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  1. #1

    Default Raleigh NC to Seattle WA one-way for honeymoon!

    My fiance and I are planning to take a road trip as our honeymoon. Right now I live in Raleigh, NC, and he lives in Seattle, WA, so it's also a way for us to move some of my things (clothes mostly) across the country.

    We originally planned to rent a large car or SUV for extra packing room, and it wasn't completely unaffordable to do that, but the cost of driving one-way so far is pretty intimidating. Basically, even if we rented a standard or full-size sedan it would be upwards of $1500 just to rent the car.

    And that was when I was actually hoping to get rid of my car--a 2003 Ford Focus. In fact, it never even occurred to us to drive my car there, since I was planning to get rid of it. Unfortunately it's waaay upside-down and basically I owe so much more on it than I could sell it for that it's going to take some time before I can part with it. Meanwhile, my parents aren't really interested in keeping it with them--my dad actually suggested driving it to WA for us (because he loves to drive like that) after we move (assuming we'd take a rental.)

    But if I took it with us, it'd give us another (spare) car in WA "just in case," it'd save us at least $1500 on a rental car, and give me some time to pay enough on it to be able to sell it and be done with it. In fact, that very same $1500 we'd save would put us much closer to that goal.

    So financially the obvious choice seems to just take my car with us. But it's a Focus. That's fine for driving around town or even 300 miles or so, as I've done on several occasions. But I'm not looking forward to spending 2 weeks in it to make the drive.

    Firstly it doesn't have cruise control (though my fiance intends to drive and prefers not to use it for some reason.) Secondly the seats aren't so comfortable. (Is there a way to fix that?) And lastly it's just kinda noisy compared to newer better cars (like some I've rented in the past.)

    Also, the reason I said two weeks is that we are taking a longer-than-necessary route. We're planning to leave right after Thanksgiving (on Nov. 29 actually, a Sunday.) Basically instead of going north, we'd rather go south. And that is partly because I'd like to see the Grand Canyon on this trip. I'm also thinking that staying south for a large part of the trip (TN, AL, AR, OK, TX) that we won't really see any snow until we get into higher elevations. And while I'd love to see North Dakota and Montana, I'd rather do it while they're not covered with snow in the first place.

    So mostly we'd be taking I-40 to Sedona, AZ. But we have to deal with the rock slide at the NC/TN border (probably won't be cleared by then.) Also, I'd like to stop in Huntsville to see the Space & Rocket Center. But before that I would like to see some of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I don't know how much of the mountains I'd be able to see from the interstates in that area.

    It's a problem for us, driving in the winter, since there won't be as much daylight, because we'd really like to see the landscapes we're driving through. How far is it realistic to be able to drive in a day? Or in half a day?

    We're planning to stop in Sedona for a few (2-4) days to rest half-way, see the Grand Canyon and such. Then we're planning to drive north from there: fiance wants to see Death Valley, but we might not stop at any other parks in California. Is there a scenic route I could take northward in CA that's not too congested? Would it be worthwhile to drive through or stop in any particular city on our way? (I'm thinking maybe San Francisco, but we can always come back to CA.)

    And I would like to drive north up the coast (101) in Oregon and Washington along the coast instead of taking the interstates there.

    Any tips for a trip like this? Would it be better to plan ahead and book hotels before we leave, or to stop along the way? In Sedona we'll almost definitely need to book ahead of time since we'll hopefully be staying at a B&B there. But knowing how far we can realistically travel per day (or per half-day, since we'll only be in Hunstville for half a day) would be nice to know so we can anticipate our stopping points. What do folks here do? (When not camping or RVing.) Any ideas on how to make bucket seats more comfy?

    My fiance has driven through NV, CA, WA, and OR before, while I've driven I-95 and I-85 from FL to NJ, and I-40 across NC, but neither of us has any experience in the middle of the country.

    So any help and advice would really be appreciated. Thanks everyone!

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

    Default a few thoughts

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I don't really have any good answers for you in regards to your car situation. I agree that taking the Focus sounds like the obvious choice financially, and logically, since presumably if you are too upside down to sell it, you aren't in a position to buy a different car once you get to Washington. Having said that, I've never found a good way to make an uncomfortable seat comfortable.

