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Road trip across the US

Fagernes, Norway
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Road trip across the US

Hi!

Me and my gf are planning a trip across the US this spring. Because of work obligations, we could just be away for three weeks.

We will arrive in San Francisco the 30th of March, and return from Miami the 21st of April.

Depending on the route we will choose, this will be at least 6000 km (3700 miles), which rougly translates into 300 km (185 miles) per day. This is of course quite a lot of driving, but should be doable in not much more than three hours per day. And in areas with not so much we want to see or visit, I can imagine we can drive 10 hours in one day, and as such "save" a day.

This will be my 7th visit to the US, but my gf's first. I would like suggestion for routes and/or things we "must" see. Initially I was thinking to go from SF to LA along Highway 1. Then Las Vegas, and the shortes route across untill New Orleans (or maybe Houston). But I've now started to think that it will be too much desert, and maybe it's better to head up for Utah, Colorado and Rocky Mountains... It's a far bit longer, but I guess it will be more exciting also.

The route should not be planned too precisely beforehand, we want to be able to improvise a bit during the trip, but the big picture would be nice to have planned before.

We know that the time is way too short for a proper road trip, but it's what we were able to now. We are not really restrained by a budget, so anything goes.

Please, any advice would be appreciated.

Regards,

Stian

Uden, The...
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1. Re: Road trip across the US

Hi and welcome to the forum.Colorado and the Rocky Moutains still can have lots of snow. As this is your gf's first trip why not concentrate on the cities and National Parks in the west? NOt sure you are doing her a favor with such a long trip and limited time at places.

If you insist I would do:

1. SF

2. SF

3. SF to Yosemite

4. Yosemite

5. Yosemite to Death Valley (long drive via Bakersfield, passes will be closed)

6. Death Valley-Las Vegas

7.Las Vegas

8. Las Vegas-Grand Canyon

9. Grand Canyon-Sedona

10. Sedona-Tucson

11. Tucson

12. Tucson-Alamogordo (White Sand NM)

13. Alamogordo-Carlsbad (Caverns)

14. Carlsbad-San Antonio (long drive)

15. San Antonio

16. San Antonio-Austin

17. Austin-New Orleans (long drive)

18. New Orleans

19 and 20: To Miami

21. Miami.

Very rushed and there will be drop off charges for the rental car.

Tet

Fagernes, Norway
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2. Re: Road trip across the US

Hi, and thank you!

I know I'm not doing my gf any favor, but she insisted that she wanted to go across... I was dreaming to go from Chicago to Miami...

Anyways, the plane tickets are already booked, so this is how it wil be... But of course we can fly a leg also. I'm just thinking loudly here, but for instance we can go from Las Vegas to Denver through Utah, and fly from there to New Orleans (or Austin or Dallas or something). That will of course cause two drop off charges for the rental car, but we will survive that. I guess that will save us three days.

I will have to read more about your suggested itinerary, but it looks very exciting - places I would not have thought about staying in, I think.

But you suggest keeping south like this, instead of going up through Utah and Colorado? It's not _that_ much more driving, but of course, if you think AZ, NM, and west TX is better that Utah and Colorado, I will of course trust you :)

Thank you very much for your detailed reply!

Regards,

Stian

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3. Re: Road trip across the US

Yes that will add to the drop off charges but it that's not a problem.

I prefer the southern route that time of year myself. Also wildflowers in Texas. Hill country is beatiful.

Of course you can go from Las Vegas to Denver. It has some of the best NP's on its way like Zion, Bryce, Capitol reef , Canyonlands and Arches NP. The drive from Denver to New Oreans is interesting enough with places like Oklahoma City and Memphis on your way but driving interstates there can take forever.

Just to say that Saguaro NP near Tucson White Sands and Carslbad Caverns are great places for a visit not to mention GC and Sedona. Between Tucson and White Sands more inbteresting places like Tombstone, Bisbee and La Mesilla.

Tet

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4. Re: Road trip across the US

Hi Stian

I would have to echo Tet's sentiments that it's an awful lot of driving to do in such a short time. You won't have much time to linger and enjoy the national parks, stop at the large number of viewpoints or check out some of the many funky smaller communities that you will pass. Also, I have no idea where you got the idea that you average the speeds you have indicated. You've made no allowance for necessary stops like bathroom breaks and fuel stops, let alone ones to admire the scenery. Also, you may encounter traffic or road works from time to time to slow you up,

The parks in southern Utah area are lovely, but as you head from Las Vegas in that direction and on to Denver, your chances of encountering snow are very high - in 2011 the snow lasted in some parts until mid June. I'd guess you would prefer to leave those conditions behind when you leave Norway?!

The suggestion to break up the trip into 2 parts makes a lot of sense. You could do 2 circular trips, one out of San Francisco, returning the car there - I'd suggest for 2 weeks so you can get to some of the national parks and to Las Vegas. Then fly to Miami and do a circuit of Florida, including down to the Everglades and funky Key West for a week. March/April is a good time to visit Florida - not too hot and ahead of hurricane season. That way, with circular road trips, you'd have no drop off fees, the money saved can be put towards the airfare. Also, you won't have drop off fees if you pick up in SF and drop the car in LV, depending on who you rent with, so that one way trip would work, too.

