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  1. #1

    Default Chicago to Los Angeles - January 2024

    Hey guys. Well my trip is nearly here and my timing this year was very fortuitous. I am leaving Monday the 15th and arriving in Los Angeles (Westwood) on Saturday the 20th. Last January I left on Monday the 9th. Had I left this past Monday I would have run into major weather issues along my expected route (I-55 to I-44 to I-40, etc). Next week, although it will be bitter cold early on, it's looking clear and dry all the way to Californ-I-ay. Daytime temps in the mid-upper 40's once I get to Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Nevada and California will be near 70.

    Looks like I am leaving Monday with a high temp around 0 and subzero wind chills. Nice to be reminded of a good reason to leave for the winter (I am returning in April). I am traveling solo once again partially by choice (I enjoy driving alone) and my girlfriend is going to fly to LAX because she doesn't want to be in the car that long.

    I don't have a ton of side trips or sight seeing like others here but I do want to run some things by you guys and any thoughts you have.

    Day 1 - Chicago to Tulsa. Straight through, lunch in St. Louis.
    Day 2 - Tulsa to Amarillo. Likely also straight through, but I might divert to see a couple of Route 66 things (as I normally do).
    Day 3 - Amarillo to Holbrook. Unlike Bugs Bunny I WILL turn left at Albuquerque and drive by the Very Large Array on US 60 then head over to Holbrook AZ and stay at the Wigwam Motel (I stayed last year).
    Day 4 - Holbrook to Monument Valley (via Bluff) to Page to Flagstaff. Holbrook to Petrified Forest North Visitors Center to get my National Parks Annual Pass (plus I have been there so this time I won't be staying), then drive up to Bluff, UT and head southwest on US 163 towards Monument Valley. From there I would like to drive to Page, AZ and briefly check out the area late afternoon before driving to Flagstaff. I have never been to Monument Valley (or Page) and it's been a bucket list place to see. I could go straight to Flagstaff and bypass Page altogether if you think I should spend more time in the MV area. I wouldn't mind a little hiking. I don't plan on doing the MV loop but please mention anything you like about that area.
    Day 5 - Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Village to Las Vegas. Another bucket list place I have never been to. One of those "I'll go next time." I always expected to stay in the park overnight but the only reason I even have time to stop here is because I gained an extra day. I drive to Las Vegas immediately after a handful of hours at Grand Canyon. I want to get to Vegas by 5 or 6 if possible. Fortunately I gain an hour.
    Day 6 - Las Vegas to Los Angeles. This will be a straight shot but I will be going via CA 18 at Victorville to CA14 near Palmdale linking up with I-5 and I-405.

    The weather looks favorable all week with temps in the mid-upper 40's and mostly sunny each day in NM, UT and AZ. I guess I am saving my future longer stays near Monument Valley, Page, Grand Canyon, etc for warmer months with this being a hit and run trip. I did hike for a couple of hours in Petrified Forest last time so I don't need to stop there other than to get my Annual Pass and my National Parks Passport cancellation stamp.

    Definitely not a thrilling road trip but I would rather drive it than ship my car. Coming home looks to be a bit more interesting (similar to last year). For perspective, last year we left Los Angeles then immediately drove to Sacramento for four nights to catch Northwestern play in the NCAA Tournament. Then we drove to Las Vegas and spent a full week there (we wanted to watch more March Madness in Vegas at the end of the week). Then it was on to Maricopa, AZ for a week at the Harrah's Resort there. I even caught a Cubs-White Sox spring training game. Then I went to White Sands National Park near Alamogordo, NM followed by a very lucky break. Twice a year the White Sands Missile Range has an open house day for the public to visit the Trinity Site (where the first atomic bomb was dropped) and that day happened to be the next day! So I was able to visit that which was awesome (I am a big history and WWII buff) before I headed back to Amarillo and then home the way I came. This year Northwestern may be in the tournament again (who knows) and if they are, we are prepared to travel to see them. Salt Lake City is the closest venue. If we are unable to get to them for the first two rounds, then we will be in Vegas for that first weekend of March Madness (and a good part of the week). We don't know where else we will go in late March/early April but we are going to end up at a friend's house in Dallas for the eclipse on April 8th. After that we are likely to drive back home.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Phoenix, Arizona
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    694

    Default Monument Valley gets my vote!

