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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Fairfax, VA for now... Portland, OR in a month.
    Posts
    5

    Default VA to Portland via San Diego

    Hey there! Sorry for the long (first) post, but I thought it better to give too much info, than not enoughÖ

    Iím moving from Washington, DC to Portland, OR, and Iíve decided to take 3 weeks to see some sights and friends in the southwest along the way. Iíve been scouring the interwebs for weeks, and lurking this board for a few days, soaking up as much as I can. Iím trying to do all this on a very low budget, with a dog, but otherwise by myself. I discovered www.freecampgrounds.com and I think Iíve found quite a few free or cheap places to camp along the way. I have friends to crash with in Austin, Ft. Worth, Phoenix, San Diego & Eureka, and I really want to see the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, so those are my primary way points. I listed dates, just so I could give my friends an estimate of when Iíll be knocking on their doorÖ and Iím definitely leaving on the 15th, currently scheduled to arrive in Portland on the 31st, but thatís just wishful thinking. I could arrive in Portland as late as June 4th. Ideally, Iíd like to get there a few days earlier, since I start my new job on the 5th, but I do have a few extra days built in, so maybe you guys could point out, where Iím mostly likely going to need or want to spend those days. Iíd love any advice or recommendations the experts around here might have. Some specific concerns of mine, as I outlined this tripÖ

    Is it unreasonable to think I can get up at the crack of dawn, and drive 10+ hrs to a campsite?

    How bad of an idea is it to sleep during the day and drive at night?

    Iím considering this because Iíve had difficulty finding a place to stay in the Yosemite area. I plan on camping at Lake Isabella, south of Sequoia park. From San Diego, I should get there early enough to get plenty of rest, and get moving before dawn, the following day. From there, Iím tentatively thinking Iíll head up 395, east of the Sierras, to Yosemite (~5hrs) and cross through the park westbound on 120. Unless I decide this is a totally stupid idea, Iím thinking I could hang out in the park all day, and take my time, catch naps here and there, or find a nice place to curl up for a few hoursÖ then head out after the sun goes down, and haul it all the way to Eureka (~ 8 hrs, via I-5) where Iíll have a day or two to rest.

    Any help you guys have is greatly appreciated. Iíve never been on the road by myself for more than 8 hrsÖ and Iíve never traveled west of the Mississippi, so this is all very exciting, albeit somewhat intimidating.

    Hereís my tentative outline:

    - May 15th: Blacksburg, VA to Natchez Trace, TN (500 miles, 10 hrs)
    - May 16th: Natchez Trace to Lambert, AR (320 Miles, 6 hrs)
    - May 17th: Lambert to Austin, TX (465 miles, 9 hrs)
    - May 18th: Austin, TX
    - May 19th: Austin to Ft. Worth, TX (190 miles, 4 hrs)
    - May 20th: Ft. Worth to Palo Duro Canyon, TX (340 miles, 6 hrs)
    - May 21st: Amarillo, TX to Petrified Forest, AZ (520 miles, 8 hrs)
    - May 22nd: Holbrook, AZ to Grand Canyon, AZ (180 miles, 3 hrs)
    - May 23rd: Flagstaff to Phoenix, AZ (150 miles, 2 hrs)
    - May 24th: Phoenix to San Diego, CA (350 miles, 6 hrs)
    - May 25th: San Diego, CA
    - May 26th: San Diego, CA to Lake Isabella, CA, (400 miles, 7 hrs)
    - May 27th: Lake Isabella to Yosemite National Park (240 miles, 5 hrs)
    - May 28th: Yosemite to Eureka, CA (480 miles, 9 hrs)
    - May 29th: Eureka/Redwoods, CA
    - May 30th: Eureka, CA to Crater Lake, OR (200 miles, 4 hrs)
    - May 31st: Grants Pass, OR to Portland, OR via 101 (370 miles, 9 hrs)

    Totals ~ 4,700 miles, 90 hrs

    Thanks so much for all the great advice Iíve already gained from this board, and any other guidance anyone can provide.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Tioga Pass is still Closed!

    Quote Originally Posted by Leroy
    Iím moving from Washington, DC to Portland, OR, and Iíve decided to take 3 weeks to see some sights and friends in the southwest along the way.
    Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum and thanks for spending the time reading the posts. There is a big hitch in your plans for Yosemite -- Tioga Pass (SR-120) is still closed and so you will not be able to reach Yosemite NP from the east side of the Sierras, unless you are airborne!

