Will there be a fourth?

Since our big finish in Alaska in 2019, we’ve been debating what the next grand adventure might be. Much delayed by “these unprecedented times,” which seem destined to continue into perpetuity, we’ve decided to put pen to calendar anyway, apocalypse-of-the-week be damned. We’ve swirled around the same handful of concepts we’ve always had on the short list, but as we’ve now done this a few times, we’ve decided two things:

First, these feel the most right when they’re grand journeys — the “leave no stone unturned” exploration of a single area is better for the long weekends.

Second, a route concept that is easy to explain is good for the dramatics, the buy-in, and even the planning. Say, for example, “The Pacific Coast Highway” or “The Alaska Highway” (even if we did less than half of it in favor of other roads). The Southwest Offroadtrip suffered in this regard, being described as “overland from Sacramento to Salt Lake via Vegas,” which has less of a ring to it.

So far, it appears we’re leaning into two viable concepts for Spring 2023.

The Oregon Trail

There are lots of options for epic trips to be found in the archives of westward expansion, but The Oregon Trail shares fame not only as a historic wagon route, but also enshrined in the nostalgia of us so-called “elder millennials” as one of our early forays into computer games. Though oddly enough, none of us really played this one that often.

A cursory review of the Wikipedia page on the subject shows that we could combine pieces of the Louis & Clark Expedition in the early 1800s to enter South Dakota and then cut southwest through Badlands National Park and the dramatic Needles Highway in the Black Hills National Forest, both of which are on George’s and my lists.

From there, we could join up with the Great Migration wagon trail of the mid/late 1800s for more adventures in Wyoming (which, 💙) and Idaho (which I didn’t get nearly enough time in) on our way to Portland and the Columbia River Gorge.

According to the game, the adventure starts in Independence, Missouri, which is right outside Kansas City. Homework to flesh out this concept includes finding a copy of the game to play, clearly.

Evan did point out one potential problem — would we have to drive wagons?

Circumnavigating the Great Lakes

Downtown Niagara Skyline, Bob Collowan, Wikimedia.

Except for a summer working at Cedar Point on Lake Erie and a weekend in Chicago, I have yet to explore much of the Great Lakes. And on my fifty-states quest, I’m missing most of the surrounding land, too. There’s plentiful hiking, exploring, and scenic driving potential along these shores, and I would absolutely sign up for another trip into Canada.

Isle Royal National Park on a giant island in Lake Superior, a ferry ride across Lake Michigan (it feels like tradition), Niagara Falls, lighthouses, rocky beaches, and maybe even a forest lookout tower or two — though several appear to be accessible by boat only. Maybe even a return to Cedar Point? And at my last job, I picked up a surprisingly large group of new friends in this region. I’m not sure if there’s a historic expedition or traditional trip to reference, but that just leaves us open to plan our own. The concept is simple enough.

From April 2014, in the John Hancock Center Observation Deck

And Chicago is a “close enough to drive” for both a start and a finish line, depending on what we end up doing for cars. We seem pretty sold on the “buy at home” process, given previous success, and avoiding a fire-sale at the finish line has its advantages.

So will there be a fourth?

Yes. Late spring or early summer 2023. And in a show of true decisiveness, we’ve come out of this evening’s Zoom happy hour determined that we will either go west or east.