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  1. Default First Time Road Trip

    I have been using this site for a year or so to get a variety of ideas for things that I would like to do & see when I'm finally able to have my first real road trip.

    The time has finally come & is right around the corner after a long wait (early May timeframe.) I am planning a post-deployment Road Trip with one of my good friends, and we will be driving from driving from Jacksonville, Fl to the West Coast (nowhere specific, although we would like to make it up to the Oregon Coast & Redwoods.) We would like to drive through the south end of the U.S. through Texas, New Mexico, etc. to get there, or on the way back to Jacksonville, Fl.

    Money is not an issue, but we are on a two week time constraint & not worried one bit about getting tons of sights & things to experience during that small amount of time.

    I am completely open to any sort of suggestions of places to see, eat, things to do & any tips to help the both of us along the way with either saving gas, money, food options, time passers & just making the best out of the two weeks we will spend together. I am very new to this, so anything helps!

    Thank you for reading!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    When it comes to a cross country trip, there are simply too many possibilities of things to see and do to even start narrowing things down, at least until you have a better idea of your own personal "must sees." Similarly, this site is filled with ideas and tips about saving money - including an entire section of the forum - so if you have any specific questions, we'll be glad to help, but we need to know a bit more about what you are looking for.

    The one thing I will tell you that you should be at least a little concerned about is time. 2 weeks just is not much time at all for a coast to coast, and back roadtrip. To get from Jacksonville to the Redwoods will require 5-6 hard days of driving each way. While it is certainly possible to do the trip, you're going to have very little time to stop and see anything, and basically, once you get to Northern California, you're really only going to have a day or two to explore, before you'd have to turn around and sprint back home. Being in a car for 10-12 hours a day almost every day for 2 weeks will get old for even the biggest roadtrip fans, and it will put even the closest friendships to the test.

    If you can get a little more time, it would be a bit help. If not, I'd give some consideration to shortening your trip a bit.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Seeing Stuff on the Fly

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    While it's entirely possible to do a sort of circuit of the US in as little as two weeks, you need to realize that most places you'll be 'seeing', you'll be doing little else besides. You'll need a minimum of about 12 days just for the driving portion of this RoadTrip, leaving you only a couple of days worth of time to apportion to your various stops. Again, that's all well and good as long as you know the restrictions you'll be under and face them realistically. No assuming that you can drive 700 miles a day. No assuming that you can get any meaningful sleep in the car or that two of you can get any farther in a day than one could. Plan on the fact that you will get on each other's nerves a couple of times during the drive and that you'll need to take a couple of 2-3 hour breaks where you just go your separate ways. Along the same lines, plan on a couple of nights where you get separate rooms.

    As far as saving money goes, make full use of any free breakfasts your motel(s) offer, including taking bagel, apple, or other non-perishable item for a later snack. I also find that when I'm mostly sitting all day (as you'll be doing) I don't need quite as much food, so a free breakfast and good mid-afternoon major meal are usually enough when I'm on the road. You might want to have a good cooler in the car to keep your own groceries, purchased at super markets rather than convenience stores, to help hold down the food costs. Since you will, in all likelihood, stop at several national parks purchase an annual pass ($80) at the first one you come to. It will serve to get you entrance into all parks and monuments in the national parks system (but does not cover camping or other fees).

    To make the best use of your time, you'll have to stick pretty much to the Interstates as the major arteries for your drive, so pay particular attention to attractions that are not too far away from one. It will also help to have a plan for each day as to what you want to see and where you need to get to so as to remain on a schedule that will get you home at the end of your two weeks. On the other hand, don't fall victim to the idea that you just need to cover miles. You should plan on getting out of the car, even at some smaller state or local parks, every few hours to stretch you legs, clear you head, and just re-focus your eyes.

    Those are some of the basic tips that would apply to any long-distance RoadTrip. Specifics for yours will have to wait until you have a basic route worked out, or at least a target destination on the west coast.


  4. Default

    Thank you for all of the advice. I will definitely take all of this into consideration & appreciate you taking the time to write me a response back!

    I definitely had a gut feeling that making this trip in a total of two weeks was going to be near impossible with wanting to experience the Southwest & West Coast. Unfortunately, we are only allotted to a two week leave period & I figured this would be a perfect opportunity to take a road trip considering we have been stuck at sea for over 9 months.

    I would really like to be able to take highways rather than interstates, but it just seems to be more practical with the time that we have offered to us. I am a photographer and would much rather experience open roads and nature rather than big cities and Industrial areas.

    As far as a pass to go to all of the National Parks, thankfully we have that covered. We're both Active Duty Navy and only had to pay a few dollars for a year pass which is definitely a money saver! We have both wanted to visit the Grand Canyon & a few other places, but knowing that it would take a good 6 days to get to the Redwoods just doesn't sound as worth it if we'd be in a rush.

    If there is any more advice or tips that you come across to make this a better experience please do not hesitate to do so! Once again, thank you very much.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Would it be at all possible for you to do a fly and drive trip? The great cross country drive can be fun, but with what you want to see and the time you've got available it really limits what you can do. If you can exchange 10 days of coast to coast driving for 2 days stuck in airports, you'd be able to see a whole lot more of the southwest/west.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    First, welcome to RTA, and second, thank you for your service to our country. This is a rough time to be on active duty. I'm happy to see that the National Park pass is so low cost for those on active duty.

