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  1. #1

    Default Looking for Opinions on My Planned NH->WA->SoCal Roadtrip (July 2007)

    Hi everyone! First off, let me just say what a useful and friendly resource this Road Trip America site is! Itís really an asset for upcoming road-trippers like myself. Iíve been doing a lot of research based on other posts Iíve found on this forum, and Iíve pieced together the following preliminary itinerary for my move from NH to Orange County, CA early next month (July 2007). Iím shipping most of my belongings out in boxes to CA and meeting them there via my car.

    This is my first major road trip, and the first time Iíll be visiting states that donít touch the Atlantic Ocean (really!). Iíve given myself a flexible 3-4 weeks, and Iím trying to keep my trip pretty structured so that maybe I can make some reservations ahead of time. Hopefully Iím not setting aside too little/much time to do the things Iíve planned below in the way that Iíve segmented them. Maybe I need to split/combine some days? I was hoping the more experienced road-trippers here might not mind taking a look at my itinerary to see what might need tweaking. Maybe there are places Iíve left out that I should consider adding or maybe Iím trying to do too much and should probably leave some things out. Iíd appreciate your feedback so much!

    Right now the trip is 28 days long, but I think I might be leaning towards trying to tighten things up by a few days (if possible) in order to save a little money. This might be the only time Iíll be able to do such a big trip like this, so Iím trying to concentrate on visiting the really must-see areas of impressive/unique natural beauty, quaint ďwalk-aroundĒ towns, and nice aquariums/gardens/museums which interest me. Any opinions on where to make stopovers to sleep (especially places that might be less expensive) would be appreciated as well. Iíll be taking on grad school expenses this fall, so all Iím really looking for is a place to shower every couple days or so. I also plan on documenting the entire trip and putting photos online when Iím done. Thanks so much for your help everyone!

    This is what I have planned as of right nowÖ

    DAY 1:
    Start near Manchester, NH
    Head towards Greenfield, MA
    **(Planning on skipping Mohawk Trail to see Basketball HOF. Iíve never been to either, but is Mohawk really worth detouring to compared to other scenic parts of New England I might have already seen?)
    Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory (since it's on the way)
    Basketball Hall of Fame (to see Celtics memorabilia)
    Bish Bash Falls?
    Baseball Hall of Fame (to see Red Sox memorabilia)
    Sleep near Cooperstown?

    DAY 2:
    Finger Lakes Region
    Drive through Geneva/Waterloo, NY
    Letchworth State Park
    Sleep somewhere between Letchworth SP and Niagara Falls? (suggestions?)

    DAY 3:
    Niagara Falls (Maid of Mist, Cave of Winds, Fireworks)
    Sleep in Niagara Falls

    DAY 4:
    Holden Arboretum?
    Cuyahoga National Park
    Sleep near Independence, OH?

    DAY 5: (368 miles)
    Drive US-20 towards Chicago area
    Chicago Botanic Garden (actually in Glencoe, IL)
    Sleep near Glencoe?

    DAY 6: (510 miles)
    (mostly driving)
    Sleep near Worthington, MN

    DAY 7:
    Murdo, SD (1880ís town / Dances With Wolves sets)
    Badlands National Park
    Sleep near Badlands?

    DAY 8:
    Wind Cave National Park
    Custer State Park
    Jewel Cave National Monument?
    Sleep nearby (suggestions?)

    DAY 9:
    Crazy Horse Memorial
    Mount Rushmore
    Black Hills National Forest
    Sleep near Deadwood?

    DAY 10:
    Drive US-14
    Devilís Tower
    Sleep in Cody, WY

    DAY 11/12:
    (Drive to Beartooth Hwy?)
    Yellowstone National Park
    (Hopefully find a vacant campground nearby) (2 nights)

    DAY 13/14:
    Grand Teton National Park
    (Hopefully find a vacant campground nearby) (2 nights)

    DAY 15: (382 miles)
    (mostly driving)
    Sleep in Choteau, MT?

