We are about to embark on the most epic road trip of this most epic road trip: 4,000 zig-zagging miles from the far northwest corner of the U.S. to the far southeast corner of the U.S.
Sea to shining sea.
Our goal is to see Yellowstone National Park, our last big thing on the “must-do” list, and then spend a little more time in Florida before we choose where we will finally unhitch the rig for good and return to real life.
If all goes as planned, this leg will take us from Washington, across Idaho, Montana and the Dakotas, into Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. From there the route isn’t quite clear yet, but we may swing into Indiana and then either straight down to Florida, or go back along the East Coast.
We hope to do all this in a month or so. If we make it, we’ll be even more exhausted, road-weary and tired of each other than we already are.
The big issue is weather – we’ve got to make it through four mountain passes in between bouts of rain and snow just to get to Yellowstone. Right now, Wednesday looks like the best day to leave our current spot near Tacoma, Wash., and start making our way north and east.
We’re excited to see this part of the country, get some more states under our belts, and (hopefully) end on a high note sometime early this summer.
We’re also more anxious than ever to settle on that final destination. Here’s a breakdown of the top three choices, in no particular order:
Where: Panhandle, Brevard County, Tampa Bay
The good: Warm, sunny, no state income tax, lots of benefits for veterans. Tampa Bay would probably be the first choice in Florida because we are originally from the area, have family and friends there and know it well. It also has the best job opportunities of all three. But the schools are better in the other two locations, especially in Brevard County. All three have military bases, which is important to us.
The not-so-good: Big high schools, which our son is not a fan of. It’s ungodly hot in the summer. We wouldn’t get a lot of home for our money, especially near the coast and in a good school district.
Where: Colorado Springs
The good: Beautiful scenery and good schools, lot of sunny days even when it’s cold. Four seasons and a mild summer would be a fair trade-off for winter, which is actually isn’t that bad there. We have several close friends in Colorado Springs and there is a military base.
The not-so-good: Higher taxes and homes cost more (although you get more for your money). It would also mean giving up our Florida residency and leaving the familiar behind.
The good: We’ve spent a total of seven years in this small German city. Our kids have practically grown up there. It’s familiar, there’s hardly any crime and it’s a great place for families. The weather is rainy but not horribly hot in the summer or cold in the winter. Plus, it’s the middle of Europe – easy driving distance to Austria, Switzerland, France, Austria … the list goes on.
The not-so-good: Far from family in the States, and many of our friends in Germany would be moving this summer. It would be more of a challenge to do college visits with our high-schooler, and a move back there would likely be temporary, only for a few years.
Three places, all with equal pluses and minuses. Good thing we’ve got 4,000 miles more to mull it over.