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  1. Default Ambitious? Midwest to Vegas with a day trip to LA

    We are planning a trip from Indianapolis to Las Vegas. We chose to drive because we have a little time and we prefer to see whatever we can along the way. We don't get to travel much and we budget travel. We have 4 nights free in Vegas and plan to couch surf as part of the adventure the rest of the time. Here's how we currently have our trip broken down. Curious if you think this is realistic? Never drove out this far and know the geography and traffic will make a difference in timing.

    Day 1 - Leave Indy around 10am
    Day 1 - arrive in Salina, KS around 6:00pm. Stay overnight with friend.
    Day 2 - leave Salina, KS around 8am.
    Day 2 - arrive in grand junction or there abouts- stay one night (prob couchsurfing)
    Day 3 - wake up and explore - stay the night
    Day 4 - leave Colorado 9am drive straight to Vegas.
    Day 4 - arrive in Vegas, check into room, sleep for a bit, wake up later and party
    Day 5 - explore red rock in afternoon/ the strip at night
    Day 6 - drive to Grand Canyon to get a break - couch surf in the village
    Day 7 - drive to Mount Charleston and back to Vegas for our last night there.
    Day 8 - leave Vegas heading to Los Angeles via scenic route
    Day 8 - arrive in LA - eat dinner/couchsurfing
    Day 9 - explore Hollywood and leave around late afternoon
    Day 9 - head home to Indy. We have two whole days to get home.

    I know we will be limited in what we can do but for us the drive/escape is all the fun. Vegas hotel is free so we figure we will have a big party while there since we have three whole nights to enjoy there (had four but choose to couchsurf one of those nights in the Grand Canyon) and it's not our typical style of vacation. The rest of the way is more of seeing the American landscape and taking in the small towns. I feel like we broke up the driving into chunks (except the way home) so we shouldn't be too exhausted each day.

    We are road trippers who like to get in the car and flip a coin to our destination and usually at the last minute. So realistically is this trip doable/enjoyable for us? What have I failed to consider?

    Thanks in advance!!!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default Over ambitous.

    Hello and welcome to RTA !

    I think it be wise to break the trip west into more equal segments and forget about a whole day exploring around Grand junction. There is no way can you travel from Indy to Salinas in 8 hours, you would have to average over 80 miles an hour without stopping for the bathroom, food, rest or to fill with gas and have no hold ups whatsoever. It's at least an 11 hour drive [probably 12] and then you are planning the same sort of distance the following day while getting around Denver traffic.

    On the way home it's even more of a problem as there is no way you can get from LA to Indy in 2 days, it's a minimum 3.5 day drive for a safe and at least partly enjoyable trip home. You should reconsider LA and after a couple of days in Vegas drive to the GC from where you could drive home in 3 long days. If LA is a must then something has to give, but I don't see why you would go from LV to GC back to Vegas and then to LA when you could have gone LV to LA and past the GC on the way home.

  3. #3

    Default

    I few things I would keep in mind on a trip like this.

    #1: Your first 2 days are pretty long. It's mostly okay since you are trying to get out west and are mainly going through plains to get there, but I would be wary of 2 nearly 700-mile days in a row. But If you guys are comfortable with 1,400 miles in 2 days, go for it!
    - If you want some fun things to see along the way out west (that's a long 2 days if you don't stop once in awhile.) Let me know and I can show you a few funky stops along the way to break of the drive.

    #2: I would take that extra day in Grand Junction a put it to driving to Las Vegas. Driving through some of the best scenery in the country and sticking to the interstates is almost sinful. (Well, you are going to Vegas) Check out UT Route 12, or some of the National Parks in Southern Utah and see if you want to spend an extra day there. Also, out of all the cities in Colorado to explore, Grand Junction isn't high on that list.

    #3: I would reschedule the Grand Canyon for the way back home. It is already on the way to Indy and is a better use of your time.

    #4: Vegas to LA via the Scenic Route? The only real way to get from one to the other is I-15, and that's across mostly flat desert. While it is beautiful it's the same beauty for 200 of miles. Any other route would be way out of your way if you are going to be in LA for a single night.

    #4.5: It seems as though you want to see LA just to see LA. I would leave LA out of this trip since it is taking you a day further from home.

    #5: LA to Indy in 2 days?! I assume that would be Day 10 and Day 11? I would definitely make this 3-4 days. If you have to get back in 2, take a day from somewhere else. That's over 2,000 miles and over 14 hours a day. That's pushing dangerous.


