Thursday, March 28, 2013

Colorado Trip: By the Numbers (Preview)

So, we're driving to Colorado in a couple of months. Let's talk about something very important: what are the statistical ramifications of this trip?

First off, here is the route we're planning to take to get out there. This is pretty much set, except for the part west of Wichita: (I'd prefer to go via Dodge City, but we'll go via Salina instead - one hour shorter - if the driving isn't going particularly well.)


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In terms of places visited, this will give us a few statistical firsts:

Marla's first time across the Mississippi River. To date, the farthest west Marla has been is just west of Uniontown, Alabama. Uniontown was memorable for the wrong reasons, so I'm excited to be giving Marla a new westernmost point. (Marla's other directional superlatives to date: southernmost - Jacksonville; northernmost - near Granby, Qu├ębec; easternmost - Conway, NH.) This will also be Marla's first visit to the Mountain Time Zone (my favorite time zone!).

Marla's highest elevation...and maybe mine, too! (Excluding air travel, because that doesn't count.) I'm actually not sure what my highest ever elevation is, but I don't think I've ever been above 14,000 feet. We're likely to drive up either Pikes Peak (14,115 feet) or Mount Evans (14,265 feet) while in Colorado - or maybe both - and either of those would do it. (The road up Mount Evans is actually the highest paved road in North America.) Regardless, we'll have no problem giving Marla her highest ever elevation, although that will actually require going into the mountains. Just going to Denver and Boulder won't do it, because Marla has already been over 6,000 feet twice (Clingmans Dome, Mount Washington).

The first time Amber and I have ever been to Arkansas together.. I've been to all 50 states, of course, and Amber has been to 49 (all but Hawaii). But, we've only visited 43 of those states together. Long-neglected Arkansas - which I haven't been to myself in almost 20 years - will be #44. Yay Arkansas! (The other six: Oklahoma, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii. We'll get close to Oklahoma on this trip, but, nah.) Marla will get four new states out of this trip (Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado), giving her 24 states visited before her second birthday.

For me, 50% county visitation nationally. As of today I've visited 1,507 counties nationwide (out of 3,142); I need 64 more to reach 50% nationally. And according to my calculations, this trip will do it. Exciting! Exactly how many I get - it could be anywhere from 60 to 120 - will mostly depend on the route I will take back to North Carolina. I'm leaving that undecided until the very end, but it will likely involve I-80 through Nebraska and Iowa. That's a hopelessly boring drive (so I've heard), but we largely avoided I-80 when we did our Nebraska trip five years ago (five years ago??), so it will be county gold. Also, depending on which route I take back, I may complete two interstates end-to-end: I-76 in Colorado/Nebraska, and I-72 in Missouri/Illinois. (The latter will require a little more creativity in my routing.)

100,000 miles on the car odometer. A major car milestone, and just like 50,000 miles (which happened during the Alaska trip), it'll happen in the middle of a long road trip. Sounds great, but as I've recently realized, having a high mileage car means I'm also going to start to pay more - a lot more - on maintenance. I'm already starting to feel that, actually; just this week I dropped several hundred dollars.

I was going to dedicate a blog post to that topic, but here's the basic idea. A lot of preventative maintenance stuff comes up in the 90,000 to 120,000 range. Cars also generally start to noticeably wear down around now; in other words, you can tell my car has some miles on it when you drive it. The ride isn't as smooth, the fuel mileage isn't as good (I only get 35 MPG now, compared to 38 MPG three years ago), and so on. And since my goal is to get 150,000 miles out of the car, that means whatever comes up over the next year or two will be worth the investment. Different story once I get past 125,000 miles, however.

Now that I have the statistical mumbo jumbo out of the way, maybe in a week or two I'll talk about what we're actually going to do out there?

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