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  1. #1

    Default Coast to coast and back again.

    Hello everyone! I've been reading this forum obsessively for the last week or so and really love all the great info available. My husband and I are planning a trip from Maryland to San Diego (and back!) this fall and thought I'd post our tentative itinerary here to get some feedback and suggestions.

    We are planning to purchase a Class B RV/conversion van soon, so we would be doing a mix of camping, boondocking and motels. We plan to take about 20 days for this trip. We did a Md to Vegas and back trip 2 years ago in 12 days and had a blast. We're very compatible roadtrippers and tend to drive pretty long days towards the beginning and end of our trips so that we can slow down a bit in the middle. We did several 600-700+ mile days on our last trip and still managed to really enjoy ourselves.

    Here's our plan so far.

    Day 1: Leave Maryland in the late afternoon/evening and head towards Cleveland (408miles). We would probably just drive until we are tired that night and then pull into a Cracker Barrel, Flying J or Walmart for some sleep.

    Day 2: Head towards LaCrosse, Wi (625 miles). We were thinking about going to the Rock and Roll Hall of fame that morning but they don't open until 10:00 and I'm afraid we would be too rushed and then get too late a start on the Cleveland to WI leg. It's close enough to our home to visit it another time when we would have the whole day. This will probably be on a Friday so I'm a little worried about the traffic we might hit passing through Chicago. I'm looking at alternative routes to bypass Chicago without adding a lot of miles.

    Day 3: Head towards South Dakota. LaCrosse to Interior, SD is 573 miles. We would probably stop for the night before then so we could drive through the Badlands in the day time.

    Days 4&5: We would slow way down on these days and spend time in the Badlands, Wall Drug, Mount Rushmore and Devils Tower, Wy. Possibly leave this area in the late afternoon or evening of the second day to try to get 100 miles or so into the next leg of the trip.

    Day 6: Head towards Salt Lake City. (652 miles from Devils Tower/644 from Mt Rushmore) We're not planning to spend much time in SLC-maybe just a drive-through to see the Mormon Tabernacle if we get there during the daytime. I'd like to be past SLC when we stop that night which is the main reason we would be leaving the Devils Tower/Mt Rushmore area the night before instead of waiting until the next morning.

    Day 7: SLC area to Lake Tahoe. 564 miles. This would probably be a night where we would try to stay at a nice hotel with a good view of the lake, especially if we've been camping a lot at this point. We wouldn't be doing a lot of sightseeing in Tahoe, maybe just a nice dinner somewhere.

    Day 8: Lake Tahoe through Yosemite to Big Sur. (410 miles) Camp that night in the Big Sur/Morro Bay area.

    Day 9: Big Sur to San Diego area. (We'd actually be staying about 30 miles north of San Diego, near my husband's daughter, so it's 386 miles if we take the coastal route most of the way .)

    Days 10 & 11: Visiting with hubby's family in San Diego area. He's from there and I've been there pretty often so we'd be doing more relaxing than sight-seeing. Perhaps a visit to Balboa Park and the Wildlife Park.

    Day 12: Leave San Diego area and head towards Sedona, Az. 438 miles

    Day 13: Sedona to Monument Valley (215 miles) through Canyonlands into Moab (164 miles)

    Day 14: Moab to Albuquerque (387 miles)

    Day 15 & 16: Albuquerque Balloon Festival. Possible side trip up the Turquoise Trail to Sante Fe.

    Day 17: Head towards Elk City, Ok (433 miles)

    Day 18: Elk City to OKC (111 miles) I'd like to see the Route 66 museum, stop at Jiggs Smokehouse in Clinton for beef jerky and possibly go to the OKC memorial museum. I've been to the memorial but not the museum. We would head out from there towards Springfield, Mo (397 miles)

    Days 19 & 20: Head home to Maryland's Eastern Shore. It's around 1100 miles from Springfield if we go through Louisville, Ky and across Western, Md. I'm still looking at alternative routes on this leg of the trip.

