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  1. Default Tennessee to New Mexico?

    Hi, first time poster with tons of questions about a (possible) road trip from Tennessee to New Mexico. I have to go there for business reasons, but I have to stay there for at least a few months, so it's not a move. I was wondering if people might have any opinions or tips about this.

    I have a chance to either road trip it or take a plane flight. Now, obviously, if this was just a short-term thing (if I only had to be there for a week or two, maybe), I'd just take the flight. But with such a lengthy stay, I'm weighing the possibility of driving so that I can take more stuff with me (more clothes, books, things like kitchen stuff so I won't have to re-purchase it all in NM). It won't be a ton of stuff, but more than I can take on a plane.

    Now, in the past, I've driven from NYC to Detroit and I drove from Philadelphia down here to Tennessee. Both of those trips were doable in one day (and, since I'm not a power-driver, they were also pretty exhausting for me). That has me pretty worried about driving almost cross-country, obviously. An estimate on Google Maps is putting the trip distance at around 1300 miles. I'd probably try to break that up into three days. Here are the questions/concerns I have that I was hoping for help with:

    1) I drive an old car, it's a '98 Civic. When I was in PA just a few months ago, I had it inspected for safety and emissions. I also took it in recently for a routine maintenance inspection at a dealer. Is that enough for such a lengthy drive, or do I need to specifically go in to a place and say something like "can you REALLY look at this car because I'm driving cross country"? I figured that if there was something horrible going on, between all the checking someone would have found something. Yes/no?

    2) Since I've never done a multi-day trip before, how would I go about planning where to stay each night? I'm not really sure how far I'll drive each day. I'm sort of scared that I'll wake up on day 2 all beat and go "no way I'm doing another 500 miles," for example. Is it crazy to just drive and then at some point look at a GPS for "nearby hotels"? I'm worried that it might say "none for 100 miles" if I'm in the middle of nowhere. Or that the only places around will be really run-down. If the recommendation is more to plan specific stops along the way and then use those as goals, how do I go about doing that? (Meaning, I don't know how to go to Google or whatever and say "show me 500 miles from here and then search for hotels.")

    3) Any recommendations on what to bring for snacks? For single-day drives, I honestly just bring water and power through. I was thinking just to bring some fruit, like apples, and maybe some pretzels.

    4) In the same vein as #2, I'm sort of worried about where to eat. I always see on TV, like Food Network, where people go to out of the way places and find fantastic meals. When I drive or have to go places on business, it's always more like everywhere I look are just dives with bad food and I end up playing it safe and going to a chain like Wendy's (on the unhealthy side) or Subway (on the healthier side). How do you guys find decent places that aren't just grease pits to eat? Like, this might sound gross, but I don't want to drive to NM and then feel like I have to pass a brick. (Sorry if that was too graphic.)

    With all these concerns, I'm sort of leaning towards flying and just taking a limited amount of clothes with me and a laptop, but it sure would be less comfortable than being able to take more things. (I was also thinking about mailing some things to myself, like my kitchen stuff.) So, with that, advice? Thanks in advance.

    EDIT: Oh, also, how do you guys avoid back soreness during long trips? Just get out of the car frequently and walk around? When I drove from NYC to Detroit, it felt like my butt had fallen asleep. I definitely wouldn't get up the next morning after that and go "time to do another day of driving!"

  2. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by acrossthestreet View Post
    An estimate on Google Maps is putting the trip distance at around 1300 miles. I'd probably try to break that up into three days.
    That sounds reasonable - just do the daily mileage that you feel happy with (unless you've got a schedule to meet of course).

    Since I've never done a multi-day trip before, how would I go about planning where to stay each night?
    The majority of towns have a cluster of chain motels close to at least one of their interstate exits. That would be the most convenient, least expensive and most predictable
    option and in most cases you could pick a chain at the price level you wish. Except perhaps over weekends there'd be no need to book ahead unless the town had a special event at the time you're there, or is close to a major tourist attraction.

    Is it crazy to just drive and then at some point look at a GPS for "nearby hotels"?
    Not crazy at all IMHO. And beforehand you can do the same thing on one of the electronic map systems, if only to reassure yourself that you're unlikely to encounter problems finding accommodation.

    I'm worried that it might say "none for 100 miles" if I'm in the middle of nowhere. Or that the only places around will be really run-down.
    That's unlikely on the interstates but possible if you use other roads. Before you travel, take a look round likely interstate exits with Google Maps StreetView to see what they look like.

    I don't know how to go to Google or whatever and say "show me 500 miles from here and then search for hotels.")
    Go to Google Maps. Pan and zoom to the relevant place (mainly to avoid getting matches for other places with the same name in other parts of the country).
    Then within Google Maps do a search for
    motels near xxx
    (where xxx is the town name)
    The locations will appear as arrows on the map, and in the lefthand panel you'll see contact details and review ratings. Beautiful!

    The way you get into StreetView varies between the old and new versions of Google Maps so I won't go into detail here but it should be fairly obvious - look for the little yellow man icon and drag him onto a road. Once in StreetView you can turn and move with the mouse.

