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  1. Default First time solo RTA - California to North Dakota (exiting to Canada) then going back

    Hi everyone! To start off - my longest drive was only 6 hrs, that 6 hrs was from NYC to Norfolk, stopping over at Washington DC.

    Today, I'm planning my first road trip alone this August, from Southern California going north all the way to North Dakota and exiting to Canada to get my friend who will be my road trip buddy going back. I'm on a budget, and am not really planning on stopping on the way, except for sleeping. I am seeking tips on how I can find nearby rest areas where I can maybe park and sleep when I get tired on the road, a place where its (hopefully) safe for me to stay alone in the car... I plan on sleeping day time and driving night time. My target is to get to Canada as soon, but going back (with a friend), I want to pass by scenic routes. I have chosen only 2 stops, but being on a budget I still need to find a cheap and safe hotel for us. I'd appreciate any help or suggestions to make this trip better and more practical. But, right about now, this is the plan:

    1. Leaving El Centro, Califonia (around 3 am) towards Winnipeg, Canada (total of 31/32 hrs drive)
    *** I'm not sure how many stops I need for that long a drive.

    My fun part starts when I leave Canada.

    2. Canada to North Dakota Airport (to pick up a friend) - total of 2.5 hrs drive
    3. Airport to Mount Rushmore - total of 9.5 hrs drive
    4. Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone National Park - total of 8.5 hrs drive
    5. Yellowstone National Park to El Centro - total of 16 hrs drive.

    My friend does not drive. So, it'll be just me, and I'm not really sure of how long til I get tired. So, I have no timeline for the whole trip. I only plan on staying in Canada 1-2 days, and initially I thought a week would be enough, but I guess not? Maybe 2 weeks? I have no idea where we can stay for a cheap price. I'm not even good with cars, but I plan on driving my Nissan Sentra 2015.

    Any comment would be very helpful... Is my route bad? Is it all over the place? I have no idea. Thank you in advance!

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

    Default For a first time long haul trip.

    Hi, and Welcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

    Your wishes are understandable, and we often read of these. However, there are a few flaws in your plan, if you want to stay safe.

    For one thing, is your vehicle set up to sleep in. That means, are you able to lie flat and stretch out? Could you possibly put a mattress in your vehicle. It is extremely important on a long trip like this to get a good night's sleep every night.. Without that, you will be in danger of having fatigue creeping up on you - one of the great killers on the road. By the time you feel tired you are already way beyond being a safe driver. Unless you are employed at night and normally sleep all day, driving at night is a bad idea, as is trying to sleep in your car during the day.

    If it is possible to sleep restfully in your vehicle, then rest areas are probably among the most dangerous, not to mention often illegal, places to choose. Safe places would be State Parks/Forests campgrounds or Truck Stops with permission. This complicates your plan to sleep during the day. Campgrounds have a check in/out time and truck stops are very busy and noisy during the day. Besides you would get very hot in the car and cannot keep the aircon running. Even overlooking the problems created by choosing to drive at night, the problems of trying to sleep in your car during the day are much greater.

    An idea which is best abandoned.

    You appear to have taken your times directly from a computer program. What you need to accept is that these times are pure fantasy and do not relate to real world (road) condition. A trip of this magnatude is measured in days, not hours. Divide the trip into equal parts of around 550 - 600 miles per day, and plan to stop after that. (For comparison, professional drivers are limited to around 600 miles per day, after which they have to sleep a full night for safety reasons.) As you mentioned your longest trip has been 6 hours, not quite the experience of a long haul truck driver. Another good rule of thumb is to divide your miles by 50 - 55 and that is how many hours the trip will take you. 600 miles will see you in the car for 12 - 13 hours.

    For facilities such as showers: Most big truck stops sell showers. The cheapest night's accommodation for one would be to check out hostels along your route.

    Lifey
    Last edited by Lifemagician; 03-20-2016 at 05:22 AM. Reason: clarification.

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

    Default

    What is the reason for your plan to drive at night and sleep during the day? Once you're outside of SoCal, you really won't have any significant traffic to deal with anywhere on your trip, so there's not much in the way of upside, but there are lots of downsides - not the least of which is that it's really hard to sleep during the day on the road. If you're in your car, you're going to have to deal with bright sunshine coming through the windows (quite likely making it too hot to sleep if this is a summer trip) and even if you're went with hotels, check in and check out times don't make it easy to pull into a hotel in the morning.

    As Lifey mentioned, I'm certain you're getting your travel times from online mapping programs and they really are just not something you can rely on - expect your real world travel times to be at least 20% higher. For your trip to Winnipeg, you'll need to plan a minimum of 3 overnight stops to safely make this 2000 mile drive.

