Summer 2005: The Lower 48 in thirty days
I'm a virgin roadtripper who has been planning to drive through (or at least set foot in) all 48 states during a 4-week vacation next year. I live in San Juan Capistrano, CA so I plan to head east and travel in a counter-clockwise fashion. There's about 15 major stops and probably 25 minor stops that will occur throughout this period. This includes seeing some major attractions, as well as visiting family and friends.
I've already laid out a basic route that will start me going to Vegas (major stop), then by Hoover Dam (minor stop), on to see the Grand Canyon (major stop), and then on to Four Corners (minor stop) where we can wipe out the entire southwestern portion real quick.
I won't bore you with the rest of the route, but I do find challenges hitting some states in the southeast and midwest, particularly trying to drive around visiting people.
I've never driven out-of-state, so this will be quite an interesting experience indeed. I've already got one friend interested in going, with a possible 2nd friend figuring it out.
I could use advice from any experienced travelers, especially those who have driven the whole 48 in one shot. We're not looking to break any records or anything. It'll be just one of those "geographical highs" or something. :) Thanks everybody!
30 days roadtrip
I have to say it's a pretty ambitious trip for a first timer!:-) I recently did a 3 weeks roadtrip and I crossed or sometimes just made a loop through 28 states + D.C. and I'm a regular roadtripper (it was the first time I went on a trip so long and so far from home though), well I think I am (???).
Over these 3 weeks I spent half a day in Bryce, half a day at Grand Canyon, 1 whole day in Phoenix, half a day in Padre Island (TX), 2-3 days in Fla, and these were the only times I stopped more than a few hours during my trip. So as you see, I only did quick stops and was almost always driving in my car, it would have been impossible for me to do more than that in 3 weeks.
For your part, I don't know if you're used to driving for hours but many people get drowsy and sleepy by only driving 2-3 hours, and it depends also on how many of you will be drivers (because you have to have drivers, and you have to have passengers). Personally I can't tell you if it's doable or not, maybe some others can, but if you go on with your trip idea, don't expect to spend much time visiting places and meet people.:-)Some states are also wider and some have bigger cities, it is kind of difficult to plan everything, you never know when you're gonna run into a traffic jam. Sometimes, it's better to do less, be laid back, enjoy the sceneries and have fun than to be stressed because you have to get to city X before night. Anyway, you'll see, if you like it, I'm sure you'll soon find a way to go to the states you didn't have time to visit on your first trip if it happens to be the case.
I recommend you to take an AAA Membership, that way you can have plenty of free tourist information and guides, rebates on motel/campgrounds, and it is always practical in case of emergency. Go to mappoint.msn.com (Driving direction) and try to figure out a route and how long it'll take you to go through all the states.
You didn't mention anything about budget, but if you want to save money, you'll find many posts about this topic on the forum under titles like "ways to save money", "cheap and free places to sleep". Road music is also a must, you gotta have great music to survive (see Gear up section of the Forum). Be prepared to face all kind of weather : rainstorms, snow (depending on when you're leaving), wind, extreme heat and even tornadoes. Make sure you always have water and food in the car (for you and your car) and bring a cb radio or/and a tri-mode or bi-mode cell phone. Last thing, never fool yourself by pretending you're not tired and you can push just a little further when you just want to go zzzZZZzz...If you cannot find a motel/campground at least take a break, get of the car, walk a bit, get a drink (with caffeine if possible), chew gum.
If you need specific information on areas in particular, just mention it and what are your interests and I'm sure many people from these regions will be happy to help you.
Have a great trip and keep us updated!
Good job, Gen!
Gen gave you some great suggestions. Also, be aware that sometimes different people have different ideas of travel. Your fellow travelers may not be ready for the intense driving experience you propose. Make sure you're compatible with the idea.
I also think this is ambitious for a first roadtrip. However, if you're determined it can be done. You might check out http://students.umf.maine.edu/~flanagpm/ A father-son team did all 50 states in 8 days. I can't imagine doing that myself but it shows what you can do if you're determined.
