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  1. #1

    Default Chicago -> LA (feasible, foolish, or fun?)

    Hi all,
    First time poster here, this forum and its members have been an invaluable resource in helping me plan my upcoming roadtrip from Chicago to Los Angeles. My question has to do with route options. I have 7 days, would prefer to drive no more than 5-6 hours a day and am most interested in seeing the natural of beauty of the country (national parks, sights, views, etc) and if possible some of small town America.

    Plan:
    Section 1 (Chicago to Mt. Rushmore):
    A. Heading out from northern suburbs of Chicago, taking I94 through Milwaukee -> Madison, followed by I90 to Rapid City
    B. Same as above, but detour from I90 at La Cresent, MN on MN 16 "Historic Bluff Country Scenic Byway", get back on I90 at Dexter, onward on I90 to Mt. Rushmore.

    Section 2 (Mt. Rushmore to Zion):
    A. From Mt. Rushmore, take Iron Mtn Road through Custer State Park, 18 to I25. Take I25 south to Fort Collins, CO, take Peter Thody's recommended route through Rocky Mtn NP, meet up with I70 followed by I15 in Utah.
    B. Mt. Rushmore to Zion via Salt Lake City using I80 and I15
    C. Mt. Rushmore to I80, at Rock Springs take 191 south through Ashley National Forest, at Price, UT transition to 10 South, meet up with I70 and eventually I15

    Section 3 (Zion to LA): I15

    Has anyone traveled these routes? Are there better routes to meet my objectives? Where should I stay the night along the way? My only fear is having the trip be a monotonous blast down interstates or do so much driving time on rural roads that we just want to get it over with. Any advice would be appreciated!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default It looks fun to me !

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    Your proposed trip is certainly feasible, but by the time you add detours into NP's and towns etc you are probably looking at up to 7 hours in the car every day. Now that can still be fun with well thought out stops, where you can spend a bit of time to wander around before settling down for the night, but you will be enjoying a lot of the scenery through the windshield.

    It's which route that appeals to you the best is the important one, but for section 2, I would come down through RMNP to I70.

    If you muddled section 2 and 3 up a little you could take a different route that would see less time on Interstate and the possibility to drive through some other great places, the downside would be losing Zion NP. This would be to get off I70 on US6/UT128 to Moab [Arches/Canyonlands NP] and then take 191 down to Bluff and then 163 through Monument valley. Join up with 160 to US89 and you could drive through Grand canyon on AZ64 to I 40 and continue towards LA.

    It will depend on your style of travel to determine if it is fun or not, it'll be a lot of driving, but given the chance I would do it tomorrow !

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default lots of good possibilities

    I agree with Dave a week will give you a nice amount of time for this trip, although I agree that you'll likely need to spend a bit more than 5-6 hours a day in the car. However, if you are making lots of stops each day, that shouldn't "feel" too long.

    Since Dave's done a nice job of breaking down the second half of your trip, I'll offer some ideas for the first chunk.

    Taking MN-16 through SE Minnesota is a nice drive, and there are several nice small towns along the leg. However, if that interests you, you might look at also taking 2 lane roads through Wisconsin. You could take US-14 from Madison, take that up to Minnesota, where it runs right into MN-16. I've driven this entire section of I-90 hundreds of times, and I will often use those two options for a change of pace. On your first day, I think you could comfortably make it to Austin or Albert Lea, but play it by ear, and you might decide to stay in a smaller town like Preston.

    For day 2, I think you'd mostly be sticking to I-90, with the goal of getting out to the Badlands. I'd mostly focus on making time here, but there are plenty of towns along the way where you can take a break.

    Then when you are out in the Black Hills, I'd suggest you turn things around a bit. Take SD-79 south to Custer State Park, making sure to take in the Wildlife Loop Road. Then take Iron Mtn. Road to Keystone and Mount Rushmore, before heading back to Custer. This is a little more of a zig-zag, but its all very scenic driving, and you'll get to see Mt. Rushmore perfectly framed up by the tunnels on Iron Mtn. After Mr. Rushmore, you could then head by the Crazy Horse sculpture and Jewel Cave before getting to Wyoming and starting to head south.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by kravet View Post
    ......... My only fear is having the trip be a monotonous blast down interstates or do so much driving time on rural roads that we just want to get it over with. Any advice would be appreciated!
    All road atlases I have seen have the scenic routes clearly marked. Get hold of one of these - you are going to need one anyway - and you will be able to see for yourself where the scenic routes are, and when to get back onto the interstates. For a trip like this you are going to need a good set of maps or road atlas. Don't try doing it with merely the instructions from a digital mapping program.

  5. #5

    Default

    Thanks Dave! Appreciate the warm welcome. As to your suggestion of combining section 2/3: have you ever taken this route or portions of it, and if so how long did it take you? Google Maps is saying approx 15hrs from turning off I70 to LA (i'll take that with a grain of salt). Would you say two full days of driving?

  6. #6

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    Taking MN-16 through SE Minnesota is a nice drive, and there are several nice small towns along the leg. However, if that interests you, you might look at also taking 2 lane roads through Wisconsin. You could take US-14 from Madison, take that up to Minnesota, where it runs right into MN-16. I've driven this entire section of I-90 hundreds of times, and I will often use those two options for a change of pace. On your first day, I think you could comfortably make it to Austin or Albert Lea, but play it by ear, and you might decide to stay in a smaller town like Preston.
    Exactly the type of info I am looking for, thank you. Michael, how long does the US14/MN16 route take you vs. simply using the I-90? Are the speeds generally 60mph or so?

    I'll take a look at the Mt. Rushmore area route you suggested when I have more time tomorrow, may have another question or two if you don't mind.

  7. #7

    Default

    Lifemagician, sounds like I need to head over to AAA to pickup some maps. I was planning on relying on my GPS system and smartphone, but I think i'll pick up some maps for safety's sake.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by kravet View Post
    Lifemagician, sounds like I need to head over to AAA to pickup some maps. I was planning on relying on my GPS system and smartphone, but I think i'll pick up some maps for safety's sake.
    That is where I get all mine, and usually end up with a box full. One for every State through which I pass, as well as one for every urban centre I visit.

    Your gps and smartphone, are handy adjuncts. They do not replace good maps and the ability to read them. What I like to do, at the end of the day, is hilight each and every road on which I travelled. Comes in handy when later you are talking about your trip, and also when you come back here to give us your report in the RoadTrip Field Report forum.

    And you will be able to pass on first hand knowledge to the next person who asks these questions.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default

    Google Maps is saying approx 15hrs from turning off I70 to LA (i'll take that with a grain of salt). Would you say two full days of driving?
    Yes you should allow 2 days for the journey but if you are looking for a little time at some of the spots your are driving through like MV/GC then a 3rd day would be good and is possible with your itinerary.

    Definitely have paper maps to hand ! They offer so much more detail of where you are and what's around you.

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

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by kravet View Post
    Exactly the type of info I am looking for, thank you. Michael, how long does the US14/MN16 route take you vs. simply using the I-90? Are the speeds generally 60mph or so?
    For the most part you'll see 55 mph speed limits, with slow downs through the small towns along the way and spots where the roads go through especially hilly/curvy areas. I'd guess if you were to take the 2 lane option from Madison all the way to Austin it might add 1-2 hours to the total trip plus any additional stops.

    I'll put it this way, I take those options when I want a scenic change of pace and don't need to be anywhere in a hurry. However, they aren't so long that I need to make a special plan to and clear out my schedule to go use routes.

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