I am planning a road trip from Maryland to Yuma, AZ. I have most of the trip figured out, but I'm still not quite sure about which way to go in AZ.
The hard part is, my last leg is from Vega, TX(near Amarillo) to Yuma, and I'm trying to keep the number of miles to a minimum so that I won't need to stop and fill up between the two.
I'm familiar with I-40 and I-17 in that area, as I went to school in Prescott and have made that trip many times. I'm hoping to take a shortcut, cutting off from I-40 before getting to Flagstaff. This will save some miles, which I definitely need, as this part of the trip is definitely going to be stretching my range to the max.
Also, I'm hoping to avoid the climb to 7,000ft(Flagstaff), and all the drops and rises on I-17 south of Flagstaff.
I was thinking of two routes...
1.) Coming west on I-40, turn south at Winslow on Rt 87, cut across 260 to I-17. I-17 south a few miles to 169(Cherry road exit) towards Prescott, then 89 south , and you can pretty easily see the dircetion I'm heading from there.
2.) Coming west on I-40, turn south at Holbrook, taking 377 towards Heber. Then take 260 towards Payson, 87 south into the Phoenix area, I-10 west from Phoenix...
My issue is I'm not real familiar with these routes. I think I've taken 87 south from Winslow once before, but not entirely sure. If I remember right, it was pretty flat... at least relative to I-17 south coming from Flagstaff.
I'm trying to avoid a lot of steep climbs, and elevation increases in general(to get better mpg), and cut miles at the same time. I understand that these WILL add considerable time compared to the normal I-40 to Flagstaff and I-17 south from there. But I remember all the hills on I-17 south, and that's what I'm trying to avoid.
Are these two routes flat, relative to the I-40 to I-17 route? Should I expect weather to be worse along these roads? If anyone can link me to a good topographical map, or maybe a sectional chart that would show elevations, that would help a lot!
Any suggestions/warnings/accusations of insanity are appreciated.
PS. The whole thing is a work trip, but I am REALLY wanting to make it from Maryland to Yuma on only two stops for fuel, so I'm not worried about taking a few backroads to take a little longer. I just don't want to run out of fuel 30miles short of Yuma! The mountains are not my friends, especially considering I'll be loaded somehwat heavily comapred to other trips I've taken.
You must have a world-class sized fuel tank...
First of all, trust me on this one, you have NO reason to avoid Flagstaff. ALL the routes through Arizona involve downgrades, with a few upgrades tossed in for good measure. Going your direction, mostly down though.
From the I-40 corridor, south toward Yuma, is ALL basically downhill in Arizona. The route using 260 has a huge down grade in the middle of it, enough that you'd light your brakes afire if you are not extremely skilled & careful. It is a shortcut, but I wouldn't recommend it for your purpose. Towing, or semi, it's fine to use it eastbound (uphill), but not westbound. Also, south out of Prescott at Yarnell, the downgrade there is legendary in Arizona and the southwest. You can see where it is on the map -- it's nasty enough they made it a divided highway there and you can see it split on the map!
Going your direction, I-40 to I-17 is a perfectly acceptable route, as most interstates are. Flagstaff to Phoenix on I-17 drops about 5500 feet, over 125-140 miles. It is not too tough, and has two significant downgrades (11 mile hill, btw the Highway 179 jct and Flagstaff, and Black Canyon, from just south of Cordes Jct to Black Canyon City). It has one major up-grade, about 5 miles worth at Copper Canyon (south of Camp Verde).
If you are still not sure of it, my own choice for the most gradual-graded route through central AZ would be to take US191 south from Sanders (at I-40) and SR61 from St Johns to US60 east of Show Low, then US60 southwest (downgrade and switchbacks at Salt River Canyon) through Globe to Phoenix. Take I-10 south to Exit 162 (Maricopa Road), follow that south to Maricopa, and there connect with SR238 west to Gila Bend -- pick up west I-8 at Gila Bend.
Your other two stated choices using SR87 have just as many grades as does I-17. SR87 IS flat (as you suggest) between Winslow and the edge of the Mogollon Rim as it runs across the high plateau lands above the Rim, but just north of Strawberry, it drops like a marine recruit in boot, and alternates ups and downs all the way to Scottsdale.
ALL of these routes have serious downgrades, but that is the nature of the beast -- northern AZ is 7,000 feet plus, southern AZ is 0-1500 MSL. You have to get from one to the other somehow.
I had nearly posted a message along the lines of Bob's when his slipped in ahead of me. But at the risk of being redundant to Bob's excellent post -- I-40/I-17 is far easier to handle (in terms of downgrades) than either of the alternative routes you have outlined. Plus, each of them are likely to have snow and ice on sections.
And I agree -- you must have one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the planet if you can drive from Maryland to Yuma on two tanks of gas!
Miles and time
The mileage between Amarillo and Yuma is right around 900 miles, plus or minus depending which route you choose. It is 930 on the interstate route Mark and I both suggest, and driving time is estimated at 12.5 hours.
If you take the US60 route I outlined, with a small change to cut southwest, instead, from Santa Rosa (NM), to Vaughn, Socorro, and Show Low (AZ), etc, then the miles are about 890.5 but the time is 14:00 or thereabouts. You save roughly 40 miles. According to my software, this is the shortest distance between the points.
If you think about WHY the interstate is faster, even though a greater distance, that lends strength to our arguments to use it instead, from the "grades" point of view. It is quite simply an easier drive than most other state or federal roads, all things considered, because it was DESIGNED to be that way -- with an absence of sharp curves and steep grades, as much as possible. However, if the 40 miles makes the difference, and you care not about the time, then the US60 route might work better for you.
