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As we’re sitting here in Ohio wondering when (or if) we’ll be able to get back to Panama, we decided why not take a road trip?
The iconic road trip is something that used to be the standard of almost every family vacation. With the pandemic raging stronger than ever, these types of trips have been making a big comeback this summer since not many folks are ready to jump on a plane right now.
We’re in that same boat and decided that a road trip might be something fun to do. Not only could we see different sites around the country, but we could visit with out-of-state family and friends we rarely get to see anymore.
If you’re a loyal reader of this blog, you know that I tend to throw out my thoughts here before things are finalized. Our road trip plans are no different.
But I thought this would be a great opportunity to get some feedback from you on some of our ideas. The closest we’ve come to a huge road trip was our July adventure last year but that involved staying in hotels almost every night. This trip will be different… a lot different.
Why a road trip?
Right now, we’re in Ohio living in my in-laws’ basement. Our condo in Panama is sitting there waiting for us to get back. We left Panama almost a month ago on a humanitarian flight knowing that we might not be able to get back anytime soon. Currently, the borders there are closed and when they re-open, it’s highly unlikely they’ll allow in U.S. passport holders anytime soon.
That means we’re here for an indefinite amount of time. While that’s both good and bad, it also means we’ve got a little time on our hands – especially with needing to be so careful with socialization during these times.
So why not change things up, take these lemons, and make lemonade? A road trip will be a chance to visit a lot of places we’ve never been to before and see sites we’ve never checked out. It’ll be a great opportunity for Faith to experience more of the country as well.
I’d say that it also provides some rare quality time together but we’ve been spending all our time together (24×7) for the past 4 months now! No complaints about that, but a road trip will give us something unique to do.
I’m normally someone who just wants to get from point A to point B, but this trip will be different. We’re going to stop and smell the roses along the way. Hopefully, the fun along the way will keep me from getting antsy about not just getting right to each destination! 🙂
How long will this trip be?
Here’s the beauty of this trip… we don’t have a deadline. Right now, both Lisa and I are early-retired and Faith doesn’t have school. And because we made a pretty easy decision of homeschooling Faith again this year in light of the pandemic, we can do that wherever we’re at each day if we’re still floating around at that time.
In other words, we don’t have a set amount of time for the duration of our road trip. However, we’re ball-parking around 4 weeks.
As of now, we’re thinking we’ll head out around August 10th. That means we should return around the first week of September… I’m sure we’ll be more than ready at that point!
Where are you going?
We don’t fully know yet.
All we know so far is that we plan to spend a week or so with my brother and sister-in-law in mid-August. They have a week off and we’ll be doing some day trips to different places near their house outside of Austin, Texas… kind of like the One Tank Trips in Ohio Neil Zurcher used to do back in the day! We also decided that we’ll probably do an Airbnb on a lake for a few days during that time.
Essentially, we have that week of our time covered except for the precise details. We’ll probably stay another week after that, too. Now we just need to figure out our path from Ohio to Texas and then our path back after that.
We’ll likely try to make our way to the Vegas area as well. My godfather who might as well be called my uncle lives there and we haven’t been able to see him in many years… Faith hasn’t even met him yet.
Other than that, once we have some kind of draft of our road trip plan in place, we’ll probably contact other friends or family along the way. That would give us a chance to do some social-distanced visits with people we haven’t seen in a while.
But here’s the thing, we’re thinking that we don’t want to have too detailed of a trip. Keeping an open plan gives us more flexibility. Maybe we want to stay longer at one place or shift gears and head somewhere else instead.
One idea that I pitched to the girls was that each night before bed we take a look at the map and decide where to head to the next day. That gives us that flexibility but it also gives us something fun to look forward to each evening (particularly Faith). If we’re tired of driving, maybe we stay in the area longer or pick a destination that’s not too far. Or, if we’re eager to keep moving, we find someplace further along on the map.
Um, you don’t have a car – don’t you need one for a road trip?
That’s correct, we don’t have a car. That’s probably a pretty important part of a road trip. And boy oh boy, we’ve been all over the map on this one (pun intended!) in deciding what we want to do for a vehicle.
In a way, it’s a good thing because it gives us some choice. We don’t have to try to stuff everything we can into an existing owned vehicle. We can decide what’s best for our trip.
But it also means we have to figure out what will be best for our trip.
