It started with a list. “Top 10 Places We Want to See In America” I suggested, as I was driving my girlfriend back to college. She was a Junior – although she dropped out after that year as I had done the year before – and she had been up in Nashville for some holiday weekend. We started throwing out names of cities and National Parks one or the both of us had never visited. “Top 10” quickly ballooned to the something like the top 28, and it was cemented in our minds that if the relationship stuck, we would need to travel.
Well, later that spring I asked her to marry me, she said yes, and in October of 2008 Freya and I were wed. The following year two things important to this story occurred. First, we started joking about running away in a trailer for a few months so we could see this grand nation (and the one above us). It really was just a joke at first but the romantic notion underlying the basis of the joke struck a chord in each of us.
The second thing that happened was Pixar released a film called Up, with an old man named Carl Fredrickson who, as a boy in the film is seen exclaiming “Adventure is Out There!” as he pretended to pilot the blimp of his hero, a blimp named “The Spirit of Adventure.” We saw the film in theaters and bawled our eyes out at the first 8 minutes then laughed our heads off for the rest of the film. And we took the moral of the film to heart: don’t let life pass you by.
Version one of “The Road Trip” was quaint and romantic. Step One was to do something we’ve never actually done in the course of our marriage: save up some money. Step Two was to buy a small SUV (we’d chosen the Honda Element; our rationale escapes me) and a 13-foot travel trailer (vintage if possible). Step Three was quit our jobs, and Step Four was travel until we ran out of money, spending two to three weeks in various cities so we didn’t “feel like tourists” but instead we could “soak up the culture” of each city, as well as hitting up a bunch of National Parks. We’d sleep in a tent, use the trailer for a kitchen and storage, and spend our days exploring museums, our nights at breweries and restaurants and wherever else we found ourselves.
We never had to deal with our shortage of savings for Version One because the year we had this planned - 2011 - was the year EVERYONE we knew got pregnant including my wife’s sister, and so we couldn’t just be gone when all the babies arrive, could we? No, we couldn’t. So we pushed the trip back to 2012.
Version Two of “The Road Trip” never even had a chance. Even though none of our family or friends were pregnant, even though at the end of 2011 I got the job I now have and even though this job was awesome and my employers were willing to let me work remotely, the trip was impossible in the face of our unexpected pregnancy. We toyed with ideas of traveling some and then coming home in time for the third trimester, but somehow in the end all we did was take a baby-moon to Vegas and sit by the pool for a week.* The trip would have to wait another year.
That year is this year. 2013. “The Road Trip” Version Three. “It’s all happening!” as they say in the film Almost Famous. “It’s all happening.”
I’ve been hesitant to talk about it. I’ve tempered my excitement, kept my dreams and nervousness on the down low. But I don’t have to anymore. It’s all happening.
Our original plans were quaint. Romantic. Our plan now is somehow more pragmatic and also more crazy. Instead of a 13-foot vintage travel trailer, we have a brand-new 35-foot travel trailer with a king bed and two slide-outs. Instead of a Honda Element or similar small SUV, we have a Toyota Tundra CrewMax with a towing capacity of 10,100lbs. And instead of “just the two of us” sleeping in a tent every night, well, it’s Freya and I and our son Win, 5 months old as of this writing, sleeping in the aforementioned king size bed. And instead of a few months on the road, well, we’ve mapped out a year and if we enjoy that year, we’ll probably stay out for at least another year.
Here’s what we have planned so far.
On March 30, we’re saying au revoir to Nashville and heading to Richmond, VA. We’ll be there for 3 weeks, getting the hang of living in 300sq feet and seeing some super good friends that live there. From there, we’ll spend a month in Washington, D.C. Then it’s back to Nashville for a couple weeks (and a stop to see my family in Birmingham), before we head out west until Thanksgiving.
The westward leg will include Colorado, Yellowstone, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, and then (fulfilling a lifelong dream) driving down the 101 to San Francisco. We’ll get back to Nashville in time for Thanksgiving, stick around until Christmas, then we’re doing a “winter tour” of New Orleans, Austin, and San Diego. That takes us through a year, and barely half of the list of places we want to visit. These are of course the cities, there will be park visits in between as well.
It’s still sinking in that this is real life. For 3 years we’ve talked about this, planned various iterations of it, and now we’re less than a month away from the real thing.
We’ll be starting a blog shortly that you can follow all our adventures on and I’m going to create a page where anyone who wants to hang out with us or suggest places of interest along our route can get in touch. In the meantime, it’s beyond exciting to know that Adventure is Out There and on March 30 we’re going to find it.
Which reminds me. As of today we’ve christened our travel trailer “The Spirit of Adventure.” Thanks Pixar.
*My wife reminds me here that we actually traveled to Richmond in April, Asheville in May, Vegas in June, and St. Augustine, FL in July, but no trip was longer than a week.