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  1. Default Road Trip September 11 Denver - LA - Seattle.


    As the title states, I'm planning a tree week roadtrip in september 2011. We are planning on flying in to Denver and out of Seattle. I will be traveling with my girlfriend and we are planning on visiting:

    Mesa Verde
    Monument Valley
    Las Vegas
    Six Flags, CA
    From LA we are planning to travel north by the pacific highway/highway 1 to Seattle.

    According to Google Maps this will be about 2700 miles which equals 55 hours of total driving = 2,75 hours pr day.

    Is this a bit to much time spent behind the wheel, or is it doable? We are planning on staying a couple of nights in a few places, definitively in LV and LA, but also in "hidden gems" we find along the way.

    We would appreciate any tips on interesting places along the way.


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

    Default good, but caution

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think 3 weeks will give you a nice amount of time for a trip like this. There's a ton of stuff you could see, so you will have to budget your time, but you should be able to enjoy yourself without feeling overly rushed.

    One word of caution, drive time estimates from online mapping are often very optimistic and that can be even more true when you're looking at roads like the coast highway where you'll frequently be traveling at slow speeds.

    There are plenty more things you could work into your trip. Rocky Mountain NP, Arches, Million Dollar Highway, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Death Valley, Yosemite, Sequoia, Crater Lake are just a few of the other major stops that you might think about.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default A week to Vegas [+/ -]

    Wow ! That's an amazing trip you have lined up, so much amazing and diverse scenery to enjoy along the way.

    Michael's given you a great list of places you could consider visiting, and you could easily spend all your time in just those, but you do have a nice amount of time to enjoy this trip. From Denver to Vegas and hit the spots you mention I would first head to Rocky mountain NP and spend a night in Estes park and the Bear lake area. You could then travel over the Continental divide on Trail ridge Rd, which also happens to be the highest continuous paved Rd in the US and very scenic with it. Dropping down through Winter park to I 70 where you could take a brief detour over Loveland pass, located on the continental divide at almost 12000ft. Just after Dillon you could head South on 91 to Historic Leadville, the highest incorporated town in the US and a nice town for an overnight stop. Head South past Twin lakes [worth a stroll] and West at Poncha Springs on US 50 will take you across the Continental divide, yet again, at Monarch pass and through the Currecanti National recreation area to the wonderful 'Black canyon of the Gunnison'. At Montrose, head South on US550 which is known as the 'Million dollar highway' Michael referred to. It would be quite a long day but you could make it to the small mountain town of Ouray for the night. Continue down this scenic mountain Rd through Silverton to Durango and Mesa Verde. From there head to Four corners and then on to Monument valley and possibly stop at Cameron for the night, which is very close to the East entrance of the Grand canyon South rim. Stay a night at GC and continue to Vegas next day.

    Rather than cutting down through Leadville, another option would be to continue on I 70 and stop in Moab UT which has the National parks of Arches and Canyonlands nearby and then head South to Mesa Verde.

  4. Default

    Thanks for the reply!

    I will definetly check out the NP's you've listed. Grand Canyon is a must. We will be travelling the million dollar highway as I want to visit Silverton, CO. Crater Lake is also on our predicted course so that will be woth a visit as well.

    As for you words of caution: Do you have a better prediction in terms of totalt effective driving time? Are the speed limits generally low on the highways vs the interstates?

    And another thing we were wondering about. We have been checking out the various rentals in our price range and landed on "Pontiac G5 or similar". For a travel group of 2, would a bigger (or smaller) car be a better option to spend 21 days in?

    We have estimated a budget of around 140 $ per day for everything on our trip besides rental costs and flights. We are planning on staying in motels/cheap hotels and eating most of our meals in restaurants. Is this realistic?

    Thanks in advance!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Speed Limits on the Interstate in the West are usually 70-75, while 2 lane roads will be 55-65. Of course, 2 lane roads will typically have slowdowns for towns or stretches where the roads simply require slower speed because of curves or other dangers.

    On the freeway, you can typically average around 55 mph for a full day on the road, factoring required basic stops like food, fuel, restrooms, etc. 2 lane highways are much more difficult to come up with a good average, because of it will depend on the terrain and number of towns.

    A G5 is classified a mid or full sized car I assume. If that's the case, you should be just fine, and really that's where you'll usually find the best value. Going down to compact or economy can mean a little less comfort without much of a savings, while going larger into an SUV usually is just going to cost more with no real benefit.

