In a lot of ways this trip is less a pursuit of some knowable goal that I am pursuing, and more a pursuit of the unknown.
Sure, along the way we are planning stops at iconic pieces of Americana: The Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and the Sequoias among others. But the routes between these points are legion, and our selection criteria are flexible.
Before delving into the routes that were chosen and why, it is perhaps important to look at the selection criteria.
This is not a vain whim of a tragically internet-bound Gen Y’er, but a practical concern for a couple of reasons. First, Wren is nearly finished with her masters degree from Texas A&M. In order to keep up with lectures and submit homework internet is a must. Thankfully our world far exceeds Star-Trek in the pervasive nature of data access. No need to radio up to the ship to have Geordi ask the Computer to compute something for you – just ask the computer that everyone carries in their pocket to consult the interweb it has nearly ubiquitous access to.
Occasionally in order to find the invisible waves that supply the life-blood of information some searching is needed. Variously this involves the time-honored tradition of walking around in ever-widening circles, nearly running into everything, staring at one’s phone, waiting for the illusive signal bars to emerge – to the more effective method of traveling to the top of the tallest thing nearby and checking for service there.
High places = great cell service!
Oh – and although the requirement for internet access is not driven by hedonism,* it does enable the watching of Netflix on rainy days, the searching for good restaurants on Yelp, and the playing of Call of Duty.
This is not only a selection criteria for where we travel to – but perhaps the simplest (albeit incomplete) answer to the question of why we travel. We are not ‘hardcore’ hikers, but we are avid. And we have sufficient experience hiking to know what we want. Ideally single track (double track trails encourage our dog to acquire delusions of grandeur), well blazed, significant elevation change, loops of 10-12 miles in length. This is not all that common, and we are happy to settle for less than ideal – but it does keep us in pursuit of that perfect trail. Thus far we have not stayed longer than 2 nights anywhere with limited hiking.
When we first picked up our travel trailer, we began to pay attention to where we would be able to stay with it. Turns out RV parks are everywhere. I mean this is the most literal of senses. Not the figurative (or perhaps hyperbolic) “Walmarts are everywhere,” but completely seriously that no matter how far into the woods you go you will find and RV park.
Having said that – RV parks don’t have classy reputations, and regrettably most of them that I have seen don’t lend much evidence to the contrary. Also…although I’m not misanthropic – I do have a personal space envelope that is larger than most RV parks allow for.
This means camping – which by definition includes some semblance of “getting away from it all,” with “it” typically referring to “them.”
Although finding camp sites is easy – finding dog friendly campsites (or at least campsites near dog-friendly hiking) is not quite as simple. By and large National Parks are distinctly dog unfriendly. No dogs allowed on trails. No dogs allowed to be left unattended, even in RVs. Some just plain don’t allow dogs in the park. Well that is fine – if they don’t want my four-legged friend I’ll go somewhere else.
By contrast, I have not yet encountered a State Park with any such rules pertaining to dogs. As such I take every effort to be a responsible dog owner so that the states don’t ever feel it necessary to ban dogs too.
Distance from where I am now:
This is less important for selecting individual destinations, and more important for stringing those destinations together in a more or less logical fashion. Having undertaken a 3,000+ mile drive with a dog and lizard in tow once, I recognize the value of short driving days. My joy of driving begins waning around 6 hours, the dog begins to have a meltdown around 8 hours, my back aches around 10 hours, abject misery sets in around 11 hours. 12 hours of driving in a day is a chore most comparable to a root canal.
So, knowing all of this we aim for 200 mile jaunts. 3 hours of driving is long enough to feel worth it, need gas (14mpg and 16 gallon tank), and typically arrive somewhere interesting. It is also short enough to break camp anytime between 9am and 2pm and still be able to set up in daylight.
Of course – 200 miles/3 hours isn’t always sufficient – so journeys of up to 5 hours are tolerated, with anything over 5 hours only happening if absolutely necessary. And on those longer journeys we always try to have lunch coincide with a town large enough to harbor good food.
And that is about it for selection criteria. Somehow I felt that it would be less long-winded – but such is the nature of rambling. As such – rather than subject the reader to another 900 words of where we’ve gone, where we wanted to go, why we aren’t their now and the like I’ll summarize:
The weather was bad, so we changed plans.
And that is all I’ll say of the matter until a more fitting occasion.
Warning! Philosophy Below!
*Hedonism and Epicureanism are not the same. Epicurus advocated the pursuit of pleasure as the highest ideal, but simultaneously felt that by desiring less one would more readily achieve pleasure.
By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul. It is not by an unbroken succession of drinking bouts and of revelry, not by sexual lust, nor the enjoyment of fish and other delicacies of a luxurious table, which produce a pleasant life; it is sober reasoning, searching out the grounds of every choice and avoidance, and banishing those beliefs through which the greatest tumults take possession of the soul.
Thus, what Epicurus was actually advocating effectively looks and acts ascetic.