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  1. #1

    Default February Dog-Inclusive Roadtrip - Des Moines IA to Tucson AZ!

    Hi all, so happy to have found this forum! This is the first roadtrip that I've actually needed to do extensive planning for, so this website has been a fantastic resource!

    A friend and I are planning a week-long roadtrip for February 2012... not sure which week, since it'll all hinge on when we have to be in Tucson. It's going to be a doozy, but luckily we're used to long car rides since we're both very active in dog rescue and dog shows. With dog shows and rescue transports alone, I've put roughly 50,000 miles on my Chevy HHR in the last 12 months! A bit about us - both in our late 20's, married (but we're making the husbands stay home to care for the dogs!), both experienced "dog people."

    Anyway, our rough itinerary to Tucson:
    Des Moines IA to Tulsa OK
    Tulsa OK to Amarillo TX
    Amarillo TX to Las Cruces NM
    Las Cruces NM to Tucson AZ

    ... and our trip back to Iowa:
    Tucson AZ to Santa Fe NM
    Santa Fe NM to Amarillo TX
    Amarillo TX to Tulsa OK
    Tulsa OK to Topeka KS
    Topeka KS to Des Moines


    We are aware that there will be some challenges:
    1. Wide range of weather conditions - No problem! We're seasoned Midwestern drivers, so no amount of snow/ice/hail/etc. is going to scare us.
    2. It's going to be a grueling trip, lots of hours at the wheel - Fingers crossed! We're going to alternate driving, which should help. Luckily, we're both used to 4-7 hour long solo drives for rescue, shows and trials, so we won't tucker out after 90 minutes of drivetime.
    3. We'll be driving a clown car, basically - Again, we're used to it. Nearly 3000 miles in a Chevy HHR? Bring it on! We are super-packers, and this trip will have the advantage of not needing all the dog show paraphernalia that takes up sooo much room normally.
    4. I have celiac disease, so eating on the road is going to be... interesting. - We're doing extensive research into restaurants, but I'm hoping we can find some interesting places to eat along the way... places that aren't chains!

    ... and last but not least....
    5. We're going to be traveling to Tucson with two large dogs. On the way home, we'll have a small puppy. - That's right. We're hitting the road with two Doberman Pinschers, and bringing back a streetdog puppy from Mexico on the way back. A good friend of mine runs a small rescue in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico and is sending a puppy back to Iowa with us... that's the whole reason behind this roadtrip.

    The Dobermans are highly trained, and accustomed to long car rides. One will be crated in back, and the other will be wearing a Ruffrider seatbelt harness and be belted in. They are roadtrip rockstars, and we're confident they'll be just fine.

    We have hotels planned - I've already called to confirm they'll accept the dogs, and I'll be calling again closer to the trip. We have friends in Tulsa and Topeka, so we'll be staying with them for free.

    Here are our questions/concerns:


    1. What options do we have along the way for fun, outdoorsy activities where the dogs (at least the Dobermans) can come along? We love the idea of restaurants with dog-friendly patios, but not sure if any will be open in February. We'll probably be walking around in t-shirts since Iowa is usually in the negative digits in February - so 40's will feel like summer to us!

    2. Friends and family in the southwestern states (AZ and NM) have told us that two young women traveling alone = somewhat dangerous. I find that hard to believe, but do we really have anything to worry about? We're young women, but we'll have two Doberman Pinschers (one of which is a proven protection dog) and I will have my CCW (don't worry, I've checked the laws in each state... my permit to carry is recognized in every state we'll pass through except for NM and KS) - so honestly, do we have anything to worry about?

    3. Any suggestions for restaurants in the cities I mentioned above? Specifically ones that offer gluten-free menues or naturally gluten-free options?

    4. Any state parks/monuments that you know are dog-friendly? We're already planning on visiting White Sands in Alamogordo NM, but we want to visit as many parks and monuments as time will allow. The dogs are seasoned hikers and are accustomed to carrying packs, so we're not afraid of a 5-10 mile jaunt through nature. I'm a semi-pro photographer and I'm chomping at the bit to get some good shots of our little journey! (urban settings are just as nice for photos - really want to get photos of the dogs with some of the unique architecture in NM and AZ!)

    5. Are there any roads/cities/regions we should avoid? Conversely, are there any roads/cities/regions that we simply cannot miss? :)

    6. Should we brush up on our Spanish? :)

    Anyway, sorry to ramble - but I hope you can see how excited we are about this trip. We could easily fly down to pick up the puppy, but we're making a point of roadtripping it - we've never been to the Southwest, and we are really hankering for an ADVENTURE. If there's anything you can suggest to help make that happen, we're all ears!

    I didn't see anything in the rules about posting photos... so here are photos of the dogs that will be our co-pilots:

    Rocket:


    Kaylee


    Together on a hike...


    If you got through that entire novel.... cheers! :)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Lovely dogs.

    Hi, and Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum.

    No, I can't answer any of your specific questions, though I am sure someone will, soon. Just wanted to say that I did read through the entire novel, and really enjoyed it. Even though I am not a doggy person.

    Enjoy your trip.