    DAY 16/17:
    Glacier National Park
    (Hopefully find a room) (2 nights)

    DAY 18:
    (mostly driving) (514 miles)
    Sleep in Ellensburg, WA?

    (Is the drive towards Leavenworth, WA and thru Cascades / Stevenís Pass worth a detour/reroute?)

    DAY 19:
    South towards Yakima
    Hwy 12 to Mt. St. Helens
    Cougar to Woodland
    North I-5 to Olympia then 101 thru Shelton
    Sleep near Port Townsend?

    DAY 20:
    Dungeness Spit
    (Drive Hurricane Ridge if clear)
    Neah Bay / Makah Indian Reservation
    Cape Flattery
    Trail of Mosses
    Ruby Beach
    Kalaloch Beaches
    Queets Rainforest?
    Sleep near Lake Quinault (North Shore?)

    DAY 21:
    Aberdeen, WA
    Astoria, OR (maybe see the Goonies House at 386 38th Street)
    Cannon Beach, OR
    Tillamook, OR
    Evergreen Aviation Museum?
    Depoe Bay, OR
    Oregon Coast Aquarium (Newport)
    Sleep in Newport, OR

    DAY 22:
    Florence, OR (Sea Lion Caves)
    Bandon, OR
    Crater Lake National Park
    Sleep in Ashland, OR?

    DAY 23:
    (Oregon Caves Monument worth a stop?)
    Brookings, OR
    Jebediah Smith Redwoods State Park
    Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (Roosevelt Elk)
    Eureka, CA
    Ferndale, CA
    Humboldt Redwoods State Park (Avenue of Giants)
    Sleep near Mendocino, CA?

    DAY 24:
    San Francisco, CA
    Golden Gate Bridge (Battery Spencer)
    Sleep in San Francisco

    DAY 25/26:
    Yosemite National Park
    (Hopefully find a vacant campground nearby) (2 nights)

    DAY 27:
    Sequoia National Park
    (Hopefully find a vacant campground nearby) (1 night)

    DAY 28:
    End near Anaheim, CA

    What does everyone think?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Well Done

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    There is a constant, underlying debate among RoadTrippers as to how much planning is enough. Some aren't comfortable with anything less than a step-by-step, hour-by-hour itinerary. Others fell they've planned enough when they have the tank full of gas, the cooler full of food, and themselves behind the wheel. I tend toward the former, but always leave time for the odd serendipitous discovery. I think that planning such as you have done helps guarantee that you know what's out there and don't miss something great just because it hasn't cluttered the roadside with advertising. I like the number of things you've found and the fact that many of them are followed by question marks. Maybe you'll get to them and maybe you won't depending on how things go, but you know they're there and you've left time in the itinerary for them.

    In fact, you have many more items on your list than we can normally recommend, and you have plenty of time for your journey. This trip could be made in under a week if all you did was make the drive, so yes - you probably can tighten up a day or two. The one bit of advice I'd offer is to be sure to stop at the Welcome Centers as you enter each new state. The attendants might be able to point you to a few attractions that you've missed, and besides, they often have money saving coupons and free maps!

    In the end, what I think is that you've done a great job of planning and as a result will have a great trip.

    And thanks for all the kudos.


  3. #3

    Default Reservations/Finding a Place to Sleep?

    Thanks for the feedback AZBuck. I've been reading about so many things that sound worth seeing, but I know that I can't visit everything. So rather than risk completely forgetting about some of these things when I'm actually in the area, I figured it would be better to keep them on my list (with question marks) just in case. I already have an idea of which places I think I'd like to see over others. It's so hard to pick and choose though, since I've never actually been to any of these places before and can't be sure of what I'll like. Originally I had left out most of the Pacific NW from my trip (all of WA), and now after reading posts from Judy, it's probably the area I'm most excited to see! (Go figure.)

