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  1. #1

    Default Summer 2012 Road Trip

    Purpose
    So see America and spend time with friends and family. I have always dreamed of traveling way out west and seeing the country. I have a high school friend going to college in Phoenix, and family in Santa Rosa, CA. I'd like to spend a week with them each, while also stopping by some national parks along the way there and back home.

    Routes
    I live just south of Washington D.C. so I'll be taking I-40 out west most of the way. My round trip route can be found here. Keep in mind this is just a rough draft of my trip, i still have ~10 months of planning to do, which I'm sure will consist of adding more specific stops.

    Stops
    I plan on going to Phoenix first, spending a week there. Then head up to the grand canyon, Vegas, then spend a week in Santa Rosa. I only plan to stay in the grand canyon and Vegas 1 day each. Then I plan on going up to Yellowstone, and hitting Mount Rushmore on the way home. Those are my "Core" stops (if you want to call it that) but it is obvious i will be stopping more places for rest and other sightseeing.

    Rest
    I plan to drive from my home in MD to my friend's house in Phoenix in 4-5 days (4 being the goal, 5 if i happen to do a lot of sightseeing along the way). I plan on leaving around 4-5 A.M the first day, and driving until around 8 P.M. for a 16 hour day. I understand that is a lot, but it being the first day and my leaving early, i know i will have the energy to do it. The remaining 3-4 days i plan on 10 hour driving days. to help cut the cost, I would like to spend some of my nights camping in a tent rather than a motel. The first night after 16 Hours of driving I'm thinking a hotel room, but the other 2-3 nights I'm thinking camping. How viable is this, and will it be too hot to camp in TX and NM?

    Budget
    Considering my trip is ~10 months away (thinking about leaving in mid May), i have a good amount of time to save up money for this. I'm estimating ~$1000 for gas (thanks to my 30 mpg civic :)), $500-$750 for lodging along the way, (might even be less if i camp more than motel), and $500 for food/spending money. All in all i'm looking at $2000-$3000. Is this enough?

    Time
    No Real time constraints as it will be in the summer and not during school. Although i am thinking 4-6 weeks (depending on sightseeing, and how long i stay at Phoenix and Santa Rosa).



    Questions/Recap
    - 4 to 6 week road trip around the country viable?
    -Along my planned route, as seen here., what interesting things along the way, other than what i have planned, are there to see? I don't have too much a time constraint, so name them all!
    - Where along my route should i stop to sleep each day? I would like to camp as much as possible, is it viable in the hotter parts of the country? I also plan to spend a night camping in the grand canyon, Yellowstone, and mt. Rushmore. Is this viable?
    - Is $2000-$3000 enough money?

    - Any other tips, advice, and criticisms are welcome! I want to make this trip as memorable as possible. For me, it's not about the destination, it's about the journey!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think you're certainly on the right track as you start your planning.

    A couple things - first I would most strongly recommend you not try your plan of spending 16 hours on the road the first day. There are several problems with your thinking. First, you can't possibly know that you'll have enough energy to drive for 16 hours since you don't have experience with long haul travel, and really the human body can't maintain focus for that level of time, which is why professional drivers are limited to about 600 miles a day (10 hours). Second, even if your excitement for getting on the road does power you through that first day, you will be in no condition to drive 10 hours a day for days 2, 3, and 4. You'll be exhausted as you come down off of that initial high of starting your adventure. Finally, you simply don't need to, because you could get to Phoenix in 4 days by sticking with a steady and reasonable 600 miles a day on the road.

    Camping is certainly reasonable just about anywhere along your trip, but of course, it will always be subject to specific weather - which could be a bit of everything.

    Where to go is also wide open, and looking for what you want to see and do is exactly what you should spend much of your upcoming months looking at. You've picked a few good spots, but there is so much more out there. Just out west, there are many more parks in the 4 corners area, you've got places like death valley, yosemite, and Sequoia in California, and not to mention the entire pacific coast just to name a few stops. And that's just if you stick with your plan to sprint to Arizona, and bypass the thousands of things you could see along the way.

