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Old 06-07-2010, 08:57 AM
 
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The thing is, you are acknowleging you will be doing alot of driving, but then you list all these places you want to see. Lets be realistic, you can drive this distance, which basically is to all 4 corners of the US in 3 weeks, but you won't even have time to get out of the car. It's unrealistic.

All these national parks, you listed about 5, it's not something you just drive through and view off the interstate. Even a quick trip, driving through and making a stop or two to snap pictures, takes a couple days and takes you off your route. You listed 10 days right there, half your trip, just to drive to and from these national parks (not seeing much, just getting to the N.P. and driving through).

This is what you need to do - plan the route to all these 4 corners and all these states to drive through if you want, plan very carefully to be as efficient as possible. You will be seeing nothing but interstate rest stops, McDonald's, and Highway motels for 3 weeks, but if that's what you want then go for it. But pick ONLY half a dozen major sites that you want to see.
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Old 06-07-2010, 02:48 PM
 
Location: We_tside PNW (Columbia Gorge) / CO / SA TX / Thailand
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I mapped your proposed trip and it is ~ 8500 miles or 404 / day (21 day) That is 'reasonable', but....

You might consider lopping off a couple corners, AND going counter clockwise. (North to PNW first)
The main reason is that you can cruise the west coast in the southbound lane, (Much safer for seeing and pulling off and re-entering Hwy 101) + you will be getting slightly longer days north. AND you won't conflict with Sturgis, SD rallyweek !!

If you don't have some gallant objective (like touching as many states as possible), I personally would cut the SE, gulf coast, and probably TX (due to heat and humidity, which you get plenty in NJ.) An optional northern loop would bring you back through Colorado and Kansas, (both I love to vacation in) You will get to enjoy some great farm harvest activities and sights, and I like small towns and more 'down-home' fun.

San Antonio is really ideal to see in DEC (canal lit up, AND cool). SA can be blistering hot in summer.

I cannot say I have found a time I really enjoy FL, AL, LA, but prefer fall or spring when dogwoods are out. Definitely I avoid in Summer (your mileage may vary).

Quote:
As far as Utah is concerned, do you think Arches and Bryce trump Zion? Is Salt Lake City worthy of consideration?
Oh yes, they are both very unique. Zion is nice, but not terribly unique (unless you get a backcountry guide) It is also more crowded and requires bus transit in peak season. SLC I can do without, it is fun to see the great salt lake, and to go to Park City, but nothing great about SLC for the extra trouble. Just don't miss Arches and Bryce (and a few smaller parks in between)

Quote:
...Whether I should include Seattle or not. I have a slightly stronger urge to visit Portland, but I don't think the two need be mutually exclusive on a trip such as this?
They are really quite different in their own ways (Coffee culture vs. micro brews; inland waters vs, BIG river) it is quite EZ to fit both in, and neither would require an entire day to get the highlights (or you can spend days if you want to 'see-it-all'). I would try to see both. Ask for specifics to aid your quest and save time, but I would see the FREE gardens in each, Seattle I like Free; Waterfront, Pike Place Market, Ballard Locks, Shilshole Marina and nearby park (nice view of Olympic MTN Range) & to devour the fish and chips you bought across the street from Ballard Locks. Or get the Alder smoked Salmon at the waterfront (Pier 49 I think... , only one place has the brick ovens and alder smoked sign). Gold Rush museum is very good (it will be free if you already have bought your NP pass at first park)

Quote:
In other words, it would be better to start cutting southward after Idaho and enter Wyoming with a chance to see a fair bit rather than slogging through Montana? This seems reasonable and WY does offer a fair bit more in its national/state parks/recreation centers it seems.

The inclusion of Wyoming/the exclusion of Glacier are going to be my main focuses of debate so far this week as I further map out my route on the computer and on paper.
You can do SW MT, it is a VERY big state and very pretty, I would see CDL and some of the ID panhandle, OR see west central (Riggins) Snake River, and Craters-of-the-moon. I also go through Soda Springs cuz I like mineral pools and it is on the 'scenic' way to the Tetons. (it is very optional... not important) I think SW MT and ID panhandle will be your most logical rte.

Must See is Tetons and Yellowstone (NE is my favorite area), a float trip on the Snake (in Tetons is very nice). Glacier is a very nice park, but really tough to see fast. I would include it into a future Banff trip. (Calgary, AB as Hub)

San Diego is very nice too, but not a place to enjoy in a hurry. Next winter when you are sick if NJ, get a cheap flight and enjoy a nice weekend in SD (Fly 'red-eye' home and arrive just in time to go back to work... I frequently do that, as work is something you can do in your sleep, travel is too much fun to cut short!). I will frequently leave Asia on a Monday AM and arrive home on West Coast on Monday AM (after a 24 hr flight, crossing Int. Date Line), then go to work all day. I gets you back in the sequence and reduces jet lag. (and doesn't burn vacation time enroute)

The northern rte and back through Grand Canyon and Colorado is ~ 7700 miles or 366 miles / day (~ 6 hrs freeway or 7hrs on 'highway') You can easily do 2x that if need be, and as mentioned I do lots of non-scenic / between towns at night. I frequently take naps in nice cool parks or libraries.