Our initial brainstorming had us in a full Class A motorhome before we realized that was too much. Between the driving and handling, the vehicle and fuel costs, the setup and maintenance, and needing another vehicle to use once we were set up each day, that didn’t stay part of our discussion for long.
We kept moving down further and further on the totem pole of choices to smaller RVs, camping pop-ups, etc. Each vehicle has it’s own pros and cons but one of the most prominent issues is that everyone and their brother are buying these things up right now. The law of supply and demand tells us that even getting our hands on one would be timely and expensive.
After weighing in on everything and realizing that this was only for one trip, we decided that a better choice would probably be some type of van or minivan.
We don’t have a lot of stuff, we don’t need a lot of room, and it just is what it is. It’s simple and we can drive it around just like a car. We could add a cargo carrier to the back (maybe something like this one) if it’s got a trailer hitch or we could look at a rooftop carrier.
So that’s what we’re considering right now for the road trip. The next question is: should we rent or buy? We could buy a used minivan and then resell when done and probably come out ahead or close to it. But you have all the headaches and time involved with both the buying and selling.
Or we could rent one. For the amount of time we’re thinking of for the road trip, it would probably run us a couple of thousand dollars. That’s a good chunk of change. But no muss, no fuss. We get back, turn it in and call it a day. And we’ve saved a lot more than that on our expenses this year because the pandemic has limited the fun we’ve been able to have.
Tough call. Renting is probably an easier path. We could even rent a minivan to go from Ohio to Texas and then return it. Then we could rent another one when we continue on the road trip after Texas – no need to have a vehicle sit while we’re with my brother and sister-in-law. That would save us some decent money, too.
But buying a minivan puts us in a great position of having a vehicle of our own. If we don’t make it back to Panama anytime soon, we’d still have a car to use – that would obviously be pretty convenient. Right now, we’re just borrowing cars when we need to make a run somewhere.
Of course, we’d also have the cost of a vehicle, insurance, maintenance, and all that sort of good stuff. However, we could also sell it later on whenever we’re ready.
This is only about two weeks away and we still haven’t decided exactly what we’re going to do… nothing like waiting until the last minute! What would you do?
What about sleeping, showering, and all that stuff?
A big fat RV would have wrapped up the answer to this question. But since we’re not going that route, we need to think this out a little more.
Let’s start with sleeping. We think that we should be able to sleep in the car for most nights. We could look at something like a backseat air mattress like this one and a back-of-the-car air mattress like this one. With those combined, we’d be able to sleep all three of us. It wouldn’t be paradise, but it would be sufficient for the road trip.
Now, that would be easy enough, but I don’t think we’d be able to fit both mattresses in it at the same time. We haven’t dug into specific vehicles yet, but it would take a really long van to make this work. And if those exist and aren’t crazy expensive (I’m not a car guy), that might be exactly what we’re after.
Other than that, we might spend a night here and there at a hotel. That’ll give us a chance to regroup, take a hot shower, and get a fresh start again.
Speaking of showering, those stray nights at a hotel ain’t gonna cut it for the entire road trip. We’ll need to shower a little more often than that – hopefully, almost every day!
Lisa and I have talked about different ideas on that. I’ve heard that a lot of the rest areas or truck stops actually have nice, clean showers. Do you know if that’s the case?
We’ll probably also spend plenty of nights at various campgrounds, particularly KOA campgrounds. If the showers are clean and we wear some flip-flops, that might be a good place to set up shop as well. The added benefit is that we could sit around the fire in the evening and who doesn’t love doing that?!
And we might spend a night here or there in a Walmart parking lot. Everything I’ve read points to this being a good place to park overnight. Most allow overnight parking there, they’re everywhere, they’re well-lit, they usually have cameras throughout, and you have access to the restrooms there.
Although I’m sure we’ll eat at some restaurants, our game plan is to do plenty of grocery shopping. We’ll keep a regular cooler and maybe even this electric cooler I didn’t know existed on hand.
Between all these ideas, we’ll probably be grocery shopping at Walmart and cooking over the open fire while at the various campgrounds. That sounds good to me!
That’s the plan, folks – although this pandemic has made life different for all of us, we’re still trying to roll with things and not let life pass us by.
As you can see, this rough draft of our road trip plans is… well… rough. But I’m hoping you might have something good to add to help us prepare.
What do you think? Do you have any feedback, thoughts, or ideas for our road trip?
Thanks for reading!!