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  1. #1

    Default Toronto (Canada) - San Fran - NYC (1-2 months)

    Hi RTA,

    This is a very broad question, and it might have been asked already, but I'm really overwhelmed, especially as a Canadian who doesn't know much about the US. I'll be starting and ending in Toronto, Canada.

    I'm 25, and want to take ~1 month to solo road trip the US. I'm mainly interested in the west coast/San Fran/LA as well as NYC/Chicago/Washington DC. The problem is they're on opposite ends of the country and I don't know how to plan the middle part of the trip...

    What do you recommend for crossing the country twice? I'd rather spend more time on the coasts, and less time getting there.

    thanks,

    Matt

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,328

    Default Long Distance Loops

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    As a general rule, when the place(s) you want to visit are a considerable distance from home, there are a few rules of thumb for designing the best (safest and most rewarding) trip. First and foremost among these is to make sure that you have enough time to get to your destination, enjoy it, and get home all without indulging in reckless practices. If you've only got a week, say, and want to drive cast to coast and back - that's no excuse for planning t drive a thousand miles a day because you "have to". A pace which you can maintain day after day is something like 550 miles a day. That allows for a few short breaks for meals and short hikes each day to keep yourself fresh, enough time in the evening to wind down from the day, a full eight hours f sleep, and enough time the next morning to get yourself properly awake and prepared for another day behind the wheel. Roughly, that means you have to devote a minimum of five days to crossing the nNorth American continent.

    Another tried-and-truism is to make it a 'loop' trip taking different routes out and back so that even near the end of your trip you're still exploring new territory and have something fresh to look forward to each and every day. Similarly, you should treat the drives 'there' and back as an equal part of your RoadTrip experience, not just something to be gotten through as fast as possible so that you can get down to the 'real' purpose. The real purpose is to see new places and there will be plenty of those all along any route that you are driving for the first time. So how you would plan that middle part of your trip between the east and west coasts is actually fairly simple. Get a large scale map and start marking some possible routes. See what's along them that interests you. Plan to stop at those places and check them out. This is one part of your planning where we can help, but we'd need to know your basic routes and what you would find interesting.

    Finally, just keep working out finer and finer details. Where are you going to spend your nights? Pre-book motel rooms or camp sites, or just wing it? Occasional scenic byways or all Interstates? I know that the first time you take such a big trip it can seem overwhelming, but just keep at it, one decision or plan at a time, and it will all fall into place.

    AZBuck

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    12,994

    Default

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    It seems to me, you've got basically 2 choices.

    1 - you can just ignore the middle of the country and try to get across the country as quick as possible. You're looking at needing roughly 5 days each way. In fact, if all you want to do is visit 5 cities, you'd probably be better off just buying some plane tickets - especially since every city you listed, except LA, is a place where having a car is not really helpful. No, that might not be a "roadtrip," but when you say you want to focus on "spending less time getting there" then it sounds like a roadtrip might not be the trip you're looking for.

    Your other option - and it's the option I would go with - is to use this as an opportunity to learn a little bit about the US. It seems a little foolish to me to declare that you don't want to see the middle of the country, when at the exact same time, you're admitting you don't know that much about what's in the US. The middle of the US is home to some amazing places that are unlike anywhere else on earth. If you spend a little time learning about this great land, you might discover a lot of things you'd find really interesting.

  4. #4

    Default

    Hey,

    Thanks both for your advice.

    I guess I meant that I'm mostly interested in stops on the coasts and have come here for help finding the most enjoyable way getting there (ie the "middle").

    Scenic drives and natural wonders appeal to me, so considering going through Northern states (have a friend in Kelowna, BC/Canada, so stopping there would be nice). Utah and Wyoming sound beautiful.

    On the way back, would it be better to take the Classic Route 66 from chicago-LA at the expense of anything further south like NOLA, Texas, etc?

    Also is it much slower taking scenic highways as opposed to big interstates? In Canada we've just got the 1 east-west highway, not much to choose from!

    thanks,

    Matt


    edit: clarity

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,923

    Default Educating yourself.

    The first thing to do is to get good maps of the 'middle' States - available from CAA (free to members). Put them on the wall where you see them everyday, and start to familiarise yourself with what is where and how places relate to one another. Then looking closer at the maps, you will seesee just how much there is to see along the way, and how many routes you have from which you can choose.

    The internet will help you get the details of all the places, routes and attractions which take your fancy. After a while you will be wishing you had double the time to check out all the interesting sites.

