I wanted to start by thanking those who maintain such a wonderful community - it has extremely useful information!
My girlfriend and I are taking a road trip from Chicago to Los Angeles (one way) towards the end of this month. We are moving to the LA area but will only have a couple of bags (nothing too valuable) with us in our car (1999 Mazda 626).
We have around 8-9 days for completing the trip, and would like to limit the driving to around 400-450 miles a day (maximum). We would also like to take a break of 2-3 days in Colorado near the Rocky Mountain National Park. I have a couple of questions about the route, and would really appreciate any advice. We would like to keep to the Interstates mostly, so no Route 66 for us this time.
1) The fastest route seems to be via Nebraska, Colorado and Utah (80, 70 and 15). However, we have seen a bit of Nebraska already, and are wondering if it is worth taking a detour up to Rapid City to see Mt Rushmore and the Badlands (90W from Chicago with a halt somewhere in between). We can then take 25S to Denver from there and get on to 70W. This adds about 300 miles to our trip. I have never been in that area before - can someone please tell me if it is worth the extra day of driving? Also, I am guessing we will probably take a day off at Rapid City to get some rest and see the nearby sights (Rushmore, Crazy Horse etc)
2) Could you please let me know what is the best place to stay in if one wants to be close to the Rocky Mountain National Park? Is denver a good access point? I have heard Grand Junction is good too, so should we stay there the last night and then move on from there?
3) Finally, what is a good point to break between Colorado and LA? The drive from Grand Junction to Vegas is approx 500 miles so is that doable within a day? Or is it worth stopping somewhere in between?
Thanks very much for your help!