Of course this means you'd miss a whole load of territory in the middle of the south, much of it very scenic. But you'd also avoid a few really boring, endless days with no time to spare to view any scenery except out of the windscreen of the car.

The choice is yours, we can but make suggestions!

Happy planning,

SWT

Edited: 23 January 2012, 13:08
Ohio
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5. Re: Road trip across the US

there's no way you can do it all :)

Tet's suggestion is a good one. Stay south at that time of year. My favorite part of the US is the 4 corners area-- the parks in Utah and Colorado, but.... high elevations will give you snow that time of year. Stick with the more southerly route unless you can switch your travel time to later in the year.

Reading...
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6. Re: Road trip across the US

I sort of have a different opinion of long days in the car. I don't really mind them, and I usually travel solo. I think it's interesting to see how the landscape changes.

I do agree that you will have issues with snow at high elevations at that time of the year. And I think it's a more ideal time to visit the desert. I'm a teacher in the US, so I only travel in the summer, and Las Vegas in July isn't that much fun (except for at night). So I think you'd be okay sticking to the desert.

I would suggest heading down the coast from SF to LA. You could probably do that in about 3-4 days, depending on what you want to see. Then you could go across CA to Las Vegas.

From there you could stop at the Grand Canyon and then take Interstate 40 across for a while. Stop in Holbrook, AZ to see the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. Albuquerque and Santa Fe in NM are both really interesting and you could easily spend 2-3 days in that general area.

The Texas panhandle is kinda boring, so I'd recommend making that one of your long driving days. I tend to add a few long days into my trips to "save" days, as you mention. When your time is limited, sometimes it is better to see more and then decided what you may want to re-visit or skip on a later trip. I know many others don't prefer to do that, but I find that method to work well for me. I prefer driving over flying any day!

You could probably do Santa Fe to New Orleans in two long days. My strategy for days like that is to start early, do half your driving in the morning, stop at lunch time somewhere and visit something for a few hours, such as a museum or small park or whatever, and then do the rest of your drive. As I said, I do it all the time alone, so with another person it's not too bad.

From New Orelans to FL you would be taking Interstate 10. You could either stop somewhere in the Florida panhandle area along the Gulf Island, or else have a really long day and make it to Orlando. From there it is shorter drive (about 4 hours) to Miami.

Wednesbury, UK
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7. Re: Road trip across the US

TWR.

Sounds like you Road Trip like we do sometimes, but I'm still not sure I'd want do that trip in just three weeks. Anyway, OPs committed to the start and end points so.....

Fagernes, Norway
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8. Re: Road trip across the US

Since you guys so unanimously recommends going south and not to Colorado, I guess I will follow your advice :) But just curious, what makes the snow a problem? Driving? Closed roads? I'm living in the mountains of Norway, so I'm pretty used to snow. Not that I like snow so much that I necessarily have to seek it, I'm just curious why all of you seem to think the snow is a problem. I'm guessing closed roads. I was dreaming a little about a day in Aspen to go skiiing, but I guess that's just stupid...

Tet14: Appreciate your insight a lot! Will be duly noted.

SWT: Not that we need to debate this, but as we are talking legs of three-four hours, there's little or no need of bathroom breaks. Maybe I was a bit optimistic about average speed, but the driving I have done in the US I feel are not congested at all. Anyway, one hour driving more every day won't change anything - it still has to be done, and we are well prepared for it.

That said, of course we want to have more time, but the thinking was that we do this, go from coast to coast, and then we can later go back to the places we liked or feel that we should have explored more. We are travelling quite a lot, and this will not be the last trip to the US. Of course we hope to see and explore some things more closely, but in general the agenda for this trip is to go from coast to coast, and everything "extra" will be bonus.

So the suggestion about making 2 circular trips is good, and quite probably something we might do the next trip.

wings1980: Again, I know it's too little time, but that's just how it will be this time. But again, what's the thing with the snow? :)

TWR: Thank you very much! Finally someone thinking like us :) Hehe. I have been driving a lot down in Europa, and are not unknown to long legs. But of course, this will be a new experience still, but we still think there will be a good trip, even with all the driving.

I've been to Vegas in August twice, and as long as I can stay at the pool it's okay ;) But I agree, April temperature should be better. First time I was there was early March, and it was ok.

I think your suggested route will be very close to what we will do. I will have to sit down by the map and use some time to think it through, but it seems very promising.

Thank you all for your time. It's very, very helpful :)

Regards,

Stian

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9. Re: Road trip across the US

closed roads-- that is the problem with snow. The interstate going up and over the Rockies from Moab to Denver was closed for a day when we were in the area in Oct . Trail Ridge Rd going thru Rocky Mtn Natl park will be closed all winter at least in part. The road up Mt Evans is closed all winter. Etc-- it's not that you cannot drive thru snow, it's just that some things will be closed, so why not make that trip a different time of year?

If it doesn't matter to you, whether or not some things will be closed and you're fine with driving in snow, then go for it-- You know better what you're comfortable with--

Wednesbury, UK
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10. Re: Road trip across the US

It's also the suitability of your rental vehicle for winter driving, the chain conundrum, winter tyres, winterisation in terms of engine block heaters if its really bad etc, although April may carrry less of those risks, so like wings says go for it if you like, but keep some flexibility.

I had to re-route for two days due to a late winter strom in Colorado last May, can't drive that way if the roads closed.

Edited: 25 January 2012, 08:48