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Old 05-22-2014, 05:22 PM
 
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I've always wanted to go on a cross country road trip. Or at least partial cross-country. Unfortunately, there's no way my wife and I can get weeks off of work to do this. But I still want the experience. We live in Michigan and would like to go to California (LA, probably) and then come back.

Has anyone done a partial trip? Flying halfway, skipping over states like Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, etc., and getting a rental car and finishing the trip? Residents of those states, don't be offended. I still want to experience them, but I've got to make some cuts.

I was thinking maybe flying to Colorado, then driving to California from there?

Is this a good idea? Anyone ever done it like this?

Also, Mapquest shows that it's a 16 hour drive from Denver to LA, but I don't know if Mapquest calculates mountains and such, or if it is more "as the bird flies." Anyone have a more accurate idea of how long that drive is?
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Old 05-22-2014, 05:48 PM
 
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You need to consider the incredibly high drop off fees you will be charged with a one-way car rental. Very likely over $1000.

Maybe consider flying into LA, rent the car, and drive the PCH to San Francisco to Salt Lake to Vegas and back to LA. 2000 miles, 35 or so hours of driving, and very doable in two weeks with plenty of time to see the sights.

A shorter itinerary would be LA to San Luis Obispo to LA to Phoenix to LA, about 1200 miles and 24 hours with loads to see along the way.

Mapquest (and Google Maps which I think is more accurate) does mileage by roads, not as the crow flies.
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Old 05-22-2014, 09:06 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VM1138 View Post
I've always wanted to go on a cross country road trip. Or at least partial cross-country. Unfortunately, there's no way my wife and I can get weeks off of work to do this. But I still want the experience. We live in Michigan and would like to go to California (LA, probably) and then come back.

The large car rental agencies are looking to move cars out of Arizona during the period between the end of baseball's spring training and June 30th. You could fly in one way and drive the car back home. The rental rates are generally $20-25/ day with NO drop off fees.

We did this a few times moving vehicles between Florida and Chicago.
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Old 05-22-2014, 09:21 PM
 
11,256 posts, read 43,421,010 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VM1138 View Post
I was thinking maybe flying to Colorado, then driving to California from there?

Is this a good idea? Anyone ever done it like this?

Not if your primary vacation/sightseeing interests for this trip are in California and you have limited time.

Also, Mapquest shows that it's a 16 hour drive from Denver to LA, but I don't know if Mapquest calculates mountains and such, or if it is more "as the bird flies." Anyone have a more accurate idea of how long that drive is?
16 hours is a realistic road time for Denver to LA at current posted speed limits and clear roads (not winter travel).

I've seen people do it quicker than that, but it typically required going a lot faster than the speed limits for most of the trip.

Mapquest bases their travel times and distances on actual roads, not "as the bird flies" point to point distance, although they do not include possible traffic slow-downs in metro areas for rush hour traffic or constuction delays that may happen on some routes.

Keep in mind that a lot of the Den-LA road travel is similar to the "fly-over country" that you don't want to deal with in the midwest states at this time. You're driving across a lot of open desert country for most of the drive. It has it's charms, but if it's just a part of a driving day from point A to B, then it wears thin pretty quickly. Much of Utah, Nevada, and the east side of CA for this drive is that way.


Do keep in mind that if you're not experienced driving in mountain areas, even an interstate highway (I-70) across the Colorado mountains can be a daunting experience at posted speed limits for many drivers. There's a lot of folk who simply cannot handle the climbs/descents and the curves at highway speeds that I-70 presents for much of the drive ... and it's not uncommon for them to remain in the left hand lane on I-70, clearly uncomfortable with driving the speed limit. It's not uncommon for a string of them to obstruct traffic flow on I-70, and for whatever reasons ... many don't understand to downshift their cars for the uphill grades and let the car engine breathe a bit better at higher RPM with a lighter throttle load than with staying in top gear. Unless you're used to driving at altitude, the loss of horsepower is something that a lot of folk don't relate back to the their car's lack of performance in the mountains.

Last edited by sunsprit; 05-22-2014 at 09:29 PM..
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Old 05-23-2014, 07:15 AM
 
Location: Mtns of Waynesville,NC & Nokomis, FL
4,241 posts, read 8,087,515 times
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Flying into Denver, other western Mtn cities, and renting a car makes good sense if one is travel time restricted...

