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Thread: Where to begin?

  1. Default Where to begin?

    My 70-year-old father has asked me to plan a roadtrip for him. He wants to take a roadtrip to 'see all of the things you see in the movies' but has never seen in person.

    He and his wife will be starting in Kansas and have Seattle in mind for their end destination. I'm not sure where to begin as far as planning, so I'm hoping to find some information here. They want to go in July. They don't care how long they are gone, but they do want to have about 3 overnight stays on the 27-hour ride to WA.

    I asked him what he wanted to see and the only thing he could say for sure was Mt. Rushmore. That's a start!

    Any tips you can provide would be greatly appreciated. What is not to miss, where to stay, big or small, we would love to hear your suggestions! Thank you in advance.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Not Much in That Time Frame

    Welcome to the RoadTrip America forums!

    Well, you've already got a start. They'll be going from Kansas City (I'm assuming from your user name) to Seattle. By the most direct route, which will take them by Mount Rushmore, that is going to be a little more than 1,900 miles by the time you add in the extra miles to get to interesting places along the way. That means 4 days of serious driving, not the 27 hours the on-line mapping routines will promise. Remember that those computer programs assume you always drive the speed limit, never get slowed down by traffic, never stop for gas, or to eat, or to go to the bathroom, or sightsee, or even sleep. Really, they need to plan on at least 4 days to make the drive plus any time that they will spend actually visiting places.

    And there is so much to see on or near their route, that they may want to consider adding several days for the drive. Just around Mount Rushmore, there's also Badlands National Park, Wall Drug, Wind and Jewel Caves, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and Devils Tower. At various other points, there's the Corn Palace, the Little Bighorn Battlefield, and several scenic byways in northern Idaho around Coeur d'Alene. Without going too far out of their way, they could also include visits to Yellowstone National Park and Mount Ranier.

    So the first thing they and you will need to do is to sit down and decide which of those places they'd like to see, and how much additional time they can budget for the trip in order to make such visits possible. Once those decisions are made, then we can help you find some reasonably sized towns that will make decent overnight locations and will have a choice of motels or other accommodations.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default Lost in Real Life

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    The problem with trying to see "everything you see in the movies" is that much of what you see in the movies is fake, and/or shot on a sound stage. If you are going to Mount Rushmore, then continuing on through Yellowstone would be a logical stop, but I have a feeling we'd be guessing about their interests just as much as you are.

    I will say that the time estimates you are using must be computer generated times that don't reflect the reality that you need to make stops along the way, even if just for food and fuel. Even the Northwestern most point of Kansas is a good 29 hours to Seattle, and if you are starting from Topeka or Wichita, you're looking at a trip that's going to be closer to 34 hours. Again, that is best case, minimums.

    Doing this trip over 3 nights/4 days, you'd have to be on the road for more than 8 hours a day every day. That doesn't leave much time for making stops, and more importantly, I don't know a lot of people in their 70's that enjoy driving at that kind of pace.

  4. Default Thanks a million!

    Thank you both for taking time to respond. They are willing to take as long as needed to get there and back. The trip is more to see all the sights in between than just to get to Seattle. While I was writing my initial post, my dad found several other places he would like to see, all but one AZBuck mentioned (so thankful for your knowledge!). It is the Grand Teton National Park. Is this on or around the route they would need to take?

    They are willing to take as long as needed to not be rushed, but they also don't want to drag what could be a 15 day trip into a 25-day, for example.

    I will get to researching to decide which of AZBuck's recommendations would most interest them. Any personal recommendations? Thank you both once again, I really appreciate your help.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default Tetons

    The Tetons are located right next to Yellowstone, and in fact, the national parks admission covers both parks. Glacier National Park would also be a possible option in this general part of the country.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default That Will Be a Problem

    This could easily 'drag out' to be 25, 35, 45 or even more days! They'll just have to pick the places they want to see and how much time they can spend seeing them. The Grand Tetons, for example, are directly south of Yellowstone, and if they want to spend a few days seeing both parks, that's certainly doable. If they'd rather just spend one or two days in that area, then I'd suggest sticking to Yellowstone. That's actually a pretty good example of the kind of choices they'll have to make between rushing to see 'everything' or seeing fewer places in more depth.