Personally, I think I would just do a portion of the US during this trip. Maybe just the Southern half? And then do the Northern portion in another roadtrip next year? You can definitely do it but you won't have much time, if any, to explore.
Awhile back I was playing around on my trip-making software and did a "whistle-stop" route of the Lower 48. Many of the state visits would consist of simply straddling the state line. I don't know if it's the most efficient route out there but it was the best I could figure out. It is 10,500 miles and about 183 hours of driving. Hope that gives you some idea of what you should expect driving-wise.
If you decide to tackle it, best wishes and let us know how it went.
Thank you for all the advice. Yes, I know it sounds pretty ambitious, but it's something I've wanted to do for years. I'll be moving out of the folk's house in about 18 months so I want to get this trip "out of my system" before it becomes impossible to do.
One of my potential passengers has been cross-country before, so he has some experience. The one who's almost definitely going has always wanted to do the same thing, but never had the time or motivation. We'll definitely be revolving the drivers every 6-8 hours so each of us don't go insane. There will be times where we'll drive all night (through the boring parts of the US) so we don't have to worry about stopping. This will give us time to overnight the places we want to stop.
I do have AAA membership. In fact, I'll probably upgrade to AAA Plus for my renewal this year so I can have it through my trip.
I'm looking at my budget to be about $2,000-3,000. That may be awfully conservative by some folks' estimates, but I plan on taking full advantage of AAA deals, coupons, snacks instead of buying out all the time, plus I'm looking at buying a Hybrid at the end of this year, so the savings on gas will be plentiful as well.
We all have our collection of music. I have about 2 days (48 hours) worth on my iPod, and my buddies probably have quite a few days worth as well, so that's not an issue. We'll always be checking the weather (and if there are tornadoes, I'll turn into a storm chaser!)
My few issues is that I have family/friends I want to visit in Miami, Birmingham, Huntsville, and Whitesburg (Extreme SouthEast KY). All of them make it ridiculously complicated for me to make a route. It's hard to do without missing a few states (South Carolina, etc.) GRRR.
If I didn't have the goal of the lower 48 in one year, I would break off into two trips, like you suggested, but I won't have enough vacation time to be able to meet that goal, and of course, once I'm living on my own, the chances will be even slimmer of any kind of road trip.
Let me know your thoughts, if any! :)
Well, you sound determined, that's great but remember it wouldn't be a shame at all if you just change your mind or itinerary during your trip:-) Be careful about driving through the "boring parts" of the US by night, you could miss some wonderful sceneries and interesting spots (or the sight of a gorgeous girl walking or driving by:-). Many times, the parts I think I would consider boring during my roadtrip were the greatest places I've ever seen but that's up to you!:-)) Have you considered writing a roadtrip report, or a travel-log journal? I'm sure many people on the forum would be delighted to read your posts about your adventure.
For my part, once in a while I stopped at a Kinko's store in different parts of the US during my trip to mail a report to my family/friends and on the RTA forum, and to ask information. It is still there and it's kind of fun to read it once you're back because you realise you forgot a lot of things in between.
Well I wish you good luck, a great trip, have fun, drive safely and let us know how it went!
Dear Joey: I've traveled extensively over the years from east to west and vice versa. I live in Florida, lived for 10 years in LA, and have spent many summers in Yellowstone and other national parks in the northwest, driving to each from my home in Florida, and taking different routes each time if I can.
My only thought would be to do the trip in reverse. Your going to the hottest part first. If you went the other way you'd be hitting the cooler areas first, then as it (hopefully) starts to cool off in the south you'd be hitting those areas. Its better on your vehicle and you to drive in as cool a climate as possible. Otherwise, with the temps in the south and southeast this time of year you'll be spending most of your time in the car instead of out of it.
But if you are determined, Bryce and Zion are well worth the visit, as well as Arches and Moab Utah. Beautiful areas!!! Good hiking too.
