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  1. Default Chicago to Bend OR, alone: most scenic route?

    Hi all!

    I'm driving alone from Chicago to Portland/Bend OR between May 10 and 19. I've consulted Road Trip USA extensively, and the other posts here about Chi>portland, but haven't been able to map out a tight, realistic itinerary. I'm a photographer, so my primary aim is to get to the scenic places and take pictures. I have been down Hwy 1 on the pacific coast, but I haven't seen the west--none of the land between the ocean and Chicago! Forgive me, I'm only 23.

    I've been advised to haul it on interstates through the Midwest more or less until I hit the Rockies, and then take my time on scenic and two-lane highways. I'm not sure whether to take a more northern route (first stop: Sioux City), go through the badlands, and detour all the way up to Missoula, or to stay pretty level (first stop: Omaha) and go through Colorado--on the US scenic highway map it's FILLED with stars!--and then straight up.

    I suppose I'm looking for the best compromise between speed--in the blah parts--and scenic, in the scenic parts. Can anyone help me pull this together?


    Last edited by AZBuck; 05-03-2009 at 09:12 PM. Reason: Sorry, this forum may not be used for self-promotion

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default hows your eye

    Welcome back to the RTA Forum!

    Well, you certainly can speed through the midwest, although you'll certainly be speeding by a lot of potential great photo spots. I'll put it to you this way, anyone can go to someplace like the California Coast and take tons of great pictures because the area speaks for itself. The midwest and plains are certainly more subdued, and it takes a little more work to find the great shot, but the available shots are certainly there. I'd think as a photographer, you'd embrace that challenge, but thats getting a bit off track.

    A big question here, are you going to be making this a round trip? If its a round trip, then I think it would be easy to go the more northern route through the Badlands, Black Hills, and Yellowstone one direction, and head back through the deserts and mountains of Utah and Colorado. Of course, if you only have 10 days for this both ways, you're pretty much going to have to race through everything, as you're going to need about 4 full days each way just to make the drive at a quick pace, and going down through Colorado is going to add even more miles to that pace, not leaving much time to look for good photo ops.

    If its only one way, I'd probably opt for the northern more route since it would be shorter and more direct. You'd have plenty of time for photos either way on a one way trip, but I think you'd enjoy the chance to savor the areas and really get the shots you are looking for.

  3. Default

    Hey Michael,

    Nono, I'm totally aware of how cool the plains can be and expect to make pictures there!--look on my website and I've already made a number of midwestern panoramas. I think panoramas are the coolest way to depict it's pancake flatness or the udulations of the land. I'm speeding through it because to a certain extent I've seen it all before, and it's rare that I'll be around scenic mountainous country, so I want to focus on that while I have the chance.

    It's a one way trip. I'm flying back home from Portland to Chicago; my little sister got a job out west and I'm driving her car and possessions out there for her.

    Really, the crux of my dilemma is what to do when out west--through WY, MT, ID, and OR, that is somewhat "comprehensive" for my purposes but also relatively "efficient." I will probably just end up using my instincts and winging it based on all the research I do beforehand. I'll be travelling with Road Trip USA, a GPS, and the official (free) guide to the scenic byways, so I don't think I can go too wrong. I guess this is all just part of my prelim-research.

    Anyone else want to weigh in?

    Last edited by AZBuck; 05-05-2009 at 11:18 AM. Reason: Again: Tthis forum may not be used for self-promotion

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Why efficient?

    You have nine days for a trip that takes about four days to drive at a fairly leisurely pace of 500 miles/day. This means that you have roughly five days worth of time to explore, meander, etc. You're not on a speed run. I think I would just meander wherever the roads take me as long as I'm going in the right general direction. I think you could easily mix it up and do interstates when you feel like burning miles, and then taking interesting looking 2-lane roads when they appeal to you.

    If you have already spent some time exploring areas closer to your home then, by all means, I would agree with doing a bit of a speed run through those areas until you get to new ground for you. Then slow down and meander, find that great photo opp, wait for the perfect light, and have at it.

    In addition to your GPS, book and scenic byway guide, get a good roadmap. Since it sounds like meandering off the beaten path is part of the plan, I think I'd get individual fold-out maps of the different states as they have more detail than maps in an atlas.

    Anyway, I would like to help you but I guess I'm confused about what you're asking.

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