    One other thing they should keep in mind as they drive along the Interstates is that there are many, many places for refreshing stops that won't make the tourist brochures, but will certainly break up those long days in the car and make them more pleasant.


  7. Default Suggested itinerary?

    I was just looking through older posts and found a suggested itinerary from Arizona Bob. I don't know if he's still on here, since the post is over 4 years old, but it looks good to me. It includes all of the things my dad thinks he wants to see. I was hoping to get some opinions on following his itinarary. (Although his is from Chicago, they would just start off in Kansas City).

    It is as follows --

    Chicago west to the Mississippi River, follow the Great River Road north to La Crosse, WI and head west from there into South Dakota. I'd use I-90 across South Dakota – it is wide open country and just as spectacular from the interstate as any other way. Get off at any area you'd like along the way if you want and see a few of the small towns. One possibility is the Akta Lakota Museum at Chamberlain, SD; the name means to "honor the people" and the focus is on Lakota (Sioux) culture and art. Have a Buffalo Burger at Al's Oasis too! (also at Chamberlain, along I-90).

    From Chamberlain, go west to Wall, SD (see the famous Wall Drug Store!) and the Badlands. Then visit the attractions in and around the Black Hills; these include Wounded Knee, the Crazy Horse Memorial (a work in progress), Mt Rushmore, Sturgis, Deadwood and Lead, and Custer State Park. You can easily spend 2 or 3 days between the Badlands and the Black Hills.

    Move west and see the Devil's Tower (a famous butte in northeast Wyoming), then into Montana to the Little Bighorn Battlefield near Garryowen (where Custer met the Indians for the last time). Pompey's Pillar is north of there along I-94 (northwest, to be exact) -- it is the only known site wehere Lewis and Clark left PHYSICAL evidence of their passing -- Clark scratched his name on the rock there, still visible).

    Next, is the Yellowstone and Grand Teton area. Spend about 3 nights between them and see everything! I would then take US89 all the way up through Montana. Be sure to check out the great falls of the Missouri at Great Falls! Go on north to Calgary and Lake Louise (Banff National Park), and then back south to Glacier National Park (using Highway 93 on both sides of the border). Be sure to drive Going to the Sun Road (at Glacier NP).

    From Glacier, you'd head south along the banks of Flathead Lake, and pick up I-90 west toward Coeur d'Alene (taking a little side trip up to Kootenai and Sandpoint is worth the effort). Then down through Spokane, Kennewick, WA, Madras, OR and Bend, OR to Crater Lake NP. Then, I'd go west to Coos Bay, and up the Oregon coast all the way to Astoria. Along the way there are several neat stops – Cape Lookout (a state park), Depoe Bay (be sure to stop and stand on the bridge over the entrance to the bay and watch a few boats come in – you'll never forget it!), and the tour of the Tillamook Cheese Factory at Tillamook, OR. Also, if you are an airplane kind of guy, check out the Evergreen Aviation Museum at McMinnville, OR. The giant Hughes Flying Boat (the largest aircraft that has ever flown) is on display there. BUT, do not miss the northern Oregon coast to do it – drive US101 to Astoria, then on the way to the Columbia River Gorge (US30), make a little detour and see the Museum if you're interested. Also at Astoria, see the ruins of Fort Stevens (a WWII coastal defense position that HAD 16" naval guns emplaced) and Fort Clatsop, the westernmost outpost of the Lewis and Clark expedition in winter of 1805-06.

    See the Columbia River Gorge (east of Portland along the interstate highway), including a hike to the top of Multnomah Falls if you're up to it, and then head north to Mount St Helens and the visitor's center there. That area is swiftly recovering from the devastating blast of the late 1980s and is definitely worth seeing. You could also visit Mount Rainier NP, or if you've seen enough snow-capped mountains by then, bypass that and go on up the WEST side of Puget Sound to Port Angeles, take the ferry across toward Anacortes, and then spend a day cruising the ferries out to the San Juan Islands – maybe have dinner at Friday Harbor. Then it's back to Seattle and home.

