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  1. Default Going from Atlanta GA to the west coast

    Warning - this post is an example of freewriting... so please forgive the awkwardness of it's flow.

    I'm going on my first ever road trip. In fact, it's a solo one, too. On top of that, I'm going all out. I've been on many solo trips to FL, Savannah GA, and TN... but I don't really count those.

    I'm doing this for a few reasons. The first is that I will be 25 when I do this... and I really need to do some soul searching. I can't really do it around here when I have family and the daily grind dulling my sense of self. The second reason is that I really want to see something different. I'm tired of all the trees and the same old predictable way of life. One of the happiest times of my life is when I went to Myrtle Beach.. it was all so different. I'd wake up every morning at 7 am excited like an 8 year old on Christmas morning.

    Ok, I'm getting off track.

    The dates I have to do all of this is October 1st to the 25th. On the 23rd I need to be in TN for my second cousin's wedding.. so ideally I'd like to be there the night of the 21st so I can get the clothing I need on the 22nd.

    This gives me exactly 3 weeks. Based on experimental trip plans I created, I estimate this will be 6000 miles total.

    The basic plan is very simple: drive from Atlanta GA west to the Pacific Ocean, see some things along the way (including the ocean!), and on my way to TN to see some more things. While I'd like to think I have unlimited funds and can drive all I like... I can't. This restricts some of my north and south driving. This trip was in the works over a year ago and it included driving to Alaska... but I can't, now.

    I have a list of the things I want to see but I can't find it.. but off the top of my head, here are some:

    Pacific ocean
    Yosemite National Park
    Las Vegas
    Salt Flats
    White Sands National Monument
    Sand Dunes in CO
    Denver CO
    Grand Canyon
    Glen Canyon

    I'm also curious as to just how BORING the Kansas is... so I'll probably run through there. Houston TX may be on my list of stops because I have family that live there... you know, free lodging and food. Maybe New Orleans.

    I'd like to see "The Thing," a famous tourist trap. Please, don't spoil it for me ;)

    Oh YEA!!! Area 51, too. Doubt I can get anywhere close to it (security), but at least I can say I been there.

    And aren't there radio telescope arrays out west? I'd like to see those, too.

    I've never done any tent camping but I'm going to do it, anyway. It's cheap or even free lodging and once every few days I'll check into a hotel to take a shower. Where can I camp with little to no notice that I am coming? How much does it generally cost?

    This trip is pretty much going to be me "just winging" it. While I can make a long LONG list of everything I want to see... I doubt I will see even half of it. For one, 3 weeks averaging close to 300 miles a day makes it impossible to squeeze everything in. Second, if I seen the Grand Canyon I may not care to see Glen Canyon, for example.

    So -- What other things do you recommend that I see or do? Any cool bars I should go to? I'm very inhibited and I want to try to "let loose" while I am out. My hope is to come back having better learned about myself and to come out of my shell by a large degree.

    While it's on my mind... is it at all possible, reasonable, or even safe to park my vehicle in the white sands, salt flats, or anything like that and camp out for the night? A few things I fear are wild animals, trespassing private property, extreme cold at night, or being robbed or assaulted. If I could, I'd really like to buy a 12 pack of beer, camp out in the middle of nowhere with my truck (again, in something like the white sands), and get wasted for that night.

    Geez... I could go on and on.

    Cheers :)

  2. Default

    Oh.. and what kind of things should I buy?

    I have GPS navigation on my cell phone but I really need to buy a handheld GPS unit because my cell phone won't handle anything but driving.

    I need a tent... sleeping bag... water purifier... a mat. Not sure what kind of clothing I might need... I sweat a lot and I know cotton sucks.

    I do a lot of hiking so I'm not worried about "getting in shape" for any of this.

    Oh.. I forgot to add that I'd like to hike Mt. Whitney.. or if I can't do that.. Pilot Peak in NV. I need to do more research on these, though (permits, how hard they really are, etc).

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default Priorities

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    First of all, lets start small. Its great that you are dreaming big, but 3 weeks isn't a ton of time, and you've listed a lot of places. Figure its going to take you about a week to travel cross country each way, and that's if you are traveling a pretty good distance every day. You should be able to see a lot of things, but you may have trouble getting to everything you've already listed so far - especially if you take time to really explore the new things you're seeing along the way. Also remember, just because your point to point distances work out to about 6000 miles, you'll end up doing a lot more driving through parks, to campsites, in towns etc. You'll likely rack up at least 8000 miles on a trip like this.

