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  1. #1

    Default 40 Day Solo Road Trip - West US

    This is my dream trip I want to take before I start a real job and don't have this kinda time to take off at once. I want to do this while I'm still in college working fast food.

    I originally planned this trip around March last year for Summer 2012. Money issues this past semester kept me from saving any money and I figured I'd have to bump it back to Summer 2013. I have done a lot of planning on this already thanks to another forum, but more help and criticism is welcome, especially since this forum is dedicated to road trips in America. I didn't realize how popular month long road trips in the West really were until I saw this site. Thought I was being somewhat original... :p I have my days pretty much panned out. I was originally planning a month long 30 day trip, but after looking my itinerary over it was decided it was pretty packed with not enough stopping to take in the sights, and not really any fail safe buffer days. If I were to fall behind schedule, I could use that buffer day to make up what I lost on the day that I broke down in my car or whatever the case may be. Since most of the buffer days are just a longer stay somewhere or breaking a long days drive into 2, it is still attainable I think. My main thing now is budgeting. I originally budgeted $4-5k for 30 days. Now I'm at around $4k for 40 days. Even $4k seems rather low, but at the same time, still lots of money. I honestly still want to make this trip happen Summer of 2012, but as of right now I am putting in $50 a week and have $200 saved so far plus all my tax return is going in. With that, assuming I can afford to keep putting in that same amount plus any extra cash I come across I might make it to next summer, but that's just a total maybe. Side note: I'm a guy and I'll be 22 in 2012, 23 in 2013, in case it's relevant.

    Here's the itinerary. I have it all mapped out on Google Maps as well, but the links are bookmarked on my other computer right now so I'll post tomorrow.

    Start and end point - San Antonio, TX area.
    Day 1- Drive to Carlsbad
    Day 2- Carlsbad Caverns, Drive to Roswell for night
    Day 3- Drive to and stay at Durango for the night
    Day 4- Durango/Silverton Train
    Day 5- Drive to Vesa Verde National Park then to Four Corners, Stay at Monument Valley for the night
    Day 6- Drive to Canyon de Chelly then to Meteor Crater, Stay at Flagstaff for the night
    Day 7- Grand Canyon, camp
    Day 8- Grand Canyon, Stay at Kingman, AZ for the night
    Day 9- Hoover Dam, Valley of Fire SP camp
    Day 10- Drive to Las Vegas and wonder around (No gambling)
    Day 11- Go to and camp at Death Valley
    Day 12- Another day at Death Valley
    Day 13- Drive to Los Angeles
    Day 14- Los Angeles
    Day 15- Another day at LA
    Day 16- Drive up to San Francisco, Winchester Mystery House San Jose, SF for the night
    Day 17- Explore SF, Mt Tamalpais State Park (Ridgecrest Blvd.)
    Day 18- Alcatraz
    Day 19- Another day of SF
    Day 20- Drive up Hwy 101, Drive-Thru Tree Park, Camp at Prairie Creek Redwoods SP
    Day 21- Camp at Redwoods National Park
    Day 22- Drive to Crater Lake, Stay the night
    Day 23- Camp at Lassen Volcanic National Park
    Day 24- Stay at Lake Tahoe
    Day 25- Drive Hwy 50 and Salt Flats, Stay in Salt Lake City
    Day 26- Drive to Jackson, WY
    Day 27- Drive to Yellowstone, camp
    Day 28- Wonder around in Yellowstone
    Day 29- Wonder around Yellowstone, Drive to Cooke City, Montana
    Day 30- Drive Beartooth All-American Road, Bighorn Canyon, Stay at Thermopolis for the night
    Day 31- Drive to Grand Junction, CO for night
    Day 32- Drive Hwy 550 to Durango then up to Breckenridge, Stay for night
    Day 33- Drive to Denver, Mt. Evans Scenic Byway, Stay in Denver for night
    Day 34- Denver Zoo, Drive to Colo. Springs for night
    Day 35- Pike's Peak, Seven Falls
    Day 36- Drive to Canon City, Royal Gorge
    Day 37- Drive to Santa Fe
    Day 38- Drive Hwy 4 and see Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
    Day 39- Drive to Lubbock
    Day 40- Drive Home

    The general course of driving is pretty much set, and I believe it is attainable. Just looking for any extra input on the matter.