Do be sure to stop and talk to lots of people, that is the fun part. I also stay in private guest homes (from a few directories I participate in). They really make the trip special, as you get to know locals. + they are only $10 / night!! I also do Hostels as I like to meet folks who are traveling. I rarely do motels or hotels, (they are creepy). I would rather sleep in my car or a hospital waiting room. Couchsurfing.com may be an option if you are a young and adventurous buckaroo. I also frequent community swimming pools for 'freshening up' on a hot day. Swim about 50 laps. take a shower and go sleep under a tree

Be smart, be safe (have your belts, hoses, filters, wipers, timing belt, coolant, tranny, tires checked BEFORE you go). Check under the hood every day to look for fluids leaking or loose parts. Consider cooking on you engine, BUT be careful to secure food very well (search 'manifold cooking'). If you like tea, Cocoa, or hot soup, or shower / washing water, consider adding a 'motoraid' hot water heater, or use a Stainless steel container tucked into a 'hot-spot'

Have FUN , plan a free day every week, and a couple 'plan-B's (short cut routes). I can see a GPS 'helping' BUT I met a foreigner who strictly went by GPS on a cross country and missed MANY ez and nice byways and stops + got hung up on some impassible roads.

another good one. Samoa Cookhouse; Eureka, CA (actually on island of Samoa, a 'short' bridge drive away) Great Free Museum, and breakfast is superb if they are serving French Toast!!! (fixed menu, family seating and serving, very fun) call ahead to verify menu. Welcome to the Historic Samoa Cookhouse - Since 1890 on California's North Coast
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Old 06-07-2010, 05:48 PM
 
Location: Australia
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ReluctantGS: I agree with Stealthrabbit that you should consider traveling counter-clockwise. You said in your original post that you plan to move in a year or so... where will you be moving to? It might make sense to ignore the area you're moving to (unless checking it out is a big reason for your trip) as you'll have opportunities to see the sights in that region once you live there.

You asked about the highlights of my trip. It's impossible to list them... 95% of all my US road trips have been highlights. Which is why I keep returning every two or three years.

I still think 3 weeks to visit all the places on your list is not nearly enough. I suggest you make Chicago your first official stop (800 or so miles). You can see places closer to home (eg Lancaster, Pittsburg) on weekend trips at another time.

From Chicago I suggest head up to WI, across to MN, SD (Badlands, Custer SP, Black Hills NF), then WY (Cody, Yellowstone).

If it was me, I'd forget about going further west and would head down to Utah (it is scenically amazing - don't miss Bryce, Canyonlands, and Glen Canyon/Lake Powell). From there to AZ (Grand Canyon, Sedona), then NM (Sante Fe, Taos), the northern tip of TX (Amarillo), into OK.

Between OK and NOLA, I have no specific recommendations, except that we really liked it around Lake Sabine (East TX) and Natchitoches (western LA).

From NOLA, my own preference would be to travel up through MS (Memphis) and into TN (Nashville) and head back to NJ via Asheville (NC) and the Appalachians.

I know these route suggestions don't tick off all your listed places... but it would probably be doable in your three week allocation.

Whatever you decide, I hope you keep at least a brief journal of your travels, and report back to us when you get home.
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Old 06-07-2010, 06:52 PM
 
Location: Bel Air, California
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One suggestion I would make is to spend some time each day off the interstate where you'll see much more that each area has to offer. Especially out west where the relaxed speed limits and scarcity of towns will still allow you to average 60 - 70 mph and you will sacrifice at most 10 or 15 miles and hour. When traveling the major US and state highways you'll frequently have two lanes of traffic in each direction and bypass most (but not all) towns. Much better having lunch at a small diner or bar in town than at the 17th McDonalds that you conveniently find next to the interstate.

One route in particular I would recommend is Hwy 44 that runs south (heading E-W) of I90 in South Dakota. I'd pick it up heading South on I29 out of Sioux Falls or just East of Badlands NP. Believe it's within 30 - 40 miles of I90 and offers an immensely different (from the monotony of I90) and enjoyable route through a surprising landscape of hills, trees, gullies, wildlife and seldom straight roads for very long. Little traffic and just an occasional town just often enough to offer a chance for a stop.

