Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode  347 Road Trip Planning

When the sun looses it's warmth and the leaves start to fall we seem to always consider  taking a road trip. We never quite know where we might wander but of late we include a a stop a our daughters family in the foothills of the Sierra's in Central California. We are now making our plans. We are enjoying the stage of anticipation according to the cult of happiness.

We retired folks have a special advantage over most in that we can be flexible. Flexible in almost all aspects. We can pick a date: hmmm lets see; how about this week; maybe towards the end of the week. That is good enough: Thursday, Friday, or maybe Saturday or Sunday. Lets check our calendar and make sure there are some days open or change some commitments so we are clear.

Part of the fun of taking a road trip: getting out the maps, noting where we have been, finding spots we have not. We try to allow a lot of flexibility in this area. While looking at places to include we try to calculate the distance and days. Maybe four or five days going east and south and perhaps the same coming back. If we spend the same number of days with the grandchildren we have a couple of weeks booked. That seems like a good length of time that could be extended a week or so if the spirit grabs us.

We will drive our only car: a small SUV with a bike rack on the back. It is a good road car that we purchased four or five years ago for just this purpose. It is very comfortable; it has good visibility. We can see where we are and where we are going, and it is big enough for us to take all of our stuff including my guitar. The bikes always go wherever we go.

We like to stop. Sometimes it seems like we stop more than we go. We pull over and bike down a dirt road. We will bike before we get in the car in the morning or bike when we stop for the evening. Then of course there is the obligatory nap after lunch. The seats recline almost flat and we can rejuvenate ourselves with 22 minutes of cozy quiet. It is amazing that we actually get anywhere.

We load up our iPhone with music and podcasts of favorite programs. We also take a few audio books with us. We love driving down the road and listening to some good book being read out loud to us by some good reader. This calls for a stop at our local book store or library.

As the Interstates take more and more traffic the small backroads are where we try to hide. We stay off the main roads when we can. We seem to always find an interesting lunch stop cafe and afternoon coffee shop. They serve as mini destination. We will drive miles one way or the other for a place that offers a little local character.


Where will we stay? We try to find an old hotel that has been updated. It is amazing what we have found. Across this country, many smaller towns have found it possible to help reinvent their downtown around an old hotel that has been restored. We have found some beauties. These places make great lodging. They are always unique – in contrast to the chains, and always seem filled with local lore and opinion.  In the hotel lounge we often find conversation with local people. From our doorstep we can walk among the businesses and houses of the town; see the churches and schools, and explore the local museums or art galleries. When we drive out we always feel like we have seen Wallace, Idaho, Tonopah, Nevada, Arcadia, California, or wherever we might be. After all, that is why we are traveling.

Years ago we would camp in a park or along a stream somewhere but we found that our aging bodies really like a comfortable bed. The other choice would be an RV - something we have never chosen to own.

Part of that has to do with my wife's cooking. She is an excellent chef and provides us with a wide variety of dishes on a daily basis. But when we take a vacation it includes a break from cooking. No camp cooking and no RV cooking. We look for a good restaurant. We always leave the main road. We walk around the downtown. Sometimes we will stop locals on the street and ask if they can recommend a good place for lunch or dinner. We have rarely been disappointed. It is good to see a different town. Getting out of the car; walking along the streets, looking in the windows and striking up a conversation. These are some of the main reasons we travel.

We love a road trip in the family car. We feel free - and like we are truly on vacation.

Concerning costs - We do have to pay for a room each night. We figure if we spend less than a few thousand a year on renting rooms we are money ahead. We have no money invested in a special vehicle. We have no extra insurance, nor exorbitant gas bills, nor licensing fees or maintenance. We do not need to provide extra space in our driveway, street, or garage for a special vehicle. Whenever I mention getting another vehicle for traveling my wife reminds me of the parking or storage problem. “What are we going to do with when we are not on the road”, she asks.

I’m trying to think of the downside of traveling via your own family auto. You do have to pack and unpack some stuff each night. You cannot stay in the quiet forest or sleep along side a calming lake. That’s another negative. You may be able to rent cabins in similar places. If you want the quiet forest and calming lake you may have to carry a tent and sleeping bags in your vehicle. It can be done, and we will talk about it in another series treating traveling and retirement.

Of course there are other options. More in the next episode.

This is Retirement Talk.

If you have questions, comments or suggestions contact

Follow Retirement Talk on Facebook: on Facebook