North or south?
I'm planning to go on another solo road trip next May. Here's the deal : I only have 2 weeks and I want to see as much as I can. First, I'll be leaving Granby (PQ) on May 4th and I have to be in Torrington (WY) for the 6th or early morning of the 7th. Then, I was thinking about driving to SLC and then through the NV desert using US50 and head towards San Francisco. Then, I have no idea : north or south? I've already been to UT, AZ and NM twice and really loved the area and I'd like to see more of it eventually, especially rural parts.
Should I come back using a southern route and go through the places I missed on my latest trips : Vegas (I'd like to visit the city "through the back door"), Zion NP, Monument Valley and visit a friend of mine who will be in Houston OR should I head north and drive the coast of Oregon, Washington and visit Vancouver and Banff? The thing is, after the Rockies, heading east I'd have to cross the Great plains of Canada, and that doesn't sound very attractive to me.
Of course, I don't ask you to decide for me:o), but I thought you guys could help me figure out what attractions I could find along both ways. Then I'd choose:-). I'd also appreciate your advice on what not to miss while cruising on US50 in NV. My interests are more or less : small towns, hiking, canoe camping, hot springs, museums, history, walking tours in big cities, photography, nightlife (gay/jazz clubs), contemporary arts, swimming, beaches, typical food, cheap lodging (camping+motels), desert roads and I prefer byways and backroads over interstates. What I don't like : tourist traps (except when they're cute like Tombstone for instance), places where tourists usually hang out (except NPs and SPs of course) and theme parks (you can easily find these 3 things altogether in the same place!).
Thanks for your help!
Hot Springs and small towns.
I wouldn't pass up the opportunity to see a friend! Afterwards, you could head back north via the Great River Road and see Graceland along the way!
In Nevada, I really like Austin for small towns. Another one is Agua Caliente, and that has the added bonus of hot springs. However, there are "several" others to choose from -- I read somewhere that Nevada has more hot springs than any other state! Especially around Reno and Carson City, I know there are quite a number.
I've heard you say you LIKED your journeys on the American Great Plains. Why do you not want to drive across them on the Canadian side? Is it because you've seen them before? Bob
"I've heard you say you LIKED your journeys on the American Great Plains."
If I could I would skip that part actually that would be great. I mean no place is really boring but the American Plains weren't the most exciting place I've been so far. Oklahoma was ok but it looked just like home to me and each time I go through the plains I can't wait to get to the desert or the mountains!:o) To see a change in the scenery you know...Straight from Quebec to TX and NM, that would be a dream come true! And I could visit you more often!:o)
As for the Canadian plains, I'd love to go to northern Manitoba, Victoria, Vacnouver, Yukon and other places someday, but I'm not sure I want to drive the whole trans-Canada interstate...Well not yet, it sounds kind of monotoneous to me right now. I'm just in my "south west" phase I guess!:-)
Choices, choices, choices
While there's a lot to be said for the drive from San Francisco to Vancouver and on to Banff, I've driven the trans-Canada from Maine to Banff and it's four of the most uninterupted, mind-numbing days possible on the road. So that's your basic call - are the west coast and the Rockies worth it? I don't know what you'll decide, but I have more suggestions for the southern route anyway, so here they are.
Las Vegas. You should try Capriotti's. It's a sandwich shop (subs, hoagies, whatever your local term is.) They're best known for their turkey subs (the turkey is roasted fresh every morning, no prepackaged crap) but my favorite is the Itallian Special. They have several locations in LV, check their web site. For hiking, you've got to see either or both of Red Rock Canyon (west of town) and the Valley of Fire (east of town).
Monument Valley. Absolutely. For an odd history museum location, stop at the Code Talkers Museum at the Burger King in Kayenta.
Santa Fe. Wonderful medium sized town with great shopping, walking, history, and a unique feel. Take a tour of one of the nearby Indian pueblos.
Carlsbad Caverns. I haven't seen Mammoth Cave (I plan to rectify that this summer) but Carlsbad was thoroughly enjoyable.
Houston. My favorite place to eat is the Crazy Cajun Food Factory in Seabrook - definitely local color, good food and unpretentious.
Hot Springs, AR. 'Cause you said you liked theem.
Smokey Mountains for the hiking. Avoid Gatlinburg and Dollywood, tourist traps at their worst.
