This past weekend, I took my shortest county collecting trip of the year (and the shortest since a day trip into eastern Indiana in April 2012). My journeys over the last couple years have typically been between 3 and 7 nights depending on which part of the country I visit and how much vacation time I can squeeze in to my busy schedule.
I've known for about a year that I would be taking a trip to the D.C. area in early November 2014. As I began planning so I could maximize the number of counties I would visit, I realized that no matter which route I took, I would either need to spend more time on away from work than I had allocated or have to leave some counties in the area for a separate trip. Rather than burn more vacation time, I entertained the idea that I could cover much of the additional territory in question in about two days, perfect for a weekend trip, as long as I was willing to rack up another thousand miles on my car and not get to do any sightseeing. While some might consider this a waste, for me it made perfect sense. By cramming all that driving into a weekend, I would be able to spend more time enjoying my weeklong trip at the beginning of November. And let’s not forget that I've got two overlapping promotions going on, so all paid stays have the potential to really boost my rewards points balance.
With all that in mind, I embarked on a quixotic journey to the nation’s capital to clean up the mess just in time for the upcoming mid-term elections. Oh wait, that’s the wrong story. I embarked on lovely drive through the wilds of West Virginia and across the Shenandoah Valley in the pursuit of counties that might otherwise remain uncollected until well after next spring's thaw. I decided that having never stayed in the District of Columbia before, that this trip would be a good time to remedy that. I opted for the Georgetown Marriott, and because I booked early, managed to secure a AAA rate of $134 (a week before my trip, the AAA rate had doubled to $270).
With the destination fixed, I just needed to plan my route to visit as many counties as possible. Rather than recount the boring details, I'll just share the before and after maps of my trip.
Note, for anyone who doesn't understand these maps, please read a few of my earlier blog entries for an explanation of what I am doing and what the colors on the maps mean.
I've included Maryland as I was able to visit two counties there as well as a couple dozen in WV and VA. Though I didn't get to see much, I did visit all the independent cities in northern Virginia – Alexandria, Manassas Park, Falls Church, Fairfax, Manassas, and Winchester (the last three also happen to be county seats for the surrounding counties of Fairfax, Prince William, and Frederick respectively).
In November, I will visit the final three counties in eastern WV panhandle as well as Loudoun County, VA (the last county in northern VA). I’m also looking forward to a potential MR Insider gathering that is being discussed (see Visiting DC area in November). erc, pluto77, vaboywnder, ssindc, and communitymanager, I'll be looking for you (and anyone else who might like to join us).
In any case, I accomplished the goal I set for the weekend. I visited 21 county seats, plus the 3 other independent cities that are not county seats, as well as the District of Columbia (not technically a county, but I've added it to my list anyway). Most of the remaining counties in Maryland are on my itinerary for November, as is Virginia Beach (another independent city) but that's a future blog entry.
Apologies that this entry is so short and doesn't have much in the way of cool photos, but that pretty well sums up how the trip went. While I didn't stop for any sightseeing, this weekend jaunt will make my planned drive next month considerably easier and undoubtedly much more enjoyable.
At the moment, that upcoming trip is the last one scheduled for this year, so I'm already looking ahead to next year. I’ll save my thoughts on that topic for my year-end wrap up. Look for a mid-November blog post which I hope will have a picture or two of a few of the Insiders gang.