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  1. Default Advice for Seattle to Atlanta by way of Pacific Coast for early Dec.

    Hello RTA forum!

    Thanks for this fantastic resource!

    I am moving from Seattle to Atlanta on Dec 1, and considering a long drive from Seattle to Atlanta going down the west coast. Here is my very tentative plan, which I would very much appreciate your advice on: I'd depart Dec 1 and plan to arrive in Atlanta Dec 12. My current route takes me I-5 south to Portland, then turn west to drive along as much of 101 as is feasible, hit San Francisco, more coastal driving along Hwy 1 to Santa Barbara and into LA. Then I head east to Phoenix to visit a friend, turn northward to see Flagstaff and then I-40 through Albuquerque, all the way to Memphis, then I-22/Hwy 78 to Birmingham, I-20 to Atlanta.

    Basically, I'm neither wandering along leisurely for this trip, nor am I trying to make the fastest time. I'm trying to see if it's realistic to plan an 11 day trip that's a mix of efficient driving with a few stops to enjoy some highlights.

    Here are my main questions:

    - Overall, how much time would you allot to this drive, and is 10-11 days feasible? How would you break up your time along this route? I'd like to do some sightseeing (not any city touring, just a few key stops / sights, especially along the Pacific coast and SW portion). Right now, I have a "most scenic" route (hugging 101 in OR and CA and Hwy 1 in CA), and Google Maps gives me 3600 miles. That comes to about 350 miles a day, and I figure I would do some heavier days of 500 miles to allow some time for sights and stops. I also realize that my off-interstate coastal driving will be much slower going. However, you all are far more experienced so any insight is welcome.

    - How much is weather a concern in the first couple weeks of Dec, and where? I know that much of the coastal highway along the Pacific is on high cliffs and bluffs, but I don't know much about the climate along the coast -- if snow is a concern there and when. I also understand that there is some high altitude driving around Albuquerque but also don't have a sense of when and where snow starts to be a concern.

    - What stretches of the coastal drive from Oregon to southern CA would you consider "essential?" I am guessing that the biggest place I could save time is to cut out some of the coastal driving and head back to I-5. However, I don't want to miss highlights on that route. Also, again, I'm not sure about the climate along that route, so if there are sections that are very likely to be rainy in early Dec, I don't want to waste time not seeing anything on a slower, more dangerous road.

    - By the same token, what are your favorite don't-miss sights between Phoenix and Atlanta? I know a lot of old 66 can be on this route and I hear the area around Sedona and Flagstaff are gorgeous. Is my I-40 route a good choice for traversing the southern US?


    Thanks in advance.
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 10-10-2010 at 11:45 AM. Reason: Map display

  2. Default

    I would definitely recommend NOT driving along 101 in the winter. I've driven that stretch twice--albeit once in March and the other in September...but both times it was cold and rainy and made for a painfully slow and irritating drive. I'm from Seattle and think that the Chuckanut Drive route is akin to Hwy 101 but prettier and thankfully shorter. If you want to drive 30-35 mph for HOURS on slick, curvy roads where people freak out and slow down to 25, then go for it. However, I think you'd be much happier opting for a better start to your road trip. If the rest of 101 is anything like the Washington parts, road washouts due to rain or downed trees along the road could add precious time if you have to route yourself back out to I-5.

    I actually didn't finish going north on 101 through Oregon because the California portion took longer than I'd planned for. If anything, the prettiest parts of 101 are north of Portland, in places like Canon Beach (and my generational favorite--the Goonies house in Astoria).

    For the California portion, I did the stretch between the Redwoods and south to LA. I didn't find the Redwoods to be anything spectacular since I wasn't able to hike through them (they were just really tall trees) and I even drove through one (you'll see signs for it). If anything, pick up 101 so that you can go through Carmel/Monterey Bay (the Monterey Bay Aquarium), San Francisco, Solvang (for a tacky spot to stretch your legs or if you were a fan of Sideways), and Santa Barbara (beautiful--don't miss it). Santa Cruz is overrated and if you're planning on going that far, I'd skip it and cut east.

    I'll be doing the same I-40 trek in early November when I move and can post more afterwards. However, if you've never been to Santa Fe or Bandalier National Park, I highly suggest it. Also, Acoma Pueblo was interesting but you have to pay since it's on tribal land. I wasn't interested in Southwest culture but now like learning about it. I think Santa Fe is about an hour north of Albuquerque and Bandalier is about a 45 north of that (don't quote me on that though). A really fun, short hike is at Kasha-Katuwe...I did it by myself on my way back south to Albuquerque and it was fun because you walk among these odd-shaped rocks.

    Good luck and hope that helps a little. Spend more time in the Southwest (I've heard Sedona is really nice, too, but that'll be on another adventure) instead of trekking all the way down Hwy 101. 101 might be nice in the summer/early fall, but it wasn't anything that Washington doesn't already offer.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Well Paced

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    I think you've got a very good general plan in place that will let you do exactly what you've set out to do, namely have travel days that are a mix of serious driving and a few well placed mental and physical health breaks. Such a mix of driving and sight-seeing can be kept up for days on end without getting overly tiring or boring. I'd encourage you to get out a good atlas of the US and have a look at what sites are near your proposed travel route. Here are some examples, but there are certainly others that may appeal to you more.

    As far as weather goes, there's nothing you can do at this point other than to build in a 'weather delay' day to your schedule and plan on just staying put in the event of any untoward weather to give the road crews time to clear the road for you. Remember that the Interstates are the arteries of the American economy and they will be kept open and safe if at all possible. To insure keeping you're 'spare' day in hand, you might want to plan to get to Los Angeles in no more than four days. Then you'll have seven left to get to Atlanta: 5 for the actual driving, one to visit your friend in Phoenix, and one in reserve. If you have to spend your spare day before Phoenix, so be it. And once you drop off the Llano Estacio in west Texas and have forecasts for good driving the rest of the way, you can use that day for some extended sight-seeing in the Southeast.


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