    I've heard all about how I will get all lonely doing this solo, but I'm an independent person more so than most. I actually enjoy just taking drives to nowhere for hours on my own. So that is a non issue to me personally.

    I got more info on the thread in the other forum: Link

    I'll post more tomorrow as I said, it's kinda late right now so I can't completely think. haha

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Thoughts.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    One ##Minor# detail you have left out is your vehicle details. If you have your own mode of transport your budget will be tight at $100 a day including gas etc, but with a car rental on top of that with a 'Young drivers' surcharge added would become impossible. If you are into camping, purchasing some gear and tenting will help your budget dramatically, even with the 'odd treat' of staying in a Motel for the night. As long as you alway's have enough money to get back home with, you are OK. If you are taking your own vehicle you will have to make sure it's fully serviced and checked over before leaving [no point scrimping on costs here] and have an 'emergency' fund for repairs if it should be needed.

    Having cast a quick eye over your itinerary, there isn't anything that immediately stands out as OTT, but you will be kept pretty busy. One thing that sticks out is your drive down 550 [Million dollar highway] back to Durango. When in Durango earlier in your trip I would complete the 'San Juan Skyway' by going from Durango to Ridgeway and then back South through Dolores to Mesa Verde, with a visit to the mountain town of Telluride. You would need an overnight stop along the way, but what a ride !! Perhaps then you could head from Yellowstone towards Moab and Arches NP. I would also consider taking the Trail Ridge Road through Rocky mountain NP and stay a night in Estes Park rater than Denver, but that's me.

    I've heard all about how I will get all lonely doing this solo,
    Don't listen ! If you are happy in your own company that will help, but you will also meet some wonderful people on the road.

  3. #3


    I drive a 2003 Ford Escort ZX2, with 88k miles on it currently. As long as no one decides to rear end my car and total it in between now and then, that is the car I plan on taking with me on my trip. It averages 30 MPG highway and with the miles estimated on Google Maps of my route, that's $1k for gas at an estimated $4/gal. I plan to get it a service overhaul about a month or so before the trip (brakes, filters, belts, anything else that needs replacement), and then change the oil right before I go.

    I'm gonna look into the rest of your suggestions. The reason I'm staying in Denver for a night at least is because my uncle and aunt live there. Figure I'm in the area, free place to sleep and I don't see them often.

    I hope to use for some of the trip and camping at several parks. Of course cheap hotels will do for the rest.

    Maps of the route. Broken into 2 parts because Google Maps only allows so many destinations.

    Map Route Part 1
    Map Route Part 2
    Last edited by Sil3nt611; 02-24-2011 at 08:56 AM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Ft. Collins, CO.


    I skimmed the other thread a bit to see what it's about and what caught my attention is that the itinerary is very complete, very full and includes hitting a bunch of attractions on a schedule. It's a really, really long list.

    Besides having to budget for all the entrance fees and stuff if I were going with you I'm sure I'd get tired of the 'have-to-keep-to-the-schedule' setup this represents.

    When I celebrated my separation from the Navy I got on my motorcycle and headed generally west from Virginia. No interstates, no special plan other than a consciousness of where relatives lived (for a free meal and some company) and planning to eventually get to Seattle (where my parents live).

    Having no itinerary is a huge form of freedom. At least it was for me after the military.

    You might want to modify the planning to turn it into a list of things you might want to do in certain areas but with the idea that the view from a rock bluff you encounter might be worth spending the afternoon rather than racing to go to the zoo the next day.

    There is also the question of planning for costs. The economy of the country and the world is unstable right now so you might want to start working on Plan B if gasoline goes to $5/gal or becomes ration-controlled.

    Do your trip though. It'll make for some great memories no matter how you do it.

  5. #5


    Gonna say my main problem with not having a schedule is that I need reservations for several things I do (Durango train, camping in several popular Ntnl parks, Alcatraz) and it's gotta be a certain day for the reservation. That's basically why I added buffer days to keep with the schedule if I do get behind. If I don't have a scheule and just show up without reservation I may not get into some things and other things need a reservation to even go to... So it's kinda hard...

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Ft. Collins, CO.


    That makes perfect sense. Just be sure and have lots of time for freestyle activities.

