So, as luck would have it, it looks like I won't be renting an Explorer for the trip.
When I first looked into it three weeks ago, the cost was going to be in the neighborhood of around $1,500, not including gas. Since then, however, rental rates have climbed north of $2,300 and gas is getting set to eclipse the $3.00 a gallon mark. Neither bodes well for the rental of an SUV.
So, barring any unforeseen circumstances, it looks like it's back to my 2014 Chevy Malibu:
In all honesty, it's a damn good car. It's got less than 80K on the clock and, for a car that's seven years old, that's not bad. It gets in the neighborhood of 34mpg, which is a lot better than the sub-30mpg for the Explorer.
Of course, if something goes south and breaks down during the trip, I'll have to fix it. I'll accept that. The upside is that, if something doesn't go wrong, I'll save over two grand. I could buy all kinds of camera stuff for two grand!
So, we're inside of three weeks now, and it's starting to get "real".
This is a good thing...