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  1. #1

    Default New York-Nevada 2 week roundtrip

    Hi everyone. I recently completed a solo cross country roundtrip from the New York Metropolitan Area to Las Vegas. The purpose of the trip was just leisure and to clear my mind due to challenging circumstances at home. I thought I would share my thoughts on the trip and to warn others of some of the horrors that come with the territory of cross country driving.

    I recently acquired a used car that was seemingly working well and thought would have no problem making the trip. Shortly before leaving NY the oil light went on and I needed to add oil. This could have been a harbinger of things to come. I left NY on Aug 5 in the late morning and started the first leg of the trip crossing NJ, PA, OH, IN, IL, and IA on i80 before passing Omaha at about 5am the next morning. I only made a few stops along the first half of the country (aside from gas, food, etc). One was to take a picture of the Mississippi in Davenport and another was to visit a famous truck stop I saw on a TV show. I stopped at a rest stop in between Omaha and Lincoln shortly after and slept for about 4 hours before resuming at about 9am. I stopped to look at the state capitol building in Lincoln and also stopped in a couple other cities in Nebraska that were right off the highway to stretch my legs (they were all very underwhelming). I then drove into Wyoming and was on track to make it to Nevada very late that night. Of course in spite of making this great time, I go to fill up my car in Laramie, WY to make the final push to Nevada and to my horror, my car does not start. Thinking it is the battery, I go to get a jump from a man at the gas station. This eventually starts the car but it stalls again on my way to a garage across town. Of course since it is Friday at 4:30PM, I am running out of time to get my car serviced. After getting jumped again to no avail, I call to arrange a toe to have my car brought to an auto garage across town. Naturally, they close a minute after I show up and I walk across i80 to a motel for the night. The next morning, I go to the garage and find out they are unable to service my vehicle. Nor is any other garage in the tiny town of Laramie. Out of options, I reluctantly arrange to have my car towed 50 miles to Cheyenne which was the closest place with a dealership able to help me. The toe truck arrives after about 2 hours and due to "COVID policy" or some other liability I am unable to ride with the truck driver and left there stranded with no car and spotty cell service. I walked to the edge of i80, and was fortunate enough to hitch a ride with an elderly couple making their way across Wyoming. I get to the dealership and spend the entire day waiting for them to diagnose the problem. Thinking it is the fuel, they siphon out the $50 I had just put in and as they are backing it out, the real problem presents itself as the transmission gives out and the car no longer shifts into gear (it is a manual transmission). They give me an estimate and tell me it will take several days for them to get the part since it is now Saturday and they will need to order it from out of state. Deflated and regretting taking this trip, I walk across to the street to the only motel in walking distance. I spent the next 5 days stranded at this motel 6 wedged in between i25 and i80 having to walk 2 miles each way just to get food in town. Being stuck at this dirty, overpriced motel all the while being kept up by freight trains passing 100 feet from my room honestly made this leg of the trip one of the worst few days of my entire life. I look into alternatives and find out that not only is Cheyenne not serviced by Amtrak, their airport hasn't even resumed commercial service since COVID began and I can't leave even if I had unlimited money. After wasting time doing nothing in my motel, the part arrives 5 days later as expected and with my car repaired, I leave Cheyenne at about 3pm, arriving in Nevada at about 2am local time.

    I originally had planned to spend some time visiting national parks since I was close to the Grand Canyon, Utah, and Southern California, but I was so disgusted by the ordeal of getting here, that I spent the next week doing little other than gamble at my hotel and take trips into Las Vegas for a few hours to then drive back across southern Nevada to Mesquite to sleep. I only had a little over 2 weeks of vacation time and the trip coming here ate up an entire week by itself. I initially picked Mesquite not only because it was close enough to Las Vegas/national parks, but because it also saved me an hour on the return trip when it was time to go home. In hindsight I was too upset to go to any parks and probably would have just been better staying in Las Vegas. It was also very hot and I did not trust my vehicle being driven into the desert park roads after what it put me through in Wyoming.

