Retirement Road Trips

Tony Crocker

Staff member
James has used Google route mapping on some of his Euro trips and suggested that I create some after the pandemic road trips of the 2020-21 ski season.

I have had quite a few extensive road trips over the past decade+, and these types of trips were very rare before I retired.

In Sept. 1971 and June 1972 I drove cross country to college with classmates who had their own cars at home in summer but at college during the school year. Both of these were point A to point B trips with zero tourist stops, 4 days in 1971 and 59 hours in 1972. The latter trip was intended to be straight through with 3 drivers but a massive thunderstorm in Oklahoma made an overnight stop there a wise move.

From then until retirement I only drove farther than Oregon or Utah 3 times.
1) In Jan. 1990 I drove with my friend Richard and 3 of our kids to Steamboat and Vail for 10 days total.
2) In July 1995 our family rented a motorhome for two weeks and drove to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. This trip started with a July 15 ski day at Mammoth.
2) For Adam's spring break in 2001 we drove to Crested Butte, skiing Arizona Snowbowl, Wolf Creek and Monarch on the way.

While working my ski vacations were rarely more than one week at a time. Occasional longer summer vacations tended to be beyond drive distance.

So now for the retirement road trips: I'm posting screen shots here, but also linked online maps (click on date) which are zoomable and scrollable to see more detail.

March 30 - April 14, 2011 was to an Epic Ski Gathering in Summit County Colorado.

My Porsche Cayenne was brand new then and my friend Richard went with me. We visited admin and skied Deer Valley and Snowbird with him and rfarren on the way to Colorado. After skiing Vail, Breck, A-Basin, Loveland and Aspen Highlands, we drove home via Arches, Canyonlands, Natural Bridges, Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon. Total 3,100 miles, longest day 685, longest 2 day 930. Other trips below were in the Cayenne unless mentioned otherwise.

January 11 - February 13, 2012 was to snowcat skiing at Mustang and Baldface, followed by NASJA events hosted by Red Mt., Whitewater and Schweitzer.

I visited Andrew in Eureka and skied Mt. Bachelor and Big White before the cat skiing. I skied Silver Mt. and Montana Snowbowl on the way to meeting Liz in Jackson Hole. We skied Targhee, Snowbasin and Alta before she flew back to NYC and I drove home. Total 4,700 miles, longest day 685, longest 2 day 977.

February 14 - March 16, 2013 started with Liz spending a week at Sun Valley with the Diamond Dogs ski club.

I drove to Sun Valley, then took Liz to 13 new ski areas in Canada and Montana, ending with my week at Iron Blosam. Total 5,500 miles, longest day 685, longest 2 day 849.

October 15 - November 1, 2014 was to the Solar Eclipse Conference in Cloudcroft, New Mexico.

Since 2000 these events have been held in varied locations during years when there is no total solar eclipse. We decided to drive so we could check out Big Bend and Carlsbad first. On the way home we visited Liz' friends outside Albuquerque and some spots along I-40 on the way home. Total 3,500 miles, longest day 361, longest 2 day 650.

July 14 - August 3, 2018 was a cross country drive home from Alexandria, Virginia after Liz' brother Rob passed away.

We first spent a week in Waynesville, NC, Liz' mother's last summer there before staying in Florida full time. While there we daytripped to the Chattooga River. The trip was in Rob's 1993 Toyota pickup with numerous tourist stops, particularly in Tennessee, where neither Liz nor I had been before. Total 3,700 miles, longest day 517, longest 2 day 802.

March 8-29, 2019 was an extensive tour of Southwest ski areas after Iron Blosam week.

Total 3,300 miles, longest day 685, longest 2 day 757.

May 29 - June 9, 2020 was a cross country drive to Florida because Liz was there for an indefinite period of time caring for her mother.

I went through Colorado and got in a last ski day at A-Basin thanks to friend and passholder Paul. I also visited my college friend Harold in Wichita and then admin in his RV at Lake of the Ozarks. This was in the 2019 Tesla, and totaled 3,260 miles, longest day 740, longest 2 day 1224.

August 28 - September 14, 2020 was our return home after Liz arranged in-home caretakers for her mother.

The circuitous route was due to visiting friends in Chicago and Wisconsin with an extension to Lake Superior. We visited more friends in Colorado and several parks in Utah. Total 5,009 miles in the Tesla, longest day 554, separate 2 day totals of 1059 and 961.

