As I prepare to leave for my trip in two days and tie the loose ends I need at work, I am constantly distracted – and a bit paranoid – about what could go wrong on my vacation. I guess it’s a normal reaction, when you’re about to embark on an exciting journey that you have planned so meticulously – that it can be infuriating when life hits you a curveball. At this point, I have figured out three bad scenarios that could put a monkey-wrench in my plans. And yet, I’m still excited about going – and if even I’m just spared one of these 3 things from happening, I’m sure I will have an awesome and memorable time.
(1) Unusually Cold Weather in Chicago: Whenever I tell people in California that I’m from Chicago, they all say “oh, it’s really cold there.” I’ve always found that funny – because while we do have very cold winters, it also gets to be 95 degrees and humid in the summer. And any Chicagoan can tell you it’s a lot easier to survive the cold winters than the sweltering heat. But that being said, point well taken. It can get cold there.
I’ve been planning this Route 66 trip for eleven years, and I could have taken it last October. But because I was helping Jane Kim’s campaign, I couldn’t go. By the time the election was over, it was almost December – and driving through Illinois in the middle of a snowstorm seemed like a very bad idea. So I’ve been impatiently waiting to leave for months, waiting for spring. I wanted to go last month, but Chicago in early March is “hit-or-miss.” It could be wonderful spring weather, or it could be an awful blizzard. Early April, I concluded, seemed like a reasonably safe bet.
How was I supposed to know that Chicago is currently going through a cold snap? The Chicago Tribune reports that it’s been the coldest late March in 28 years. It’s even been colder in Chicago than in Wasilla, Alaska. Of course, there’s an old saying about Chicago – “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and it’ll change.” Current weather reports say that it will warm up on Saturday, and it might be 50 degrees when I start the road trip on Sunday. We’ll see …
(2) Will a Federal Government Shutdown Close the Grand Canyon?: Because Route 66 goes through Flagstaff, Arizona, I was not going to pass up an opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon – which I’ve never been to. In fact, knowing how hard it is to get reservations there, I planned my whole trip around grabbing a room at Yavapai Lodge. A two-night reservation from April 12-14 was the first thing I did for this vacation – and have essentially mapped everything else around it. Then, I put down a deposit for a mule ride – which I really look forward to.
I might not make it to the Grand Canyon. In Washington DC, Congress is deadlocked on the federal budget – with right-wing Republican Teabaggers hell-bent on seeing the government shutdown, while President Obama and the Democrats negotiate against themselves in the most pathetic way. I don’t see this ending well, and I have a sinking feeling that a government shutdown is inevitable. Right now, the government is funded until April 8th (four days before I get to the Grand Canyon) – and unless we get a breakthrough, I may be out of luck for that mule ride.
16 years ago, the last time we had a government shutdown, my good friend Jackson (who I will visit in Chicago) did a cross-country road trip. He got to the Grand Canyon on the second day of the shutdown – and was unable to visit. I just called to make sure I would get a full refund if this happens, but it’s scary to think I won’t be able to go. Right now, I’m remaining optimistic – and need to make contingency plans, in case it doesn’t work out.
(3) Mudslides Have Shut Down Parts of Highway One: After I get to Los Angeles, the final part of my planned road-trip is to drive up beautiful, scenic Highway One all the way back to San Francisco. I’ve done this trip once, and the lesson I learned was that two days – while doable – is a bit too hasty and rushed to really enjoy it. So for this trip, I have budgeted three days – leaving L.A. on April 18th, and arriving on April 20th.
Well, as anyone in California can tell you, we’ve had a lot of rain lately. And after some really torrential downpours, a few chunks of Highway One near Big Sur fell into the Pacific Ocean. The California Department of Transportation is working overtime to fix the road, but there’s a strong likelihood that the road may not be doable by the time I get there in a few weeks. I still plan to do parts of it, but this certainly complicates my original intentions.
Jesus Christ!! Why Are You Going on this Trip At All?
Because I’ve only been planning this trip for eleven years – i.e., one-third of my life. Because Route 66 has always fascinated me, and I am in desperate need of a vacation where I get to explore. Like I said, I am leaving on this trip fully aware that these three things may happen – but determined to have a great time regardless. Completing that Great American Road Trip is something I need to scratch off my list, and I might as well go ahead and do it now.
And if none of these three things happen, it will be the trip of a lifetime!!