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  1. Default Need help with pitstops along routes!

    Hi, folks!

    I'm a single mom taking my daughter on a cross country road trip late-July. I have our basic itinerary mapped out, but I'm having a problem finding places to stop along certain parts of the route to break up the drive time between destinations. She'll be turning 15 years old along the trip, so I will be the only one driving the entire trip (although, I think her first driving lesson will be out at Bonneville Salt Flats!)

    Our interests are fairly broad, we have a love for art, street art, hiking, kitschy/Americana, oversized roadside attractions, architecture, and must-see landscapes. We aren't interested in hotels, preferring accommodations like the yurt in Marfa, AirBNB, and backpacking to nice camp spots.

    These are the areas I'm having a trouble finding stops in between:

    - White Sands, NM > Phoenix

    - A good spot to find an AirBNB along Highway 1, from LA to SF...we were thinking San Luis Obispo.

    - San Francisco > Bonneville Salt Flats, UT (we aren't that interested in Reno, unless theres a hidden gem there we're missing)

    - A place to camp between Grand Staircase and Antelope Canyon

    - Albuquerque, NM > Oklahoma City

    We are pretty excited to get to see the bottom half of America, and half the trip and supplies are sponsored for my Instagram account. We're packing folding bikes, an inflatable raft, and a pop-up in our little Fiat. I'll probably start a different post mapping out our planned stops (just to make sure bucket list things are not missed as we mosey through the country) but for now, I just really needed any hidden gems worth stopping for along these particular routes.

    Thanks so much! I'll definitely be sticking around these parts as we get closer to our trip.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome to RTA!

    Since you've laid out some of your interests, I have a couple of ideas for you to kick around with your daughter:

    Between White Sands, NM and Phoenix, there is all of Tucson, from caves to Old Tucson Wild West Theme Park, to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (HIGHLY recommended). And so much more! Just northwest of Tucson is Picacho Peak State Park.

    Between San Francisco and the Bonneville Salt Flats lies Sacramento -- full of state history. Or Donner Memorial State Park near Truckee, another historic place.

    For Americana and kitschy thing -- check out Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo (between ABQ and OKC). Bring a couple of cans of spray paint and have a ball painting some old Cadillac cars that have been put nose down into the desert sand.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Out of the way gems.

    Have you thought of looking around as you drive along, especially when off the interstates, and following an interesting sign? These have often led me to out of the way places. Lots of them are also marked on good maps, such as you get from AAA, Rand McNally and the free State maps handed out at Welcome and Visitor Centres. (I am assuming you are using good maps for your planning.) When I get to a place, and want a break,I often ask for a place they would not normally recommend. Local folk, visitor centres, rangers and BLM offices as well as libraries and law inforcement officers often know these places, which rarely make it onto the internet or into the tourism guides.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default In Between

    As a resident Tucsonan, I would second Donna's recommendation of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum outside Tucson as your primary stop between White Sands and Phoenix, even though it doesn't fall within the broad categories of interests you've laid out. It's more of a zoo than a museum and will give you an excellent introduction to the life of the Sonoran Desert. It's also relatively easy to get to from I-10 and is just across the road (more or less) from the western unit of Saguaro National Park. If kitschy Americana really is your thing, then I'd suggest the "Thing" and Tombstone as alternatives.

    Cambria and/or Morro Bay are a bit closer to the halfway point between L.A. and S.F. on the PCH, are smaller, quieter communities, and have a fairly wide range of places listed on airbnb.

    You should plan on an overnight between S.F. and the Salt Flats, and if I were going to explore anywhere in between there (other than Yosemite, but it doesn't look like you'll have time to do it justice) it would be Virginia City.

    There almost isn't any 'between' Grand Staircase Escalante and Antelope Canyon. There are commercial campgrounds in and around Page and Utah has a rather expansive idea of what constitutes camping 'near' Grand Staircase, but there are camping opportunities in the Grand Staircase as well as in the nearby Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.

    Between Albuquerque and Oklahoma City, besides the Cadillac Ranch outside Amarillo that Donna noted, you might enjoy the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton as much or more, and don't miss Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque itself.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.


    Sounds like a great trip ! When you make further posts about this trip, please keep them in this thread, it works so much better having all the info under one roof, for you and other members following and offering advice.


  6. #6


    Go to the nearest AAA store, and get the books for the states you will be traveling. Then get out a highlighter. Each of you go through the books. Mark on the map what you would like to see. And then have fun with hidden gems along the way also.

  7. Default

    Thank you for all the advice so far! I definitely have some more homework to do!

