to use American Express everywhere we could as we are on a program where each dollar earns points toward air travel or hotels.
For the first half of the trip, we made hotel reservations a week or two in advance. For the second half of the trip, we ceased making reservations more than a day in advance. The problem with reservations is that you are then tied to a schedule, and that kept us from spending additional time where we would have liked to do so. It also caused us to be driving late into the night way too much of the time. On the next trip, we will not make reservations in advance -- except in Maine (where we could not get a hotel room).
Expandable waist bands are invaluable if you plan to eat a lot of pie. :-)
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