You’ll notice the blog has a new look and a domain name of its own: Green Sun Journey. You’ll also notice it hasn’t been updated since July. About that… since June 11 I have been on a solo roadtrip.

And sometimes the road ends where the river begins.

Bridge to Nowhere that was destroyed in the flood of 1964, Klamath, Calif. Photo credit Corey Schultz, 2017.

I’ve been heavy on travel, light on writing. I have to develop a “battle rhythm” to balance the collection of experiences and their documentation. Spontaneity doesn’t support a writing schedule as well as it opens your path to unexpected turns and vistas of back country. So I’ve driven through immense redwoods, hiked to a glacier, and taken a side road through the Badlands that became clogged with rural South Dakota’s heaviest commuter traffic: a herd of bison and their cinnamon-colored calves.

What can I tell you about wandering through 11 states over three months? I started my solo roadtrip armed only with a National Parks Pass, a list of friends, and a rudimentary idea of sights to see. I learned a lot more than will fit into this post about budgeting, self-discovery, repairing fence posts on a cliff, and making snow angels in July, but that would give you no reason to return. So today I will present some lessons learned on my roadtrip from Texas, through Canada, to California and back.

What went right with my refusal to plan? What went wrong? What would I do differently? Let’s do the cons first so we can end on a high note.

Where will the road lead you?

Driving through the West, with unexpected blue space.

Spontaneous Travel … Cons

  • You spend more money, on restaurant dining and especially lodging, but also on face value of tickets that could have been ordered with a discount in advance.
  • Your travels may bring you to a popular area on a weekend. Worse, a holiday weekend. Worst, Glacier National Park over Fourth of July, where Going to the Sun Road looked like a smaller version of the 405. Then you spend beaucoup on lodging and commune with traffic rather than Douglas firs.
  • You will end up backtracking as you find you’ve bypassed something or someone you want to see. The availability of a friend in Cheyenne, Wyoming, conflicted with the schedule of a friend in Greeley, Colorado. I drove north to Cheyenne then returned to Greeley. You thus spend more money on gas.
  • You will miss good things due to conflicting priorities. The missile silo tours had been booked for months by the time I heard of their existence. I wanted to see the 4,000-year-old bristlecone pine trees in the Sierra, but I ran short on time and had to bypass them to meet my 21-month-old nephew in Los Angeles. Priorities!

Spontaneous Travel … Pros

  • Redwood Congestion: I have seen worse.

    Road sign near Klamath, Calif., warns of congestion.

    The excitement of the unknown. Jon Krakauer in his book “Into the Wild” described the demise of a young man who hiked by himself, unprepared, into the Alaska back country. A map would have shown Chris McCandless that he could have crossed a river to safety –but he hadn’t taken that map. Krakauer posited that in a world where the white spaces have long been colored, McCandless could get off the map only by leaving it behind. While I certainly don’t recommend going to this extreme, the idea is intriguing: you can get off the map by not reading it. BUT, ENSURE YOU TAKE ALL APPROPRIATE SAFETY MEASURES to include notifying someone of your whereabouts, bring a map, and have enough gas. That being said … go into the (relative) unknown.

  • You may be forced out of your comfort zone and realize that you can handle the unexpected. This hones your problem solving capabilities.
  • You open yourself to unexpected experiences. When Montana was crowded due to the confluence of my visit with the Fourth of July holiday, I went north to Canada and saw the Canadian Rockies towns of Calgary, Banff, and Radium Hot Springs.

Like almost everything on this green earth, a spontaneous and solo roadtrip has benefits and disadvantages. There is a financial benefit to planning ahead, but not adhering to a set schedule has its own charm. More to follow, as known!