    Really, the thing I'm most worried about is finding a place to sleep at night. From what I've read here, since I'll be traveling in July and plan on visiting a lot of National Parks, I'm probably going to have a hard time finding places to camp/sleep at night since it's peak visiting time for most places. I don't want to spend half my days visiting every campground and motel in the area to find someplace to stay and miss out on my actual "exploring" time. Am I being too over-concerned, or is making reservations ahead of time something I really should be considering in my situation?

    Also, if I were to stay somewhere (maybe an hour) outside Yellowstone for instance, should I expect to wait in line for hours before I'm actually able to enter the park? I'm sort of expecting something along the lines of an amusement/water park, but hopefully nowhere is that busy.

    And a couple last thoughts (sorry for all the questions!). What do people do about laundry? Simply visit the local laundromat every week or so? And are gas stations sparse enough in some areas that I should make finding them a priority?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Don't Worry; Be Happy

    Aha - the crux of the debate between those who plan and those who don't. If you're worried about finding a place to stay at night, book it now. These are just the kinds of worries and hassles that have no place on a vacation. When I get home, the adventures I want to remember are wandering down the odd back road and finding some unexpected gem, not shuttling between No Vacancy signs. In all probability you would be able to find lodging every night with a minimum of hassle, but if you're going to worry about it, pre-book.

    I have never experienced Yellowstone in the summer, only fall and winter. So I don't know first hand what the crowd situation will be like. We've all seen the videos of long lines of cars backed up where some bear or bison are crossing the road, but I don't think I've ever seen or heard of long lines at the entrances. Besides, it will be what it will be and there is no sense in worrying over things you cannot change. The experience of Yellowstone is worth the crowds - or so many people wouldn't be doing it.

    I know of only a very small handful of places where gas stations are even a hundred miles apart, none of them on your route. As long as you don't foolishly run your tank down towards empty on the assumption that there will be a station every 5 feet, you'll be fine. Laundry is another non-issue. Most motels and campgrounds offer laundry facilities either very close by or on the premises. Pack with an eye to minimizing the number of loads you have to do (lights vs darks; hot vs cold; etc) and you should have no problems.


  5. #5

    Default Thanks

    Thanks for responding again. I think it's in my nature to over analyze things, so hearing someone else's thoughts on the subject is helpful for me.

    I'm starting to feel that it might be better not to be tied down to reservations and a strict schedule, especially since the trip I'm planning is on the longer side. There's probably a good chance that I'll want to stay for a longer/shorter amount of time at some of the places on my list, and I'll want flexibility to avoid throwing the whole rest of the trip out of whack.

    Instead of making 4 weeks worth of reservations ahead of time, I think I'm going to research and make note of potential accommodations in the areas I expect might be busy. That way I'll have a handful of places already in mind to check out if I initially have trouble in a certain area. I imagine I could always ask for suggestions from people when I'm in the area as well.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Central California

    Default Great trip, great preparation


    Looks like you've done your homework. A couple of resources I'd suggest are 1) a AAA membership. You can pick up Tourbooks for each state you are visiting and be completely overwhelmed by the sightseeing options available, but it is a great way to find things you never knew about along the way. And it doesn't hurt to have a reliable road service. And 2) is a campground directory, unless you only plan on camping in the major parks. You can easily do research for the places you want to camp the next night and call early in the day or the day before to make reservations.

    If you like gardens, the botanical gardens in San Francisco and Fort Bragg, CA, and the rose garden in Portland are excellent. Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC (just across the water from Port Townsend), is among the best in the world. The Monterey Bay Aquarium in California is a must-see for west coast sealife in "natural settings", not doing tricks but behaving normally. We haven't been to the one in Newport, OR so I can't make a comparison.

    I don't want to be negative, but I do have to warn you that unless the 1880s town in Murdo, SD has been fixed up, it was in very bad shape two summers ago. It is on the way so I'd recommend stopping and taking a look over the fence, but be wary of paying a high entry fee for something that may be disappointing.

