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  1. Default College graduation 30 day cross country trip

    Myself and 5 friends are planning a cross-country trip following college graduation this summer. We'll start about June 4, and aim to finish by July 4 (most of us have to begin or return to jobs almost immediately after that). That gives us 30 days; I planned the trip in 27, to give us three days of flex time.

    We plan to purchase an old school bus and take out most of the seats, and install some couches, bunks, and hammocks for sleeping. We'll also put in a fridge (likely run off a deep-cycle marine battery) and bring along a grill for cooking. We are also going to do a vegetable oil conversion to save on gas costs.

    All of us have experience living together for extended periods, extensive camping experience, and with driving for long periods.

    The main things I'm looking for is advice on our budget, route (any other places we should plan to stop, best route to take, etc) and general plan, though any thoughts or words of wisdom are welcome.

    Budget
    Bus + insurance + registration: $2000
    Veggie oil conversion: $500 (we can do the labor ourselves)
    Interior upgrades: $100 (can get most things off craigslist or from our garages)
    Food + alcohol: $30 day * 30 * 6 = 5400
    Camping permits = $15 * 20 = $450
    Fuel = 9178 miles * .2 (assuming 80% veggie oil usage) / 15 mpg * $4 gallon = 489
    Total: 8939 / 6 = $1489 each

    Day 1
    6 AM: Leave Boston for NYC (219 miles, 4'17")
    10 AM: NYC (Katz's for lunch)
    12 PM: Leave NYC for DC (227 miles, 4'24")
    5 PM: DC, Nat'l Air and Space Museum
    10 PM: Leave DC for Asheville NC (470 miles, 7'41", sleeping on bus)

    Day 2
    6 AM: Arrive Asheville, wander around city
    3 PM: Leave Asheville for Great Smoky Mtns Nat'l Park (take Blue Ridge Pkwy, 85 miles, 2'31")
    6 PM: Great Smoky Mtns Nat'l Park

    Day 3
    8 AM: Leave Great Smoky Mtns Nat'l Park for Atlanta (166 miles, 3'7")
    11 AM: Atlanta
    4 PM: Leave Atlanta for Eglins AFB (310 miles, 5'38")
    10 PM: Arrive Eglins AFB

    Day 4
    Eglins AFB

    Day 5
    9 AM: Leave Eglin AFB for NOLA (257 miles, 4'16")
    1 PM: NOLA

    Day 6
    NOLA

    Day 7
    7 AM: Leave NOLA for Austin, TX (509 miles, 8'27")
    4 PM: Arrive Austin

    Day 8
    6 AM: Leave Austin for Gila Cliff Dwellings/Gila Nat'l Forest (771 miles, 13'13")
    8 PM: Arrive Gila Cliff Dwellings/Gila Nat'l Forest

    Day 9
    7 AM: Leave Gila Cliff Dwellings/Gila Nat'l Forest for Petrified Nat'l Forest (276 miles, 5'42")
    1 PM: Petrified Nat'l Forest

    Day 10
    8 AM: Leave Petrified Nat'l Forest for Grand Canyon (167 miles, 2'55")
    11 AM: Grand Canyon
    4 PM: Leave Grand Canyon for Las Vegas (274 miles, 4' 43")
    9 PM: Las Vegas

    Day 11
    Las Vegas

    Day 12
    8 AM: Leave Las Vegas for Death Valley Nat'l Park (147 miles, 2'27")
    11 AM: Death Valley Nat'l Park
    1 PM: Leave Death Valley Nat'l Park for Sequoia Nat'l Park (Southern tip, 184 miles, 3'8")
    4 PM: Sequoia Nat'l Park

    Day 13
    Sequoia Nat'l Park

    Day 14
    8 AM: Leave Sequoia for Pebble Beach, CA (US-101, stop to pay tribute to James Dean, 274 miles, 5'9")
    1 PM: Pebble Beach (take 17 Mile Drive, visit golf course, boardwalk)
    4 PM: Leave Pebble Beach for San Francisco (CA-1, 125 miles, 2'34")
    7 PM: San Francisco

    Day 15
    San Francisco

    Day 16
    4 AM: Leave San Francisco for Portland, OR (CA-1 and US-101, 751 miles, 17'6")
    10 PM: Portland, OR

    Day 17
    7 PM: Leave Portland, OR for Olympics Nat'l Park (Southwest tip, 161 miles, 2'48")
    10 PM: Olympics Nat'l Park

    Day 18
    8 AM: Leave Olympic National Park for Seattle, WA (80 miles, 2'6")
    10 AM: Seattle
    9 PM: Leave Seattle for Mt Rainier Nat'l Park (128 miles, 2'34")
    11 PM: Mt Rainier Nat'l Park

    Day 19
    10 AM: Leave Mt Rainier Nat'l Park for Glacier Nat'l Park (572 miles, 10'23")
    8 PM: Glacier Nat'l Park

    Day 20
    Glacier Nat'l Park

    Day 21
    6 AM: Leave Glacier Nat'l Park for Grand Teton Nat'l Park (take Beartooth Road, 566 miles, 11'16")
    6 PM: Grand Teton Nat'l Park

