Monday, May 2, 2011

Whistle-stop Travel vs. Fully Experienced Travel

I’m regularly guilty of whistle-stopping a place. Zoom in, jump out of the car, noodle around a little, zoom away.

I've whistle-stopped various parts of the Olympic National Park. Actually, it would be fair to say that whistle-stopping has been the primary way I've gone about seeing the national parks in Washington. And, um... Oregon.
And the Oregon Coast (twice even, once on my honeymoon and once last summer). And the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. Multiple times. And the Badlands. Another place I've whistle-stopped more often than I really want to admit.
And Joshua Tree.
Typing this out makes me realize I've gone whipping through an awful lot of national parks in the west.

But, um... as it happens, I have also whistle-stopped amazing state parks. Anza Borrego, for instance (well. Actually, we explored that pretty well. But I'd still like to go back).
Really, the list of places I've whistle-stopped instead of taking plenty of time to explore goes on.

And on.

And on.

I don't aspire to be a travel dilettante. I enjoy a leisurely chance to explore a place.

But I love, love, love to just... go.

At the risk of sounding revoltingly sincere, I feel incredibly lucky that I've gotten so many chances to see so many places (my couch, on the other hand, may be wondering when I will budget money to reupholstering instead of travel).

Sometimes, oftentimes, the time isn’t there to properly explore a place. Or time is there and money isn't.

Is it better to wait and see a place until you have enough time to really explore a place, or should you grab a chance to get a little taste and hope you get another chance for a longer savoring of it (or take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them)?

Clearly, I'm in the "take what you can get" camp.

And over spring break, I got a great chance to take a roadtrip in the Southwest.

I grabbed the kids and met up with one of my sisters, one of her sons (hooray for overlapping spring breaks), and our parents. I've been hoping for a chance to head down that way for some time.

Stumpy couldn't come, which was a total bummer, but he encouraged us to go. So... we did.
We met in Albuquerque and took a short loop that went to Canyon de Chelly, Monument Valley and Santa Fe.

It would have been great to have more time everywhere we went. And I say this after having cut Mesa Verde, Taos and a couple of other places that I'd really like to see from the trip.Even though I've gone on and on about how taking a little is better than waiting for the perfect chance... inadequate editing on a road-trip leads to a very bad road trip. Tallying up how much time you'll be spending in the car is an essential part of roadtrip planning.

However enticing something may be, skipping something extraordinary is sometimes better than trying to pack everything into a single trip.

This is a lesson I learned the hard way, after driving with an eighteen-month old and four-year-old from Seattle to Chicago (via Colorado. Genius planning.) and back.

There's nothing like a baby screaming all the way across Wyoming (big, big state. Even when your foot presses harder and harder on the accelerator as the screaming goes on and on and the four-year-old starts screaming at the baby to "STOP SCREAMING! STOP SCREAMING! STOP SCREAMING!") to make you really, really scrutinize and think about the amount of time you'll be driving every day.

Wow, am I really going on with the unsolicited advice today.

While you're remembering to seize the day, travel-wise, and not pack so much in that you don't enjoy any of it, don't forget to wash behind your ears and floss regularly.

Also: gaucho pants are still not flattering on anyone. Even gauchos.
Um. Anyway.

The trip was fantastic. It did nothing to cure me of my habit of taking what I can get in travel, however imperfect it may be.

And surprising nobody (except maybe me, but I can't be the only person who doesn't like to think that I am absurdly, utterly predictable. Right?), the trip has left me scheming to go back.

More on the trip later.


Anonymous said...

Zion and Bryce are two beautiful canyons but hard to whistle stop. One of my favorite places to pop in and out of is in Southern Idaho Craters of the Moon Nat'l Monument is so interesting and the kids may love it. It can get toasty hot there but right now that would feel pretty darn nice.


Anonymous said...

Just one question: Do the gaucho pants have ANYTHING to do with this trip, or is that just an unmotivated digression?

Now can we please have a crappy chart about Ingraham demographics? Oops, that's two questions.

Meg said...

I've been really curious to check out Craters of the Moon - and kids (well mine, at least) seem to love places that are strange.

No, the remarks on gaucho pants are completely random. I don't really have any crappy charts at the moment, though I'm mulling over whether a crappy chart would help me explain how underforecasting school enrollment allows administration to bypass the WSS.