Time to plan the route
I go to Bing Maps.
A straight line from Swarthmore to Jackson Hole passes pretty straight across to Chicago.
A great city. Never been. A must see.
So an overnight there.
A destination city. We'll spend the next full day and night to absorb its center.
Drawing on my recent experience I decide on eight hours including stops as a comfortable travel time.
Time enough to net about 350 miles daily.
Time enough for some sightseeing even on travel days.
Chicago being nineteen hours and 983 miles from Swarthmore, three days travel time should do it, reaching Chicago on the third night.
I stopped planning here.
The second time I sat down I made an important discovery: Buffalo, New York and its neighboring Niagara Falls, is a perfect one-day driving distance from Swarthmore, PA.
Buffalo, NY, right on Lake Erie; 19 miles out from Niagara Falls, that go-to place for newly-weds.
Except I’m not.
Except: should that really stop me?
I can walk around with a ID Tag announcing that “My new wife and I are not talking right now so I’m walking around waiting for her to come to her senses.”
A pretty big tag.
Wake up in Buffalo and tour Niagara and Buffalo.
I think unless there are two restaurants with giant reputations to hold me, I would leave open the possibility that after a day of touring that area I would like to get in a little early evening driving towards the next stop.
Which means that, early on, the grid becomes set in sand, not stone.
Chicago? Still too far to reach in one day.
The four-hour leisurely drive along the lake feels nice.
Cleveland and Sandusky are both in a line.
We’ll plan on visiting in that area before pushing off for Chicago.
Time to look at this on a grid.
Chicago to Jackson Hole is 1400 miles, or four days driving.
We need to plan for nights along the way, the 4th being in Jackson Hole.
I don’t see any must-see stops on this route so let’s place mark the stops with approximates.
Out of Des Moines, a straight run will take us to Grand Island (only 4+hours) and another 2.5hours to North Platte.
We actually don’t have to decide until we get there.
After North Platte, Cheyenne is too close (<4hours) to stop for the day.
And perhaps not a destination city. But perhaps lovely landscapes.
Point being, from here on we might consider ourselves as in a slow-motion mode, taking all the time we want for the next 400 miles.
So we have a soft plastic grid to track this phase of the trip.
And here I stopped my second go-round.
On my next sit down, I’ll review the time from Cheyenne to touring Yellowstone National Park to leaving Yellowstone for the next stop.
We’ve driven 400 miles through one of the most glorious landscapes in the world, reaching the center, Yellowstone National Park.
“My country ‘Tis of thee…”
“I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture fills
Like that above.”
Looking at Yellowstone, and from there looking not far away to Salt Lake City, and from there not far away to Grand Canyon National Park, I’m beginning to realize that putting a timetable on an Easterner’s travelling alone in this part of the United States is futile.
I think the best way to handle this part of the trip is to keep it in very broad strokes.
Let’s assign days without details.
The trip planners talk about a Yellowstone National Park figure-eight, visitors sightseeing one loop each day.
We’ll give Yellowstone two full days after our arrival from Cheyenne.
Perhaps drive out of Yellowstone late afternoon towards Salt Lake City.
In the morning traveling and arriving at Salt Lake City at noon.
Spend the afternoon and evening there.
Still, the unfamiliarity of the area and the emotional reaction to the scenes make it impossible to accurately predict the speed of going through here.
We should be able to accurately predict the overview.
Let’s do that.
Looks like a four-day trip across the southern US to Savannah, Ga.
And then north to Boston, which we also have to plan.
Okay. Sitting down for fourth time with map.
Looks like Grand Canyon National Park to Santa Fe is an ambitious but attractive drive.
Although it exceeds the 350 mile limit I like to do, it’s 430 miles, it’s still being counted on the map as an eight-hour plus drive. Within my limits.
And I won’t mind starting out very early in the morning and getting into Santa Fe late in the day.
That leg of the trip looks promising, not only in terms of landscapes, but also of Native American culture.
Sant Fe looks like a terrific place but I won’t need more great landscapes or Native American culture.
I may be content with an evening and morning visit.
Leaving at noon for next leg of trip.
Next leg is on way to Dallas, for my measure, inconveniently situated a day and a half travel from Santa Fe.
Dallas is, however, a perfect two days from Savannah.
So, stopping somewhere between Amarillo and Wichita Falls will put most of the driving to Dallas behind me, getting me to Dallas before noon on the next day, time enough for the core city and a walk, a café, and a nice restaurant.
Meridian, MS looks like the stop after a full travel day.
History in the civil rights story.
Razed by Sherman in the Battle of Meridian.
Has some historic buildings in center for walking.
Has a café.
Stopover and continue on way next day.
Leaving Meridian the morning gets us into Savannah, GA late afternoon/early evening.
Next day do a walking tour of Savannah, leaving Savannah after a nice café stop to check into a Charleston hotel.
That evening have dinner with the Toners in a nice restaurant.
Sleep in Charleston, do a morning walking tour of that city.
At this point, heading north, I see so many alternative stops that I’m reluctant to decide now on the end of the trip.
Fredericksburg, Swarthmore, Philadelphia, NYC, so many.
First planning ends here.