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  1. #1

    Default Chicago to San Francisco and back in 3 weeks

    First time roadtrippers.

    Semi-experienced campers who are a little rusty and not without fear of setting up shop 'in the middle of nowhere'.

    3 weeks to kill. From Milwaukee/Chicago area to SF bay and back in 3 weeks, want to see as much cool stuff as possible.

    Would love to spend as little as possible so camping sounds great.

    Thinking about staying on the 2-lanes for maximum experiences and local flavor. (Route 20, Route 101, Route 66 come to mind.)

    Basic question. Anyone ever done this sort of round trip in the time frame I'm envisioning?

    Any advice is very much appreciated, I'm planning the adventure of my life here and want to drink in all of RTA's tremendous wisdom.

    Yours in transit,

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Two Options (of many)

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America forum.

    I think your overall plan will work (as long as you're not planning on spending a great deal of time in San Francisco) and has a lot to recommend it. I've done parts of the trip you have in mind and would urge you to look at US-14 for at least one way. This would take you through some midwest farmland, then into some of the best parts of South Dakota and Yellowstone National Park before you head into southern Idaho and then connect with I-80 or US-50 through Lake Tahoe (be sure to go to the RTA home and, in the upper left corner do a search for Virginia City) and on into San Francisco.

    The other way could be done via Yosemite National Park to Las Vegas and then across southern Utah. You can then string together some more great national parks including Arches, Colorado, and Rocky Mountain before heading out onto the plains for home. I think I might try US-6 in Nebraska and IA-44 for a couple of scenic two lanes that are never too far from a state park for overnight camping.

    The real point here is that as long as you keep your eye on your destination and keep moving along, you can do this trip in three weeks and have a great time doing it. These are just two of the infinite variety of possible routes.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 07-02-2006 at 11:20 AM. Reason: Link Added

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default What a great trip!

    It sounds do-able and should be a great time. I would suggest keeping the following in mind: The trip would not be a failure if you didn't make it to San Francisco. AZ Buck gave you a great route. If you follow it, or whatever route you decide on, and find that you are having fun taking your time, and enjoying the exploration, simply turn back at the 10th or 11th day and go home via a new route with new roads. Remember, the journey is the goal, not the destination. Enjoy!

  4. #4

    Default Route 20

    Thanks for the advice, folks. We're taking off next week.

    Anyone have any thoughts about Route 20? I know there's a faster way to get from Chicago to Portland, on the interstate, and that a lot of people get into Yellowstone via Montana. Is Route 20 worth the extra effort and mileage? I'm thinking about following it all the way across and through.

    On a related note, taking the interstate takes me across southern Minnesota, through South Dakota. Taking Route 20 takes me through the heart of Iowa and then across northern Nebraska. Either way we might stop to see Mt Rushmore, but the basic question is, what's a better drive? I-90 through MN/SD vs. US-20 through IA/NE.

    Again I thank you all for your tremendous wisdom.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default Maybe a little of both?

    I might take US-20 across Iowa and then cut up I-29 and take I-90 across SD.

    US-20 across Iowa is expressway most of the way, but you still get a really nice feel for Northern Iowa's farm country. I haven't spent much time on US-20 through Nebraska, though so I can't tell you much there.

    I-90 across SD would let you take easy detours to the Corn Palace as well as the Badlands if you desire. I-90 across Minnesota's a nice trip too. You get a 10 mile stretch where you drive along the Mississippi River, and it takes you right by the Spam Museum and a giant statue of the Jolly Green Giant just to name a few things along the way.

  6. #6


    Sounds like a good idea to mix it up. You've inspired me to plan on taking I-90 over to the Badlands and Mt Rushmore, then heading down to meet US-20 in Wyoming. The idea of crossing WY on 20 really appeals to me, I don't know why.

    On my Rand McNally 06 US atlas, I see some construction on US-20 through WY... I wonder how bad it is. If anyone knows anything about it I'd sure love to hear about it.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Wy-dot

    The easiest way is to check out the Wyoming Dept of Transportation website. If it doesn't list the work, there are problem phone numbers listed that you can call for further info.

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