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USA Cross-Country Road Trip

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by 43% burnt, Apr 10, 2006.

  1. 43% burnt

    43% burnt an actor who wants to run the whole show

    May 4, 2004
    Bridgeport, CT
    I've always wanted to do a cross country road trip. I'm thinking about doing it this summer with my girl and our 2 dogs. We're only in the beginning phase of planning still. We're starting to plan out our trip and see exactly what it would take in terms of time and $. There's a lot to take into consideration.

    We're also trying to figure out which route to go. I have a few places, I want to include Chicago, Colorado, the Grand Canyon/Arizona and California. The Pacific coast in particular. Are there any must-see locations that We should consider planning our trip around?

    We'll probably do some camping to reduce hotel costs, and add another interesting element to the trip. So, any good campground suggestions would be cool.

    Money wise, I'm figuring We'll set aside roughly $2-300 a day for gas/food/hotel. Is this a reasonable estimate? I'd love to cut that in half if possible. If we camp half of the time that eliminates a lot of expense. We can also stock up on a lot of food from the grocery store so we're not eating out every meal.

    How much time should we give ourselves for this trip? This is going to be the determining factor for me. Seems like the type of thing you need like 3-4 weeks to do. Getting off work that long is going to be almost impossable. But I'm not ruling it out yet. Where there's a will...

    So, Anyone here ever drive across country? If so, or if you're planning on it, share your experience, tips or thoughts on the subject.
  2. jkritchey


    Jul 23, 2002
    Northern Va.
    I've done it a few times, mostly 20+ years ago, so I can't comment on the costs. The dogs will really add a complication. You really have to plan ahead to make sure your next stop is pet friendly.

    The other consideration is how much time per day you're willing to put in at the wheel. When you get into those large middle states, it seems to me you need to be willing to do 12 hours of driveing per day just to get somewhere. Not everyone is cut out for that.

    As far as must sees: Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone and the tetons are things you can see most conveniently by driving. And shouldn't be missed in your lifetime.

    If you are in the 4 corners area, Mesa Verde is required.

    Also, know this: The prairie in the summer is brutal on cars and on your personal comfort. And while CD's are fabulous, you have to grab a little local radio now and then to watch for tornadoes and road closures. (Yep, they close interstates out there)

    Good luck, I'm a little envious....
  3. paintandsk8

    paintandsk8 Pushin' my soul through the wire...

    May 12, 2003
    West Lafayette, IN
    I've done, Indiana to Maine, Indiana to Colorado, Indiana to Florida, Indiana to Northern Ontario, and Phoenix to San Diego. These are definetly some of my best memories and I wouldn't trade them for the world.

    Here's my thoughts on a route assuming your starting in CT.
    head east to cleveland, check out the city and the lake
    stop in Chicago
    drop south to St. Louis
    Head to denver/colorado springs (this will be a killer drive across kansas)
    drive through the rockies to the Grand Canyon
    stop in Las Vegas (time it so that you drive into vegas late at night, It's absolutely amazing when you come over the ridge and see all the lights laid out in front of you)
    end up in San Diego

    That would get you out west, then to get back you could:

    Drive up the coast to San Francisco
    Head to salt lake (another rough drive across nevada)
    Drive up to Yellowstone
    Head to rushmore from there
    Next stop Minneapolis
    Head across the upper peninsula to Mackinaw
    Drive across the Mackinaw bridge
    Hit Detroit, Toronto, and Niagra Falls on your way back to CT

    That would be a monster road trip. Most of those stops are within a days drive apart, but there are a few nasty drives in there. I think you would really be rushing it to see all that in 3 weeks especially considering that some of those places need more than one day to do them justice (Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, the Denver Colorado springs area). Road trips are all about being out on your own and doing what you want whenever you want so th last thing you want is to be rushing all over trying to keep a schedule. Hopefully that gave you some ideas, but I wouldn't try to see all that in 3 weeks.

    I think you could definetly get by on less than $200 a day if your budget minded. I spent less than $400 in gas to get to maine and back in my 4x4 truck. Figure $40 or less for food if your making some of your own stuff and $70 ish on average for a hotel if you don't stay in middle of the big cities.

    As far as camping goes I would look for state parks along your route. Prices are great and your not gonna be pitching your tent right behind wal-mart like you will with some of these private places. The state parks can fill up on the weekends though.

    The dogs are going to be a huge pain in the arse. Keeping them calm in the car, stopping to let them go to the bathroom, findig pet friendly places to stay, doing something with them when you go to restaurants, shopping, casino's, keeping them quiet at night, all the extra stuff you need to care for them...the list goes on and on.