    What I would do with your schedule is:

    Day 1: Salina, KS
    Day 2: Grand Junction, CO (Lots to see on I-70 in Colorado. Make sure you get an early start so you can see the scenery throughout the drive).
    Day 3: Somewhere in Utah
    Day 4: Las Vegas, NV
    Day 5: Las Vegas, NV
    Day 6: Las Vegas, NV
    Day 7: Las Vegas, NV (If you got 4 free nights, use 'em!)
    Day 8: Grand Canyon
    Day 9, 10, 11: Get Home to Indy. (No way I would take less than 4 days to do that, but 3 is acceptable.

    If you Do need to get to LA:

    Day 1: Salina, KS
    Day 2: Grand Junction, CO
    Day 3: Somewhere in Utah
    Day 4: Las Vegas, NV
    Day 5: Las Vegas, NV
    Day 6: Las Vegas, NV
    Day 7: Los Angeles (Use one of your days in LA and not the Grand Canyon. And if you leave from Vegas early, you can get to LA in good time and have most of the day to see the big sights)
    Day 8: Grand Canyon
    Day 9, 10, 11: Get Home to Indy. (No way I would take less than 4 days to do that, but 3 is acceptable.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default a deadly snowball

    Your plan starts with some small problems and then as you go along, you develop bigger ones, until you've got a plan that's absolutely lethal at the end.

    So starting with the big problem: The only way you can safely get from LA to Indy in 2 days is on an airplane. It doesn't matter how many drivers you have, try to cover that many miles in 2 days means you would be even more dangerous than a drunk driver. That is not an exaggeration. You would be playing russian roulette with other people's lives. Even three days would be a dangerous pace. You need a minimum of 3 overnight stops to make that trip safely.

    The next biggest problem that your plan for the Grand Canyon doesn't really make any sense. Why would you'd go from Vegas, to the Grand Canyon, back to Vegas, and then onto LA before heading home? Even if this was a 1 way trip, it wouldn't make sense to go back to Vegas after the Grand Canyon, when you could save a significant number of miles by driving directly to LA. In the end, unless you can add significantly more time, I think you'll need to cut LA out of your plans, but either way It makes no sense at all to drive 5 hours east of Vegas, and head back west again, when you would drive right past it when heading back to Indy anyway.

    Your plans to drive out west have a few problems, although much if it is based on your expectations. No matter what online mapping programs tell you, there is no way you can complete a 650 mile drive (which is pushing the limits of safety as a very full day on the road) in anywhere close to 9 hours. That's a pretty solid 12 hour drive. Similarly, driving onto Grand Junction now puts you up to nearly 700 miles which is really getting into the unsafe area, especially after having driven nearly as far the day before. Since you've got a day to explore Colorado built in, it would make a lot more sense to drive somewhere closer to Denver on day 2, and still spend your 3rd day looking around Colorado, but then make your way a little bit west, and spend that 3rd night around Grand Junction or Moab.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 02-05-2016 at 04:35 PM. Reason: typo

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

    Default

    I have actually driven most of what you are planning to drive. Let me chime in a bit.

    Indy to Salina is actually not too bad, 650 miles or so. However, as has been said above, it's not going to be any 8 hours. Even Mapquest says it's a lot longer than that, and it was being pretty lenient. Along the way, you have St Louis, Kansas City, and Topeka traffic. If you don't leave until 10 am on Day 1, you might be lucky to pull into your friend's house about 9 pm. If you want to spend any quality time at all with your friend, I'd leave a lot earlier in the morning.

    Another thing you might want to rethink - leaving Hollywood heading east in late afternoon. That is the height of rush hour, AKA "Insanity". It doesn't seem to matter what day of the week it is, LA rush hour is seemingly 7 days a week.

    Others have said there's no way that you can go from LA to Indy in two days. We have headed east from San Diego, and it takes us three very long days in the vehicle (600 mile days) just to get to central Missouri. Add the other half of Missouri, all of Illinois, and half of Indiana to cross on I-70, and you have another 3/4 day.