Wander up through VA, WV, PA and NY on back roads through small towns. I once set myself the task of getting from the Chesapeake Bay to Lake Ontario while using no Interstate highways, no US highways, and no state highways that had only 1 or 2 digits. The beauty of this region is that there are lots of road, they're all pretty, and there are finds in the towns along the way. Get lost.
Burger King and Victor the Road Cat
Thanks for all the suggestions, I appreciate it!
"For an odd history museum location, stop at the Code Talkers Museum at the Burger King in Kayenta."
Ok, I'm very curious about this one...Burger King??? This will definitely be on my list if I take the southern route!
I've tried several times before but looks like I always manage to find my way back home.
I was thinking about bringing Victor the Road Cat along but I'm not sure yet. Do you guys think it would be too hot for him at that time of the year if I go to NV and places like that?
Gen and Victor
Last edited by Quebec Gen; 04-10-2005 at 02:36 PM.
Average daytime highs in the southwest in May are in the 90's with lots of sun. Victor may find this an enjoyable change from late spring in PQ, but you must NEVER leave him alone in the car for even a few minutes. From the Humane Society of Southern Arizona website:
"Children and pets die every year in hot cars in the Southwest. The temperature inside your car can reach 130-160 degrees F in just a few minutes, even on a pleasant day. Leaving pets inside a closed car, or even one with the windows rolled down, is dangerous, deadly, and illegal."
Answer from Victor
Oh no, don't worry, my mistress would never leave me in a hot car, I'm a spoiled cat you know. Actually, I'll be the one driving the car anyway so I'm the boss! I decide where we will go camping and everything. She was just a little worried because I never traveled in the SW during the summer/spring that's all. Hum...I think we will need a car with A/C.
Last edited by Quebec Gen; 04-10-2005 at 02:37 PM.
If you are going to head south...
My personal favorite thing/place in the southeastern part of Arizona: the Apache Trail through the Superstition Mountains between Phoenix and the New Mexico border.
It's a winding, mostly narrow and precipitous, half-paved road but the scenery cannot be beaten. There are 'ghost towns' and abandoned mines, if that sort of thing interests you, but my favorite part is the jagged mountaintop views and the crystal-blue lakes surrounded by the peaks dotted with various cacti. There are several places where you can park the car and wander to the edge - some of the most spectacular photographs, with or without human subjects, that I have ever taken without needing spiked shoes or a safety line.
Halfway along this stretch of 'highway' is Tortilla Flats, population 6, which is a neat little place to stop and try the cactus-berry ice cream. The folks who run the only building in town (general store) are always good for an interesting conversation.
At the end of the trail is the Teddy Roosevelt Dam, and Lake, and close to that is the Tonto National Monument, if you're into Indian pueblo-type ruins. These are two fairly recent (1400s) cave dwellings, but are fairly easy to explore thanks to well-laid paths and staircases.
The highway returns to modernity at the dam, and from there it's an easy drive to Globe, where you pick up major highways again. To the north and east, via I-40, is Albuquerque (300 miles or so). To the south and east, via I-10, is Las Cruces (220 miles) and the straightest shot to Houston (I-10 east through El Paso and San Antonio, around 900 miles from Las Cruces). Last time we drove El Paso-Houston (where I live) it took us about 13 1/2 hours - they can never seem to leave I-10 alone construction-wise.
South of I-10, east of El Paso, is Marfa, which is a fun place to visit if you're into that whole aliens-in-the-desert thing. There are kooky people out there every night watching the 'lights of Marfa', which I have seen myself. The Marfa thing is more amusing to me than the Roswell thing - Roswell is extremely touristy now, and the only unexplained thing we saw there last time through was a huge green glob in the Wal-Mart parking lot. I don't really buy into the whole ufo thing, but it is fun to hang out with the devout and let them tell you alien tales and conspiracy theories.
Also in this general vicinity is Big Bend State Park, which is gorgeous any time of year. Nearby is the McDonald Observatory.
In San Antonio, it's all about the river. Well, not really - there are mission tours and the Alamo and stuff, plus Sea World and Fiesta Texas (one of the better six-flags parks).
In Houston, there are a million things to see/do, depending on what you are interested in. I am sure your friend can help you out with that. Just remember not to compare Houston and Dallas. The rivalry is real and runs deep.. lol