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  1. #1

    Default New here and hoping for advice on cross-country trip!

    Hi everyone!

    I'm new here and excited to get tips for my upcoming trip - as well as to contribute as much as possible with my limited roadtripping experience!!

    Anyway, my husband and I have decided to do a cross-country roadtrip from Detroit to San Francisco in early August. We have allocated about 16-18 days to the trip, which I know isn't a ton of time, but that's about all we're able to do. We also have to spend three nights in San Francisco for a conference, which is the major purpose for this trip. So it won't leave us much time for meandering around the country aimlessly, but hopefully it will allow us to see quite a few things and have some scenic drives and have a great time!

    So basically, what we're hoping to do is to make the most of a relatively structured trip. We will leave from Detroit and need to make it to San Francisco in about seven days. We will spend three days there, then head back, making the trip in about 6-7 days. We are both big "city kids," so when planning we've been trying to do overnight stops on the outskirts of big cities so we can venture in and explore a little. While we love the idea of seeing awesome scenery and stopping a little kitschy places, we definitely want those to be the quick daytime stops, with the big overnight stops being large cities.

    So...I would love any travel advice people have - must-sees along the way, particularly scenic routes, quick stops we can make. We also LOVE going out for dinner and having a few beers (although the beers will be limited with all of our driving!) so if anyone can recommend any particularly good places for food/drink along our route I would be most grateful!

    So this is our tentative route...Detroit to Omaha the first night, then drive to Denver and spend two nights there, so that we can go during the day to Rocky Mountain State Park and experience some Denver nightlife. The following day, we will drive along I-70 west of Denver into Utah, which I've been told is scenic, and stay the night somewhere in Utah, probably SLC. Get up the next day and drive to San Francisco, where we'll spend 3 nights.

    (I also welcome sightseeing advice for San Fran, we've never been there!)

    After our stay in San Fran, I want to drive down the coast (taking Highway 1 most of the way), and then stay the night (or possibly 2) at one of the coastal towns in southern California, maybe near Santa Barbara. After that, we will drive to Vegas and spend two nights there. Then get up early, drive to the Grand Canyon and stay the night nearby.

    After that, we're going to basically pick and haul back...driving across NM, the top of TX, and OK, stopping basically anywhere along there once we've had enough driving. The second to last day, we will drive to Memphis and spend the night there. Then we'll get up and drive back to our home in Indiana from Memphis the final day.

    So...any advice? Good/bad places to eat/stay/stop? Roads we should take/avoid? Should we book hotels ahead of time for our one-night stops, or just play it by ear?

    Thanks in advance! I'm already so excited and it's more than six months away!!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default A Little Rough Around the Edges

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    You have plenty of time to make very enjoyable trips both westward and returning home, but you are setting yourself up for disappointment by assuming that you can cover over 730 miles on both your first and last day on the way west. 550-600 is really the limit of what is possible and sustainable, particularly if you plan on taking time out during the day for even a cursory stop or two and each evening for time to explore the city you end up in. Probably a better general itinerary for the outbound portion of the trip would go like this:

    Day 1: Des Moines. At 600 miles from Detroit, even that is pushing it considering you will have to navigate metropolitan Chicago traffic.

    Day 2: Denver. At 675 miles from Des Moines, this may prove to be too much, but you will gain an hour as you cross into Mountain Time.

    Day 3: Denver and Rocky Mountain National Park. Take a bit of a break from driving today and tour Denver in the morning and the National Park in the afternoon, ending the day somewhere west of the park on US-40.

    Day 4: Salt Lake City. This is now an easy drive via US-40 and leaves you time to explore this unique city and its Lake.

    Day 5: Reno. Again making the day's drive manageable and giving you the chance to explore the "Biggest Little City in the World".

    Day 6: San Francisco. A relatively easy drive from Reno, allowing you to enter the city outside of rush hour, get settled and spend the evening checking it out.

    Day 7: In reserve: Can be used anywhere along the way you see fit.

    I-80 is your basic route with a detour on I-76/I-70/US-40 to include Denver and Rocky Mountain National Park. There are, as with all Interstates, plenty of places near the highway for quick refreshing stops.

    However at this point, after your meetings, you will have used up 10 of your ~17 days, so I don't see where you have the time to spend 3-5 more days sightseeing in the west and still make the long drive home. So again a more manageable return itinerary might consist of:

    Day 11: Down the coast to Monterey. This is only about 120 miles, but what I'm suggesting is that you enjoy Monterey during the day, then spend the evening driving down the coast on CA-1 until it's time to turn around and return to spend the night there. Trying to go too far down the coast would be counter-productive since it's a two lane. twisting, scenic road with lots of places to stop and enjoy.

    Day 12: Las Vegas. Starting from Monterey means that it's easy to go east via CA-68/US-101/CA-58 and get to Las Vegas in the early evening with time to experience the town's nightlife.

    Day 13: Grand Canyon/Flagstaff. If you head north from Williams on AZ-64, follow this along the south rim and then return to I-40 at Flagstaff via US-89, that will make for a full and rewarding day.

    Days 14/15/16/17 Return home with stops in roughly Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, and Memphis. Those are easily manageable drives, even when you consider that you will lose the odd hour to time zone changes.

    The whole idea is to build some wiggle room into your trip rather than aim for the absolute most you can possibly do. That way you can relax rather than be rushed every minute.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 01-31-2009 at 03:43 PM.

  3. #3


    Thank you for your response! I'm glad you think we'll have enough time to have an enjoyable trip. Obviously we know we won't be able to see everything, but we figure we could make it work. We are also fairly laid-back when it comes to travel, so as long as we make it to San Fran in time for my conference and back in time for work we will most likely consider it a success! I have the trip mapped out at 16 days right now, but will definitely add on a couple extra days' vacation time at the end to adjust for changes in plans!

    In particular, thank you for pointing out the long drives we had scheduled on the first day and last day of the trip. We are used to somewhat lengthy drives - our families live nearly 400 miles away from us so we are used to making 800 mile round trips every couple of months. But I hadn't really considered what driving TWICE that all at once would feel like. I agree with you completely - the early and late legs of the trip are not what we are most excited about, so it won't make much difference if we stop in Omaha or Des Moines.

    Also, thank you for the advice on Monterey. I had just been thinking "coastal California town" but hadn't really considered that we could stop further north and just explore the coast and the beaches a little bit without having to make it all the way down.

    I readjusted my itinerary on AAA's website and will run it by my better half to see what he thinks. As I said, I would welcome any other advice or recommendations!


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