I need to save these travel notes so I can reflect down the road as the logistics details fade.
What a fabulous vacation! Why don’t we do this more often!?
Well likely because it is a huge hassle and is very expensive!
Late October vacation
This turned out to be a great time for a vacation in the USA. For Colorado in particular, we were there after the fall colours and before the ski season so we had no trouble finding a hotel anywhere and didn’t have any wait to be seated for restaurant service (outside of Denver).
Some things were closed for the season though (some rest areas, like at Monarch Pass) and a few parts of Mesa Verde. If you are going to Colorado, we really pushed the season. Snow is likely before the last week in October. If you are going to replicate our route, I’d say late September or early October would work.
Colorado has beautiful golden-yellow aspen leaves in the fall that are spectacular! We drove through areas with no leaves left on the trees and then through some areas with all these beautiful golden leaves still on the trees, back and forth, making the exact timing hard to predict, but generally, you should go before the middle of October if you want to catch the colourful aspens.
The sun rises later and sets earlier this late in the year, which was comforting in a way? It gave us permission to not jump out of bed and get going at 6am, since it was going to be dark until closer to 8. We also were in bed most nights by 9pm because it was dark and we were done adventuring for the day, so we had plenty of good sleep.
Another benefit of the later season – it was cool enough to keep food and water in the truck without needing a cooler.
The time of the year also made a significant impact on crowd and traffic density at all the National Parks and scenic places we went. Which was wonderful!
The Cost of Hotels
One of the significant costs of a vacation is the accommodations. There were places, like Cortez, Colorado, where we could find a hotel for $98 (but ultimately decided against it). At our age (sheesh am I legitimately old enough to mention
at my age now?), not getting a decent sleep makes a big difference in life quality! The new modern hotels, with the higher price tag, are much more soundproof, comfortable, clean, with all the amenities we could need.
I initially balked at the $170/night (US) price tag on the Holiday Inn Express chain we stayed at for 3 nights, but that chain offers a full self-serve breakfast (pancakes, greek yogurt, fruit, cinnamon buns, muffins, eggs, sausage or bacon, biscuits, coffee, tea, various juices, cold cereal, milk, hot oatmeal with various toppings). If we went to a restaurant, we’d probably pay $40-50 for a breakfast, with a tip, so convincing myself of that made the high cost of a hotel a bit easier to swallow.
That meant we usually only had dinner out at a restaurant and could shop at grocery stores for lunches and snacks and just keep them in the truck.
We had a general sense of the route we were going to take and then just kept our eyes on the forecast and road conditions and it worked out well. We had originally wanted to get to Colorado Springs to see some of its touristy sites, but then we’d miss crossing the Rockies through that Monarch Pass and maybe all of that Silverton – Durango route. So no regrets.
We ended up avoiding Interstates until our last full day, and I’d recommend that. I’d recommend avoiding I70 too, for a more relaxed vacation. It is busy and fast, although not terrible, and there are rest areas (bonus).
There is also something to be said for putting some limits on what you can do in a week. There is always something you want to see that is just another hour further, but if you keep chasing those, you’ll spend too much time driving and not enough time seeing/doing/enjoying. We wanted to get to the Petrified Forest, Canyonlands, and even Rocky Mountain National park, but those will have to wait until another trip.
No Tim Horton’s
There isn’t a Tim Horton’s in Dawson City. The closest one is a 6-hour drive away in Whitehorse. Yet we still remember the routine of knowing there is a Tim’s in every town, every city, at every major highway intersection in the rest of the country, making a known place to stop to use the bathroom and get a drink, even if their food seems to have taken a nose dive in quality over the last decade.
Travelling in Colorado – I have no idea what people do without Tim Horton’s. haha! Is there no routine? Where do people stop for a coffee? No other chain stood out as an obvious stop. maybe people don’t rely on getting coffee during their commute? It’s puzzling.
We saw wildlife! Our list includes:
- white-tailed deer
- mule deer
- possibly one elk (roadkill)
- skunks (roadkill) (we don’t have skunks in the Yukon so the smell was a nice memory of our roots in Ontario)
- lots of cattle and horses
- no new birds – everything I spotted was a bird we see up here or in Ontario.
