Thinking of Driving Around the Country......

Old Feb 11th, 2013, 06:21 AM
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Thinking of Driving Around the Country......

My wife and I are considering a drive around the country and I wanted to get info from people that have done it regarding the amount of days needed to do it right. We've tossed several ideas in our head. 1 week, 2 weeks, drive the entire country up north and then back via south, fly to middle and then drive the midwest and west and then fly back home, all kinds of ideas. We are not the driving type but I can do a decent amount on vacations ( I hate local driving). Probably around 4-5 hours would be max per day. We just want to allow enough time to enjoy what we see and spend extra time in some places. Our goal is not to get across coountry and back in a speed race just to say we did it. Based on calculations, it seems we would need at least three weeks to do it right.

We line outside of Washington D.C., this is why we have considered skipping the east coast area and jumping straight to the middle.
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Old Feb 11th, 2013, 06:41 AM
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Ooops, I meant we live outside od D.C.
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Old Feb 11th, 2013, 07:27 AM
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It's around 40 hours wheels turning from coast to coast, so if you want to limit your driving to five hours per day, and have three weeks, then you'd only have five days to see things, aside from what you might see during your (long) overnight stops.

I've driven from the east coast to Seattle (which note is farther west than, say Los Angeles) in 4 1/2 long days, but there certainly was minimal time in that to stop and look around, just pedal/metal.

So if you want to go the coast-to-coast route, you might look into a couple of alternatives. First, tolerate more than five hours per day. Just my opinion, but if you avoid stops in major cities en route (e.g. Chicago) you'll find that roughly from the Ohio line to the Rockies (say, Black Hills in the north, Denver or New Mexico in the south) that five hours a day won't seem like enough; the average speeds are high and the scenery - for the most part - is not the sort of thing you'll stop to gawk. I hate the term "flyover states" - so demeaning to some wonderful places and people, but if your aim is to get from one side of the country to the other, you can motor briskly through some of the Midwestern and prairie states without missing too much in the way of scenery. If you bumped just a couple of days from five hours to 8 or 9 (which is really very easy) you could save a lot of time for more leisurely visits in other areas.

Second, keep the aim of seeing the continent from ground level, but just do it one way. A one-way rental car will cost more than one rented for a round trip, but the additional cost can be recouped in motels and fuel consumed on the return trip; just fly home. One-way airline tickets are now generally half the price of one-way, so there's no big penalty on that score. Me, I'd drive westbound, taking advantage of the time changes, and fly eastbound, taking advantage of the tailwinds that make west-to-east transcon flights an hour shorter then east-to-west.

Third, do as you mentioned and just limit yourselves to one particular part of the country. You could fly to, say, Salt Lake City, travel north to Yellowstone, west to Puget Sound, south to the Redwoods and San Francisco, then back to Salt Lake via the California Gold Rush country, Yosemite or Lake Tahoe, then some real desert experience crossing Nevada. Plenty of landscape alternatives, a few of America's scenic wonders, and not so many days with nothing outside the car windows except croplands, sagebrush or Hardee's stores.

Either way, make sure you have enough time to see something besides Interstate Highway ramps and signs.
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Old Feb 11th, 2013, 07:29 AM
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Dont know whether you both would alternate at steering wheel, yet to drive alone is not so fanciful, would tire you off besides boredom. Suggest make changes.
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Old Feb 11th, 2013, 08:21 AM
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Are you going to want to hike, photograph things, visit museums and historic sites, check out cities, avoid cities, visit National Parks or avoid them, etc?

The country is beautiful, so just driving through can be a trip, but stopping to take your time will make it a much nicer trip. Once you've decided the kinds of things that you want to see, get a good atlas with maps of the whole country and the individual states with the interesting spots highlighted. Then use one of the mapping sites like mapquest or googlemaps and plan your trip from site to site with stops along the way.

Sometimes it will be best to spend a day or two getting past an area. We often will drive a few hours then stop at a national park or historic site then drive a few hours and stop for the night. We also have found that driving in the midwest and west until you get close to the coast is much less stress than driving on the east coast, also faster.
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Old Feb 11th, 2013, 08:28 AM
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You might want to use Google maps or to plug in destinations and get a sense of time and distances. Viamichelin also allows you to further define your itinerary (fast, scenic, etc.).
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Old Feb 11th, 2013, 09:28 AM
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My parents did a lot of road trips after they retired.

From NYC to the west coast and back - driving fairly long days but stopping to see major sights - is a minimum of about 6 weeks. They did this trip - but different routes (some north, some south) and sights at least 5 times.

Going from NYC to FL and back in the winter they would also take about 6 weeks - but that was a week in each direction and then 4 weeks in FL, 2 weeks with her brother and 2 weeks with his.

If you want to drive 5 hours per day at 60 MPH that is 300 miles per day - or 10 days one way, then another 10 days back. And this gives you very minimal time to see anything. For instance, if you want to spend 2 or 3 days in yellowstone or yosemite - that would be on top of the 3 weeks back and forth.

Strongly suggest that you map this out in detail, including sights you want to see on the way. they did a lot of presidential libraries - some not so expected (Harry Truman, etc) and all sorts of sights they came across in a several hundred page road touring book my dad got as a retirement present.
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Old Feb 11th, 2013, 09:46 AM
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I've driven from Los Angeles to New York in 3-1/2 days, and I've taken a road trip for month from NY to LA and back. If you want to actually see anything, I highly recommend the latter.
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Old Feb 11th, 2013, 09:50 AM
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"Based on calculations, it seems we would need at least three weeks to do it right. "

I think it would take closer to 3 months than 3 weeks to do it right. Even that probably isn't enough time.

