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  1. #1

    Default West coast to east coast in April/May

    hello all,

    after spending two weeks driving around California in 2008 (when this board proved a big help) I am hoping to come back with my brother in April or May next year to drive coast-to-coast (something of a lifetime ambition) if we have the good health and money to be able to do so. we have sketched out a route but of course Google Maps can only get you so far.

    this is the route we are looking at. the general opinion of the forum seems to be that 500-600 miles is the most you can do in any one day, and we have a few of them. I think overall we are treating the actual travelling and road trip experience as the holiday, and I realise we won't be able to stop off much (though if something is worth seeing and nearby, we'll take it.)

    this is what I've come up with so far. distances are taken from Google Maps.

    day/night 01 - into San Francisco (seeing friends from England)
    02 more San Francisco then over to Groveland (I stayed here last time, really liked it) - 141 miles
    03 through Yosemite, down to somewhere close to LA, maybe Santa Clarita - 335 miles taking the scenic route
    04 a whistle-stop tour of Santa Monica and Hollywood then arrive late in Las Vegas - 313m
    05 spend a day/night in Las Vegas
    06 leave early, over to Grand Canyon, take it in, stay over - 274 miles
    07 over to Albuquerque, or somewhere nearby - 411 miles
    08 over to Oklahoma City, or somewhere nearby - 545 miles
    09 over to Tupelo (seeing more friends from England) - 572 miles
    10 over to Athens, GA (birthplace of R.E.M. of course!) - 355 miles
    11 over to Charlotte, NC (seeing yet more friends from England) - 200 miles
    12 over to... somewhere. Richmond? open to suggestions - 292 miles (Richmond)
    13 over to Washington, DC for the day and stay nearby - 108 miles
    14 over to New York - 228 miles
    15 more New York and then home

    as you'll appreciate we are limited by the time we can take off work... I used 14 nights as a starting point. I have visited LA, Las Vegas, Yosemite and New York from my previous trip, though my brother hasn't been before and wants to see them all. I'm not very familiar with the middle States and the east coast so any observations are welcome.

    1. does the route look possible? two drivers in their early 30s, happy enough doing long stretches. car to be decided on.
    2. if we could push it to 16 or 18 nights, where should we add stops? I'd rather see places of real interest than make the driving easier.
    3. we decided April or May to avoid a. the summer crowds b. the cold weather. is there a big difference between the two?
    4. any other observations or advice on places/routes?

    thanks everyone for your help.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    Welcome back!

    May would give you a better chance for Tioga Pass to be open. This would allow you to leave Yosemite to the east, then take US-395 and CA-14 to Santa Clarita.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default No need to make it harder either.

    2. if we could push it to 16 or 18 nights, where should we add stops? I'd rather see places of real interest than make the driving easier.
    To actually see places of real interest takes up time. It's not so much the driving will be hard, it's having a little time in the places you are planning on going and whats in between them, and having time with friends where you don't arrive late and have to rush off next morning.

    Of course you can introduce new places along the route you have planned without adding many miles. From Yosemite you could head back to Monterey and take the scenic coast highway, visiting State parks and taking in the views and maybe stop in the Cambria area for a night. On the way to Grand canyon you could stop at Hoover Dam, drive a bit of route 66 and afterwards drive through Monument valley by just adjusting your stops accordingly.

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

    Default Working Backwards

    Let's start with the end of your trip. If I had a couple of days to get from Charlotte to Washington, there are two possibilities that would be at the forefront of my options, and neither involves going to Richmond. One way would be to work my way up the Appalachian mountains either on the ridge tops using the Blue Ridge Parkway (if it's open) or through the Shenandoah Valley using I-81. This would let you see something of a unique area of America with its scenery, historic sites, caves and small towns. The second possibility is to see a bit of the east coast by heading for Virginia Beach, perhaps stopping to see the archaeological site at Jamestown where your countrymen built their first successful colony in America (1607) and then crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel onto the Delmarva Peninsula. There you could take in one or both of Chincoteague or Assateague Islands before crossing the peninsula back to some crabbing towns such as Crisfield where you can also take a ferry out to an island in Chesapeake Bay. You would cross back to the Washington side of the Bay over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at Annapolis, another town worth poking around a bit in and home to our Naval Academy.

    Another place where I'd look at altering your route a bit, particularly if you can add a day, is after leaving the Grand Canyon. Rather than just hopping on the motorway at Flagstaff, head northeast from the canyon and go up through Monument Valley to Mesa Verde National Park and then cross the Rockies on US-160 through southern Colorado. This will take you over Wolf Creek Pass at nearly 11,000 feet so make sure your car is up to it. You could then get back to I-40 by either using I-25/US-87 past Capulin Mountain to Amarillo, or continue out onto the Great Plains on US-54 through Dodge City into Missouri and then US-63 down to Memphis.

    Very generally, May would be better than April. The weather will be warming up a bit but the big crowds will still be a month or two in the future. There's no guarantee that Tioga Pass or the Blue Ridge Parkway will be fully open in May, you can pretty much count on their still being snow-bound in April

    AZBuck

  5. #5

    Default

    thanks for all your helpful suggestions, that's really useful. I'll do some investigating.

    we've decided on May and with weekends and a bank holiday we've worked out that we'll have 18 nights in the US, so we should be able to include some of the routes people have mentioned.

  6. #6

    Default

    thanks again to everyone who's chipped in. we have managed to extend the trip to 21 nights in May.