    In the same vein as #2, I'm sort of worried about where to eat.
    Google Maps again! Search for
    restaurants near xxxx
    Also bear in mind that you can buy anything you like from supermarkets during the trip.

    It would also be worth taking a look at some possible routes on a map and seeing if you want to divert to any national parks or other similar areas, or anything else of interest to you such as museums maybe.

    If possible give yourself time so you can be flexible and stop whenever you want to, maybe even stop in one place for a day or two before moving on again.

    On the road, it would be a good idea to use a GPS/SatNav as that would help put you in the correct lane through cities, and of course you can't look at a printed map while driving, especially in traffic (well, not at all really, if you want to obey the law and be safe).

  3. Default

    Thanks for the input. Regarding places to eat, how do you personally find good places? My GPS will list a lot, but usually in desolate areas it's just random "Joe's Burgers" or "Italiano's." And they're usually just run-down dives with no ratings online. I always hear about people who find great places in the middle of nowhere and I didn't know if it was just by chance or if there was a way to do it.

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

    Default

    Good places to eat ... well, many hotels offer a halfway-decent breakfast bar of some sort. These range from sweet rolls, donuts and muffins, juice, milk and coffee, to having a waffle maker and premade batter, hard boiled eggs and more. For dinners, we often ask at the hotel, "what's great that's local in a (xxxx) price range?" Most of the times they are happy to recommend someplace that they like, or point you next door to the chain restaurant. We rarely eat lunch on the road, but Subway is among our favorites. BTW, you *can* eat healthier at the fast food places these days, I'm finding out. At Wendy's, I order a grilled chicken sandwich, a garden salad or chili, and water or unsweetened tea.

    Finding hotels -- set yourself up for two overnights equi-distant apart. With 1300 miles, you could do 3 400-450 mile days, about 8 hours, and be comfortable. Between TN and NM on I-40, I can't think of any place where there isn't a hotel 25-40 miles from anywhere. Once you figure out what 2 overnights are that far apart, you can google "lodging near (town, state)" and it will show you options. If you don't want to get reservations, you probably don't have to unless it's a weekend or near a tourist place (as John stated).


    Donna

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    Assuming you have a smartphone, install 3 apps:

    Gasbuddy
    Hotels.com
    Tripadvisor

    With those, you can simply pull over and look for gas, food, and lodging anywhere.

    I'd advise you take a 15 minute break every 2 to 3 hours to keep fresh. Find a rest stop or get off an exit that has services and walk around.

    My daily routine when I'm traveling to make time and not being adventurous is this - I stay in hotels that have some kind of breakfast. I'm a member of Wyndham Rewards, so I usually look for a Super 8, Days Inn, Baymont, Knights Inn, Travelodge, or Ramada. There are, of course, other national chains of varying price and quality. I try to get on the road by 8am or earlier. For lunch, I usually hit up a truck stop that has fast food or look for something familiar at Interstate exits. Don't eat in the car unless it's just a snack (granola bar and a bottle of water, for example). Walk around for 10 minutes after lunch to help with digestion. I get off the road by dinner, find a hotel, and ask for restaurant recommendations at the desk. If nothing "local" is recommended, I'll find a familiar chain.

    Note that Interstates have signs before each exit listing gas, food, and lodging at or near the exit. I try to avoid getting off in larger cities, I prefer small towns for less hassle.

    Tennessee is a long state and New Mexico isn't exactly small. With the 1300 mile figure, I'm going to assume Cookeville to Albuquerque? (Please verify) If so, for 3 equal days I'd set your overnight goals to Conway, AR and Elk City, OK. If you can go farther (it's still early and you feel fine) go for it. On the first day, your best choices after Conway would Russellville and Fort Smith. On the second day, you could look at Shamrock and Amarillo, TX. After Amarillo, there really isn't much till you get to Tucumcari, NM.

    If you happen to spend the night in Amarillo, I can recommend the Big Texan if you want a decent steak dinner. I recommend the ribeye. The attached motel isn't bad either. If you care, no wifi in the motel but the restaurant has free wifi. I was able to pick up the restaurant wifi from a 2nd floor room close to the restaurant.

    Bring bottles of water in the car, it's important to stay hydrated, and that will force you to stop periodically for a bathroom break. I have a little plastic cooler that holds a 6 pack (Igloo Little Playmate) and use packets of "blue ice". Most hotels have a room fridge for refreezing the blue ice and keeping the water cold overnight.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Relax, Be Happy

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Let's deal with your major concerns first. At its simplest, your RoadTrip is a simple drive westward on I-40. That's it. You would follow the same road all the way from Nashville to Albuquerque. There might be some other shorter routes at either end depending on where, exactly you're starting/ending, but you haven't told us what those points are. There is nowhere along that major cross-county route where you are going to be more than a dozen miles (at most) from food/gas/lodging. And unless you are traveling over a holiday weekend and happen to want to stay in a town hosting a major event, there is little to no chance that you will be unable to find decent food, reasonably priced gas, or an adequate place to stay - without reservations.

