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  1. Default California to Massachusetts Road Trip

    Hi RTA Forum People!

    My wife and I are taking a road trip from California to Massachusetts around summer time (one way trip, two weeks) and I wanted to get some opinions on our route and general plan.

    1) Route: California -> Grand Canyon, AZ -> Zion National Park, UT -> Grand Junction, CO -> Boulder, CO -> Kansas City, KS -> Hannibal, MO -> St. Louis, MO -> Louisville, KY -> Pittsburgh, PA -> Massachusetts. We'll be averaging about 390 miles a day of driving, with our longest day being 620 and most under 500. Mostly curious if anyone has thoughts on our pathway.

    2) Vehicle: We don't own a car right now, so we've decided to rent an SUV. We thought about getting a fuel efficient compact car, but we'll be hauling some extra belongings (again, one way trip) so the extra room will be much needed. It comes out to about $1,800-$2,000 to rent an SUV for two weeks. This point is where I have the most questions. There are tons of advice about road trips and people saying "know your car, check levels, be able to fix a flat, general maintenance, etc." but is this something we have to worry about with a rental? We plan to make sure we've got AAA and solid insurance. If we get a flat, car goes bust, etc. we just plan to get road side assistance. I would like a sanity check on this please, as I am admittedly not a car-maintenance-savvy person and would like to find out if I need to become one for a two week road trip.

    3) Food & Shelter: We'll be camping a couple nights, but mostly planning to just enter town and find a motel vacancy. We'll probably hit a grocery story each morning, get some ice for the cooler and resupply any bologna, bread, water, beer, etc. stores for the road, but also plan to taste the local fare (i.e. mom n pop restaurants). Any advice here and anything we may not be thinking about?

    4) Misc: Do people generally carry some kind of protection with them, be it mace or a sturdy pocket knife? We don't have anything, and wondering if I'm crazy to think we should have something. GPS TomTom kind of thing - needed?

    Kind of a strange set of questions, but these are the points I've found related to my trip that aren't well covered from researching over the last couple months.

    Thanks for your help guys!

    Matt

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default The friends you could meet/make.

    Welcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

    4) Misc: Do people generally carry some kind of protection with them, be it mace or a sturdy pocket knife? We don't have anything, and wondering if I'm crazy to think we should have something. GPS TomTom kind of thing - needed?
    As a septuagenarian female, solo traveller I have covered almost 200000 miles in Canada and the US. Never have I carried anything to defend myself, other than my common sense and that little voice/feeling inside which tells one to move on.

    Neither have I ever met anyone who threatened me in any way. In fact I make a point of going up to strangers and introducing myself and asking friendly questions to engage with them, show an interest in them and their town/city.

    If your mindset is already such that you feel you may need protection, then you are starting off with the wrong attitude. You might find this article useful.

    I'll leave the rest up to others, suffice to say that I have travelled from CA to MA some half dozen times in the last decade and a half.

    Lifey

  3. Default

    Thanks Lifey. I'll give that a read and put the whole protection thing behind me. I certainly want to make sure I have the right attitude. If I don't get many other answers, I hope to tap into that rich CA->MA experience that you have! Thanks again.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Free flowing.

    Matt, I am known for not planning trips, and rarely ever do. I go to the AAA and get good maps, see what my route options are and what attractions there are along any of those routes. You will find those marked on the maps. Then I hit the road. Even before I had my van I rarely if ever booked anything up front, walking into what accommodation I found along the road, when I felt I had gone far enough. I also purchase a Rand McNally atlas for each trip. Every night before bed I highlight the roads on which I have travelled. Makes it much easier to remember and a good souvenir to look back on.

    Often I would see a sign which pointed to something interesting, and I would follow that. Taking me off my route. A flexibility one does not have with booking things up ahead.

    Of course in special tourist places, such as the NPs, or around holiday times like the 4th July, it is essential to make sure you have somewhere to stay. For all the rest, why not go where the wind blows and see what you can see/find along the way. No knowing what you may chance upon.

    Be sure to keep a journal of the trip, it will be a good guide for the next trip.

    Lifey

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    I think you've got the start of a very good plan.

    Your route looks solid, and your approach seems pretty good. Between Zion and Grand Junction, you've also got Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches National Parks - along with the very scenic UT-12.

    Car repairs really aren't something you need to worry about in a rental. You'll be driving a nearly new car, and in the rare case you would have a problem, you can just swap out for a new vehicle at a location along the way. I wouldn't spend the money for AAA just for this trip, as you should have roadside coverage included with the rental company - just check with the rental company for details.

