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  1. Default Big 'U' across America

    My gf and I are planning to drive cross-country for 10 days (one-way) in Mid-Dec.

    We'll be renting a car (any advise on cheap rentals?) and leaving from New York. I know our main concern is the weather, so I want to stay predominantly south.

    I was thinking we'd head down the East Coast, maybe stop off in Savannah or New Orleans. Drive through Texas and at that point go either through Colorado (high elevation, lot of snow), Arizona or Utah to get to Los Angeles. Then drive up the West Coast via Hwy1 stopping at Napa and SF along the way, before ending it all in Seattle.

    We'd like to stop by one of the big parks or the grand canyons, I particularly want to go somewhere isolated and dark - somewhere I can see the stars at night (like in Utah).

    As for lodgings, the plan is to alternate nights at random motels and camping in a tent/car.

    I know there isn't much time and we have limited daylight to drive in, so does all this sound feasible?

    Any recommended routes or stops along the way? Any tips or advisories would be greatly appreciated!

    I'll be monitoring the NOAA site for the weeks leading up to and during the trip.

  2. Default

    Oh and any estimates on cost of fuel for this trip (@ current rates)?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Concerns

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    As a general rule-of-thumb, you're looking at 5 days (minimum) to cross the continent and two days each (again, minimum) to go down the east coast and up the west coast, so you have precious little margin of error for any bad weather you'll run into, and precious little spare time to see any of the great places you'll be driving by. Yes, your plan is feasible, but will require some weather luck and/or flexibility. You need to keep in mind that going south is no guarantee of good weather. It can and certainly does snow and sleet across the south and southwest. And when it does, those areas are ill equipped to handle it leading to major accidents and delays.

    You should have absolutely no trouble finding dark skies during your trip, particularly if you plan to camp out about half the time. But another thing to be aware of is that car camping by just pulling off on 'isolated' roads will run the risk of trespassing, so you are much better off sticking to state and national parks. Even in the winter, there is plenty of daylight for driving, but you should plan on getting an early start each morning and being off the road, particularly on those evenings when you will be setting up camp, well before dark. Even so, you can plan on making 500-500 miles a day on those days when you aren't spending significant time sightseeing.

    As for car and gas costs, you'll just have to do your research on rentals to find the best deal available to you. If either of you are under 25, be sure to factor in the underage driver fee(s), typically around $25/day/driver. Since you haven't said where you're starting from or what kind of car you'll be driving it's impossible for anyone to give you an estimate on fuel costs, but you can use the Fuel Cost Calculator on the left side of this page to get your own estimate.

    AZBuck

  4. Default Big '-' across America?

    Thanks AZBuck for your sagely input!

    The timing is definitely tight. Would you say it's probably best we skip the East Coast and Texas, instead taking a more direct path to Los Angeles? What route would you recommend for this (we're leaving from NYC)?

    How is Rt-50 during this time of year? Is that possible? Should I expect heavy snow?

    Also as a question of safety, in the situation where we need to sleep in the car or camp along the road. How far would you say either a car or tent needs to be from the side of the road where it is "safe"? I'd like to avoid a tractor trailer or any other motorcar absently hitting us in the night, but I also don't want to get the car stuck.

    Wow, I didn't even notice the 'Fuel Cost Calculator'. My appreciation again!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    If you want to pitch a tent, go find a campground. If you want to sleep in the car, do so at a truckstop. Make sure you buy something at the truckstop - such as breakfast, gas, or a shower.

    Pulling off the road to do either is generally considered trespassing and can get you in trouble.

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

    Default Concerns II

    Actually, dropping Savannah and New Orleans, and taking the most direct route to Los Angeles from New York City only saves you about 400 miles, or roughly a day's drive. You'd still have about 8 days of driving, so as long as L.A. is definitely in your itinerary you might as well find a route that you'll enjoy. I think, though, that even with time that tight, I might try to include the Grand Canyon by going via St. Louis and Oklahoma City to I-40 west. That still leaves you with 4000+ miles and eight days driving.

    US-50 doesn't take you to Los Angeles and doesn't have the speed limits (except across northern Nevada) to make it a viable option. What you should really do is map out 2 or 3 possible routes and then choose which way to go just before you leave and have a much better idea of what the weather along your possible routes will be.

    The problem with just 'pulling off the road' to car camp is not a safety issue (usually) but a trespassing issue. If you are actually just on the shoulder of a well traveled highway, I can almost guarantee you that you will get a knock on your window from a trooper at some time during the night and be told to move on (if you're lucky). If you leave the highway and park in a 'deserted' field, you will almost certainly be trespassing on private property, which is looked on with severe mistrust, especially in the southwest. Again, you should plan on camping at state or national parks if possible, or if money is that tight, check at the many truck service plazas on your way. They will often allow you to sleep in their parking lots, but note that it is customary in such cases to buy something, a meal or a shower say, as a courtesy in return.

    AZBuck

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

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    If you want to sleep in the car, do so at a truckstop. Make sure you buy something at the truckstop - such as breakfast, gas, or a shower.
    To find which truck stops / travel plazas welcome recreational vehicles, and hence allow you to sleep in your car on their turf, check out this valuable resource. It is a great investment. The pocket version does not give the information you will be looking for.

    Lifey who spent many nights at truck plazas

  8. Default Big '?' across America

    So the only places to camp out are campsites and truckstops, I had hoped we'd be able to escape "civilization" for a bit. But I guess all the land between the coasts are "claimed" by someone...hehe

    from the information given it seems, I either need more time or should wait till spring/summer.

    I'll come up with some alternate routes, maybe stick to a smaller region or possibly take a train across first. We do want to enjoy an area not just whizz past it. Will get back to this thread when I've put more thought into this!

    Thank you very much for all the advise! (I think I would've gotten myself in trouble otherwise haha)

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by wetworx View Post
    Thank you very much for all the advise! (I think I would've gotten myself in trouble otherwise haha)
    Guess that is what this site is all about..... keeping you safe on the road.

  10. Default

    ...and out of jail for trespassing ;-)

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