Plotting our first summer of travel after retirement

Published August 10, 2016   Posted in Having some fun

“Where’s the first place that you’re going to go?” One of the first questions I get asked after spilling the beans on our Airstream and travel plans is where we’re planning on taking Charlie, our house on wheels. Inquiring minds want to know! But, we don’t.

Pinterest: Our first year of full time travelNothing is set in stone, yet. Purposefully.

As most of you know, I’m a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of guy. My wife, on the other hand, is the planner. She needs to know what’s happening. She likes to have a destination. A roadmap.

I’m retiring in December. My wife quits her job the following February. She wants to be retired andย boondocking by her birthday at the end of February. Talk about a wicked cool birthday gift!

Finding our way north

For the first few months after retirement, we mosey north out of Tucson. First, we visit Sonoita (wine country) about 20 miles southeast of Tucson for a couple days of boondocking out on BLM land. Extra points if we pick a spot within stumbling distance of a winery. Cause, well, you know. Wine. Then we reverse course, hop onto I-10, and head north.

About 25 miles north of Tucson rests Picacho Peak, an amazingly beautiful spot in the middle of a vast desert. I’ll cry if we don’t stay there for a few days. I need quality time with my camera, and this is an awesome spot. There’s a state park nearby, which may be our best bet.

Picacho Peak

Picacho Peak

After a couple (or few) days atย Picacho Peak, we’re into early March and we resume our trip north.

Courtney’s parents live in Scottsdale, and Arizona is the place to be in the springtime. Staying in the Phoenix or Scottsdale area for several weeks is probably in the cards, though finding free BLM land may bring us outside the metro area. A good problem to have, no doubt!

By the end of April and beginning of May, temperatures begin to climb in Arizona, and we have another set of parents to visit: mine! They live in southwest Utah, which is no stranger to the heat either. In mid-April, we set sail again up to Utah, spending time hiking limitless trails in beautiful red rock country and further settling into our new lifestyle free of full-time jobs.

At this point, we really start playing things by ear. And by “ear”, we actually mean weather.

And then east!

Our air conditioner won’t work unless we plug into an external power source. Thus, we “follow the weather” so temperatures don’t get too hot. Once the mercury begin to rise in southern Utah, we begin our trek eastward into the higher altitudes of Colorado.

As the summer approaches, we ascend further and further into the thinning Colorado air.

We need campground reservations for Memorial Day somewhere in Colorado, but that should be our only “must”. Holidays are prime time for camping. People get wild, especially out in BLM land. During holidays, we want a place to stay in a more controlled environment, like a campground. Naturally, reservations need to be made early.

A year out still, we haven’t selected the campground, but it will probably be in Colorado – or, as we discussed a couple weekends ago, maybe Montana. Another trip to Glacier National Park sounds good. And of course, we need to hit Coeur d’Alene, too.

And that is where we intend on spending our first summer after quitting full-time work. At altitude. Hiking, biking, photographing and enjoying cooler temperatures, waking up whenever we want and falling asleep when we are tired.

I’m looking forward to those epic power naps during the day that have a way of rejuvenating the soul. Our dogs, who nap all the time, have it so great!

Where in Colorado? We have no idea. Maybe Durango. Perhaps Ouray. Silverton, at 9,300 feet, would be quite the ambitious trek, but it’s not out of the question. Who needs oxygen, anyway?

Where would you spend your first summer in an Airstream? Colorado? The Pacific Northwest? Somewhere that we haven’t considered?

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36 responses to “Plotting our first summer of travel after retirement”

  1. I’d love to spend a summer in Colorado, although our summer in western NY has been incredible this year! We have plenty to do to keep us busy outdoors but we plan to hit the road next fall if all goes as planned. We are hoping to head out west in September – so we’ll be a few months behind you. We’ll be taking good notes from your posts on fun things to do and great places to visit ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Steve says:

      Ha! Thanks Vicki. We’ll probably keep some good notes both here and over on our blog. We’re looking forward to seeing first hand everything that this country has to offer. There’s a lot out there!

  2. What a fun plan to consider! I love it out west so CO sounds wonderful! I’m a diehard Little House on the Prairie Fan so if I had an Airstream I’d want to check out all the sites, especially in South Dakota. But that’s just my thing. I’d definitely want to see the Badlands and Yellowstone and Bryce as well.

