DC to Vegas
I'm driving from Washington, DC to Las Vegas, NV by myself in late April. I've driven from DC up to New York many times, but this will be my first cross country road trip. I'm not the most experienced driver. I'd appreciate any advice anyone can give me about routes, weather and driving conditions, and other things to look out for.
I'd like to stop and see friends in Pittsburgh, PA; Denver, CO; and Grand Junction, CO. Aside from those stops I'm completely open. It would be nice to be able to make some stops at points of interest along the way, instead of just rest stops. However, I won't have very much time for sight seeing.
I would appreciate any advice about how to make this drive, alone, safely, in less than one week.
Ducks in a Row
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Everything looks fine with your plans as far as I can see. If you can handle I-95 and the New Jersey Turnpike you should find the driving 'out west' to be a snap. Pittsburgh and Grand Junction fall pretty much directly on your route, and since the driving portion of your trip can be done in as little as four and a half days, you can afford some time to visit with friends and see a few sights along the way. Still, all-in-all, you will need at least six days to do this in a relaxed manor, technically less than a week, but not by much.
You might want to decide on pacing beforehand and make reservations now so that you'll ave one less worry while on the road. That's something only you can decide and will depend on how much time you want to spend in Pittsburgh and Grand Junction. There aren't a lot of major attractions on the first two-thirds of your drive, but you should still plan to stop every few hours both to mentally and physically refresh as well as get a feel for the country you're driving through. Out west, maybe your friends can show you Colorado National Monument, and stops at Arches and Zion National Parks would be easy enough to fit into your plans. Weather should not be a huge factor in late April. You will need to keep an eye out for major storm fronts, but the roads will all be open and any delays should be measured in hours at most.
DC to Pittsburgh is an easy 5 hour drive. To avoid tolls, I'd recommend you take I-270/I-70 to Hancock, I-68 to Morgantown, and I-79 to PGH.
PGH to Denver is an easy 3 day drive, I'd recommend I-70 all the way to avoid the majority of tolls and the Chicago metro traffic. Target your overnights for Vandalia IL and Hays KS, both have a decent selection of reasonably priced hotels. Take the appropriate bypasses - I-470 around Wheeling, I-270 south around Columbus, I-465 south around Indy, I-270 north around STL, I-70/I-670 through downtown KC (there is no good bypass that doesn't add a lot of miles). There is a $2.75 toll on I-70 between KC and Topeka.
Denver to Grand Junction is about 4 hours, unless you want to make a day of it and take some sightseeing side trips. If the weather is good, I'd recommend you take US-6 over Loveland Pass (Exit 216) instead of the tunnels on I-70.
GJ to LV is about an 8 hour drive if you need to make it in one day, but if you have extra time, you can do some sightseeing in Utah - the more time you have, the more you can see and it's well worth it. Scenic UT-12, Bryce Canyon, and Zion are the main highlights.
Thanks glc. Your recommendations for where to target to overnights was especially helpful.
I have a NYS EZ pass. Do you know if that will work for tolls as I drive west?
It would work if you take the toll roads through PA,OH, IN, and IL - but not in KS. With my suggested route you would only have one toll in KS which (I think) is $2.75. The only other tolls you may encounter are on the cashless 470 bypass around Denver, but EZ-Pass doesnt work there, and it would be license plate tolling if you don't have a CO transponder. They will mail you a bill.
We've driven straight through Columbus OH, Kansas City MO, and Denver, CO without taking the bypasses. It's really not that bad if you're used to east coast, unless, of course, you have to drive through these cities during Rush Hour!
Donna, I have too (Wheeling, Columbus, Indy, STL, KC, and Denver), and I'd rather not do so in Wheeling, Columbus, Indy, and STL. KC and Denver are just too inconvenient to take the bypasses traveling east/west, the others are not major detours.
It all depends on where you are going in Denver - the toll 470 may or may not help you. Going straight through from east/west, don't bother. If you are going from the airport to I-76 east or I-25 north, then take it, the alternatives are a pain.
A first time solo cross country trip.
Having driven the above advised routes several times, I can recommend them. However, since this is your first cross country trip, do not attempt it with only your electronics. Be sure to carry a good road atlas, such as a rand mcnally, or maps of all the States through which your route goes. Maps such as AAA produces. These are free to members. Be sure you know and see the big picture, not just the little screens. A gps is good as a back up, especially in cities, but don't rely on it out on the open road. Many have done so at their peril - some fatal.
As a solo first time driver I suggest you have a good roadside assistance package. Breakdowns can happen to the best maintained vehicles.
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