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  1. #1

    Default Vegas - Tahoe - PCH - Joshua - Mohave

    Hi all.

    I'm heading out West at the end of March / start of April, Flying into and out of Las Vegas. Last time I was in that area we went to Vegas and the Grand Canyon, SF/LA and Yosemite/Kings Canyon so my plan this time is to spend our time along these lines:

    1) Las Vegas
    2) through Death Valley, staying at Lone Pine
    3) Lake Tahoe
    4) Sonoma Valley / Santa Rosa
    5) Monterey
    6) Santa Barbara
    7) LA
    8) Through Josua Tree N.P. to Lake Havasu
    9) Through Mohave national Preserve to Las Vegas

    My proposed route is something like this: {OUR SINCERE APOLOGIES -- WHILE TESTING A NEW MAPPING DISPLAY OPTION, Mark Sedenquist, managed to lose this link. If you'll repost the link here, I can restore your map...}

    I've read through several threads about similar trips and found a lot of useful advice (thank you all!) but still have a few questions (and of course if anyone has any advice on any other points that'll also be very warmly welcomed!)

    Firstly, the bit I'm most up in the air about is the bit in wine country. Guide books have left me feeling like I like the sound of Sonoma valley a little more than Napa valley but if anyone has recommendations for specific places to stay / eat / tour that'd be a help. Also, I wonder if there's a more interesting route to that area from Lake Tahoe than through Sacramento that anyone could suggest?

    Secondly, the Death Valley bit has my wife, um, "concerned". I guess it won't be too hot at that time of year but she seems convinced that out rental car will definitely break down in the heat, and that vultures will eat us within minutes of that. So I'm hoping a couple of people will say "no, you'll be fine" ;) I've sorta planned at approaching from the south, just because it's a longer route through Death Valley than if you enter from the east, and I love the idea of doing a stretch of the Old Spanish Trail. Looking on google maps at the street view pictures makes that road seem less than perfect but manageable, but if anyone has thoughts on that, or routes through DV in general do share them please!

    Thirdly, I've planned leaving LA through the Angeles National Forest since that seems preferable to miles of freeway. An alternative might be to stick on big roads a bit longer and venture into San Bernadino National Forest. Probably not both though as this is a pretty long day's driving however we do it. We're then planning to drive through Joshua Tree National park and on to Lake Havasu city. But if anyone has suggestions for tweaking this route, that'd be great.

    Fourthly - we're really struggling to decide on a rental car. The P.C.H. stretch seems to demand a convertible just on principle (!), although the roof will surely stay up for Death Valley and it'll be pretty chilly around lake Tahoe at that time of year. And in any case, the views even for the coastal bits might well be better from something like an SUV with its higher driving position? This may bring out conflicting opinions but I just can't decide, help me! (The driving aspect is a big a part of the trip - probably at the expense of stopping and seeing things along the way - and despite the price we're considering a Corvette from Hertz - I mean, people write songs about that car... It's the dream... and as someone living in Britain it seems very glamorous! But if in a low-slung car like that we'll just see shrubbery at the side of the road, and not the ocean, at Big Sur, it'd be a waste!)

    My that was a long post. Thanks in advance for your help!
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 02-14-2010 at 05:59 PM. Reason: Fixed the map

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


    I really wouldn't worry about Death Valley at that time of year. First of all, even at the greatest extremes, its important to remember that a car's engine's operating temperature is much higher than any temperature you'll see in Death Valley at any time of year. As long as your car's cooling system is working properly (and that shouldn't be an issue in a rental) there really isn't a problem. Heat can also wear out other parts faster, but again, not something that's really affected by a drive through the desert.

    More importantly, in March/April, I think you're over-blowing just how hot it will be in Death Valley. While its certainly possible that you'll see triple digits, the average high temperature at that time of year is 80-90 degrees. So the word will be comfortable, not hot, and quite possibly "top down" weather.

    I don't think you'll really have time for a detour into the San Bernardino NF if you want to hit Joshua Tree and make it all the way to Havasu in one day. That's going to be a long day if you just take the freeway out towards Joshua Tree, you don't want to add even more.

    For a car, go with what you think will be most comfortable and most fun. I think you're overthinking the driving position a bit, as an SUV certainly isn't needed to enjoy the views on the PCH. If this is a dream trip, I think I'd be going with the convertable or the sports car. But a good sized sedan could be just as comfortable at a fraction of the price.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Opinions!

    I'm sure you'll get many differing views on your questions, precisely because RoadTrips are such a personal adventure. So let me weigh in with mine.

    1) I don't know much about the California Wine Country, or wines for that matter, so I'll leave this to others.

    2) March/April is perhaps the perfect time to visit Death Valley. Temperatures won't be that bad, but still warm enough that you get a taste of being in the desert, but more importantly, it will be wildflower season. There are short (less than a mile) nature walks that let you see the desert environment without getting too far from civilization. The one spot I'd add to your visit would be Scotty's Castle for a bit of the history of the Valley.

    3) I think you'll enjoy the Angel's Crest Highway and be amazed that you can be in such a remote and wild location so soon after leaving the city. There are occasional pullouts where the Los Angeles Basin is spread out below you and any number of great natural hikes. I heartily recommend it and I think that you're right to go with the plan you have. There aren't a lot of ways to tweak it and even fewer (if any) to improve it.

    4) Ahh, the most personal of personal choices: the car. I have found that when I think back on what has made any particular RoadTrip memorable, it has NEVER been the car. Indeed, I often have to think long and hard to remember which vehicle I made a given trip in. I understand the mystique of the convertible, but I think that comes from the movies where there is a distinct difference in the image of a couple driving down the highway with a full 360° view and the image of a couple in a 'dark' (compared to the sunlit outside) sedan. But that is the external view. The internal view, from the driver's and passenger's perspective, hardly changes at all since what you can't see because of the roof is just sky. I just don't get the point of SUVs at all. The claim that the view is significantly better from a few inches higher just doesn't ring true to me and certainly doesn't justify the added cost of the rental and expense of the added petrol needed to move it down the highway. I generally go for the most comfortable and affordable car I can get and just enjoy the experience.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    The Angeles Crest Highway (CA-2) may or may not be open at that time. Right now, a stretch is closed for the winter, and another stretch is closed by a mudslide from the recent storms.

    I think you may be a bit early in the season to make a Corvette rental advisable. It's very possible you may encounter adverse weather and road conditions in the mountains and Corvettes are terrible cars for poor traction conditions, they can swap ends very easily if you encounter something as simple as a patch of ice in a shady spot. You would not need all wheel drive, but you might need a vehicle that can accept tire chains. I've encountered snow in the California Sierras in May.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Different than the UK.

    I just don't get the point of SUVs at all. The claim that the view is significantly better from a few inches higher just doesn't ring true to me and certainly doesn't justify the added cost of the rental and expense of the added petrol needed to move it down the highway.
    I totally agree with Buck on this one, but I would like to add that you don't get the miles and miles of narrow lanes with hedge grow or poor visibility junctions [and the like] as you do here in the UK ,which in turn makes the concept of sitting higher and seeing more in an SUV even less valid when visiting the US.

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