    • Steve says:

      We definitely want to check out the Badlands too. It’s been a while since we’ve been to Yellowstone, but thankfully my folks live right near Bryce, so that will definitely be on our way. So much to see in Utah. Beautiful country.

  3. One of the first places we’d go is Wyoming. There are so many places to go when you want to go everywhere, or at least that’s how I feel. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’d like to see the glaciers of Glacier before they disappear. :/

    • Steve says:

      Wyoming is a very unique place too. I’ve been through it before but haven’t spent a lot of time in that area of the country. I remember it was quite, quite windy that day! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Ah the freedom to roam and follow the weather! Sounds wonderful. Now you got me dreaming a bit. I’d probably go to areas of the country I’ve never been yet which would be national parks throughout Colorado, Utah, and maybe hit up the Lake Tahoe area. I still have a lot of exploring I’d like to do throughout Wyoming, Montana, and SD in the bad lands, etc. Lots to do and see!

    • Steve says:

      Hey Green Swan! We will probably hit all those places, but maybe not the first year. But hey, you never know. We definitely want to stay out west as long as we can before heading East. There’s enough out here for us to get our fill, that’s for sure. I spent a lot of time in the Lake Tahoe area when I was a youngster.

  5. We just went to western Colorado, and the drive from Durango to Silverton is incredible. Telluride is awesome to check out as well, expensive but its worth going just for the views. We also saw some nice camper spots in the park just north of Pagosa Springs. They had stunning mountain views – one of the places that made us think RV camping would be awesome.

    • Steve says:

      Yup, we’ve made that trek from Durango to Silverton before…but from a train instead of the road. You’re right, it was awesome. Amazing country up there at altitude.

  6. Mr. PIE says:

    If the Teton Range in WY is as beautiful in summer as they are in winter (our favorite ski destination), you will find some epic photography spots. Tom Mangelsen has produced some stunning stuff with his photography from this part of the world and many other places to be honest.

    Equally stunning and much less pricey than the Jackson Hole side is to take the Airstream over the Teton Pass to Idaho. That is an adventure in itself in the depths of winter with even a car during a blizzard but should be lots of fun in the summer.

    The Snake River range, various national forests and the glory of the Teton Range along with a friendly, welcoming people make this part of the US a must visit place in our book.

    • Steve says:

      The Teton Range is something that we both want to spend a lot of time around. I’ve spent time in the Rockies, but not the Tetons yet…that will need to change. Appreciate the suggestion about Idaho. We might just do that. That whole area of the country is definitely our target for the next few summers!

  7. Durango in the Summer can be quite hot, as is true of most southern Colorado. However coming from Arizona I guess it is all relative. That whole area is absolutely gorgeous! I would probably head to higher country as I sleep better when it is cool. If you come through the central rockies be sure to look us up!

    • Steve says:

      True, it can get warm up there, but the nice thing is it cools off in the evening…which is great. We don’t get much of a cool off here in AZ. But, if it does get too warm for us, we move on and find a cooler spot. That’s the nice thing about living mobile.

  8. The west coast really is the epitome of the US. The wife and I took a roadtrip through AZ this past spring, I think Sedona was my fav but there’s just so much to see. Sounds like you have a pretty awesome trip planned. Be sure to take plenty of pics!

    • Steve says:

      I completely agree! The west coast is absolutely beautiful and is definitely my preferred place of the country to live. Everything about it is just so unique. The mountains are definitely huge. Air is dry (in a lot of places). Lots of open range territory.

  9. Man, what part of the west *isn’t* worth seeing? (Well, maybe you can work your way around most of Nevada.)

    We’re biased, but we think the Pacific Northwest — whether it’s Oregon, Washington, or BC — has some of the best summer weather in the world. And you can bounce around from beaches to mountains to cities over the course of just a few days. We took the van out on a few test runs last year and found plentiful free camping in beautiful spots, even on summer weekends.

    I could write a book on specific locations, but a few places that come to mind with the most mind-bogglingly scenic hikes are Gifford Pinchot National Forest, North Cascades National Park, and BC’s Garibaldi Provincial Park.

    • Elaine says:

      Yes, come to Oregon!! The coast is also beautiful and basically always cool. We were there last week and it never got above 70.

