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  1. Default San Diego, CA to Newport, RI Cross Country Trip

    Hi everyone!

    I'm active duty Navy and will be stationed in RI for a couple of years. I stumbled upon this site in my quest to plan this trip which I plan to start around March 15 next year and with the intent to see and visit some places for me, my wife and 10-year old girl. I've never driven coast to coast before but have driven the entire length of the west coast from CA to BC many times in the past.

    I allotted two weeks for this trip so that we can make extended stops at some cool places i.e. big cities, historical sites, national parks, etc so an ideal route will be something that can give us this.

    Since I intend to leave around March 15 which is almost the start of Spring, should I not worry about driving in snow? What about tornados?

    Any recommendation on lodging and restaurants will be greatly appreciated as well. So far my options are:
    1. Through Utah (Arches, Zion), Wyoming (Yellowstone), S. Dakota (Mt Rushmore, Badlands), and then Chicago towards RI
    2. Through AZ, NM (Carlsbad caverns), San Antonio/Houston, TX, New Orleans, Memphis/Nashville, TN, OH, PA towards RI

    Much appreciated!! Thanks so much!

    - Robert -

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Through the Heart of America

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Much as I love southern Arizona and think it should be on everyone's bucket list, I don't think that this is necessarily the trip to see it on. The problem is that there is so much empty space between here and the Midwest or South that I think you would be doing a disservice to your daughter by coming this way. Better would be your Plan 1 option, perhaps with some modifications.

    March is a little early for some of the southern Utah national parks. Cedar Breaks usually doesn't open until late May, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is snow-bound until around mid-May, some services in Zion are on reduced schedule but the upside is that you can drive in rather than rely on the shuttle as in summer, Bryce Canyon is closed intermittently during and after snow storms until the crews have completely cleared the roads. You might instead think about coming through northern Arizona, visiting Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Joshua Tree National Park, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon (open all year), Flagstaff, Monument Valley (a Navajo tribal park rather than a national park), and Mesa Verde (their 'winter' schedule ends March 6th). Then cross the Plains on US-50/US-400 through Dodge City (a bit kitschy but part of history), Greenburg (a town that re-invented itself after a devastating twister some years back), and Wichita (home to many aircraft builders and museums).

    That would leave you in shape to continue eastward through Kansas City (Truman's home) and St. Louis (free zoo, the Arch, and the Museum of Westward Expansion). Then, though I don't often recommend this, you should probably take I-64 into central Virginia (Monticello outside Charlottesville) and on up the east coast visiting the many historic cities and sites including Washington DC, Annapolis, Independence Mall in Philadelphia, and maybe even a quick tour of New York City.

    Remember, the above are just suggestions. The best plan for you and your family is whatever you work out amongst yourselves. And do be sure to get some input from your daughter. A couple of other general hints: I don't know if there's an active duty discount at national parks, but if not check out getting an annual national parks pass for $80. This is good for admission for all occupants of the car to all national parks and monuments (but not 'extras' such as camping or concessions) and pays for itself in about four parks. Also, be sure to sign your daughter up for the Junior Ranger Program at every national park/monument you come to. This will give her some age-appropriate activities to do/learn while in the park and upon completion she gets some very nice souvenirs including patches and certificates. And don't forget that besides the 'big' attractions, there are many smaller venues all along your route where you can take some time off from the road, get some exercise, or just relax a bit.

    AZBuck

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    As far as trip #1 is concerned, March is too early for most of that. Yellowstone will still be pretty much closed to vehicular traffic until mid-May. It will be a bit cold and perhaps quite snowy to do Badlands and Mount Rushmore, since that's all above 5000 ft in elevation.

    I would lean towards AZBuck's suggestion of Joshua Tree (if you haven't already seen it while stationed here in SDiego), Grand Canyon's South Rim, the Arch in St Louis, and Philadelphia's Historic district. When your daughter is in 5th grade, US History is the main study in most of the US public schools, so those places would also be wonderful for her. Have her keep a journal or diary of your trip, including photos of some sort. She will appreciate that as she gets older, even if she grumbles today about doing it.

