Because of uncertainty over whether we'd really be able to leave on Thursday, I couldn't make hotel reservations along the way until last night. Particularly tricky is our first stop in Wendover NV, where it's Speed Week at the nearby Bonneville Salt Flats, constraining hotel capacity. Fortunately, because we can leave Thursday, that means we're actually allowed to book a hotel room tonight — most of the hotels are either full or requiring two-night stays if you want to be there on Friday or Saturday.
The rest of the trip to KC is partially constrained by where IHG hotels are located and what things we want to visit. Again because we're leaving one day earlier than our first draft of our travel plans, we can shorten each day's trip, giving us more slack and less stress and more time to actually look at things, possibly even including "targets of opportunity" along the way.
We'll be stopping at North Platte to visit the Golden Spike Observation Tower at the world's largest railroad yard. We'd hoped to also detour over to Council Bluffs and visit the Union Pacific Museum, but it's not open on the day we'd be coming through. (Sorry, garyomaha; we'll see you in KC.) The same problem bedevils a number of the other rail-related sites along the way: they aren't open when we'll be passing through.
The outbound trip generally follows I-80, with overnight stops in Wendover NV, Rock Springs WY, Cheyenne WY, North Platte NE, and York NE. We might adjust that last stop if we leave North Platte in time to get us closer in to KC. Our goal is to arrive at our hotel in the early afternoon and we hope avoid the worst traffic.
We'll be staying at the Holiday Inn Aladdin while in Kansas City. An annoyance of the property is that it apparently has no self parking at all — it's valet only. There appear to be parking garages in the area. We don't like using valet parking, even when it's free, which it is not here. Access to our vehicle during the trip without having to wait for a valet is important to us, even if we don't plan on driving anywhere. (Locals familiar with downtown Kansas City are welcome to make parking suggestions.)
We were spoiled last year at Spokane staying in the Doubletree, with the Spokane Convention Center wrapped around the hotel, and with easy access to both our vehicle (parked about as close to the room where the Business Meeting was held as was legally possible) and our hotel room. The Aladdin is a couple of blocks from the KC Convention Center, and we're not looking forward to trudging back and forth with all of our camera and computer gear.
We only solidified much of our return trip yesterday, thanks to uncertainty about a number of things. While the general route could be described as "I-70," we will first swing south through Dodge City and then to Pueblo. We have booked rides on the Royal Gorge Route Railroad and then the next day on the Pike's Peak Cog Railway, both trips that I've heard of but never had the opportunity to ride. (Our previous trip to Colorado, for the Denver Worldcon, took us through Leadville instead.)
I accidentally booked the Pike's Peak trip for the same day as the Royal Gorge trip; fortunately, a call to the Pike's Peak ticket office this morning straightened this out.
It's all IHG hotels again except Nevada (like the outbound trip), because while you can find on Google what purports to be a Holiday Inn Express in Ely NV, it's marked as closed, and Street View shows a McDonald's and an empty lot on that corner. So instead we'll try something historic and atmospheric: the Hotel Nevada. We've been here on our previous trip to Ely to have dinner. (We were staying in the Nevada Northern Bunkhouse on that trip.) Unfortunately, because we have to drive the 300-plus miles home over the Loneliest Road in America, we will not have enough time in Ely to take advantage of a trip on the Nevada Northern Railway; this is particularly galling because we are members of the railway's foundation, which means we get one free ride per year.
The return trip's nights are currently planned for Pratt KS, Pueblo CO, Colorado Springs CO, Golden CO, Green River UT, and Ely NV. Initially we thought of staying in Pueblo for two nights (more restful that way), but the Holiday Inn Express rooms are described as only having walk-in showers, no bathtubs, and Lisa wants a bathtub, so we'll "rough it" for one night and go on to Colorado Springs.
It costs more, but these hotel stays are generally booked at the may-cancel-same-day-6-PM rate, not the cheaper advance purchase/non-refundable rate. When doing a road trip like this, we need to preserve as much flexibility as we can, because circumstances can and often do change.
In a few hours, I'll be able to hand over my work to a co-worker and Lisa and I can finish packing the minivan, travelswithkuma can take his place in the Command Seat (center back seat in the car seat Lisa built for him), and hit the road. I'm anxious to get going.