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  1. Default Trip West in August

    Hi All!
    I am new to this but I do have a question. My husband and I are trying to plan a trip from July 30-Aug 13. We are finally empty-nesters and this is our first long road trip alone. I have never been out West so the plan is to take a road trip. I am interested in sightseeing, possibly some short hiking, canoeing... We can camp or hotels. I do want to relax and visit good restaurants and local brewers as well. Any suggestions is greatly appreciated because as I said we are new to this. We normally fly to a destination and stay put. Our starting point is NW Indiana.
    Thanks in advance

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default The What, But Not the Where or How

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    The first time you do anything, and RoadTrips are no exception, there are a lot of details to consider that with more experience become second nature. So at this point, I'd suggest you look at the big picture and let the smaller details fall where they may. With more experience, the big picture items will be obvious and you can pay more attention to the details on later trips. Right now, you know roughly what you'd like to see, the 'West', but not specifically where to go or how you'd get there.

    So, let's look at some basic planning parameters. Most people would generally say that the 'West' starts at the Rocky Mountains. That means if you use your own car and drive from home, you'll have to spend a minimum of four days to get there and back, two days each way. That would still leave you ten full days to explore, and of course you might enjoy the drives through the Great Plains. On the other hand, you can fly to any one of a number of jumping off points (Denver, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Las Vegas, etc.) from Chicago and have more time to spend in the West, but at the cost of airfares and car rental. Also note that fying is no picnic these days, and you'll still have to spend the better part of a day going and a day coming home. On the other hand, the farther west you want to explore, the more the balance leans towards flying, which brings you to...

    The other big decision you need to make is a destination more specific than 'the West'. Even two full weeks is not enough to see it all, so you'll need to do a little thinking about which portion you'd like to start with. Some possibilities include Red Rock Country (Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, etc.), northern Rockies (Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Glacier, etc.), Pacific Northwest (Olympic NP, Cascades, Seattle, Mount Ranier, Columbia River Gorge, etc.), central Pacific Coast (Crater Lake, Redwoods, Point Reyes, San Francisco, etc.), southern deserts (Mojave, Death Valley, Las Vegas, Saguaro NP, Organ Pipe, etc.), or even some other area or combination of the above.

    Once you've come to a decision on those two basic parts of your RoadTrip, then you can start worrying about details such as best sightseeing, hiking, and canoeing opportunities in a given area, But those first, basic choices are going to have to be up to the two of you.


  3. #3

    Default Narrowing it down, and something to avoid

    Having never been to the Rockies or beyond, most of we Easterners and Midwesterners lack a feel for how huge the western 1/3 of the Lower 48 is. While you could certainly see a lot of it in 10 days, doing so would require spending much of every day in the car doing a lot of drive-bys. I respectfully suggest picking a region and spending some quality time there. You can still move around some, but you need not spend the preponderance of each day in the car.

    That said, for a late July-early August trip possibly involving some camping, I'd avoid most if not all of Red Rock Country and for certain Death Valley, the Mojave, Saguaro, Vegas, etc. It's just too hot to do much during the daytime and sleeping in a non air conditioned camping situation can be unbearable. You will find the days warm and the nights delightfully cool in higher elevation parts of Utah (the Unitas) and most of Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. There are essentially endless opportunities to explore and experience large parts of, for example, the Wyoming Rockies, from the Wind River Range to Pinedale/Jackson, the Tetons, Yellowstone, and the surrounding tens of millions of acres of National Forests, and to do so while spending every night under blankets in brisk, dry air.

    Also worthy of note, as you're traveling from and back to Chicagoland, is the Sturgis Motorcycle Ralley, this year set from August 9-14. Sturgis draws hundreds of thousands of participants and you'll find I-90 from the Midwest all the way across the Dakotas jammed with ridden and towed motorcycles and their tow vehicles. While I am one who enjoys the gregariousness of most of the biker crowd, the cross-country travel logistics get pretty crazy due to Sturgis--every rest area, fuel plaza, fast food joint, motel, and campground for hundreds of miles around Sturgis can be jammed to overflowing for the weeks before, during, and after Sturgis. Visiting the Badlands NP or Mt Rushmore, or Devil's Tower means doing so accompanied by thousands and thousands of riders, each and every day.

    So, if you choose Glacier, Yellowstone, and the Tetons as an area, be sure to go out via I-94 and look at returning that way or dropping down towards I-80 or even US 20 crossing northern Nebraska for the return trip.

    Have fun planning and traveling out West. As we've been largely empty-nesters for several years now (only minimal boomerangs) I can tell you it's terrific.


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