    01 — arrive late in San Francisco
    02 — whole day in San Francisco
    03 — half day in SF then to Groveland by evening (2-3 hrs drive)
    04 — down through part of Yosemite then back out west... somewhere close to the coast (5hrs drive... long day... maybe via Fresno?)
    ...thanks for the tip here Southwest Dave. I actually stayed in Cambria last time I was in California in 2008.
    05 — down the West coast to Santa Monica (3-4 hrs)
    06 — if possible (!) see as much of LA as we can (Hollywood, Mulholland Drive) then arrive in Vegas late at night (4-5 hrs)
    07 — day in Las Vegas
    08 — some more time in Vegas, Hoover Dam, over to Grand Canyon late evening (4-5 hrs)
    09 — day seeing the Grand Canyon, stay over again
    10 — leave early, off through Monument Valley, to somewhere like Cortez? (5-6 hrs)
    ...thanks AZ Buck for the tip on this
    11 — through the Rockies and Wolf Pass, to somewhere like Clayton? (6-7 hrs... long day)
    12 — possibly Oklahoma City (5-6 hrs)... this is where we are less sure
    13 — possibly Memphis (6-7 hrs)
    14 — Tupelo, seeing friends so have cut down on the driving (1-2 hrs)
    15 — possibly Atlanta (4-5 hrs)
    16 — through Athens, GA to Charlotte, seeing more friends (4-5 hrs)
    17 — along the Blue Ridge Parkway (thanks again AZBuck) to somewhere like Harrisonburg (4-5 hrs)
    18 — leave early and get a half day in Washington DC (2-3 hrs)
    19 — another half day in Washington then get to New York by the end of the evening, drop off the car (3-4 hrs)
    20 — a day in New York
    21 — another day in New York
    22 — off for the plane and then home

    the driving timings are estimates from Google Maps. again if anyone with more knowledge of these routes can spot any huge problems or suggest better timings/places to stop we would appreciate it. we'd also welcome advice on what kind of car to rent, particularly one that might hit the sweet spot between economy (to save cash) and the kind of power we're going to need.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Reality Checks

    As has been noted often on these forums, the driving time estimates you get from software routines must be taken with a large grain of salt. Several in your itinerary stand out as unrealistic.

    Los Angeles to Las Vegas: 4-5 hours. Timing will be critical. If you fail to get out of Los Angeles at a reasonable hour (before 2:00 PM), this trip will push well into the night. One (but only one) of the major failures of software mapping routines is their failure to account for time of day factors such as rush hours or even speed limits that change with the time of day. If you are still deep in L.A. at 2:00 you are going to spend several hours clearing the Inland Empire which stretches all the way to San Bernardino in one solid urban landscape. From there it's another 3+ hours.

    Charlotte to Harrisonburg via Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP): 4-5 hours. Not a chance. Even assuming you get out of Charlotte in good shape despite its morning rush hour (I've driven it. Shudder), the only way you'll get to Harrisonburg in five hours is to use I-77/I-81, not the BRP. The BRP is a narrow, twisty, two-lane road with speed limits in the 35-40 mph range, and you won't average anywhere near that limit. If you want to drive the Ridge and enjoy the scenery and a short hike or two, this is an all day drive.

    Washington to New York: 3-4 hrs. Maybe. The problem here is not the purported drive time but the hassle of getting into New York City "by the end of the evening" to drop off the car. If you leave Washington around noon after a half day there, you'll arrive in New York at the absolute height (depth is more like it) of NYC's rush hour and trying to get to the rental agency in time to drop off the car without incurring a late penalty is going to be problematical at best.

    So, those are the major problems I see with your current plan. None are insurmountable and all can be taken care of with a bit of pre-awareness and proper planning.

    AZBuck

  8. #8

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    Charlotte to Harrisonburg via Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP): 4-5 hours. Not a chance. Even assuming you get out of Charlotte in good shape despite its morning rush hour (I've driven it. Shudder), the only way you'll get to Harrisonburg in five hours is to use I-77/I-81, not the BRP. The BRP is a narrow, twisty, two-lane road with speed limits in the 35-40 mph range, and you won't average anywhere near that limit. If you want to drive the Ridge and enjoy the scenery and a short hike or two, this is an all day drive.
    yeah you're right, I messed up the navigation — it's more like seven and a half hours on the BRP depending on how much we do. I think if we can leave Charlotte first thing we will be happy to do that with a couple of stops for food and a rest. the only other option would be to stop somewhere a bit nearer than Harrisonburg.

    thanks for the advice on LA and NY as well. we could stay somewhere outside New York and keep the car another night, I just don't want to drive it into the city. it's very helpful to get all this thought out beforehand.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Leave it in NJ.

    Quote Originally Posted by DaveUK View Post
    Thanks for the advice on LA and NY as well. we could stay somewhere outside New York and keep the car another night, I just don't want to drive it into the city. it's very helpful to get all this thought out beforehand.
    Have you thought of dropping the car in Newark NJ (or similar), and taking the train / bus into NYC?

    Lifey

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

    Default still more

    Quote Originally Posted by DaveUK View Post
    yeah you're right, I messed up the navigation — it's more like seven and a half hours on the BRP depending on how much we do. I think if we can leave Charlotte first thing we will be happy to do that with a couple of stops for food and a rest. the only other option would be to stop somewhere a bit nearer than Harrisonburg.
    I think you're still underestimating the travel time here. Assuming you only drive the leg of the BRP from I-77 to I-64, that alone is 200 miles. Drive time on the BRP alone is going to be about 7.5 hours, and that's not factoring in time to stop at the various viewpoints and other attractions. You'd have another 2 hours of driving on the Interstates to get from Charlotte to the BRP and then from the BRP to Harrisonburg.

    It might not be impossible in a really long day, but at the very least it would be a really rushed trip.


    Jumping off Lifey's idea, you might actually consider dropping the car off in DC, and then take the train to NYC from there.

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