First of all, great site. I've spent tons of time the last couple weeks reading the articles and forums here and it's been invaluable in my planning.
I'm planning a road trip for myself and my mom starting at the end of april and lasting for a couple weeks into May. Let me give you a little background info so you can better understand what we are looking to accomplish. I enjoy the occassional moderate hike, but my mom is disabled and strenous walks are impossible for her. So, we wouldn't be spending a lot of time hiking trails. The max would probably be 1 mile roundtrips as long as the ground isn't too rugged. I suppose that means most of the sight seeing will consist of driving to look out points and such. We were planning to reserve our lodgings at Yosemite before leaving and just winging it lodging-wise for the rest of the trip so that's why we have the long drive to Yosemite at the beginning. We'd like to have the flexibility of no reservations after Yosemite.
We are aiming for being away for 14 days, but a couple days more, if needed, wouldn't make or break things. Here's the rough itinerary I have so far.
April 29th - May 1st
Drive from central Missouri towards Yosemite following I-44/I-40 and skirting the Sierras near Bakersfield, CA. A short stop at Petrified Forest NP along the way.
Arrive at Yosemite around mid-day.
Leave Yosemite that morning for Big Sur. Spend a few hours driving down CA-1 with a few scenic stops along the way. Cut east towards Bakersfield near the end of the day to find a hotel for the night.
Drive from Bakersfield to Death Valley. Spend a few hours in Death Valley then drive on to Las Vegas to spend the night.
Drive from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon West and tour the new Skywalk. Maybe throw in a stop at Hoover Dam along the way. Drive from Grand Canyon West to the South Rim and stay the night nearby.
Grand Canyon South Rim
Drive from Grand Canyon South to Zion NP. Spend the rest of the day in Zion and stay nearby (perhaps Cedar City?) that night.
Try to catch the sunrise at Bryce Point in Bryce Canyon. Spend about a half day there. Start the drive home that afternoon following I-70 back to central Missouri.
Arrive home that evening.
That puts us at 13 days total. I'm thinking of adding an extra day or two in at Las Vegas, Yosemite, Grand Canyon or whatever else you guys might suggest.
Is this timetable do-able? I realize that we are packing a lot of territory into a 2 week vacation. Any suggestions for reversals, switcheroos, or such in the route? We would really like to see Zion and Bryce, but we could skip those parks if this timetable is just too insane to work. Yosemite, Big Sur, Death Valley, and the Grand Canyon are a must, though.
A few other questions:
What are the crowds like in general in early May? Would we be able to make it without hotel reservations?
Is there any potential for freezing precip. along the way? We'll be taking my Mazda RX-8 with summer tires so if we run into any of the white stuff we'll have to hole up somewhere until the roads clear. Besides that threat the drive should be great fun and is a large part of the attraction of this roadtrip for me.
I'm having a hard time deciding on the route to take from the Bakersfield area to Death Valley. I was thinking of taking CA-58 to Barstow -> I-15 to Baker -> CA-127 to Shoshone -> CA-178 to Furnace Creek. It seems to be the fastest route, correct? Would this leave enough time in the day to see Death Valley and then drive on to Las Vegas before stopping for the night, or should we try and push on to Mojave or some other mid way point the day before and stay there instead of Bakersfield?
My longest roadtrip (with me as primary driver) so far has been a 900 mile round trip to Chicago and back. This one will be of a whole other caliber, and I'm really looking forward to it! Thanks for reading this long post and for any info you can provide. :)