    Howdy!

    Congrats on what seems to be a well thought out, reasonable plan. I do have a comment: you're going awfully far out of your way to pass through Monument Valley and Page, but it looks like all you're planning to do is just that: pass through. You should do the loop at M.V.; it's absolutely worth the time and the minor expense. Page is amazing--but all you'll see driving by it is a very small section of Lake Powell. Antelope Canyon is a world-class thrill, but the only way to see THAT is on a tour, which generally requires advance reservations and a chunk of time. Horseshoe Bend is easier; you just park in the lot, right off the highway, and hike a mile or so to the overlook (allow yourself an hour, at least). Given your time constraints, I think I'd save Page for next time, and add a couple of hours to Monument Valley (so you can do the loop!) There might even be some snow on the "monuments," something I wouldn't mind seeing myself!

    Anyway, that's my two cents. Good luck with your road trip. Safe travels, and Happy Trails!

    Rick

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Joplin MO
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    10,273

    Default

    One comment - Chicago to Tulsa is 700 miles. That's a bit too much for one day.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
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    12,028

    Default Saving a little travel time.

    A couple of thoughts. Why not pick your NPS annual pass up at the Grand canyon kiosk and stay over somewhere like Gallup on a more direct path to Bluff/Monument valley. You could also save some miles by staying overnight near to the Grand canyon's east entrance, then drive along Desertview drive and out of the south entrance next day. There are lodgings at the Cameron Trading post close to the east entrance. It'll only save you a little time but with so little to spare it's worth considering. The first day is quite brutal, and especially so if you plan on stopping in St Louis, I would consider stopping a bit earlier.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Joplin MO
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    Default

    I live in Joplin and travel to Chicago from time to time, and I do stop in STL for lunch. I don't think I'd try to get any farther than Joplin the first night. We have plenty of hotels and restaurants right off I-44 exit 8. Joplin to Amarillo is 500 miles, very doable in a day. Same with Amarillo to Holbrook - 520 miles. FYI - low temp in Joplin on Monday night is forecasted to be -5F. That's after 1 to 3 inches of snow Sunday night, it's going to be a bit slippery in this neck of the woods.

  6. #6

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Quinn
    Given your time constraints, I think I'd save Page for next time, and add a couple of hours to Monument Valley (so you can do the loop!) There might even be some snow on the "monuments," something I wouldn't mind seeing myself!
    Thanks Rick! I am leaning to what you suggest. Monument Valley is the primary goal here and with possible snow it would be very unique. I may bypass just Page and linger longer in the MV area.

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    One comment - Chicago to Tulsa is 700 miles. That's a bit too much for one day.
    Sorry I should have mentioned I've done that route a handful of times (including last January) and it will be no problem.

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave
    A couple of thoughts. Why not pick your NPS annual pass up at the Grand canyon kiosk and stay over somewhere like Gallup on a more direct path to Bluff/Monument valley. You could also save some miles by staying overnight near to the Grand canyon's east entrance, then drive along Desertview drive and out of the south entrance next day. There are lodgings at the Cameron Trading post close to the east entrance. It'll only save you a little time but with so little to spare it's worth considering. The first day is quite brutal, and especially so if you plan on stopping in St Louis, I would consider stopping a bit earlier.
    I thought about that, but I wanted to see the Very Large Array in NM and the Wigwam Motel appeals to me. But I will double check the Gallup idea. I should mention I have a free hotel night in Flagstaff which is why I was going to stay there (as well as free nights in Tulsa and Amarillo). The first day I have done a bunch of times (including last January) and I plan on a early start. St. Louis by lunch, Tulsa by dinner.

    Quote Originally Posted by glc
    I live in Joplin and travel to Chicago from time to time, and I do stop in STL for lunch. I don't think I'd try to get any farther than Joplin the first night. We have plenty of hotels and restaurants right off I-44 exit 8. Joplin to Amarillo is 500 miles, very doable in a day. Same with Amarillo to Holbrook - 520 miles. FYI - low temp in Joplin on Monday night is forecasted to be -5F. That's after 1 to 3 inches of snow Sunday night, it's going to be a bit slippery in this neck of the woods.
    As I mentioned, I have done Chicago to Tulsa a bunch of times so I have no problem with the long drive. Splitting hairs but the low temp is typically around 5am. It'll be around 10 balmy degrees when I pass through Joplin. Thanks.