    Donna

  6. Default

    Thanks all for the reality checks! I had a feeling LA was ambitious. We are heading out that far and my husband's never been anywhere west and as both of us are into music we wanted to try to squeeze it in just for kicks but it prob will put a damper on the whole trip. Based on the advice I think we will leave earlier Friday morning, maybe 5am and get to Salinas for our overnight. That gives us time for dinner a couple drinks perhaps. I also think I will cut Colorado in half. We can make it one night and take time driving to give us an extra day. We will spend 4 nights in Vegas since we have them and hit GC on the way home, prob still crash overnight in the canyon village. Then take our time getting home from there. Ideally we would be home Monday if we leave Saturday but if not it won't hurt us to arrive Tuesday. Does this sound more realistic? Thanks again everyone!!!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Day 6 - drive to Grand Canyon to get a break - couch surf in the village
    prob still crash overnight in the canyon village. Then take our time getting home from there. Ideally we would be home Monday if we leave Saturday but if not it won't hurt us to arrive Tuesday. Does this sound more realistic?
    I've seen your references to "crash overnight in the canyon village", but I am not sure what you're referring to. Grand Canyon Village is a government-owned, concessionaire-operated village. To my knowledge, no one "lives" there except, perhaps, employees of the concessionaire, and when I once worked for a national park concessionaire, we were not allowed to let anyone "crash" in our quarters. It was verboten. (That was awhile ago, and perhaps things have changed.) The closest towns to the Grand Canyon are Tusayan and Cameron. If you need less expensive overnight, you are going to be looking at Williams or Flagstaff, which are 1-2 hours from the Grand Canyon Village.

    If you leave from Williams on Saturday, you can be home on Monday. It's about 1640 miles from there to Indy -- three days of about 550 miles, using I-40, I-44, and I-70. Your first overnight would be in Tucumcari, about that mileage, and there are lots of lodging places to choose from in all budgets. (There is also a bit of Rt 66 history in Tucumcari.) Your 2nd night might be in Joplin, MO -- another place with a few lodging places of choice, and around 580 miles. Your last day would be about 530 miles. Oh -- much of I-44 is toll, but my daughter assures me "it wasn't expensive". (She was just on it this past summer.)


    Donna
    Last edited by DonnaR57; 02-06-2016 at 08:47 AM. Reason: spelling, and added a quote

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default Not really all that flat

    Quote Originally Posted by hgilson View Post
    #4: Vegas to LA via the Scenic Route? The only real way to get from one to the other is I-15, and that's across mostly flat desert. While it is beautiful it's the same beauty for 200 of miles.
    I know that the original poster has already cut LA from the trip and we really appreciate the depth of your response (as a new member) but I gotta say... the route between LA and Las Vegas is not flat. I've driven the route conservatively speaking around 500 times over the last decade -- I'll be doing it again in four days as well. There are three significant mountain passes between those two places and three sets of hills to climb up and down. The country is actually pretty lush for the Mojave Desert and quite varied.

    There are natural caves, gold and sliver mines and a host of other historically interesting places along the way. Granted they are tough to see when on traveling at a high rate of speed on I-15, but the only way the road appears to be flat is from 30,000 feet in a jet.

    Most visitors think that Las Vegas is flat too. It is actually in a valley completely surrounded by mountains that range in height from 5,000 to 10,000 feet. And even in town, there are small hills and plateaus -- The Las Vegas River and Duck Creek meander around the valley (and flow year-round).

    So... not flat, but still quite beautiful!

    Speaking of Las Vegas, there is much more to see and discover in the short time you will be visiting. We also produce a site about living and working and playing in Las Vegas, if you'd like to swing by check it out.

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 02-06-2016 at 09:40 AM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    Your 2nd night might be in Joplin, MO -- another place with a few lodging places of choice, and around 580 miles. Your last day would be about 530 miles. Oh -- much of I-44 is toll, but my daughter assures me "it wasn't expensive". (She was just on it this past summer.)
    I live in Joplin, and we do have plenty of lodging choices at Exit 8. I would strongly advise you not to stay at the Sunrise, it is a real dump. We have an Econo Lodge, Super 8, Microtel, and Quality Inn, all of which are acceptable and reasonable, base rate under $60. I'd also avoid the Motel 6, it's not one of the better ones and it's kinda sketchy.

    The toll on I-44 through OK is $4 between OKC and Tulsa, and $4 between Tulsa and MO. If you take the Kilpatrick bypass around OKC, that's $2.30.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    Your new plan is much, much better.

    Although, like Donna, I'm also curious about your "crashing" plans at Grand Canyon Village. I'm not a couchsurfer myself, but considering that almost no one actually lives in the village, and only about 500 people live just outside the National Park in Tusayan, I wouldn't think you'd have many options.

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