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  1. #1

    Default Deep South Road Trip, How to Return to California June 2018

    I am planning a road trip from the San Francisco Bay Area (home) to the Deep South leaving in early June of 2018 with my two kids who will be 9 (son) and 15 (daughter) at the time. My hubby will be staying home for most of the trip to work and because road trips are really not his thing. I'm having a challenging time trying to figure out our return trip to California. I would like to see something different and take an alternate route. I would love some fellow road tripper's sage advice, tips, cautions, anything :). Here is what I currently have:

    Day 1: Bay Area to Barstow
    Day 2: Barstow to GrandCanyon Np (camping)
    Day 3: Grand Canyon NP (camping)
    Day 4: Grand Canyon to Amarillo, TX
    Day 5: Amarillo to Waco, TX
    Day 6: Waco (my daughter really wants to visit Magnolia Market)
    Day 7: Waco to Natchez, MS
    Day 8: Natchez
    Day 9: Natchez to Seaside, FL (camping at a state park nearby)
    Day 10: Seaside (camping at a state park)
    Day 11: Seaside (camping camping at a state park)
    Day 12: Seaside to Savannah, GA
    Day 13: Savannah
    Day 14: Savannah
    Day 15: Savannah to Chattanooga, TN (camping)
    Day 16: Chattanooga to Nashville, TN (husband flies in)
    Day 17: Nashville
    Day 18: Nashville
    Day 19: Nashville to Lexington, KY (husband and daughter fly home)
    Day 20: Lexington, KY
    Day 21: begin the journey home
    So here is my conundrum, do I travel north through Missouri, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada? Or do I travel back through the Southwest? Or should I take US 50 home? I would like to get home in seven to eight days, see some "pretty stuff" along the way, visit some locations in our national park system, have my son see parts of the country he has never seen, and not die of heat. Ideally I would prefer to not drive more than six or seven hours each day. I am a tree lover and we typically camp or travel where it's heavily wooded. So the thought of visiting the Southwest leaves me kind of meh. But since I have never been there I want to give it a chance. After driving through Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah I have come to the conclusion that I am not a fan of the high desert. So I not sure a return trip through the Southwest is the ideal option for me. Plus I worry about heat as we get closer to July on our way home. US 50 certainly has some appeal due to the fabulous things I have read about it. Definitely something different. But am I trying to squeeze too much into the return trip home? Should that be a different trip? We are road trippers, but have not driven cross country before (I did when I was 19, but did not do the actual driving). We are campers and have lodged in everything (tents, trailers, teepee on an Indian reservation, treehouse, you name it lol). All I ask for is running water. Not much intimidates me; we just want to be a safe areas since I will be a woman traveling alone with her kids. Thanks is advance for any insight or suggestions. It is greatly appreciated.

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

    Default a middle ground

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I'm always a fan of taking two different routes on a roadtrip whenever possible, plus going back to the Southwest would be a pretty substantial detour if you're heading back to the Bay Area from Lexington. (BTW, I'd think it might be significantly cheaper to fly home from Cincinnati or even Louisville) So I don't think there is any reason to retrace your steps through the Southwest.

    However, that doesn't mean you have to go up to Nebraska and Wyoming either. The US-50 idea would work well, especially if you combine it with I-70 across Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, and Utah. There are lots of parks and camping opportunity. Driving 6-7 hours a day, it will take you about 6 days to get back home at that pace, so you've got time to make the drive and make several interesting stops along the way. When you ask if it should be a "different trip," I'd say you won't have time to make this a big, comprehensive tour of the areas you'll be driving through, but it should be an enjoyable overview, and could wet your appetite for making another trip back to this part of the country in the future.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default More on the 'Middle Ground'

    I wholeheartedly agree with Michael's recommendation to follow US-50 (more or less) back to the Bay Area, and so I'd like to offer a few more enticements in the form of places worth seeing on such a drive. Across southern Illinois, there are a number of sites associated with Abraham Lincoln. Then in St. Louis there's the Zoo, Grant's Farm, the Museum of Westward Expansion (under the Arch, both of them are due to re-open in the spring of this year), and a transportation museum - all of which will interest (and teach) your children. You can then head up river to Hannibal and all the sites associated with Mark Twain; cross Missouri on US-36 to St. Joseph, the starting point of the Pony Express; and then head up to Lincoln NE and US-30 which follows the route of the old Oregon Trail. Outside Boulder CO there's Rocky Mountain National Park, from which US-40 will take you to Dinosaur National Monument and on to the Great Salt Lake. Finally, I-80 will get you home with a possible final exploration of Virginia City NV or the Lake Tahoe area.


  4. #4


    Thank you so much for your advice! I was really beginning to feel like I was trying to reinvent the wheel with our trip home. I'm not sure why I was putting so much pressure on myself lol! I will be mapping our trip home along your advised route's and looking into the additional sites AZBuck recommended. Abraham Lincoln sites would be a notable hit with my son. Ever since studying him in school and our trip to DC he has been very intrigued. I just purchased Rinker Buck's novel The Oregon Trail so taking a look at that would be fun. Midwest Michael, you hit the nail on the head for me! I was wondering if it would be better to alternate between 70 and 50 for the sake of time. I think I may do that, especially through the states you mentioned. I like to reserve lodging in advance so I never get myself stuck where I am too tired to drive and everything is full. So I will check out the state parks along the way and make reservations.
    Thank you again so very much! This is the largest trip I have planned to date. What a pleasant surprise it was to find this site a few days ago! I have been reading forums and digesting lots of information. Grateful to find this resource and sharing community.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Lincoln in Kentucky

    If your son is interested in Lincoln then Kentucky is the place to investigate his early life. My wife and I are planning a trip to Kentucky later this year and I plan to see a number of sites there myself including his parents' homes, his birthplace, and (if it's ready) his early home.


  6. #6


    All look like great options. The birthplace also gives my son another stamp in his national park passport and the option to earn a Jr. Ranger badge, which always is a hit. We were thinking of visiting his boyhood home in Lincoln City, IN. I'm feeling like we need to stay an extra night in Kentucky. On our way up to Lexington from Nashville we will explore Mammoth Caves NP. Lincoln's birthplace seems like it would be a logical next stop before we hit Lexington. In Lexington I want to explore and soak in the area/culture. The horse farms and rolling green hills sound like heaven. I found a horse farm that would be a fun lodging option. I feel like this is a lot to squeeze into the narrow window of time we have here. Do you agree AZBuck? My son has tons of energy (and I mean TONS), but when he hits a wall all bets are off and it can quickly go downhill. Not fun lol!

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