Roadtrip Southwest March 2002?

Old Nov 30th, 2001, 12:28 PM
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Roadtrip Southwest March 2002?

My husband and I are planning a rented car roadtrip in March 2002
We live in Denmark, Scandinavia. My husband has been to California once (LA, Frisco) whereas I've never been there.
We are basically into beautiful driveby scenery, museums, architecture, good food&wine and shopping ;-)

We would like to take the following route:
1. New Orleans

2. The region between Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona (4-state cross) especially the * marked sights
Petrified Forest
Mesa Verde, Colorado
* Monument Valley
Canyon De Chelly
* Grand Canyon
Bryce Canyon

3. Las Vegas

4. Los Angeles

5. San Francisco via Highway 1 along the coast

A. How long do you think this trip in total will take if we both drive primarily during daytime?

B. How many days would you spend in each city/sight?

C. We don't plan on more than max ½-1day treks - what would you recommend?

D. Any scenic/great located yet affordable (preferably less than 100USD for 2persons + private bath) hotels/motels to recommend?
A basic no-frills room even without AC would be fine for March

E. Any restaurants/local dishes we simply must try (including the occasional splurge max. 200USD for 2persons wine+tips included)?

F. Where should we rent a small new car in New Orleans and how much is a reasonable fee? including insurance (liability, damage + theft)

TIA & best regards
Cecilie, Copenhagen
Old Nov 30th, 2001, 12:43 PM
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You might want to leave out N.O. or visit there and then fly to Albuquerque or Phoenix. The actual drive time from N.O. to ABQ is probably more than 24 hours! The scenery isn't too thrilling, either.

March is a nice month in N. O. and other cities you name, but will be chilly and possibly muddy at the higher elevations in the four corners area. You might try to make the four corners your last stop to do it as late as possible in the season. The only thing on your four corners list that isn't worth a day or more is the Petrified Forest. A couple of hours should do fine there.

You should definitely taste some New Mexican food (very spicy) somewhere in N.M., and Indian fry bread (available at 4 corners monument).

Farther west, you might want to throw in Death Valley, an interesting place.

Other posters can give you information on prices, etc. Have a great trip!
Old Nov 30th, 2001, 12:45 PM
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Cecilie, just curious, is New Orleans a must-see on your list? If you deleted it from your itinerary you would save yourself a huge amount of driving and could spend more time in the Southwest. New Orleans is not the Southwest and is nowhere near it. It is the Southeast, in fact, the Deep South.
Old Nov 30th, 2001, 01:04 PM
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I, too, would advise you to consider either deleting N.O., or flying from there to a city in the Southwest. Trust me, you do not want to drive across Texas!! I know, Texas sounds romantic, the heart of the American West, etc. but it is soooo boring to drive across, and it's huge. I've driven across the whole state, and I wouldn't do it again under any circumstances!
Old Nov 30th, 2001, 03:12 PM
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A friend & I drove from Jacksonville to Albuquerque, with a stay in New Orleans. Trust me, the drive through through the swamp & across the dusty plains of Texas will put you to sleep!

I would fly out of New Orleans into El Paso TX, where you can start your road trip. You don't want to miss Carlsbad Caverns!
Old Nov 30th, 2001, 03:19 PM
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Thanks for your answers -
You've already convinced me that skipping the drive through Texas is v. sensible...will probably reconsider N.O. as well or at least check out the flights from Phoenix or Abq.
I read somewhere else on Fodors that the North Rim of Grand Canyon could be closed in April - do you guys know any official links of that national park or how the situation usually is mid-late March?
Old Nov 30th, 2001, 03:53 PM
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The website for information about all National Parks is
Old Nov 30th, 2001, 07:56 PM
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I agree with the other posters, fly from N.O. to somewhere in the Southwest.
Consider doing a large loop for your driving route, because the fees for dropping off a rental car at a different location is typically high.