    Two or three additional thoughts:

    1. You may be able to find a more efficient way of seeing the Olympic Peninsula by taking a ferry across to Port Townsend. And make sure you get a drive by Mt. Ranier in there somehow.

    2. You need to put another night, at least, in San Francisco. While you'll be living "just down the coast" in Orange county, you'll probably not make many trips north the SF so it is best to spend an extra day or two now.

    3. From Cody to the best part of the Beartooth Highway you need to go back up to Red Lodge. MT. On my map one section of the "short cut" road is gravel and may be rough, but I don't know - never driven it.

    4. You won't find long lines to get into the national parks such as Yellowstone, but you may find long lines when a moose or bear or a herd of elk or bison are crossing the road. If you are lucky you'll be near the front of the line to witness the event.

    You've included a lot of great stuff (more than you'll be able to see in 28 days) but at least you've covered your bases. My only concern is that you are cutting your visits to a few places a little short. There is just so much to see and do in places like Yellowstone, Glacier, and some other places along the way that you may feel short changed. Keep in mind that near the end of a month-long trip you may be a bit road weary and you may start feeling that getting settled in your new environment is more attractive than visiting yet another scenic area. If that happens don't feel bad about leaving out some of the highlights of California for now. You can easily do a California-only trip later.

    Finally, there is a ton of interesting historical places along the way, but that doesn't seem to be your focus so I'll back off on that subject. Have a blast!

    Craig Sheumaker

    Co-author of A Traveler's Guide: America's Living History - The Early Years

  7. #7

    Default Excellent Suggestions!

    Craig, thanks so much for your feedback! I was hoping someone else might respond. I have a few comments and questions.

    I do really enjoy visiting gardens and aquariums, so I will definitely look into the places you've mentioned. I had been searching for destinations like these on my own via the internet, but wasn't really having too much luck. I also enjoy history museums if you feel there are any noteworthy ones along my path that maybe I should consider. Then again, I already have a lot on my plate. Monterey Bay Aquarium looks amazing though, and I much prefer seeing animals in a more natural setting. The only other aquarium I've visited before (several times) is the New England Aquarium in Boston, which I enjoy.

    I've been sort of hooked on gardens since visiting the botanical garden in Edinburgh, Scotland a year ago, so Butchart Gardens also seems like someplace I'd really like to see as well. It looks like there is a ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, but I would think that I'd probably want to leave my car on the WA side. Having previously lived on Martha's Vineyard for a little while, I know transporting vehicles back and forth can get expensive.

    Thanks for the advice on the 1880s town in Murdo, SD. It's not something that I was especially excited to see, more just something along the way. I enjoyed Dances With Wolves, so I was curious if I'd recognize any of the sets/props.

    As far as seeing the Olympic Peninsula goes, do you think it would be better to take the Edmonds-Kingston ferry across to Port Townsend, travel counter-clockwise around the coastline, and then move inland (from Aberdeen maybe) to see Mt. Ranier and Mt. St. Helens, and travel back out to the coast (to Astoria maybe) after that? I was under the impression that I should avoid the Seattle area if I don't plan on actually visiting the city since the traffic is so bad, and it seemed that entering WA from the northeast I could drive by Mt. Ranier on the way to viewing Mt. St. Helens and then just head due north and basically stay along the coastline until about Florence, OR. I've never been to the Pacific Northwest though, so I don't know if there are some problems with my logic in that path or not. Which way do you think would provide the least amount of needless travel? Everything I want to see is basically near the coast other than those two peaks.

    And I agree that staying in San Francisco for at least another day seems like a good idea. Who knows, maybe I'll want to go straight to the OC after that. I will try to play it by ear when visiting Yellowstone and Glacier too. It's so tough to pick and choose destinations and estimate how long I'll want to be someplace that I've never visited before. I'm just hoping that by having a general path in mind beforehand and knowing how much time I can spend on my trip overall will allow me to adjust and compensate along the way without feeling too rushed. I'm also trying to realize that I probably won't be able to visit everything on my list.

