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  1. Default New Jersey to California in 8 days

    Greetings Roadies,
    Iím planning a cross-country move from NJ to Northern California (Davis, California), and would appreciate any roadtripper wisdom. Weíre packing our modest belongings and setting out on September 9th (something about the crisp Indian Summer air makes me want this date to come asap). Weíre looking at about 8 days to work with. Being that we are on a budget of about 1,000, we are planning to camp out as much as possible, stop by some state and/or national parks, and stretch our legs with a couple of hikes along the way. Iím in between I-80 or I-70. Initially, we planned on the I-80. I know this part is a bit subjective, but I would like your guysí input on an early September adventure with respect to these routes. I know 8 days is rather limited, but we mean to get east of the Mississippi as quick as possible and enjoy the beauty of the West.
    Our tentative I-80 itinerary looks like this:
    Day 1: Our first day we mean to set out at around 4:30 am, driving in 4 hour shifts. Looking like a 12hr day getting to or around Chicago. Iíve read in this forum that Chitown is a traffic trap. If so, what is an alternative to get out West quicker. Isnít I-80 the quickest way? If this is our first destination, we look to get some much needed rest at a hotel, maybe in the Lincoln Park area. NJ to CHI about 790 mi.
    Day 2? : Here is where things start to get a little foggy. Starved Rock State Park is 80 miles west of Chicago. Not sure if we could pull out a 870 mile day and arrive here before dark and set up camp on Day 1. Havenít pulled a 12+ hour trip in one day, although my wife and I are accustomed to traveling long stretches like 6hrs each without stopping. Nevertheless, would like to stop by and check it out. Tentative day 2 looks like this: Depart from Chitown around 5am get to the park around 7am. Relax for the day and enjoy the park.
    Day 3: Leave the park at 5am and arrive at Lake McConaughy. Starved Rock to McConaughy about 670 miles. Interestingly this destination is right before a split between I-80 and I-76, which later runs into I-70. Wyoming or Colorado is the question here folks. Given our love for the outdoors, what would the veteran roadtripper/adventurer recommend? I know weather is unpredictable, but anyone leaning on one or the other given the time of year. Any advice here?
    Day 4: Somewhere between Wyoming or Colorado for the day.
    Day 5: Utah, thinking Bryce Canyon or Zion????
    Day 6-8: Reno?, Lake Tahoe, and finally Davis.
    Guys, any advice or information would be most appreciated.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default reworking

    Welcome to the RTA forum!

    It looks like you've fallen into the trap of thinking that you'll be able to achieve what a computer program tells you, in terms of driving distance and drive time.

    There is no part of New Jersey that is within a 12 hour drive of Chicago. You'd have to average 67 miles per hour, which is just not possible to do when you factor in even the shortest and fewest possible stops.

    In the real world, 800 miles is way too far to be driving in one day when you've got multiple days of driving in front of you, and in the best case, it would take you about 15 hours. Starved Rock is way too far to drive in one day, and I would almost assure its would not be an option because they lock the gates of the campground there at 10pm, and unless you departed around 3am, you wouldn't get there in time.

    You need to rebuild your plan with more reasonable driving days in mind. Even on a long haul driving day, you shouldn't plan to go much beyond the 600 mile point (which will still take you in the 10-12 hour neighborhood). While I can appreciate that you want to see things out West, you need to put safety first, and arriving out west completely burned out from driving way too much on the first days wouldn't be fun anyway. Also remember, since you're moving to the West, many of the places you're talking about spending your time will be easily reached as short trips from your new home.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Factor in....

    The two times that I have driven extensive stretches of I-80, Pennsylvania, in the last few months, there has been in the vicinity of 40 - 50 miles of road work going on... all of which was covered by a speed limit of 45 mph.

    Since I hit the road in early May, I have been held up on interstates three times for 30 minutes or more... accident up ahead!

    Lifey who leaves times and destinations flexible

  4. Default

    Hi Midwest Michael,
    Firstly, thanks for the prompt and insightful response. I appreciate your dedication to this forum. I'll go back the drawing board for this one. I had a feeling we were stretching it, guess google maps and the excitement of getting out there made me overlook some more important things. I'll keep researching and post my revision soon. Thanks again. Look forward to future exchanges.

  5. Default

    Hi Lifemagician,
    I will also keep this in mind. Gracias amigo!

  6. #6


    I done something similar in a similar time frame in 2007. We didn't have a choice and couldn't do the journey in a longer time frame - we were delivering a car to somebody.
    Roughly this is what we done:
    Day 1: NJ - Kansas City: 19 hours driving, was tough day, with the main stop in St.Louis. Both of us took turns driving, but still it was a killer!
    Day 2: Kansas - Colorado Springs. We stayed here for a couple of days due to car trouble!
    Day 4: CS - Moab. Stayed overnight here and explored Arches for a half a day.
    Day 5: Moab - Vegas. Stayed overnight.
    Day 6: Vegas - SF. Again car trouble decided we had to go up the 101 instead of trying the PCH.

    This trip gave me a taste of things, and I'm now planning a honeymoon road trip starting in UT and ending in SF taking in the big national parks in a 3 week time frame! But I wouldn't want to go cross country in a week again!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Not only is Chicago a traffic trap, to get there from NJ without taking a significant detour involves toll roads. An alternate to look at - depending on exactly where you are in NJ - would be based around I-70. Once near the end in Utah, you could take US-50 (The Loneliest Road) through Nevada to get back to I-80 for the last part of your trip.

    To avoid tolls, you could take I-80 across PA, then I-76/I-71 to Columbus to get to I-70. Another option is I-78/I-81 to the PA Turnpike, this does involve tolls.

    For a reasonable daily drive distance, you may want to research campsites in the general vicinity of Columbus OH, somewhere between St. Louis and Kansas City MO, and somewhere in western Kansas or eastern Colorado.

  8. Default Irishcap and GLC

    Hey guys,
    Thanks for the valuable info. Chi isn't a high priority for us, getting out West is. I'll take a look at campgrounds, state and private (like KOA) around the area. Your I-70 to US-50 suggestion looks good too. I'll post an itinerary tonight. Thanks again!

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