    Whew! That made me tired just typing all that. I'm pretty sure everyone's going to say this is way too ambitious of a trip but we're fairly experienced roadtrippers and I think having the Class B will help out a lot when we're doing the "speed run" legs of the trip because we"ll have our own bathroom and food and can stop and take naps, if necessary. Our last cross-country-and-back trip was around 5700 miles and we did that in a rental car with a dog along and managed to fit in side trips to the North Rim and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Zion and a lot more. I think the roadtrip gods were smiling upon us as we had a perfect trip. Great weather and we even won money in Vegas! This trip is at least 1300 miles longer but we have 8 more days.

    Any and all feedback would be welcomed. I'd really like some input on the Maryland to South Dakota leg to see if we can avoid Chicago without going too far out of the way. I'd also like some info on what the drive from Mt Rushmore/Devils Tower to SLC would be like. None of this is etched in stone and we might decide to go a completely different route, but I think this could be a great trip. This would be around the end of September and the first 2 weeks of October so we should be okay on weather in these areas.

    Thanks for reading this. Sorry it was so long.

    -Pam

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

    Default Long Days but good balance for the most part!

    Quote Originally Posted by bluehighways View Post
    Hello everyone! I've been reading this forum obsessively
    If that is the case, you probably have found more "good threads" they most of us can remember!
    We are planning to purchase a Class B RV/conversion van soon
    Which manufacturer are you considering? I have driven all forms of RVs and some of the well-built Class Bs remain my favorites.
    We're very compatible roadtrippers
    That is a relatively rare thing...The co-founder of RTA and I have spent hundreds of thousands of miles on the road together and we still find that achieving all elements of compatibility to be a challenge...
    Day 3: Head towards South Dakota. LaCrosse to Interior, SD is 573 miles. We would probably stop for the night before then so we could drive through the Badlands in the day time.
    Definitely do that -- remember to turn on your AM radio and listen to the Navajo radio stations -- the language sounds like singing with a mix of non-native American words tossed in like raisins in a green salad. Be sure to read Peter's field report for this area.
    Day 6: Head towards Salt Lake City. (652 miles from Devils Tower/644 from Mt Rushmore)
    I am not sure what route your are considering, but if you elect to drive during the early morning hours, instead of at night, Powder River Pass on US-16 is very scenic and you could swing by Thermopolis on your way south. But I am guessing that you are planning to swing south quicker and follow I-80? The Temple tour is interesting and the city has some very nice restaurants.
    I'd like to be past SLC when we stop that night
    Your timing could be perfect to stop and see something I have wanted to see for years. The world finals for the Bonneville Salt Flats Speed week will be October 3-6. Bonneville is just outside of Wendover (be sure to keep an eye out for this RTA roadside Marvel).
    Day 7: SLC area to Lake Tahoe.
    Since you have that class B, you might consider a detour to the Black Rock Desert -- it is other worldly and except for Burning Man celebrations very peaceful.
    Day 8: Lake Tahoe through Yosemite to Big Sur. (410 miles) Camp that night in the Big Sur/Morro Bay area.
    I think you will be frustrated by this day. You will be driving by (too quickly) some of the most scenic geography in the west. Plus, it may only be 410 (actually it looks like 437 to me) but it will take you nine hours of constant travel to cover this distance and these are not easy miles. It could well be the most tiring day of the trip!
    Day 9: Big Sur to San Diego area. (We'd actually be staying about 30 miles north of San Diego, near my husband's daughter, so it's 386 miles if we take the coastal route most of the way .)
    I dunno, even with the deduction of the 30 miles, it still will be at least 399 miles and this will be another 8+ hour day in the saddle.

    Days 13 to 20 look pretty reasonable to me and lots of great scenery and events.

    Mark

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Being Comfortable in Your Own Skin

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    As long as you've done this before and know what you can do and enjoy, I wouldn't say that this trip is "way too ambitious". Ambitious, yes, but not way too. First, a few general comments, some of which you already seem to have had in the back of your head when planning this. Mix up the long days (550 miles or more) with shorter days. Even two 600 mile days back-to-back can be physically and emotionally draining and ruin your enjoyment of the trip for a while. Make use of frequent breaks during a long drive. Even a half hour's walk through a small town can restore your energy and spirits, especially if you do it with a good friend. I think you've thought this out pretty well in those regards, but it never hurts to remind oneself.

