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  1. #1

    Default Los Angeles to D.C. - First Time, Needs Tips/Input

    Hi everyone.

    I'll be driving my car by myself cross-country from LA to D.C. the first Monday in March. I have been doing a lot of research to figure out the costs/best routes/best places to stay. This is not exactly a pleasure trip (heading home to care for an ill parent), but I do have a bit of time (about 5 days) to make this trip and not have to go 12 hours a day, so if I can see a bit of the country in the process, at least it won't be a completely sad experience.

    I'd like to hear input anyone has on this trip: most economical, most safe, cleanest, most fun route/options/suggestions that anyone can offer.

    I've considered taking the I-10 > I-15 > I-40. I understand I'll hit a bit of Northern Texas (which apparently one should avoid?? No idea). I looked at places to stay in Amarillo, but I didn't find much good reviews in any of the places (except maybe Drury Inn but it's a bit costly). I think if I stay on the planned route, I could make it across with nearly $390 in gas, one way.

    Also, the weather being what's it's been with the crazy storms, I'd like to avoid snow/etc. if possible. Though I love snow, I'd hate to be stranded in it in the middle of nowhere.

    I have a compact car that only has 17.5 thousand miles on it. I'll be sure to change the oil and check the tires before I get on the road. I also have AAA and towing options.

    That's about how far I've gotten. If you have any input on this, please share!

    Thanks!

  2. Default

    Amarillo is good quick food stopover but I would avoid night stop if possible. Albuquerque or Oklahoma City might be better option, if you can work your driving schedule.

    March should be OK but weather can change in 10 minutes so it's last minute decision.

    Cheers,

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

    Default A nice pace.

    Hello and welcome to RTA !

    There should be no need to pre-book accomodation so I would recommend checking the weather forecasts and road conditions before you depart. All things being OK I would be tempted in going up I15 all the way to I70, one of the [probably thee] most scenic Interstates of them all.

    You should have quite a relaxed trip but you will be on the road for 9-10 hours a day to complete the journey in 5 days, despite what a mapping program might tell you. They do not allow for the need to rest, eat, fill with gas or account for posiible construction and congestion delays. Figure on 550 -600 miles to take 10 hours with said breaks and you won't go far wrong. Treat the journey as a marathon and not a sprint and don't get tempted to push to hard at the beginning of your journey or fatigue could set in for the second half.

    Have a safe trip.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    I've spent the night in Amarillo a couple times and had no issues. It's no worse than other cities its size. You don't need a 3 star hotel just to crash for the night. I stayed at the motel at the Big Texan once and at a Motel 6 the other time. Just check the room before committing, if they don't want to let you, move on to another place. If the neighborhood looks sketchy, it probably is, move on. There are plenty of hotels right at Interstate exits in small towns, they are usually safe and relatively inexpensive.

    If you have a smartphone, download the hotels.com app for researching on the fly.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Not All That Much Time

    You will need every one of your five days in order to complete this trip at a relaxed, but workmanlike, pace. And pace is the operative word here. You will need to pace yourself so that you're not tempted to either dawdle thinking you have more time than you do, or rush at first and tire yourself out for the rest of the drive. 550 miles per day is a good amount to try to cover. A bit less some days or a bit more on others, but never over 600 (that would be illegal if you were a professional driver) or under 500.

    Also, the only two workable routes are I-40 to Knoxville TN then I-81 north to I-66 into the DC area, or I-15 up to I-70 the rest of the way to I-270 into DC. The I-40 route is a bit flatter, less prone (but not immune) to bad weather, and more scenic on the eastern end. The I-70 route is mountainous in the west, particularly Colorado, could easily see significant snow in March, and is more scenic on the western end. Both routes are all Interstate meaning that grades and curves will be limited, and there will always be a passing lane.

    If you take I-40, then you'll want to plan on being at least in the vicinity of the following towns for your overnight stops: Holbrook AZ, Shamrock TX, Little Rock AR, and Morristown TN. If you take I-70, then you your nightly targets would be roughly: Richfield UT, Limon CO, Concordia MO, and Dayton OH. No matter which way you go and even (especially) if you're trying to keep up a steady daily pace, plan on taking a few short breaks from behind the wheel each day.

    AZBuck

  6. #6

    Default

    Thanks, everyone! This is all very helpful.

    I want to take the northern route, but I think with the weather being so unpredictable, I'll likely not risk getting stranded by myself and just go the AZ/NM/TX/OK/TN/W. VA route up to D.C. If I could help it, I wouldn't stop at all - except for scenery - but I know that's not even possible. I would like to stop in Nashville, though, if that can be done without losing too much time on this trip? Or is it even worth it?

    I didn't realize over 600 miles a day is illegal for professional drivers. I know when I've driven to SF, it's nearly 400 miles and I haven't had a problem driving it under 5 hours with 1 stop - 2 tops. That route is also fairly flat, but I've never minded - I suppose because I'm familiar with it. Going through the above states, however, is a whole other challenge.