    • Steve says:

      Good question, Matt. And I definitely want to spend a LOT of time in the pacific Northwest, especially the Seattle area. That’s one city I’ve never been too. Appreciate the heads up on Gifford Pinchot and North Cascades. We will be there, I know it. Soon! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. With no time constraints, I think a full-on cross-country trip would be awesome. Spend weeks – maybe even months – traveling to a bunch of different cities and take time in each to enjoy them. That sounds fun. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Steve says:

      That would definitely be a trip that you would never forget, Brad! The key is not to rush it. Take your time, enjoy yourself and the places that you visit. Experience as much as you can before returning to…”real” life? ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Justin says:

    Very cool, Steve. It’s fun planning out your route. We do the same thing with the weather. That might be the largest factor in where I want to visit – “will it be really nice outside?”.

    • Steve says:

      Yup! The weather will be a prime determining factor for our next stop. Better too cold than too hot, though. This summer would be a challenge for us – I hear it’s pretty much hot everywhere.

  12. Scott says:

    Sounds like a great plan. We did the same thing this past spring and have been traveling in our RV.

    You have probably already discovered for great spots. We use it all the time and the reviews are great and geared to a younger more adventurous crowd than

    • Steve says:

      Sounds like a wonderful trip, Scott. Yup, we have an account on Campendium and have submitted a review or two. We will definitely use that resource a lot when we’re looking for a camp site. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. The NorCal wine country (Napa and Sonoma) will be hot in the summer, maybe not as hot AZ, but possibly still too hot in a trailer.
    But in the Pacific Northwest there are other cool places (figuratively and literally) along the CA coast (Mendocino and Ft Bragg), the Redwood forests in NorCal, or in Oregon. If I had a trailer I would set it up in “stumbling distance” (haha, liked that phrase) to one of the many craft breweries in Oregon! And if you’re more of a wine drinker and like Pinot Noir, OR has some pretty neat wineries!

    • Steve says:

      We are so looking forward to the Pacific Northwest. After enduring one of the hottest summers on record here in Tucson, we’re definitely ready for some cooler summer temperatures. And I’m a beer and wine drinker – Ambers and Pinot Noir is my favorite, though you can’t go wrong with a nice chianti classico. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Congrats on the impending early retirement. I bet February can’t happen soon enough!

    Sounds like you’re going to have a great trip!

    • Steve says:

      You got that right, Mr. Tako. For me, it’s December. For my wife, it’s February. It’s going to be a truly splendid winter! ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Josette says:

    Come to Canada! The weather is perfect in the summer and our dollar is so low that it will makes things really cheap for you! I would Either go to the Rockies ans national parks in Alberta or to the East, starting from Bruce peninsula in Ontario then follow the St-Lawrence (see the whales!), and see Fundy Bay in New Brunswick.

    • Steve says:

      We will definitely find ourselves in Canada one of these days. It probably won’t be the first summer because we’d like to stay somewhat near family and friends the first year. Then, we will slowly venture out further and further into the wild. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Kayla says:

    I was thinking of Idaho as an ideal summer spot while reading this and then saw Coeur d’Alene! I recommend biking the Hiawatha trail if you end up on I-90 at the Idaho/Montana border and like biking. It does cost a little money, but the views are absolutely spectacular. If you want a bit cooler weather, you can head north from Coeur d’Alene to Sandpoint. Similar feel, but a smaller town with a bigger lake. I also recommend checking out some of Idaho’s waterfalls, too.

    My husband and I decided to move to Idaho on a bit a whim a few years ago and have no regrets! When someone asks why, I usually just send them a picture of local scenery.

  17. mosprott says:

    SILVERTON!! I was going to suggest that before I got to your last paragraph! Home of Avalanche Brewing! I like Durango, but it’s more upscale & fancy.

    Also…Moab is pretty awesome

    Don’t forget Flagstaff. Wapatki, Sunset Crater, Wukoki, Lowell Observatory at night, Walnut Canyon, Riordan Mansion, andโ€”hey!โ€”more breweries!! I’m a big fan of that area.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for the suggestions! I’ve been to almost all of those places, but by the time that we finally hang it up and begin settling down somewhere, I bet there won’t be much in this country that we haven’t seen…or at least driven by! ๐Ÿ™‚

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