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  1. #1

    Default First Solo Roadtrip - 6,000 Miles - Your Comments Appreciated

    First of all, I'm a 42 year-old guy that has never:

    1. Taken more than a week of vacation at a time.

    2. Seen the heartland of the USA (been up and down the East Coast many times and also visited Chicago and Las Vegas).

    So, I'm rather excited (and slightly intimidated) about the possibility of planning and going on a three-week cross-country road trip. I have no real limitations to the trip other than the three-week time frame. I need to depart from and return to Buffalo within 23 days.

    I am currently thinking that the trip will occur the last three weeks of September. I will be traveling in an almost new 2007 Mazda3 hatchback (big enough for my 5'7" frame to sleep in with the back seat down).

    I have roughed out the following preliminary schedule. I have tried to incorporate nature/national parks as well as visits to cities that interest me. I think that the three-week time frame makes it difficult to do the West Coast. The primary places that I wanted to include were Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone/Grand Teton parks, Denver, Salt Lake City, St. Louis, Memphis and Nashville (none of which I have ever seen).

    Approximately 6,000 Total Miles

    Day 1 - Buffalo to Elkhart, Ind. (450 miles)
    Day 2 - Elkhart to Rochester, Minn. (450 miles)
    Day 3 - Rochester to Badlands National Park, SD. (510 miles)
    Day 4 - Badlands and Mount Rushmore (100 miles)
    Day 5 - Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone Park (500 miles)
    Day 6 - Stay Yellowstone (0 miles)
    Day 7 - Yellowstone and stay at Grand Teton (100 miles)
    Day 8 - Grand Teton to Salt Lake City (330 miles)
    Day 9 - Salt Lake City to Breckenridge, Co. (465 miles)
    Day 10 - Breckenridge to Denver (80 miles)
    Day 11 - Denver to Santa Fe, NM. (375 miles)
    Day 12 - Santa Fe to Albuquerque to Amarillo, Tx. (400 miles)
    Day 13 - Amarillo to Little Rock, Ar. (600 miles)
    Day 14 - Little Rock to Memphis, Tn. (135 miles)
    Day 15 - Memphis to St. Louis, Mo. (280 miles)
    Day 16 - St. Louis to Nashville, Tn. (300 miles)
    Day 17 - Stay in Nashville (0 miles)
    Day 18 - Nashville to Cincinnati, Oh. (270 miles)
    Day 19 - Cincinnati to Pittsburgh, Pa. (290 miles)
    Day 20 - Pittsburgh to Buffalo, NY (220 miles)

    I am planning on staying in hotels about 10 nights, campgrounds 3 nights, and sleeping in car 6 nights (to save money, I'm trying to keep this thing under $3,500). As you can see, I have only designed this as a 20-day trip which gives me three additional days that I can work in. I am planning on taking in baseball games in Denver, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh (home games align with my schedule above if I leave the 7th of September). I have never done anything like this, so I'd appreciate any input you have on the following:

    1. Is this trip too aggressive mileage wise?? Will I regret trading "slowing down" more often for seeing more places??

    2. Do you recommend any minor/major changes to the route (I have a lot of flexibility)??

    3. Are there any "must see" places, attractions, restaurants, etc. at any of these destinations or along the path I designed??

    4. Any suggestions on what to pack, or any other words of wisdom from veterans would be greatly appreciated.....
    Last edited by toddnick; 06-06-2007 at 11:34 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    10,941

    Default Staying Flexible

    Welcome to the RTA forum!

    I think you might be biting off a bit more than you can chew.

    Nothing on the face of your trip is itself too bad, and you've done a pretty good job of not trying to drive too far on any given day.

    But you also haven't given yourself much time just to relax and enjoy yourself. I think you will probably end up wanting a little more time just to get out and explore, instead of spending all day in a car.

    I think I would keep your plan flexible, and probably look at cutting off some of your more southern stops, like Sante Fe and Amarillo from this trip if you decide you want to spend a little less time actually driving.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Kentucky
    Posts
    7

    Default

    This sounds fun, although if you've never been on a solo roadtrip before, three weeks with nothing but yourself, your car, and the road can be almost frightening. But, hey, I'm planning on taking my tenth solo roadtrip, and I wouldn't have it any other way!

