I left Florida on January 2, 2021 and didn’t return home until early November, 2022. So, yeah, 22 months on the road, where my longest stay anywhere was 14 days (the limit at most state and national parks). So how did things go, spending that much time in almost constant motion?
First, let’s see a map (courtesy of Spot Trace) showing every stop in those 22 months…
I’ll start by saying two cross-country trips in two years got old the second time through the middle of the country. In 2021, I did the Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Dakotas route, which let me see family in WI and explore new places around the Great Lakes, as well as setting me up for fall in the Utah National Parks. All I can really say about those Utah parks is if you haven’t been, for pete’s sake, GO!!! They were breathtaking, stunning, glorious, and made my heart and eyes so full of beauty that I will never forget.
As with 2020, the first year of the pandemic, both 2021 and 2022 presented challenges. In 2021, COVID closures were still a thing, and many a visitor center or museum was closed and many people (me included). It was a challenge to get my first COVID-19 vaccination but a change in federal administration meant more shots in more pharmacy chains and getting my second one was way easier. And, yes, I get a booster when needed, thanks to pharmacy chains that make shots available without having to go through a doctor’s office or clinic, a boon to vagabonds like me.
By the end of 2021, gas prices had started to skyrocket and I found myself debating whether to go up to the Pacific Northwest or stay lower and drive about 1,000 miles less over the course of wandering my way to Florida by Election Day, 2022. Being in California might have influenced that decision, as it was the first time in my life I’d paid over $5.00/gallon for economy-grade gas anywhere in the US. Yikes.
I didn’t really think about what the weather might be going from New Mexico to New York via Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Indiana. Turns out summer weather in that area isn’t great, and I had to up my weather game as well as my hotel game to keep my cool (literally and figuratively). Chalk one up for learning experiences there. I did get to stay a weekend in Metropolis, though, so that was pretty cool.
Back to the Northeast
I did make it back to the Northeast this fall, for the first time since 2017, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Camping on the shore of Lake Erie, an afternoon cruise out of Burlington, VT; kayaking with a friend near Worcester, MA; a cool tourist weekend in Boston; and a few weeks on the Cape reminded me of why I lived there 12 years and how much it is still one of places where I feel like I’m coming home. Seeing so many friends did even more to lift my spirits, from lobster dinners and diner breakfasts to brewery visits and car shows.
Looking at the Stats
Just for fun, let’s compare 2021 and 2022 by the numbers.
- 2021: 9800
- 2022: 8000
- 2021: $3600
- 2022: $3300
So 1800 less miles, but only $300 less in gas. Thanks, 2022 gas prices.
- 2021: $11,500
- 2022: $6000, with three hotels stays to escape the heat costing an additional $1000
It’s good to have an emergency fund/savings so that you can do a hotel on short notice.
- 2021: $500 for a holiday weekend at a KOA; the local state parks closed and so I had nowhere else to go in stormin’ weather.
- 2022: Hotels to beat the heat, two tires for the Alto after a blowout.
It’s good to have an emergency fund/savings for things like tires and being kicked out of campgrounds.
Would I do 22 straight months again. Maybe. But I’d do it a bit differently. I would think more about the weather along routes at the time of year I was thinking to go, for starters. And I might take a month in the middle to stay in an airbnb or something like that, just to have a break from moving over and over again. Towing my little house behind me is convenient as far as having my own bed and a handy toilet while in transit, but it also means I have to pack everything up every time: dishes, clothes, books, and all the little knick-knacks that I might have set up while I was stopped.
I saw amazing things and caught up with old friends and made some new ones. I remain amazed by how huge and how diverse my country is, not just the landscapes but the people. Talking to cashiers in tiny stores, watching the weather with a fellow camper, getting help to back into a difficult spot — are the moments that I remember as my mind goes back over the last 22 months. From Florida to Minnesota, New Mexico to Massachusetts, it was quite a ride.
Always the journey, never the destination.