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  1. Default Summer road trip around the U.S.

    My friend and I (males and both in our early 20s) want to drive around the lower 48 this summer. Our tentative date of departure is July 1st and we were thinking that we'd make it back in about a month, although we do have 6 weeks to do this if we need more time. Our ride will be a 1992 Ford Crown Victoria with 93,000 miles on it. It has been reliable and hasn't had any major issues, but I realize I may be foolish to take a car with that much mileage on such a lengthy trip. I've checked out Escape Campervans, but the costs just for the rental would add up to about $3,000, which wouldn't leave us with enough money for the trip.

    We'd be leaving from Pennsylvania and heading west to Illinois, north to Wisconsin, and then west across the northern U.S. to Seattle. Afterward, we'd ride down the west coast to L.A. and then take it east all the way to Miami, Florida. At that point, we'd drive up the east coast to Maine and then probably wrap up by going through New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. We have a few friends across the country that we plan on staying with, and we want to utilize national parks and cheap motels/hotels to stay overnight in other areas (although, the occasional Wal Mart parking lot isn't out of the question). Our budget will be $5,000, which will leave us with $80 per day for each of us if the trip lasts 31 days, $60 if it lasts for 6 weeks.

    I realize that I need to make a defined map with stopping points along the way, seeing as my current plans are very vague. I'll name some stops we plan on making. These should be in order:

    -Columbus, Ohio
    -Lafayette, Indiana
    -Chequamegon National Forest, Wisconsin
    -St. Cloud, Minnesota
    -Fargo, North Dakota
    -Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
    -Billings, Montana
    -Bear Tooth Pass Hwy, Wyoming
    -Seattle, Washington
    -Portland, Oregon
    -Santa Cruz, California
    -Los Angeles, California
    -Las Vegas, Nevada
    -Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
    -Albuquerque, New Mexico
    -Miami, Florida
    -Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
    -The Outer Banks, North Carolina
    -New York City, New York
    -Boston, Massachusetts
    -Mount Washington, New Hampshire

    Are we crazy? I am just looking for some solid advice on whether this is feasible or not. If not, what would make it feasible? More time, more money, or a better vehicle? Any suggestions on stopping points would be appreciated as well. Thank you.

  2. #2

    Default

    My first guess is that you might want $5K for automobile repairs/maintenance. Nothing like getting stuck out in North or South Dakota, or Mississippi, or many other places (those are just random examples). Likely you would have no car troubles but "what if" and who pays the bill?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Your trip idea is certainly within the possible range, but with some challenges. At 1 month, it's going to be really quite rushed to just get to all the places you've listed. Although if you take more time, then your budget is going to become a bigger concern.

    Think of it this way, you listed 20 places you want to stop, and while I didn't map it out for the exact mileage, I'd guess you'd need a bare minimum of 20 days just to cover the miles to get between those points. That means you're really not going ot have time to spend more than a day at any spot, and some of the places you've listed you won't have time to do much more than stop for the night, and get back on the road first thing in the morning.

    While that is possible, I don't know how much fun it would be for you. Plans like that tend to get pretty exhausting pretty quickly, and since you'll have very little time to separate, it can really wear on a friendship pretty quickly.

    If it were me, I'd probably look to do more with the time you have, which would actually mean fewer locations. Since you're in PA, I'd think about skipping the northeast since you could easily visit those locations on short trips in the future. I'd even think about leaving off Florida - as Miami adds a lot of extra miles, and you didn't list anything else you want to do between Albuquerque and Miami (that's a 3.5 day drive as a speed run). Doing that would give you a lot more opportunity to explore the rest of central and western US, that you likely won't be able to get back to so easily again.

    I would also agree with landmariner that you're going to have to really think about your emergency fund. It's impressive that you have a 1992 car with only 92,000 miles (My roadtrip vehicle is a 2013 with about 70,000 by comparison!), and the mileage at that point doesn't concern me at all. What does concern me is the age - as even if it hasn't been driven much, parts that are 25 years old can simply start to fail. While typically roadtrip miles are about the easiest miles you can put on a car, the fact that your car has been driven so little, means this will be an unusual strain on your car - and all of the wear and tear from what must have been 25 years of very short, stop and go trips, could pop up on you unexpectedly.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Being prepared.

    You should always have an emergency fund for vehicle repairs whatever it's age. You should definitely join a breakdown recovery service such as AAA for at least some peace of mind. You should also have a thorough vehicle health check and full service including all fluids and belts. I agree with Michael in that quality is better than quantity and this could be one of those cases when less is more. Visiting National parks and taking scenic drives all adds to the time and there are endless options, especially in the west.