Not hard to find these hidden gems out West as long as you have a good map to plan your route and the inclination to see the real America and not a billboard laden cement conduit.
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Old 06-07-2010, 07:00 PM
 
Location: Australia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghengis View Post
One suggestion I would make is to spend some time each day off the interstate where you'll see much more that each area has to offer. Especially out west where the relaxed speed limits and scarcity of towns will still allow you to average 60 - 70 mph and you will sacrifice at most 10 or 15 miles and hour. When traveling the major US and state highways you'll frequently have two lanes of traffic in each direction and bypass most (but not all) towns. Much better having lunch at a small diner or bar in town than at the 17th McDonalds that you conveniently find next to the interstate.
I entirely agree and meant to say something to the same effect in my post!
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Old 06-07-2010, 07:06 PM
 
Location: most beautiful place ever
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I was thinking about this today and have some opinions . my parents did a xcountry trip 2 years ago, in 3 weeks. not stopping as much as you, frequently, but what they did, was from Northeast Pa, went Rt 80, down to Rocky mtn NP. stayed there 3 days. then went to Park City, Ut, for 3 days. then down to Phoenix for a few days. (visiting my siblings). From there, they returned, i think Rt 40. they didnt stop much along the way but only drove 8-10 hr days.
I say go for it! even if you end up rushing home the last few days, no biggie.
OH! and i agree, cut out some Cali and definitely take in Bryce Canyon, Capital Reef, and Arches NPs. And for a little treat, check out Goblin Valley state park, in between Cap Reef and Arches for a strange sight!
OH! and as much as i love Sedona, i dont think it needs a full day, unless you like all the shopping.
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Old 06-07-2010, 07:28 PM
 
Location: We_tside PNW (Columbia Gorge) / CO / SA TX / Thailand
22,704 posts, read 40,103,214 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stoymonkey View Post
...
OH! and as much as i love Sedona, i dont think it needs a full day, unless you like all the shopping.
agreed, Sedona would not be on my 'must do' list, especially in summer. Last time, it took 30 min just to drive through it (should be a 5 minute trip). For mega time savings (from UT), you might want to get a flight over the Grand Canyon and to North Rim. South Rim is where the action is (nice, but too crowded). A flight would be a really valuable experience, and save lots of fuel / time. If you are driving to Grand Canyon, definately be on the rim for sunrise. Flagstaff is kinda outta the way if you are in UT. Flagstaff is nothing special, but is the most vibrant town you will find in Northern AZ. You will see lots of similar towns at similar elevations, and plenty of 'sw' shopping. I would do Estes Park, Steamboat, Glenwood Springs, or Gunnison Colorado, or Santa Fe, NM.

If you get near Las Vegas, don't miss Valley of Fire state park (~ 50 miles NE). It is the best thing in Vegas that no-one knows about.
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Old 06-07-2010, 07:58 PM
 
Location: Bel Air, California
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A few other suggestions that may make your trip a less hectic/frantic experience (as some already have alluded to).

1. Forget Vegas this time around, as someone already said it's cheap to fly out to and a few hours there will not provide the exposure that is really needed to enjoy the restaurants, gaming, shows and night-life. Having a few days there will also allow you to check out Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, fly-over the Grand Canyon and see some of the interesting desert parks near by.

2. Forget California and save that for an extended vacation when you can see all the fantastic areas at a more leisurely pace. If you are passing through it on your way to or from Washington/Oregon, head through the Lake Tahoe area (the Donner Party historical site is right off the freeway) and pick up the coast highway up through N California and drive through Redwoods NP on your way North.

3. I'd save Yosemite for an extended visit (a couple nights in the Ahwahnee Hotel and a hike into the back country) and skip a quick drive through the valley. You'd spend a half day just getting to and from the park from Tahoe, San Francisco or LA and as you left you kick yourself for not allocating more time to spend there. But even so, if you got a day to spare, and are in the general vicinity, you couldn't do much better than experience the view you'd get coming into the Valley floor. Still the most awe inspiring vista I have ever seen and unable to really capture it in a photo even such as this (from Wikipedia)...

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Old 06-07-2010, 08:08 PM
 
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Yea I can't imagine skipping Yosemite if you are in CA but I also can't imagine only a day or a half day there.... You should maybe skip CA and
do that when you have more time, fly in and rent a car from LAX and see
CA that way.

I drove across country in 2007 and 2008 ( Boston to CA then CA to Boston) taking the upper states one way and the lower the other. It was great and we did it in 7- 8 days each way pulling a trailer. I would have loved to have another week so we could actually stop for a day somewhere nice and recharge. But we had a schedule. It was still fun though. Just plan your itinerary loosely so if you decide to change it , you have alternate ideas - Maybe pick 4-5 must have stops and then loosely plan the rest...

have fun!
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Old 06-07-2010, 08:12 PM
 
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Also do you have to do this in that time frame? All the NP will be SOOO crowded during the summer. I avoid Yosemite from June- August . I usually go every year in Sept and it is a much
less crowded and pleasant experience. I rarely vacation in the summer anymore... spring and fall
are so much nicer, and cheaper usually too. I'm not limited by kids though .. I know its hard for some to take vacation at other times. We travelled cross country in Late Oct and early November and had no issues with weather and it was really nice.
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