cross country in 21 days

Mar 12th, 2007, 08:05 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2004
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cross country in 21 days

I'm planning a cross country trip with my two kids (14 and 17). After scouring this site for days, I've come up with a first draft itinerary. Already booked is the train (and a roommette) as well as lodging in Yellowstone, Teton and the Grand Canyon.

The driving is about 4 hours each day, with two longer days (to and from Salt Lake) and 5 days with no driving. I'm used to driving (2-3 hours a day) and my daughter will have just gotten her license and will need practice on some barren highways. I'd prefer not to extend the trip, but am thinking a day between Salt Lake and Page might be needed.

What I'd like is general advice. Has anyone had experience with this pace and is it doable? If not, what should I skip - or (better yet) ADD? Keep in mind that this is our last family vacation before my daughter leaves for college, so I'm anxious not to miss anything unless we really have to! My kids do travel well, but aren't the types to want long hikes in the parks. I just want them to experience the amazing array of landscapes we have - together as a family.

1. 18 hour overnight train to Chicago (my daughter's afraid to fly, but did agree to one flight back)
2. day in Chicago
3. departure West to the “great river road” north to Dubuque
4. W to Waterloo; tour John Deere factory, N to Mason City or somewhere reachable
5. W to Mitchell to see “corn palace”
6. W to Wall, lunch at Wall Drug, then on to Keystone/Custer to see lighting ceremony at Mt. Rushmore
7. see Mt. Rushmore in daylight, late departure with stop at Devil's Tower, then on to Sheridan
8. explore Buffalo Bill Museum, see a rodeo?
9. N to enter Yellowstone via Beartooth Highway
10. day at Yellowstone
11. YNP to Grand Teton National Park
12. white water rafting
13. departure for Antelope Island State Park float in Great Salt Lake, drive to Salt Lake City (Temple Square)
14. S to Page, AZ, stopping at Bridal Falls, (and maybe Bryce Canyon for a short hike)
15. am river float in Page, on to South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park
16. day at GCNP
17. GCNP to Las Vegas, stopping at Hoover Dam
18. afternoon departure to LA
19. Chill on Manhatten beach (where my brother lives)
20. Chill on the beach
21. fly back to Baltimore
mberry is offline  
Mar 12th, 2007, 08:42 PM
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Overall doable. But I'd drive through the midwest faster and spend more time in the National Parks of Utah or Grand Canyon. I don't see why you need 4 days just to get from Chicago to the Black Hills area.

Cut out two days there and get to Mount Rushmore at the end of Day 4. Don't waste that much time in Iowa...
rkkwan is offline  
Mar 12th, 2007, 10:38 PM
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I agree it's doable, and I also think you should condense your trip between days 3 and 8 and add more time in Yellowstone area and southern Utah. Instead of six days 3-8, drive a little longer during the days and condense the six days to three. Add a day in the Yellowstone/Grand Tetons area and a couple of days in Southern Utah to see Zion NP and perhaps Moab. Put Moab or Zion or Bryce in the search box above and you will get a lot of info on traveling in the area.

Our family once took 10 days to drive from Maryland (Hi, neighbor) to California, and we thought that was a lot of time. We got such a late start that we spent the first night in Roanoke, VA! and the second and third nights in east Tennessee and west Tennessee, but we spent six hours at Opryland amusement park. We spent several hours in Memphis and the next night in Arkansas, where I can't believe we PAID $$ to sit in the dirt and dig for diamonds.

We put in a lot of driving the next fews days with fewer stops, and we had books-on-tape in the car to entertain us on the longer days. Our main objective was to get out west to visit relatives in San Diego, St. George, UT and SLC, UT. Then we took a somewhat leisurely trip back to MD via Mt. Rushmore. Our entire trip was over a month!
xanthippe is offline  
Mar 13th, 2007, 06:04 AM
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Great! That's what I needed. Day 3 is really an extra day for Chicago (who knows whether Amtrak will really get us there the morning before) so I don't want to add driving to that day, but day 4 and 5 can definitely be combined and in doing so, I'll be switching the long day of driving from day 14 to day 4. (I don't think I can cut time from the Badlands since we only have an evening and half day.)