    This route and itinerary can be accomplished in less than 20 days, with stops in all the places I mention. You might want to slow it down a little and take some extra time – I don't know what your personal "style" of travel is. This route is 5400 miles (approx.) and 107 hours of driving time at average speeds.

  8. #8
    Tony J Case, Super Genius Guest


    Quote Originally Posted by kcmom View Post
    It is the Grand Teton National Park. Is this on or around the route they would need to take?
    They're right next door to Yellowstone, I think - at least I kept seeing signs for both pointing off the freeway. So it shouldnt be too much out of your way to hit them.

    Geeze - as for what to do along the way?

    Rushmore was cool, but really overrated and not worth the 10 bucks to get in the door (there's a number of spots you can see the carvings for free along the side of the road, so don't pay to get in). I'd have gladly paid the 10 bucks - if it went to the Forest Service. Instead the 10 bucks went to a private company (who probably gives the Forest Service a cut). Instead, stop at the Crazy Horse being carved out of a mountain. The visitor center is REALLY extensive and the carving is impressive, despite only being a quarter of the way done.

    Devil's Tower was really cool and a pretty brief stop - two hours should be all you need to walk the trail around it and see the visitor's center.

    Little Big Horn was another short stop. The visitor center was a bit more extensive than Devil's Tower, but the actual battlefield doesn't take all that long to get through. Walk up to last stand hill, drive 3 miles to see the other battlefield and you've pretty much done it all.

    The Mitchell Corn Palace was much cooler than I was anticipating. While I don't think I'd have gone out of my way to check it out, if you're passing through, it's worth the hour stopover to see.

    The badlands was REALLY cool and totally worth going. Heck, South Dakota in general had tons of cool stuff that I wanted to see but didn't have the time. There are all the caves, the steam train out of Keystone, the 1880 old west town, Reptile Gardens. . . .

    That said, skip Deadwood. A totally disappointing waste of time.

    Mount Rainier is easily a day's worth of exploration. Sunrise alone could probably kill half a day right there. And if impressive mountains is what your folks seek, be sure to hit Mount St. Helens. Probably about half a day's stop (depending on how much exploring you do), but totally worth it to see the raw power of nature at work - and how resilient the planet is.

  9. Default Thanks, Tony.

    Great information, Tony - thank you. Just one thing I thought I should add. Being that they are both 70, they are not exactly spring chickens health-wise. My dad has a bad back so a lot of walking/hiking isn't too ideal. Is that a deal breaker for some of these sites? Any particular stops you would avoid due to this?

  10. #10
    Tony J Case, Super Genius Guest


    Quote Originally Posted by kcmom View Post
    Great information, Tony - thank you. Just one thing I thought I should add. Being that they are both 70, they are not exactly spring chickens health-wise. My dad has a bad back so a lot of walking/hiking isn't too ideal. Is that a deal breaker for some of these sites? Any particular stops you would avoid due to this?
    Hmmm, the only thing I can think of that might be a problem MIGHT be Devil's Tower. The path around the base does have some uphill bits - at the start, if you head to the right, towards the rocky bits, it's kind of steep. I was breathing heavy by the time it started to level out. But if you go left, the slope is much more friendly and shouldn't be a concern. That said, if you're not in the mood to get out of the car, I'd skip it all together. There are a couple of good views from the road, but the best looks you'll get are from the trails.

    That said, I think everything else on the list should be car friendly. The badlands has a big scenic loop with viewpoints for getting out - no walking involved, Little Big Horn could easily be driven too, with parking right at the top of Last Stand Hill. I don't personally know about Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, since construction diverted me from my path, and I didn't get a chance to see them - but everything else looks kosher.

    Oh, if you're looking for a car friendly mountain, Rainier has some awesome views, but you really get the payout if you do some hiking, so if you have to pick one, do St Helens. The road up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory has some stunning scenery and doesnt require any/much walking.

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