    Lifey

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

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by sizzledog View Post
    2. Friends and family in the southwestern states (AZ and NM) have told us that two young women traveling alone = somewhat dangerous. I find that hard to believe, but do we really have anything to worry about? We're young women, but we'll have two Doberman Pinschers (one of which is a proven protection dog) and I will have my CCW (don't worry, I've checked the laws in each state... my permit to carry is recognized in every state we'll pass through except for NM and KS) - so honestly, do we have anything to worry about?
    Your family and friends are full of malarky! As long as you are using common sense, and not taking any unusual risks that put yourself into harms way, there's no reason at all that traveling would be any more dangerous than being in your hometown. We have plenty of solo women who travel (like lifey) who have never had a problem. Being a pair with dogs should be more than enough "protection," as long as you are using your built in radar to avoid bad situations, or leave if you get into one.

    I will say that none of the regulars on this forum recommend bringing a gun on a roadtrip. The licensing issue is one significant one, where it looks like you've done your due dilligance, but there's also the issue of being on the road means being in unfamiliar situations, which means you're more likely to misjudge a potential problem, and having a gun could easily turn a minor issue into a life-or-death problem. Again, it sounds like you have the right training and are doing the right research in terms of what you need to do if you decide to bring it, but its certainly not something you have to have.

    3. Any suggestions for restaurants in the cities I mentioned above? Specifically ones that offer gluten-free menues or naturally gluten-free options?
    We generally are not a great place to get restaurant reviews, as there are just too many options out there for us to have any good sample to provide first hand information, and even among places we may have been, restaurants open/close/change hands so frequently, some place that was great yesterday, could be horrible or even gone by tomorrow.

    The best advice is often to simply ask the locals, but since you have some dietary restrictions, I'd do some advance research on the major cities you plan to be stopping, by looking at local websites (newspapers, entertainment guides, dept of tourism, etc).

    4. Any state parks/monuments that you know are dog-friendly? We're already planning on visiting White Sands in Alamogordo NM, but we want to visit as many parks and monuments as time will allow.
    Most National Parks are not very good places to bring dogs, as they are usually not allowed on trails. You'll have to check the restrictions on White Sands by going to the National Parks Service website.

    National Forests and State Parks, on the other hand, are usually very dog friendly and can provide tons of options for trials and exploration that can be just as beautiful and intoresting.

    If there's anything you can suggest to help make that happen, we're all ears!
    You do need to keep in mind that you are traveling in winter, and that can pose its own challenges. While I can relate to the idea that after dealing with midwestern storms, you can handle anything, the reality is there may be things thare are out of your control. Winter storms in the mountains are a bit different animal than in the midwest, and you're more likely to see highways simply closed if the conditions don't allow safe travel. Its also easy to forget that you will have the chance of seeing snow nearly anywhere on your trip. While Tucson itself doesn't see snow, there are areas less than an hour drive away from there where a winter snowfall is quite normal. Also keep in mind that as you get south, you often run into plow crews that simply aren't as adept to deal with winter conditions, and things like salt which you are used to aren't used at all! Those things could cause your plans to be delayed or slowed down.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Not as Bad as It Seems

    I think you're in much better shape than many first-time posters/first-time long RoadTrippers. Your daily legs aren't that bad at all. We normally recommend about 500-550 miles a day as a comfortable pace which would get you to Tucson in just 2½ days. With 4 each way at your disposal you'll have plenty of time to visit with friends, sample local cuisine and exercise the dogs. Getting the dogs some fun and exercise is actually relatively easy as there are any number of venues all along the major highways and elsewhere that would make great R&R stops for both you and them.

    As far as your safety goes, let me say that I think the handgun is totally unnecessary. But as long as you are following the law and are trained, that's your call. Anywhere you go is going to be somebody's hometown, just as Des Moines is yours, and as long as you practice the same normal precautions you do at home you'll be just fine. And frankly, I simply can't imagine anyone dumb enough to want to mess with two Dobermans.

    Restaurant recommendations are outside the scope of our intrepid little band of advisors. There are just too many of them and too few of us. However there are sites that specialize in just that - restaurant reviews from the vast general public. A couple that my wife uses to great effect when we travel are Yelp and Urbanspoon.

    Um, my wife and I just did 1750 miles in a Honda Fit and had no problems whatsoever. As long as you're comfortable in the car, just sit back and enjoy the great mileage and do a little in-place 'superior dance' every time you pass one of those 15 mpg SUVs or 5 mpg RVs!

    Finally, I moved to Tucson from an area of Maine where I had to deal seasonally with the Québeçois (and so had to be at least conversant in French). When I got here I decided that (since I did not live in Switzerland) I was not going to learn a third language to live in my own country. I have never had a cause to second guess that decision. Given the current political climate in the southwest, Spanish speakers are trying desperately to learn English, not the other way around.

    AZBuck

  5. #5

    Default

    Thanks everyone! You all basically confirmed what I've believed all along - that our family and friends mean well, but they're being WAY too overprotective! We both come from firearm-savvy families, but I can say that we've never had to use a gun for self defense... and neither have our parents. Ever.

