Should We Stay or Should We Go?

The end of our trip is approaching.  Our original plan was to finish our trip just after my birthday November 4th at Zion National Park in Utah.  When we reversed course at Death Valley in March–heading in a big counter-clockwise loop across the country instead of clockwise–our new plan was to finish our trip at Yosemite National Park in California.

Last week we spent five amazing days at Yosemite.  After all the parks we’ve visited—on this trip and in our twenty years of travelling together—Yosemite is our favorite park of all.  The weather was perfect, sunny and 70s every day (in spite of a snowstorm two days before we arrived).  The waterfalls weren’t flowing heavily (we would need to come in the spring for that).  But it was like visiting an old friend.  We had a terrific time, and perhaps it seemed like Yosemite would make a fitting grand finale to our trip of a lifetime.

Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

BUT… Before visiting Yosemite, we had planned to drive along California’s Pacific Coast and stop at three parks with giant redwoods.  However, the weather along the coast lately has been chilly and foggy, it was a few hundred miles out of our way, and on this trip we discovered that we really weren’t “coast people.”  Since we had missed the redwoods, we decided to visit the other big trees at Giant Sequoia National Monument just south of Yosemite.

Theresa standing in front of a giant sequoia at Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park

So after visiting three amazing groves of giant Sequoias, perhaps this was a good ending place for our trip, and it was time to head home.  Well, we made it a whole 8 miles.  As we were driving through a new canyon in Sequoia National Forest, we were awestruck by its beauty.  We both looked at each other and had the same thought.  “This place is amazing.  Let’s stop here!”  So we found a terrific dispersed campsite tucked in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, parked the RV, and started hiking up the nearest trail.  We joked that at this rate of 8 miles per day, we should finish our trip by 2014.

Dispersed campsite in Sequoia National Forest

But we know that all good things must eventually come to an end.  We’ve been discussing a lot about the end of our trip, what comes next in terms of jobs and places to live, but more immediate is the “when” and “how” we finish our trip.  So we’ve identified four possible options:

Option 1: Head Straight Home

We are about 2200 miles from our Little Wolf Nature Preserve in southern Kentucky, which is where we plan to head after our trip.  We haven’t decided whether we plan to live there long-term, but we will spend at least a couple months there while we figure out the next phase of our lives.  So at our maximum average rate of 300 miles per day, if we drive straight through, we could make it home by Halloween.  The advantage of this option is we’d arrive home when the fall foliage is peaking and before the nights are freezing.

Option 2: Grand Canyon Grand Finale

When eating a delicious dessert, you always want to know when it’s your last bite so you can really savor it.  Since we weren’t sure whether Yosemite or Sequoia would be our last parks, we couldn’t savor them as much as we might.  So with this option, we’d make the Grand Canyon our grand finale, then head straight home by the first week of November.

Option 3: Dilly-Dally Out West

Our route home takes us along Interstate 40, and there are many cool parks along that highway which we haven’t visited.  With this option, we would continue our trip until we run out of interesting parks along I-40, which happens to be in Texas.  Therefore, we would visit the following parks before heading home:  In Arizona, Lake Havasu, Grand Canyon, Sunset Crater, Walnut Canyon, Red Rock, Tonto Natural Bridge, Meteor Crater, and Petrified Forest.  In New Mexico, Red Rock (same name, different park), El Malpais, and Santa Rosa.  And in Texas, Palo Duro Canyon and Caprock Canyons.  This would likely put us home by the end of November.  And since winter would be in full swing by then, we’d have to winterize our RV immediately after returning home.

Option 4: End in Sunny Florida

After visiting all the parks in option 3, we’d continue our trip and visit parks along the Gulf Coast in southern Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama.  Then we’d stop in Florida for a few weeks to visit my family—my mom Hazel, sister Laura, niece Heather and grand-nephew Ryan.  This option would likely put us home by the end of the year.  The advantage of this option is we can spend some extended time with my mother, who has had some challenging health issues lately.  This might also give us an opportunity to sell our RV, which would be much easier in sunny warm Florida than freezing cold Kentucky.  And it marks an apt geographic end to our trip since we cannot drive any further south without drowning our RV.

Decisions, Decisions

Each option has different implications financially, psychologically, etc.  The longer we travel, the more money we spend and the longer we go before getting a job and earning a salary again.  We may regret ending our trip before we are ready to go home, but then again we may never be ready, and we know we have to return to reality at some point.  We also miss our family and friends.  And it would be nice to get off the road and remain in one place for a while, with all the associated comforts of home like hot showers, oven-cooked meals, a large warm bed, TV and reliable Internet access.

We’ve talked a lot about these different options and will make our decision in the next day or two.  What would you do?  We will announce our decision here shortly.

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