    As far as cell phones, does anyone know if the signal cuts out for extended periods of time in any of the states above? This is a worry of mine.

    Also, is it safe for a female to travel this road alone? Because everyone is scaring me with their stories of "killers on the road". I'm not planning on picking up a hitchhiker, but I'd also like to know what I'm up against. And since safety is an issue, I wouldn't just stay in any hotel/motel on the road. So if you have suggestions as to where one should stay on this route, I'd appreciate you sharing!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Staying safe.

    Quote Originally Posted by Holly-Day View Post
    Also, is it safe for a female to travel this road alone? Because everyone is scaring me with their stories of "killers on the road". I'm not planning on picking up a hitchhiker, but I'd also like to know what I'm up against. And since safety is an issue, I wouldn't just stay in any hotel/motel on the road. So if you have suggestions as to where one should stay on this route, I'd appreciate you sharing!
    It's probably a lot safer than the actual travelling on the road... going by the number of people killed each year in motor vehicle accidents.

    As a solo, senior female traveller, here is how I make sure I stay safe. If you do not feel comfortable in the area, or even at reception, move on. I don't mean, if you don't particularly like the receptionist, I mean if you really feel threatened, don't stay. Always ask to see the room before you commit. If that permission is not given, move on. When checking the room, don't just check for the obvious, make sure the smoke alarm has not been disabled (a long umbrella comes in handy here) and make sure that the room has a lock which cannot be unlocked from the outside, such as the chain lock.

    If all that is OK, there should be no reason why you will not be safe in either a large chain hotel or an old small roadside motel.... usually owned and run by immigrants.

    Along the road, just make sure that you stop at rest areas, where there are always lots of others around. If possible, I do not travel before dawn or after sunset. Of course, always lock your car, keep a firm hold on your bag, even when washing hands in the bathroom, etc. In restaurants don't hang your bag on the chair, nor put it on the floor. Best to keep it on your lap.

    You will find that most whom you meet will be very friendly. Have a safe and enjoyable trip.

    Lifey

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default

    I know when I've driven to SF, it's nearly 400 miles and I haven't had a problem driving it under 5 hours with 1 stop - 2 tops.
    As Lifey mentioned, it's far safer than actually being on the road especially when travelling at high speeds !

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Holly-Day View Post
    I know when I've driven to SF, it's nearly 400 miles and I haven't had a problem driving it under 5 hours with 1 stop - 2 tops. That route is also fairly flat, but I've never minded - I suppose because I'm familiar with it. Going through the above states, however, is a whole other challenge.
    I can tell you this, if you actual drove 400 miles in under 5 hours, and made even one stop, you had to be traveling well above 100 mph for a significant portion of your trip. Even traveling nonstop, you would have to be average more than 80 mph, which means you had to be going more than 90 for significant sections of your drive.

    I can also tell you that over a full day on the road there is no way you will come close to averaging 80 mph, and if you are attempting to drive at those kinds of speeds cross country, you're all but assuring yourself that you'll be spending time talking to state troopers - who will typically demand payment on the spot for out of state drivers.

    Over a full day on the road, 60 mph is about the top end of how fast you can expect to travel as an average speed, once you factor in basic minimum stops for food, fuel, restrooms. That requires traveling at, or a bit above, the speed limit on interstates to even maintain that average. That's why 600 miles works out to 10+ hours on the road.

    As far as cell phones, does anyone know if the signal cuts out for extended periods of time in any of the states above? This is a worry of mine.
    There will be sections of highway where you won't have a signal. Exactly where, and for how long will depend on your phone and your provider. Of course, it is always good to remember that people traveled cross country for decades before the cell phone was even invented. If you are on interstate highways, you will never go more than a few minutes without seeing other cars and other people.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 02-21-2014 at 07:32 AM.

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

    Default

    We have done both routes to get from SoCal (San Diego area) to the East coast. Five days is absolute minimum and that's with no sight=seeing outside of what you can see through the windshield. Our stops were slightly different because of our location further south than LA, and our destination further north than DC, but the advice given above is good.

    Richfield UT has a number of good choices for motels, and several good places for dinner. Our favorite place to stay there has been the Quality Inn. In Dayton, we actually have stayed in Springfield at the Comfort Inn and Suites in Springfield (close to Dayton but not the same) and the Broad Street Inn in Fairborn (closer to Dayton, but a bit off I-70). Both were decent, but I'd feel safer at the Comfort Inn as a single.

    I pack a small vial of hand sanitizer in my purse. That helps for those rest areas that don't have hand soap or a decent amount of paper towels for hand washing. Of course, I always carry a pack of tissue in my purse too -- rest areas are notorious for "no TP!"


    Donna

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