Old Dec 1st, 2001, 05:20 AM
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I've not done this particular route, so others may come up with better options. I'm trying to keep in mind that March still may be snowy in the higher elevations in UT/CO. How about using San Fran as your in/out, driving down to LA on 101 (see Museum of Contemporary Art in LA), then head on I-40 to Williams, then up Hwy 54 to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Use 64 to connect to 89, then 160 to Kayenta (if there's time, please stop at the Navajo National Monument) and up 163 to Monument Valley. Make your reservations now at Goulding's Lodge so you can take advantage of seeing Monument Valley at sunrise. From Monument Valley, take 163 to Hwy 666, and drop down into CO to go to Mesa Verde. From Mesa Verde, drop down from 666 to 160, then south on 191 to go to Chinle and Canyon de Chelly. (Thunderbird Lodge is closest to the park; Chinle has some chain hotels as well.) Proceed south again on 191, and head west on I-40. (Stop at the Painted Desert Visitors Center before you get to Holbrook.) Head north on Hwy 93 or 95 for your trip to Las Vegas (although in my mind, you've now seen so much natural beauty, the glitz of LV will pale in comparison- my personal opinion.) Drop back down on I-15 to Barstow, and use Hwy 58 to Bakersfield. You can toss the coin on using I-5 or Hwy 99 to get back to SF. Your best dining opportunities will be in SF, LA and LV, and my vote is for SF for best food/wine opportunities. The scenery is the showstopper in AZ, UT, and CO. Use the site to check info on Grand Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, and Mesa Verde. Definitely buy a NPS Park Pass since you're doing three parks. As you further define your trip, post again & more info can be given on specific sites. My only question is the March timing; I'm not suggesting a route through Bryce- we've been in May, and snow was still on side of roads- also North Rim of Grand Canyon is closed. Save Bryce for a Zion/Bryce/North Rim trip. Others will chime in on this subject. Don't know your amount of time to travel; we've had good success in using a mapping program, such as Microsoft Streets & Trips to figure mileage; also we've had good success with AAA TripTiks. If you want to cut it short, drop Mesa Verde and LV - you're already getting two big cities, three parks, and some major drive time! Hope this helps; safe travels to you.
Old Dec 1st, 2001, 06:08 AM
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If you are still considering New Orleans _ which is definitely a great destination for food, wine and architecture! _ then check into flights on Southwest Airlines, (i think that's the site.) They often have the best deals and they don't show up on a lot of internet airfare sites.
Old Dec 1st, 2001, 07:45 AM
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Check Avis Car Rentals on one way car rentals. In many cases they don't charge a drop off fee on their rentals. We are renting a full size in Vegas for 7 days and dropping off San Diego for $240.00 plus taxes. New Orleans is one of our favorite places to visit, you need 2-3 days, walk French Quarters, hang out at Jackson Square, ride trolley on St. Charles. Holiday Inn has hotel in the Quarters which offers second night free
Old Dec 1st, 2001, 09:48 PM
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The last reply was correct about not much to see along that route. I agree with the flying into Phoenix idea. Lots to see in northern Arizona. Musts are Grand Canyon, Sedona, Petrified Forest, Painted Desert, Jerome, Meteor Crater, Montezuma's Castle & Well, Sunset Crater, Wapatki Indian Ruins. Not a thing between them but sage brush and cactus. All can be seen without a great deal of walking, but short hikes are worth the effort. March is going to be cold and many mountain passes may be closed due to snow and ice. Late April is nice, but May is beautiful. The desert is in bloom.
Old Dec 2nd, 2001, 12:54 PM
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Phoenix is a major city for flights from Europe. If you've never been to the Grand Canyon at all, you'll be just as happy at the South Rim as you would be at the North. Suggest on the way from Phoenix to GC you should stop in Sedona to see the beautiful red rocks. The Hitching Post there is an old stage coach stop and has some interesting food. I think the drive from LA to SF requires a week if you want to see things. You don't need to do it totally on hwy 1 though. There are tons of posts on this subject--do a search. You'll want 2 days minimum in LA and 3 days minimum in SF. The highlight of the central coast for most visitors is the Hearst Castle near Cambria. Motel 6 is a consistent chain of budget motels in California--I'm sure they have a website. In SF try the Wharf Inn, Cornell Hotel, Pacific Heights Inn, Andrews Hotel,Chelsea Motor Inn, Columbus Motor Inn,Grant Plaza Hotel, and Hotel Del Sol--be sure to get a personal recommendation about budget hotels in SF. If they look too good to be true, they probably aren't in the greatest area. Look at to request a visitor's guide to the state. In SF have cioppino, Dungeness crab, and dim sum---Chinese tea food. Hang Ah in Chinatown is good or you might feel more comfortable taking a Wokwiz tour that ends up with a dim sum lunch--look at Nice people and you'll see things in Chinatown you would otherwise miss.Lots of pretty architecture in SF--visitors bureau has self guided walking tours. The "Painted Ladies", beautiful old Victorian homes near Alamo Square are especially nice. I would add a star to Canyon de Chelly on your list and on the way to Sedona, take a quick look at "Montezuma's Castle". March can still be pretty cool in higher elevations of Arizona and in northern CA. Have a great trip.
Old Dec 2nd, 2001, 04:52 PM
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The drive out there from NO is LONG and not much to enjoy. I'm sending you some info on the 4 Corners area direct since it is too long to post here. Has some web sites but some may be outdated. Enjoy
Old Dec 3rd, 2001, 11:17 AM
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take at least 2 days to do the drive between santa barbara and san fransisco hwy 1. fabulous drive - montery is a nice town to stay in. when you go to vegas, try to go between sunday-thursday as hotel prices are significantly less expensive then on the weekends.
Old Dec 7th, 2001, 03:19 PM
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Please remember that the weather will be cold in the mountains. The north rim of the Grand Canyon will be closed. You may end up with snow in Flagstaff and there is a possibility of the south rim also closing due to weather. You have quite an itinerary and I was curious how much time you are planning on spending. I would highly recommend a more indept visit to fewer of the places instead of the long drives you will rack up. Fly into Phoenix or Vegas and do a circle tour. It will keep costs down.

Start in Phoenix, go south to Tucson and Tombstone. Then head to San Diego. Go north to LA do the sights and continue on to Vegas. From Vegas do Bryce and Zion. Then head south into Arizona, go to South Rim of Canyon. Head up to Monument Valley and Four Corners. Try to do the jeep tour in Monument Valley (well worth the visit) then you can hit Durango, CO and Mesa Verde. You will also have snow in this area so be prepared. Then head south to Sedona and Oak Creek. Montezuma's Castle is and can be a short stop. Skip Jerome, it isn't worth it unless you have lots of time. Trust me on that as I work for a tour operator in Arizona. Jerome never gets people excited on tours.

I'll be happy to get you more information if you have an idea of how long you'll be here.


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