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  1. Default Carolina family of four, one-month trip

    Our overall trip plans -- trying to hit all the high points here:

    Since our daughters were toddlers, my husband and I’ve talked about taking them on a cross-country driving trip once they’re old enough to really appreciate it. Our goal is to show them the size and variety that exists in America. We are looking for a balance between cities and wilderness destinations. VARIETY is important to us! He and I are very interested in history; the girls are not so much into it. We all enjoy state/national parks, though we’re trying to keep hikes rather short given that we’re going to be on a schedule. I feel like my drive times are fairly accurate because they came from Microsoft Maps & Streets, which I have found to be very close to the truth the great majority of the time; however, it never hurts to hear from people who've actually been through these areas!

    We’re picked out July 2009 for our trip; at that point our daughters’ll be 12 and 15 – old enough to remember and appreciate the trip and old enough to endure the long driving. They’re both good travelers. We’ll be driving a mini-van.

    We plan to stay in inexpensive hotels; my husband travels frequently for work, and he’s saving up all his “points”, and he’s going to trade in his airline miles so about 1/3 of our stays should be free – Holiday Inn Expresses and Residence Inns’ll be our mainstays. While an occasional night in the car is possibly do-able for college-age roadtrippers, it’s not realistic for a family with two children! We’ve also rejected camping (though we love it) because of the time involved in setting up/breaking camp each day and the space necessary to tote all the equipment. We also like the idea of hotels because it means the kids can swim every evening, and after sitting in the car for hours, that’ll be good for them. And DH must have internet access so he can check in with work at least every other day; I'm a teacher, so work's not an issue for me.

    We plan to eat one sit-down meal each day (and we’re saving all our Discover cash-back rewards, and we should be able to get about 20 free meals at places like Red Lobster and Chili’s), and many of the hotels we’ll use will have a free breakfast. We’ll carry a cooler for snacks and drinks (which can really add up x 4 people!). I am concerned about too many burgers and pizzas on the trip, and I hope we’ll be able to balance it out with plenty of exercise. We don’t plan to eat anywhere that doesn’t accept patrons in shorts – in other words, only casual dining is planned!

    We currently have $11,500 in our trip fund, and it’s still two years away – we don’t want to spend unnecessarily, but we can afford to spend moderately every day and splurge on a few things along the way. We are not souvenier people.

    I’d appreciate feedback on our plans. In particular, I’d like to hear specifics like, “There’s a great restaurant here” or “This museum isn’t worth getting off the interstate” or “Expect to spend more time in that location” or “You’re unrealistic here because __” or "You can get a discount there". Both my husband and I drove across the country as teens, but we haven’t visited most of these places as adults.

    Please comment! Thanks!

    Thursday July 2 – leave mid-day as soon as Dad can get home; drive 6 hours to Sparta, TN area – main purpose here is to put miles between ourselves and home; after all, we’ve already seen most things within a day’s drive of home!

    Friday, July 3 – Early morning hike @ Burgess Falls State Park, take breakfast to falls (1 mile round trip – not a long stop); Drive 1.5 hours to Nashville, TN; See The Hermitage; Spend the night somewhere cheap in Nashville; Possible evening excursion -- Nashville Shores water park

    Saturday, July 4 – Drive 4 hours to Memphis, TN; Tour Graceland; See Mississippi River Museum on Mud Island – watch fireworks from island; Have good barbeque dinner – Corky’s or Beale St.?

    Sunday, July 5 – Drive 2 hours 47 minutes to Trail of Tears State Park in MO – short stop; Drive another 1 hour 37 minutes to St. Louis; See City Museum (art museum); Dinner at Zia’s on the Hill

    Monday. July 6 – Up early; Visit St. Louis Arch and Museum of Westward Expansion; See Lewis & Clark documentary; Take one-hour sightseeing riverboat cruise: Eat at Fitz Rootbeer Bottling Company; Drive to Kansas City – spend the night at Great Wolf Lodge (big treat for the kids -- will it be open late at night so they can get good and worn out and sleep a lot tomorrow?) . . . Do we have too much for one day?