    A couple of specific comments:

    If you've decided that you're going to skip the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and have no other reason to go through Cleveland, then think about staying on I-70 to Indianapolis and then use I-74 and I-39 to avoid Chicago. This becomes particularly important now that the Dan Ryan Expressway is under construction and traffic is diverting to the Tri-State Tollway. This detour would add about 100 miles to your trip, but save quite a bit on both tolls and mental fatigue.

    Here's a post where I discuss a possible route between the Mount Rushmore area and Salt Lake City.

    Days 8 and 9: While it's true that you can get from Tahoe to San Diego by way of Big Sur and the PCH in 'only' 900 miles of driving, those are almost all going to be slower than normal miles. You are certainly not going to be crossing Tioga Pass or traversing the LA basin at a constant 60 mph. Those miles are going to be much too scenic, congested or both for you to keep to the pace you're envisioning. I'd budget at least another half to full day for this portion, if only to enjoy Yosemite and the coast out of the car.

    AZBuck

  4. #4

    Default

    Hi Mark. Thank you for your quick, and helpful, response.

    Which manufacturer are you considering? I have driven all forms of RVs and some of the well-built Class Bs remain my favorites.
    Right now we are looking at a Pleasureway. I like the Roadtreks, too, and really think all of the Class Bs are nice but I'm kind of partial to the layout of the Pleasureway with the rear twin beds that convert to a king, and the enclosed bath. It's weird, because I had been doing a ton of research online about Class Bs and had fallen in love with the looks of this one particular Pleasureway model and then found the exact model a few days later at an RV dealer about 2 miles from my house. They don't specialize in Class Bs and it is the only one on their lot. It has very low mileage on it and their asking price is
    extremely reasonable. We're going to take it for a long test drive soon to check it out in traffic and windy conditions and get a mechanic to look it over. If everything checks out, we'll more than likely go ahead and buy that one.

    The co-founder of RTA and I have spent hundreds of thousands of miles on the road together and we still find that achieving all elements of compatibility to be a challenge...
    I read the story, last night, about how your house burned down and you and Megan decided to hit the road. I'm sorry you both had to go through that-my favorite cousin's house burned down and I know how devastated she was at the time. Your story is very inspirational.

    Quote:
    Day 8: Lake Tahoe through Yosemite to Big Sur. (410 miles) Camp that night in the Big Sur/Morro Bay area.

    I think you will be frustrated by this day. You will be driving by (too quickly) some of the most scenic geography in the west. Plus, it may only be 410 (actually it looks like 437 to me) but it will take you nine hours of constant travel to cover this distance and these are not easy miles. It could well be the most tiring day of the trip!

    Quote:
    Day 9: Big Sur to San Diego area. (We'd actually be staying about 30 miles north of San Diego, near my husband's daughter, so it's 386 miles if we take the coastal route most of the way .)

    I dunno, even with the deduction of the 30 miles, it still will be at least 399 miles and this will be another 8+ hour day in the saddle.

    I was a little worried about those two days. I guess we'll have to figure a way to give ourselves more time-especially on the part with Yosemite, because I know we are going want to do a little more than just drive straight through that. I think we might try to leave the Devils Tower/Mount Rushmore area a bit earlier and then we'll also possibly skip Lake Tahoe. I'm looking at some ways to try to ease up on the day when we'll be driving down the coast, too.

    Thanks for all your tips on things to see between Mt Rushmore and Salt lake City and beyond. I'm going to do some research on all the things you mentioned. That's an area that I really know very little about.

  5. #5

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    As long as you've done this before and know what you can do and enjoy, I wouldn't say that this trip is "way too ambitious". Ambitious, yes, but not way too. First, a few general comments, some of which you already seem to have had in the back of your head when planning this. Mix up the long days (550 miles or more) with shorter days. Even two 600 mile days back-to-back can be physically and emotionally draining and ruin your enjoyment of the trip for a while. Make use of frequent breaks during a long drive. Even a half hour's walk through a small town can restore your energy and spirits, especially if you do it with a good friend. I think you've thought this out pretty well in those regards, but it never hurts to remind oneself.
    Thanks for the friendly welcome. I think I'm going to love this forum. I'm glad to see that people here don't think we're too crazy for trying to attempt this. I know this style of roadtrip isn't for everyone but we both really love the driving part of the trip as much as the destinations. With my husband's family being on the other coast, we plan to do a lot of cross-country trips in the future and kind of think of these early trips as "scouting missions" to see where we want to spend more time on future trips.

