Saturday, January 23, 2021

The Planning Stages...

So, it can be a mildly tedious endeavor, this whole trip-planning thing. I know where I want to start, where I want to end up, and where I want to go between the two. The trick is figuring out how many days I can spend in each place I stop.

Initially, I thought the entire trip, St. Augustine to Boston to Seattle to Boston to St. Augustine, would take about three weeks.

I really do need to improve on my guesstimates.

This is what my calendar currently looks like:


Now, I know it's a bit tough to decipher, so let me help you out. The purple is my original guesstimate for the total trip. The orange sections are where I'll be during each segment of the drive. As you can plainly see, after two and a half weeks I'm still likely to be in Seattle. 

This is problematic if you think your entire trip is going to take three weeks. Consequently, I'll have to adjust the return date just a tad.

My daughter, who's not only a photographer but also one Hell of a videographer, is probably going to join me on the trip from Newport, Oregon to Boston. Once we arrive in Boston she can decide if she wants to fly back to Seattle or come to Florida with me. She'll be bringing here drone along, so I suspect a Dad & Daughter Road Trip video will eventually show up on You Tube.

The trip from east to west is pretty well laid out. I'll get to stay with friends in Boston, Rochester and Wooster OH, so I won't have to worry about paying for lodging until I get to Madison, WI. I'll have to spring for hotel rooms in Madison (one night), Sturgis (three nights) and Wyoming (two nights). The nice thing is that there a lot of really decent, inexpensive hotels strewn all along I-90. 

When I leave Wooster, Ohio (where I'll be visiting family), I'll drive through both Indiana and Illinois, with no plans to stop overnight. I will, however, be using the RGPS app (Really Good Photo Spots) along the way, and I'm quite good with pulling off for the right photo op. I was in both Indiana (South Bend) and Illinois (Chicago) last year, so if I don't spend a lot of time in either on this trip, that'll be okay.

By the way, just a reminder: RGPS freakin' rocks. I've used this app in Italy, Scotland and all over the eastern half of the United States. If there's something worthwhile to see and shoot, it'll be listed here!

My stop in Madison will be for no other reason than I'll need to take a break. While I'll be using RGPS and (I highly recommend both), there's nothing that's currently grabbed my attention enough to make this more than a one night stop. The Best Western East Towne Suites, at only $88 a night, looks pretty good for my first foray into paying for lodging. At the very least, I can see myself venturing out to capture some shots of the Capitol Building. It really does look pretty cool at night:


Photo by NBC15, Madison WI
Photo by NBC15, Madison WI

I'll pass through Minnesota during which, again, I'll be relying on RGPS for anything off the beaten path. However, I'm looking forward to finding those small towns which time seems to have forgotten. Those always offer photo ops to the nth degree.

The stretch from Madison to Sturgis will be the longest of the entire trip. It clocks in at right around 800 miles, so I'm figuring it should take me in the neighborhood of 12 hours. The speed limit on I-90 in South Dakota is 80mph, though, so that's certainly going to help.

Hotels in Sturgis start around $42 a night at the Days Inn (which actually looks pretty good for the money), but I'll likely up the budget a tad to stay at someplace like the Best Western. It's $75 a night, and Best Western has really upped their game over the last couple of years. The way I see it, $335 for a four night stay, which allows me to unwind and explore Sturgis, Mt. Rushmore and Deadwood, is a pretty good deal. 

The last time I drove through this area was 2013, and I really wasn't paying much attention to the "photo op" aspect of the trip. I'd suffered a transmission failure in Montana, and that put me about five days behind schedule, and I simply had to be concerned about the time crunch I was under. This time around, however, I'm banking on not suffering the same fate. I'm going to check out not only Sturgis, but Deadwood, as well.

As much as I don't want to, I'll have to stop somewhere in Wyoming. My guess is I'll probably opt for Buffalo, which is where I stayed the last time I came through here. I stayed at The Arrowhead Motel last time, but I think this time I'll opt for the Occidental Hotel which, in its 141 year history, has played host to the likes of people such as Theodore Roosevelt, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Ernest Hemmingway:

Photo sourced from the web

Oh, and not only will it be amazing to stay in such a historic hotel, but the Occidental is also considered to be the single most haunted place in all of Wyoming, so that could be fun.

The best part about the drive from Sturgis to Buffalo is that it's less than three hours. If I drove my regular six to eight hours a day, which is what I'm trying to average, I could be in Bozeman, MT by the end of the drive. But this will give me the opportunity to stop along the way and really check out the small towns along the way. Towns like Sundance,with a population of just under 1,200, is exactly the kind of small town I'm looking forward to visiting:


Sundance, Wyoming

Or maybe someplace like Beulah, Wyoming. It's got a population of only 33 and, from what I can find online, a single strip mall and a stop sign. But they also have the Buffalo Jump Steakhouse which looks like it could be a pretty good choice for lunch. 

The point is that I need to make time to check things out, meet the locals and spend time enjoying this. When you hear the term "wild west", well, this is what they're talking about. It doesn't get much wilder than this.

With the exception of two days, I should be able to keep the driving down to about six hours per day. Of course I could do more than that, but if I want to get out and explore and shoot and actually experience this trip, as opposed to simply just driving and going through the motions, I don't want to push too much too often.

Now, one of the things I need to be cognizant of is how Covid could affect my travel. When I did my road trip last year I didn't seem to be impeded too much, so I'm really not too concerned. Now, with that said, the reality is that Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota and Washington all have some form of travel restriction. I'm going to be largely unaffected by some of those, as I don't plan to stop in Pennsylvania, Illinois or Minnesota. The others? Well, I was in Ohio and New York last May and had no issues whatsoever. I guess we'll just have to see what happens. If I have to keep driving to get out of a state that wants me to quarantine, well, I guess that's what I'll do.

The only thing left for me to do now is decide on exactly which date I'm going to depart.

Oh, and then planning the return trip!

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