As our departure date quickly approaches I’m reminded as to why I started this blog in the first place. It was 2004 and we were getting ready to drive from Greenville, SC to Samish Island, WA to visit Laura’s mom. We wanted a way for her to track our travels, and RandomConnections was born.
The first iteration of this website was a rough affair. I wrote the programming myself in ASP using an MS-Access back end. It did what I wanted it to do – allow me to edit and post from a web browser instead of having to use a web editor like Dreamweaver or FrontPage (gag.) Back in 2004 that was a big deal.
I have to laugh at the comments about 2004 era technology. We’ve come a long way in thirteen years.
The first version of the site had the travel blog tucked under a separate link. That year was the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, so we were roughly following that trek. We had a map we could update (manually) and a way to post small photos.
This was in the days before Twitter and Facebook. Microblogging wasn’t a thing. (Is that term even still used?) My blog posts tended to be fairly short, and might even fit within a single tweet now.
One of the first posts was entitled “Why and Where.” I thought it might be interesting to look at the reasons for our first trip. The post was short enough that I’m quoting it in its entirety below.
It all starts with China – dishes, not the place. Laura’s mom has given her some china that had belonged to her grandmother, and rather than ship the dishes, we decided to drive out and get them. Her mom lives on an Island in the Puget Sound about two hours north of Seattle, so this is going to be a coast-to-coast trip. We are both taking off two weeks to make a meandering drive out west, roughly following the Lewis and Clark trail for part of the trip. We don’t actually have a set itinerary, but we know that we want to be on Samish Island for about four days, we know when we can leave, and we know when we have to get back.
Our original intent was to rent an SUV and camp along the way. That plan changed when we got our convertible and thought it would be the perfect vehicle for the trip. Of course, that meant trading camping gear for a place to store the roof when it’s down.
So I log onto MapQuest, plug in our address, plug in mom-in-law’s address, and come up with a route that’s 2871.21 miles long, and would take 43 hours 47 minutes if driving straight through. Oddly enough, the route roughly follows the Lewis and Clark Trail, and takes us near some interesting sites – Badlands, Rushmore, Yellowstone, and Grand Tetons.
The trip back will be a bit less meandering.
This time we don’t have the luxury of making all those stops at National Parks and scenic places. We will be traveling caravan-style with two cars, two cats, and two kayaks. The two cats are the limiting factor. We can’t leave them alone to go explore. That also limits where we can stay the night. We have to find pet-friendly hotels.
Originally we had planned to pull a small trailer behind the Subaru. While making inquiries at U-Haul we found that they have shipping boxes about the size of the trailer we planned to rent that they would deliver to our destination. The cost worked out to be about the same as renting a trailer for that time and distance. That was a no-brainer. We no longer have the hassles of a trailer and it saves wear and tear on the car.
So what does one pack for a year away?
I think back to another extended trip. In 1991 Laura had another year-long sabbatical from Furman. We moved to Tucson so that she could do research at the University of Arizona. For that trip we hired movers and took just about everything – furniture, pots, pans, dishes, etc., etc. We actually took too much stuff. For that trip we were moving into an unfurnished apartment and would need most of those things. A couple of Furman students would be renting our house while we were away.
This sabbatical is different. The house we’re moving to now belongs to Laura and her sister. It’s furnished and has everything we need. We really only need clothes, personal effects, and toys to entertain us on the long winter nights. Everything else stays. My sister Glynda will be living in our house for the year so she will need the furnishings, etc.
Even so, the process of deciding what to take and what to leave behind has been interesting. Some things I look at and think, “I don’t want to haul that across country. I’ll just get another one out there if I need it.” Some rejected items I look at and wonder if I should just get rid of them if I can do without them for a full year.
This sabbatical is different from the last year-long sojourn in that we aren’t locked into a schedule. In Tucson Laura kept regular work hours. I worked part time at a reading clinic and later at an elementary school. I had regular rehearsals with the Arizona Repertory Singers. This year Laura will be working on completing papers based on her research and I’ll be writing my book on South Carolina ghost towns. I checked out a couple of singing groups in the Skagit Valley, but decided not to get tied down with regular rehearsals. We’ll take some time to travel and visit family on the west coast. One of our biggest jobs will be to go through the house and see what needs to be done to settle her parents’ estate.
As for the upcoming drive, it will take us about seven days. We could do it in less time, but we’re trying to keep the daily drive time down. We’re also allowing one day to drive through Yellowstone. I’m sure I’ll be blogging along the way. I have a GoPro set up as a dash cam and hope to make a time-lapse of the complete trip. It will be more tedious than our 2004 trek, but certainly less arduous than the original Lewis and Clark trip. One Facebook commenter also pointed out that this route roughly follows the path of totality in reverse for the recent solar eclipse.
As we come down to the wire we’re tossing stuff into suitcases and fretting over what we might have forgotten and left undone. However, we’re just about past that point. The trip is upon us. Day after tomorrow, we head west.