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  1. Default Initial planning - Western loop trip for May 2014

    Hi, RTA. Long time/first time. I have loved reading your reports and posts for years.

    I have a milestone birthday next year and am planning a roadtrip to celebrate. Initially it was going to be cross-country one way, but after seeing the rental prices for a one-way rental from LAX to NYC (we live in NYC), I decided it would be best to shelve Memphis and Nashville for another day and figure out a loop from LAX that would accomplish most of our goals.

    What are those goals? We are not campers; we do not sleep outside. I was a Girl Scout, but I have no desire to repeat it - it's just not for us. We are walk-through-the-woods people, not avid hikers - but we are New Yorkers who don't own a car so we walk everywhere at all times, so we're not afraid of a walk here and there. We like history, kitsch, pop culture. This trip is largely inspired by Route 66, Robert Frank, Jack Kerouac, and John Steinbeck, with some Bruce Springsteen, Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan for good measure. We can drive long hours and love every minute of it - there are two drivers and we can do a long drive day with no problem (we've done cross country in 10-14 hour stretches several times already).

    We are city people but I am not looking for much city time at all on this trip (and have already offended our friends in Oakland when I categorically refused to add a stop to see them on this trip because we have been in the Bay Area a lot recently).

    So, now to my initial itinerary.

    May 23: Arrive LAX. Pick up rental car, drive to Palm Springs or nearby for the night.

    May 24: Palm Springs via Joshua Tree (so I can stop at the Country Kitchen for the chocolate chip pancakes), Rt 62 to 95 North, Kingman and the old Route 66 alignment. Overnight in Williams.

    May 25: Grand Canyon South rim. Overnight in Holbrook, AZ or Gallup, NM

    May 26: Driving to the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo. I realize this a large and pointless part of the drive but have wanted to go here since I was 17 when The River came out and this is my chance. Stop in Tucumcari for lunch. Overnight north of Amarillo

    May 27: Drive to Durango or some routing back from Amarillo that will take us west towards Four Corners/Monument Valley.

    This is the part where I could definitely use some help; It's not like I have any driving desire to go to Durango, we don't want to take the train ride, and we have done enough curvy highway driving recently that I am not sure we care enough about the Million Dollar Highway to add the time. But, I don't want to backtrack to Albuquerque and head up through Santa Fe to go up, and when looking at the maps, this seemed like a reasonable destination based on our next stops. Any other ideas? Is it just being bullheaded?

    May 28: Four Corners and Monument Valley

    May 29: Monument Valley, drive to Zion

    May 30: Zion

    May 31: Route 50/Loneliest Road to Reno

    June 1: Reno to Monterey/PCH

    June 2: Monterey / down PCH

    June 3: Los Angeles/overflow day

    June 4: Return home

    This seems like a full but reasonable pace based on the fact that we're not hiking and seems to give us some space to stop and look at random things that seem interesting or fun.

    Your suggestions and advice are welcome and I thank you in advance.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO



    Don't discount Durango. It's a great little city and you should enjoy it a lot. My nephew actually wants to move there from San Diego.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome to RTA!

    I see a really hard day on "May 25" starting in Williams, "seeing" the Grand Canyon, and then trying to drive to Holbrook or Gallup. Williams is an hour from the Grand Canyon, then there's so much to see at the GC. If you want to go on the West Rim Drive, I believe you'll have to deal with the trams or walk, as I don't think they allow you to drive that way any more. For East Rim Drive, you can drive, but even in May, you will face traffic and parking issues from other visitors. This is the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, which makes it likely to have a LOT of visitors there. This isn't to try to keep you from going -- you really should -- but you should be aware of this in your plans.