January 26 - February 11, 2021 was the start of extensive travel to low key ski areas to minimize pandemic crowd exposure.

Liz' mother passed away while we were at a NASJA event in Ogden. Therefore she flew to Florida from Boise while I returned home via Tahoe. Total 2,400 miles, longest day 685, no later 2-day longer than that.

February 19 - March 14, 2021 completed the pandemic ski trip.

I skied Mt. Ashland on the way to my friends in Yakima, where Liz flew in. She had skied 10 new areas by the time we ended up at our Iron Blosam week. Total 4,300 miles, longest day 633, longest 2 day 893.

July 3-21, 2021 was a cross country drive in Liz' mother's 2004 Hyundai Santa Fe, which we are keeping as a third car, replacing my 1995 Nissan Maxima with 290K miles.

This trip started with an 8 hour all night drive to Pensacola, because we were transporting furniture on the roof to Liz' friends in New Orleans and had a short window between rains that had been hitting central Florida in daytime for a week. We got a much needed rest in Orange Beach, Alabama over July 4, before visiting the music venues at the opposite end of the state in Muscle Shoals. We visited friends in New Orleans, Austin and Dallas and my cousin in Phoenix. Tourist stops included Vicksburg, the Johnson Space Center and Tombstone. Total 4,300 miles, longest day 640, longest 2 day 1165.

I would be surprised if we do another cross country road trip. I expect a Southwest Tesla road trip to the October 2023 annular eclipse. It would not surprise me to see another road trip to Canada, linking the cat skiing there to Iron Blosam week via interior Northwest ski areas.
An impressive retirement indeed. Very few people can tolerate the lengths of those trips: most between 3,000 and 5,500 miles/having top-shelf cars certainly helps!
Having the exact location & stop detail for every last bit of road trips going back to 2011 is either impressive or disturbing; not sure which.

EMSC":2ao4bgnh said:
Having the exact location & stop detail for every last bit of road trips going back to 2011 is either impressive or disturbing; not sure which. :-D

Every ski day has been documented here on FTO as well as many of the other trips such as October 2014, so these maps were not difficult.

jamesdeluxe":2ao4bgnh said:
Very few people can tolerate the lengths of those trips: most between 3,000 and 5,500 miles
These were not road warrior trips like the ones in college. The 5,500 mile trip was over 31 days and the 5,009 mile trip over 18 days. I put in the exact dates so it's easy to see that driving averages per day are not that high. For several of these trips the longest drive day is the 685 miles from home to Utah. And rarely are there two consecutive drive days totaling as much as 1,000 miles. There's a reason these trips were all once I was retired and had the time to do them at a reasonable pace. Sometimes there's a long drive at the end (see Tahoe and northern Arizona examples) getting home around midnight, but in those cases I'm not getting up early the next day to do anything exciting.

I will get around to documenting last month's highlights sometime; the Lynryrd Skynyrd Memorial pics are on Liz' phone and haven't made it to my computer yet.

jamesdeluxe":2ao4bgnh said:
having top-shelf cars certainly helps!
July 2018 was an exception to that. The 1993 Toyota pickup was a basic model that has a 1970's look and feel and got about 225 miles to a tank of gas. It also had a somewhat temperamental air conditioner that occasionally needed half an hour of rest before it would run at full strength. We were lucky to have some monsoon rains in New Mexico and Arizona on that trip. I was surprised how green I-40 in those states was then.
I've done a lot of long road trips for skiing in my life, especially in the last 15 years since as I've gotten older and had more time due to partially retiring in 2015 and fully retiring in 2019. My son became my ski and driving partner about a dozen years ago. Also, been driving almost annually from Wash DC area to SLC since he moved to Utah in 2015.

Even when I was a kid my father took us on some good road trips, across the entire country twice in the 1960s (non-skiing) and from Wash DC to VT several times in the '70s for skiing.

Pops at Blue Knob, PA, 1968

My first big solo drive to ski was a 1976 college spring break trip from Wash DC area to CO (Winter Park, Vail, Aspen) and back on a ten day trip. Probably have made 15-20 roundtrips from East Coast to Rockies to ski since the early 1990s.

More recently, in the winter of 2021 I did two Wash DC to UT round trip drives, one solo, one with wife. (Don't ask why, but it had to do with avoiding airplanes during the pandemic.) On one solo leg (mid-Feb 2021) I drove DC-SLC in two days; i. e., two 17 hr days with 8 hr sleep stop in between, about 1050 miles each day. That drive was esp difficult because it included partial snowy road conditions on both days and I had no companions to help with driving. Not fun.

