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  1. Default So. Cal -> Denver -> Madison, Need Advice!

    Hi Everyone,

    My friend and I are taking a road trip from Orange County, CA to Madison, WI (one way) during the last week of May. I'm moving with a lot of stuff in my trunk and in the back seats (2003 Corolla LE). I'm very excited about moving & taking a road trip but since this is my first time doing it and the fact we are females, I thought coming to this forum is the smart thing to do. =)

    We have 4 days for completing the trip, and would be driving around 500 miles a day (maximum). We would like to drive on a route to pass Denver, CO in order to see a friend. I have a couple of questions and would really appreciate any advice.

    1) The fastest route seems to be via Utah, Colorado and Nebraska (I-15, I-70 and I-80). I'm only concerned about driving the Rocky Mt. area with fully loaded compact sedan. Any other suggested route? I'd like to avoid any possible problems and just need stop by Denver, CO.

    2) What is a good point to break between LA and Denver?

    3) What is a good point to break between Denver and Madison? Lincoln or Omaha or somewhere else?

    4) It may sound like a silly question, do you think is it wise book a hotel before the trip or set a daily limit of driving and get a hotel around the area? (Do research of the area, have a list of hotels beforehand) I'm bit concerned "what if" something happens and can't reach our booked hotels.

    4) Any advice for first-time drivers?

    Thanks very much for your advice in advance and I hope I didn't miss anything. =)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    1. Your most direct route would be I-15/I-70/I-76/I-80/I-380/US-151. Yes, I-70 goes through the mountains, but grades on Interstate highways are limited to 6% and curve radius is designed for big trucks. You shouldn't have a problem as long as you drive sensibly. It's not worth detouring, you would have to add another day to your trip and miss Denver.
    2. Your best bet for your first night would be Richfield UT.
    3. For the 3rd night, either Lincoln or Omaha is fine.
    4. I don't see a need to book - Richfield has several affordable hotels and Lincoln/Omaha has tons. Use the pre-exit signs to your advantage if you have a preferred hotel chain. Richfield has a Super 8, Days Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Travelodge, Quality Inn, Rodeway Inn, and a Best Western. Use to research hotels and rates, and to research theirs as they don't list on I would not stay in a downtown hotel - stay out by the Interstate exits, easier in/out and generally cheaper (and often safer).
    5. Plan your fuel stops. There is a 100 mile stretch of I-70 in Utah with no services (from Salina to Green River), for example. Switch off drivers at every rest stop.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Very Little Wiggle Room

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    You have 4 days to drive almost exactly 2000 miles and want to drive no more than 500 miles a day. That means your route and stops are pretty much predetermined. You're just lucky that Denver is pretty nearly at the halfway point! Your first night's stop would then be as near to the Junction of I-15 and I-70 in Utah as you can find a suitable motel. Your options will likely be limited to whatever exit ramp motels there are. The largest nearby town is Beaver, UT. Between Denver and Madison you'll want to stop somewhere in the vicinity of Lincoln-Omaha, NE.

    500 miles is not an excessive amount of driving, and particularly at your Utah stop I'd be more worried about not finding a room in a rather sparsely populated area of the country than not being able to reach my destination. I think you should at least have a look on the web at what's available in that area, and if you have a hard time finding several suitable motel options, go ahead and book whatever you do find. The only other place you need a motel, eastern Nebraska, will have tons of options in the 50 mile stretch between Lincoln and Omaha and so should not present a problem.

    Interstates are built with a maximum grade of 6% so you shouldn't have any real problems crossing the mountains even with a fully loaded car. The other thing you should keep in mind as a new RoadTripper is to take plenty of short breaks every 2-3 hours as you drive. Just get out of the car for a short walk through a park of small town, work some muscles, get some fresh air, and think about something besides the road directly in front of your windshield.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    The route you've selected is your best choice, and you should have no problem crossing the Rockies on I-70 as long as your car is in good mechanical shape - which means you should have a professional give your car a good inspection before you leave.

    The nice thing about your trip is that it does break up nicely into Four 500 mile segments. Beaver Utah and Lincoln NE would be about perfect stopping destinations. Since things work out so nicely, I'd probably look at prebooking rooms if you're more comfortable knowing that you've got a place already picked out to stop at. However, if you decided to wing it, I would not expect that you would have any problems finding a room at all, even if you don't have reservations.

    BTW, I don't know how you're planning to get from I-80 to Madison, but I'd recommend taking I-380 from Iowa City to Cedar Rapids, then take US-151, which is 4 lanes almost the entire way from Cedar Rapids to Madison.

  5. Default Thank you for your great advice!

    Thanks so much glc, AZbuck and Midwest Michael for your great advice and sharing wisdom! =)

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