    Snacks, meals and lodging will be whatever you want them to be. I tend to keep coffee, water and munchies in the car and to eat only two main meals a day, a late breakfast and an early dinner. If my motel offers free breakfast, I'll fill my thermos with their coffee, grab an apple or banana and maybe a small box/baggie of sweetened cereal to munch on. But I don't like to waste cool early morning hours before traffic builds up eating breakfast. When I do stop for a meal, I make it a serious break from driving. I get off the highway and drive into a small town and find the local restaurant that has to rely on repeat business rather than the exit ramp chain that gets a new batch of suckers (oops, 'diners') each day.

    Speaking of breaks from driving, you should take a couple such each day. These can range from local parks near the highway to larger attractions requiring a bit of a detour. But you can easily make such stops, and keep yourself fresh and alert, and cover 500 miles a day or so - as long as you get an early start, get off the road for the night before you wear yourself out, and get a solid eight hours sleep each night.

    If you've had your car checked twice recently, you are probably good to go. No competent mechanic is going to let an unsafe vehicle leave his shop without at least informing you of the problem and trying to earn the business (and profits) for himself.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 05-06-2014 at 04:52 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default More

    On your car.....we're taking a late 90s model on our upcoming trip. It's all in the maintenance. Make sure you have a budget for the unexpected -- it can and does happen. (It was a new alternator for us on our 2012 trip.) Nobody can predict EVERYTHING. Also, a membership with an ERS such as AAA would be a peace-of-mind. \

    About snacks....carry what you're comfortable with. There are always convenience stores, which are starting to carry healthier things like fresh fruit. However, it's almost always less expensive to go to a regular grocery store! I carry a couple of days worth of fresh fruit. If you aren't planning on a huge cooler, bring things that don't have to be refrigerated. A small cooler can stock the ice you need for a day (and can probably be gotten from the motel ice machine if you're only filling a 6-pack cooler) or bring an ice pack that you can throw in the freezer at the motel (sometimes they'll let you store something in theirs, if the room fridge doesn't have a freezer unit). Keep drinks cold or bring a cup with lid and straw, and use the ice to fill your drink cup and the non-cooled bottles as the liquid to fill them with.


    Donna

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by acrossthestreet View Post
    1) I drive an old car, it's a '98 Civic. When I was in PA just a few months ago, I had it inspected for safety and emissions. I also took it in recently for a routine maintenance inspection at a dealer.
    The question I think is how are you defining recently. An inspection done a few month ago, especially one for safety/emissions which is likely only making sure you meet the minimum standards to not harm others on the road, wouldn't be enough for me. An inspection like that is likely not going to give you any information on things like belts, suspension, the conditions of fluids, or other things that could potentially break while on the road. Now the routine inspection at the dealer is probably more comprehensive, and if you had that done within the past month or so, then you're probably ok. If it has been more than a month or two, it wouldn't hurt to have it checked again - especially since you probably want to have the oil changed before you hit the road.

    Is it crazy to just drive and then at some point look at a GPS for "nearby hotels"?
    It's not crazy in principal, although I'd really put a big warning on an over-reliance on a GPS or other electronic systems. If you blindly look for "nearby hotels" its very likely you could end up being directed to a place that might be close "as the crow flies" but would actually be a long way from the interstate or your intended route.

    More importantly, before you set out on any long trip, you should have good paper maps and know how to use them. These will give you the base knowledge to know what it coming up, and will let you use the GPS properly - as a tool to help you find where you want to go - not as something that you are blindly following.

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

    Default AAA membership for peace of mind.

    Good maps, as Michael mentioned, are an absolute essential. Some of the best are published by AAA, and are free to members. If you are not a member, I would highly recommend taking out a premium membership before you depart. It is a small price to pay for insurance against anything unforeseen.

    Quote Originally Posted by acrossthestreet View Post
    I always hear about people who find great places in the middle of nowhere and I didn't know if it was just by chance or if there was a way to do it.
    Mostly you find these places by asking the locals. Not "where can I get something to eat?", but rather "If you were going out to dinner tonight, where would you go?" Ask at the hotel, when you shop, at gas stations, or just someone you happen to chance upon. So long as they are a local. I will often approach someone and say "Excuse me, are you a local?" and then ask my question.

    Lifey

  10. #10

    Default Get ready for Love's

    My first experience with seeking advice here on RTA was in advance of an October 2007 trip from Raleigh, NC to Oxnard, CA. We crossed all of TN, AR, OK, and NM on I-40. The Love's chain of travel plazas, some of them full-blown truck stops, as well, is very well represented along I-40, likely due to the Love family's origins in OK. We found the plazas to be clean, well-located for EZ on and off of I-40, reasonably priced for fuel, and very well-stocked with food, drink, coffee, snacks, and fresh fruit. During our first day, we decided we'd be stopping at Love's when possible during the rest of the trip, as we realized we'd make better time by combining fuel, restroom, and food/snack stops as much as possible.

    Enjoy the trip!

    Foy

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