    The return trip was thankfully much less eventful (aside from my lemon car continuously consuming oil). I left Nevada at 7am on Wednesday, crossed Utah and the Rockies on i70, and eventually passed Denver around rush hour. I drove across the rest of Colorado and entered Kansas as the sun set. I crossed Kansas overnight and made no significant stops aside for taking a picture of the capitol building in Topeka. I passed Kansas City and continued across Missouri as the sun rose the next morning. I pulled into a rest stop shortly after between Columbia and St. Louis to sleep for a couple of hours and then began driving again. I stopped at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and then unremarkably crossed IL before hitting traffic and detours around Indianapolis. After getting past the road work, I drove across Ohio and entered PA as the sun set. This is where the fatigue started to catch up to me as the winding mountain road in southwest PA combined with rain and darkness made this by far the most challenging part of the entire drive. I made it past Harrisburg before finally hitting the wall and needing to pull over at a gas station off i78 to get some more sleep (they really need more rest stops on PA interstates). I woke up after a short nap and finished the last 2 hours of the trip getting home at 4:30am yesterday. The return took me a total of just over 42 hours with stops included. I could have spent more time obviously, but after this nightmare of a trip, I just wanted to get home and put the ordeal behind me.

    Thank you all for reading. I had been looking forward to and planning taking a trip like this for many years but unfortunately I can't say there was really any part of it that was enjoyable. I hope you all can have more luck than I did. I've learned a lot from taking this adventure in spite of the challenges and setbacks.
    Last edited by Nevada27; 08-21-2021 at 07:22 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    10,143

    Default The Phrase that Comes to Mind

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. Most of the regulars here have had similar ones, but those misadventures did not dissuade us from pursuing other RoadTrips throughout our lives. I hope yours don't deter you either, but rather that you consider them a learning experience that you can share (and have shared) with others so that they don't have to learn the hard way. There is a phrase that I recall from many years ago that still applies:

    Too soon old; too late smart.

    AZBuck

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Central Missouri
    Posts
    5,709

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    I'm one of the regulars here that has had breakdowns that caused a lot of headaches along the way. Sometimes, those happen even after you've had your vehicle thoroughly checked by your home mechanic before leaving home.

    We have a forum on here where you can read about other people's memorable breakdowns. Most of my husband's and my breakdowns concerned our 5th wheel trailer, but we've had one or two with a pick up as well.

    One thing that might make your next trip more pleasant would be to try to get more sleep when you are actually traveling. Driving for hours and hours on end, makes you a potential danger to yourself and to others. There's a reason why professional truck drivers are only allowed certain number of hours in the driver's seat or riding in the front passenger seat, then MUST get some sleep/rest elsewhere in the truck or a motel. That reason is safety. It also makes your drive much more pleasant, and is less hard on your vehicle.


    Donna

  4. #4

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    Welcome to RTA!

    I'm one of the regulars here that has had breakdowns that caused a lot of headaches along the way. Sometimes, those happen even after you've had your vehicle thoroughly checked by your home mechanic before leaving home.

    We have a forum on here where you can read about other people's memorable breakdowns. Most of my husband's and my breakdowns concerned our 5th wheel trailer, but we've had one or two with a pick up as well.

    One thing that might make your next trip more pleasant would be to try to get more sleep when you are actually traveling. Driving for hours and hours on end, makes you a potential danger to yourself and to others. There's a reason why professional truck drivers are only allowed certain number of hours in the driver's seat or riding in the front passenger seat, then MUST get some sleep/rest elsewhere in the truck or a motel. That reason is safety. It also makes your drive much more pleasant, and is less hard on your vehicle.