    Day 22
    Grand Teton Nat'l Park

    Day 23
    6 AM: Leave Grand Teton Nat'l Park for Crazy Horse Memorial/Mt Rushmore (475 miles, 9'4")
    3 PM: Crazy Horse Memorial/Mt Rushmore
    5 PM: Leave Crazy Horse Memorial/Mt Rushmore for Badlands Nat'l Park (96 miles, 1'54")
    7 PM: Badlands Nat'l Park

    Day 24
    9 PM: Leave Badlands Nat'l Park for Chicago (845 miles, 14' 15", sleeping on bus)

    Day 25
    11 AM: Chicago

    Day 26
    10 AM: Leave Chicago for Allegheny Nat'l Forest (514 miles, 8'57")
    7 PM: Allegheny Nat'l Forest

    Day 27
    10 AM: Leave Allegheny Nat'l Forest for Boston (530 miles, 9'2")
    7 PM: Boston

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Western/Central Massachusetts
    Posts
    1,703

    Default Welcome!

    Welcome to the RoadTrip America Forum!

    I can't get past the budget, which appears to be low. The cost of a workable bus as you plan is likely to be higher, and I'd say the fuel economy estimate is probably on the high side. Do you have known sources of vegetable oil to provide for an 80/20 oil/diesel split?

    Have you ever tried to drive a bus in New York City? How about through other major cities?

  3. Default

    The budget is admittedly low, but being college students we are really trying to keep it down, and are perfectly content living on a budget.

    We're not really planning on driving in to cities too much, and are thinking a minibus, not full size, a la http://boston.craigslist.org/nos/cto/2341043568.html, which I assume should make driving in cities easier, and the mileage more reasonable (http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/bymod..._Vandura.shtml puts mileage at 15 city/20 hwy - with it loaded down, but most driving being highway, I'd hope that balances out around 15mpg). We'll try to park outside cities and take public transit or bike in.

    The sources of veggie oil is a cause of concern, but we are going to install quite sizeable fuel drums so will be able to load up when we do find it, and I am hopeful that if we put in sufficient pre-work we can line up sufficient sources.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default

    Skipping past the budget I'm afraid I can't get past day 1 ! Sorry but travelling over 900 miles in 24 hours while visiting NY and DC Air and space museum would be tough with a helicopter, but in an old bus running on Veggie oil ???

    Days of 500 miles would be real tough in a bus, but you have many over that [and over 700 miles] on your list and a lot of days under that mileage you are making multiple stops. Travelling 556 miles in an old bus and travelling the Beartooth highway just won't happen. It's great that you and your buddies are looking to hit the road and have an adventure, but I think you will have to do some serious research and come up with something a lot different to your current plans.

    Have you checked the cost to insure a conversion bus ? I have no idea but here in the UK with young drivers it would be well over two thousand for that alone.

  5. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    Skipping past the budget I'm afraid I can't get past day 1 ! Sorry but travelling over 900 miles in 24 hours while visiting NY and DC Air and space museum would be tough with a helicopter, but in an old bus running on Veggie oil ???

    Days of 500 miles would be real tough in a bus, but you have many over that [and over 700 miles] on your list and a lot of days under that mileage you are making multiple stops. Travelling 556 miles in an old bus and travelling the Beartooth highway just won't happen. It's great that you and your buddies are looking to hit the road and have an adventure, but I think you will have to do some serious research and come up with something a lot different to your current plans.
    At the end of the day, if it gets to be too much, we can always adjust our plan, but considering this is the last chance most of us will have to do something like this, and almost certainly the last chance we'd have to do it together, I'd rather plan big and hope it works than do something comfortable and wonder if we were too complacent.

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    Have you checked the cost to insure a conversion bus ? I have no idea but here in the UK with young drivers it would be well over two thousand for that alone.
    I'm not sure of the cost, but I'm assuming you mean $2k annually - even if that were the case in the US, that's still only $166 for thirty days, which is roughly what I budgeted. Unless you mean $2k monthly, which seems insane.

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

    Default More Skepticism

    I too, found it hard to get past day 1. Have you actually ever driven Boston to NYC at that time of day? It is not unusual to take a lot longer than you plan, by the time you get to park your vehicle..... somewhere! And if you are then going to commute or bike..... There's a really good chance you may not make it to Katz before noon. As for much further on that day..... well, I would have to agree with Dave, it needs serious rethinking.

    The Beartooth Hwy... are you aware that it takes three to four hours to travel just that bit... in a car. Not sure how much longer it would take in a minibus.

    By the time you get to Day 27 you will be painfully aware that leaving Allegheny Forest at 10am will not get you to Boston by 7pm.... not even on the MassPike.

    Lifey

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default I just don't see it working

    Sorry, but I think your plan has far too many holes to be even close to workable.