    Budget, I'd say you're ok, but I think you'll need to stay closer to the $3000 for money and 4 weeks for the trip. Don't forget, there are also a lot of just general expenses for fun, entertainment, etc that need to be worked into your plan. I'm also assuming that a fairly significant amount of time will be spent camping and with friends, as spending about 10 nights in motels would already have you maxed. Even camping, you should expect to spend $20-25 a night.

  3. #3

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think you're certainly on the right track as you start your planning.

    A couple things - first I would most strongly recommend you not try your plan of spending 16 hours on the road the first day. There are several problems with your thinking. First, you can't possibly know that you'll have enough energy to drive for 16 hours since you don't have experience with long haul travel, and really the human body can't maintain focus for that level of time, which is why professional drivers are limited to about 600 miles a day (10 hours). Second, even if your excitement for getting on the road does power you through that first day, you will be in no condition to drive 10 hours a day for days 2, 3, and 4. You'll be exhausted as you come down off of that initial high of starting your adventure. Finally, you simply don't need to, because you could get to Phoenix in 4 days by sticking with a steady and reasonable 600 miles a day on the road.
    Ok, this makes more sense, i guess i was over estimating myself lol. After looking at the map again, average 600 miles a day seems more reasonable. That leaves me around Nashville TN for the first night, which actually may be better since i can get there before dusk and possible set up camp, therefore saving money on a hotel room.

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    Where to go is also wide open, and looking for what you want to see and do is exactly what you should spend much of your upcoming months looking at. You've picked a few good spots, but there is so much more out there. Just out west, there are many more parks in the 4 corners area, you've got places like death valley, yosemite, and Sequoia in California, and not to mention the entire pacific coast just to name a few stops. And that's just if you stick with your plan to sprint to Arizona, and bypass the thousands of things you could see along the way.
    The idea at first was to "sprint" to AZ, however I could very well tack on a couple extra days getting there to go sight seeing. Any suggestions for places between, lets say, OK and AZ?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Between OK and AZ on I-40:

    First place that comes to mind is El Malpais National Monument and the Ice Caves there. This is on our "to do" list. They aren't far off of I-40 in NM, around exit 81 if I recall correctly.

    Another is Chaco Canyon or Canyon de Chelley. These are Indian ruins, and a bit more off the beaten track than El Malpais. My mother loved both when she toured them. Once again, they're on our "to do" list.

    Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert National Park is RIGHT ON I-40. You can take a drive from north to south and then come up via the state route (whose number slips my mind right now and the map's in the car). I used to work at Fred Harvey in the park, and spent my hours off doing the nature trail hikes and just taking in all of the phenomena.

    I am currently ON I-40, on my way east with my husband. I'm writing a trip journal on this website, in the Road Trips forum. I'm trying to put motel and restaurant reviews in there as well as other information (some of which will be out of date next summer, of course).

    BTW, you never know what's going to happen to the price of gasoline. My suggestion is to budget HIGH. Better to be high than unprepared!


    Donna

  5. #5

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    Between OK and AZ on I-40:

    First place that comes to mind is El Malpais National Monument and the Ice Caves there. This is on our "to do" list. They aren't far off of I-40 in NM, around exit 81 if I recall correctly.

    Another is Chaco Canyon or Canyon de Chelley. These are Indian ruins, and a bit more off the beaten track than El Malpais. My mother loved both when she toured them. Once again, they're on our "to do" list.

    Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert National Park is RIGHT ON I-40. You can take a drive from north to south and then come up via the state route (whose number slips my mind right now and the map's in the car). I used to work at Fred Harvey in the park, and spent my hours off doing the nature trail hikes and just taking in all of the phenomena.

    I am currently ON I-40, on my way east with my husband. I'm writing a trip journal on this website, in the Road Trips forum. I'm trying to put motel and restaurant reviews in there as well as other information (some of which will be out of date next summer, of course).

    BTW, you never know what's going to happen to the price of gasoline. My suggestion is to budget HIGH. Better to be high than unprepared!


    Donna
    Thanks for all the advice! Yeah, i'm definitely working more and saving up as MUCH as i can, worst case scenario is i don't need it all and i have a lot left over in the bank :)

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

    Default Meeting your objectives.

    Quote Originally Posted by sabresd29 View Post
    Purpose
    So see America and spend time with friends and family. ........