    I was definitely trying to mix up the longer driving days with shorter driving days and even a day or two off here and there. I think we are also going to try to mix up camping days with the occasional motel room stay so we can stretch out a bit and take better baths/showers.

    A couple of specific comments:

    If you've decided that you're going to skip the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and have no other reason to go through Cleveland, then think about staying on I-70 to Indianapolis and then use I-74 and I-39 to avoid Chicago. This becomes particularly important now that the Dan Ryan Expressway is under construction and traffic is diverting to the Tri-State Tollway. This detour would add about 100 miles to your trip, but save quite a bit on both tolls and mental fatigue.
    That's really good info, thanks! I was kind of looking at that route earlier and was wondering if the extra miles would be worth it in terms of the aggravation avoided. I think that is probably what we'll do.

    Days 8 and 9: While it's true that you can get from Tahoe to San Diego by way of Big Sur and the PCH in 'only' 900 miles of driving, those are almost all going to be slower than normal miles. You are certainly not going to be crossing Tioga Pass or traversing the LA basin at a constant 60 mph. Those miles are going to be much too scenic, congested or both for you to keep to the pace you're envisioning. I'd budget at least another half to full day for this portion, if only to enjoy Yosemite and the coast out of the car.
    Yep, it looks like I'm going to have to rethink this part of the trip. My husband has made the trip from Big Sur to San Diego before and said he isn't as worried about it since we'll be driving into an area that he is pretty familiar with. We are thinking about only doing the coastal route about halfway down and then possibly cutting inland before we get to the LA area. If anyone has suggestions on this, that would be great. I've been to LA and done the Malibu section of the coastal route so we'd be happy to skip this entirely if there is a good way to do it without adding too many miles.

    Thanks again for all your help.

  6. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by bluehighways View Post
    [ ... ] My husband has made the trip from Big Sur to San Diego before and said he isn't as worried about it since we'll be driving into an area that he is pretty familiar with. We are thinking about only doing the coastal route about halfway down and then possibly cutting inland before we get to the LA area. If anyone has suggestions on this, that would be great. I've been to LA and done the Malibu section of the coastal route so we'd be happy to skip this entirely if there is a good way to do it without adding too many miles.
    The simplest way to handle this is to catch the 101 freeway at San Luis Obispo where the 1 and 101 come together, and then follow it all the way down to the LA area. The 101 and 1 generally follow the same route, although the 1 goes through more rural areas in some places, and is a slower route. The 101 does go inland at Oxnard, and parallels the Malibu area on what is usually a faster route.

    Going through LA you need to be worried about rush hour traffic of course, and heading for San Diego you will have to transverse the city. Probably the best route for you would be the 101 into the LA area, and then the 405 freeway south until it meets up with the I-5 freeway in Orange County. That's the fastest route, and the 405 freeway has a carpool lane (for vehicles with 2 or more people on board) for much of its distance, which should allow you to make better time in those sections, even in rush hour. In Orange County, there's a toll road (the 73 -- the "San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor") which bypasses some of the busy freeways there by going up and over the Irivine hills and cuts out 5-10 miles of the route -- for about $5-6. If traffic is moving its not needed, but is an option for you.

  7. #7

    Default

    Hey Larrison, thanks for the tips! I really appreciate it.

    My itinerary is starting to frustrate me. I usually prefer less structured roadtrips and I'm a little concerned that I'm not leaving any room for spontaneity. It's fun to plan and dream and look at maps though, so who knows what the route will look like by September. Keep the suggestions coming everyone!

    Also, Mark, I was checking out the web site for Thermopolis today and I definitely think I would like that. I'm considering cutting the MT Rushmore/Devils Tower portion back a bit so we can spend more time on the drive through Wyoming and in Yosemite and the PCH route. I mainly want to drive through the Badlands and don't really care how much time we have at Mt. Rushmore as long as I get to see it. We threw Devils Tower in there because I heard they have a great campground right at the base. I think they show Close Encounters of the Third Kind on a big screen there at night. That would be a surreal experience.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Here is another field report to review!