I like the US60 route immensely. Although it is two lane blacktop, it is good, wide road and the grades are no worse than those found on the divided roads in most places. Towns are far apart, so you CAN make good time on it, even if it is slower than the "I" route.
Oops, how could I forget to mention what I'm driving!?
It's a 2002 VW Golf TDI, so I have about 16 gallons to burn between fuel stops without sweating... can go a little more if I have to. At about 72mph through the hills of VA(lots of upa nd down), I got 51mpg, and that was with some light rain, wet roads. So if I'm keeping my speed down to about 70, and just being more careful in general, maybe a little more air in the tires, and can avoid up-hill grades, I think I can get a little better than that. But at 51mpg, that's 816miles. So as you can see, cutting miles is of the utmost importance.
People have made 900-1000miles in these cars, but I'm not driving 55mph on the interstate! Can you say speed bump?
I'm not worried so much about downgrades, I know there will be a significant drop no matter which way I go. In fact, down-grades are great, as they will save fuel(coasting in gear uses virtually zero fuel, less than idle). I just don't want to take a short-cut, only to find that I'm having to stop in a lot of small towns and traffic(and then accelerate, wasting fuel) or going up a lot of steep grades(wasting fuel). So I'm trying to find a compromise that will cut miles without lowering mpg considerably. As for time, I'm not too worried about that. I was hoping I could get some verification that I won't get any "surprises" along the way, and everyone's comments are definitely helping.
If I go the Holbrook > Payson > Phoenix > Yuma route, it's 852mi. But that puts me on 87 south of Payson, which I think Bob said is a lot of ups(bad) and downs.
If I take the Santa Rosa > Vaughn > Socorro > Showlow route, it's 864mi. But if I go that route, I could slow down to 65 and not worry about getting run over by a truck. That would definitely stretch my range a little.
These miles are per Rand McNally.
Taking I-40 to Flagstaff and then I-17 just won't work, too many miles. That "southern" route from Santa Rosa is sounding good, and seems relaxing. And I've seen I-40 enough(Chicago to Prescott, AZ and back 4-5 times), so it would be cool to try this way.
I guess at this point I just need to decide how much time I really do have. At least I have a car that I love to drive and is very comfortable. It will be a fun drive, regardless.
Thanks everyone for your help, and of course, any further suggestions would be appreciated.
After re-reading my last post, I think I'm getting further and further from my original goal for this trip. I wanted to be able to take a normal/typical drive and make it with only two fuel stops, to provide an example of how great these cars really are. Now I'm getting off the interstates quite a bit, and adding a LOT of time to the trip. So now, if I explain the trip to someone, it will not sound like a typical trip.
I'm starting to think I'll just drive at my own pace, stick to the interstate. So maybe I'll make it from Maryland to Phoenix on two stops(three tanks), I could probably drive 80-90mph and still do that, and save a LOT of time or stop and take some pictures along the way. And how many cars can do that?
Ugh, I don't know. Hehe, I guess I have about a month to think about it.
Routes and Maps
I want to plan a 3 week camping trip with my kids. How have others planned their routes? I want to an off the beaten path route, that is flexible. Has anyone purchased software to plan routes or used AAA maps or general atlases? We are not planning on going until summer of 2005
(All of the Above).
Where are you at? Do you want to do creeks, lakes, forests, deserts or beaches? Or all of them?
I used to plan my trips using the big format Rand McNally atlases -- all 50 states in one book, etc. These won't give you too much in the way of back roads though, that are helpful when you are looking for campgrounds. These days, I usually use Microsoft Streets and Trips (very easy to use) to make general plans, get an overall idea of mileages and where the days may fall, then I use the old style folding paper state maps for each state I pass through. If I am camping, I may buy a Gazetteer for the state I am headed to. You can buy these at bookstores or map stores -- they don't seem to be available for all states though.
My suggestion is have an idea of where you want to get to, at least for the first couple of days, and don't plan too long a day driving -- this way you have time to find your spot early, and set your camp up before it gets dark. I have arrived late a few times, say 9PM, in pouring rain, and had to wait for a break in the downpour to pitch the tent. Sometimes, the break never came. Hey, it's an adventure! Anyway, once you get into a routine, then you can plan each day (or two) as it comes, and mosey from place to place. It would also be great to do a shakedown trip this summer -- a long weekend or something -- figure out how any new equipment works and develop a routine for setting up and tearing down, see how long things take, etc.
If you're anywhere near the west, come see the southwestern parks and redrock country!
Welcome to the site, fellow TDIer!
Sounds like you've given up the original intent of the trip, but not on the trip itself, which is good. Now, instead of trying to prove something, you'll concentrate more on enjoying the trip - which is what any trip should be all about (regardless of the reasons behind it). You know that you'll still be getting phenomenal mileage - now how 'bout getting some pictures of the, um, sun. It was -10 up here last night.
Mapping it out...
I use the following combinations:
Mapping software - newer versions give information on area services, businesses, etc., as well as online updates.
Delorme Atlas & Gazetteer - very handy to have as it offers street-level maps and contour maps, campground listings, park listings, etc. Some of the states that don't have a complete volume are broken up by region instead.
Large-format Atlas - for getting to the general area of the destination. Always good to have in the car, anyway. The Rand McNally is less than $5.00 at Target or Wal-Mart.
Woodall's Campground Directory for North America - this the whole continent (2000 pages), but there are regionalized versions. It's geared more towards the RV crowd, but gives a general overview of most of the campgrounds in the country, including state parks.
State/Provinical websites, <a href="http://www.nps.gov">National Park Service</a>, <a href="http://www.koa.com">KOA</a>
Where I stay is usually determined by what's in/not in the area. Once you've decided your general locale of interest, be sure to post again - someone's sure to have more information about that area!