First post so be nice. I have spent a lot of time the last few months scanning this site and coming across some incredibly useful and inspiring information and stories that have allowed me to solidify the confidence to embark on a nine week, solo road trip across the western United States. I am 21 years old and fresh out of college and will be pinching pennies as tight as possible. I plan on hiking/backwoods camping in national parks and national forests along the way, staying a couple nights at hostels in the below-mentioned cities, and staying with relatives/friends in a couple of places.
My general route plan:
Start in Kansas City – Denver – Boulder – Rocky Mountain National Park – Steamboat Springs - Grand Teton – Yellowstone – Glacier – North Cascades – Seattle – Mount Rainier - Portland – Redwood – San Francisco – Lake Tahoe - Yosemite – Los Angeles – Phoenix – Grand Canyon – End in Austin
I basically have from August 1st when I can leave Kansas City until around October 5-7 when I need to be in Austin for a concert and would ideally like to hit all of these places but realize that sacrifices will be necessary along the way. I have made all types of hypothetical schedules, but I am still in the process of deciding how long I want to be at each place and other important factors (i.e. budget and familial constraints). Moreover, my personality tends to place me more on the "let things unfold as they will" side of the spectrum but with my lack of experience in this type of venture, a solid plan will be extremely helpful and with regard to my parents somewhat of a necessity. When I think about the 60+ nights that I will need to sleep somewhere, backwoods camping at the national parks as well as camping at national forest campgrounds along the way will hopefully account for a big chunk of those nights. Also, I will likely have places to stay in Boulder, Steamboat Springs, Lake Tahoe, Los Angeles, and Phoenix for a couple of nights with family and friends. In Seattle, Portland and San Francisco, I will probably need to find some hostels to make base at while I explore those towns for a few days.
Questions/ Areas of Needed Advice:
1. Do you think that this is doable given my time frame of just over two months? Would I have a more enjoyable trip if I cut back on the number of parks/cities I am planning on visiting and spending more time at fewer places? Im sure that I am underestimating the amount of driving days that will require me to get from park to park, city to city, so advice on the best ways to account for the distances between these locales, the best way to plan for each driving day (400-500 miles per day of driving seems to be a rule 0f thumb), and finding places to stop for the night would be incredibly helpful.
2. For a trip like this does it make more sense to stick to major highways/interstates since I will be spending a lot of time in nature anyways, or should I try to find more scenic byways? Obviously, I want as scenic a route as possible, but time and safety are also primary concerns. For example, once I am through Portland I would like to try and drive along the coast as much as possible but still want to hit up Yosemite and Tahoe without missing out on the splendor of Big Sur on my way down to LA (something to keep in mind I guess). In terms of route-planning, is google maps and the directions that they provide a safe-bet or will I be better off using a simple road atlas (right now I am planning on printing out google maps directions but also keeping some "actual" maps and road atlases on hand)?
3. My dad is helping to pay for this trip as a sort of graduation gift, so I have been working on trying to come up with a pretty detailed budget (definitely not a strong-suit of mine). Any suggestions on the best way to come up with the costs of gas, food and lodging that I will come across, so that I know precisely how much money I will need to sustain me through the trip. Obviously prices will vary, but if you haven't already noticed I would like to aim for the cheapest possible way to maximize the number of places on my list that I can visit. Will already have tent, sleeping bag, national parks pass and other equipment, but could use advice on the daily costs that I will encounter once I actually hit the road.
4. Any specific advice for solo-roadtripers would also be appreciated. I am pretty sure that I have read all of the articles on here about solo roadtrips as well as a great deal of the threads related to this, but suggestions/advice on things I might have overlooked or some of the biggest challenges that a first-timer like me might encounter would surely go a long way.
Thanks in advance for your response, and I am really excited to hear what you guys have to say.