    Thanks again Craig for your other suggestions and comments as well. They all seem like excellent things to take into consideration and are very much appreciated.
    Last edited by Nick from New England; 06-21-2007 at 01:28 PM. Reason: reformatted some text

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Quťbec, Montreal, Arizona, California, France

    Default Flexibility

    Hi Nick!
    Wow what a detailed itinerary! You remind me of myself on my first long roadtrip : everything is in order and is planned with meticulous detail. You've probably ordered all sorts of guidebooks, maps and directories over the internet right?:-)

    As the others stated this method is excellent because it gives you a great inventory of what's out there. However, as you'll progress on your trip, you'll probably realize that you won't have enough time to try everything and visit every place you've listed. A lot of things can happen on a roadtrip, wether they're bad (traffic, bad weather, construction, peak season, no vacancy signs, flat tire) or good (local advice, irresistible photos opps, unexpected invitations, great food). All of the above can change your original plan and that's all part of the charm of every road trip. If you can deal with these, you're going to have a blast. It's all about flexibility.

    No place to sleep -- I've been there. Sometimes it sucks but that's just part of the deal. If you are near an interstate or in an urban area, find a nice 24/7 truck stop (that's when the Flying J and TA directories comes handy), unfold the camping mattress in the car. In the morning take a nice hot shower. You're going to have a great story to tell your friends afterwards. Also, if you don't mind more secluded spots and no showers, try to find a National Forest, BLM, boat ramp or any other public land (locate them on a map or use the State's guidebook). Chances are, you won't have anything to pay or they'll charge you a small fee (5-12$). Just make sure you are not on private land and do not run the risk of getting evicted or being fined.

    Laundry --- I usually do it in the evening at the motel. I put my clothes in there, jump in the pool and swim for a hour or prepare dinner until my clothes are clean and dry. As for the stuff that I cannot tumble dry, I hang them in the motel room until the morning. If they're not dry yet, I put a lenght of rope over the backseat of the car and hang them there for a while. It is definitely not glamourous but at least they're not all wrinkled and humid.:o)

    Have fun!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default You've done a great job planning!

    I'm glad my posts about Washington state have piqued your interest!

    You've gotten great advise so far from everybody. I typically don't make reservations ahead of time to allow for spontaneity. But I do travel with a list of hotels/campgrounds so if I know I'm going someplace that night or the next night and it might be crowded, I can call ahead and make a reservation then. A few phone calls are better than driving around from place-to-place, imho. It usually works just fine.
    Quote Originally Posted by Nick from New England View Post
    As far as seeing the Olympic Peninsula goes, do you think it would be better to take the Edmonds-Kingston ferry across to Port Townsend, travel counter-clockwise around the coastline, and then move inland (from Aberdeen maybe) to see Mt. Ranier and Mt. St. Helens, and travel back out to the coast (to Astoria maybe) after that? I was under the impression that I should avoid the Seattle area if I don't plan on actually visiting the city since the traffic is so bad, and it seemed that entering WA from the northeast I could drive by Mt. Ranier on the way to viewing Mt. St. Helens and then just head due north and basically stay along the coastline until about Florence, OR. I've never been to the Pacific Northwest though, so I don't know if there are some problems with my logic in that path or not. Which way do you think would provide the least amount of needless travel? Everything I want to see is basically near the coast other than those two peaks.
    I'll try to help you with this issue. If you try to view Mt. Rainier from I-90 or by going over Steven's Pass, you'll be disappointed. You will only see the peak from a distance and not really get to enjoy it much. So you can go into Edmonds and do the ferry, it is a lovely trip and a way to enjoy Puget Sound, but I think you're defeating your purpose of enjoying the coast by veering inland at Aberdeen to do that. You're missing the lovely SW WA coast that way.

