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VA to CA Road Trip Opinions Needed

Old Apr 24th, 2013, 06:03 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 1
VA to CA Road Trip Opinions Needed

I am traveling with a friend to San Francisco CA from Norther Virginia. During the trip I wanted to make it somewhat of a vacation as well and want opinions on the schedule/budget (is it do-able/enjoyable). We have seen San Fran. many times, so the time spent there is not a real objective (I know its not enough time to "see San Fran." =) ). Also, we are fully prepared to camp (in fact we love it)!

Time: 17 days
Budget for 2: $3400.00 (with $ for oil change, car fluids, and emergency set aside)
Vehicle: 2005 Chevy Cobalt

1.Drive times/mileage I rounded up for stops
2.*** = "Vacation Stop"
3. --- = Notes on day

Day 1:
Virginia to St.Louis, MO (13hrs 850mi)
Sleep= Family (No Cost)

Day 2:
St.Louis to near Denver, CO (12hrs 855)
Sleep= Hotel/Motel outside of Denver (possibly Castle Rock) in order to keep price down.

Day 3:
Denver to West Wendover, NV (10hrs 645mi)
Sleep= Camping ($35)

Day 4:
West Wendover to San Fran., CA (9.5hrs 620mi)
Sleep= Camping ($35)

Day 5:
Day in San Fran
Sleep= Hotel outside San Fran. (possibly Stockton or Modesto)

***Day 6:
Hotel near San Fran. to Yosemite NP CA (4.5hrs 220mi)
Sleep=Camping in or near Yosemite (whatever is available)
---Not sure on price or availability???---

***Day 7/8:
Yosemite NP

***Day 9:
Yosemite to Zion NP UT (10hrs 560mi)
Sleep= Camping
---Not sure on price or availability???---

***Day 10/11:
Zion NP
---Possibly 1 day to save $?---

Day 12:
Zion NP to Denver, CO (9.75hrs 645mi)
Sleep= Hotel outside of Denver

***Day 13:
Sleep= Hotel outside of Denver
---Possibly skip day in Denver and leave in order to save $?---

Day 14:
Denver to Columbia, MO (10.5hrs 735mi)
Sleep= Camping or Hotel Near Columbia, MO

Day 15:
Columbia to Cumberland, MD (13hrs 830mi)
Sleep= Friends (No Cost)

Day 16:
Cumberland to Northern Virginia (3hrs 180mi)

Day 17:
Extra day somewhere if needed
ChrisBP is offline  
Old Apr 25th, 2013, 02:06 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 10,168
Boy! See America from the Interstate!

You are going to get a lot of negative comments on this, so I will limit myself to a few. By the way, I love road trips and envy you in some ways.

1 Staying in Modesto or Stockton for San Francisco is nuts. Are you young enough to do Air BnB? Ditto Denver, but why Denver twice? Why the city of Denver at all? Rocky Mountain National Park is to the north, lots scenery between Colorado Springs and Grand Junction to the south, much more direct for Zion.

2 Camping without reservations in/near the national parks is probably impossible without advance planning.if you are planning to do this in the summer.

3 you are planning really long days on the road -- 13, 12, 10 hours -- is probably not safe and it will be seriously boring to retrace some of this route and give you zero time for sightseeing.

4 if you are just going to SF to make it a coast to coast trip,, okay, but consider trying to stay somewhere more scenic at both ends of the day, and maybe go from Zion into northern Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas and home on I 40 rather than driving across Kansas twice.
Ackislander is offline  
Old Apr 25th, 2013, 03:17 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,113
Rather than go to San Francisco and then Yosemite, why not approach Yosemite from the east via Tioga Pass. You might even be able to camp at Tioga (fixed tents) which is really neat. What was said about being able to camp in Parks at this late date without reservations is true.
Staying in Castle Rock for Denver is completely unnecessary and out of the way.
Denver and RMNP deserve a drive by. You can go through the Park and down the other side to get back on I70 to continue your westward trek.
It really is a driveby vacation apparently to get to the western parks. The idea of returning via a different route is excellent--I love the USA and Missouri and Kansas are important to us but they lack scenery from the interstate.
Gretchen is offline  
Old Apr 25th, 2013, 07:01 AM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 7,604
You are looking at long mileage on the road with little time to stop and see anything in depth. But if that is the plan then there is really little to comment on.

As mentioned, I am not sure how Castle Rock made the radar. It is off the route by 15/20 miles to the south. There is a lot of cheap lodging in Denver especially on the west side. Try Idaho Springs. The suggested detour through Estes Park/Trail Ridge road/RMNP will take half day and will only get you 50 miles closer to the end.

On your return, if you stay on the west side of Denver you can park for free in the RTD parking lots and ride the light rail (train) into Denver. I think the all day pass is still $5. More convenient than driving downtown and finding parking which is expensive during the day.