    Tuesday, July 7th – Sleep in a little; Drive 8 hours 30 minutes to Colorado Springs – Please, please make suggestions about interesting stops along the way! The trip’ll be essentially I-70 West, and we need a couple stops along the way. I’ve been through Kansas, and I know it’s the country’s most dull state . . . suggestions appreciated!

    Wednesday, July 8th – Tour Olympic Training facility in Colorado Springs; Drive 20 minutes to Pike’s Peak Cog Railway, take train to the top; Drive 39 minutes to Florescent Fossil Beds National Monument (a minor stop, but we’re going right by it)

    Thursday, July 9th – Drive 5 hours 17 minutes to Arches National Park, hike to Double Arches area; Stop at Hole in the Rock; Spend the night in Moab

    Friday, July 10 -- Breakfast at the Jailhouse Café; Drive 3 hours 8 minutes to Mesa Verde National Park (this is one of the things I’m most excited about seeing!); Take tour to Balcony House; Spend the night in Cortez, CO

    Saturday, July 11 – Drive 7 hours 28 minutes to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon; See 4-points on the way; Drive through Kaibab Forest; Consider eating at Kaibab Lodge; If we arrive in time, hike Bright Angel Point trail (1 mile round-trip) at sunset; Stay at Grand Canyon Lodge

    Sunday July 12 – Morning hike down North Kaibab Trail to Coconino Overlook (2 miles round trip), possibly go as far as Supai Tunnel, which is 4-mile round-trip hike; Look into ranger-led programs in the afternoon/evening . . . my husband really wants to do an airplane flight, but I fear that’s a budget-buster

    Monday, July 13 – Drive to Las Vegas; have car put into the shop for oil change – possibly do a time-share presentation to get free/cheap hotel rooms for these nights

    Tuesday, July 14 – See Vegas sites, see a show, lay out by pool, catch up on some rest

    Wednesday, July 15 – ATV trip to Valley of Fire

    Thursday, July 16 – Drive 6.5 hours to Salt Lake City area; see Museum of Ancient Life @ Thanksgiving Point – anything else in this area?

    Friday, July 17 – Drive 5.5 hours to Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Take aerial tram to top of Rendevous Mt.; Have dinner in Jackson; Stay in Signal Mountain Lodge (inside Grand Tetons)

    Saturday, July 18 – Drive to Jenny Lake area (inside Grand Tetons); Take shuttle across lake, hike 2.2 miles to Hidden Falls, then continue on to Inspiration Point, which overlooks Jenny Lake; Late afternoon rafting trip through Grand Tetons area

    Sunday, July 19 – Drive to Yellowstone; See Old Faithful area, then drive on to Norris Geyser Basin, Stop at Canyon Village (good lunch spot), see Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone – hike 1.5 miles round trip to lip of the falls; See Grizzly/Wolf Center late in the day; Stay in West Yellowstone . . . Do we have too much crammed into this day? I’ve visited Yellowstone, and I know crowds can be horrible, and that might slow us down badly.

    Monday, July 20 – Drive through Yellowstone, see Hayden Valley (wildlife area), stop at Mud Volcano; Drive 3 hours 5 minutes to Cody, Wyoming; See Buffalo Bill Historic Center; Go to Cody Night Rodeo (8:00 PM) . . . My kids are really looking forward to seeing a real western rodeo – will this be good? Would the Greeley Stampede be better? I originally had it in my plans, but it was really “costing us” in time.

    Tuesday, July 21 – Drive 6 hours 50 minutes to Custer State Park; Visit Mt. Rushmore evening program (9:00)

    Wednesday, July 22 – Sleep in, Visit Wind Cave OR Jewel Cave National Park; Take Buffalo Sarafi /Chuckwagon Dinner at Custer State Park . . . Which of these two caves is better? The buffalo safari is something that we’re all excited about!

    Thursday, July 23 and Friday, July 24 – Drive 14 hours to Chicago; Stop at 1909 Prairie Homestead, Badlands National Park, Pipestone National Monument, Herbert Hoover Memorial, and Wall Drug . . . I think we have plenty of interesting stops on the way to Chicago – any others that wouldn’t take us far off the highway? This’ll be a long two days, and I’m open to suggestions!

