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  1. Default Early Fall Roadtrip-- Chapel Hill, NC to Yakima, Washington

    Sorry if this isn't the right place for this, but it is a roadtrip, technically. Less of a fun roadtrip than most, but for reasons beyond my control, I'm going to be making the drive from Chapel Hill, NC (kind of northern North Carolina) to Yakima, Washington (southern Washington State).

    Trip needs to be before October, but honestly, the sooner the better, so I'm thinking either late August or early September. From my own research, I've decided that my best bet is probably taking I-40 to 1-90 for most of the drive. Like I said, this isn't really a "fun" trip, so I'm probably not making many detours/stops at sightseeing places. I'm estimating the drive will take about five or six days, providing for stops and unforeseen issues.

    Information on my driving history; I'm a decent driver, no history of accidents. My car's on the older scale for some, a 2004 Volvo v70, but it's in solid shape (I need to hold the bumper on with tape sometimes, but that's not a huge deal). The longest drive I've ever managed was Madison, NJ to Chapel Hill, NC, about an 8 or 9 hour drive, so I'm not totally inexperienced. I've allocated about 3k for the trip.

    I guess what I'm asking is for advice. Are my estimates (specifically the 5 or 6 days for the trip/3k for the cost) reasonable? Is this a drive someone could manage? Any suggestions for finding hotels along the way? General things I should know for a trip like this? Again, sorry if this isn't the right place for this, but I really do need some help, and I don't have a lot of folks to reach out to right now.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Optimizing the Details

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    On a long cross-country drive such as this, and with limited time, you'll need to get the details of the overall plan right if you want it to be enjoyable. First, look at your route. You'll want it to be as short as possible, on the best roads possible, in order to minimize the amount of time behind the wheel and maximize the enjoyment of that time. In your case, that means using neither I-40 (too far south) nor I-90 (too far north). Instead you should be looking at I-77 up to Charleston WV, I-64 west to St. Louis and I-70 to Kansas City, I-29 north to Nebraska City, using NE-2 as a connector to I-80 at Lincoln, I-80 west to the Salt Lake City area, I-84 to northeastern Oregon and I-82 to Yakima.

    Even with that much more efficient routing, this will be a five day drive at best, so if you can schedule a sixth day that would be great. You could then hold that 'extra' day in reserve in case something untoward happens (breakdown, weather delay) or if there's some place where you'd really like to spend some time during the drive. With five evenly spaced driving days, your overnight stops should be roughly around Louisville KY, Kansas City MO, Cheyenne WY, and Burley ID. If you only have five days, I'd go ahead and research accommodations in those cites so that you're neither tempted to press on too far on a given day nor wasting time looking for something that suits you at the end of your driving day.

    You'll have some control over your costs, but when traveling solo, I budget around $100-125/day to cover food and lodging. Fuel costs and any admissions I budget separately. If your car is mechanically sound, this trip should not be a problem. Remember that highway miles are much easier on a car than short trip, stop-and-go city driving. And I've known 30 year old Volvos that still were holding up well. Still, for any such long RoadTrip you should get the car thoroughly checked out by a mechanic that you trust, letting him know what your intentions are. I will say, however, that a bumper held on by tape is not something I would want to be worried about. Note that objects falling off cars cause over a hundred deaths per year. Do you really want that on your conscience?

    Finally, to make the trip a bit more relaxing and sustainable, plan on taking a short break every few hours to get some fresh air and exercise, and to clear your mind and avoid highway hypnosis.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 08-14-2016 at 01:58 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    To add a couple of things to what AZBuck suggested:

    * Stay on the far side of Louisville, Kansas City, and Cheyenne, to avoid morning rush hour as you are attempting to depart.

    * For Kansas City, leave I-70 at exit 8 and head north on I-435. This will take you to I-29. If it were me, I'd overnight at Platte City which is north of the Kansas City airport (KCI), so that I wouldn't have to worry about traffic in the morning.

    * Rather than Burley, go about 20 miles further into Twin Falls and you will have a LOT more lodging choice, and a LOT more food choices. This will be especially important to your budget.

    * Leave after Labor Day and you'll have a little better lodging price. Watch Internet deals and coupons. To use coupons a little easier, get on the road between 6:30 and 7:30 am and get off the road long before dinner. The coupon rooms, usually 10-15% of the hotel's rooms, are often gone by 5 pm. For our past 32-day trip, we used ONE coupon, but we reserved a LOT through the Internet. Guaranteed rate that way. We only paid one in advance, and frankly, I wish I hadn't done that.

    * If you stay in Burley and not in Twin Falls, then stop in Twin Falls. Take exit 173 (US-93) and turn south. Take that about a mile or so. You will cross the Perrine Bridge, and right after, there's a Scenic View/Visitor Center. Go into that parking lot. The view of the Snake River Canyon is beautiful, and worth a 5 or 10 minute stop! If you stop in Twin Falls overnight, this is the exit you will take to most of the lodging anyway.