    Oh yeah, What are you considering driving on this adventure?
  4. FunkSlap89


    Apr 26, 2005
    Albany, NY
    "Chris, now its time to demonstrate eating out...

    at a fancy restaurant"

    :D :D sorry, i couldn't resist

    anyway, I am also considering taking a road trip this summer. I have no idea where to start with the planning though. Oh well, if it works out i'm sure i'll have a blast.
  5. I don’t know if Iowa counts as prairie, since there isn’t much there anymore, but based on my experiences growing up there and traveling I wouldn’t worry too much. There’ll be construction, but the chance of an Interstate closing is slim, and if it is, a detour will be posted, and your trip won’t be delayed much, and if the detour’s clogged, that’s what a map is for.

    Car-wear-wise, The American southwest will be hotter, and probably dustier and drier, too.

    Tornado weather is something that happens, but checking the forecast once a day should be sufficient if there’s nothing in it. I’m probably not a good role model, but I didn’t really pay that stuff any heed, and I’ve only had to pull off the Interstate once in tornado-ish weather when the visibility went too low to drive. BTW, if there is a tornado around, get out of the car and lay flat in the bottom of the ditch – don’t go to a highway overpass.

    Sight-seeing: painstandsk8 offers good advice on the route. There’s nothing to see in Iowa or Nebraska (although downtown Iowa City would be a nice place to eat a meal), so avoiding boring I-80 across the plains is wise. Kansas at least has some nice rolling hills on I-35, but I don’t remember if you see that same thing on I-70.
  6. jkritchey


    Jul 23, 2002
    Northern Va.
    Yeah, you're probably right, but I recall being stunned to see giant gates that they close across the interstates on a visit to Wyoming. Probably just for winter weather, but it was jarring to this easterner.

    I've also been caught by surprise by the swift violence of summer storms on the prairie. Not to be trifled with, particularly if they are packing hail.

    Enough of "Worst Case Scenario".....

    And no, there's nothing to see on I-70 either. I remember being excited to see a dead snake in the road....or a feed lot....or anything....
  7. Rumzini


    Feb 14, 2004
    Jackson, MI
    I was only fortunate to go on a road trip for about a week and a half in the fall of 2000...through some of the southern states on my motorcylce. Just for fun here is a link to my riding buds site and his as he calls, "Mid life chrisis tour of the America's".


    I'm in the section on the road east.

    Half of his journey isn't even in thee site. He kinda got to busy with life when he returned home and never finished the site. In all he rode his motorcycle around for over a year. Went across the US a couple of times, Baja, Mexico, Central America, Canada.
  8. If you are plannig on camping in Colorado check out the ghost town of Marble. You have to have a four wheel drive vehicle to get to it but I think they have tours if you dont. Its an old marble mining town that produced marble for the tomb of the unknown soldier and I think the Lincoln memorial and there are still huge chunks of marble on the side of the road. If you do drive be careful it is a dirt road and very dangerous(very high steep drop offs). I think its called scofield pass.
  9. paintandsk8

    paintandsk8 Pushin' my soul through the wire...

    May 12, 2003
    West Lafayette, IN
    70 does go through some of the rolling sections. For people from the eastern half of the US it is still cool for a while just because were not used to seeing that much open land in every direction. It's also very cool if you catch a storm front moving accross the plains. Watching a thunderstorm roll across kansas is nothing like watching one in Indiana. In the end though 70 is still an unbelievably long stretch of straight road where 90 MPH feels like 30. There really isn't too much between Kansas City and Denver.
  10. jkritchey


    Jul 23, 2002
    Northern Va.
    BTW, my main trip "cross country" was from Pennsylvania to Durango Co. I was 21 and was driving a 1978 Honda Civic 4 speed with no A/C and just an AM/FM radio. The Honda was in great shape (it was 1982), but NOT cut out for that kind of cruise.

    Coming back east in August, we (my future wife on the return trip) came across Kansas into Missouri, and ultimately St. Louis, where it was 110 deg. F. with humidity to boot. We would stop and get some ice and water, and she was literally pouring it on me as I drove. I generally drove 16+ hours a day because i didn't have much cash to stop. I think I got home with $5 left.

    Good story, but I don't recall thinking of it as 'good times' at the time.
  11. 43% burnt

    43% burnt an actor who wants to run the whole show

    May 4, 2004
    Bridgeport, CT
    Thanks for everyone comments. Great stuff, keep 'em coming.

    It seems like a month is the perfect amount of time for a road trip of that magnitude. I won't be able to get that much time off work. If I do it, It needs to be in between jobs or something.

    So instead We're considering doing a large road trip, or a couple week long trips instead. Now to figure out where Charleston, SC.

    As for the vehicle, I just bought a Honda Element which is perfect for road trips. So much room, you can literally sleep in there...which we're planning on.