That gives us a night in Bryce Canyon (now day 13) instead of Page. We'll then drive to Page then next day for an afternoon float before an evening drive to the Grand Canyon where we'll now have 2 full days and a morning to explore.

mberry is offline  
Mar 13th, 2007, 07:37 AM
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I think non-hikers will be bored out of their skull at the Grand Canyon for 2+ days, unless you plan well and come up with something to do other than look at the various viewpoints.
Mar 13th, 2007, 11:06 AM
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They'd be willing to do some hiking; I just meant that a week in any particular park (which so many recommend) would probably be too much for them. I'm reading posts about the mule rides at the Grand Canyon and am trying to decide if that would be too scarey/dangerous and (if not) whether a half day ride is an option.
mberry is offline  
Mar 13th, 2007, 12:23 PM
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If it were me, I would fly from Chicago to Rapid City, and skip the endless plains in the middle (they are interesting, but not for four days, especially when much more time can be spent out West). You can spend a lot more time at Devils Tower, the national parks (including Bad Lands or Wind Cave to see buffalo, pronghorns, bighorn sheep and other wildlife). And also spend a few more days in California and a full day in Las Vegas. You have way too many travel days, at least in my opinion, and not enough days to appreciate the grandeur of the national parks.
thit_cho is offline  
Mar 13th, 2007, 11:10 PM
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Another place you could skip to allow more time to some other place is Antelope Is. and the Great Salt Lake. Antelope Is. is worth a visit (one) if you live in the area, but it is barren and there isn't much to see. Did you mean that you yourselves are going to float in the lake? I enjoyed doing that as a child, but we took our children there 20 years ago and it was kinda smelly and, in addition, you had to walk out about half a mile before the water was up to your knees, about a mile before it was deep enough to float in. Your kids are too old to enjoy it. We were in Utah visiting grandparents--I've lived in Maryland most of my life.

Temple Square is worth a visit though, and you might consider visiting Park City.

I agree with the poster who said 2+ days is more time than you need at the Grand Canyon. Unless you're into major hiking, there's little to do except go along the rim and gaze with awe into the wonder of the canyon. It IS wonderful, and you should see it from several different vantage points, but you don't need two full days. I recommend walking down into the canyon (Bright Angel Trail, I believe it's called) for 15-30 minutes. You don't have to go far to get away from the crowd of tourists, and it's fabulous to sit on a rock and enjoy the view and the silence. Allow at least double time to come back up, Take water, especially if it's hot.

Many people like Zion NP better than Bryce. I still think you should consider a day there rather than the second day at GC. Zion isn't far off the road from Bryce down to GC

Oh yes, one more thing. It's probably too late to book a mule ride into the Grand Canyon. Many people book a year in advance. I've never understood how they can do that; it's all I can do to book hotels 2 months in advance.
xanthippe is offline  
Mar 14th, 2007, 05:21 AM
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While in IA why not make a stop at "The Little Brown Church in the Vail". A little bit of Americana.

Tight schedule, you are not taking into consideration the driving times you will encounter on the two lane mountain roads in the Rocky Mountain and other areas of the west and mid west. If at all possible spend a little more time in the Black Hills and the Yellowstone/Teton areas.
RedRock is offline  
Mar 14th, 2007, 03:27 PM
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Thanks...this is all helpful.

If I take time away from the Grand Canyon, I'd probably add it (as suggested) to Bryce or Zion where taking a ride (on a horse) or just a short hike might actually be an option. I've been reading posts about Zion and Bryce and am trying to decide is "best" for that kind of stop. One consideration is the drive itself. There are so many scenic routes in that vicinity - does anyone have a favorite? Speaking of drives, Redrock: could you be more specific about where I should expect the drive to be slower than mapquest indicates?

Sorry, can't give up the float in Salt Lake. I read a great post on this site about what fun it was to walk that mile (apparently the smell diminishes) and my kids are good sports; they'll humor me.

Thanks for the tip on the little brown church. I've been using that "roadside america" websit , trying to find just that sort of thing. I'm not sure I'll go out of my way for the world's largest frying pan, but the church might be nice Did you know that "little churches" are all over America? (I didn't, but the site has lot of pics).

Back to reading...thanks again!

mberry is offline  
Mar 14th, 2007, 03:36 PM
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Oops! I just realized the "little brown church" isn't actually a little church. But it might be fun to see it anyway, given the popularity of the song.
mberry is offline  
Mar 14th, 2007, 03:53 PM
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About 20 miles west of Dubuque is Dyersville and The Field Of Dreams baseball diamond. It's certainly worth a stop if you liked the movie- you can even play a few innings on the field.
mona2 is offline  
Mar 14th, 2007, 07:28 PM
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The Little Brown Church is not all that big. My sons MIL is from IA and was married there long ago. Most of these kind of attractions can be seen in an hour or so. They help break up the driving..