    Now, lets touch on your approach.
    I can't really do it around here when I have family and the daily grind dulling my sense of self. The second reason is that I really want to see something different. I'm tired of all the trees and the same old predictable way of life.
    I'm also curious as to just how BORING the Kansas is... so I'll probably run through there.
    I hope you can at least see the irony of those two statements. You want to get out and explore, see new things, and do soul searching, yet you've already completely dismissed one of the areas that you're going to be visiting. If you are already closing your mind to what you're expecting, then you aren't going to be going much soul searching. Here is an article you should really read, but to put it simply: If you find Kansas to be boring, its because you decided it is boring instead of doing all the things you claim to be trying to do with this trip.

    Camping wise - no you can't just park anywhere and camp out. There are some National Forest and other public lands where dispersed camping is allowed, but you need to know where these areas are in advance. Certainly, you can't just head into a National Park like White Sands and expect to just camp where ever you'd like. Generally speaking, plan to stay in a designated campground and you'll stay out of a lot of trouble. Assuming you can camp anywhere else without being 100% sure is just asking for trouble. A campsite will generally cost about $20 for the night - sometimes less, sometimes a little more, but its a good average number.

    A handheld GPS seems a little excessive unless you are planning to do some serious off-trail back country hiking (in which case you should already have lots of experience in this area) and while there is nothing wrong with a water purifier, most campsites have water and otherwise bottled water will usually get you through. You don't need to have a real huge gear list for a roadtrip or camping, some basic things - a good variety of clothes suitable for a variety of conditions, can really make for a nice and simple trip.

  4. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    Welcome to the RTA Forum!
    Thank you :)

    First of all, lets start small. Its great that you are dreaming big, but 3 weeks isn't a ton of time, and you've listed a lot of places. Figure its going to take you about a week to travel cross country each way, and that's if you are traveling a pretty good distance every day. You should be able to see a lot of things, but you may have trouble getting to everything you've already listed so far - especially if you take time to really explore the new things you're seeing along the way. Also remember, just because your point to point distances work out to about 6000 miles, you'll end up doing a lot more driving through parks, to campsites, in towns etc. You'll likely rack up at least 8000 miles on a trip like this.
    Well, some explanation is in order. The basic plan that I outlined a few months ago came out to 5,000 miles. This bare-bones plan assumes no stops, no detours, no change of plans, etc. I had optimized the whole thing for mileage. Now, with that said, yes... we can plan on it being 7,000 miles just for argument sake. In fact, it may happen.

    Now, it is very possible that I will get out west, evaluate my current situation, and make a decision about what stops stay and what go. The basic plan is to drive west to the San Diego area or so and come back home another route of equal distance. Anything "along the way" is fair game. The cool thing about Google Maps is that it suggests alternate routes... I pick the best one and work with that. And I don't expect to spend entire days at everything. For example, White Sands is on-the-way and I may only stick around for 3 hours... then drive some more.

    I'm still hoping that I can find some place outside of a park that I can just chill at with a beer. In my head I have an imaginayry scene of me sitting in a lounge chair in the desert with a full moon drinking a beer. Seems great... but I don't want to break any serious laws.

    Now, lets touch on your approach. I hope you can at least see the irony of those two statements. You want to get out and explore, see new things, and do soul searching, yet you've already completely dismissed one of the areas that you're going to be visiting. If you are already closing your mind to what you're expecting, then you aren't going to be going much soul searching. Here is an article you should really read, but to put it simply: If you find Kansas to be boring, its because you decided it is boring instead of doing all the things you claim to be trying to do with this trip.
    No no no! Heh.. I think I used some local slang where I shouldn't have. "Running through" means that I actually want to see it. I think that what I meant was that instead of bypassing it, I want to "run to see it." Oh well, I hope you get what I mean, now :) It may very well be a test of mental endurance :DThank you for the article. Once I post this, I'll read it.

