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  1. Default Suggested route for RV trip- Alabama to Washington state

    My family will be moving from Birmingham, AL to Olympia, WA this summer. We will have our 2 daughters (10/7), a cat & a dog. We are considering renting an RV one-way. I would appreciate suggestions on a route to optimize sight-seeing and allow us to make the journey in a week. Any ideas? Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Making the Best of It

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    The way to attack a RoadTrip like this is to first make sure that you have a route whereby you can complete the trip safely and on time, and then see what you can do with that and any left over wiggle room, and only then start playing around with alternatives. In your case, the direct route is already pretty good from a safety and speed point of view, and not bad at all for enjoyment either. That route would be US-78 up to Memphis, then US-63/US-60 to Springfield MO. From there MO-13/MO-7/US-71 gets you to Kansas City. Then it's Interstates the rest of the way: I-29 north out of KC to Sioux Falls then I-90 west to the SeaTac area and I-5 south to Olympia. Now the roads through Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Missouri - while not Interstates - are for the most part nearly freeway grade highways with four-lane divided highways being the norm. There will be more controlled access freeways than two-lane highways. Taken all together, you will need about five days worth of driving spread out over your available week to make the trip safely and comfortably.

    That leaves you the equivalent of two full days to sprinkle among various fun, scenic, historic and (shhh!) educational stops. So now, what's along the direct route that you and your daughters might enjoy? Well, there's Mud Island in Memphis, Harry Truman's house in Independence (outside Kansas City), the Pony express Museum in St. Joseph MO, the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs IA, Badlands National Park and Mount Rushmore in western South Dakota, Devils Tower in northeastern Wyoming, and the Little Bighorn National Battlefield outside Crow Agency MT. Those are the major attractions, but there are also nearly unlimited opportunities to just stop every few hours to give the girls (and the adults and pets) some time out of the car.

    Now, it is also possible to take other routes and/or detours, but each such departure from the direct route means that you'll have to spend more time behind the wheel and less time seeing and enjoying stops along the way. The one detour that I considered suggesting and decided against was to go through Yellowstone National Park. But it is so large, and traffic moves at such a slow pace in the crowded summer season, and it really needs several days to be seen properly, that I didn't think you could really fit it into this trip.

    One other thing to think about. If you plan on seeing more than about four national parks on the trip, then it is worth it to buy an annual pass at the first one you come to. But whether you decide to do that or not, at every national park or monument you come to be sure to sign your daughters up for the Junior Ranger Program.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 06-23-2013 at 07:36 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    Buck, just so you know, US-71 no longer exists in MO, it's now I-49. All signs have been replaced.

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

    Default 71/49

    Not even co-alligned, hey? Just signed as I-49? Well, just goes to show that many of the routes I listed as the 'straight shot' from Birmingham to Kansas City really are freeway quality. Thanks for the info.

    aZBuck

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Something that you definitely will want to check out before a final decision is made:

    RV's are made for traveling, not moving. If you were planning to carry anything with you on the trip, such as boxes of stuff you don't want to trust to the moving van, there won't be a lot of room for that. If you have a vehicle you are taking with you, be sure that your RV rental company will be okay with you renting a car carrier to tow your car UP OFF THE WHEELS. Finally, one-way RV rentals are available, but there may be a hefty fee to drop it off someplace.

    BTW, glc, it's good to know about US-71 and I-49!


    Donna

  6. Default

    Wow, such excellent information! Thanks so much for sharing your info with us! Thanks for all your directions, Buck!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    There are 2 short sections of US-71 left in MO - one at the south end from Pineville to the AR state line, and one at the north end from the I-435/I-470 "Bermuda Triangle" interchange complex into downtown KC. The official upgrade was completed in Dec 2012.

    The US-78/I-22 upgrade from Birmingham to Memphis is full freeway quality except for a few miles at each end.

    Your recommendation from Memphis to KC is definitely the shortest using major highways, but actually is not freeway quality for the majority of its length. I believe (not positive) that it's 4+ lane divided all the way. If you wanted to stay on true Interstates, I-55 to STL then I-70 is the next best choice, it adds about 70 miles.

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