    ........ For me, it's not about the destination, it's about the journey!
    In that case may I suggest that you stay off the interstates, as much as you possibly can. Even east of the Rockies, rural USA has much to offer, with many different cultures and lifestyles. Make reading up about the history, geography and geology of all the areas you will cover, a priority over the next 10 months. Go out there, stop in the little towns, talk to the locals, and take your time. Visit the sights they treasure in their community, eat in their favourite establishments. They will not all be spectacular, but you will learn what others value. Your reward will be to really have seen America and gainied an understanding of the diversity of its inhabitants.

    On interstates you have the opportunity to bypass all this at incredible speeds which will not allow you to take your eyes off the black tar for more than fleeting moments. It is no way to see America or enjoy the journey, IMHO.

    Prepare well!

    Lifey

  7. Default

    I'll second Chaco and Canyon de Chelly as great places to visit. So is Mesa Verde National Park, but it's getting far out of your way. Right off I-40 west of Albuquerque, NM is Petroglyphs National Monument. From Oklahoma City, OK to Kingman, AZ is sections of the old Route 66.

    As you drive north from Phoenix to Flagstaff you have Montezuma's Castle National Monument and beautiful Sedona, AZ.

    When you leave the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, you could exit on Hwy 64 going towards Cameron and then take Hwy 89 to Glen Canyon National Recreational Area (Lake Powell) and continue up to Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park before going to Las Vegas. All the parks have campgrounds. Zion is the only one that doesn't have showers.

    Las Vegas you might consider Death Valley and driving up 395 and driving across Tioga Pass though Yosemite if Tioga Pass is open by then. If it's still closed, you might consider Yosemite after you visit Santa Rosa and on your way to Yellowstone.

    After leaving Yellowstone there is Devils Tower National Monument in the north east part of Wyoming. If you have ever seen Close Encounters of a Third Kind, you would recognize the location. Around Mt. Rushmore you also have Custer State Park and Badlands National Park. All locations have camping.

    Once you have all the stops on your route decided, we can help with campground information.

    Utahtea

  8. #8

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    In that case may I suggest that you stay off the interstates, as much as you possibly can. Even east of the Rockies, rural USA has much to offer, with many different cultures and lifestyles. Make reading up about the history, geography and geology of all the areas you will cover, a priority over the next 10 months. Go out there, stop in the little towns, talk to the locals, and take your time. Visit the sights they treasure in their community, eat in their favourite establishments. They will not all be spectacular, but you will learn what others value. Your reward will be to really have seen America and gainied an understanding of the diversity of its inhabitants.

    On interstates you have the opportunity to bypass all this at incredible speeds which will not allow you to take your eyes off the black tar for more than fleeting moments. It is no way to see America or enjoy the journey, IMHO.

    Prepare well!

    Lifey
    In the interest of time and money, i think the interstates, for the most part, will be my best bet. The main thing I'm truly interested in is to see the different terrain, climates, and landmarks. While there is a lot to see on the way to AZ, i just don't think it's possible to see it all (and still have time for all the other driving and family time) in 4 weeks. Any longer than that and i am pushing my budget of around 3k. I'd much rather, imo since i LOVE highway and interstate driving, see the "Big" parks and landmarks, rather than little stuff along the way. The thing that interests me most is around the 4 corners state. I remember as a kid playing video games adventuring in the desert, watching TV shows about that area etc.. I've revised my itinerary a bit.

    • 4 days from my house to AZ, stopping in TN, OK, and NM to rest.
    • 7 days in AZ with friend
    • 1 Day/night in grand canyon.
    • 1 Day/night in Monument park
    • 1 day/night in Arches park
    • 1 day driving to Vegas and spending the rest of the day/night there
    • 1 day driving to Santa Rosa.
    • 7 Days in Santa Rosa
    • 2 Days driving to Yellowstone
    • 1 day/night in Yellowstone
    • 1 day/night in mount Rushmore
    • 3 days driving back to MD


    That leaves me at exactly 4 weeks. I'm probably guessing it might take another couple days due to un-expected delays.