My vehicle at Snowbird, UT, 2021:

My longest ski road trip mileage-wise was a three week trip in March 2018. Started from Wash DC area, drove to SLC, then up through Northern Rockies into Western Canada and back to Wash DC for a journey that was 7,000 miles in total. Had the Mtn Collective pass and skied at 8 different ski areas, four that were new to me. (Snowbasin, Snowbird, Alta, Jackson Hole, Revelstoke, Lake Louise, Banff-Sunshine, and Mt. Norquay, in that order, latter four were new to me.)

Son dropping into Corbets Couloir at Jackson Hole, March 2018:

Moi from top of Delirium Dive, Banff-Sunshine, March 2018

Friendly ski patroller at Mt. Norquay

We initially towed a U-Haul trailer full of home furnishings to our son's house in Utah on the first leg of that 7000 trip, rushing to beat an impending snowstorm in the Wasatch. My wife (retired from skiing ten years ago) accompanied me the whole way, God bless her. My son was with us for the SLC to Calgary segment. After dropping our son off at the Calgary airport for his flight back to Salt Lake, my wife and I made the return drive from Alberta to Wash DC in 3.5 days.

Recaps of that particular trip: ... son.12568/ ... nff.12769/
I'm an amateur road warrior comparing to jimk. But I see some rationale for those drives for an eastern skier with family in a prime western ski location.

Given jimk is retired and had his own car, that 2018 ski itinerary seems a bit rushed to me. Jimk mentioned that Sun Valley, Whitefish and Kicking Horse were along the route. I would have recommended adding Fernie and Castle too.

Part of this may have been due to having a non-skiing spouse along, though Sun Valley and Whitefish have enough to keep non-skiers entertained for awhile. Once again I'm very lucky to have an enthusiastic partner-in-crime in Liz for these road trips.

Once vacation trips get up to a month or more, I see a strong rationale to driving your own snow prepared vehicle, worth a significant schlep from home to ski country. That informed the 2012 and 2013 drives from SoCal to Revelstoke, which I would consider again.

jimk":x05enesm said:
(Don't ask why, but it had to do with avoiding airplanes during the pandemic.)
That had a secondary influence on my 2020 cross country drives. But the the real reason was that Liz was caring for her mother on an open ended schedule so I knew I would be in Florida a minimum of two months. Of course the pandemic was the main reason Liz wanted to keep her mother at home in 2020.
I know James would like to see March 21 - April 16, 2022 added to the list above.

3600km in Peugeot wagon rental from Venice airport. We first skied in Austria with a stop in Cortina on the way. Then came the advance scheduled week in Val Thorens with a couple of hours in Bern on the way. Next were the three ski days in the Swiss Valais, also exploring Chateau de Tourbillon overlooking Sion.

When bad weather hit the Alps we drove to Vernazza in the Cinque Terre for a few days before getting in two more ski days at Les Arcs/La Plagne. We finally drove across northern Italy with short stops at Lake Garda and Trieste on the way to the Postojna caves in Slovenia before returning to Venice airport.
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I am not adverse to a road trip but you are the winner in this department Tony.
I expect to do plenty when I'm not working full time though. The 'lap' of Oz is about 9200 miles without diversions.
Best estimate is $475 for gas, $200 for tolls (over half of that being 2x the Frejus tunnel; I screwed up by not buying round trip) and $180 for a camera speeding ticket including an obnoxious $48 processing fee from the car rental company.

The car rental itself was $1,494, not bad in this era for 26 days, similar to the $500 for 8 days in Canada in February. We paid $600 for a 6 day car in Charleston last October and $450 for 5 days in Oregon recently. It seems that the pandemic dislocation of the car rental market has hit the US harder than foreign countries.

Australia is real road warrior country. It also tends to rent cars with only 100km free per day. We had 900 excess km on our Darwin/Kakadu rental in 2019.
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Interesting. I’ve never had a mileage limit on any rental car in Australia. But I’ve never rented in the West or top end.
$200 for tolls (over half of that being 2x the Frejus tunnel; I screwed up by not buying round trip) and $180 for a camera speeding ticket including an obnoxious $48 processing fee from the car rental company.
From my early February visit to eastern Valais, the car rental company likewise hit me with a $50 processing fee for a camera speeding ticket that I still haven't received and don't plan to pay.