    Donna
    Thank you. I will definitely take a look at that forum to read about other's experiences as it really felt like I was the first person this has ever happened to when I was stranded alone in Wyoming,

    Spending more time on driving in a future trip is definitely one of the main lessons I've learned from this. Even though I stayed at or below the speed limit for the entire trip, I question whether driving that car for so long had something to do with why the transmission failed. I don't think I'll be taking another cross country driving trip anytime soon as this whole experience has left a very sour taste in my mouth. But if I were to do it again, I would take another person with me (it was an unbelievably lonely trip) and spend at least 3-4 days making a cross country trip of this length. I really did try to be safe in the sense that I would always pull over and sleep as soon as I began to recognize any symptoms of driver's fatigue (delayed reaction time, irritability, etc) but regardless, much of the driving was unpleasant and I didn't see much more of the country than I would have had I taken a plane flight. I had never taken a trip anywhere near that far before and just didn't really know what to expect as far as how long it would take to make the crossing since I've never driven west of the Mississippi. The only other long (1000+ miles) driving trip I have ever taken were a few trips to Florida and other states in the Deep South from NY. Because of that, I didn't book any hotels along the way because I wasn't really able to predict how far I would be able to go before needing to stop on a trip like this. One of the only redeeming qualities this car had was that the seats go all the way down and allow you to sleep flat and get some meaningful sleep. Still, I think a bed and a shower would have been far more pleasant and would have actually allowed me to enjoy some of the amazing scenery west of Denver/Cheyenne.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    10,135

    Default

    Best rule of thumb for safety is no more than 600 miles per day, and avoid driving after dark.

    Get up early, have breakfast, hit the road, get off the road and find a hotel around dinnertime. This even applies with more then one driver.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,710

    Default Not safe and no fun.

    But if I were to do it again, I would take another person with me (it was an unbelievably lonely trip) and spend at least 3-4 days making a cross country trip of this length.
    Even with another person a cross country trip in 3-4 days is not going to be fun and fatigue will once again set in. If you don't have the time available to slow down then a better choice would be either to do less miles or fly west and rent a car otherwise its more like work than a road trip. You need time to stop along the way, get out the car and 'smell the roses'.

    This is where the fatigue started to catch up to me as the winding mountain road in southwest PA combined with rain and darkness made this by far the most challenging part of the entire drive. I made it past Harrisburg before finally hitting the wall and needing to pull over at a gas station off i78 to get some more sleep (they really need more rest stops on PA interstates).
    Not only is this not fun, you really are already past the point of operating safely when fatigue starts kicking in, your reaction times and general awareness are impaired and tiredness is a huge factor in causing accidents and deaths on the road each year. Stay safe and make it fun because if you just blame your bad trip on mechanical failures alone, you will set yourself up for another bad trip.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    Even with another person a cross country trip in 3-4 days is not going to be fun and fatigue will once again set in. If you don't have the time available to slow down then a better choice would be either to do less miles or fly west and rent a car otherwise its more like work than a road trip. You need time to stop along the way, get out the car and 'smell the roses'.



    Not only is this not fun, you really are already past the point of operating safely when fatigue starts kicking in, your reaction times and general awareness are impaired and tiredness is a huge factor in causing accidents and deaths on the road each year. Stay safe and make it fun because if you just blame your bad trip on mechanical failures alone, you will set yourself up for another bad trip.
    Yeah I totally agree. After this trip, I feel like ~600 miles a day as the other enthusiasts have recommended is probably a more reasonable limit to have a safe trip and actually enjoy anything. Especially over consecutive days. After reflecting a bit, I think driving 2500 miles alone in less than 2 days was a bit reckless and I am probably lucky to have made the trip safely. While the mechanical issue definitely ruined my trip by itself and affected my judgement, I feel like my unrealistic planning is also partially to blame. In doing so, I think I may have set myself up to have an unenjoyable time.

    Regardless, I don't think a cross country trip (East to West) is something I would ever try again just because there are too many things that can go wrong. There are also too many states to cross with relatively few things to see/do especially if you are traveling from the Northeast since you are ~2000 miles away from the western edge of the Great Plains. I was really just looking forward to getting to the mountains and the landscapes of the West more than anything. But I had to cross thousands of monotonous cornfields, farms, and forests just to get to the more rewarding scenery that differs significantly from what I see every day at home. I rented a car on a trip to Las Vegas a couple of years ago and visited some of the parks that way and had a much better time, so I think I will just do that in the future.