    From there, you have at least 175 miles of driving to Holbrook, 275 to Gallup. What might make it easier is to stay in either Flagstaff or Winslow after the day at the Canyon (you can go "stand on the corner in Winslow AZ"), and then have a 550 mile trip to Amarillo the next day -- allowing you time for lunch in Tucumcari and the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    I very much agree with Donna that you are really rushing the Grand Caynon. Even if you aren't planning any major hikes it is still a place worthy of a full day, not to mention your current plans won't let you see one of the canyons famous sunrise or sunsets.

    Durango is a nice town, and between there and 4 corners is Mesa Verde, a great park that is also very worthy of your time. Personally, that would seems like an obvious choice on this route and I think you'll find it far more interesting than 4 corners - not that you can't do both.

    Is there a reason you are skipping Yosemite? That seems like another obvious stop between reno and monterey, that you didn't mention or build in any time for.

  5. Default

    Thanks everyone for the welcome and the feedback!

    I should start by saying that when we do these trips, we start at like 7am. So I am basing everything off of early start days. We are somehow very good at getting off to a military start in the morning.

    So in my mind, we would be at the Grand Canyon at 8 or 8:30am and there the entire day, possibly even until sunset. It all depends on how we react to the place and the HUGE ENORMOUS MASS OF TOURISTS which is the kind of thing we get allergic to, easy (you should have seen the nervous twitches we got just walking underneath the Eiffel Tower to get to the other side!)

    I was figuring we would drive as far as we could that night once we were done (whenever that is) to get us a decent jump on the long drive the next day. Flagstaff to Amarillo in one day seemed just a little too long. Winslow was on the list as a stopping point but then I wanted an option that was just a little bit further, hence Holbrook. I hear your point that Gallup might just be a little too far.

    (And if you understood how much we hate and despise the Eagles you would understand why Winslow was not a stop we particularly care that much about. :) (Although, hey, the song made Jackson Browne a lot of money and we love him.))

    I realize Four Corners is what it is but the kitsch part and I'm also a fan of Neil Gaiman.

    I will definitely check out Mesa Verde, thank you.

    Yosemite is not in this list because I have already spent a lot of time there and while I realize you could go there every year for your entire life and still have enough to see, given that this is a 'bucket list' kind of trip, it's not on my list, and if it's between driving the PCH and Yosemite, the SO prefers the PCH drive and it has been a goal of mine to see the otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Plus, I worry about getting National-Park'd-out, similar to what they call 'cathedral fatigue' in Europe.

    I know we are running into Memorial Day weekend but that is what gives us as much time as we have between work and other commitments. I have tried to think of a routing that would avoid the crowds, like going the other way around. But then we are driving the PCH Memorial Day weekend. I kind of think I'd rather deal with the crowds at the Grand Canyon, than drive behind a minivan up the coast for four hours. :)

    Thank you all again! Going to back to read some more archived trip reports! Will update on the final itinerary when we get there. :)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    If you're planning to spend all day at the Grand Canyon, then I'd say Holbrook is likely going to be a little too far - and Gallup would be way too far. Sunset is after 7:30 at the end of May, but depending upon where you view the sunset, it could pretty easily be close to 8:30 by the time a shuttle bus gets you back to the car. When all is said and done, it would be close to midnight by the time you get to Holbrook. Gallup would mean not arriving until about 2:30AM, as you add in another 100 miles of driving and lose an hour crossing into NM.

    I don't really think that touring National Parks in the American West can really compare to touring in Europe. First, all of the parks are vastly different. What makes the Grand Canyon interesting is completely different from what makes Mesa Verde interesting, and that's completely different than what makes Monument Valley (not a national park, but the same principal) interesting, etc. Similarly, because National Parks are so large, it's not hard to get away from big crowds. For example, in the Grand Canyon the Village area likely will have tons of people, but as you get out to the viewpoints that are farther away, the crowds will thin down somewhat. If you start walking at all beyond just the highlighted viewpoints, you'll hardly run into anyone at all! It's amazing, but just getting a few feet off the beaten path often is all it takes to practically have a National Park all to yourself!

  7. Default

    Thanks again, will keep all of that in mind.

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