When you get down south I would suggest a short stop in Biloxi, Mississippi to do a little waterfront gambling. They have a few shows there too, although not like Vegas. When you hit my state, you should check out the white sand beaches between Pensacola and Destin. Then Apalachicola is "old" Florida; anywhere in that "Big Bend" area of Florida is very old Florida. Heading south my area has been named several years as one of the best cities to live in, and one of the top 10 beaches in the world....Sarasota, Siesta Key. South is Palm Island, which is expensive to stay at but is a private island. Palm Island Resort is a great place.
Of course the Keys are a must see if you can go that far south...Florida is a very big state and will take you 16 hours to go from the western side in the panhandle to the Keys (without any stops). Up the east coast of Florida a stop at Cape Canaveral is worth the trip. Rest rest of the east coast is out of my realm as I've not been there in years, but once you get back out west Glacier National Park, Montana is definitely worth seeing (get there before end of September as it closes). And/or Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks,Wyoming as well as Cascade in Washington. Vancouver, B.C. and Victoria on Vancouver Island, BC. is amazing, and the coast south is awesome, back to California. Enjoy your trip. You will be amazed at the wonders of our country.
30 days is ambitious
Joey - you are going to have to get a move on! We took 53 weeks to cover all 48 contiguous states - you might be interested in looking at www.roadtripdream.com and click on "see our travel website"
Have a ball - it is great experience!
The potential route I'm taking.
Here is a quickie map of the approximate route I intend on taking. This isn't 100% accurate, but just a basic guideline. I'm sure I drew that teal line right through mountains and forests. The yellow lines are alternate routes, depending on who goes and if family/friends will be present at time of arrival. Oh, I did forget to mention that Washington D.C. is part of the trip as well.
If my 10-year high school reunion doesn't interfere, I plan on leaving Saturday, July 16, 2005, and returning Sunday, August 14, 2005. This is all tentative, of course.
Major stops will include:
Las Vegas, NV >>> Grand Canyon, AZ >>> Four Corners >>> Oklahoma City, OK >>> Dallas, TX (family) >>> (deciding between New Orleans, LA, or Huntsville/Birmingham, AL, depending on family/friends) >>> Miami, FL (friend) >>> Whitesburg, KY (family) >>> Washington D.C. >>> New York, NY >>> Boston, MA >>> Detroit, MI (family) >>> Chicago, IL >>> Mt. Rushmore, SD >>> Yellowstone, WY >>> North Idaho >>> Seattle, WA >>> Portland, OR >>> San Fransisco, CA >>> Home
Consider a snake route instead of a circle
You will have a blast. I'm the father of the father, son team referenced above that visted 50 states in 8 days exactly 1 year ago today. Our site is at www.50-7.com and was part of <a href = "http://www.roadtripamerica.com/links/Speed-Runs.htm">an article here at Roadtrip America</a> last spring. You will see that the most efficent way of catching all of the lower 48 is to follow a snake route from coast to coast roughly in the shape of a big W. The lower 48 state portion of our trip was accomplished in just under 6 days and covered around 7500 miles.
In 2001, I drove the other members of my family on a fifty state trip that lasted 43 days from RI to Hawaii and then another 3 weeks to return home (17,000 miles in all). During that trip we visited many friends, New Orleans, Pensacola, Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel, Chicago, Indianapolis Speedway, Arches, Yellowstone, and Grand Canyon National parks, Glaciers in Alaska, Honolulu, San Francisco, Hollywood and managed to squeeze in a dozen concerts along the way.
The 2001 trip cost us close to $12,000 and the 8 day trip last year was around $4,000. (It was actually a 2 week trip as we took a side trip to the Canadian Rockies on our way out to Hyder, Alaska to start our fundraiser on Aug. 1st. We used a 1995 Chevy Explorer Conversion van on both trips.
So, yes it is entirely possible to visit the lower 48 in 30 days. Can't hang around in one place too long, but still well worth the experience. If you need help planning your trip, do not hesitate to write. I'd be glad to help another adventure become successful.