Cell service and signal
It’s so much cheaper to get an American SIM card, but then you don’t have your regular phone number functioning and we both took calls while we were away. So we just paid Bell an absolute fortune to share our home data while roaming ($15/day each?) If I travelled to the US more often, I’d switch to a Bell plan that includes it. I think there is even something we can do with the e-sim feature of the new iPhone? I don’t know, but this is a cost that irritates me significantly so I should figure it out.
Signal was great everywhere, except in the National Parks, which mostly had no service. I don’t know if this was on purpose, but I really liked it. Helps you realize you’re in a park and can be doing other things rather than being on your phone.
We always purchase travel insurance through our TD bank for travel out of Canada. It is very affordable and easy to do (you can do it all online). We’ve never needed it (knock on wood) but I’d sure be happy we had insurance if we did!
We were glad our rental had four-wheel drive too. Not that we ended up needing it. BUT what if that snow had caught up to us in one of those mountain passes?
I brought my Nikon D500 and my iPhone 15 Pro Max. I don’t use my real camera that much, so I always used both just in case one failed. And I messed up! All the photos from my camera have the same 5 dots on the top portion of every picture (usually in the sky). I had to touch them all up one by one!
I feel like I need to establish rules for when I still haul that heavy thing around. I think it will only be when we travel somewhere with these big wide landscapes. For city travel, or for work, I just like the convenience of my iPhone because it is so light and portable.
I’m pretty happy with the photos we took. I have a teeny tiny regret of not taking more pictures of signs, just because you see everyone else posing in front of them, but whatever.
I love blogging. It is just what I need to do. Record my thoughts and adventures to reflect on later, to share with family and friends, and with internet strangers.
But I can’t blog on my iPhone. And thoughts are definitely lost when I wait until I’m home to blog. I’m thinking of getting a keyboard case for my iPad so I can blog from it at night in a hotel room, while my thoughts are fresh. Although that’s tricky if I need to get photos off my Nikon too to add to the posts. I could also use Day One app next time to at least get my thoughts jotted down in the moment.
I need to figure this out so my blogging can be better.
I’d love to bring our friends and family with us and always get this urge to buy gifts for everyone, but there isn’t a suitcase big enough. We keep it pretty simple and buy a fridge magnet from places we go. We like looking at the side of the fridge and remembering the places we’ve been. When I travel for work, I buy one for Jeff from everywhere I go.
I bought one handmade bracelet and one sandstone coaster with a petroglyph symbol on it. I kind of wish I bought one of the big beautiful Colorado mugs we saw but I kinda like always hoping for more. Can’t have everything!
Travelling makes you want to travel more
I think it does. There is so much to see and do in this world! I’m starting to understand why some people sell everything after retiring and travel full-time for a while.
I’m unsure how our retirement years will go. Jeff is 8 years ahead of me and is only a handful of years away from retiring. Then what? Should I go part-time to facilitate adventure while we are able? How long do I want to work for? I really enjoy a steady paycheck to cover all of our spending. How do people afford all the trips they take? Maybe they don’t have the toys we have.
How long could we really spend in an RV travelling the southern states before the spell of the Yukon would call us home? What about the pets? Do you pay all your bills for home AND on the road?
My next sabbatical from work tentatively starts in July 2025. But Jeff can’t get away from work in the summer. Do I delay it so we can do something together? Or do I now have the opportunity to take a solo drive to Ontario and back in the summer, seeing all the backroads, campgrounds, and museums I want? There is so much of Canada I haven’t explored yet.
What other vacations do we want to do? Well on the shortlist is getting to Texas to meet my longtime internet bestie Lisa.
I’ve also had a new urge for a boat trip – not our boat, but maybe something bigger, yet not as big as a cruise ship. A new urge after watching a girl on YouTube with sea sickness for a few days on a ship near Norway. Maybe I want to cross the ocean some day!?
A train would be pretty awesome too!
OK back to real life! I have lots to catch you up on!