Planning and unplanning

We are off to our annual family vacation shortly. I can’t tell you when, the internet police tell me, or someone will come and loot the house. Eat the leftover brownies. Get crumbs all over the seat cushions while snarfing down free Netflix.

We’re off then, shortly, for a week to beautiful (we hear), relaxing (we hope) and soul-lifting southern Utah, where we plan to soak in the majesty of a bunch of national parks before somebody sells them all to the oil companies. We’re aiming for Zion, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches while we’re out there, after a fly-in to Las Vegas. (Sin City is, of course, neither beautiful or relaxing. That ought to make Utah that much nicer.)

Our first step before boarding our Southwest flight in, you know, whenever: Getting a little break.

Between tying up loose ends at work and at school (finals are coming for Luke), finding a place for Brodie to stay and planning this week off — among those three things, if you want to get all grammatical on me — the family needs a break. From planning, especially. We’ve been at this more than a month.

Planning a week of vacation takes, like, months off your life. Really.

You don’t want to overplan, of course. No one wants a vacation where you have to be someplace at a certain time all the time. That’s not a vacation. That’s called work.

But you don’t want to underplan either. People — and by people, I clearly mean people with me that are, in fact, not me — get a tad upset when you try to completely wing things. And to be fair to those people that are not me … yeah, underplanning is bad. You tend to miss things. Or not have rooms. Or eat at a bad restaurant because everything else is closed. Or spend more time in the car than you might’ve wanted to.

Planning is important. But, dang, it can be difficult. We started looking for hotel rooms weeks, maybe months ahead of time. Had to. People evidently like Utah.

But the hotel search couldn’t come until after we figured out what towns we needed to stay in to see as many of those national parks as we could. And then deciding how long we needed to stay in each place.

Then there’s the driving thing. Utah has a lot of open country, and there’s going to be some driving in this vacation. Nobody wants to spend hours in the car every day during a vacation. Again, that’s called work.

So you have to plan your stops so you’re not spending too much time in the car on any given day. Just to give you an idea of the ground we’re covering: The drive from Las Vegas to Arches National Park is 453.1 miles.


That’d take 6 hours, 34 minutes to drive straight. But we’re not doing a straight drive. That would be a planning fail. You gotta sketch out a better idea.

Here’s ours.

We plan on driving to Zion after our first day in Vegas (2:39 drive time from Vegas, 159.7 miles) and spending two days there to see all of Zion that we can:


Our drives while checking out Zion will be minimal. We’ll probably do more hiking than driving those days. Early the third day, we’ll drive up to Capitol Reef (3:05, 174.2). We’ll spend the rest of the day there, one night and, possibly, some of the next day:


After that, we’ll motor over to Moab, where we’ll sit for a couple days, exploring both Canyonlands and Arches (2:08 drive time from Capitol Reef, 136.2):


Our last leg is our longest leg, taking us back across the state (Moab is near the Colorado state line) to Cedar City, Utah (4:16, 288.6), on our way toward Vegas:


That’s a long drive, but it’s not as long as, say, Atlanta to Cincinnati. And we have all day. We’ll probably hang around one of the park for the morning, maybe check out the town of Moab, then wander our way over to Cedar City, stopping along the way whenever we want. We’re not in any hurry on that day. Don’t have any planned stops.

We’re out of Vegas the next morning.

It’s a lot of driving, to be sure. I don’t think it can be avoided. But hopefully we’ll end this thing with sore feet from hiking, not boredom from car rides.

If the plan doesn’t go just like that … well, that’s kind of expected, right? Any good plan comes with the realization that you may have to abandon it for any number of reasons: weather, illness, car trouble, a better idea, a robot takeover. And that’s all good. Some of the best vacation times are stumbling upon places you had no idea about before you left.

We stopped in a park in Anacortes, Washington a few years ago. Unplanned. Just beautiful.

Once we get back from Utah, Luke is headed off to his summer internship, Mary Jo back to her job and me back to any job (after a long weekend golfing … more on that later). One thing is for certain, though: After all that planning, after all that vacationing, we’ll need another break soon.

Luckily, we’ll have lots of stale brownies and unlimited Netflix waiting for us when we get home. Whenever that is.


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