Saturday, March 09, 2013

Colorado Trip: Preview 1 of Many

Alright...I can't think of anything else to write about today, and I don't feel like writing a sports post, so it's time to spill the beans on this next big road trip we're planning.

One of our friends from Penn State (Jared L.) recently invited us to his wedding this coming May. It's been a while since we've had a Penn State Meteorology Department reunion of sorts. Yeah! We're really looking forward to it. (Weddings are pretty much what it takes to put something like that together. And I can only assume that if we made the cut, that at least a few other Penn Staters did as well.)

Now...the way my brain works, whenever I first hear of the possibility of an out-of-town wedding, a conference for work, a curling tournament, or whatever, I immediately start thinking, "ROAD TRIP!!!" And the thing is, when we first knew we were getting an invite, we didn't yet know where the wedding was going to be. And really, it could have been almost anywhere! Jared is originally from Wisconsin, went to college in Minnesota, went to grad school in Pennsylvania, finished his doctorate in Colorado, and now lives in California. And that doesn't even consider his fiancee, whom Amber and I don't know much about, other than that she must be a pretty swell person. For all I know, she could be from Pocatello, Idaho, and insist that the wedding be held there. "Dammit, Jared, we're having the wedding in Pocatello, or I'M CALLING THE WHOLE THING OFF!!!" (I kid. I'm sure she's not like that. I mean, in every single picture I've seen of her, she's smiling!)

In our younger days, Amber and I would go anywhere, anytime, no problem. We're a little more restricted in the kinds of road trips we can do now, of course. So let's analyze the potential destinations: (In a nutshell, this is basically what went through my head.)
- State College: Driveable, obviously. For a time it seemed like we were attending a wedding in State College every other month, but now it's been almost three years since my last State College visit.
- Wisconsin or Minnesota: Also driveable; it's a comfortable two-day drive each way. We've actually done a Wisconsin-to-home drive in one day before. Twice! (Once from Madison, and once from Sheboygan.) But with Marla, it's two days.
- California: Yeah, this would be a definite flying situation. With Marla, a California round trip drive would have to take a full two weeks, at least, for us to keep our sanity. Even without Marla, it took 10 days last time we did it.
- Colorado: Hmm. With Marla it's a three-day drive each way, which is pushing the limits of what we'd be willing to do with a 1½-year old. But it's not so far away that maybe we wouldn't be willing to try it. We could go either way on this one.

Well, guess where the wedding is? Colorado! Boulder, specifically. And that is actually what I would have guessed, because that's where Jared met his fiancee.

You all know we like driving, so I decided to figure out a way to make this work without having to fly both ways. And I actually think we have something that could work. After much analysis and discussion, here's the plan we decided upon that gives us the best of everything, and is also reasonably cost-effective:

- Four days to get to Colorado. That includes three reasonable days of driving, plus one day of sightseeing in Memphis to help break things up.

- Three days, four nights in Colorado. Colorado is one of my favorite places to visit, so if we're going to make the effort to go out there, we may as well spend a few days there too, right?

- Then, Amber and Marla fly back home, and I drive the car back home. This is the craziest part of the plan. Amber thought six days of driving with Marla, PLUS any driving we do in Colorado, might be a little much, and I agreed. On the other hand, driving > flying, so we don't really want to fly both ways, right? A one-way rental car sounded like a decent option, except for the price ($700/week for an RDU-to-DEN rental, compared to $275/week for an RDU-to-RDU rental) and the logisitcs (do we buy a car seat just for this trip and then leave it in Denver?).

And so, the I-drive-back-they-fly-back option is the solution we came up with. It's the best of both worlds! We get a reasonable amount of fun family road tripping in - the Total Marla Car Time under this plan will be close to the same was it was in last Fall's Vermont/New Hampshire trip - and, Amber only has to take five days vacation (as opposed to seven or eight) and can go back to work the very next Monday after the wedding. (My work vacation time balance is currently higher than hers, so I can more easily take an extra two days off than she can.) And yeah, we'll have to leave Amber's car parked at the RDU airport all week to make the logisitics work, but we would have had to do that anyway (save for the all-driving plan).

Of course, this introduces an entirely new variable (cue dramatic music): flying with a child. Amber has done a lot of research on the topic of flying with someone of Marla's age, and is willing to give it a try, even with me on the road. Note that Marla has never been in an airplane. (By the way, this basically means that I owe my wife big time.)

Southwest offers nonstop flights from Denver (DEN) to Raleigh-Durham (RDU), but Amber thought it might be better to have an hour layover halfway through in a relatively kid-friendly airport than to endure a 210-minute nonstop flight. Apparently, Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) has a child play area in four of its five terminals (including all of American Airlines' terminals), whereas Chicago O'Hare (ORD) only has a play area in two of its terminals. See what I meant when I said that Amber "did a lot of research"?

Sample phone conversation from the evening after Amber and Marla's flight, while I'm still out on the road:

"Oh, hi, Amber! Glad to hear you and Marla made it home safe. ... Yeah, my drive's going okay, although a funny thing happened. I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere, because somehow I ended up in British Columbia. Whoops! I guess what I'm saying is that I might be another few days."

Okay, that's not actually going to happen. I promise I will take a reasonable route home from Colorado - while I concede that my plan is not to take the absolute fastest route, it will be reasonable - and make it home in less than three days, maybe even two days depending on my driving stamina. (I'll talk about specific routes later.)

For lots of reasons, I'm very excited about this trip! I thought it would be years before we would even cross the Mississippi River again, let alone make it to a place like Colorado.

1 comment:

Spartangoogle said...

When we flew up for your wedding Paige slept in the plane most of the way, although she was younger than Marla is now. Also, I'd suggest paying for a seat for Marla so you can put her car seat in it and "strap her in".