  4. #4

    Default Official Notice: Sturgis Motorcycle Rally August 8-14, 2016

    I seem to be the one who advises folks about travel in the Dakotas and adjacent states during the first 3 weeks of August each year. This year's 76th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally will draw hundreds of thousands of attendees from all over the world. Most will be riding motorcycles, either ridden or towed from across the US and Canada. Every Sturgis attendee I've ever encountered has been friendly and a barrel of laughs, but the highways will be jammed with pickup trucks, SUVs, and motorhomes towing motorcycle trailers, plus groups of ridden bikes, for hundreds of miles in every direction from Sturgis, SD, during the week before, the week of, and the week after the official rally dates of August 8-14, 2016. The crowds make normal acts such as stopping at Interstate rest areas or stopping for food or fuel far more time-consuming. It may be impossible to find motel or camping accomodations anywhere in western SD, eastern MT, and northeast WY during Rally week. If your planned visit to Mt Rushmore is during the Rally week, you should expect literally tens of thousands of motorcyclists to visit on the same day as you.

    Foy

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

    Default

    1. Leaving El Centro, Califonia (around 3 am) towards Winnipeg, Canada (total of 31/32 hrs drive) *** I'm not sure how many stops I need for that long a drive.
    El Centro to Winnipeg is about a 4 day trip, doing about 525 miles per day. Shortest route would have you heading on the 8 east over to Yuma, where you pick up US 95 north. When you connect with the 15 north at Las Vegas, take that up to the 90 in Montana, then swing east on 90 and then 94 into ND. Once you're in ND you can take one of two "main" routes up to Winnipeg. Don't forget to allow some time to cross the border, and make sure that your passport is in order.

    My fun part starts when I leave Canada. 2. Canada to North Dakota Airport (to pick up a friend) - total of 2.5 hrs drive
    Once again, allow a little more time than the electronic mapping program calls for -- at least 20% more time -- and for time to cross the border back into the US. Have your passport ready.

    3. Airport to Mount Rushmore - total of 9.5 hrs drive
    As above -- watch out for the Sturgis Rally. You may want to steer clear of this area, for this trip, anytime for the week before and after the Rally, and of course during the Rally.

    4. Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone National Park - total of 8.5 hrs drive
    From experience, I can tell you that this time is pure "hooey". It's almost 600 miles, some of it up/down 2-lane roads. Allow *at least* 12 hours.

    5. Yellowstone National Park to El Centro - total of 16 hrs drive.
    At 1100 miles, this is a 2 DAY trip, not 16 hours. It will take you the better part of 11 hours each day to do this.

    As for cheap accommodations -- camping and hostels. Both will be more expensive, if available, in your tourist areas. For camping, look for the national forest campgrounds that are located away from Yellowstone, or be prepared to wait in line at 9 am for the openings for that evening in the first-come, first-served national park campgrounds.

    Donna

  6. Default

    wow. 3 overnight stops, thats 4 days. i was totally clueless. im glad i found this forum. thanks for all your tips and information! i didn't know about that motorcycle rally. i planned the trip around aug 1-8, i guess i have to move it a bit earlier. i considered day time sleeping for my safety as compared to my thoughts of being by myself in a car during night time. i guess it was because i thought i'd feel more safe asleep around people driving by and seeing me parked or people driving by seeing me if i get in trouble, but right now due to all your helpful comments, i guess that was a terrible idea. i did consider staying in a motel, i initially believed it would be max 2 nights motel if i went through that route, now i realize more how unrealistic that is. i was only trying to make it as low cost as possible so on the way back (with a friend) i can spend more. but you guys are right, i guess i do have to consider driving safe for myself and for others, and to be safe alone, it'd be best to stay in, rather than be stingy and stay out. if i may ask, how much in an estimate should i budget for this trip if i did go to motels, 4 nights plus gas? For my little car, I usually spend 25-30 to full tank, and a 3 hour drive would consume half the tank. i really want to try one road trip at least once in this life. haha. thanks again!

  7. Default

    @donnaR57 i am honestly a little bit overwhelmed here. but wow, thank you! i needed this enlightenment. i really did.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    For a 2000 mile 4 night trip, budget $300 for hotels and $300 for gas. Avoid buying gas in Canada if you can and make sure you both have passports.

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

    Default Look for discount coupons.

    You can do much betterr than $300 for three nights. Look for, and pick up hotel/motel discount booklets at rest areas, welcome centres and some truck stops. There are great deals to be had out there for much less. Just be sure you always inspect the room before you commit. Ask, they can't refuse. Besides cleanliness, check that the smoke alarm has not been disabled and that the room has a lock which cannot be opened from the outside, such as the chain lock. Most of these places will be old, but so long as they are clean, they are good value. Don't arrive too late, as you may be told that all the coupon rooms are gone. I would call late afternoon to see if they had any rooms, and tell them I was on the way. You can't book those rooms, they are for walk-ins only.

    $60 incl tax, would be my upper limit.

    Lifey

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Don't arrive too late, as you may be told that all the coupon rooms are gone. I would call late afternoon to see if they had any rooms, and tell them I was on the way. You can't book those rooms, they are for walk-ins only.
    They usually don't work at all on Friday and Saturday nights, either. My husband and I have a rule of thumb: if we are going to use a coupon, be sure to get in by 4 pm. Otherwise, the coupon rooms are gone. It's one of many reasons why we tend to get on the road by dawn.



    Donna

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