After landing in Milan, I avoided the tunnel toll into Switzerland by taking the Simplon Pass surface road -- which allowed me to stop at Rothwald -- and on the way back I took the auto train over the pass for $22 (worth it).
I have usually received mail at home for Euro speeding tickets. I'm not sure what the consequence of ignoring them would be, but we are over there nearly every year these days. I ignored a speeding ticket in Florida in 1983, as interstate communication wasn't great back then and Florida was not a state where I anticipated spending much time in the future. :icon-lol: I did not get any tickets in 2020 or 2021 to test the longevity of Florida recordkeeping.
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Wow Tony. I do a lot of driving to ski but that is unreal.

I've long thought after I retired I'd drive to Bohemia and stay a week. Also thought about skiing every area in NY, sleeping in a pickup, but really it will make more sense to follow the snow, and try to bang it out a bit at a time.
I have always received mail at home for Euro speeding tickets. I'm not sure what the consequence of ignoring them would be, but we are over there nearly every year these days.
Yesterday, exactly four months later, I received the hard-copy camera speeding ticket from a tiny farming village with a ski area. €190!! :rotfl:

I'm reasonably sure that it's like most rural speeding tickets -- a camera positioned just inside the village perimeter where the speed limit drops from 100 km/h to 50 and most people don't slow down sufficiently.

Interesting that the ticket is only in German/no English translation, which allows the recipient to claim that s/he doesn't understand it. I suspect that the only way there could be consequences for not paying is if you get physically pulled over by a cop in the same region as the original ticket who runs your name through the system. Contrary to the U.S., I never see cops with radar guns over there; it's all electronic cameras that send you tickets in the mail. I'll ask Fraser what his experience is (as someone no longer in the EU) and whether he pays.
I received a ticket for a 2020 Euro trip driving from St. Moritz to Milan -- specifically a small town in Switzerland. My violation 65 or 66 km/hr in a 50 km/hr zone. That's 3 mph over the speed limit! Camera.

It was about a 50 Euro fine or so. However, I was annoyed enough that I did not pay it. Switzerland finally tracked down my Italian rental car agency and I was subsequently billed on my credit card.

I did receive a USA - Arizona camera ticket over 8 years ago when I was at a Vegas conference and decided to go to the Grand Canyon and Ski Sunrise the weekend before. However, this was a 'good' ticket. It had 3-4 camera shots with front/back plates and a driver picture. You could not really refute this one.
Switzerland finally tracked down my Italian rental car agency and I was subsequently billed on my credit card.
Not related to this incident; however, I'm closing that credit card soon. They can put that in their pipe and smoke it!
Switzerland finally tracked down my Italian rental car agency and I was subsequently billed on my credit card.
Not related to this incident; however, I'm closing that credit card soon. They can put that in their pipe and smoke it!
The reason it has not occurred to me not to pay these Euro camera tickets is that they are obviously traceable to the rental car company which has my credit card on file. I think at least once I just got a bill on the credit card like ChrisC.

The Swiss authorities that have sent me the tickets by mail wouldn't have my address unless they got it from the rental car company via the license plate. Florida 1983 was a rental car too, but there I was pulled over and presumably got the letters at home (which I ignored) based upon my driver's license.

Knowing we would be doing a lot of driving, I did bring my radar detector on this trip. The Peugeot rental car also had something internal that was giving a weird audio sound going through small towns in Italy.

I think I've been in the car for 4 Euro tickets total. One was in one of those 50km/hr small towns between Lenzerheide and St. Moritz and another was in the Mont Blanc tunnel. The other two (including this year) were on freeways in Switzerland. Flow of traffic out in the open seems as fast in Switzerland as in France and Italy. I suspect you need to be extra cautious approaching bridges and tunnels, and Switzerland has a lot of tunnels, even in places not next to the mountains.
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Serious question. What would be wrong with paying the fines?
You Americans are speed freaks. I remember drive up to SLC on i15 a few years ago. I’m doing about 85mph to try to keep with the flow of traffic and I’m very regularly getting overtaken.
We can’t speed here in Oz anymore. The fines are crazy expensive. $300 for being 1km/h over (and they issue fines for being only 1 km over - my wife got two in one day from the same camera). There are now cameras to check for drivers using mobile phones. The fine is over $1000 in most states.