Roadtrip enthusiasts and experts,
I am currently deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. My R&R leave is coming up at the end of July. I had originally planned to dally around Europe for 2 weeks, but my travel companion came into some troubles and now cannot afford such a trip. Traveling alone is not an option for me - the thought of it makes me cringe.
So I am planning a roadtrip. I grew up in Southern New Jersey, about 30 minutes away from Philadelphia and 40 minutes West of Atlantic City. I have spent a good amount of time in Philadelphia and D.C. My parents and brothers recently moved from New Jersey to Vancouver, WA.
That's the background. The original plan was to start in Philadelphia (my travel buddy lives there) and drive West to Chicago, staying in that city for 1-2 days. Then on to the Badlands area of South Dakota, including a stop at Mount Rushmore. From there to Yellowstone, to do what there is to do there. From there, I was deciding between driving straight to Northern California or to Portland to see the parents. If Portland, then south through Oregon onto SanFran, then straight back East. If NorCal, then up to Portland for a few days then straight back East (2.5-3 days max on return trip).
I have a total of 15 days for R&R, starting when the plane lands in Atlanta or Dallas. I have a few questions, and after reading through these forums and absorbing the experience and wisdom of some of the posters here, I am amazed at the breadth and depth of knowledge some of you have (especially Mark!).
So here are my primary concerns:
1. Is the itinerary I described feasible for an enjoyable roadtrip in the time I have? I am very anxious about wasting my leave, and in fact have had several nightmare type dreams about this possibility.
2. Would it be better to choose between Portland or NorCal instead of trying to do both?
3. Since my buddy messed up the Europe trip, I was considering asking him to drive to SanFrancisco and have me meet him there so that I drive from there to Portland then back East, without having the return trip looming over my head.
4. In either the "I go one way, he goes both" or the original plan, are there any serious landmarks or sites or sights I am missing that are absolute musts for a first-time cross country trip?