    * I wouldn't worry about your car as long as you take the advice to get it looked over mechanically before you leave. If it's doing anything weird, get it fixed before you leave. The other thing you can do, for your own peace-of-mind, would be to ensure that you have an emergency road service plan. AAA is the most widely known. (BTW, our vehicles are ALL older than yours, and the oldest is our road trip vehicle. It's not in the age, it's in how well you take care of them and how much you are willing to invest if something does happen.)

    * To get the best price on fuel, we use Gas Buddy, either on a computer the night before, or on the smartphone. (For solo, that's best done at a rest area, of course.) We always fuel up when we get to a half tank, or sooner if we know we're going into an area where the prices are "out of this world". Sometimes just crossing a state line will cost you 30c more or 30c less. There's a 20c difference between Twin Falls and Salt Lake City right now, for instance.

    * Saving on food and drinks -- carry a small cooler in your backseat, and extra drinks in the trunk if you have space. Much cheaper to buy these at the grocery store than at the convenience store next to the freeway. Often times, the motels will have a notebook inside your room (or up at the check-in desk) with menus from local places, so you can look for reasonably priced food. Pack some fresh snacks too, and remember that all of those cities along the way will have a grocery store or Walmart.

    One last one -- if you have a camera, bring it. If you prefer to use the one on your smartphone, be sure that you dump all your old photos to computer first so that you have space. You're going to be passing through some beautiful country, especially in Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and into Washington. You'll want to stop for photos.


    Donna

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default The Problem

    I had also thought about recommending Twin Falls for your last night's stay on the road, but there are problems with that. It is always tempting to go "just a little farther" at the end of each day either because there's a better deal down the road or to try to make the next day's drive a little easier. But the fact is that it's over 600 miles from Cheyenne to Twin Falls and that's just too far to drive safely in a single day. Note that professional long-haul drivers are prohibited by law from driving distances of that order or any longer due to the inevitable onset of fatigue. You're no different in that regard (fatigue) and so shouldn't try it either. The problem is that there's really not much in the way of accommodations available between Tremonton UT (466 miles from Cheyenne) and Twin Falls (614 miles from Cheyenne). Ideally you'd like to find something shortly after entering Idaho on I-84, but Hayburn/Burley (575 miles from Cheyenne) is the first place you'll come to with several options.

    AZBuck

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

    Default

    Another reason that I suggested Twin Falls over Burley, tho it does take another 20 miles: the exits to Burley from the freeway are all torn up under construction.

    We had originally planned on Burley for our overnight instead of Twin Falls, this past summer. We changed our mind because we wanted someplace with a pool and a lot more food choices. When we passed Burley on the freeway the next morning, we were pleased for that other reason. We would not have been happy to be staying next to a construction zone.

    It is correct that there is nothing between Tremonton and Burley in terms of lodging. I am just saying what we had chosen, and that we would do that extra 20 miles to get more choice.


    Donna

  6. #6

    Default Alternates for the first day westbound

    My esteemed friend AZ Buck provided a perfectly sound suggestion as to first going north to Charleston WV via I-77. Having made similar trips several times since 2002, I offer two alternate routes.

    At a point around 70 miles east of St Louis, I-64 crosses I-57 at Mount Vernon, IL as I-57 runs south to north between Memphis and Chicago. Travelers originating in central NC may consider I-40 to Nashville, TN, the TN-155 (Briley Parkway) around the northeastern side of Nashville, to I-24 west. I-24 then runs west (actually northwest) through Paducah, KY, into southwestern IL, where it ends at I-57. Mount Vernon, IL is to the north of the I-24--I-57 merge.

    From my Raleigh, NC home, it's around 20 miles further to Mount Vernon, IL via the I-40/TN 155/I-24/I-57 route than it is going first to Charleston, WV to reach I-64. Taking the "I-40 route" allows the traveler to avoid a very hilly segment of I-77 from just north of Winston-Salem, NC all the way to Charleston, WV, and some tolls in WV may also be avoided. Also avoided is the highly industrialized corridor of I-64 between Charleston and Huntington, WV, some high traffic areas around Lexington and Louisville, KY, and some surprisingly hilly parts of southern IN. Excepting the roughly 70 mile segment of I-40 between Old Fort, NC and just inside of the TN line, and some short segments of I-40 west of Knoxville within the Cumberland Plateau, I-40/I-24/I-57 is but gently rolling, is largely free of major urban areas, and is a pleasant drive altogether.

    One variant of the above, adding another 13 miles, is taking I-40 Business from the west side of Greensboro, through Kernersville, to US 52 in Winston-Salem, north to "Future I-74 corridor", to I-77 west of Mount Airy, thence north into Virginia to Wytheville, picking up I-81 south into Tennessee and merging onto I-40 east of Knoxville. This avoids some construction on I-40 at Statesville, NC, the Asheville area, and a 40 mile segment of I-40 west of Asheville which is a much older section of the Interstate system and is thus sub-par in terms of tighter curves through the Pigeon River Gorge. A year ago we drove to southwestern Montana and we used the above variant while towing our lightweight camper trailer. Of the 3 routes, I'd say this one is my preference.

    Foy

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