Right - the flights are booked and the countdown begins. All we need to do now is finalise a route. I'll try to keep this one short but I'd appreciate any feedback anyone would like to offer. The fixed points are arrival in Chicago on July 20 and flying out of San Francisco 4 weeks later - nothing in between (apart from car rental!) has been booked ... and ideally we'd prefer to leave it that way.
Great Plains - Nebraska or Kansas?
I favour Nebraska because:
• It means we can visit Des Moines on the way (just finished Bill Bryson's Thunderbolt Kid) and I've read that Iowa is as close to 1950s America as you can get these days.
• A route through Scottsbluff leads nicely into Rocky Mntn NP Colorado
• It sounds like the kind of place to enjoy big country driving (maybe not entirely dissimilar to South Dakota?)
My wife Carole favours Kansas because:
• She wants to see Dorothy's slippers
Colorado - I70, no problem
That's a bit cocky of me but Colorado looks the kind of place where you can't go too far wrong.
SW states - straight across or via Arizona?
This is the big question. Original plan was to pick up Highway 50 in Colorado and basically follow it westward, diverting only to see Arches and Canyonlands. At Reno we would then take a left to visit Yosemite, KC, Sequoia and Death Valley before then shooting over to San Luis Obispo and up the Californian coast. We have actually driven from LA to SF before but that's no reason not to want to do it again!
Pros of this route, as I see it, are the huge emptiness, the fact that we'd be avoiding crowds and the opportunity to follow a route that most overseas visitors will not have had the time to see. The downside is that we actually end up heading back east in order to visiting the Californian parks.
Having looked at the map again, it would appear to make much more sense to follow the more logical tourist route by turning left at Arches and taking in Canyonlands > Monument Valley > Grand Canyon > Bryce > Zion > Leeds (my home city in the UK!) > Las Vegas and then doing the CA parks in south to north order.
I know that, ultimately, it's always going to be a personal decision but any thoughts/input would be appreciated. Is it worth sacrificing the much anticipated emptiness of following the Loneliest Road across Nevada in order to (a) see things in a more logical order and (b) take in the world-famous attractions of the south Utah and Arizona (bearing in mind that we've never been to this part of the USA before so everything will be new)?
I think we're beginning to come down in favour of this latter route but one thing holding us back is that we would REALLY prefer not to be tied down to specific schedules (but realise that we probably won't be the only people visiting this part of the world at this time of year). We'd like to camp at least some of the time but will be happy to use whatever accommodation we come across (chains, lodges, mom + pop motels). How bad does it get?
Thanks in advance!