Congrats on your early retirement.
With your job ending earlier than thought - you can do a short, little warm-up tour in the spring. Maybe a week? Somewhere that Southwest flies to for really cheap? Then again, you could go with your wife to some beautiful places, let her do her own thing, and you do yours. March/April in the desert is really nice. The wildflowers won't be very good this year because it's been so dry, but for sun-starved Cascadians, the Mojave will be welcome.
You could stretch your legs between Death Valley, Tecopa Hot Springs, the Mojave National Preserve, Old Route 66, and Joshua Tree National Park. Traffic is fairly light - whereas it's not necessarily light in S. Ariz. or the Imperial Valley - - plus the scenery is nicer.
If you plan on doing an early cross-country trip - I'd rec east to west for a couple of reasons. First, you'd be slowly heading home. More importantly, the weather warms up earlier in the east than in the Rockies. You could get the rhododendrons blooming in the Appalachians and the meadows blooming in Colorado.
Have fun! - - J