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  1. Default Washington DC -> Mountain View CA road trip in late Nov 2010


    We will be relocating across country for job in late Nov 2010 and now are in need of urgent advice here on the route(s) we should take / sightseeing activities we could do for the trip we will be taking from Washington DC -> Mountain View CA.

    We will be traveling in a honda civic sedan, probably filled with some stuff with the bulk of the rest already shipped in boxes prior -- so no truck or trailer or anything like that.

    Google map provides the "default route" (I-80 W) which we intend to make deviations from it. Much as we would like to visit Yellowstone/Mt Rushmore etc., we are likely not going to try driving anywhere northwards beyond Salt Lake City/Denver because many people seem to advice against it for a winter roadtrip (?). So we are probably leaning towards visiting sites that are more "conducive" during winter: UT/CO/NM/AZ/NV/CA or even TX

    Since we will be having 2-2.5 weeks to make the trek across, we want to know what is there to see / best places to stop along the way. We are interested in pretty much anything: city, old relic towns, nature/landscape/national park, architecture, good food, mountains/lakes, skiing, hiking etc.

    Some questions:

    1) Can anyone tell me anything interesting to see / stop between DC and CO? I have been to Chicago numerous times so dont intend drive towards there and stop there. The only thing I can think of is the St Louis arch in MO, but please enlighten me here as it's a long drive between these two points!
    (Note: I havent been to any Southern states except for FL and NC, so let me know if we should consider venturing South-wards to places like TN, OK, TX, etc or will that be too far off the main cross-country route)

    2) As for CO/UT/AZ/NV, the places I can think of to visit are the following:

    Denver, CO
    Rocky Mountain National Park, CO (north of Denver)
    Garden of the Gods, CO (south of Denver, nearer to Colorado Springs)
    Salt Lake City, UT
    Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT (south of Salt Lake City, on the way to Las Vegas)
    Arches National Park, UT (between Denver and Central Utah)
    Bryce Canyon, UT (south of Utah, on the way to Las Vegas)
    Zion National Park, UT (south of Utah, on the way to Las Vegas)
    Hoover Dam, AZ
    Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
    Flagstaff & Sedona, AZ
    Death Valley National Park, NV
    Las Vegas, NV

    Please let me know anything below that I could afford to miss, or anything I didnt mentioned which you think we should visit instead!
    Please suggest good skiing places too (1 or 2 in UT or CO should be sufficient).
    Is there any Native American reservation area I could visit in AZ too?

    3) I heard NM is worth a visit too. For now, I know Great Sand Dunes Nat'l Park & Mesa Verde is a must-go. Anything else?

    4) What's the best route (highway #), in driving order from Washington DC, should we take for best efficiency?

    5) I think I might need to use Route 66 for part of the journey -- I heard it's not a highway but it's a two-lane (per way) traffic with many trucks plying about? Please advice.

    Many thanks ahead!!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Mix It Up a Bit

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    With 2½ weeks for your cross country trip, you can pretty much go anywhere, but not everywhere. Some basic choices will have to be made. Some are easy - You can basically cross Yellowstone, Glacier and many of the other far northern National Parks off your prospective list since they will be closed or only offering minimal services. Heading into the deep South will simply add miles without gaining you much in available sights to see. There are different sights there, to be sure, but not qualitatively or quantitatively better ones. so you're generally better off using your time to visit locations through the midsection of the country at a bit more leisurely pace.

    For a good mix of landscapes, you might want to look at a route that goes generally west to St. Louis, then southwest to Oklahoma City, west again to southern California, and then up through the Central Valley or along the coast to the Bay Area. Along that route some of the highlights would be Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Mammoth Cave National Park, The Museum of Western Expansion in St. Louis (beneath the Arch), the Oklahoma City Memorial, Cadillac Ranch, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and Death Valley. Weather permitting you could take a modest loop from central New Mexico up through Taos (the Taos Pueblo offers guided tours) and across southern Colorado to Mesa Verde National Park to Monument Valley Navajo Park and back down into Arizona for the Grand Canyon. You could then do Bryce and or Zion out of Las Vegas.