    I'll echo Lifey in that common sense will give you far more protection than any weapon will. A GPS can be a useful tool to a point - they can be very nice if you're trying to find a specific location in a city, for example - but it's certainly not required and you should always treat it as secondary to real maps. If you decide you want a GPS, you're probably better off buying one than getting it from the car rental agency.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Regarding the AAA membership, their maps and tour books are invaluable things to have, IMHO. A number of places offer a 10% discount to AAA members, too, including motels and restaurants.

    For a weapon, my husband carries a small metal baseball bat in the pocket of the door of our vehicle. :-) He's never had to use it, probably never will, but he feels better carrying it. He had some training in using it in self-defense, at one of the jobs he used to hold, so that's why he carries it.

    I will also echo Michael regarding a GPS. We use ours mostly for finding addresses within a city, not for planning a cross-country trip. I use Mapquest or Google Maps to get my mileages when I'm planning our trip, but use paper maps for the routing.

    For finding food locally, our usual stance is to ask at the motel desk when we check in. We usually specify that we want someplace where the locals go, not necessarily the local Denny's or similar. Former president Harry Truman supposedly asked gas station attendants for their recommendations, but I'm not sure that's as easy as it sounds today, but you could ask the guy at the local convenience store gas place. :-)


    Donna

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Green County, Wisconsin
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    Regarding the AAA membership, their maps and tour books are invaluable things to have, IMHO. A number of places offer a 10% discount to AAA members, too, including motels and restaurants.
    Honestly, I find AAA's tour books to be worthless, and while the discounts are nice, you have to use them a whole lot to get $70 of value out of them - especially because similar discounts are often available through other means (ie coupons, online orders, etc).

    The "free" maps are nice, but you can get a good atlas for under $10, and most states will also send you a free map if you ask.

    To me, AAA's only real value is with the roadside assistance, and without it I can't justify the price. The other things are nice add-ons, but not close to being worth it by themselves.

  8. Default

    Lifey - thanks for sharing your viewpoint when it comes to planning for a trip - I like the spirit and philosophy of it. We are definitely following the same attitude and approach to this trip. We have our campsite booked at Grand Canyon and our place at Zion squared away, but after that we have zero plans except for our general route. We have left a few days at the end of our timeline for any unforeseen detours along the way. We generally echo these sentiments with the phrase "If we get the urge to go to Aspen, by god we'll go to Aspen!" (note that Aspen is not in our "plan").

    Michael - thanks for the solid tips. Utah & Colorado are the two states that we really feel the urge to make some solid plans, mostly because there are just so many cool national parks and such. However, I have found that when you take detours to see those expansive parks, they add considerable driving time. I'll consider adding an extra bonus Utah day in, or just plan for it to take from our extra day reserve. Appreciate the sanity check on rental cars and road repairs. I haven't looked at an atlas since I was a kid shortly before the onset of the internet-era. I checked out Amazon and there are tons. Could you please recommend a good one to have?

    Donna - thanks for the tip on local food. I've been told countless times when traveling that, when in doubt, inquire with the hotel. I didn't think to channel this advice for a domestic road trip - duh! Thanks! Also, thanks for chiming in on the whole "protection" thing - at least it makes me feel like I'm not crazy! My wife considered it a ridiculous thought, but hey, it can't possibly hurt to have something stored away and, better safe than sorry I guess. I'll most likely get a good "camping" pocket knife and, if anything, use it to slice up some charcuterie.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    I'm a fan of Rand McNally's atlases. The standard one is good, although paying a few extra bucks for the sprial bound Truckers version can be nice. Walmart carries the standard one for 7 or 8 bucks.

    I will actually disagree with your idea that it couldn't possibly hurt to bring a weapon. If you have a weapon, you're more likely to disregard the common sense aspect that would keep you out of the dangerous situation in the first place. Also, If you aren't properly trained on how to use the weapon, the attacker could use it against you. In a roadtrip setting, where you're in a unfamiliar surroundings (and could easily misread an otherwise benign situation), the downsides of having a weapons pretty strongly outweigh any advantages of having one, imho.

  10. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    I will actually disagree with your idea that it couldn't possibly hurt to bring a weapon. If you have a weapon, you're more likely to disregard the common sense aspect that would keep you out of the dangerous situation in the first place. Also, If you aren't properly trained on how to use the weapon, the attacker could use it against you. In a roadtrip setting, where you're in a unfamiliar surroundings (and could easily misread an otherwise benign situation), the downsides of having a weapons pretty strongly outweigh any advantages of having one, imho.
    Thanks Michael, you're right. I'll throw the whole idea out.

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