    Here is our itinerary so far, although I am certainly the type of girl that likes to spontaneously stop and explore whatever piques my interest, I do want to make sure we don't miss any amazing spots along the way. We will have foldable bicycles, an inflatable raft, and a 2-second tent with us, along with a car packed full of essentials for survival, comfort, and fun. Hopefully we'll come across a nice spot to hop in the water and cool off.

    Start: Port St. Lucie, FL
    Overnight: New Orleans (My longest driving stint will be just to get out of Florida)
    Stop: Houston
    Overnight: Austin (friends and street art)
    Stop: Fredericksburg, TX
    Overnight: Marfa, TX
    Stop: Roswell, NM (goof off for a few hours with UFOs, Alien Zone is a fun stop)
    Overnight: White Sands, NM (backpack out to a campsite on the dunes)
    Stop: Arizona-Sodora Desert Museum
    Stop: Saguaro National Park
    Overnight: Phoenix (friends and street art)
    Stop: Calipatria, CA (Salvation Mountain)
    Stop: Cabazon, CA (Dinosaurs!)
    Overnight: Los Angeles (friends and Hollywood Forever)
    Overnight: Morro Bay
    Stop: Big Sur
    Overnight: San Francisco (friends and visiting Facebook/Instagram HQ)
    Stop: Virginia City, NV
    Stop/Overnight: ???
    Stop: Bonneville Salt Flats
    Stop: Delta, UT (fossil digging)
    Stop: Topaz Mountain (topaz collecting)
    Stop/Overnight: Grand Staircase (get pass for The Wave)
    Stop/Overnight: Paria Canyon/Coyote Buttes/The Wave
    Stop/Overnight: Antelope Canyon (upper photographers pass)
    Stop: Four Corners (why not?)
    Overnight: Albuquerque (hot air balloon ride)
    Stop: Petroglyph National Monument
    Stop: Cadillac Ranch
    Stop: Oklahoma Route 66 Museum (been there, but my daughter hasn't! She loves classic cars just as much as I do!)
    Overnight: Oklahoma City (friend and Cherokee heritage)
    Stop: Mountain View, AR (we'll have our ukeleles on hand!)
    Overnight: Memphis (showing my daughter Graceland, MLK, and BB historical stops)
    Stop: Nashville (visiting my old home, showing her the city I love most in the world)
    Stop: Chattanooga
    Overnight: Atlanta/Athens (friends and scouting out SCAD for college, and possible move to Athens when she graduates)
    Overnight: Columbia, SC (visiting family in my hometown, maybe two nights)
    Stop: Savannah, GA
    End: Port St. Lucie, FL (reluctantly dragging our feet home)

    I have been keeping a journal full of smaller attractions, record stores, museums, galleries, waterfalls, old Route 66, cafes, and each state mapped out so we make the most of our time. I don't have it in front of me, so I wrote the list of stops/overnights off the top of my head. It's a general list to go by, and we might end up having to bypass a few things, but this looks like a pretty intense trip with so much to experience as it is! Sad to be missing Sedora, North Rim Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Redwoods, and so so so much! Even things like Neon Museum in Vegas is on my bucket list. Just means we'll have to plan a different trip next year! ;) I'm sure this will give her an itch to see more of America since we're only chipping away at it this trip. Thanks for helping me fill in the blanks! Some of these spots are definitely worth the stop, like Saguaro! Being a photographer, I'm hoping we can make it there for sunset. <3
    Last edited by kimberleane; 05-18-2015 at 03:40 PM.

  8. Default

    The first leg...Port St. Lucie to New Orleans is a very long one and well rested and start early...good luck!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Royalpiper has a point: that first leg is 750 miles. If you just want to get out of Florida, why not make your first stop Mobile, AL? It's a hair over 600 miles, about the most we recommend that anybody drives in one day. (That happens to be the limit for commercial drivers, too.) The USS Alabama, an old battleship, is docked there and offers tours. Click for more information. That would make the next day around the same mileage to Austin, and you'd need to have the rest after 2 long driving days.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default It need not be.

    Quote Originally Posted by royalpiper View Post
    The first leg...Port St. Lucie to New Orleans is a very long one and well rested and start early...good luck!
    To drive a more scenic route, but none-the-less almost interstate standard, and cut off some miles, take US27 and altUS27 from Ocala to Tallahassee. Then pick up US90 to New Orleans. A very interesting and pleasant drive, most of it on divided highways. I was told also that it is the preferred route of many truckers.

    You might like to add the Quilt Museum to your journal. It is just outside of Chiefland. There are many other attractions along that route. If this trip takes place around the beginning of October, you may also like to add Cruisin' the Coast.


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