Among the many commonalities my wife and I share, one of them is an Indianapolis childhood that saw precious few opportunities for traveling beyond Indiana state limits. My wife was part of a large family that would go broke quickly if they had to feed and accommodate every member on the road. My family could only afford vacations to other relatives’ houses. Like many adults, we vowed to do the opposite of what our parents did. We found reasons and means to get out of town. It’s rarely easy, but we’ve made it happen without carrying years’ worth of debt.
A few of our basic secrets to success:
1. Save up as much as possible in advance. For too many people, “save” is a four-letter word. In our household, “debt” is a much harsher four-letter word.
2. If the vacation savings weren’t enough, spend the autumn paying down the rest. Pay it down hard.
3. No expensive air travel. We don’t fly. Ever. I’ve never set foot in any plane that wasn’t docked in a museum. It’s not fear of flying; it’s fear of expenditure. I’m aware that ticket prices have dropped in recent years. They can keep right on dropping as far as I’m concerned. It would also help if there existed a single tale of post-9/11 air travel that was blessed with unhindered grade-A customer service at every single footstep through the process.
Hence our annual road trips. On a dare from the WordPress.com Weekly Writing Challenge, I present three maps outlining our life in road trips to date.
From 1999 to 2005, our trips aggregated like so:
1999: We started small, with a simple overnight trip to our very first Wizard World Chicago. Today it’s become an annual event, but at the time it was an astronomical challenge to our budgets and navigational skills.
2000: The final Gateway Science Fiction Convention in St. Louis, where we met cast members from Mystery Science Theater 3000 as well as over two dozen loveable Internet folks.
2001: Our very first Superman Celebration in Metropolis, Illinois. We’ve now attended four times. With our 2012 visit, I actually remembered my way around the important parts of town without a map.
2002: Grand Rapids, Michigan, to visit a different set of Internet friends, with whom we watched Attack of the Clones twice on opening day. That kind of friend is next to impossible to discover back home.
2003: Washington, D.C. If you see just one nation’s capital in America in your lifetime, make it this one.
2004: Niagara Falls, with a few hours spent on the Canadian side, in the simpler days before a full-fledged passport was required. We also spent several unplanned hours time in Ohio on the way home due to a comedy of terrors.
2005: From home to Little Rock, AR, to San Antonio, TX, to Oklahoma City to Webb City, MO (relatives), to back home. To say that we overextended ourselves is a severe understatement.
Our 2006-2011 trips dogpile on each other as follows:
2006: After the 2005 endurance test, we scaled back to merely Milwaukee, Wisconsin Dells, Minneapolis, and Duluth, up by Lake Superior. We’ve now stood in the presence of every Great Lake except the remote, elusive Lake Huron.
2007: To Orlando, Florida, with too brief a stop in Atlanta. It rained on and off all week. We shocked everyone we knew by intentionally visiting Universal Studios and not Disney World. Long story.
2008: Virginia Beach, with a few Virginia stops along the way. This was the year we learned we’re not the kind of vacationing family that loves beaches.
2009: South Dakota, one of our longest trips to date. We stopped in several cities along I-90, took a brief jaunt into Wyoming, and detoured on the way home into Omaha, NE, and Riverside, IA. Never have we driven past so many casinos in a single week.
2010: Philadelphia, with special guest stars Pittsburgh and the Statue of Liberty. Mind you, we didn’t officially step into New York proper. We spent one day of that week on a round trip through New Jersey so we could see Lady Liberty and cross that state off our list.
2011: The great and powerful Manhattan, with special guest New Jersey. My favorite urban vacation to date.
For true-blue fans of MCC, I present the official chart of Our 2012 Road Trip:
For those just joining us: in 2012 we visited Topeka, Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Hutchinson, and a few small towns on the way back.
Many states remain on our to-do list. Lord willing, we have tentative plans to cross a few of those on our 2013 road trip. Someday we’d also like to visit the faraway west coast before we die. Such a road trip would require many more consecutive vacation days than we’re currently able and/or willing to allocate, but my wife knows my life won’t be complete without at least one starstruck pilgrimage to the San Diego Comic Con.
As for the prospect of visiting other countries…well, we’ll have to see. I’m not saying “Never!”, but most of them are challenging to reach by car.