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  1. Default Driving from California (SF), Ca. to Texas (McAllen)

    Hello,

    I REALLY need some help here. As part of a rite of passage thing with my daughter (age 14), we are driving from SF all the way to McAllen, Tx. We are in not much of a hurry (we have about a week) and I want to make a trip to remember! The problem is that I've never done it and I am not from the US (so my knowledge of US geography is work in progress) so I am pretty much clueless about how to go about or which are good stops on the road. Any and all suggestions, stops along the way, routes, things to avoid, other threads like this one, etc. are very welcomed. This is mostly sightseeing, so national parks, views, museums, oddities, etc. are fine.

    One specific question is, is it worth it to drive route 66 or would it make more sense to use other/newer highways?

    Thank you very much for your advice!

    Sergio

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,123

    Default Here's how I go about it.

    Welcome to the Road Trip America forum.

    Like yourself, my geography of North America continues to be a work in progress, despite the fact that I have driven some 250.000 miles across the continent, north of the Mexican border. Here is how I go about it. I get good maps of the US on which I can draw and make notes - Rand McNally or AAA (free to members). Then I do my research on the internet. If you look around this site you will find a wealth of information on attractions and routes - check out the map wizard (green bar above). You can then mark on your map those sites which will interest you and your daughter most.

    At around 2000 miles you are looking at four days on the road,. To me the obvious attractions would be Yosemite NP, Death Valley NP. The Grand Canyon NP, as well as a myriad of smaller parks, and many scenic routes. A week may seem a lot of time, but when you look at all there is to see along the way, it soon eats up the time.

    For safety's sake it is recommended that you keep the distance travelled on any one day to no more than around 550 miles - which is a full day on the road.

    Enjoy the planning.

    Lifey
    Last edited by Lifemagician; 05-25-2019 at 06:42 AM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,317

    Default See what appeals, to both of you.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums.

    One specific question is, is it worth it to drive route 66 or would it make more sense to use other/newer highways?
    Route 66 is there in parts but has been replaced by Interstate along many sections. There are some old '66 towns you could explore if they interest you, but the route is only worth it if it's what you want to see and do. As pointed out above, do some research and study decent maps and see what interests you both. Yep, both of you, get your daughter interested in the planning and listen to her input and you will have a lot more fun together. If you have not been to Yosemite and the Grand canyon then they will make great memories but with limited time you wil have to pick and choose. Not only do you have a choice between I-40 and I-10 you can create a route using the Highways system to take you to places that appeal. As you continue planning and have specific questions just ask and we can help. I think you need to decide on 2 or 3 points of interest and then we can help fill in the blanks and offer suggestions but right now there are just too many options and too little info to even start being of help.

    This presumably is a week long one way trip ? You won't have time for a round trip, unless all you do is drive.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,782

    Default Geography/Geology

    As both a geologist and cartographer, I understand a little bit about the connection of those two (along with politics and history) and would point out that this is a great opportunity for you to add to your knowledge of North America and help your daughter learn a little as well. Most of the area you'll be driving through has been shaped by water, or the lack thereof, and that might be a good thing for you and your daughter to keep in mind on this trip.

    As Lifey pointed out, you're going to need a minimum of four days to make the drive, which leaves you around three days for some solid exploratory stops as well as some shorter stops along the road. There are a couple of possibilities for your basic route, both of which are about 2,000 miles (3,200 km) long. Don't let that length scare you. I'm currently driving around southwestern Europe and I can assure you that our freeways (autoroutes/autostrada/autobahns/motorways) are almost up to European standards in terms of top speeds, but with far fewer reduced speed areas and nowhere near as many tolls. And gasoline costs about one-third of typical European prices. Best of all, especially in the southwest, the 'local' roads are far more wide open than you're probably used to. Covering 450-500 miles a day is relatively easy.

    What I would suggest as a starting point are a few major things that you'd regret not showing your daughter, such as the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, and perhaps the Alamo; structure your route to pass near to those sites; and then fill in with other parks and attractions as you see fit. This would basically entail heading inland from the San Francisco area to I-5 down through the Central Valley of California. This is where much of the water from the Colorado River (the major river in the American Southwest) ends up - growing crops to feed the rest of the country. At Bakersfield use CA-58 to turn east again, passing north of Edwards Air Force Base where many of the United States' newest planes are tested, and then at Barstow CA get on I-40 east. This will pass along the southern edge of the Mojave National Preserve.

