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  1. Default Trip from Madison, WI to Seattle, WA

    Hello

    I am planning to drive my 2003 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor from Madison, WI to Seattle/Redmond, WA at the beginning of June and drive back after 3 months. I am a 30 yr old grad student. I grew up in India and have been driving in the US for 3 years now. However, I have never made more than a 400 mile trip by road. I have a few questions and I would really appreciate it if you could answer.

    1) I am the 4th owner of the car, which I bought in mid-2014. It has broken down on me once in late-2014 because the connection from starter to the battery somehow got disconnected. Since then, every 6 months, I had to spend on something - rusty catalytic convertor, brake pads replacement, wheel hub replacement for one the front tires and some oil leaks, fixing a faulty spark plug which caused a check engine light, new tires. Now, my car has 4 brand new tires (1 month old) of decent quality with no signs of engine problems, and no air conditioning. The previous owner of this car made 2 trips from Wisconsin to California and back in 2012 and 2013 (around 20,000 miles ago). On his second trip back, the AC broke down. I am a very light user and have added only 5000 miles in 1.5 years. I will make sure to get it thoroughly checked before I make the trip each way. Despite that, I worry that the car will break down for a reason that cannot be caught ahead of time. What is your opinion? Should I take this car along? I really would like to have a car with me for the 3 month stay in Redmond, WA

    2) I am considering a 4 day, 3 night trip with overnight stops at Mitchell (SD), Gillette (SD) and Missoula (MT). I plan to make a detour to visit Mount Rushmore, and perhaps a 1 day visit to Yellowstone. If I decide to skip Rushmore trip, I can go via North Dakota. Madison - Fargo - Miles City - Missoula - Seattle. Distance between each of these towns is about 450-550 miles. Which of the two routes make more sense if I am not particular about visiting Rushmore?

    Please let me know your thoughts. It would really help me plan better.

    Thanks
    Vijay

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

    Default It's on the maps.

    Hi Vijay, and Welcome to the Great American roadtrip Forum.

    Having the car checked out by a good and trusted mechanic, before a trip of this size is always recommended. If you do not already have a roadside assistance package, I would definitely recommend that as well.. Something like AAA, just in case something happens along the way. Check out how much towing it allows, as you can be in some remote areas on this trip. It is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

    While you are at AAA, be sure to pick up maps for the States through which you will be travelling. By studying the maps you will see the variety of routes available to you. These maps mark most, if not all the attractions along a route. By seeing which attractions interest you most, you will be able to choose the route which is best for you.

    I know that dropping into northern WY is a particularly scenic route over the Big Horn mountains and through the Big Horn forest.

    Lifey

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,545

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    FWIW, my husband and I regularly make trips across the country in vehicles that are just slightly older than yours. We travel with AAA as an emergency road service plan, as well as the towing rider that comes with our insurance plan. You will have to have your car looked over thoroughly by a trusted mechanic before you leave - have him check the brake pads, hoses, belts, and for any unusual leaks. Anything he suggests might "go", get fixed. Your peace of mind is important, too.

    You posted this in the summer trips section, so I am going to assume that's when you are traveling. Bear in mind that North Dakota is under an oil construction boom and it has driven up lodging prices, especially on the western side of the state. South Dakota isn't affected by this. Oh, BTW, Gillette is in Wyoming. :-)

    Mount Rushmore is a short stop -- 3 hours is fine. However, Yellowstone is a HUGE park and can take 3 days to see a lot (but not all) of the highlights. In one day, especially entering from either the northeast or northern entrance, you won't get to see but a few things.


    Donna

  4. Default

    Thanks a lot Lifey and Donna! That is useful advice!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,747

    Default Better devil you know. [Maybe]

    It's sometimes a case of "Better the devil you know". It sounds as though you have ironed out a lot of problems the car has had so with a thorough inspection and clean bill of health given, there is no reason not to take it. Cruising at sensible speeds is less stress on the car than the stop start day to day city commutes put on them. That's not to say you won't have problems, heck you can with a new car, so have an emergency fund and as said above, a road recovery package.

  6. Default

    Thanks Dave. Yes, I have fixed quite a few things in the car. The last time I checked (1 month ago), my trusted mechanic said it's clean and has no problems. I will do that again in May before I leave.

    Another question though. Has anyone had the experience of driving alone for 4 days straight with 32 hours of driving? I don't know how that feels like. Is it extremely boring? Could someone recommend things I need to do, specifically because I will be driving alone?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,545

    Default

    Your trip, as planned out, is easily spaced with about 500 miles per day. That's going to equate to roughly 10 hours on the road, depending on many things as well. (Forget 32 hours. That's driving alone if you can keep up the speed limit the entire way. It does not include stops for fuel, food, stretch, bathroom, construction zones, or accidents that bring you to a complete stop.)

    When you are traveling, stop every couple of hours. Take a brisk walk. Do some jumping jacks or take a jog around. Do that when you pick up a load of fuel, or before you go into eat someplace. When we traveled the last time, we tried to take a decent walk at the end of the day, once we were pulled into our motel.

    If you have favorite music, take it along for the drive. I love to have my music playing when I'm driving alone, and I sing along. Boring? That is a state of mind. In either route that you choose, you'll have things to look at. Even if it seems like a "boring field" to you, it may be historic, or someone's line of work and way of life, and it's easy to contemplate what those may have been like.

    We have a few regulars on here that are solo travelers. Yes, I've had the experience of driving across the country by myself. It was a number of years ago, and if I had to do it again, I would.


    Donna

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Alone need not mean lonely.

    Having driven tens of thousands of miles alone, I have never found it boring. Read up about the history of the States through which you will be travelling and the attrractions you plan to see. It will keep you interested as you pass through. I pays to leave your time flexible, so if there is something which takes your fancy you have the time to stop. And lastly, whenever you stop, make contact with the folk who are there. Introduce yourself to a stranger and ask a question or share an experience. People are generally friendly and interested in other travellers.

    When stopping for lunch or dinner I like to look for another lone diner and ask if I may join them. Not all will be accommodating, but some are and it makes for an interesting break. Take an opportunity to learn about the local area, about attractions they particularly value. As a solo traveller you have more opportunity to meet locals, than when travelling in a group, or even just with another.

    Above all, keep a journal of all you do and see. You'd be surprised how interesting these are to read back in years to come.

    Lifey

  9. Default

    Thanks Lifey and Donna! The roadtrip idea seems more and more interesting now!

  10. Default

    Thanks everyone for their responses. I just realized something important. What can I do if my car breaks down somewhere where there is no cellular connectivity? Despite having my car checked thoroughly before starting the trip and getting an emergency insurance package, my car might break down and I won't be able to call the emergency number.

    Did anyone go through such an experience?

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