    A friend of mine frequents White Sands (teaches photography seminars out there) and he's the one that actually recommended it as a good place to take the dogs. We're so excited to go there!

    State parks are definitely a good idea - and who knows, perhaps they'd be less crowded than the big touristy National monuments and parks. Truth be told, we'd prefer it that way - one of Iowa's state parks was "destroyed" by the severe flooding we've had over the past few years, so vehicle transportation is barred within the park. Let me tell you, it's the BEST thing that ever could have happened to the park - now it's beautiful and natural. Before the flood "destruction," it was completely mowed and jam-packed with families... and everything they'd bring with them - huge grills, volleyball nets, SUVs, boats, stereo systems, etc. Really killed the ambiance of the beautiful natural setting. Here's what it looks like now:



    Used to be a road here:


    Sand? In Iowa? Yep, this used to be a meticulously mowed picnic area!


    Any specific state parks we should visit?

    Also - last minute change in plans, we've replaced Las Cruces with Albuquerque for the overnight. Thank goodness we still have roughly 5 months to get everything figured out!

    Snow - Luckily living in a small rural town has prepared me for winter driving without the aid of sand. Iowa uses very little salt, and most of the small towns don't put sand/grit down often - especially during the end of the winter, when their sand supply has been used up. Not to mention even the best sand/salt mixture will cut through the glare ice caused by drifting out on rural roads... that stuff is not fun to drive! We're very used to the idea of roads being closed due to weather - most of the highways around here have closure bars that come down when the roads are closed due to weather or flooding. Iowa DOT has a great online map for road closures (www.511ia.org) and I'm hoping other states have something similar. I've also got a lot of experience driving in "lake effect" snow, if that helps. Never seen mountain snow though, so I'm curious - how does it differ from lake effect snow, and midwestern snowpocalypse snow/ice?

    The Dobermans - Unfortunately they tend to attract the creepos sometimes. Most people have the good sense to act "normal" around them, but some people can't resist trying to see how far they can push them before they aggress. Even here in Des Moines, we have people that yell at them, bark at them, approach them in an unsafe manner... just so they can see "how tough the dogs really are." Weird, I know. No one ever does that to the other dogs we have (I have a Corgi, my friend has a Siberian Husky and a Lab.) I do think drugs/alcohol can play a big part in some of the encounters with weirdos though - the only people that truly bother the Dobermans beyond the occasional teasing aren't in their right mind at all - whether it be due to drugs, alcohol or mental illness.

    We will be bringing our cameras and laptops with us, and will be blogging every day to share our adventures with our friends and family. Heck, we're already blogging about the roadtrip preparation and planning! It's probably bad that we're already giddy about the trip, and it's still MONTHS away!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    A friend of mine frequents White Sands (teaches photography seminars out there) and he's the one that actually recommended it as a good place to take the dogs. We're so excited to go there!
    From the NPS site:

    Pets are allowed in the park. They must be on a leash (no longer than six feet) at all times when outside of vehicles. Pets are not allowed in buildings (except seeing-eye dogs). Please clean up after your animals.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

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    I've enjoyed reading this entire thread -- normally I participate here every day, but this has been "one of those weeks".

    Though we do tend to stay away from restaurant recommendations here at RTA, there is a restaurant in Albuquerque that's been around for years, and still wonderful: Seasons Bar & Grill. The food in the bar is the same as in the grill, just cheaper. (Different ambiance.) A friend of ours in Albuquerque eats there about once a month. When we ate there with him, I had the green chili cheeseburger -- oh, was that good!


    Donna

  8. #8

    Default

    A bit of an update....

    We've got dates nailed down (Leaving snowy Iowa Feb 18th) and we're going as far as Phoenix now. Here's the route as of now:

    Des Moines IA --> Tulsa OK --> Amarillo TX --> Alamogordo NM --> Tucson AZ --> Phoenix AZ --> Santa Fe NM --> Amarillo TX --> Tulsa OK --> Topeka KS --> Des Moines IA.

    My only new question:
    1. Since we're driving further north in AZ than we'd originally planned - which means higher elevation - what should we expect? Our tentative Route in AZ is going to be I-10 from Tucson to Phoenix, then I-17 to Flagstaff, then I-40 to Santa Fe. Planning on stopping at the Petrified Forest Nat'l Park since dogs are allowed.

    Thanks in advance!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    You can expect a high probability of snow and ice in the Flagstaff area, but they do a great job of keeping the Interstates clear.

    If the weather is good and you have no particular reason to go to Flagstaff, I can highly recommend the following scenic alternative to get from Phoenix to I-40 east:

    AZ-87 to Payson
    AZ-260/277/377/77 to Holbrook

    This is actually shorter than taking I-17 to I-40, and should be pretty close to the same time.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Calico Country Cafe in Amarillo has been consistently a good place to eat, particularly for breakfast. However, doggies aren't allowed in the restaurant (unless they're seeing eye).

    Those AZ routes that glc suggested ... well, do be sure to check a weather guide! They can get snowy and they aren't very fast about clearing them, like interstates. They are beautiful roads otherwise.

    Donna

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