    Your budget is pretty close, but I would probably bump it up a bit. It's not hard to burn up $30-40 a day in fuel (and more if you've got long haul driving days), you'll likely spend $75 for low to mid range motels, and it's not hard at all to spend more than $40 a day on food for 2 when eating at restaurants. Personally, I like to budget a little more than I'm likely to spend - and hopefully come home with some money left over to save for the next trip.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    A G5 is a pretty small car - it's a rebadged Chevy Cobalt. For 2 people, it will be fine. It will probably be classed as an "intermediate".

  7. Default

    Hi again. Thanks for the responses concerning cars and budgets. I've never been on a forum with such quick and quality feedback.

    As I am from Norway I would like to experience a proper american car on our road trip. And by proper I mean a big car. I would not like a SUV but perhaps a bigger sedan which I regard as the "typical" american car. Is it a good idea to gamble on booking a smaller sedan/coupe like the G5 and then upgrade it on arrival?

    As for the budget, I could not agree more with the idea of thinking of spending more and then coming home with more. But since I'm a economist I take great pride in hitting these kinds of budgets on the spot :-). One of many compulsions one gets from studying economics. On our last vacation i missed the budget by aprox 10$. I was thrilled, my girlfriend not so... And my estimate of 140 $ per day was per person, so we are looking at closer to 280 $ for the both of us per day. This must be inside of the comfortable sone?

    We've bought a couple of books regarding roadtripping in america, this combined with the help we've got here will make for a great source of inspiration for our planning.

    Thanks again.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    If you know you want a big american car, then I wouldn't mess around with trying to gamble and upgrade. As long as you are sticking with Sedans, it usually only costs a couple dollars a day to go up to the next size. I'd go with a Full Sized car, although your "typical american car" could very well end up being a Toyota or a Nissan (that's what my last couple rentals were).

    If the G5 is the same as a Cobalt, then it is smaller than I thought. It would be classified as a compact for anyone trying to purchase a car (although rental companies could easily call that a intermediate because they tend to call every car one size larger than the real world.) It would work for two people if you needed to or just wanted to keep costs down, but I think you'd be more comfortable going a little bigger.

    I thought your budget was $140 a day total, and I thought it was a little low, but in the range of realism. If it is twice that, then you shouldn't have any problems having a comfortable trip.

  9. Default

    Hi again!

    We have now booked our flights and rented a car. We will be driving from Seattle to denver in 20 days and plan on catching the following:

    Seattle (Obvious)
    Crater lake
    Drive the coast highway through Oregon
    Avenue of the giants
    San Fran And the Highway 1 to LA
    Las Vegas
    Monument Valley
    Mesa Verde
    Million Dollar Highway
    Rocky Moutains NP
    Denver (Again, obvious.)

    We have pretty much our stops planned from Las Vegas to Denver thanks to the good help from Southwest Dave in his post earlier in the thread. We plan on driving straight from LA to LV. We have lots of oppurtunities along HW1 and dont really need more input here as it is input-overload already.

    So we are asking for tips on the trip from Seattle to San fran. In genereal, we want to stick to the coast, but we are flexible.

    Any suggestions and tips on nice(budget) hotels and restaurants are greatly appreciated. We also plan on visiting breweries and vineyards, any top-picks here?

    Thanks for your time and help!


  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    As far as vineyards are concerned - just north of San Francisco are the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, which are chock-full of wineries with tours and tastings. Make sure one of you is the designated driver if you do more than one winery tour! My husband and I have enjoyed a lot of the different tours over the years, but Mondavi comes to mind as a good tour.

    Hotels/motels - if you're on a budget, there are a few that come to mind: mom-and-pop (non-chain) places, Motel 6 (chain) and EconoLodge. My husband and I travel with a laptop and look up lodgings that are available in the next place we think we'll spend the night, plus a few that are shorter and a few that are longer drives from that point (in case we tire early or get a second wind). That way we have a good idea of what's available and what we'll pay, before we get there. I take online reviews with a grain of salt unless there are a lot of them and they're all negative. Stop at the State Tourism Office as you pull into a new state along your trip, and try to find the little booklets full of discount lodging (and sometimes restaurant) coupons and ads. That's a MUST.

    Restaurants - once again, non-chain sit down places. If you're staying in a hotel, ask what's local "that's really good". As for chains, other than fast food, there are so many to choose from. For a smaller budget, stick with family places. Also, consider carrying a cooler with your own drinks and snacks in it that you've picked up at a grocery store along the way. It's much cheaper than picking up snacks at convenience stores along the way, and you get the local flavor by visiting the grocery store.


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