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  1. #1

    Default Maryland to Seattle and Back Again

    Hey there everyone. I'm looking for some much-needed advice from seasoned road trip veterans. My family has always done road trips, but this is my first one on my own.

    I am taking this trip with 2 other girls as a high school graduation trip, and we're each anticipating a $1500 cost per person, at the very least. I and my other friend will be 18, and the other girl will be 17. We all have our licenses and plan on splitting the drive time. We have from July 3rd to July 17th. I know it isn't much time, but we are unable to rent cars (for obvious reasons), so flying out isn't an option at this point, and we all have our hearts set on the West Coast (I know, I know). I have a tentative itinerary, but I'd like some other opinions if possible! Thank you.

    July 3rd: Leave home by 6am. Drive in 2 or 3 hour shifts, allowing 1 person to sleep at a time. Marathon part 1. 29 hour drive.
    July 4th: Arrive in Moab, UT around 12pm. Rent hotel. Visit Arches National Park after we've had some time to sleep, maybe going back out around 6pm (scenic drive through park). Celebrate 4th of July in Moab.
    July 5th: Leave by 7am. Arrive in Grand Canyon by noon (5 hour drive). Leave by 4pm. Arrive in Zion around 8pm (3.5 hour drive). Camp here.
    July 6th: Have camp taken down by 9am. Explore Zion until 3pm. Drive thru Death Valley NP to Independence, CA (6.5 hour drive). Arrive at 10pm. *Another option is to just stop in Death Valley on our way and stargaze for a bit, then drive into the night until we get to Independence. Or, stay in Death Valley, wherever's cheapest, and go stargazing here while also renting a hotel room. We'd have to make up about a 2 hour drive, maybe by leaving early or just getting to San Francisco late. If we don't care about walking the Golden Gate Bridge, then getting to SF late is the best option. ... This day is confusing.*
    July 7th: Leave by 8am. Arrive in Yosemite by 11am (2.5 hour drive). Leave by 4pm. Arrive in San Francisco by 7:30pm (3 hour drive). Get settled in. Walk the Golden Gate Bridge. Get to bed early.
    July 8th: Leave by 7am. Spend day driving to Redwoods because a lot of the park is driving through anyways (6.5 hour drive). Stop for lunch or a short hike and be done by 2pm. Drive to Crater Lake. Arrive by 6pm (3.5 hour drive). Drive the rim, get out, look around, etc. Stay in Chemult, OR (1 hour drive).
    July 9th: Leave by 7am. Arrive at Lake Crescent/Olympic by 3:30pm (8.5 hour drive). Get out, stretch, hike, etc. Leave by 7:30pm. Return to/stay in Tacoma, WA, around 11pm. *Very driving intensive.*
    July 10th: Get up early and explore Seattle for a bit, i.e., Pike Place. Leave Seattle by 11am. Drive through Mount Rainier NP (3.5 hour drive). Arrive at Flathead Lake, MT around 9:30pm. *I made this day super driving intensive so we'd have time for a hike in Glacier the next day.*
    July 11th: Get breakfast at the Flathead. Leave for Glacier by 10am. Park at "The Loop" by 12pm. Take shuttle to Logan Pass. Hike the Highline Trail. Stop for picnic somewhere along the trail. Leave park by 6:30pm. Arrive at Great Falls by 10pm. SLEEP.
    July 12th: Leave Great Falls by 9am. Drive in 2 or 3 hour shifts, allowing 1 person to sleep at a time. Marathon part 2. 30 hour drive.
    July 13th: Toledo, OH by 11am. Arrive home by 6pm.

    As you can see, there's still another 3-4 days to be added in as a cushion, either to diminish the incredibly long drives at the beginning and the end, or to break up the driving on the 9th and the 10th. I appreciate any input, and thank you for taking the time to read my short novel. :)


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome to RTA!

    Quite a number of things jump out about your trip. Please realize that this is said with a lot of experience behind it.

    First, you are going to have a big problem if the 17-year-old is in need of medical care while you are away from home. Few medical facilities want to do any treatments if there are no parents around to sign a bunch of forms, and most of them don't want to deal with fax machines and the like. You also could have a lot of troubles renting a motel room, because of her age.