    If you reach Eureka over the Memorial Day weekend -- you really should take the time to check out the KSR -- some of us from RTA will be there too.
    ...and Iím definitely leaving on the 15th, currently scheduled to arrive in Portland on the 31st, but thatís just wishful thinking. I could arrive in Portland as late as June 4th.
    Portland is a great road trip city -- home to some very yummy bread too!
    Is it unreasonable to think I can get up at the crack of dawn, and drive 10+ hrs to a campsite?
    It is a bad idea, perhaps with a co-driver it could be done, but as a solo traveler -- Camping is more energy-dependent than using motels. Moderator Judy will take exception to this, probably, but I have never thought of camping as a good solution when on a modified speed run.
    How bad of an idea is it to sleep during the day and drive at night?
    Unless you are already a day sleeper, it is a good way to get yourself killed. Personally, I like driving at night, but there are inherent risks traveling this time of year in the west -- migratory animals (deer, elk, etc.) are on the move and you increase the chances of a collision when you drive at night.
    Iím considering this because Iíve had difficulty finding a place to stay in the Yosemite area. I plan on camping at Lake Isabella, south of Sequoia park. From San Diego, I should get there early enough to get plenty of rest, and get moving before dawn, the following day.
    Lake Isabella is a good choice, although I think I would recommend Springville (up by Giant Sequoia NM) since you won't be going north up US-395 (unless you want to miss Yosemite).
    then head out after the sun goes down, and haul it all the way to Eureka (~ 8 hrs, via I-5) where Iíll have a day or two to rest.
    You will need a police escort to travel from Yosemite to Eureka in eight hours. I doubt even President Bush could do that! If you make it in less than nine hours, you will have exceeded the speed limit several times and probably picked up a couple of speeding tickets for souvenirs.
    Any help you guys have is greatly appreciated. Iíve never been on the road by myself for more than 8 hrsÖ and Iíve never traveled west of the Mississippi, so this is all very exciting, albeit somewhat intimidating.
    It is going to be a grand adventure!

    Happy Planning!

    Mark

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Fairfax, VA for now... Portland, OR in a month.
    Posts
    5

    Default Thanks!

    Man, the KSR looks hilariously awesome. The timing might work out perfectly. If I'm there, I'm there!

    Also, I'm reading Judy's speed run tips, and there's a lot of good advice there.

    Wow, thanks for pointing out that the 120 is closed. I'm not sure how I overlooked that in my research... but that would've been a rude surprise.

    Springville looks like a good spot, and it'll help me spread out my driving time a little bit. Do you have any further info on camping spots there? I found this (http://www.freecampgrounds.com/detail.aspx?id=661) in the same vicinity.

    I was really looking forward to crossing Yosemite, so now that that's scrapped, I may opt to visit Sequoia instead. If anyone knows of any camping spots roughly between Sequoia and Eureka, that's really what I need to find. If not, I may need to reserve a pet-friendly hotel room. I may also opt for a hotel, instead of camping, in TN or AR, and perhaps NM or AZ, just to ease the burden of those consecutive long drives.

    Thanks!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default It's all good!

    Quote Originally Posted by Leroy
    I was really looking forward to crossing Yosemite, so now that that's scrapped, I may opt to visit Sequoia instead.
    I am not sure you really have time to do both. You can still see much of Yosemite, but Sequoia is pretty amazing too. Here is a little more info about that section of this road adventure.
    If anyone knows of any camping spots roughly between Sequoia and Eureka, that's really what I need to find.
    I would suggest staying overnight around Clear Lake and then follow US-101 (instead of I-5) the time of travel is almost the same because of the slowness of SR-299 (although that is a flat-out gorgeous river chasm).

    Mark

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default Sequoia NF

    There are several free/cheap campgrounds in the Sequoia National Forest, including the one you found. I've stayed both at official Forest Service campgrounds as well done some dispersed camping in random areas of the forest in both the Springville and Johnsondale areas. They both could work well, just keep in mind that the drives from the main highway back into the forest are not fast. They are narrow mountain roads that require you to slow down.

    There is a national forest service office on the north end of Bakersfield, close to the 99 freeway that could help you with more specifics to find exactly what you are looking for. They can also give you a fire permit, which you'll need if you want to camp outside an official campground.

    There are also some nice areas with Giant Redwoods in the nearby Sequoia National Monument, which would be much closer than trying to see the Sequoia National Park, and would make it much easier to fit in the Yosemite Valley.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Fairfax, VA for now... Portland, OR in a month.
    Posts
    5

    Default I love it when a plan comes together...

    Thanks Michael!

    I found some good info on the Springville area here: http://www.climber.org/DrivingDirections/mtnhome.html

    It looks like I'll have plenty of options there. I think I'll try to camp there, and then drive up to Yosemite the next day. I don't think I could fit in Yosemite and still make it to Clear Lake, but I might try camping in the Stanislaus National Forest the following night. Looks like plenty of options there as well:
    http://totalescape.com/active/campstuff/NF/stanisl.html

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default What a great adventure!