  3. Default Best USA map for cross-country roadtrip from East to West Coast

    Hi , wonder if anyone knows of any excellent USA map that I can get (for free, or purchase) that will assist me in planning cross-country roadtrip before and during the trip itself?

    of course internet is always available and we plan to get mobile web before starting the trip (for contingency cases), but it's always nice to have something in paper where you can see everything all at once -- the routes, the cities, the attraction sites, national parks etc.

    i know AAA gives out maps for free to members (which i plan to get), but i think their maps are state-by-state...

    thank you!
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 11-14-2010 at 06:33 PM. Reason: merged - please don't create multiple threads about the same trip

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


    I'm a fan of the basic Rand McNally atlas that you can pick up at your favorite big box store for about $5, however RTA has a whole page of map recommendations that you can also check out.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    The current Rand McNally is now $6.97 at Walmart.

    You shouldn't need mobile web - wifi should be good enough.

  6. Default

    Thanks for all the info so far -- and thanks for merging threads -- sorry for the trouble i will confine all my questions to this thread only.

    I am now debating between the 2011 Rand McNally (#1 on this link and American Map 2009 (#8 on same link)

    Anyone with experience with both can tell me which is better? I can only see the inside of American Map 2009 but cannot see it for Rand McNally.

    Also, what's the difference in the "large-scale" version? what does it mean?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Large scale is generally exactly what it sounds like - maps blown up to a larger size. Sometimes the large scales will also be laminated, which is nice if you plan to use it for a while.

    As far as the differences between the two, its more going to be personal preference among slight differences than anything else.

    If you do go with American Map, there is a 2011 update available. You might just have to search amazon to find the newest version.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Comparing Maps

    There are really only two things I look for in a map: the amount of detail it offers and the ease of reading it. I looked at the map of Alabama from the American Map that was available for viewing on line and compared it with my own large scale version of the Rand McNally atlas, and they both showed exactly the same roads, rivers, towns, etc. One thing I appreciate about my RM and that the American Map atlas also offers is that they are spiral bound so that they lay flat no matter which page you turn them to. That's a plus for ease of reading. The same can be said of 'large scale' which simply means that a map devotes more square inches of paper to the same geographic area. Even if they don't fill those inches with more detail, it makes for an easier read. Rand McNally is something of the standard in road atlases, but if you can get the American map in the same page size with the spiral binding, then that is an equally viable option.


  9. Default

    Thanks bunches to Midwest Michael and AZBuck,

    so am I right in saying that Rand McNally atlas (if you choose the standard, and not large scale version) will not have the adjacent pages flatly laid out when you open the book? Because I notice Rand McNally atlas is not spiral-bound, but all American Map atlas I have seen so far seem to be spiral bound. But if RM is stapled-bound, then I think you will still see everything you want easily without needing to press the 'stem' of the book?

    It looks like in many or most cases, AM appear to be more expensive than RM, based on online prices. Not sure why. Because of cost, it looks like I am leaning towards RM.

    Do I really need the large-scale?
    I mean, does the large-scale version actually provides more detail 90% of the time (eg. more minor roads that are actually not in-print in the standard version) or is the large-scale primarily meant for better visualization?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Spiral bound is nice, but its not essential. I'd recommend you head out to a bookstore or big box store and simply take a look at the Rand McNally atlas and see if you think it will work for you. I've had several of them, and my only "problem" with them is that I use them enough that they get pretty beat up after a year or two and need to be replaced. I've also got a spiral bound version or two, and they are nice, but if you only need it for one trip, I doubt you'll have a problem.

    I wouldn't worry specifically about large print, but I would avoid the smaller medium or compact sized ones - at least I don't like them much. The regular sized one is a going to be about the size of a sheet of legal paper and that's always been fine for me.

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