    I just ordered this book Roadtripping USA : The Complete Coast-to-Coast Guide to America which looks pretty cool.
  12. JimmyO


    Dec 15, 2004
    Durham, NC
    The wife and I are pondering a drive from Rochester, NY to San Diego to visit my brother, sister-in-law and their kids who just moved out there last year.

    I've actually been looking into renting a car for a one-way drive and then flying back. More than 2 weeks really isn't do-able for us. Approximate rental costs for a week, unlimited miles, one-way rental from Rochester to San Diego is in the $500 range, which could be worth it when you consider that you don't have to worry a bit about wear and tear on your own vehicle. Airfares aren't too expensive, $200 or so.

    Yeah, it's a little more "high-maintenance" way to go, but a lot less worries, and only having to do the drive one-way. We'd be all about camping, bringing what food we can with us, and staying in inexpensive motels on the way.
  13. Eric Cioe

    Eric Cioe

    Jun 4, 2001
    Missoula, MT
    Have you thought about a North American Rail Pass? I did a circle tour of North America all last July for less than $1500 total, including hotels, train tickets, food, and books (we stayed with friends around the country for a few nights). Slept on a floor in China Town, NYC July 4th, swam both oceans for the first time within a week of eachother, hiked Grand Canyon, saw the beautiful area just north of Lake Superior ... I could go on. Rail is a good way to go if you're not in a hurry.
  14. mattsk42

    mattsk42 Supporting Member

    Sirius or XM can help on the trip. Especially things like "Classic Radio" where they tell those old stories from the 40's.

    You might save a lot of money staying with people along the way if you know anyone. I'm sure a bunch of TB people would have you in exchange for showing off their gear! :D I don't know that Mt. Rushmore is a "must" unless you're passing through that area anyway. If you come to SD or ND, or are deciding on it, let me know (e-mail) and I can give you a bunch of tips.
  15. dangnewt

    dangnewt Veteran Dispenser

    Jun 6, 2003
    MetroWest Boston
    My wife and I went last summer with our son 15 and daughter 13. It was a lot of fun except that they both seemed to hit puberty simultaneously somewhere in Wyoming.

    We saved some money by staying with friends and relatives along the way. My unclle and Aunt in Gettysburg, cousin in Edmonton; brother-in-law in northern Arkansas; wife's folks in Wisconsin, friend in St. Paul.

    I really enjoyed the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
    Memphis - Graceland and Beale Street are worth it.
    The Grand Canyon is spectacular.
    San Francisco is beautiful.
    I have never been to Las Vegas or Los Angeles but they are on my list of things to do.

    At least 3 weeks, better maybe four. We were gone almost 5 weeks but the last few days were a slog.
  16. 43% burnt

    43% burnt an actor who wants to run the whole show

    May 4, 2004
    Bridgeport, CT
    Wow, what an awesome thing to do with your kids!! I wish my parents did stuff like that with us. Very cool.
  17. dangnewt

    dangnewt Veteran Dispenser

    Jun 6, 2003
    MetroWest Boston

    Thanks, our kids have always been pretty good travellers and they get along reasonably well with us and with each other.

    Because of some nice timing with career and/or job changes, we were fortunate to have the opportunity to go away for awhile so we took it.
  18. jkritchey


    Jul 23, 2002
    Northern Va.
    Not to veer off topic, but I am a big believer in getting the kids trained to travel by car. Start them young. It was a big part of my childhood and probably was a significant part of the bond I have with my 2 brothers. My mother is from North Dakota and I grew up in Pa. so we had long, significant road trips to see her family frequently.

    At any rate, the sooner kids learn the patience required of car travel, and it's rhythms, the better. It's a hard skill to learn when they are teens....

    Back to topic...Perhaps the other poster is correct that Mt Rushmore may not be "must see", but if you're in the area, you might as well swing by. It's in an area of the country you don't run into accidentally....
  19. dangnewt

    dangnewt Veteran Dispenser

    Jun 6, 2003
    MetroWest Boston

    We saw Mt. Rushmore and it is a pretty quick side trip that is worth doing if you also have Yellowstone Park on the itinerary. We were fortunate that we were there during the Sturgis Bike Week - that is a sight worth seeing in itself. I wouldn't plan on staying in that area during Bike Week as the prices are outrageous; but the bikers themselves were cool. Not too far away is Devil's Tower which is also worth seeing.
  20. mattsk42

    mattsk42 Supporting Member

    I agree with the previous 2 posts. I would not want to stay while the Rally is going on, but you might be able to find a cheap place in Rapid City. Also, I find it very very valuable that we went on all kinds of road trips when we were young. (mostly 4 hour ones to ND with absolutely nothing to look at) If nothing else it forces you to get along!

    I would definitely recommend Yellowstone if you like the outdoors.

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