    Camping wise - no you can't just park anywhere and camp out. There are some National Forest and other public lands where dispersed camping is allowed, but you need to know where these areas are in advance. Certainly, you can't just head into a National Park like White Sands and expect to just camp where ever you'd like. Generally speaking, plan to stay in a designated campground and you'll stay out of a lot of trouble. Assuming you can camp anywhere else without being 100% sure is just asking for trouble. A campsite will generally cost about $20 for the night - sometimes less, sometimes a little more, but its a good average number.
    Ok, thank you. I know that I can't just setup camp but I was just hoping that I could arrive the day I plan to camp and make arrangements then. But... I can figure that out as I get there. I have enough money to sleep at a hotel if I need to... this is a stress free trip.

    A handheld GPS seems a little excessive unless you are planning to do some serious off-trail back country hiking (in which case you should already have lots of experience in this area) and while there is nothing wrong with a water purifier, most campsites have water and otherwise bottled water will usually get you through. You don't need to have a real huge gear list for a roadtrip or camping, some basic things - a good variety of clothes suitable for a variety of conditions, can really make for a nice and simple trip.
    Well, I do have a lot of experience with hiking and the like. I used to own a GPS but I've dropped it enough times that it doesn't work 80% of the time. And, if I don't really need a water purifier that's fine. I own a Camelbak hiking bag that holds 3 liters of water.

    As for clothing...I probably will need something. While it may be cooler in October, I still sweat a lot and cotton never does me any good. Or, I could just be using this trip as an excuse to buy everything I want and need ;)
    Last edited by AZBuck; 08-28-2009 at 04:37 PM. Reason: Whitespace removed

  5. Default

    Oh, sorry about that white space AZBuck. I was having problems with my Internet connection so I kept loosing my posts, so I have to save a copy in Notepad and that caused the problem.

    Anyway, I did some more tweaking.

    I still want to see the Pacific Ocean but if my time frame doesn't change, I can't see it. So, I'll just assume that the Pacific Ocean is no longer on the trip plan.

    The basic plan is to take I-10 to White Sands, go to the Grand Canyon, Mt. Whitney, Death Valley, Las Vegas, Great Basin National Park, then pass through Denver on my way to Chattanooga for my second cousin's wedding. I have 3 weeks to do it. The distance from ATL to White Sands plus the distance from the Great Basin to Chattanooga is 3500 miles. I'm young enough and cocky enough to power out that drive in 5 days total (707 miles per day)... so, I should have 16 days in that general area too see enough.

    In theory, this is how it looks:

    Location............Days in Location........Days remaining
    Start.................0........................... ..16
    White Sands......1.............................15
    Grand Canyon....3.............................12
    Mt. Whitney.......0.5..........................11.5
    Death Valley......2.5...........................9
    Las Vegas..........5..............................4
    Great Basin........2..............................2

    With 2 days remaining out of my 16 out west, this will hopefully give me enough driving time to cover all of these (total driving time when I am out there is about 2 days).

    Heck, I don't know if I'd even stay in Vegas for 5 days...

    I'll try working on a detailed plan but I'd really appreciate any input up to this point :)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Young Helps, Cocky Doesn't

    Sorry, but the fact is that 5 days of better than 700 miles each is simply not possible. You might be able to pull off one because of your youth, and a second one because of your stubbornness, but after that you will have destroyed any fun you might have gotten out of this trip and be a danger to yourself and others. Until you rearrange your schedule to eliminate the 'need' for such days, the rest is a house built on sand.

    AZBuck

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default

    Buck's right, you know!!

    Perhaps you should check out this thread.

    Young and cocky, but hopefully not blind (to the facts)!
    Last edited by AZBuck; 08-29-2009 at 09:15 AM. Reason: Fixed link

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default exactly the opposite

    In addition to the fact that your plan isn't going to be any fun, and will certainly push you into a danger zone - I'm amazed that once again you are making plans that run exactly opposite to the goals you've set out.

    You want to explore, see new things, and do some soul searching, so how are you going to do that spending 14 hour days in the car, which will be exhausting and leave you no time at all to stop anywhere along the way?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    777

    Default Whitney - not a chance in heck

    Hiking Mt. Whitney will be hard to fit into your plans; and a half day is enough to drive to Whitney Portal (8500'), have a cheeseburger (if the store is open that late in the season), take some pictures, and head out.

    If you want to summit, here's a few of the obstacles you'll have to overcome.

    Access: this is a popular hike, in a fragile ecological area. For that reason, there is a permit system with daily quotas. You're looking at late in the season, so MAYBE you can get a permit, but it won't be easy. Without a permit, you cannot enter the John Muir Wilderness; which means you CAN hike a couple miles up the trail, but not the full distance. Getting caught without a permit will result in fines at the least.