    Route wise, there is nothing wrong with going the way you've suggested, although it is a bit foolish to assume you won't see snow on this route. Even across the plains, its not uncommon at all to see snow and ice (it has snowed in Dallas on Thanksgiving on several occations for example).

    One very nice thing about the time you'll be traveling is that it is about the slowest time of the year for traveling. The period between Thanksgiving and just before Christmas is my favorite time to travel for that very reason. Because of that, you really shouldn't have to worry about reservations. However, B&Bs are a little tougher to find than regular motels, so if that is a lodging option you want to take advantage of, you should start searching for possibilities along your route now. Often there are state associations that you can try to look up.

    For distance, 500 miles a day is a nice rule of thumb for a full day on the road. That's 8-10 hours of travel, leaving some room to make several small stops each day. Since this is the shortest time of year, I would recommend that you adjust your own clocks to the daylight you have. If you are on the road at 7, you'll still have a full day of daylight even when its getting dark at 5, but if you stay up late and sleep in, then you can quickly get into a situation where you've only got a few hours of light while you are on the road.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Weather permitting, a way around the rockslide is right through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Highway 441. Get off I-40 at Lake Junaluska and take either 19 or 23 to 441 through Cherokee, over the top, and down through Gatlinburg. This will get you back to I-40 east of Knoxville.

    If you want to go to Huntsville, instead of going over the top you could take the combination of 23/19/441/74/129/64 to Cleveland TN then I-75/I-24 through Chattanooga to 72 to Huntsville. Then you could take I-565/Alt-72/72 to Memphis to pick I-40 back up.

    If you go through Death Valley, weather permitting, you can take 395 from there to Reno, then 395/36/44/299 to the coast and 101.

  4. #4

    Default Thanks!

    Thanks for the route tips. I put together this sort of basic (very loose) itinerary. The only time we'll stay in a B&B is in Sedona as there are a few nice ones there. And a great time of year, the prices are discounted for being off-season (add on a multiple night discount at some places plus a AAA discount, yay!)

    This is what I'm thinking of doing right now.

    Day 1-Sunday 11/29
    Leaving Raleigh, NC
    Arriving Asheville, NC (250 miles)

    Day 2-Monday 11/30
    Leaving Asheville, NC
    Stopping-over in Huntsville, AL (375 miles)
    Arriving in Corinth, MS (120 miles)

    Day 3-Tuesday 12/1
    Leaving Corinth, MS
    Arriving Oklahoma City, OK (560 miles)

    Day 4-Wednesday 12/2
    Leaving Oklahoma City, OK
    Arriving Albuquerque, NM (550 miles)

    Day 5-Thursday 12/3
    Leaving Albuquerque, NM
    Arriving Sedona, AZ (350 miles)

    Day 6-Friday 12/4
    Staying in Sedona
    Driving to Phoenix (120 miles)
    Returning to Sedona (120 miles)

    Day 7-Saturday 12/5
    Grand Canyon
    Staying in Sedona

    Day 8-Sunday 12/6
    Leaving Sedona
    Stopping at Grand Canyon (maybe)
    Arriving at Las Vegas (280 miles)

    Day 9-Monday 12/7
    Leaving Las Vegas
    Stopping at Death Valley NP (190 miles)
    Arriving at (or before) Fresno, CA (300 miles)
    (alt: arriving at (or before) Reno, NV (310 miles)

    Day 10-Tuesday 12/8
    Leaving Fresno
    Stopping at San Francisco, CA (200 miles)
    Arriving Laytonville, CA (160 miles)
    (alt: Reno to Grants Pass, OR)

    Day 11-Wednesday 12/9
    Leaving Laytonville, CA
    Up 101
    Arriving Seaside, OR (550 miles)
    (alt: Grants Pass, OR to Seaside, OR)

    Day 12-Thursday 12/10
    Leaving Seaside, OR
    Arriving Seattle, WA (200 miles)

    And I think you're right--we might well see snow somewhere along the route, since it will be December. By the way, I've heard that in some states it's required to carry chains--is that true?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    You may be pushing yourself a bit much - the 500 mile a day recommendation is for Interstate highways with essentially no sightseeing delays. For example, on day 2 you are setting yourself up for not being able to actually DO anything in Huntsville.

    Day 5, 6, 7, and 8 are a lot of backtracking. Go see Sedona, then the GC, then go to LV.

    Day 11 - no way. You can't do 550 miles in 1 day on 101.