    July 3rd: Leave home by 6am. Drive in 2 or 3 hour shifts, allowing 1 person to sleep at a time. Marathon part 1. 29 hour drive. July 4th: Arrive in Moab, UT around 12pm. Rent hotel. Visit Arches National Park after we've had some time to sleep, maybe going back out around 6pm (scenic drive through park). Celebrate 4th of July in Moab.
    It's 2000 miles from Baltimore to Moab, UT. It's certainly NOT going to be a 29 hour drive. You will be lucky to make it in about 35 hours. If you pulled the "29 hours" from an electronic mapping website, it doesn't have to stop for fuel, food, bathroom, stretch the legs, switch drivers, etc. It has no idea, right now, what the traffic is going to be like as you pass through on the 3rd of July, which is likely to be heavy traffic. If you leave at 6 am on the 3rd, you will be lucky to arrive by 6 pm on the 4th. You won't be in any mood to go out and check out Arches or anywhere else.

    When I did something like you did, to get home from college when I was your age, I arrived at my destination (1500 miles later) absolutely exhausted. I slept for 12 hours.

    From there, your problems just escalate. You aren't allowing yourselves nearly enough time to get from one place to another, and then you won't have any time to see anything once you get there.

    If you only have 10 days, why not plan something in the Deep South? Or in the Midwest? And you'll have to leave the 17-year-old behind, unfortunately.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Ain't Going to Happen

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    First, understand that everyone who will be giving you advice on this site wants, above all else, for you to have a safe and enjoyable trip that will make memories for a lifetime. With that said, within the first few sentences of your post there are several flashing red lights set off by statements that simply ignore some hard realities. Let's start with your ages. Yes, the two of you that are 18 should have no trouble. But the 17 year old is going to face several problems, both possible and almost certainly guaranteed. The first is that any motel can (and very well might) refuse to let a minor book a room or share a room with a non-relative. More problematic is the fact that she cannot authorize medical treatment for herself and in the event of sickness or accident, no doctor or hospital will treat her without express written (and notarized and verified) permission from her parents or legal guardians except in the most extreme immediate threat to her life (but not limb).

    Next up is your totally unrealistic expectations about how far you can drive in a given amount of time. You state that you plan to drive from Maryland to Moab in 29 hours. To be perfectly blunt - that is impossible. You are clearly getting this 'estimate' from some computer-based mapping routine. That number is a fantasy. All that program has done is to have taken the various segments of your trip, calculated the number of miles, and divided by the speed limit. That makes no allowance for slow downs due to traffic or even getting stuck behind an RV passing a semi. Nor does it make any allowance for construction or detours. And it makes no allowance for stops for gas, or food, or bathroom breaks, or even for stops simply to change drivers. More importantly is the fact that you plan to do this by alternating driver/navigator/sleeper. Note that this only works if, indeed, someone is always asleep. There are at least two problems with that requirement. Who is going to start such a trip by sleeping eight solid hours during the day with the adrenalin and excitement of the trip staring her in the face? Is that same person willing to give up the first few days of her vacation in the west because she is now on a sleep through the day and be awake at night schedule? And the assumption that anyone can get meaningful sleep while sitting in a moving car (or even laying down, cramped, in the back seat) is simply false. She will be subject to being awaken by every jolt to the car, every horn honked in your vicinity, every uncomfortable stop/start/turn that the car makes. And of course the fact that someone is always trying to sleep will mean that there can be no music played in the car to help keep the other two awake and alert.

    The rest of your itinerary is full of similar optimistic (not to say unrealistic) assumptions about what you can accomplish. A few huge warning signs that you're planning too much in too little time are the fact that you've timed things down almost to the minute, that you've allocated hours to national parks that require days to see adequately, and plan on another suicidal "30 hour" drive home. You seem to recognize that your plan won't work by leaving "another 3-4 days to be added in as a cushion" but trust me, that will be long gone before you even get to Moab (if your lucky). In short, you simply cannot complete everything on your list in two weeks. Period. And traveling with an unrelated minor is going to present difficult problems at best and insurmountable hurdles at worst.

    As I said at the outset, we want you to have a great trip. Your present plan will not produce that result.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Agreed.

    Just to reinforce the above. Professional drivers are limited to 11 hours on the road - roughly 600 miles. Think about it. If they for safety reasons may not drive further and longer, what makes you think you, as inexperienced teenagers that you can complete 2000 miles in 29 hours..... or any other time.

    Besides all the hurdles which Buck has so eloquently outlined, you would be in for a memorable trip for all the wrong reasons. It would be a nightmare you'll never forget.

    To stay safe wait till you are all 18, then take a trip closer to home, planning limited miles each day. When you are all much more experienced at long distance driving, start extending the distances you travel each day, always allowing for a good night's sleep, every night. It's really the only way to build lifetime memories.

    All the great attractions in the west will still be there when you have more time and have more experience in long distance roadtrips.

    Not everything needs to be accomplished before you turn 25. You have a whole lifetime of roadtrips ahead of you.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Ft. Collins, CO.


    "Experience is what you get when you were expecting something else."

