I recently returned from a 6 day, 2400 mile roadtrip. Since a frequent question here is "how much does a road trip cost," I kept close track of my expenses for this one in hopes the information might prove slightly useful to someone else. I say slightly since the type of roadtripper you are and the type of trip you are taking will cause your costs to vary.
This trip was not a sightseeing kind of roadtrip -- I was taking a vehicle to my son who is in the Army on the east coast (Norfolk, VA area). I had a limited amount of time and a specific destination. I therefore made an effort to get there as quickly as possible in case I ran into an unexpected problem that would cause me to need the extra time. It's important to note that my focus was not economy -- but controlling the time spent on the road. I therefore ate all meals in cafes and restaurants, and I made three out of four arrangments for lodging ahead of time (which did help keep lodging costs lower). With that in mind, and for what they're worth, here are the stats and costs for my trip:
Phoenix to Fort Eustis, VA, mostly via I-40. (My route was I-17 to I-40 to I-81 to I-64.)
It totaled 2,404 miles. I averaged about 51.6 mph over the entire driving day (each), and was usually driving the speed limit or close to it. In the west that meant I was typically running about 75 to 79 mph, farther east it was closer to 65 mph.
The average overall was almost always 51.6 mph, or very close to it. This no longer surprises me, as it is always the case -- I discovered this years ago while traversing the continental USA as a truck driver. No matter how fast I drive, my average for the day is always about this same number.
The '97 Toyota Tacoma I was driving had 91,000 miles on it by the time I finished. I checked it out and did nothing but have new belts put on it (plus I added air to the tires) before I left Phoenix -- my son maintains the truck himself and it is in great condition as a result. It had been parked since he left for boot camp in January. It averaged about 23 mpg overall on this trip -- got as high as 27 mpg in the west with what I assume to have been a tailwind!
I averaged 601 miles per day over 4.5 days of driving. It was a total of 48.5 driving hours -- the two longest driving days were the middle ones -- roughly 14 hours each from start to park. I was fatigued after those two long days and slowed down a bit after that -- the third full day was 9.5 hours, and that left only 200 miles to finish up on the last half day (4.7 hours). The first "day" was a 6 hour evening run from Phoenix to Gallup to get a head start on the trip.
My costs (averages, per day):
Overall total (average) per day: $111.29
Road Report: I-40 is in about average shape from Flagstaff, AZ to Knoxville, TN. Some sections are great (new pavement), a few are terrible (potholed and rough). The good road surface was more frequent than the terrible. There were numerous road work zones from New Mexico on -- but only one time was the traffic backed up in any way -- that was in Nashville where a bridge repair crew had the traffic funneled into one lane and the back-up was about 1.5 miles. I found I-81 and I-64 to be about the same as I-40.
My roadkill score for this journey was a one-bump-bounce raccoon strike about 40 miles east of Oklahoma City -- I tried to miss that peckerwood but he doubled back on me and I nailed him at about 70. He never felt a thing.
Highlights of the trip:
A stop at Glenrio, TX -- an old (now ghost) town on the TX/NM border on old 66. I stayed in the motel there when I was 13 in 1966 -- and consciously recognized the Great Plains for the first time out the back window of that motel room. I have been awed by them ever since. The motel is a ruin now, about to fall down. Nothing much remains of the town which was never more than a gas station/cafe/motel anyway, but it looks like one family still lives in a house there -- probably ranchers from the looks of things. Glenrio died when I-40 by-passed it in the late 60s. Old Rte 66 is still a curb-divided boulevard in front of that ruined motel today -- although the pavement ends very quickly on either end of the town.
Best meal: I had lunch at the Morrilton (AR) Drive Inn -- right off I-40 at the Morrilton exit. I had your basic deluxe old fashioned cheeseburger and tater tots -- and the food was pretty darn great!
Once arrived at Fort Eustis, I was able to visit with my son only for about 2 or 3 hours as he was "on duty" -- but his new bride and I spent a day on the Outer Banks of North Carolina on Monday -- we went to the beach, to the Wright Bros First Flight Memorial at Kitty Hawk and had barbecue at The Pigman's place. I flew home on Tuesday.