Lessons

It’s been a long time (over two years) since I felt the need to write one of these. A long time ago, I used to examine my trips to figure out where I might have made mistakes and how I might do better in the future. If I may toot my own proverbial horn for a second, I stopped doing it because I got pretty darn good at making trips. I went from “difficult pushes” to complete ten whole counties while I had daylight to multi-day, multi-state trips, covering thousands of miles of travel. I can’t say the same about this trip, though. Sure, it covered about 1,200 miles of distance, but I have to consider this trip an utter (though not complete) failure. I’m sure you’re wondering how I can consider seeing Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon a failure, but from a planning perspective, it totally was. I had four goals for this trip (two primary and two secondary): complete Arizona and sign its county challenge, dip into Utah and dip into California. Of the four, I accomplished only one. That qualifies as a failure. Where did I go wrong? Let me count the ways.

1. Strategic planning is better than tactical results.
There’s a saying regarding warfare: amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics. I made a logistic failure of a financial nature that cost me a lot of ground. I’m not kicking myself too much for it since it was completely unexpected, but it could have been ameliorated at several points both before and during the trip. I could have waited two weeks (and maybe hit a Mega as well) and the surprise would have happened while I was at home. Waiting would also have meant traveling with more money, meaning more gas/distance. After the discovery, I could have chosen my counties better. I might have stuck to one side of the state, meaning I would only have to return once. As it stands, I basically cut Arizona in half, likely requiring two trips back to complete the state. I over-plan my trips, allowing greater room for alteration and improvisation, but this time it failed me.

2. My plan was perhaps a little more ambitious than I expected.
On paper, my plan wasn’t too different than other trips I had taken. The times and distances didn’t seem all that problematic. Once a wrench was thrown into it, the timetable started falling apart even though it should have gotten easier, and I realized that it may have all been too much. I may have had to set aside some of my goals anyway, even without the financial complication.

3. Maybe I expected too much of myself.
I thought that flying in, resting at the airport and on the flight, and not driving hours to get to my starting point would make it easier. That did not turn out to be the case. I have often driven all night to get to a starting location, then driven hundreds more miles through the day until late in the next night before stopping for sleep, going for twenty-four to thirty-six hours. After deplaning, I didn’t even make it to twenty-four hours. Part of it (I think) was the breakdown of the plan. I often push myself to meet time points and without that, I was less driven to push. Was part of it a bit of jet lag? I don’t think so, but I hadn’t been on a plane in a long time, so who knows how I may have been affected from a road-tripping perspective. I may need to get better rest (maybe of a hotel variety) earlier rather than later when I’ve flown to a destination.

4. I needed more allowance for the unexpected.
I expected to be in Phoenix for a couple of hours at most. Spending five hours would have seriously impacted the plan even if everything was running on all cylinders. I even spent more time than allotted at the Grand Canyon. To be fair, that was totally worth it, but if I had been on a stricter timetable, it would have created problems that may have cost me a state (that I didn’t end up going to anyway, so … )

5. I should have brought my laptop.
I figured that, since I would be rolling pretty much the entire time I was in Arizona with a very well-determined plan, I wouldn’t be stopping anywhere long enough to use my laptop, so why bother? That turned out to be a terrible mistake. The second I started having to rejigger and reroute, I wished I had it on hand because trying to do it with a phone was a nightmare. Sure, it’s great for pathing you to your next destination, but it’s useless when you have to look at how four or five places route together. Further, phone mapping insists on the fastest way to get places. That was pointless. Since my issue was fuel, my emphasis was on the shortest route, and it steadfastly refused to give that to me. Phone, you failed me mightily.

6. I needed to better consider what I could salvage.
I ended up skipping a county that I could have picked up either on the way to Tucson or, more likely and conveniently, on the way to Globe. Only one county perhaps, but coming back with eight counties would have been better than only seven. I, however, was flustered and missed out on an easy (and already-planned) opportunity. I dropped the ball here big time.

So I didn’t come back with 21 counties as I planned, I probably need two trips to finish the state, I have non-contiguous counties on my map (technically, I have one in Cochise County, but since I haven’t been to Bisbee, it doesn’t really count), and there’s a big Utah-shaped hole to boot. But there is a silver lining to this. I’ll get another chance at a cache in Sonora. There’s a special one there I want, but I’m not going to talk about it lest I jinx it. I’ll also get a chance to visit this. I knew it was there (and no, I didn’t need Gary P. Nunn to tell me that thankyouverymuch), but I didn’t think about it until I looked at the list of opportunities I was forced to pass up. So yes, not all is lost, and I can make something out of these lemons (and we know how I feel about lemons). But this also means that for the first time in a long time, the narrative is going to be Monday/Wednesday/Friday for the next couple of months. Heck, other than a week in May 2021 where I had to postpone a trip for daughter-related issues, I’ve been pretty much daily since I started working states outside of Texas! I guess that’s a pretty good run. I’ll have something to aspire to when I get back out on the road again.

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