    I also noticed that you mentioned sleeping in your car 6 nights and camping for 3 nights. That means you plan to sleep in your car almost 1 out of every 3 nights.

    From personal experience, sleeping in your car can get old pretty quickly. The times I've done it, I've always felt safe, although others may disagree with that aspect. Personally, comfort is my issue. After sleeping in the car just one night, my neck hurts, and so does my back. It's hard to stretch out in the car, too. I can take that for a couple nights on an extended trip, but I would rather find an inexpensive campsite and relax a little bit more. You might find yourself enjoying your trip more if you camp more and sleep in the car less.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2000
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    9,499

    Default Some solo trip ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by toddnick View Post
    4. Any suggestions on what to pack, or any other words of wisdom from veterans would be greatly appreciated.....
    I would look at our road trip gear section and also these threads for more ideas:

    First time solo advice and poll

    Camping advice for the solo traveler

    Tips from Judy

    Tips from a wild and crazy gal

    Mark

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,319

    Default You've gotten good advice so far

    I agree with the other advice you've gotten (except for the fact the Editor doesn't seem to think that I, too, am a wild and crazy gal LOL).

    I think you should stick to your primary list of Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone/Grand Teton parks, Denver, Salt Lake City, St. Louis, Memphis and Nashville (none of which I have ever seen). Just these places and the various interesting stops on the routes along the way can more than fill the time you have.

    While most of us have done our share of speed runs, I think we all agree that the best trips can be those which allow time for exploring, meandering off the main route to someplace you've discovered that's intriguing, and that allows for more days of rest than you're planning. A rest day here and there on a 3-week trip is pretty important. You might decide to stay over at a particular nice campground or national park for example. I know you have 3 extra days so you can do this but I just think your mileage is too far.

    As for the camping/hotels/sleeping in cars issue, you got some good links there to explore. I would suggest camping more, staying in hotels less, and then keeping sleeping in the car only for those times when you find yourself without a hotel/campground for the night. If you camp more, you should save enough to cover the campground fees.

    It does sound like an exciting and thrilling adventure. I wish I could tag along. With just a bit of tweaking you should have a great trip where you can see a lot of this beautiful country without exhausting yourself in the process.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 06-07-2007 at 09:36 AM. Reason: typo

  6. #6

    Default Thank You All

    Thank you all for your feedback, this really is a new process for me.....I've planned several trips/vacations before and I'm pretty good at details....but solo road tripping for three weeks is a huge step....

    I have taken your recommendations and tried to construct a slightly more modest route that still hits my primary objectives and also fills the 23 days....let me know if you think this makes more sense.....it cuts off about 800 miles by eliminating the southern swing after Denver....

    Approximately 5200 Miles.....


    Part I - The Sprint to Yellowstone

    Day 1 - Buffalo to Elkhart, Ind. (450 miles)
    Day 2 - Elkhart to Rochester, Minn. (450 miles)
    Day 3 - Rochester to Badlands National Park, SD. (510 miles)
    Day 4 - Badlands and Mount Rushmore (100 miles)
    Day 5 - Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone Park (500 miles)

    Part II - National Park Mountain Majesty - Yellowstone & Grand Teton

    Day 6 - Camp Yellowstone (0 miles)
    Day 7 - Camp Yellowstone (0 miles)
    Day 8 - Yellowstone to Camp at Grand Teton (100 miles)
    Day 9 - Camp Grand Teton (0 miles)

    Part III - More Rocky Mountain Highs

    Day 10 - Grand Teton to Salt Lake City (330 miles)
    Day 11 - Salt Lake City to Breckenridge, Co. (465 miles)
    Day 12 - Stay Breckenridge/Ski Country (0 miles)
    Day 13 - Breckenridge to Denver (80 miles)

    Part IV - The Sprint Back to the Mississippi

    Day 14 - Denver to Topeka, Ka. (540 miles)
    Day 15 - Topeka to St. Louis, Mo. (310 miles)

    Part V - Gateway Arch, Country, Blues, and Graceland

    Day 16 - Stay St. Louis (0 miles)
    Day 17 - St. Louis to Memphis (280 miles)
    Day 18 - Stay Memphis (0 miles)
    Day 19 - Memphis to Nashville (220 miles)
    Day 20 - Stay Nashville (0 miles)

