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  1. #1

    Default Questions about my dream roadtrip

    Hey, since I've only posted here a few times, I guess I should introduce myself.

    My name is Brian, I'm a 17 year-old kid living in Maryland. I've had an interest in roads since I was about 3. Two years ago, I discovered the wonders of learning about roads online, and have become somewhat of an expert of the subject.

    My dream roadtrip is to drive Interstate 80 from Pennsylvania to its western terminus, and back (possibly using some other routes). I consider myself an All-American kid that wants to see the country, but I'm just an interstate kind of guy. I'm not really a sight-seeing kind of guy, either. To me, a roadtrip is all about the open road.

    I'm wondering what the expenses for such a trip would be. I would like to take this trip sometime after high school or during the early part of college. If I have to sleep in the vehicle most nights, that should be fine. Camping would also be fine.

    I've saved up over $100 already, and I'm thinking about getting a job later on this summer. Except for the occasional CD, I don't buy much.

    So I'm wondering how much you think this would cost me. Thanks,


  2. #2

    Default Follow your dream

    Hi Brian,

    Your dream reminds me of thoughts I had back in the late 60s/early 70s, at which time earning my driver's license in 1971 had me thinking of Road Tripping "Out West". Myself and a buddy talked about a post-high school graduation Road Trip. Our "plan" was to take my 1969 Chevy Impala, remove the back seat, and make a side-by-side "sleeper" out of the back seat and truck space. We'd simply pull over on Interstate cloverleafs or exit/entrance ramps for overnight stops. For better or worse (probably better), we never got past the dreaming stages and dealing with the dying days of the Vietnam-era military draft and making financial plans for college superceded the Road Trip.

    Which is not to say you shouldn't or couldn't make your own trip. This site has a number of trip cost calculators which take into account the fuel mileage your chosen vehicle will average. In my view, everything else is a variable. Here are some elementary thoughts, based on decades of real-world experience:

    The vehicle: Regardless of age and odometer mileage, your vehicle needs to be in tip-top shape in terms of tuning, tires, and fluids. Spending the time and money to make it so while at home in Maryland will pay dividends on the road. Your average travelling speed will have a major impact on fuel costs, as aerodynamic drag and its effect on fuel consumption picks up exponentially above around 65 mph. Slow and easy will make a huge difference in fuel $$ over the length of a 6,000 mile trip. But therein lies a problem: slow travel on I-80, or any Interstate west of the Mississippi/Missouri River can be a harrowing experience. Perhaps the recent surge in fuel prices has slowed traffic considerably, but if not, most automobile, SUV, and pickup truck traffic seems to run between about 78 and 83 mph, and a surprising number of tractor/trailers run in the same speed range. Dawdling along at 65-70 mph would likely have you looking in the rearview mirrors a whole lot and having white knuckles on the wheel. For that reason, you may want to consider alternating between I-80 and some of the US or State highways which more or less parallel it. In the upper Midwest and Great Plains, the lands are subdivided into great squares and rectangles called section, township, and range, and the result is that many roads are in a grid-like North-South and East-West pattern. Have a look at road maps of Nebraska and eastern Wyoming for a "for instance". Besides, if you really want to see America, you'll need a taste of non-interstate open roads, anyway. If you possibly can, resist the urge to use cartop racks or cubes or bags to carry gear. They really catch the wind and will affect your fuel mileage, especially at higher speeds. If you're traveling solo, you can likely avoid using one. If you need external gear stowage, consider the trailer hitch mounted horizontal racks first, before mounting a "sail" atop the vehicle.

    Camping/car sleeping: Surely the way to go in terms of minimizing costs. Start looking into comprehensive campground guidebooks of the kind which Woodall's is a venerable staple. They'll give you listings of locations, facilities, nightly rental rates, phone numbers, etc. You'll find that most campgrounds, even the close-to-the Interstate commercial variety, offer a few tent spaces. You'll also likely be surprised at the cost of a night's stay at commercial campgrounds which are close to tourist attractions and Interstates. It's not cheap. For that reason, the aforementioned "side road" routing and seeking State and County parks, State Forest, National Forest, and other government campgrounds can cut your average overnight costs. In many National Forests, camping is allowed in most any place you can pull your vehicle clear of the roadway, for no cost at all.

    Gear: A good quality tent which has a good rainfly and can be thoroughly staked down to resist storm winds will pay dividends for at least a handful of nights of your trip. There is little less pleasant than getting up at 3am to your wet tent in your face and all of your gear soaked. Most of the dome-style tents are very simple to erect and take down--mere minutes. Consider getting a "4 man" tent, especially if there will be two individuals on the trip. Even solo, I'd get a 4 man just for additional room for a nice air mattress, pillow, a lamp, dry clothes, etc. I lived in a "2 man" backpacking tent for about 2 months while I did field work back in the day, and I swear that thing shrunk so much I could barely get in and out of it by the 8th week, or so it seemed. You'll also want a full range of cooking gear and a tidy way to store it in a "galley box" of some sort. I'd also recommend a stowable folding table (where some campsites will not have a picnic table available) and a folding chair. A lantern which operates on 1lb propane bottles is a good investment, as is a variety of battery-powered flashlights/utility lights. A headlamp is invaluable for early morning or late evening close-in chores.

    Routing: As noted above, you've got some reasons to consider parallel travel, and if seeing the country is a main mission, you surely want to return via a generally different route than the one you take out west. While I-80 transits the Rockies within sight of some impressive mountains, particularly in the Great Basin and the Sierras, it's pretty tame until you get to western Utah and cut through the Wasatch Range. I'd look at a return trip including I-70 from central/western Utah and transiting the entire width of Colorado on I-70. The scenery in the Rockies along I-70 in CO is stunning. Travelling on I-70 will also take you through St Louis, and even if not a sightseer, taking the ride up the Gateway Arch is a must-do.

    Have fun planning and dreaming, as for many of us, that's a big part of the fun of Road Tripping.

    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 06-15-2008 at 08:22 AM. Reason: added link to the fuel cost calculator

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