    Chains are only required in certain areas under certain conditions. If the weather is that bad, you should avoid the whole area anyway - wait it out or find an alternate.

  6. #6


    Thanks! That's really helpful.

    We can plan to stop sooner after Huntsville for the night, and push a little further the next three days, maybe, since we would really like to get to Sedona by Thursday night. We won't be stopping for sight-seeing on those days.

    The next three nights (Thurs-Sat) we are planning to stay at a B&B in Sedona. Driving to Phoenix on Friday is for a certain obligation but I would really like to just stay in Sedona and drive to Phoenix and back on Friday instead of staying in Phoenix for a night. Then we'll see the Grand Canyon in a day and spend that night in Sedona also. I was thinking we might stop again at the Canyon after leaving Sedona for the last time. The next place we want to stop is Death Valley--we're not planning to actually stop in Las Vegas and do anything, it was more of just a reference point along the way.

    We can definitely slow down on 101. Would it be better to through Reno like you suggested before, and then hit 101 a little bit later? We can even cut the distance in half and just drive 250 or 300 miles on 101, and add the remaining 250 or so on the last day, since we'll be home that night.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I just did some research - the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays between Thanksgiving and sometime in February. With that in mind, is there even a need to go to Huntsville?

    With that in mind, you could spend Day 2 in the park - spend a little time in Cherokee, Gatlinburg, and Pigeon Forge - and spend the night in Knoxville. From there, you would have 3 long days to Sedona, with stops in Little Rock and Amarillo.

    Another option is the southern route all the way - through Atlanta, Dallas, and Tucson. Overnights would be Atlanta, Monroe LA, Abilene TX, and El Paso TX. This is 2380 miles, each day would average 465 miles.

    It's your call whether to go inland or up the coast from Death Valley. Considering you will be living in Seattle, I'd go up the coast to help avoid the possibility of snow, and do the inland trip during the summer at a later date.

    With 4 days to get from LV to Seattle, I'd also recommend you see the southern coast, and leave the northern coast for another trip.

    Day 1 - LV to Bakersfield via DV.
    Day 2 - Bakersfield to Monterey via Cambria and CA-1, take a Hearst Castle tour.
    Day 3 - Monterey to Grants Pass OR via I-5.
    Day 4 - Go home via I-5.

  8. #8

    Default I-40 at the NC-TN line

    Hello Neighbor (I also live in Raleigh),

    The fine routing advice from glc essentially precludes this from being an issue, but just be aware that I-40 is closed from Exit 20 on west into Tennessee. The rockslide at NC milepost 2.6, just this side of the state line, and covered in such detail on WRAL "dot" com, is not likely to be cleaned up for many more weeks. Both eastbound and westbound lanes are closed.

    Have a fun and safe RoadTrip!


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Olympic Peninsula, Washington State

    Default Skip San Juaquin Valley

    Unless you are in a hurry, I'd skip the San Juaquin Valley part (Bakersfield, Fresno etc.). I always go up 395 to at least Reno. From there you can head to the coast then go North. The Oregon Coast is spectacular. I-5 through central California is fast. Hwy 99 hits a lot of towns, isn't particularly fast. Although it isn't the shortest or fastest, Hwy 395 from the Bishop area north has lots to see as you follow along the east side of the Sierras (the dramatic side). I travel from Seattle to California every couple of years, and find this much more interesting.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 11-11-2009 at 04:00 AM. Reason: good neighbor rules - wholesale trashing of entire areas is not allowed on this forum

  10. #10


    Thanks for the tips, everyone!

    glc--thanks for checking on the center in Huntsville, that is definitely helpful to know at this stage in planning! I would've been so disappointed to show up and find it closed! So I talked it over with my husband and we're thinking now that we'll leave a day later (which is actually more convenient for us) and take our time going slow the first couple of days before Huntsville, and get there on Wednesday.

    Foy--I heard about the rock slide and was really scared that it would mess up my plans (tentative as they were) but I think we can get around it without too much trouble. We actually visited the mountains this past weekend and rode on the Blue Ridge Parkway a little bit so seeing the Smoky Mountains again isn't a major priority.

    Clarabelle--Thanks for the tips, especially about 395. I might take that route, i.e., 395 from Bishop to Reno (maybe to Susanville) if it has a great view.

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