  7. #7


    Yeah, I'm thinking there should be time for several off the schedule things to do, especially in LA and SF since I will be at both of those cities for 3 days each I think it is. Other small towns may have a park I can go to to chill out after a long drive. If I see something cool along the way I can get out of the car for 15 minutes and take it in. I have time to tweak my itinerary still, so it's not set in stone or anything. I really didn't want to have to go by a specific schedule to need to be somewhere by an exact day, but after it was pointed out that several national parks will probably run out of camping spots pretty fast and being such a long drive I don't really want to arrive to find out they are full. The only thing I had initially planned to get to on a specific day was Alcatraz. But now that I've looked into it and especially since I'm really looking into couchsurfing, for a trip like this in the peak times of most parks, it's just not a good idea not to have a specific schedule...

    And I was thinking about gas prices as well... They seemed pretty steady lately, but then I never really paid close attention, I gotta pay it and I'm not going to go out of my way to save a few cents. But I've seen recently it got back to $3 here, and today it jumped up to $3.19-$3.25 in places. I suppose it could go back down and stay down, but I kinda doubt it staying down. If the prices keep going up I very well may need to budget for $5/gal...

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Summer 2013? There's absolutely no way to predict gas prices. For all we know they could be $10 a gallon..........

  9. Default

    The way the route is structured, you can always shrink the route and trim it down if you find your budget is not adequate. Although you mentioned that the schedule is fairly firm, I suggust you consider breaking it into to separate trips. San Antoino to Durango and then north to Yellowstone Natl Park, returing as you have planned through Colorado can be one trip.

    Car mileage and the amount of gasoline your car comsumes can vary a lot driving around in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Even trying to estimate mileage when driving around places like Death Valley can be deceptive because it is about 20-30 miles between features in the Park.

    It might be better if you could travel further than Roswell on Day 2 to reduce your drive time to Durango on day three.

    You might be cramming in too much on Day five. Mesa Verde National Park is known for its cliff dwellings and to go on tours of the three major cliff dwelling requires that you buy a ticket (I think it is around $1.75) at the first visitor center within the Park (first come, first served). I strongly recommend that you go on at least one of the tours. You can drive the rim-road and see overviews of the dwelling across the canyon and take a short walk to one of the dwellings behind the main Range station/visitor center if time is short. The Google map does not show whether you plan to actually visit the the four corners site ($10 entrance fee the last time I was there), but some consider it a "tourist trap." I found the best way to get a campsite at Monument Valley (and most of the popular parks like the Grand Canyon that have at least one no reservation, first come, first serve campsites) is to arrive early or right after check out time. If you get a campsite at Monument Valley, make sure you get up early enoouh to watch the sun rise between the monuments.

    Based on the other sites you mentioned and the particular things you want to see in San Francisco, a visit to Los Aangeles seems out of place. What do you plan to do in Los Angeles?

  10. #10


    I'd rather not cut it down into several trips really. I honestly would like to do this all in 1 summer. Money is the biggest factor though.

    There really is no way to estimate the exact amount of gallons of gas my car is going to use or the cost of gas when I go. I'm setting a base budget of what it would ideally be, and then adding extra because the chances are good I will need it.

    Day 2 I'll be visiting Carlsbad Caverns, and probably be there most of the day so I don't want to do lots of driving. I had it as a drive to Albuquerque, but moved it back to Roswell. If I end up getting out of the Caverns earlier, then maybe I can take it up further before stopping for the night. Day 3 is nothing but driving to Durango, so it shouldn't be a big deal that it's a bit longer.

    I plan on going to Four corners on Day 5, but if my timing doesn't allow, it can be skipped. Didn't add it on the map because there's only so many destinations I can add on the map and it wasn't far off the route.

    I honestly haven't gotten around to looking deep into what all there is to do in LA. Suggestions? From what I have looked into SF seems like a more interesting city than LA honestly. I added it because it seems like one of those cities everyone should visit at least once. I probably could cut a day out of LA and not be too sad about it at this point, but one of those days was added as a buffer day anyway. I might just end up mostly driving around the city, Mulholland Drive looks nice, and maybe see the high end houses around the area. If I can't find anything to do I might use the buffer day and take 2 days to drive up the coast to SF instead.

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