  7. #7

    Default

    First day driving is over; 11 hours total. I am sitting in the club lounge at my hotel in Tulsa at 9pm. Drive was pretty straightforward but had a surprise stop. First time I have ever been to a Buc-ee's. This is a new one in Springfield, MO. It was pretty nice especially the bathrooms. I wanted to try a BBQ sandwich but I had just eaten. Had a chicken fried steak at Bros. Houligan in Tulsa an hour ago. I wouldn't mind staying one more night here, but I must be going. Car is fueled up for tomorrow.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Joplin MO
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    10,273

    Default

    You are fortunate you didn't come through here yesterday. I-44 was closed for most of the day and evening from the state line to Miami due to multiple wrecks.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Central Missouri
    Posts
    5,880

    Default Thought the same thing!

    You are fortunate you didn't come through here yesterday. I-44 was closed for most of the day and evening from the state line to Miami due to multiple wrecks.
    He wouldn't have made it past Joplin if he had gone through on Sunday. It's still bitter-cold here, but at least (for now) it stopped snowing.



    Donna

  10. #10

    Default

    I tried to update my trip along the way but this board wouldn't allow it. I forgot what the error message was. So I will just do a fast recap.

    I had breakfast at one of my favorite places in Tulsa, Nelson's Buffeteria which has been around almost 100 years. I headed straight for Amarillo, where I stayed at a Hyatt Place. The following day I drove through Albuquerque (ate lunch at the 66 Diner on Route 66) and at the last minute I passed on driving by the Very Large Array as I thought I might want to take more time to see it rather than go out of my way to drive by. Truth be told you never know when or if you will have another chance but I had made up my mind. I got to the Petrified Forest National Park by 4:00, bought my Annual Pass and drove through the entirety of it. I have to say it was a letdown. I hiked the northern part last year where you can see some of the painted desert but overall it isn't a must see place. The petrified wood is very interesting of course. I stayed at the Wigwam Motel again on Route 66. I don't know why but this place just makes me feel happy. The nostalgic American road trip vibes for sure.

    The next morning I drove all the way through the Navajo Nation to Monument Valley. I decided to approach from the south with the sun behind me rather than swinging around from the NE and Bluff UT. I drove US 163 a few miles north and turned around at Forest Gump point. Then I did what Rick Quinn advised and attempted to do the Loop at Monument Valley. I was so glad I did, but I also gave up and turned around (I was on the loop around an hour total). I just didn't like how rough the road was and I didn't like that it was beating up my car! I will rent a car or truck and come back to do the loop the right way next time. But it was beautiful to be there. Drove to Flagstaff via US 160 and US 89. Stayed at the Hyatt Place there.

    On Friday I drove up to Grand Canyon from Williams. It was nice seeing some snow around the canyon too. I can't imagine how crowded it must get in the summer. For that alone I want to go to the North Rim during busy season. I did a short hike along the rim. I would love to stay overnight in the park to truly take it in and combine it with a clear night to see the Milky Way. From there I drove to Vegas where I stayed at my friend's house. Drove to Los Angeles (Westwood) on Saturday.

    So I will be out in LA until March 20th. I am definitely considering some road trips from here but for now the only one we plan on doing for sure is to Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley which we last stayed at in 2004. I also want to go back to Joshua Tree NP which should be easy to do. Driving California 1 up the coast is also a bucket list trip but that may also have to wait. After LA, I mentioned in my original thread that we will spend a few more weeks on the road before getting home mid-April.

    We have a 7-11 day free cruise through Caesars to pick from this year. My first choice would be to Alaska from Seattle but not sure if the GF is up for that. New York to Bermuda in August is the likely choice as I can drive to NY and do my typical East Coast side road trips along with a lot of pizza eating (I had pizza over 100 times at 75 places on three trips in the last few years). Stay tuned...

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