    Since i'm looking at ~4 weeks, i need to prioritize which parks i go to, and for my interests at least, i feel like i don't have too much time along the way to AZ, and would rather see the ones i have listed. Weather permitting, I'd like to camp as much as possible rather than staying in a motel. I love the outdoors, love camping, and it will save me money. The only exception is i'd stay in a hotel for sure in Vegas.

    Here is my new map.

    Thoughts?

  9. Default

    Working with your new itinerary you could save yourself 265 miles if you went to Arches and the Grand Canyon before Phoenix.

    If you decide to go with your new route, then Moab to Las Vegas is do able but a long day. If you want to make a more relaxing two days, you could drive to Capitol Reef and camp in the Fruita Campground in the park and then take Scenic Hwy 12 to Bryce and drive though Zion on your way to Las Vegas.

    Las Vegas to Santa Rosa is 620 to 645 miles which will make for one very long day! My advise would avoid the San Francisco Bay area because of traffic. You can skirt the area with a little longer drive.

    Not sure which route you plan to take from Yellowstone to Mt Rushmore, but that will be along days drive too!

    1 day/night in Arches park
    There is camping in Arches at the Devils Garden Campground. This campground only has about 50 or so campsites and the first come, first serve spots fill up first thing in the morning. They do put some of the campsites on the reservation system but you would have to know your date and they do have cancellation fee. There is BLM camping along the Colorado River on both Hwy 128 and Hwy 279 (The Potash Road) There are a lot of private campgrounds in Moab.

    1 day/night in Yellowstone
    Santa Rose to Yellowstone is 955 miles. This will eat up the two days you have to get to Yellowstone. If you only spend the one alotted night you won't have much more time than to stop at Old Faithful before having to drive the 525 miles to Rapid City. A lot of this drive will be slow driving mountain driving. Camping in Yellowstone is pretty cheap, so please consider two or three nights here. There is a lot more to this park than just Old Faithful

    Since you will be arriving late in the day to Yellowstone, the first come, first serve campsite will be taken. There are several campgrounds within the park you can make reservations at. The campground reservations in Yellowstone don't charge for cancellations so you could make a reservation and then change it if your dates change and there are sites available.

    Utahtea

  10. #10

    Default

    It would save me some miles going to Moab before phoenix, but i am really interested in driving I-40 across the country. It probably has something to do with it's anticipation build up while traveling from east to west. I have revised my itinerary, including adding another FULL day to yellowstone. I will be camping every night i am on the road except for in Vegas. Check it out

    Day1- Lexington Park, MD ---> Edgar Evins State Park, TN (623 Miles)
    Day2- Edgar Evins State Park, TN ---> Sallisaw State Park, OK (591 Miles)
    Day3-Sallisaw State Park, OK ---> Santa Rosa Lake State Park, NM (592 Miles)
    Day4- Santa Rosa Lake State Park, NM ---> Phoenix, AZ (535 Miles)
    Day11- Phoenix, AZ ---> Grand Canyon National Park, AZ (223 Miles)
    Day12- Grand Canyon National Park, AZ ---> Monument Valley, UT (178 Miles)
    Monument Valley, UT --->Devil's Canyon Campground, UT (85 Miles)
    Day13- Devil's Canyon Campground, UT ---> Arches National Park, UT (86 Miles)
    Day14- Arches National Park, UT --->Las Vegas, NV (471 Miles)
    Day15- Las Vegas, NV ---> Santa Rosa, CA (614 Miles)
    Day22- Santa Rosa, CA ---> Angel Lake RV Park, NV (572 Miles)
    Day23- Angel Lake RV Park, NV ---> Yellowstone National Park, WY (426 Miles)
    Day25- Yellowstone National Park, WY ---> Custer State Park, SD (484 Miles) {Mount Rushmore}
    Day26- Custer State Park, SD ---> Badlands National Park, SD (113 Miles)
    Day27- Badlands State Park, SD ---> Myre Big Island State Park, MN (452 Miles)
    Day28- Myre Big Island State Park, MN ---> Pokagon State Park, IN (578 Miles)
    Day29- Pokagon State Park, IN ---> Lexington Park, MD (610 Miles)
    Total- 7,232 Miles, 125 Hours

    A new, up to date, map of my trip can be found here

    http://tinyurl.com/63lzj4a

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