    Quote Originally Posted by bluehighways View Post
    I think we might try to leave the Devils Tower/Mount Rushmore area a bit earlier.
    Here is another field report that roughly follows some of your planned route. Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom of the post -- there is stuff about Devil's Tower and the Badlands in there too.

    Mark

  9. #9

    Default

    Thanks, Mark, that was a great field report. Very helpful!

  10. #10

    Default update

    Hello again. I thought I'd update this thread with our revised travel plans and see if anyone has additional route suggestions.

    In May, we bought the Class B/camper van that I mentioned earlier and we really love it. I think it's the ultimate roadtrip vehicle. It has completely changed our travel style. We've been out almost every weekend since we bought it but tend to go shorter distances and try to find back roads to our destination. We use campgrounds now instead of motels and have now started choosing campgrounds as our destination instead of as just a place to stay at our destination. With that in mind, we decided to skip the Yosemite and PCH legs of our trip and try to give ourselves some shorter drives and more time in the Arizona, New Mexico and Utah areas. The new (still tentative) itinerary looks something like this:

    Day 1: Leave Md's eastern shore in the late afternoon and drive about 300 miles into West Virginia/Ohio. I'm still thinking that we'll probably just pull the van into a Walmart that night to sleep although we haven't done that yet. We're fully self-contained (frig, bathroom, stove, heater, etc) so that shouldn't be a problem and it will get us on the road early the next day.

    Day 2: Drive through Ohio, Indiana and into Iowa. I'm thinking about making a stop in Dyersville Iowa to see the Field of Dreams site depending on the timing. (Mostly, I just like the way that adding that stop changes the route that Mapquest and Google maps gives me. It looks like it gives us a bit of a break from the interstate without adding too many miles. I'll try to post a map of my route soon to see what you all think of the roads we'll be traveling on.) We'll probably try to do about 500-600 miles this day. Spend the night in a campground.

    Day 3: Another 5-600 mile day into South Dakota. I'm still planning to stop before we get to the Badlands. We'll probably go to a motel room on this or the previous night to give us a break from the van.

    Day 4: Drive through the Badlands and go to Mt Rushmore. Camp in the Custer State Park area.

    Day 5: Hang out at Custer State Park. I found out that our timing for this trip coincides with a Buffalo Run and arts festival being held at Custer State Park that day so we'll probably just hang out at this and then leave that evening to get 100-200 miles into the next leg of the trip.

    Day 6: This is where the plans really change from my previous itinerary. We're going to skip SLC, Yosemite and PCH and instead cut sharply south through Wyoming and Colorado with Moab as our destination.

    Day 7: Arrive in Moab. Camp in Moab, Arches or Canyonlands.

    Day 8: Head toward Flagstaff driving through Monument Valley on the way.

    Day 9: Drive to Temecula, Ca

    Days 10 & 11: Visiting family in Temecula and San Diego.

    Day 12: Head towards Sedona.

    Day 13: Sedona to ?

    Day 14: Arrive in Albuquerque. Staying two nights there in a motel for the Balloon Festival.

    Day 15: Balloon Festival and possible side trip to Santa Fe since most of the festival events are at dawn and dusk. We might do the Sandia Peak Tram ride at some point on day 14, 15 or 16.

    Day 16: Catch the dawn Mass Ascension and then head out of Albuquerque on I-40

    Days 17, 18, 19 & 20: Take a fairly direct route home through Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, etc. We have another day available for travel if necessary.

    We're probably going to do about a 60/40 split between campgrounds and motel rooms. I'm finding that I really prefer staying in campgrounds but there are some destinations where it will be easier to stay at a motel and the B is so small that it will be nice to stretch out occasionally and take long hot baths/showers and do laundry. I shaved about 1000 miles off the previous itinerary so that we can, hopefully, make our travel days shorter and get into the campgrounds before dark.

    Any feedback, route suggestions or must-see sights along our route would be welcomed.

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