    BTW, thank you for your service! Good luck with your new duty-station!

    Donna

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default

    Pretty much ditto to all of the above. If time permits after checking out your many options, I would include a visit to Arches and Canyonlands from Monument Valley and then continue on I70, [probably the most scenic of all] or near Fruita [where you will find Colorado National Monument] head down to Montrose and pick up US50 as mentioned by Buck. This takes you past Black canyon and through Currecanti Nat Rec area. This a scenic drive, but check conditions as you will go over the Continental divide at Monarch pass which is over 1100ft in elevation. Great views though !

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Monarch Pass=11,000 ft. Another zero needed, SWDave! :-)


    Donna

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default Good spot.

    Of course you are correct Donna, the problem is I only have 2 'zero's' on my keypad. ;-) lol

    Dave.

  7. Default

    Appreciate all the info and tips!! Great point on some parks still being closed and making sure the daughter enjoys the trip as well as documenting it! Thanks so much!

    Any comments on option #2? Just wanted to see what's in it for us. Also, we've seen Joshua natl park, Anza-borrego dessert, Flagstaff, Grand Canyon south rim and that's pretty much it in that area.

    Again, thanks so much!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default The First Day

    The start of any long RoadTrip can be problematical since it involves trade-offs between wanting to get down the road a piece, starting the adventure of seeing new things, and having already been to many of the sites close to home. If you decide to go through northern Arizona to Colorado as variously described by a couple of posters, you can make some decent compromises that will let you tailor that first day to your own desires and get you off to a good start.

    First of all, you don't have to start out by going up past Joshua Tree. The fastest route to Flagstaff is actually to follow I-8 east along the border and through southern Arizona to Gila Bend and there take AZ-85 up to Buckeye and use I-10/I-17. You can either make Phoenix a stop or use the AZ-101 freeway around the northwest side to avoid it. Sites you and your daughter might enjoy along this route, depending on your interests and how much time you decide to devote to it, include the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum, Desert View Tower in Jacumba, Yuma Territorial Prison, and - between Phoenix and Flagstaff - Sedona, Slide Rock State Park, and Oak Creek Canyon. And even if you've 'seen' Flagstaff, there is far more in that town and surrounding area than most people realize, including the Museum of Northern Arizona, Lowell Observatory, as well as Sunset Crater Volcano, Walnut Canyon, and Wupatki National Monuments.

    As I noted earlier, your Option #2 would necessarily entail long stretches of flat, desolate landscape especially through southern New Mexico and in west Texas. Yes there are things to do there and people do take enjoyable RoadTrips through that area. But is it the best routing given your stated goals and desires? I don't think so. Again, in the end this is your trip and if you decide you want to go that way we will do our best to offer suggestions to help you make the most of it.

    AZBuck

  9. Default

    Point well taken. This is the first time that I'll drive x-country hence the difficulty in planning. Thanks AZBuck!

    Rob

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

    Default

    A couple of other words of advice for a newbie cross-country driver - first, don't plan really long days. If you're going from Point A to Point B, without any sightseeing stops, 500-550 miles in one day is plenty, with 600 being tops. But don't try to do that 5 or 6 days running, as you'll exhaust yourselves. If you're going to add a sightseeing stop (such as a few hours at Petrified Forest National Park or the Arch in St Louis), cut your mileage back. Allow for more time at each stop than you think you'll need, as the Arch could have a long line for a trip to the top, or you may want to take a short hike in the Park, etc. Our rule of thumb is 400 miles a day if we include any sightseeing along the way, and then make sure we have a motel reservation at the intended goal for the day.

    Second, don't believe travel times given by any electronic advice. Take the mileage (that should be fairly accurate) and divide by 55. That will give you travel time including most bathroom and fuel stops.


    Happy New Year!


    Donna

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