Friday, June 22, 2007

Vacation by Numbers

21 days
12 states
5 national parks/monuments

We traveled for three weeks through every state west of home and north of I-80 except Nevada, Utah, and South Dakota. Along the way, we visited Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, Mount Rainier N.P. in Washington, Redwood N.P. in California, Crater Lake N.P. in Oregon, and Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho.

$390 spent at Powell's Bookstore in Portland, OR
$209 spent at Cabela's World Headquarters in Sidney, NE

The first was no surprise, at least to me. My wife seemed shocked by the total, but I fully intended to walk out with multiple bags; we filled three. Powell's is just incredible. By the end of the day, I was very close to breaking my shopping basket as I leaned in the opposite direction to steady myself. I bought a T-shirt, too. On the other hand, I didn't expect to spend so much at Cabela's, but they had some great deals. We also bought lunch in their cafe (not included in the total).

79 new counties visited
2,575 total U.S. counties visited (out of 3,141)
1 new state finished (every county visited)
22 total states finished

Despite all the new counties, I still didn't move up on this list. I would have gained two spots had I followed my original plan to collect 12 more Wyoming and Nebraska counties on the way home by heading north from I-80. Instead I chose to make the drive easier by eliminating that lengthy detour. Alas, the time we spent shopping at Cabela's and the Sierra Trading Post Outlet in Cheyenne ate up all the time we "saved"... and set us back a few C-notes. At least I managed to "finish" one state (Oregon), which has become a goal for every road trip. My original route also would have finished Nebraska.

$5,600 estimated expenses

Coincidentally, that's about equal to the tax refund I deposited a week before we left. Obviously high gas prices contributed although our car was pretty fuel-efficient. Lodging prices were the biggest shock -- even Motel 6s were often over $50 (by the way, Tom Bodett claims their prices are the lowest of any national chain, but that's only valid for a single person; add $6 for a second adult and Motel 6 often costs as much or more than an Econo Lodge, Super 8, Travelodge, etc.). We used a few discount coupons from booklets collected at highway rest areas, but a couple of $80 nights canceled out those savings. Even some of the "mom & pop" motels cost as much as the chains. Meals were surprisingly expensive, too. We didn't find the bargains we used to find outside the city.

Our expenses look awfully high, but here are some reasons the total isn't so bad:
  • As we traveled, we were simultaneously saving money that we would have spent at home.

  • We bought things we needed "back in the real world," particularly at Cabela's and various drugstores (next time I will pack my wife's bags since she forgot at least half the stuff she needed to get through the day).

  • We bought lots of gifts for birthdays and Christmas, so that's money we would have spent later anyway.

  • We won't have to buy books for a long, long time!

$476 car rental
7,315 miles driven in rented Mazda 6

Anyone who questions our decision to rent cars for long trips instead of driving our own should consider that we only put about 10,000 miles on our car in an entire year. Why wear it out with nine months worth of miles in three weeks?

I am working on a travelogue, but I've only finished the first week so far. I'll put it online with photos someday.

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