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Cross-Country trip advice

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Hello, I am new to the site. I am a 41-year-old single male from California wanting to go from my home state to Virginia and back (southerly the way there, northerly the way back).

I plan to leave in the beginning of April and be gone about 2 months, staying with family 25-33% of the time in at least 7 different points along the way.

I anticipate driving 5-6 hours per day, and for the most part avoid major interstates. I'd like to see minor league baseball games, small towns, museums, national parks, and so on.

I am hoping for a budget of about $120 a day. My trip is about 8500 miles as is though that doesn't include spontaneous detours.

The mode of travel is undecided. I own a '07 Honda Civic Hybrid, which is very reliable but may be too small for the job. Other considerations include buying a cheap (3K or under) used van from a private seller (e.g., craigslist); leasing a new Honda CR-V or similar (at the approx. cost of $800 for the 2 months; I'd have to stay under 12K miles); renting or buying a car similar to the CR-V; or taking a combination of Amtrak and Greyhound and renting cars at various points.

I am not a camper but am okay with sleeping in a car provided a shower is not difficult to get; I am open to sleeping in the car at truck stops and camping grounds. I am also becoming familiar with couchsurfing and am open to cheap motels, hostels, etc.

This is a longtime dream of mine that more or less began with reading Blue Highways and other road trip books. It will involve putting aside work which I should be able to pick back up on my return, though I am hoping to then transition to a new career. I will be writing a lot on this trip and taking photographs and will make a book out of the experience.

Any tips, advice, etc. is very welcome. The mode of travel is the biggest question mark right now. Keeping to the budget is important.

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