    Time/Effort/Gear: the full hike, from the trailhead at Whitney Portal, is a 22 mile round trip with a 6,000' elevation gain. The very very fit can do this in a day, but it means starting and ending in the dark. In October, there's more dark. The other approach (the one I took) is to hike partway in, camp at 12,000', then summit and hike out. This CAN be done in two days, during the daylight, but you need appropriate gear so you don't freeze to death sleeping at 12,000' in October. It WILL be below freezing, possibly sub-zero. You can't do this with a car-camping sleeping bag, you need a 3 or 4 season bag.

    Not to be indelicate, you will also have to pack out EVERYTHING. If it isn't liquid, it has to come back out. Even that. You can't bury it; too many people and it takes too long to decompose above 12,000'. They used to have "solar" toilets, but they kept breaking down and have been removed I believe.

    Unless you're a seasoned hiker of 14-ers, or have put in some training, just being fit may not be enough to prevent altitude issues. AMS (acute mountain sickness) can happen to anybody, but you increase the chances if you go straight from sea level to 14,450'. Most people who plan Whitney Hikes spend a few days acclimating at places like Tahoe or Mammoth Lakes.

    Whitney is a great hike, but realistically it requires some planning and isn't something you throw into the middle of an already busy road trip.

    The back side of the Sierra Crest; circa 13,500':

    Photo: Don Casey

    Final push to the top:

    Photo: Don Casey

    The summit is the farthest out peak; trail makes an "s" up the slope ahead, through the snow patch, then upslope to the summit.


    Morning at 12,000':

    Photo: Don Casey

    None of these are Whitney; trail crosses over the crest to the left of the photo, traverses BEHIND these peaks (see first photo). Whitney itself is just to the right of the photo, hidden by the ridge in the foreground.
    Last edited by CalOldBlue; 08-29-2009 at 10:01 AM. Reason: added that last 450' / photo comments

  10. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    Sorry, but the fact is that 5 days of better than 700 miles each is simply not possible. You might be able to pull off one because of your youth, and a second one because of your stubbornness, but after that you will have destroyed any fun you might have gotten out of this trip and be a danger to yourself and others. Until you rearrange your schedule to eliminate the 'need' for such days, the rest is a house built on sand.

    AZBuck
    I have added some stops going west. One thing I was really hoping for is to at least plow through the drive out to White Sands by making one one stop (Houston) and then take the rest of it real easy... this includes the trip back. I've added a night in New Orleans, a night in San Antonio, and a night in Fort Stockton... but then I'll have to drive straight from Ft. Stockton to White Sands... about 600 miles... but averaging about 480 per day.

    It shouldn't be that bad for me doing it that way.

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    In addition to the fact that your plan isn't going to be any fun, and will certainly push you into a danger zone - I'm amazed that once again you are making plans that run exactly opposite to the goals you've set out.
    I'm not exactly sure how I am being contrary to my original goals. I probably failed to lay them all out... but, the overall theme was to get out of Georgia, see the far west, learn something about myself while I am out there, then come home. I don't know... I do a lot of driving anyway (over 1000 a work week plus more on the weekends) and I love driving... so I figured that half the trip was just the driving... it's when I have all my best ideas :)

    But, I do see your point about pulling consecutive 14 hour day drives.

    I changed my plans.

    Sept 26th to Sept 29th
    Atlanta -> New Orleans -> San Antonio -> Fort Stockton -> White Sands.

    Oct 2nd to Oct 18th
    White Sands -> Grand Canyon -> Death Valley -> Las Vegas -> Great Basin -> Arches NP

    Oct 19th to Oct 21st
    Denver CO -> Salina KS -> Little Rock -> Chattanooga

    The longest drive is from White Sands to the Grand Canyon at 660 miles. New Orleans to San Antonio is 550 miles. Everything else is less than 480 miles. 480 isn't bad... I drove that a few weeks ago from Atlanta to Orlando and then came back 2 days later... I had loads of fun and the drive didn't even phase me.

    When I write it all down like that, it all seems like a real big hassle.. averaging 210 miles per day and averaging 405 miles per stop... knowing myself, I could very well do it all in really high spirits..

    In fact, as I said before, I could decide while I'm out there to skip some park because I'm having too much fun where I'm at.

    What do ya'll think of this?

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