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  1. #1
    newcalifornian Guest

    Default Washington DC to San Francisco in a Week

    Dear all,

    I am driving from Washington, DC to the SF Bay Area next week for grad school. I have around 8-9 days for the trip but still cannot decide on which route to take.

    Does anyone have suggestions on whether to drive the northern (Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore) or southern (Memphis, Grand Canyon) route, given my time available and the late-summer season? I've never been to the middle of the country, apart from Chicago. Natural wonders and/or historic sites are probably my top interests.

    Thanks,
    David

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default

    Natural wonders and historic sites abound on each and every cross-country route. So how can one choose? Dunno....it's different for all of us. Is there some specific place you've always yearned to see? If so, I'd go through that place first and build my trip around that. Or you could do some research to see if something specific grabs you. Or you could close your eyes and point your finger. All routes have something of value to recommend them.

    I'm guessing that you might do this trip more than once in the next few years if you go back-and-forth to visit family, etc. If I'm guessing right, than I'd just take whatever route intrigues you the most and do the other routes on other trips.

  3. #3
    newcalifornian Guest

    Default Thanks...

    I appreciate your thoughts, Judy. My gut tells me to go for the southern route, ideally visiting Memphis, Santa Fe, and one or two of the Western parks (although the Utah parks may be a bit too far out of the way). However, I'm a little worried about the heat (I will have a computer and tv in my car) and the slightly longer distance on the southern route. The northern route would be neat, too, I'm sure, with Yellowstone and the Tetons being my top priorities.

    Looks like this might come down to a coin flip.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Why not the Central Route?

    Quote Originally Posted by newcalifornian
    .. However, I'm a little worried about the heat (I will have a computer and tv in my car) and the slightly longer distance on the southern route. The northern route would be neat, too, I'm sure, with Yellowstone and the Tetons being my top priorities.
    Why not take I-70 (the central route) and enjoy the midwestern cities, the Colorado Rockies, the Utah area, central Nevada, the California Sierras and then on into San Francisco?

    As long as your computer and TV are out of the direct sunshine -- I don't see a problem.

    Mark

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default

    According to my software, the northern route is the most miles. In order:

    * DC to Pittsburgh to Cleveland to Chicago, then I-80 the rest of the way: 2830 miles
    * Memphis/Sante Fe route: 3040 miles
    * Northern Route turning south in Montana, through Yellowstone, across Nevada to CA: 3125 miles
    * Northern Route staying north until Eastern WA, then heading south: 3370 miles

    So the quickest/shortest route is actually the middle route via I-80.

    If you want to add going to the Grand Canyon to your trip, it's only another 110 miles. Well worth it.

    If you wanted to add a circle tour of Grand Canyon/Bryce/Zion to your trip, you'd be adding about 340 total miles. If you have time for it, this is also well worth it.

    Let us know what you decide so we can help you with specifics. Enjoy!

  6. #6
    newcalifornian Guest

    Default Very helpful...

    Okay, thanks again for all your feedback. Based on your experiences, do you think the following route is realistic?

    --Drive I-81 to I-40, not stopping for tourism until reaching Memphis.

    --Continue on I-40 to US-285 in New Mexico, not stopping for tourism until reaching Santa Fe.

    --Drive US-84 to US-191, not stopping for tourism until reaching Arches Nat'l Park.

    --Drive 1-70 through Utah, stopping for tourism (if at all possible) at Bryce, Zion, and maybe the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

    --Drive I-15 to I-5, with a few other roads in-between, finally arriving in the Bay Area.

    Total mileage, according to mapsonus.com: 3249, or roughly 400 miles longer than the shortest route cross-country.

    I think this route would cover a lot of interesting sites, but I'm worried that it is too much. Assuming 4-5 solid days of driving (right?), what I should I see with 3-4 days of free time? Thanks!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Six Days Minimum

    Quote Originally Posted by newcalifornian
    Do you think the following route is realistic?
    Realistic? I dunno. It doesn't make as much sense as some others, but it would be an interesting drive. One huge caveat -- it will not be physically possible to drive that route in less than six days (10 hour driving days). But it is doable.

    Mark

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default

    Arches is very cool but not worth the extra miles. There is no way you can drive for 10 hours per day for 6 days to make this trip. You will either need more days or you need to cut miles.

    Remember that 10 hours of driving is more like 12-13 hours on the road once you take time for rest/stretch breaks, meals, gas, etc. Your driving abilities will suffer. It's not safe or even healthy. I would highly advise against it.

    Grand Canyon is close enough to be worth it and maybe, also, Zion and Bryce. You will see acres and acres of beautiful red rock in those parks. Of course, the rock at Arches is shaped different but it will be there for another trip.

    Shameless plug: If you insist on doing this, please read my tips in The Art of the Speed Run for tips on doing this as safely as possible.

  9. #9
    newcalifornian Guest

    Default So how many days will I spend driving?

    Judy, Mark,

    I take your point regarding driving time. As I will be traveling alone, it is unrealistic for me to drive more than 10 hours per day. So, will I spend 6-7 solid days of driving cross-country, regardless of which route I choose? Or can I save I day by taking the central route or the northern route through yellowstone?

    It looks like I will have, at most, 9 days to make this trip, so I'd like to minimize driving time and maximize sightseeing opportunities. Thanks.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Five Days

    Quote Originally Posted by newcalifornian
    I take your point regarding driving time. As I will be traveling alone, it is unrealistic for me to drive more than 10 hours per day. So, will I spend 6-7 solid days of driving cross-country, regardless of which route I choose? Or can I save I day by taking the central route or the northern route through yellowstone?
    If you were to stay on Interstates (either I-80 or I-70) you can cover this distance in a reasonable five days. I have done it twice in three (but I was driving 23 out of 24 hours per day -- not smart or healthy).

    If you have nine days, there a number of options.

    Mark

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