    First of all, I completely agree with Dave about your first day being impossible without a helicopter. The being a "Last Chance" (which is a common statement around here, but it is always a rather silly statement if you think about it) is no reason or excuse to try to plan for completely unrealistic 900 mile days on the road. It's going to make you all way too exhausted to have fun, not to mention that it simply isn't safe as someone behind the wheel is going to be exhausted while trying to do such a thing. Not to mention, that its going to take a whole lot longer to cover these distance that you are planning for, especially when you are in a bus!

    There is completely an issue of "less is more" and trying to jam in everything practically guarantees that the fun will be gone very very early into the trip, and the reason it will really be a last trip is because you'll never want to travel with each other again (and that's if your friendships even survive.) It's a very common story, and one which the answer to such warnings is almost always "but we're different" or "it won't happen to us" which is never really the case. Starting a trip by planning to go non-stop for 36 straight hours is a plan to torpedo your trip before it even gets started. Of course, the same is true for your other days where you plan to "sleep on bus" while driving hundreds of miles through the middle of the night.

    I will also say that your bus plans just scream "pipedream" to me. I have serious, serious doubts that you can actually go forward with them for anywhere close to the budget you've proposed. I really think you are seriously underestimating the cost to obtain, customize, and make a bus legal to drive for anywhere close to $2k. I just can't see how you'd possibly be getting anywhere close to a roadworthy vehicle for that price, much less do all the other things you are talking about. For that matter, will you even be able to drive the bus you purchase? Generally speaking, a bus is a different category of vehicle where you'll need a CDL or at least an extra endorsement on your license.

    But on top of that, purchasing a car for a 30 day trip is never cost effective by itself, and trying to purchase a specialty vehicle and then customize it is a sure way to burn away extra cash. If you are college students trying to do this on the cheap, I assure you, this is not the way to go about doing it.

    BTW, even if you were able to get the Veggie Oil for free like you hope, your proposed fuel costs are way too low. The price of diesel has been well over $4 for a couple months now, and I'd be surprised if it isn't at the $5 mark early this summer. Not to mention, it looks like you've only figured point to point distances, ignoring the hundreds of extra miles you'll certainly add on driving through towns, parks, to campgrounds, and through attractions.

    I'm sure this is not at all what you want to hear, and you can certainly try to go forward with your plans, but I just see a ton of major problems with your plan that will ultimately make it impossible for you to have fun, if you even get on the road at all. I think everyone here wants you to be able to go out on the road and have fun, and I think that would be a whole lot easier if you focused less on a "big dream" of a "perfect trip" and focused more on how you can have a great time working with what you really have available.

  8. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    I too, found it hard to get past day 1. Have you actually ever driven Boston to NYC at that time of day? It is not unusual to take a lot longer than you plan, by the time you get to park your vehicle..... somewhere! And if you are then going to commute or bike..... There's a really good chance you may not make it to Katz before noon. As for much further on that day..... well, I would have to agree with Dave, it needs serious rethinking.

    The Beartooth Hwy... are you aware that it takes three to four hours to travel just that bit... in a car. Not sure how much longer it would take in a minibus.

    By the time you get to Day 27 you will be painfully aware that leaving Allegheny Forest at 10am will not get you to Boston by 7pm.... not even on the MassPike.

    Lifey
    Yes, I know traffic will be a pain, particularly in the Northeast. Having grown up there, I have no particular desire to spend time stuck in traffic there - if there's a way to avoid the Northeast corridor completely, I'd gladly take that. I'd figured aiming to get to NYC around 10 would put us behind rush hour, but if that doesn't seem doable, most of us have lived in NYC at one point or another, so it wouldn't pain us to cut it out.

  9. Default

    OK, so if a cross-country loop doesn't seem feasible, what sort of path does? The main issue is that we've all done pretty much everything east of the Mississippi very extensively, so we'd really like to get west and do stuff we haven't done, which obviously requires lots of distance. Does that mean that it makes more sense to simply head West straight from Boston, and cut out extraneous diversions in favour of more direct routes? If so, what route makes sense that is more doable in such a time frame?

    As for the bus, with six of us it seems like the most comfortable arrangement for driving long distances, and affords us the opportunity to sleep while driving if we want. The only other real option would be to take a friend's Ford Expedition, which gets worse mileage than a bus would, isn't convertible to vegetable oil, and I doubt would be as comfortable (although I guess it would handle better, so that might make up for the reduction in space).

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    A loop of the US is generally possible with a month available, but it does mean you need to pick and chose where you go. There are so many days where you're simply planning to do vastly more than is possible in a day that we can't possibly go through all of them, but simply put you need to drastically cut down on your destinations. Trying to drive even 600 miles in a day, simply isn't going to leave time for sightseeing, but you've got repeated days where you are trying to drive 700, 800, or even 900 miles and spend time at multiple national parks, or driving on scenic drives that will take 2-3 times more time than you are planning. That's not even including the extra time you'll need to factor because you are driving a very old bus. Trying to cover even 500 miles in a day is going to leave you very little time for any sightseeing. What destinations and drives you still do is up to you, but if you've already spent a lot of time on the east coast, then heading west would make some sense as a starting point.

    Again, for the bus, I think you are massively underestimating the cost, massively overestimating the comfort, and simply not anticipating the many potential problems and downsides with your plan.

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