    With this plan I predict "an experience" in your future.

    One thing not mentioned yet is that it looks like there's not a very good bailout option. Once you've force-marched across the county if it's not fun anymore or your friends aren't as compatible as you thought it'll be a really long slog to go home. Without shorter trial runs together to figure things out. Even Lewis & Clark only did a half-day the first day of their trip in order to figure things out before they became too committed. (You DO know who they were, don't you?)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    and we all have our hearts set on the West Coast (I know, I know)
    This is an honest question: Which is more important, seeing the west coast, or maintaining your friendships?

    Buck and the others have done an excellent job of explaining why your current plans won't work, and why they would be extremely dangerous to even try, but that doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't hit the road with your friend.

    The problem with having your heart set on the west coast, when you've only got 2 weeks available means you're forcing yourself into a situation where all you realistically have time to do is drive there and back. Spending 12 hours together in a car with your friends can be fun - for a day, maybe two. Spending 12 hours together in a car with your friends for 2 straight weeks will test the patience of even the biggest road warrior.

    The importance of getting rest (real rest, as in a full night of sleep, not a nap in a moving car) also can't be understated, not just for safety behind the wheel, but also for the ability to enjoy yourself. If you have 3 overtired people, crammed together in a tin can for hours at a time, it's going to cause friction. Just being together on the road - where you are together every hour of the day with limited opportunities to separate - is challenging in the best of circumstances. It's a sad reality that there are many friendships that have been ruined by roadtrips where people tried to do too much, with too little rest, and too little communication - and the people who are most at risk, are the same people you are most likely to say "it will never happen to us."

    Roadtrips really don't have to be about the destination. It's about the experience of seeing new places, and exploring them with your friends. I think you certainly can have that, but you need to dial back your plans. If you want to do this with your 17 year old friend, you're pretty much going to need to camp exclusively, and it will be even more important to focus on a trip that stays closer to home.

    You might also find this article interesting, and something you might want to go through with your parents. Within that article, you'll also find the Roadtrip Compatibility Quiz which is also something you should go through with your friends.

  7. #7


    Quote Originally Posted by noFanofCB View Post
    Even Lewis & Clark only did a half-day the first day of their trip in order to figure things out before they became too committed. (You DO know who they were, don't you?)
    Yes, my inexperienced 17-year-old self happens to love that part of American history! Lewis and Clark are my absolute favorite American figures. :) You're right about the trial-runs. Perhaps we need a bit more practice first.

  8. #8


    Thank you all for the prompt and helpful feedback. I can see the obstacles you all are pointing out, and I suppose my next question is how I can overcome them realistically. The reason I suggested a marathon drive in the beginning is because my family did just that in October - we drove, with 3 of us, from Frederick, Maryland nonstop to Bozeman, Montana (just over 2,000 miles) all at once in a "marathon." I do see what differences you all see, however - my stepdad has been driving for 40 years, and the 3 of us combined have about 3 years' experience... My idea was that we could replicate that. If we broke up the drives in Washington/Oregon, and broke each marathon in half, do you think this trip is salvageable? The reason we want to go this summer is because we're all aware that we'll grow apart in college. We want a final experience all together before we start completely different lives, and I hate to be naive and stubborn, but the West is what we all want to see. What's the bare minimum amount of time this kind of trip needs?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    It is a shame your parents have been a pretty bad example in regards to marathon driving. The reality is that many people don't take the dangers of fatigue seriously enough, and the end result is that it leads to nearly as many crashes as drunk driving. Even experience can't overcome fatigue, although doing it with a little experience as you have certainly wouldn't be a good thing.

    You need to break each "marathon" into much more than half to do this safely. Baltimore to Moab needs basically 4 days to safely cover the miles. You should be looking at no more than 600 miles on your long driving days - and that doesn't leave time for extra sightseeing. While the marathon drives were *literally* killers in your first plan, that wasn't the only problem. You also had several cases where you were trying to squeeze far more stuff into one day than is possible.

    If you've got your heart set on the west coast, I think you need a bare minimum of 3 weeks to make it worthwhile. Even that won't give you the time to do the huge amount of zig-zagging that was in your initial plan. What it would do is give you time to make a safe, but steady drive west, stop at a couple interesting places along the way, and have a few days left to explore the Pacific Northwest before turning around and heading back home.

    And again, that doesn't solve the significant problems that come with traveling with an unrelated minor that's going to make it very difficult to find lodging - among the other things that have been mentioned.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Calculate how long it will take using 600 miles as the most you should try to drive in 1 day - and that's on Interstates with no sightseeing diversions. Go from there. Do not plan on driving anywhere after dark or before dawn.

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