    There is not a State where there is nothing to see, especially if you learn something about their history so you can relate to it as you traverse the area.

    Lifey

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,328

    Default A Basic Route to Build Around

    Given the length of your trip and the dozens (if not more) of possible routes available to you, it's understandable that you're having trouble deciding which way to go. So I'll lay out one general route that hits everything you've mentioned so far while not adding unnecessary miles and leaves you 'o the road' for about half of your month with the other half available to explore the different areas and venues you'll be driving to.

    First, in order to avoid Detroit, Chicago and other cities of the industrialized Midwest, head north out of Toronto to Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie which is where you'd cross into the US. Take US-41/US-2 along the southern shore of Lake Superior where there are a couple of national lakeshores. From Duluth, MN-23 will take you down to Sioux Falls and I-90 which you'd follow west to the Badlands/MountRushmore/Devils Tower area in and around Rapid City SD. Continuing west on I-90 to Rochester WY, next up would be US-14 into Yellowstone National Park. Leave the park on US-287 back up to I-90 and Spokane and from there take US-395 back into Canada at Cascade BC. BC-3/BC-33 will then get you to Kelowna.

    Next up would be your southbound leg along the west coast. For this there's no better route than the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH/US-101/CA-1). There will be tons of seaside parks, big trees, and resort towns on your way down through San Francisco to Los Angeles.

    Eastbound from the L.A. area, look at taking I-15 up through Las Vegas and on to some of the great national parks in southern Utah such as Zion and Bryce Canyon. You could then take US-89 back down into Arizona, the Grand Canyon and I-40 east past the Petrified Forest. I-40 also follows the old alignment of US-66 (long since decommissioned) as far as Oklahoma City. Check your maps for sections of the old route running parallel to I-40 which will be marked as 'Historic Route 66', state route 66, or similar. -40 then continues on through the Ozarks and then Tennessee to the Appalachian Mountains. I-81 or the Blue Ridge parkway will then get you up to northern Virginia west of Washington and I-66 will get you into the Capital.

    The final leg is the run up the east coast on I-95 past Philadelphia to New York and then I-80 (west) to I-380/I-81/I-90 to Niagara Falls and back to Toronto. With those basics marked out on your maps, you'll get a pretty good idea of what else is reasonably available to you without wandering too far out of your way.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 02-19-2016 at 03:03 PM. Reason: Directional Corretion

  7. #7

    Default

    Yes, this is primarily a "road tripping" forum, but... given your plans you could possibly combine modes of travel: rental cars, trains and planes. From Toronto you can fly or train down to NYC, ride the train to Washington, D.C., where you don't really want to drive to from NYC anyway and won't need a car while in D.C.

    From D.C. you can either fly from National Airport (DCA) or ride the rails to Chicago. Southwest Airlines is recommended.

    From Chicago, take you pick in flying to Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles or San Diego. Or, maybe even Sacramento or Las Vegas, both of which would be fine for loop trips.

    With little pain, riding the rails from Chicago to the West Coast is another option but only saves you a little time compared to driving but is more relaxing.

  8. #8

    Default

    Thanks everyone. I like the idea of getting physical maps and putting pins in places I want to go. So far all my route planning has been digital.

    Also re: avoiding chicago/detroit: I'm actually really looking forward to seeing them. I hear Chicago is beautiful and I want to see Detroit for my own eyes, after hearing so much about it's "decline". Slightly worried about safety, esp if I'm sleeping in my car.

    I'm starting to flesh out my route. Thinking maybe I should stretch it to 2 months, though it starts getting pretty expensive. Going to see what I can do about living out of/sleeping in a Subaru forester for as long as possible.

    Also re: California: I want to drive the CA-1 from LA to SF, see Yosemite (i missed camping reservations... hmmm), and then continue north. I hear sequoia national park is awesome, but that would be crazy backtracking. Should I skip sequoia?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,220

    Default

    Couple of things - you should not be sleeping in your car in big cities such as Detroit or Chicago. Also, I recommend you drive the coast from north to south so the scenic pulloffs are on your side of the road.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    12,994

    Default

    It's way too soon in your planning to already be ruling out places. Right now, I'd really recommend focusing on what places you might want to visit. Once you have a better idea of which places you want to go, and how much time you have available, then you can start thinking about trimming things down if they aren't practical.

    And it can't be said strongly enough, Sleeping in your car in a major city is an extremely bad idea. At best, you're almost certain to get a rude awakening by a police officer, at worst, you're practically begging to become a crime victim.

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