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

    Default

    Our regular road trip vehicles each have more than 100,000 miles on them. Both are older vehicles, though not quite the age of yours. What I would be more worried about, with a 25 year old vehicle, would be the availability of parts if something should fail in the middle of nowhere. Also, you do need something to fall back on, monetarily, should you need a repair. On our last trip, we spent $2000 to fix something that went on our 99. So it can and does happen.

    We have a few friends across the country that we plan on staying with, and we want to utilize national parks and cheap motels/hotels to stay overnight in other areas (although, the occasional Wal Mart parking lot isn't out of the question).
    Great idea to stay with friends. We always bring something as a "thank you" if we stay with friends, such as a bottle of wine or six-pack of beer. Or take them out to dinner, depending on how long we stay. Cheap motels, great. Also, use a real, paper map and look at your route. You may find lots of state parks where you can pitch a small tent or two, saving you a lot of money. You'll probably want a real shower every few days, though. I would NOT try to stay overnight in a car in a Walmart parking lot. In many areas, this is against the law, and in other areas, it's not even safe. Same with overnights in a rest area. Also, you just won't get a good night's rest, trying to sleep in the same vehicle in which you've been cooped up all day. Try to find a state park, and pitch your tent in their campground. At $15-20, it will get you a better night's rest, be a lot safer, get you out of your vehicle, and if you pack a burner, you can make yourself a meal too.

    That's where you can really save money, BTW: food! Pack a cooler and some sort of tub for food, plus your favorite commuter cups. Going to Walmart for your food and drink is a whole lot cheaper than going to McDonald's or a sit-down place. Most grocery stores these days have things like pre-made salads, fried and grilled chicken, and other fresh foods along with the microwave meals.

    Looking at your trip, though, you will want to think long and hard about taking MWMichael's and SWDave's advice. It's good advice. It will also save you a ton in gas money, and be less likely to give you vehicular problems if you're not driving so much.




    Donna

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

    Default On the other hand.....

    Whereas I agree with most of the good advice given above, don't be too discouraged by the lack of time vs. the distance you will be travelling.

    My first two trips in the US covered in excess of 40000 miles over about 33 weeks.. I was relocating vehicles which gave me roughly one day to explore in every five days on the road. I would carefully look at a good map, to see what attractions were along the way, and chose one or two to spend some time.

    I did not get to see any of the places in depth, but it did whet my appetite to return, and I made notes of the places which looked the closest to my interests. Now 15 years later I am planning my 8th long distance trip.

    So if your month long trip only gives you a chance to get an overview of all the US has to offer, keep good notes, because you will return to most of these places over the next half dozen decades or so.

    Lifey

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    Our regular road trip vehicles each have more than 100,000 miles on them. Both are older vehicles, though not quite the age of yours. What I would be more worried about, with a 25 year old vehicle, would be the availability of parts if something should fail in the middle of nowhere.
    Normally, I would agree with that, however, the one very nice thing about going in an old Crown Vic is that it is a beast of a machine that saw very few changes until it was retired a few years ago. I would think parts would be pretty easy to come by - because many of the same ones were still being used well into the 2000s. Plus - being that it was the vehicle of choice for Police Departments across the country, there are still lots of them around.

  8. Default

    Thank you all for the help! I agree with you, Midwest Micheal. It may be a good idea to cut out some parts of the trip. In fact, we are planning on scrapping the northeast portion if we run out of time or money. We're pretty set on Florida, though. I didn't list any other stops in the southeast because we haven't really taken a look at what it has to offer yet. Also, the Crown Vic has been on a few longer trips recently (a few two hour drives and one four hour one), so I'm hoping everything will run smoothly.

    @Southwest Dave Good advice. I already have AAA. I'll have to make sure to get full service before the trip. Extra funds may be possible, but they likely won't be anything significant.

    @DonnaR57 Thanks! I was thinking about buying a Road Atlas by Rand McNally. Yes! A burner and a cooler would be great to have.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default AAA towing and maps.

    Quote Originally Posted by Josh12 View Post
    I already have AAA. I'll have to make sure to get full service before the trip.
    I suggest you get the plan with the most towing. At times you could be in relatively remote areas, and towing miles add up pretty quickly when you do have a problem. While at AAA, pick up some deta8iled maps of the States through which you will be travelling. They are free to members, and make a good supplement to the road atlas. Just now and then you find something on one map, which is not on the other. [That also goes for State issued maps which you pick up as you enter each State.]

    Lifey

  10. #10

    Default

    You should also make a stop in San Diego, there are many beautiful, touristic and cheap places you can go!

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