But, one could spend days and weeks seeing great scenes, driving some of the best two lane blacktops in the US, visiting great sights, and not 'leave' CO, northern AZ, UT, et al.

'LA' is a good drive from CO, as noted by sunspirit, but not sure of the OP's reason to get to 'LA'; that area itself is large geography, some very slow go driving, and sort of an antithesis to 'CO'.

If one really wants to get to the Pacific and its 'edges', middle to northern CA might be more of goal, from western CO/UT, imo.

Having done a half dozen cross country m'cycle trips and a 2 month car trip, it is very difficult to offer good advice on what to see/do for very limited time frames, and our not knowing the OP's wants, eg Nat Parks, great roads, tourist stuff, downtowns, etc.

Agree that a rental drop off will probably be very pricey, as will an open jaw into Denver and back home from LA...
My 50Cts.
GL, mD
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Old 05-23-2014, 07:47 AM
 
14,260 posts, read 24,000,210 times
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Originally Posted by VM1138 View Post
Has anyone done a partial trip? Flying halfway, skipping over states like Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, etc., and getting a rental car and finishing the trip? Residents of those states, don't be offended. I still want to experience them, but I've got to make some cuts.

Currently, there are a TON of cheap flights between the Chicago airports and Denver and between Detroit and Denver. These are generally on wither Frontier or Spirit so you WILL get charged for everything under the sun. Rent a car in Denver and return it there.

That would eliminate 2-3 days of driving each way.

Last edited by golfgal; 05-24-2014 at 06:16 AM..
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Old 05-23-2014, 09:08 AM
 
34,389 posts, read 41,490,319 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VM1138 View Post
Also, Mapquest shows that it's a 16 hour drive from Denver to LA, but I don't know if Mapquest calculates mountains and such, or if it is more "as the bird flies." Anyone have a more accurate idea of how long that drive is?

Mapquest gives you the time it takes to travel their route non stop at the speed limit,stop at a motel for 8 hours then add 8 hours to their time same goes for any other down time from driving..
Renting a car to do the trip will require some serious research as costs can be prohibitively expensive.
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Old 05-23-2014, 09:51 AM
 
Location: Colorado
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You'd be better off targeting a certain area, like for example Western Colorado, and doing a loop trip with just a few hours of driving each day. You actually end up seeing more and enjoying it a lot more because you're eliminating things like 8 hours on the prairie-freeway between Omaha and Denver and replacing it with things like 8 hours of fly fishing on the Yampa River, which few people even get to see. Also, you'll eliminate drop-off rental car hassles.

When you feel like you've gotten a good taste for one area, then target a new area (like the Nor/Cen CA coast or wherever) and repeat until you feel like you've seen the country, which will never really be complete either way. All you're really cutting out is long boring stretches of freeway with nowhere to stop but nasty nasty truck stops. Ok sometimes there are novel roadside attractions and quaint backroads that you'll miss with my method but unless you're really into that sort of thing it's not worth all the extra freeway time.
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Old 05-23-2014, 06:50 PM
 
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Flying to Dallas, Rent-A-Car, and go from there. Return the car to Dallas on your way home and fly back. Pretty much, anything east of Dallas is a waste of time. The Western USA is much more scenic, the traffic is lighter, you'll have a better time.
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Old 05-24-2014, 01:14 AM
 
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I wouldn't suggest doing a partial trip from Denver or so to LA, either. It can be pretty horrendous driving from Arizona/Nevada, across California to LA. I've driven across this country a lot, and crossing the Mojave is at the top of my "worse drives ever" list. And then it ends with traffic-snarled LA. If you want to do the Pacific, fly in to one of the coastal cities and drive up and down. If you want to do the Rockies, fly into Denver or Salt Lake City and do a loop from there. The suggestion to fly into Phoenix and drive back isn't bad.

I've also found that picking one main type of attraction helps--you can't stop at absolutely everything on your trip, but sometimes it can seem so overwhelming that the "need" to be at your end point overtakes the whole joy of a roadtrip--stopping at unique places. One road trip focused on the weird and wacky, one on really good coffee shops, and definitely more than one on scenic natural areas. It's not something that my friends and I ever discussed outright, but developed over hours of planning and such. I remember one road trip when we didn't do this, and we were disappointed with how it went. Quite boring overall. I still regret not stopping at this one spot in Kansas (I think) that was filled with colorful whirly-gigs.
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