    Here's what I suggest:
    * Yakima to Paradise on Mt. Rainier (the best place to do a few short hikes, see the glaciers, and the beauty of Mt. Rainier, imho) via Hwy 12 until it intersects with Hwy 123. Enjoy a stop at Ohanapecosh Visitor Center and then continue north, going west (left) on Hwy 706. Stop at the lovely Grove of the Patriarchs for a quick hike, then continue up 706/Stevens Canyon Road to Paradise and the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center. Poke your nose into the lovely Paradise Lodge while you're there, too.
    * Paradise to Windy Ridge/Mt. St. Helens: Continue west on 706 to the Longmire. Stop at Longmire's visitor center and try to squeeze in time for the relatively short interpretive hike across from the center though a lovely mountain meadow area. Exit at the Nisqually entrance and continue west to Elbe. Then go south on Hwy 7 to Morton, then east on Hwy 12 to Randle, then head south towards Mt. St. Helens and the Windy Ridge Viewpoint. This is my favorite place to view Mt. St. Helens from. You drive right through some tremendous scenery and devastation.
    * Mt. St. Helens to Olympic Peninsula: You will need to backtrack back to Randle (sorry) and then head west on Hwy 12 through Morton to I-5, and then go north on I-5 to Olympia. When you see Sound and WA State Capital ahead, you will want to go west (left) onto Hwy 101. You'll go a few miles west of Olympia and then Hwy 101 will veer off (you will be taking the exit to Shelton). This actually keeps you on Hwy 101 and you can follow it all the way around the Olympia Peninsula.
    * When you come around the Peninsula and are heading south, 101 will take you through Hoquiam-Aberdeen (when you're in Hoquiam, give me a wave!) and then you can take Hwy 101 from Aberdeen to Raymond and continue down the coast. An alternate here would be to take Hwy 105 from Aberdeen to Raymond. This will take you out to the coast and along a very interesting road. When you hit Grayland, you will be going past some lovely cranberry bogs. From just south of Grayland to Raymond is a beautiful coastal drive and then along the Willapa Harbor. If you take the 105 option, it will take you about 1:20 or so. If you take 101, it will take about 30 minutes. If you have the time and energy, the coastal route is worth it, imho.
    * Then continue south on 101 through Oregon into CA and enjoy this part of your trip!

    I don't want to talk you into skipping Washington and missing things but, if you're going to be living in CA for awhile, you could always save Washington for a 1- or 2-week vacation in the future. It's only 2 days from Orange County to Washington. If you find yourself short on time or energy, that's something to consider anyway.

    If this doesn't appeal to you, there are a few other options but I really think this route is your best bet if you want to avoid Seattle. However, while Seattle traffic is pretty bad, it's also a beautiful city to visit. I don't want to offend anybody here but I like Seattle's waterfront better than the one in San Francisco. The Public Market is amazing. And the view of the Seattle skyline with Mt. Rainier in the background is breath-taking. One of my all-time favorite views. so a visit there is worth considering. If you decide to do Seattle after all, then I would suggest an alternate route. Let me know if you want to explore this option and I can elaborate in another post.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 06-22-2007 at 12:19 PM. Reason: removed the extra white space

  10. #10

    Default I Like That Route!

    Thanks both Gen and Judy for your comments.

    Judy, I really like the alternate route you've suggested and think I'll try following it closely. I especially appreciate the viewing point suggestions for Mt. Ranier and Mt. St. Helens. I hadn't really put much thought into how I would actually view them, just that I wanted to. And while I'd love to visit Seattle, I know I'm already trying to see too much as it is and will probably end up having to cut some things out. I can see myself visiting Seattle in the future with some friends when I have more time to spend there, so I don't feel so bad skipping it this time around. Visiting the city as a group would probably be more fun than solo anyway.

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