    And, yes, I disagree with our esteemed Editor on the camping issue. First, I truly sleep better in my tent than I do in a strange motel. Oh, don't get me wrong, I can sleep anywhere. But I seem to sleep deeper in my tent. Maybe it's the fresh air? Second, even though I tend to stop a lot and explore and try to squeeze in at least a good walk or hike daily, I still have some kinks after a day on the road. Putting up my tent, etc., really helps get the kinks out. Third, I enjoy taking a walk before bedding down and, in a campground, you can walk around outside and, more often than not, get a chance to talk with other folks enjoying the outdoors. I meet some of the coolest people this way. Walking around a hotel parking lot just doesn't cut it for me.

    The free campgrounds website is helpful. You might also check out Woodall's website that lists lots of campgrounds across the country. Woodalls has some great books listing campsites. Very helpful. They have very reasonable priced regional guides. Sometimes you can find these used at Amazon. Also check out the excellent recommendations on this website here.

    Most national forest land allows dispersed camping so this might be an option for you if you can't find established campgrounds. And you might want to check out possible Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas along your route. These often have free or very-low cost camping areas.

    I'm really uncomfortable with the idea of you trying to drive through the night unless that's your normal sleep routine. Fatigue can really set in and, even if you don't fall asleep, your reflexes will be slower. Hope you're getting some good hints on speed runs from the little ditty I wrote.

    Do you have good plans for caring for your dog at your planned stops? Some of these areas will be quite hot and there will be limitations on where your dog can go. Some places, like the Grand Canyon, do have kennels available for your dog but I would sure make reservations ahead of time. My dog really can't take the heat well so I have to watch this carefully. Be sure you water her a LOT.

    Oh, and remember that having a dog will also make your trip take a tad more time. It's not fair to the dog to make him/her sit in a car for hours. You should really plan for stopping at least once every 2 hours for a decent walk and potty break. In fact, that's a good schedule for you, too!

    I hope your dog travels well. Mine does love to be in the car but I know of other dogs who get carsick. Some who like short roadtrips around town will still get carsick when in the car for long periods of time. Especially on windy roads. I'm glad mine doesn't have the problem. Hope yours doesn't either.

    You're already getting good advice on your itinerary, so I won't go there. But bear in mind that roadtrips almost always take longer than you think they will. I usually find it best to expect the trip to take longer than I really think it will and plan accordingly. If I'm making good time and beating my estimates, then I know I can stop here-and-there along the way and see a few more things without getting behind. And, if you really must do a super-long driving day, then try to intersperse that with days of rest or shorter drives.

    I'm in Washington state so Welcome to the Great Pacific Northwest!!! I hope you'll enjoy it here.

  8. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Leroy
    Here’s my tentative outline: [ .. ]

    - May 15th: Blacksburg, VA to Natchez Trace, TN (500 miles, 10 hrs)
    - May 16th: Natchez Trace to Lambert, AR (320 Miles, 6 hrs)
    - May 17th: Lambert to Austin, TX (465 miles, 9 hrs)
    - May 18th: Austin, TX
    - May 19th: Austin to Ft. Worth, TX (190 miles, 4 hrs)
    - May 20th: Ft. Worth to Palo Duro Canyon, TX (340 miles, 6 hrs)
    - May 21st: Amarillo, TX to Petrified Forest, AZ (520 miles, 8 hrs)
    - May 22nd: Holbrook, AZ to Grand Canyon, AZ (180 miles, 3 hrs)
    - May 23rd: Flagstaff to Phoenix, AZ (150 miles, 2 hrs)
    - May 24th: Phoenix to San Diego, CA (350 miles, 6 hrs)
    - May 25th: San Diego, CA
    - May 26th: San Diego, CA to Lake Isabella, CA, (400 miles, 7 hrs)
    - May 27th: Lake Isabella to Yosemite National Park (240 miles, 5 hrs)
    - May 28th: Yosemite to Eureka, CA (480 miles, 9 hrs)
    - May 29th: Eureka/Redwoods, CA
    - May 30th: Eureka, CA to Crater Lake, OR (200 miles, 4 hrs)
    - May 31st: Grants Pass, OR to Portland, OR via 101 (370 miles, 9 hrs)
    [ .. ]
    A couple of random comments?

    Heading west through Yosemite from 395 may be questionable. That's the 120 route over Tioga pass, which doesn't open some years until July. You might want to check conditions on it and head up a more western route (such as cut over to 99 and go north the west side of the Sierras) if the road is closed. Alternatively you can continue up and cut west at Reno through Sacramento. It is a spectacular road though...