    Taking a solo cross country driving trip just really seemed like one of the greatest adventures an American can have and is something I had aspired to do ever since I was a child. I spent so much time thinking about it and planning the route out over the years. I just never imagined the whole thing would go the way it did.
    Last edited by Nevada27; 08-23-2021 at 01:22 AM.

  8. #8

    Default

    Traveling across country takes time. Short of having enough time I have learned it is better to fly to a spot and drive a round trip from there (to the same city I flew into). Living on the East Coast I am motivated to reach across the Mississippi River in two days of driving, then the vistas and roads become more relaxing. A single day of "transit driving" is 400 miles, 500 in a stretch, and 600 only under special circumstances with a rest day afterwards. Now I like to pace 200 to 300 max once in touristing mode.

    Today I drove 400 and tomorrow will be 400, getting me from Wisconsin to western South Dakota where I will camp for two nights, followed by around 250 to the high Rockies in Wyoming for a night with lots of hiking. Then a short few hours to Billings for a 3-day weekend. Then a stretch day of nearly 600 miles where I will hotel a couple of nights and then pace driving, camping and hoteling.

    Happy you made it back to home alive. Driving with out much rest tends to make us punch drunk awares until it is too late. There is something to be said about renting a vehicle in certain circumstances and once you are well-rested you will be in good shape to sketch out a new plan.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Central Missouri
    Posts
    5,709

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    I think you learned some very valuable things, about pacing yourself, preparing ahead of time. I wish you'd found us before you left, as we would have cautioned you to take your time, maybe fly and then rent a car if you "only get 2 weeks".

    Even after many years and many miles on the road, my husband and I spend the last day of the drive, and days afterward, deciding if there was something we would change for the next trip. We always find something! It may be something simple like things we wouldn't bother to take next time, or something to add to our suitcase or vehicle (such as a multi-outlet electrical strip).


    Donna

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,744

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nevada27 View Post
    After reflecting a bit, I think driving 2500 miles alone in less than 2 days was a bit reckless and I am probably lucky to have made the trip safely.
    I would completely agree and I'm glad you've learned a lesson from this. I will note one frequent misconception about fatigue is that you can just stop when you're tired - the problem is by the time you are so tired that your brain understands it must stop, you've almost certainly driven many miles where fatigue has been compromising your driving abilities. A fatigued brain just can't make good decisions - which includes knowing when to stop!

    There are also too many states to cross with relatively few things to see/do especially if you are traveling from the Northeast since you are ~2000 miles away from the western edge of the Great Plains.
    To me, this statement is perhaps the even more disappointing outcome of the approach to your trip. You were so singularly focused on getting out west as fast as humanly possible (or faster) that you never had a chance to consider much less see any of the amazing things you certainly drove right on past. And then it becomes a self-fulling prophecy, because since you drove past a million amazing things you might have enjoyed, it left you with the conclusion that you were right and there were "relatively few things to see" and that it was nothing but monotonous cornfields and farms.

    I just never imagined the whole thing would go the way it did.
    You can at least take comfort in the fact that you're not alone. One, almost anyone who has done any significant amount of roadtripping- especially when you're younger, have a smaller budget, and usually an older vehicle - has had to deal with breakdowns on the road.

    Two, there are plenty of people who have learned the hard way the downfall of an approach to a roadtrip where you drive like a madman to "get somewhere" only to discover that doing so has made it very difficult to enjoy the "somewhere" you were trying to get to - or they've tried to pack so much in that when something doesn't go to plan (and there's always something unexpected that will come up) that it ends up throwing off the entire rest of the trip. When I find people who hate roadtrips, it's very frequently because their only experience has been this same kind of approach that's nearly always going to end in a bad time.

    If you take this as a learning experience, and change your approach, I think its entirely possible you could try again and replace that sour taste with an experience that's much more in line with what you were hoping for.

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