    Continue on I-40 to Kingman AZ at which point you'll have the option of taking AZ-66 through Peach Springs and returning to I-40 at Seligman. This stretch of road is the largest remaining piece of old Route 66 (which no longer exists officially) and provided the visual inspiration for several scenes in the Disney movie Cars. Your target for the end of your second day of driving is Flagstaff AZ. You could very easily spend two nights and a full day here seeing not only the Grand Canyon (carved by the waters of the Colorado River), but several smaller national monuments such as Wupatki, Sunset Crater Volcano, and Walnut Canyon. Unfortunately, your daughter is just too old to qualify for the Junior Ranger Program but ask anyway for the oldest (13) activity booklet so that she can learn a bit more about the parks and the way of life of the peoples who lived there.

    Next continue east on I-40 to the Petrified Forest. East of Albuquerque, you'd take US-285 south to Roswell NM which your daughter might enjoy; then US-280 east to Brownfield TX; and US-87/US-83 south to I-10 which will take you to San Antonio, home of the Alamo. Finally, I-37/US-281 will take you down to McAllen. You should also plan on taking some time to get over to the Gulf Coast and Padre Island National Seashore, but as you'll see when you start to map this out, there's no easy way to include that on your RoadTrip to McAllen.

    So those are the major things you might like to see, but there are others. As you map out your route, keep an eye out for national wildlife refuges and state parks near where you'll be driving and plan on visiting a couple of them each day to break up the drive and see/learn something as you progress along.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 05-26-2019 at 07:30 AM. Reason: Typos

  5. Default

    Thank you all!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Thank you!

    This is helpful. We've visited Dead Valley and Yosemite in the past, so we can skip those to make room to other attractions. Definitely the Grand Canyon.

    I was under the assumption that a week was plenty of time but clearly, it isn't.

    Any other tips and advice are welcomed.

    Sergio

  6. Default

    This is fantastic AZBuck!
    Thanks for taking the time to write this. So many places, so many miles, so little time!

    I'll work with this.

    Sergio

  7. Default

    Hi Dave,
    Yes, this is a one way trip. Seems like the highways might be a better choice (than route 66) this time around. Perhaps in future trips we can focus more in the small towns.

    Another question, would the choice between I-40 and I-10 is just concerning the stops in our trip or are there other things to consider?

    Sergio

  8. Default

    Would it make sense to try to squeeze White Sands NP into the mix? Looks close enough to El Paso. Is it worth it?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,782

    Default Yes, But...

    It is quite possible to add White Sands, but something else has to give. I'd still recommend that you come east via CA-58 and I-40 so that you can drive old Route 66 and visit the Grand Canyon, a few other parks around Flagstaff, and the Petrified Forest, But if you enter Petrified Forest National Park from I-40 and take the park road south to US-180, you can continue southeast on that road to St. Johns AZ and get on US-193 south to Springerville and US-60 east. At Socorro NM (home to the VLA) take I-25 south to Las Cruces and a side trip to White Sands. Then just get back on I-25 south to I-10 east and I-39 south.

    What you have to give up to do this within your timeframe are Cadillac Ranch and the Alamo, but that's a fair trade and entirely up to you and your daughter. Total mileage doesn't charge all that much, adding just about 100 miles (160 km) to your total.

    If you do decide to include at least the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, and White Sands in your itinerary, then you should probably buy a national parks pass at the first one you come to. They're $80 and get you free entrance into all the national parks and monuments for a year. Typically they start saving you money at the fourth park you visit which would encourage you to visit some of the smaller national monuments I mentioned around Flagstaff AZ.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 05-27-2019 at 01:44 PM. Reason: Typo correction.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
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    11,317

    Default

    Another question, would the choice between I-40 and I-10 is just concerning the stops in our trip or are there other things to consider?

    I was actually suggesting you get off the Interstate to explore and that there are other options. I have recently done the route described by Buck through Petrified forest NP and down to US60 but from Socorro we only stayed on Interstate until San Antonio and then took US380 through Capitan (Smokey bear historic park) and Lincoln which is a historical site based around the Lincoln wars and Billy the Kid. From there you could head to Roswell (UFO museum) and Carlsbad (Carlsbad Caverns) to Fort Stockton and I-10. (We actually done the route in the reverse direction but if you go to the last post in our trip report and work back you can see part of the route) This would not be a good option for White sands so it's just another choice to make, but if you decide on White sands National monument, rather than staying on I-25 you could take 380 to Carrizozo and south on 54 to US70 to the sands. It won't save you much time over 1-25, but it is about 45 miles shorter in distance and a pleasant drive.

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