    Pary VI - Back Home Again

    Day 21 - Nashville to Cincinnati (270 miles)
    Day 22 - Cincinnati to Pittsburgh (290 miles)
    Day 23 - Pittsburgh to Buffalo (220 miles)

    For budget purposes:

    Lodging
    Hotel 12 nights ($70), Campground 6 nights ($25), Car 4 nights ($0)
    = $1,000

    Gas
    5,200 miles + 500 miles for side trips = 5,700 miles
    Mazda3 gets about 30 mpg with primarily highway miles
    Gas at 3.20 per gallon
    = $610

    Food/Drink
    Breakfast= $5.00/day, Lunch = $10/day, Dinner = $15.00/day, Coffee/Pop/Snacks/Beer(got to check out several local taverns across the US) = $20.00/Day (not skimping here, no way)
    Total = $50/day x 22 days = $1,100

    Other
    Park Admission, Baseball Games, Tourist Traps, Souvenirs, etc.
    = $600


    Total = $3,300 for trip


    I'll consider doing more tent camping rather than car sleeping. It depends on how readily I can find campgrounds near my target stops. I don't anticipate having any problems at Yellowstone/Grand Teton for camping being that it is after Labor Day and schools are back in session; is this a correct assumption?? Thanks again for all your input!!!!
    Last edited by toddnick; 06-07-2007 at 10:24 AM.

  7. #7

    Default

    I just posted about a trip from Chicago to Yellowstone I took a while back, so you can check out for ideas on that leg of it.

    Sleeping in the car is fine. That time of year, too, the campgrounds will be deserted which is just fine by me. I would stop by a KOA if you're sleeping in your car, they will usually let you shower for 5 bucks, which is worthwhile after a night in the car.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 06-07-2007 at 10:58 AM. Reason: preferred URL format herein

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Bay Area, CA
    Posts
    234

    Default Something you might want to be prepared

    Day 6 - Camp Yellowstone (0 miles)
    Day 7 - Camp Yellowstone (0 miles)
    Day 8 - Yellowstone to Camp at Grand Teton (100 miles)
    Day 9 - Camp Grand Teton (0 miles)
    While camping in Yellowstone is definitely possible in September, the weather does get cold. The average low is around 29 F. Just take enough warm clothes & always be prepared. Yellowstone is bear country, so it would be wise to be aware & check with Park Rangers ahead.

    Also, I am not sure about road openings & closure, but if you have the time & weather does permit, it is worth to drive along the Bear tooth pass. Two yrs ago, it was on this drive that I got to see a grizzly crossing the road barely 25 ft ahead; A red fox & a whole bunch of mountain goats. Have a camera handy. The place has magic written all over.
    The photos in the link don't do justice, though!

    Be well prepared, trust your instincts & have fun!
    cool
    Last edited by cool; 06-07-2007 at 12:08 PM. Reason: added more info

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,319

    Default Great job with planning!

    I think this route looks great. Your budget looks quite reasonable. The only thing you might find is that gas might be higher than you've estimated by fall. So you might pad the gas budget a bit.

    gosh, I sure hope you'll return here after your trip to share your epic adventure. And let us know if we can help you further.

  10. #10

    Default Yosemite/Grand Teton/Rocky Mountains

    I think that the second route I detailed above will be my general plan. I would like some help from you experts/veterans out there regarding the Rocky Mountain portion of my trip where I have built in a good deal of free time.

    1. Has anyone stayed at any of the campgrounds within Yellowstone or Grand Teton? What are your recommendations? My primary interest is more secluded, scenic campsites rather than a big open "suburbian" kind of feel.

    2. What are the "must-see" places at Yellowstone/Grand Teton (other than Old Faithful). I'm talking about scenic drives, trails, landscapes, etc.

    3. Does anyone know about Whitewater Rafting in or near Yellowstone?? Do they have it in September?? Is it worthwhile/scenic/expensive??

    4. I'll then be going to Salt Lake City followed by Denver (I actually am planning on stopping in Breckenridge which a friend recommended before Denver). Are there scenic routes that I should be taking that don't add too much mileage? Is Arches National Park too far out of the way off Route 70? Is it worth the trip?

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