My wife and I will be making our first cross country trip leaving Virginia Beach, VA in mid-April. While we have targeted the trip for 6 weeks, we have the flexibility to adjust the time frame, if necessary. I am looking for advice on most everything, especially any special sites/events we should not miss, any events that we should be aware of in this time frame for lodging purposes, weather considerations, general traveling advice for an extended trip, etc. I have read the "Live Your Road Trip Dream" by the Whites.
A little background to help with your advice. We have enjoyed motoring vacations in the past, but have always been limited to 2 weeks or so, normally requiring us to fly into an area, rent a car and take off. Those trips were generally in the summer and planned pretty closely with most lodging reservations made before leaving. We hope to make this trip much more free-style within a general route plan. We have a new Chevy Express conversion van (Explorer Van Co) that we will be using. We want to minimize time on the Interstates except where there are no compelling sights, landscape, etc. where we could make a little time. We mainly enjoy the amazing sights that nature provides, sampling good regional food, and experiencing local events such as fairs, celebrations, etc.
Our general route includes the following, but we have not planned anything that can't be changed.
- Virginia Beach south using the "Coastal East Coast" route in Jamie Jensen's "Road Trip USA" through the Outer Banks, Wilmington, Charleston, Savannah to somewhere around Jacksonville where we will head west.
- Jacksonville west to the Florida Gulf Coast somewhere around Cedar Key (to experience the "old Florida. We've seen most of Florida and spend March, 2007 there.) North following the Gulf Coast to the Mobile area.
- Continue following the Gulf Coast through Biloxi to New Orleans area and then south and west through the bayous.
- West to Galveston, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso. (Haven't spent a lot of time on this segment, but want to experince the "Hill Country" and the wide expanses of West Texas.
- West to Tucson, Phoenix area, and San Diego.
- Generally follow "Coastal West Coast" route from Jensen book. North along the California Coast through Los Angeles area, Big Sur, San Francisco area, Mendocino, Redwood country. Continue north along Oregon and Washington Coast to Seattle/Olympic Mountains area.
- East to Spokane, Kalispell, South to Boise, and East to Cody, Billings, Bad Lands, Mt. Rushmore, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Green Bay, Upper Peninsula of Michigan. (Again, haven't planned a lot of detail on this segment, so am wide open.)
- From the Upper Peninsula, I haven't decided whether to 1) cut south through Michigan and follow Lake Erie to Buffalo, 2) cut across to Toronto and Montreal, or 3) cut south through Michigan and cross back over into Canada at Detroit to Niagra Falls.
- Depending on the route we take in the item just above, we will determine how to head South, back toward Virginia. We would like to see some of New England again, but would also like to see some of central New York and Pennsylvania. I don't think we will be able to do both on this trip.
We know we are not going to be able to see everything of interest with the general route plan even with ~6 weeks, but intend to come back later to those areas we don't get enough of for 2-3 week individual trips. We also plan to take whatever 1-2 day "timeouts" (no traveling) that are necessary to recharge.
I've been impressed with the help this board has provided other travelers, and look forward to any suggestions you may have.
Two quick technology questions. Has anyone found a good planner with maps, time projections, sight information that can be recommended for mapping specific roads, routes, etc.? I have been playing with a preview copy of Microsoft's Streets and Trips and it looks pretty good. Also, can anyone suggest a good resource/site where it is easy to upload digital pictures and write a daily (or so) summary in a "travel journal" format for others to see during the trip?