Just some examples:
1) there are numerous threads on here of people wanting to fly into Vegas and visit national parks in Utah and the Grand Canyon. Generally those itineraries run a week to 10 days, and there are still things they miss. That's a fairly compact area and you're thinking you could see the whole country in 3 weeks...

2) Somebody recently posted a thread about flying to Salt Lake City, then driving to Yellowstone, Black Hills, Colorado, Grand Canyon and various parks in Utah. She started by giving herself about 6 weeks then had to cut back to 3 weeks (the length of your entire trip) and was looking for suggestions on what to cut out.

3) Ask people how long they should spend in California and you'll get answers for a week to a month.

More I think about it, I think the 3 month estimate I gave was probably not enough time. Especially when you consider that different areas are better in different seasons - it is really hard to plan a northern route and a southern route across the country due to either winter in the north or summer in the south.

You are better off focusing on smaller areas and doing shorter trips.
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Old Feb 12th, 2013, 10:23 AM
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Thanks for all the input. After thinking it over and over, just not doable for what we like. I get over-excited when I start thinking of a new trip and usually think we can do more than we really can. We did 10 days from Salt Lake City up to Grand Teton and Yellowstone and we did all we wanted and that was just a small section of the country. Would really needs months to do it, so we are going to figure something else. We are not in it as a coast-to-coast race. Thanks!

Thinking now of flying into Denver and going up to Rapid City, SD area and then making our way to Glacier and rounding back to Denver. Not sure, just tossing ideas. Glacier is such a ways up there!. Also, have looked at Spokane to Glacier and around Boise and back.

We fly Southwest and have tons of points and free flights, so we only have certain airports to pick from.
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Old Feb 12th, 2013, 10:30 AM
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It really depends on what you want to see. You could fly into Minneapolis for the Black Hills (8.5 hour drive) and make a big loop through South/North Dakota and Minnesota. Denver is closer but it seems odd to go to Rapid City, then Glacier and skip Yellowstone.

I would think the Glacier trip would fit in better with a loop from Boise or Spokane if you're aren't going to spend much time in Yellowstone. So I'd do Black Hills and Glacier in 2 separate trip if your ultimate goal is to road trip around and see every part of the country.
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Old Feb 12th, 2013, 01:13 PM
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We have been to Yellowstone already.

I am thinking trying to fit Glacier into a trip driving from Denver and including the Black Hills area is too much.

Doing Denver through Cheyenne to Black Hills area and to see Devils Tower and then back to Denver is the best. We actually booked that trip last year but had to cancel.

I just like to try and fit a ton in to my trips.........most of the time.......too much!
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Old Feb 12th, 2013, 03:07 PM
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You could do a great loop from Denver, through Colorado hitting the northern National Parks, like RMNP and Dinosaur then down to some of the Utah Parks, like Arches and Canyonlands, then back through Colorado for places like Mesa Verde and Great Sand dunes and back to Denver. Lots more to see along the way.
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Old Feb 12th, 2013, 07:20 PM
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If you haven't seen the far West, I think you should consider
a Seattle to LA/San Diego trip.
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Old Feb 13th, 2013, 05:36 AM
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You could fly into Seattle - and rent a car and drive over to Glacier and keep going to South Dakota if you chose to. Not sure how much the drop off charges would be - and if they are exorbitant - consider flying into someplace in Montana - or even Salt Lake City.

Or - drive from Seattle - taking in some of the beautiful coast drives - to down here - San Diego - and hang out by the beach.

It all depends on how you drive and how much scenic country you want to see in a day. Going through Montana - you can usually haul axx, (is the limit still 80?) - and it's not that difficult to cover 500+ miles in a day if you want to.

Actually drove 1,100 miles one day - leaving Bozeman, Montana - headed east on the freeway - and up and over the uber scenic Bear Tooth hiway into Yellowstone (saw some huge elk by the road)- and down to Jackson for a sandwich.

Then from Jackson - on down 89 - through a pristine valley and stopped in Afton for a cup of coffee - and even bought some fireworks.

Kept on rolling - and still during daylight - stopped by the beautiful Flaming Gorge reservoir - and wound up a couple hours later in Genoa, Utah for the night.

Next day - twas an easy jaunt into Aspen for a college reunion.

BTW - if you want a real challenge - do it on a bicycle as this lad did.
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Old Feb 13th, 2013, 05:46 AM
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Oops. That was the small town of Naples, Utah I ended up in - just outside of Vernal.
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Old Feb 13th, 2013, 06:29 PM
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You could combine Glacier with a trip to the Canadian Rockies and fly into Calgary. Two weeks would probably work well for that area.
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Old Feb 13th, 2013, 10:30 PM
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A few years ago we did our 7 week tour of the west. We had one week of rest in Park City Utah which we needed. If you want more details, I can round them up. We made it to CA and NJ and back to GA. We loved the trip. We went to 13 national parks and played golf in a bunch of places so we didn't feel rushed at all. I find Microsoft Streets and Trips is a great software for planning road trips. You can input a bunch of locations you want to see and it will even optimize the order to see them. Or you can put them in the order you want. I used this for the 7 week plan and it was very helpful. We have used the Europe version as well.
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Old Feb 14th, 2013, 06:26 AM
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Thanks for all of the input. I've know now that it is a must to have over a month to do what I was thinking. My wife and I will probably fly to a place and just section it off like we normally do instead of trying to do the entire country. THANKS!
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