    Saturday, July 25 – Breakfast at Cereality; See Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Take Shoreline Sightseeing Tour; Navy Pier in the evening (buy 2-day Go Chicago Cards) . . . None of us have ever been to Chicago – suggestions welcome!

    Sunday, July 26 – See Magnificent mile, Hancock Observatory (I’ve heard it’s better than the Sears Tower – opinions?); Drive 4.5 hours to Sandusky, Ohio; Stay in the Breakers’ Hotel inside Cedar Point

    Monday, July 27 – Visit Cedar Point . . . probably the day my children are looking forward to most!

    Tuesday, July 28 – Our 19th wedding anniversary – Drive 2 hours to First Ladies’ National Historic Site (Canton, Ohio); Dive 5 hours 27 minutes to Hershey, PA . . . not much of a big anniversary celebration is it? Maybe we’ll pop for an expensive stay in the Hershey Hotel. Can we eat in their nice restaurant wearing shorts? I saw it on the food network – how much $$$ are we talking anyway?

    Wednesday, July 29 – See Hershey’s Chocolate World; Drive 42 minutes to Amish Country, maybe take a buggy ride . . . hmmm a rather quiet day.

    Thursday, July 30 – Visit The Amish Experience; eat at Good & Plenty or Plain & Fancy; Drive 54 minutes to Valley Forge National Park; Drive 26 minutes to Philadelphia; Cheesesteaks from Pat’s for dinner

    Friday, July 31 – Tour America’s most historic mile: Independence hall, Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross House, Franklin Court, Edgar Allan Poe’s home, Philadelphia Museum of Art – none of us’ve ever been to Philly – suggestions welcome – our girls are not particularly history buffs, so this destination is more for hubby and me.

    Saturday, August 1 – Drive 4 hours 27 minutes to Monticello in Charlottesville, VA; Drive 4 hours 50 minutes home

    Many thanks to anyone who can give us any information or improvement on our plans!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Wow! Can I stow along?

    Quote Originally Posted by MrsPete View Post
    Our goal is to show them the size and variety that exists in America.
    I referred to this a "purple mountains majesty" in this article I wrote for MSNBC. I will be updating this article for RTA next week, but you still might find some useful stuff therein now.
    I feel like my drive times are fairly accurate because they came from Microsoft Maps & Streets
    As a general rule, I don't really like MS S&T, for some of the reason discussed in this field report. But as general rule, honed through thousands of road miles over the years, this works: Over the course of a full day's travel you can expect to average 57 mph west of the Mississippi River and about 53 mph east of the Mississippi River. (This assumes that you will travel at or above the speed limit as much as you can and stop for fuel and rest stops at appropriate places). The times you listed above are, in my view, unrealistic for a day's travel (if you add ~23% of the time, they might be closer).
    We’re picked out July 2009 for our trip;
    Wow, it is hard for me to imagine being able to plan for any road trip that far in advance -- based on your first posts on this Forum -- the depth of of your "overview" doesn't surprise me -- but it will take us some time to respond in kind. But, I guess we have enough time for that....


  3. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Editor View Post
    As a general rule, I don't really like MS S&T
    We've had it for a couple years and have found it to be quite accurate. Sometimes it is "determined" that you'll stay on the interstate, even when another road is rather obviously the right answer, but we've figured out how to "force it" to chart the path in the more obvious manner.

    We do need to buy the newer version; we had a problem recently dropping our daughters off at camp in the mountains. We were fine until we reached one medium-sized city, and suddenly none of the roads were "right". After we found our way out of that mess, we realized that we'd made all the turns that MS S&T said we would, but the names were wrong -- we verified later that the city had, indeed, just renamed a bunch of its streets.

