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.....