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  1. Default NYC - San Fran - NYC

    Hi everyone,

    My girlfriend and I are planning a road trip starting mid-October from New York City to San Francisco - we are borrowing a car from friends and will be away 2 months.

    Our itinerary so far is : New York to San Fran via the Northern states - Cleveland OH, Chicago, Mt Rushmore, Yellowstone.

    From San Fran we will stop at Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Arches/Canyonlands National Park, Santa Fe, Roswell, Fort Worth, San Antonio, New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, Great Smoky Mountains, Charleston, Savannah, Orlando and then back to New York.

    My question is - do you think this itinerary is feasible in this time? I realise there will be a couple of really long days of driving, but we're okay with that. And geographically, does our route make sense? We also thought about heading down from Salt Lake City and stopping at Arches/Canyonlands before San Francisco. Would this save much time? Is it likely that there would be snow on the roads from Salt Lake City to Arches at the end of October/early November?

    Also, to keep costs down we're hoping to camp as much as possible. Will the weather at that time of year allow us to do so?

    Finally, are there any other places you suggest we stop at on the way?

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

    Default weather issues

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    While October can be a great month to travel, the fact that you are starting at the end of the month and the fact that you will be gone for 2 months really makes this practically a winter trip, and there certainly will be challenges associated with that.

    Yellowstone will be a big example, as by late October, nearly all Park Services are closed and some roads will be closed, and by the start of November the park is basically shut down with nearly all the roads closed. There will be a few other areas, especially mountain areas, where you'll deal with seasonal closures, and in a lot of tourist areas you'll find that services are shutting down or closed.

    Throughout the trip is is going to be very cold camping. If you've got good winter gear and don't mind camping when the weather is below freezing, you can do it, but if you've only got experience and gear for summer camping, you'll quickly discover that you need to abandon the idea.

    Also be aware that while borrowing a car will be wonderful for you financial, don't underestimate just how much of a responsibility you are taking on and how much of a risk that your friend is taking. If you get into any sort of accident, even a small one, it will likely impact their insurance rates for years to come and if you got into a serious crash they could be held financially responsible.

    Now all of those things sound very negative, but beyond those things which you will need to thing about, 2 months will be an excellent amount of time for this trip and you should still be able to have a very good time.

  3. Default

    Thanks so much for your help! That really doesn't sound too promising, so we might have to leave Yellowstone off the hit list. How much will we have to worry about the weather while driving through South Dakota and near Mt Rushmore? And will we experience the same weather problems in Utah (Canyonlands / Arches)? Are we better off heading down to these places earlier on the first leg of the trip, or stopping on the second leg of the trip, as we head through the south towards Florida..?

    We've borrowed their car quite a few times before, we have done a lot of driving around the east coast already, and will be insured, but have considered the risks.

    Thanks again for your help!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Always Worry

    Weather is by definition the day-to-day changeable temperature/wind/precipitation conditions and can't be realistically predicted more than a few days in advance, so you should always worry about the weather when traveling, especially if you're going to be camping. And although weather can't be known in advance, climate can. That's just the general average conditions for that time of year compiled over the last number of years. Around Rapid City in late October, you can expect daytime highs in the low 60s and overnight lows below freezing, although the record low for that time of year is 10║F.

    While late October is only Fall on the east coast, it is getting well on toward winter on the high plains and is definitely winter, as Michael noted for Yellowstone, once you get into the mountains. 'Flatlanders' are simply not used to the effects of elevation on weather. Being at 3,000 feet (Rapid City) or 8,000 feet in the interior of the country is a whole lot different than being at sea level with the warm Gulf Stream moderating temperatures. You should be prepared for cold everywhere on this trip between Chicago and San Francisco.


  5. Default

    Thanks, we're now thinking of leaving Yellowstone off the list.

    We do have a decent tent and good sleeping bags but we were thinking we'd stay in cabins for the colder areas.

    What about doing the trip in reverse? ie - heading down through the south to San Fran and back to NYC via the northern states.

    Our main concerns are...

    1. the high elevation attractions such as Mt Rushmore in South Dakota and Grand Canyon and Moab, Utah being snowed over

    2. the south still being too cold to camp (which is our money saving idea)

    If we went to the south first, in mid October it would still be warm enough to camp right?

    I realise that this way it will be snowing in the northern states by the time we drive through in December, but driving-wise will we be okay if we stick to the main interstates? Mount Rushmore is pretty much the only thing we really want to see on this leg of the trip if we leave out Yellowstone.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Not sure it would help.

    There are no guarantees that heading south first will provide you with warmer weather and starting out in mid October over a period of 2 months will mean that you will be camping around the GC etc well into November when you take into consideration all the places you want to visit on the way in the south. Nights can and do go below freezing in October and November, but as said is totally unpredictable. so I'm not sure if that will help your cause much by doing it 'the other way around'. To camp, I would want to be getting to the NP's of the west in the quickest possible time.

    Camping will help the budget and can be fun but it will be more a case of checking the weather as you go and deciding between campground and Motel along the way.

  7. Default

    Thanks so much - we're definitely going through the north first now, and back through the south.

    One last question - we're thinking of heading down to Moab in Utah to see Arches National Park and Canyonlands on the way to San Fran, instead of on the way back to New York (is this a better idea, weatherwise?). If we go down from Rapid City, SD into Colorado, then east into Utah (probably staying in Cheyenne or Denver), would there be high chances of snow on this route around October 20?


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