Firstly I would like to say "what a great site" - you have so much information here, it really whets the appetite.
We are planning on a road trip between 15th of July and the 9th of August. Unfortunately only one of us drives. Being from London it appears that the first bit of advice we need to be taking into consideration is "don't underestimate the distances". We don't have a problem with driving long stretches but need to factor in "non-driving days" along the route so we don't get too worn out but also get to enjoy in greater depth some of the places we visit en-route.
The plan is to hire a car in NY and drop it off in LA. We would like to include as many contemporary art galleries as possible as well as some short 2/3 hour hikes in some of the more beautiful spots. We will take camping gear but will mostly stay in motels. We're flying in from London on the 13th and will spend a couple of days catching up with friends in NY before picking up the car on the 15th. From there the plan is:
15th July - Drive to Philadelphia (have relatives there)
16th - Stay Philadelphia
17th - Drive to Washington DC - quick look at some of the sites then stay somewhere to the south of the city.
18th - Drive to Front Royal and then do the Sky Line Drive & possibly the Blue Ridge Parkway. Stay southern Virginia.
19th/20th - Drive the rest of Virginia/Tennessee and into Alabama.
21st - Get to Birmingham and stay the night, sightseeing etc
22nd - Hard drive to New Orleans
23rd/24th - Stay New Orleans
25th/26th/27th/28th - Drive North West through Texas and New Mexico to Mesa Verde National Park
29th Explore Mesa Verde a.m. then drive to Monument Valley
30th Onto Grand Canyon, day to explore then stay Flagstaff
31st Drive to Las Vegas (stay one night only - not to fussed about Vegas really)
1st August - Drive to Bishop (via Death Valley)
2nd/3rd - Yosemite Park then onto San Francisco
4th/5th - Stay San Francisco
6th Drive to Big Sur staying somewhere on route
7th Drive rest of Big Sur to LA
8th Stay LA - drop off car
9th Morning flight back to New York then evening flight back to London.
So the big question - is this too ambitious (particularly with only one driver). This is a huge trip for us and we want it to be memorable - like I said, long days driving in the car are ok with us as long as there is some relaxation involved too.
I'd really welcome your expert opinion. If we have to rethink and cut out some of the route to make things more direct that's not too much of a problem - we could always plan a separate trip to New Orleans and the south for example.