I checked a couple of your mileage/hours figures and it looks like you are trying for averages near 65/70 mph. Which is very hard to achieve and stay legal most of the way. There are no room for stopping other than gas and a quick McDonalds. And it will be slower through the mountains. Unfortunately you will hit road construction. In the winter it is snow and in the summer it is repairing the damage done by snow and rock slides.

Good Luck.
fmpden is offline  
Old Apr 25th, 2013, 07:03 AM
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 10,655
Day 5 - Stay at the HI hostel in Sacramento.
This is my favorite HI hostel of all the ones I have stayed at.
You may want to stay at a cheap motel in West Wendover for not much more than tent camping in the bleak desert.
Explore Sacramento since you have seen SF before.
tomfuller is online now  
Old Apr 25th, 2013, 09:13 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,113
True that the detour through RMNP will only get them 50 miles further but it is at least seeing something of worth and beauty.
It isn't difficult for the first two days to make those mileages, having done it personally.
I hope they take the advice to return via a different route.
Gretchen is offline  
Old Apr 25th, 2013, 09:42 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,830
Modesto or Stockton visit makes no sense. Try finding something in the East Bay, maybe a tad more costly that Modesto, but not much and much closer.

Good advice above to take a different route home. After Zion why not swing south, see Las Vegas, it isn't hard to find inexpensive mid-week hotel rooms there (and there is camping at Circus-Circus in the middle of town) then across the new bridge by Hoover Dam en route to the Grand Canyon and then take I-40 rather than 70 and turning north into VA on I-81 at Knoxville.
boom_boom is offline  
Old Apr 25th, 2013, 10:27 AM
Join Date: Nov 2010
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If you stick with I-80, you will be near Cheyenne or Laramie WY not Denver. Come back east on I-70 from Denver through Kansas.
There is a HI hostel (BUG) a few miles outside Yosemite near Midpines. Even a camping spot in Yosemite can be hard to get.
The YARTS bus runs from Merced into Yosemite. There is a bus stop at the foot of the driveway of the BUG hostel.
tomfuller is online now  
Old Apr 25th, 2013, 10:52 AM
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There are nowhere near I-80. Coming via St. Louis, Kansas City, puts them on I-70.
fmpden is offline  
Old Apr 25th, 2013, 12:36 PM
Join Date: Dec 2005
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Trust me, passing thru Kansas and eastern Colorado twice not your greatest idea. There are good reasons why these are called the "flyover" states.
Ackislander is offline  
Old Apr 25th, 2013, 12:39 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,113
Echo to fmpden, I80 is NORTH, and just about as monotonous as I70 in Kansas and Missouri!! And out of the way!!
Gretchen is offline  
Old Apr 25th, 2013, 02:05 PM
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 10,655
Whether you are on I-70 or I-80 you have to go through SLC to get to West Wendover.
It is I-80 that ends at the west end of the Oakland Bay bridge. Agree Kansas and Nebraska are equally boring.
Were you planning on going north on I-15 or north on I-29 to get onto I-80?
tomfuller is online now  
Old Apr 25th, 2013, 02:36 PM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 651
Just a suggestion but why not compare cost estimates for doing the trip as you have planned and also flying into say, Las Vegas, renting a car, and doing a circle connecting Utah parks and California coast and parks. (LV, was just a suggestion, I would actually look around for the best air/car rental deal and fly there. Going round trip for sure is cheaper than paying the one way drop fee.)

The way you have it planned you are driving pretty much non stop for the 3 days at the beginning and the end of your trip. Maybe you could get lucky and pick up a cheap flight through Sprint Air and then find a deal (maybe Hotwire) for the car. You would have a lot more days to spend focusing on the parks and cities and actually enjoying your time.

When estimating don't forget to add the underage driver fee, assuming you are under 25. (Last I checked Enterprise was charging $5.) Also search for the cost of gas by state as it differs a lot.

I do understand the desire to do a road trip, but believe me you will get plenty of that just driving the western part. Whatever you do have a great time!
Barblab is offline  
Old Apr 25th, 2013, 05:54 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Good ideas for sure. We don't know it all.
Gretchen is offline  
Old Apr 26th, 2013, 01:32 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 10,168
I thought long and hard about making. Fly-drive recommendation but if what you want is a coast to coast road trip, what you want is a coast to coast road trip.

So I would suggest that the OP and friend start th trip a fe miles east of NVA in ocean City, MD. That way, when they hit the Pacific, they really will have driven from sea to shining sea.

If I were young, I would try to drive as much as possible on or near US 50 ( see Wikipedia) which runs mostly between I 70 and I 80, solving that argument.

I would still come east on a different route (I 40) which has very different scenery and many cool places on or just off the route.
Ackislander is offline  
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