    As mentioned elsewhere, Yosemite to Eureka in 8 hours or so is probably unreasonable. The most direct route which the computer map data bases give you is via CA route 36 from Red Bluff in the central valley to near Eureka. I last drove it around 6-7 years ago, and at the time it was a narrow (lane and a half in places) and rather winding road. Beautiful country to drive through, and some nice campgrounds along the way. But you won't do a speed run on it. The other routes up the coast route (101) are better, but not as direct, but still not superhighway speed runs for a significant chunk of the route, either.

    The Eureka to Crater Lake time looks rather optimistic too. I took 199 about 2 years ago (from Crescent City to Grants Pass, with a stop at Oregon Caves), and the road over the coast range is good, but narrow and winding. Again, you won't be making high speed on it -- probably 45-50 mph. Add a couple of hours, as I think Eureka to Crater Lake is doable in a day.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Fairfax, VA for now... Portland, OR in a month.
    Posts
    5

    Default Thanks again!

    Larrison -

    Yeah, I'm revising my trip to avoid 395 to 120. It won't be open, unfortunately. I've also added another stop in between Yosemite and Eureka... most likely in the Stanislaus National Forest... Beardsley lake, perhaps. This takes care of my question about night driving... which I've never had a problem with (or day-sleeping... I can sleep pretty much anywhere, any time)... but I wasn't comfortable with it to begin with, which is why I mentioned it up front. I'm relieved to scratch that off the game plan.

    Judy -

    As you recommended, I've found a lot more camping options once I started scanning the national forest pages. My dog does travel well... I've had her in the car for up to 8 hrs, and she doesn't seem to mind. I'll be stopping around the 2 hr intervals you suggest and I'll be sure to get her out and moving around. I plan on taking a lot of pictures, so it's fine by me. She's a small black lab mix, so her thick black fur is no good for heat... I'm taking the clippers with me, so she might get a hair cut, if I feel it'll help her out. She loves to swim, so hopefully she'll have some opportunities to cool off that way... and if not, I'll be carrying at least an extra 5 gallons of water... maybe 10. I drive a late model Toyota pick up, with low miles so *knock on wood* it should be pretty reliable, with the AC. Honestly, that's my biggest concern is keeping her cool and comfy, so I'm going to be so overly paranoid about that. I certainly welcome any other suggestions to make things smoother for her.

    I've tried to plan everything out so that I can camp, or crash with friends the whole trip... but I expect that plan to fail at some point, and I've got a few extra days, and plenty of extra cash for whenever I need to find a hotel. I'm making a list of dog-friendly hotels along my route to keep as a backup plan... and I'm definitely going to pick up one of those Woodall's directories... I'm like you, I'd much rather be camping.

    I'm still pretty intimidated by the scale of this trip. I'm really glad I found this board. Not only have I found some great advice, but I just feel a lot better about the whole thing hearing from folks who've done this before, and how positive their reflections are.

    One specific question I have yet to answer... In case anyone reading is familiar with the Crater Lake region this time of year... I've discovered that the north entrance via Rt. 232 will be closed... but I'm thinking of camping near the Umpqua Hot Springs, which is off of Rt. 138. I believe I can enter Crater Lake from the west via Rt. 62, and still see the lake... then back track to 230, and head north to meet 138. I haven't been able to find any information on 230 or 138 closings, so I'm hoping that means they're open year round.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Crater Lake

    Honestly, that's my biggest concern is keeping her cool and comfy, so I'm going to be so overly paranoid about that. I certainly welcome any other suggestions to make things smoother for her.
    One suggestion I have that will make both of your lives easier -- get a couple of laminated signs made up that you can attach to the inside of your windows that say something like "This truck is climate-controlled for the safety of my dog" (Make sure that is a true statement) It will prevent mistakes in judgement by folks who can't tell the difference between a "hot dog" left in a car who is panting and an "excited dog" who is bored when left in the truck while you go grocery shopping or whatever...
    I'm making a list of dog-friendly hotels along my route to keep as a backup plan...
    I looked at a book that came out earlier in the year, I chose not to review it because it didn't meet our criteria -- but as another possible tool, you might look at it for Pet-friendly motels.
    and I'm definitely going to pick up one of those Woodall's directories... I'm like you, I'd much rather be camping.
    I like Woodall's but for your specific interest -- e.g.: tent camping, I think Frommer's RV & Tent Campgrounds is a far better match.
    In case anyone reading is familiar with the Crater Lake region this time of year.
    I would keep checking the operations page for the park -- they keep it updated. And even better, when you get close -- you can call the Dispatch Office [(541)594-3000] and get the most current road conditions.

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