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  1. Default DC to Portland, OR via upstate NY - early-mid May

    Hey everyone! I've been poking around this site for a few weeks, and though there is a lot of great information about a cross-country route, I wanted to see if there's anything specific y'all can recommend for my interests (listed below).

    I am moving from Northern VA to Portland, OR at the beginning of May. After getting the truck out there, I'm flying back to get my car, and then taking several (3? 4?) weeks with a friend to journey my way leisurely back to the west. I have plenty of time, but don't want to go over 4 weeks; it will begin in early May. The furthest west I've ever been is Minneapolis, but I've explored a lot of the East Coast.

    I plan to go north to Ithaca and Buffalo, see Niagara Falls, and then go up to Toronto and across to Detroit, then Chicago. After that, my vision gets hazy. The spots I know I definitely want to hit are Toronto, Detroit, Chicago, Yellowstone. Once I get past Yellowstone, I would like to visit my brother in San Francisco and then take the coast up to Oregon.

    Beyond that, I'm open to adventure. I love traveling without very solid plans, with a lot of freedom and flexibility. I am interested in seeing/driving through a few parks and forests, I want to see some of the bigger cities, and I'm interested in American history, but not seeing things like, "the spot so and so did such and such". I also have no interest in sports. Locations that are particularly artsy/crafty are of definite interest. Literary landmarks may also be.

    As far as lodging - I spent 10 weeks in hostels in Europe and loved the atmosphere, so I'm hoping to find a few of those here and there; if weather permits, I'd love to camp. Otherwise it will be cheap-ish motels.

    Food - I've read a lot of the suggestions all over this site about eating well on the road, and I'm generally pretty good about food planning, so I'm not too worried about this. I am, however, VERY interested in experiencing the culture of the various places I end up, so roadside BBQ stands and mom&pop diners and that sort of thing are of great interest. I would love any recommendations of places, anywhere along this very general route, that you have been that were unique, even if not excellent.

    Equipment - Roadside emergency kits, power inverter for laptops, etc., little propane camp stove, tent & blankets, lots of water, etc. ... any other particular equipment you'd recommend?

    Money - Not a huge concern, but frugality is always desirable. I'm considering getting an annual National Parks pass, and I have several different gas discount cards; do you guys have any other tricks/tips for saving money (beyond the obvious stuff like "don't eat out every meal")?

    THANK YOU!!!! I am looking forward to hearing anything you have to offer, and I can't wait to share my journey!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Sounds like a great trip.

    Hi, and Welcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

    What a wonderful adventure in the making.

    May I suggest that you cross the border from Ontario back into MI at Sarnia, rather than Detroit. There are far fewer delays at that crossing, Going directly into Detroit can and sometimes does take time.

    You will be going through areas where hostels are few and far between. Years ago I would design my route via the hostels, rather than the attractions, and managed to do many months hostel hopping back and forth across North America. Though you will find that the hostel culture is very different from Europe. This is probably the most comprehensive site for hostels worlwide.

    And I for one will be looking forward to you sharing your trip in the field reports forum.


    Rather than a power inverter, which in itself uses a lot of power, see if you can get a 12v lead for your computer.
    Last edited by Lifemagician; 10-31-2014 at 05:49 PM. Reason: add info

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Climate and How It Will Impact Your Planning

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Spring comes surprisingly late to the northern Rockies. In particular, May is as often a winter month in Yellowstone as it is a spring one. The same is true of the northern Great Plains, which you'd have to cross to get from the Great Lakes to Yellowstone. In addition, some of the highways into Yellowstone - notably the Beartooth Highway - aren't open until around Memorial Day and Yellowstone itself really doesn't get fully up and running until early June. So, unless you're willing to settle for less-than-ideal conditions and can accept that you may not even be able to get into/through the park, I'd forego Yellowstone on this trip and head a bit farther south on your way to San Francisco.

    Such a routing certainly doesn't have to mean foregoing natural beauty or missing out on areas rich in history or the arts. Spring comes earlier to the mid-latitude Rockies. Arches, Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks are certainly no 'booby prize' either. To get there, you can follow the old Oregon Trail through Nebraska. From there, you can follow in the footsteps of Spanish missionaries up to San Francisco. Then to name just a few of the more well-known art locations on the way: the Art Institute and Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Des Moines Art Center, the Denver Art Museum, and the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.


  4. Default

    Hi Lifey and AZBuck -
    Thanks for all your advice! Here in Virginia, May means 80s and 90s already, so even though I did some research on Yellowstone's general annual schedule, I kept thinking, "May can't be that bad!" :) but the idea of following a more southern route suits me just fine, so thank you for your suggestions.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Climate in Yellowstone is also, in part, due to the fact that most of it is 5000 ft elevation and above. That makes a big difference!

    Tips for saving money include an app that you should have on your smart phone or laptop: GasBuddy. That app itself saved us lots of $ as we would fuel up when the price was right. Sometimes it would take us a mile or so off the highway and save us 30c a gallon. If you're a Costco member, get the Costco app because it will show you where they are located -- nice for fuel in a car! We also had several grocery store apps so that we could find their stores easily.

    Finding local places that are unique, for eating, is usually done easily by asking in a motel, convenience market, or grocery store. "If you were recommending someplace local to eat, unique, where would you send someone?" or "If you could go out to eat tonight, where would you go?" I asked that several times and had folks respond with a chain restaurant, so I'd clarify that I was looking for some mom-and-pop place or something local. Then we'd get a better reply.

    I am also hoping that you'll post a trip report for us, as we love to hear how it all worked out.


  6. Default

    Hi Donna -

    Thanks for the tips! I got GasBuddy, which is already proving to be quite useful, and I am a Costco member but hadn't thought of getting the app or using it for gas.

    I'll try to keep myself disciplined enough to post a report!

    Thanks again,

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