Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Living Richly In Retirement-Traveling The Open Road
A few years ago, I was in Denver, preparing to return my son to college in Phoenix. He had only purchased a one way ticket, because at Christmas time, the "open jaw" options were all scary expensive. We'd celebrated Christmas in Dallas, driven to Denver for the New Year and it was now time to head back. It was time to discuss my options
Traditional directional guides would have me taking interstate travel over all - I25 to I40 and then south. There was just one problem. I almost never simply drive between point A and point B. In this case I was looking for a new option. Had we had just one day, I would have followed the MapQuest advice. In this case I had more time and, being me, was looking for alternatives to make the route look more interesting.
As I set out, I still had not decided how we would arrive at our final destination-I only knew that we would spend at least one night in Santa Fe and then travel south. While Santa Fe was beautiful, It was the week after New Year's day, and cold and icy. I'm looking forward to seeing it again in August-and eating at The Shed, which I missed the last time.
After my brief Santa Fe stay, we headed south on I25, playing it by ear. After a quick map perusal, I jumped off on US highway 60 going west (Arizona and New Mexico readers may have some idea of what's ahead). I knew the road went west and then south and figured it was as good an off the beaten path trip as any.
US60 is an overall beautiful drive, albeit one lane in each direction. While I'm sure RVs do travel in this area, we saw nary a one. The beginning of the road was flat but winding, interspersed with trees and open spaces and visible wildlife. The road includes towns like Magdalena (with a population of less than a thousand it is trying to become an art colony). At approximately fifty miles in, we can out of the trees into a clearing. At this point my son exclaimed (warning, warning, many swear words), "Oh Holy Shit! Damn!" and I pulled over to the side of the road. You see, hidden in New Mexico, is what is known as the Very Large Array. What can I say folks! Imagine the movie Contact and you are probably there (although this is not a "find the aliens" array, this is a US Astronomy Array). Who knew?? Since then, we've learned that the Array is not so very hidden after all-in fact they have weekly tours, and give notice of when they plan to move the dishes so the are facing different directions. This sight would have been well worth the side trip alone.
We continued along the still beautiful road, as it moved mainly west and started turning south. Then a strange thing happened (or not so strange, considering the time of the year). That white stuff?? It started coming down. And then it started coming down some more. Ladies and Gentleman, this is my plea. If you cannot drive in snow-get off the road!!! One does not slam on the brakes and slow down in the snow and then speed up and then slow down in case there is a slick spot. One stays at the same, slow consistent speed or one takes thyself off the darned road!! Unfortunately, I was following at least two cars who never heard of this rule-while traveling a winding road that was going uphill-in the snow. Life, as they say, is an adventure.
Eventually we arrived at the mountain town of Show Low, now in Arizona.Show low is a tourist and recreation hub in the White Mountains of Arizona. After a brief stop to refresh, I had to decide of I was going to stay in Show Low or head down the hill (not knowing what was down the hill). I chose the second option, and while I missed the town what happened next was well worth the drive. As often happens in off the road driving, what wasn't seen the first time is simply an excuse to get off the road the second time.
And so I headed "down the hill" as the snow abated-straight into the Salt River Canyon. Occasionally there's a disadvantage to being the road trip driver-we have to get off the road to appreciate the full view. On the other hand, we don't have time to worry about how steep it looks down the side of the road or to worry (or allow our stomachs to worry) about the twists and turns in the road. In this case the view was worth the effort in every sense-and is one of those places on my short list to revisit.
Eventually we exited the canyons, came out of our mountains and took the short drive that was left to beautiful downtown Chandler, Arizona-and the Golf Academy of America.
Did this trip take longer than the traditional interstate trip would have? Absolutely-and had we decided that the snow would lessen enough we could enjoy Show Low, it would have taken another day. Was it worth the extra time, even though it cost me another night in Chandler before driving home? Absolutely! (and that was a two day trip in itself, worth another blog post).
Some folks would have stayed on the main drag. Some would have gone to these places but saved them for a "planned trip" with an official route. That, as my children would say, is not my "thing".
I've chosen to do mainly car travel (with some train trips added in) for a variety of reasons. After a total of more than ten years lived in Europe, I've taken one too many thirteen hour plane trips-unless I'm going over open water to Hawaii or the Cayman island's I'm not likely to do that again. I am a person who considers the journey part of the experience. Driving from hotel to hotel and resort to resort is not my thing as such. I'm willing to both be spontaneous at the spur of the moment, AND take road risks-small local roads that may or may not go somewhere are worth the experience. I LIKE to drive, and that love of driving would probably not translate to an RV. I'm the girl passing the RV on the left side going sixty five when he's going forty. And finally, I prefer my road trips to have as little cooking, cleaning or maintenance as possible.
All of these reasons lead me to believe that for now at least, a two week or more road trip in a car is the place for me. There are advantages and disadvantages to any kind of travel. But this trip was just one that shows why I prefer a crossover SUV to a plane or RV-and why throwing the schedule aside to take a risk is well worth the time.
I've been promising a couple posts that are overdue. So, coming this week are a post on the estimate costs of two different road trips as well as my one year fixed income living update on how I'm living rich on less than thirty thousand dollars a year-more or less.
Meanwhile, I'm still trying to find that article I shared once abut the best pie in every state and the couple who took that challenge as part of their travels!