When you get on Mountain roads that are scenic don't depend on mapquest or any other routing go give an honest drive time. One "Bear Jam" in Yellowstone could delay you for an hour or two. A stretch of road construction could do the same. Most all road construction is done in the short summer season. You also want to allow time to stop, see the sights and other things. Everyone travels at their own pace. In too many cases people are punching a time clock trying to get some where or to a motel by a specified time. Some like it this way, not me. I would suggest getting some good maps... Wal*Mart has a good Rand McNally Road Atlas ($5.97) good price. If you are a member of AAA get their maps and Tour Books of all the states you will be going thru, they can help a lot. If you are not do you know someone that is?

one road you wont make good time driving.....
RedRock is offline  
Mar 14th, 2007, 10:49 PM
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I just clicked on the first link above. Don't worry, mberry--you won't have to drive on any roads like that orphaned highway shown in the first picture. It's true, though, that bears can cause traffic jams in Yellowstone. Also, sometimes all the cars will suddenly pull over, stop and pile out because someone spotted a bear or a moose. There's a lot to see at Yellowstone/Grand Tetons, great long and short hikes, great scenery.

After you leave SLC you can get on I15 and drive south to Zion NP in about five hours. It's about half an hour off the interstate, as I recall. You can stay in Springdale, just outside the park, see the park the next day, and then drive on to Bryce if you want. Then you'll be off the interstates until you get to Las Vegas, but the roads are pretty fast. They aren't "winding mountain roads."

Good luck making all your decisions. You'll have a wonderful time whatever you decide to do.
xanthippe is offline  
Mar 14th, 2007, 10:51 PM
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P.S. The road leaving Zion IS a winding mountain road, spectacular, with a tunnel. After that most of the roads will be flat and more or less straight.
xanthippe is offline  
Mar 15th, 2007, 06:38 AM
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xanthippe-- lol--"I just clicked on the first link above. Don't worry, mberry--you won't have to drive on any roads like that orphaned highway shown in the first picture."

That "Orphaned Highway" just happens to be the Beartooth Highway. One of the most scenic and famous highways in the world. People come from all over the world JUST to drive it.. Don't miss it if you are ever in the area. The BTH is also on one of the major approaches to Yellowstone NP if you are approaching from Billings and I-90...

Oh well, just stay on the interstate.
RedRock is offline  
Mar 15th, 2007, 08:50 AM
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I'm taking an indirect route to Yellowstone just so that I can take the BTH. Like a few other routes (such as the great river road), the drive IS the destination. (That's the nature of a roadtrip.) However, I DO appreciate the advice/warning as it helps me to better gauge the TIME and adapt my schedule (in advance).

After reading lots of posts, I've decided to take the day deducted from GC and spend a night/day in Bryce. I've already booked the mule trip and will also schedule the astronomy talk. The drive from SLC to Bryce looks to be about 4+ hours, which is about the max for me. But I have to ask: would it would be worth the added drive to take a detour through Zion?

mberry is offline  
Mar 15th, 2007, 12:16 PM
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We have driven a part of the Great River Road, in fact we stayed at the L&M Motel in Savanna IL (US-52) last year on out way back from the summer trip, very nice lady that runs the place. She is some what of a car enthusiast. If you are to the north Effigy Mounds NM is worth a stop as is Nauvoo to the south. While in Mitchell SD you can stop and have a cool one at the Dairy Queen across the street from the Corn Palace, I'm sure the 14 and 17 year old will appreciate this...

RedRock is offline  
Mar 16th, 2007, 01:12 AM
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RedRock - lol indeed! I didn't read beyond the two captions and thought the caption that said "above" meant immediately above (and "below" meant further down somewhere). I thought the "orphaned highway" was some old, unused highway. In fact, I've driven on the Beartooth and I don't recall anyplace with what appear to be steep dropoffs so close to the road. But we drove out of Yellowstone, up to the summit, back to Chief Joseph Highway and down to Cody.

Please, don't make me stick to the interstates!
xanthippe is offline  
Mar 16th, 2007, 04:42 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
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If you would have continued to Red Lodge and not turned around to drive the Chief Joseph (WY296) you would have gone down roadway pictured.
RedRock is offline  

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