I've always wanted to just jump in a car and go, and next month, that's exactly what I plan to do. This will be my first big road trip, the one I've always dreamed of taking - I'm going across the U.S. from home in the New York metropolitan area to San Francisco traveling through the southwest and part of the midwest. My destinations mostly lie in Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. I'm excited and intimidated all at once.
Being a woman who has lived in the city my whole life, I've always wanted to make an escape and go on my own adventure - a cross-country road trip. This is the only thing on my list of what I want to do before turning 30 (which is right around the corner). I'm a dreamer with an independent spirit, but I've never gotten to put that independence into practice, and I know that taking this trip will be the experience of a lifetime. I'm going to be visiting friends along the way (fortunately, I'll be able to stay with some), and I'll have plenty of time to explore because I'll have a few months before I need to be home, but I will be in touch with someone at home the whole way.
While I'd love to have a traveling companion, I will be going it solo. I prefer doing this on my own anyway. Though I constantly battle indecision, I prefer being able to make decisions myself.
As past experiences go: In my early 20s, I drove once to Florida with a friend, and that was supposed to be my big cross-country trip, but complications arose, and we only made it along the east coast and came right back home. Then, a few years ago, I traveled across the southwest from San Antonio to San Diego by bus. Then, I took my current car from New Jersey to Washington D.C. this year, again traveling with a friend, and I was pleased with how it handled and its highway gas mileage. I also love long driving trips. My family used to take them along the east coast all the time throughout my childhood and teens, and I loved it.
I feel like I've been building to this for so long, and now as the time approaches - I'll be leaving late next month - and though I've done research and reading, I'm getting very nervous and I'm trying not to let it shake me. My normal amount of caution, living in a city, should serve me well along the way, but it's still my first solo trek into areas I'm largely unfamiliar with. Finding this forum was a huge relief in and of itself.
First, let me address some usual points. I invested in a GPS, a new phone, an iPod, and an aircard (not sure how useful that will be, but it may come in handy), and I have car chargers for most of these devices. I have a 1999 minivan that will be getting a tune-up from a mechanic before I leave, and I will be purchasing a road kit and cooler for the journey. I'm planning to get a case of bottled water and low-sodium, low-sugar snacks. I'm also a member of AAA.
So here are some concerns and questions that I'm hoping the knowledgeable travelers here will be able to discuss with this novice:
One of my hopes for this trip is to drive Route 66 - at least a significant part of it. I'm wondering if anyone can recommend one of the books on the market for following Historic Route 66, since I know the road is now a broken trail and renamed, and the only books I've been able to find in stores are retrospectives or don't offer clear guidance through the modern course of it.
Another issue is that I plan to stick mainly to interstates and state highways or roads for much of the journey - I have a good road atlas book, and I'm not looking to deviate much, if at all, from roads that appear on the maps. As an aficionado of Old West history, I plan on seeing things like Billy the Kid's grave and Boot Hill in Dodge City. I also want to see Death Valley and the Grand Canyon, though I'm not much for the wilderness (while I love nature, I rarely venture deep into it, because I know enough to know that I don't know enough), so I will not be hiking or wandering too far from main roads or those that run through these vast national parks.
I'm aware that these things are much more isolated than other areas I will be in and the type of environment I'm used to, but how frequented are the roads that lead to and from these spots? Are they among the most isolated, or are they relatively not too far removed from towns and people?
My concerns of course are breakdowns and being unable to reach someone in case of an emergency. In such a situation, I certainly would heed all of the advice given here and at every other site about staying with the car. But the question that always comes to mind when I read that warning is what if no one is driving by even after two days and there is no cellular signal to call for help? How likely are situations like this?
For all the talk and worry, I understand the need to prepare for a variety of bad scenarios - "Except the worst; hope for the best" - but is this stuff that common? There's such an impression of paranoia out there, and I want to be smart and safe, but it's kind of unsettling to hear at every turn that I have to prepare for the inevitability of road trip apocalypse or something, you know? I'm not trying to make light, I'm merely seeking advice about a mounting concern. I'm just looking for honest input, because I don't want a fear for my survival to overshadow the joy of finally taking this trip.
Finally, the weather. I'm taking to the midwest first, so I'll be there in early October, and then I'll be traveling up the California coast from San Diego to San Francisco come mid- to late- October, and in November, I'll probably be making my way back through the southwest. I know the weather in that part of the country can be very warm to hot in the day and very cool to cold at night, and I will be keeping an eye on the weather as I travel, but are there any specific conditions that might affect my trip that might not be that apparent?
Any advice, thoughts, input or questions on anything concerning this trip I'm taking would be welcome and greatly appreciated!