    My husband, the engineer and self-proclaimed gadget-freak, intends to buy some sort of navigation system; I, however, don't like that sort of thing, so I'm leaving it all up to him.
    Quote Originally Posted by Editor View Post
    Over the course of a full day's travel you can expect to average 57 mph west of the Mississippi River and about 53 mph east of the Mississippi River.
    That sounds like valuable information! I'll go through our plans with these figures in mind and see where adjustments need to be made.
    Quote Originally Posted by Editor View Post
    Wow, it is hard for me to imagine being able to plan for any road trip that far in advance
    Long-term planning is second nature to me, and I'm good at it. School is a month away from starting, but TOMORROW I have to have my lesson plans for the whole year completed and turned in. Yes, I have to say what I'll be doing on March 1st -- and if an administrator comes in on March 1st, I'd better be doing what I said I'd be doing!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Chicago Suburbs, IL



    Being a teacher myself, I have to admit to some advanced detailed planning which I suppose fits in with the lesson plans, etc.. that we must turn it, but I must admit never to this extent. ;)

    As for Chicago I would recommend you see the Museum of Science and Industry instead of the field museum, and maybe even the Shedd too, because you can really spend a whole day in this one. I toured both museums last year with some visitors and we all loved the M of S & I much more than the Field Museum and I think children especially would love it much more as well.

    Yes, I agree that the Hancock Observatory is nicer than the Sears Tower.

    As for your drive to Chicago from South Dakota I recommend stopping to see the Jolly Green Giant statue in Blue Earth, MN. It is right off the highway and I think the kids would enjoy it. There is also a Spam museum (free) off the highway which is amusing.

    In Wisconsin, Wisconsin Dells is a popular attraction and has many water parks, but may tie up your schedule. In Madison, WI, which you'll be driving to I would recommend a stop at Ella's Deli. I think the kids would get a kick out of it and I haven't seen any other place like it.

    Enjoy your vacation!

  5. Default

    Hey Mrs Pete! Sounds like a great trip. I have some advice for your Philly stay. I'm from Philly and I also work in Old City - I can see Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Visitors Center, and Constituition Center from my window here at work.

    I will say you should definitely eat some cheesesteaks while you are here. I personally don't like Genos or Pats - I would much rather eat a cheesesteak from any pizzeria, and same goes for most locals. But it's something you should do a least once if you are a tourist!

    First you should know that your drive from Valley Forge to Philly will take you longer than 26 minutes. That is a given, unless you are traveling at 3 am. The highway that brings you into the city (Route 76, AKA The Schuylkill Expressway) is very congested (either eastbound or westbound) at pretty much all hours of the day, but especially at rush hour. So just give yourself a little bit more time - the Schuylkill does have it's good days so you might get lucky!

    All of the places you mentioned for Philly are great. Independence Hall, The Constituition Center, Liberty Bell, etc are within a block or two of eachother. I would also suggest checking out Elfreth's Alley - it's the nation's oldest street which still has residents living there. Also a place I think is cool that is a block and a half away from the Liberty Bell on Market street between 3rd and 4th streets is the B Free Franklin Post Office. And right behind there is a courtyard where I believe Franklin lived. The post office is still working - I drop my letters off there - but it's a very small post office, and they have kept it looking inside as it might have looked many years ago. It is located in a rowhouse circa 1800s and is just a cool place to look around.

    For lunch I would suggest dropping by the Reading Terminal which is like a huge farmers market with any kind of food you can imagine.

    After you are done in the historical district, or Old City as us locals call it, head west to the true "downtown" part of Philly. I would check out City Hall - it's the nation's largest municipal building. Not far from City Hall is Love Park where the famous, original statue is.

    Then head down the Ben Franklin Parkway. If you have time (and the kids might enjoy it) try The Franklin Institute. Then of course you will see the Art Museum which is a necessity for tourists! Make sure you take a walk if you can behind the museum along Kelly drive - it is beautiful scenery.

    If you are looking for something to do after dinner or in the evening, the kids will love South Street. It is a quirky, hippie street spanning many blocks that has stores and restaurants. If you are afraid of "different" people then you might not want to go. You will see people of all races and sexual orientations, dressed in all kinds of ways, some will have a lot of piercings, some will look like the average person, some will be walking dogs, some will be standing watching people go by ... it's a cool place to visit. If you think you'd be afraid of younger, hippie kind of people, then you can check it out while it's still daylight out.

    I'm sure I'll think of more, but this is all I got for now with your limited time!

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