    I would go with the recommendation to do a "fly-drive". Get a flight to LA, pick up a rental car, and spend 10 days seeing what you can from there in a round trip loop. We can help you plan. Honestly, it might be a lot less expensive because you'll use lots less gas and put the wear-and-tear on someone else's car instead of yours. You can still grab a simple cooler and take food with you as suggested above, and follow other ideas such as spending time apart from your buddy so you don't get on each other's nerves.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default It seems to much to match your goals.

    I to would add to that, the 'Fly-drive' option really would be the best option to allow you time to explore the places you will be visiting and of course, to capture some great images.

    If that doesn't appeal then perhaps you should consider not going all the way to the west coast and up to the Redwoods, but instead make the Grand canyon your turn around point and head up into Southern Utah [home to Zion, Bryce canyon, Capitol Reef Canyonlands and Arches National parks] and back through Colorado which in turn has some wonderful natural attractions and great 'driving' roads. Getting 'out there' and back on some Interstate should leave some time to enjoy the natural wonders at a slower pace.

  8. Default

    As far as the option to fly, I would definitely like to rule that out although for what I want to see it's more realistic. For future trips i will definitely take that into account when I have more time to spend towards planning another trip. I do not have an issue not being able to drive to where I would like to go (Redwoods) in the time I have allotted, and can completely make due with all the other options that are available to me. Being in the Military and constantly flying and being away at sea makes me want to drive my car across the country even more than before.

    I have done my fair share of exploring the East Coast for the past few years when I haven't been at sea, so there isn't much that I would like to see, or captures my interest for exploring. As far as the Midwest and Southwest, I am not familiar with in any way and wouldn't mind one bit exploring any National Forests & small town diners they have to offer. From what I hear it is absolutely breathtaking. That's what captures my attention the most.

    As I am new to traveling to that part of the country, I have done my fair share of reading books to try to get some sort of ideas, and looking at plenty of pictures.. but hearing experiences & stories from others seems to help much more.

    We are both very open to different areas of those parts of the country to visit, so once again.. anything helps. Minimizing my trip to start out in Jacksonville end up somewhere near Colorado and working our way back through either the Mid or Southwest sounds just as exciting as driving ALL the way across country if it's possible.

    My main goal is to experience the nature side of the country, rather than the major cities & attractions most people look forward to during the summer. We are definitely okay with finding a route other than interstates that can take us in areas like the Midwest etc. to get a better experience, and enjoy our time together.

    If there are any recommendations out there for places along that sort of route that you think are a must to capture please let me know! I am always open to new ideas.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default You Don't Need to Cut That Much

    While it may be counter-productive to devote 12 of your available 14 days to just the driving portion of your RoadTrip, you don't need to cut that much from it to bring into more reasonable time/distance territory. Just giving up on the Pacific Coast and 'Big Trees' lets you still see much of the scenic desert Southwest as well as the South, Mississippi Valley, and Great Plains between you and the Southwest. For that slightly reduced itinerary you would need about eight and a half driving days, leaving you five and a half days for major sight seeing. A possible routing/itinerary would run roughly like this, described clockwise though you can obviously do it in either direction.

    Head west on I-10 and enjoy the Gulf Coast including Gulf Islands National Seashore, New Orleans, and the Creole Nature Trail. From around Beaumont, cut cross-country up to the Dallas/Fort Worth area and then US-287 up to Amarillo, perhaps stopping to see the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas or the Cadillac Ranch outside Amarillo. Next up, I-40 west to Kingman AZ, passing near Petroglyph National Monument, Petrified Forest National Park, the Grand Canyon, and the longest remaining stretch of old Route 66. Catch US-93 across Hoover Dam up to Las Vegas and prepare to turn for home.

    Head up I-15 out of Las Vegas to UT-9 east to US-89 north and I-70 east to St. Louis. This will get you to (or near) Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Arches National Park, Colorado National Monument, Rocky Mountain National Park, the Eisenhower Library and Museum, the Museum of Westward Expansion and the Arch. Next head southeast across the South using I-64/I-59/I-24 to Chattanooga. Along the way you might want to check out the Land Between the Lakes, the Grand Ole Opry, and Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. Lastly head for home on I-75 through Atlanta.

    I think that's a doable, if somewhat hectic, RoadTrip within a two week time frame. You won't have time to do justice to all the sites I've listed, but you can choose a subset of them that appeal to the two of you and maybe even add in some smaller stops of particular interest. I know that I tend to forget how much I could fit in to a RoadTrip when I was younger, and I still try to caution against trying to do too much (lesson learned), but I do think you could enjoy a great time by only modestly cutting back on your ultimate goal.


  10. Default

    This sounds extremely doable, and very interesting. Certain places you listed I have yet to hear of until now & look amazing! I would not mind at all visiting these places, and seeing all of those things along the way.

    If I'm assuming right, I would think that you have previously made this trip? If that's so, what were the experiences you found most memorable along the way? I know it's best to find your own memories, but wouldn't mind some advice of what to look for; diners, small town shops etc.

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