Solo from Philly to Austin and back - first timer
I (26/M) have an interview scheduled for grad school at the University of Texas in the beginning of February, and since I'm between jobs and have a bit of time on my hands I decided it would be fun to drive out there and see some of the places in the South that I usually just fly over. I have a little over 2 weeks at my disposal, so this is what I was thinking as for an itinerary:
Philly to Roanoke, VA - stay 1 night
Roanoke, to Asheville, NC - stay 2 nights
Asheville to Nashville - stay 1 night
Nashville to Little Rock - stay 1 night
Little Rock to Dallas - stay 1 night
Dallas to Austin -stay 5 nights to interview and catch up w/ old friends there
Austin to New Orleans - stay 2 nights
New Orleans to Atlanta - stay 1 night
Atlanta to Charlotte - stay 1 night
Charlotte to Arlington, VA - stay 1 night
Arlington to Philly
Do you guys think this is a reasonable plan? Do I stand the risk of being too exhausted to do well in my interview in Austin? (I'd have 2 days in the city to recover) After reading some other posts, I'm a bit concerned about the length of the trip from Austin to New Orleans (500 miles) and New Orleans to Atlanta (470), but I think they should be doable (I've made a few 300-400 mile day trips in the past).
I'm planning on staying in hotels the whole way, except for Dallas, Charlotte, and Arlington where I'll be staying with friends. I was thinking to book reservations beforehand for Austin and New Orleans and get the rest on the fly - do you think that's a good plan?
My car is a '96 Civic with 130,000 miles on it. I just got it looked at by a mechanic, and everything checked out. Regardless, I feel a little bit nervous that I'll encounter some car issues while on the road (no real reason behind this, it's just my worrisome nature). I don't have AAA coverage right now, but I plan on getting it. If I take care of that right away, would I be covered by the time I leave on Jan 24th? Any emergency equipment you recommend I bring that a first-timer might not remember?
I don't want to take all my meals at restaurants and fast food places, so do you have any advice for somewhat healthy eating on the road? I'm going to bring a cooler and try to get healthy groceries along the way, but I don't know how much cooking I'll be up for after a long day on the road.
Basically I'm looking for any advice you can throw to this lowly newbie. Any nuggets of wisdom you can send my way will be greatly appreciated.
Welcome to the RTA Forum!
You've got a pretty great plan laid out already, I'm not sure what more I could really add. I think so far you've done everything right, you've got a good plan that shouldn't bee too taxing at all. I wouldn't worry about reservation either, except for Austin, because you'll be there for awhile and probably have a pretty specific area where you want to be. Adding a reservation for NOLA isn't bad though, for many of the same reasons.
As far as food, you can find a collection of articles about healthy road food here and more good cooler food ideas in our cheap trips article
For a mid-winter trip, this should be fun. I agree that you've got things well worked out. Your Honda should serve you well, assuming there aren't any surprises along the way. And I believe your AAA membership is valid from the day you sign up, if you can do it at a AAA office. You can pick up some Tourbooks right then and be ready to visit the spots that interest you along the way.
Speaking of which, if you are interested in history, your route is full of wonderful sites from Fort McHenry to Mount Vernon, to Monticello, to the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, to Old Salem in Winston-Salem, to the Hermitage east of Nashville. And that is just to get you started.
Obviously, you won't be doing much cooking, if any at all, but by taking a cooler you can browse along the way and not put on 5 pounds by eating high-calorie food in restaurants.
When I'm in an unfamiliar town for a few days (such as your stay in Austin) I try to find a convenient B&B instead of a hotel. The ambiance is usually much nicer, the proprietors are unfailingly friendly and helpful, and having breakfast in a relaxed, informal atmosphere with people to talk to is so much better than sitting alone in a restaurant. It can be like a home away from home.
Have a great trip, and good luck with grad school,
co-author of the travel guide: America's Living History-The Early Years
Some Texan nuggets
I'll add that you've done a fair amount of homework already and that you seem to be sure of what you want to see and where you want to go.
I think it's a good idea to book the reservations in Austin. You can spend your time there getting to learn the area if you don't know it already, and you won't have to worry about finding a place to stay.
As far as your car - I've found that worrying about car issues does little to make them go away. Since you've already taken the step of having the car looked at by a mechanic, you shouldn't have anything to worry about mechanically. Just make sure your spare tire is in good shape and that you have a jack in your car. Check this thread for some ideas from Judy about emergency gear.
You don't need to cook
Michael gave you some good links about eating healthy and cheaper. Here's another one. Most of the ideas in it don't require any cooking.