USA Summer 2013
Replies: 40 - Last Post: Aug 22, 2012 7:21 PM Last Post By: ianw6705
Aug 17, 2012 3:30 PM
USA Summer 2013Hi all,
I've spent the last month or so trying to put together a rough outline of a 7 week holiday for next summer. With the help of a now rather extensively thumbed through Lonely Planet, and the masterpiece that is Moon's "Road Trip USA", I think I've done a fair amount of homework!
I wondered if any of you kind folk had opinions on the route I've set out below. There will be 3 or 4 of us going, and the 48 day limit is pretty strict because we're all constrained by school summer holidays (we are all mid-20s teachers). It will be the first time I've set foot in the USA (although I'm pretty well travelled elsewhere), so I've tried to go for a fair amount of diversity.
What I'm wondering most of all, is whether we're spending too short a time in any of the places we intend to visit, and whether anything is completely unfeasible! Are there any places that you think probably aren't worth going to, or any along the way that we missed? Notable absences are Phoenix and Houston, but they don't look like the sort of cities we'd want to spend much time anyway (lots of sprawl, but seemed less interested than quieter cities in the same state).
Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks!
1 Fly from London to Chicago. Arrive afternoon.
5 Depart 14:00 on California Zephyr Train (roomette) to Salt Lake City.
6 Arrive 23:05 in Salt Lake City.
7 Salt Lake City.
8 Depart 23:30 on California Zephyr Train (roomette) to Emeryville (San Francisco).
9 Arrive 16:10 in Emeryville.
10 San Francisco.
11 San Francisco. Rent Car.
12 Possible day trip to Yosemite National Park.
13 Depart morning for drive along Pacific Coast Highway. Spend night near Cambria?
14 Continue along Pacific Coast Higway to Los Angeles. Arrive evening.
15 Los Angeles.
16 Depart morning for drive along I-5 to San Diego. Spend day in San Diego.
17 San Diego.
18 Depart morning for drive to Las Vegas via Mojave National Preserve. Arrive evening.
19 Las Vegas.
20 Depart early morning to see sunrise at Zion Canyon. Spend afternoon at Bryce Canyon and stay the night in Kanab.
21 Depart morning for drive to Grand Canyon (south rim). Spend afternoon at Grand Canyon. Depart after dusk and stay the night in Flagstaff.
22 Morning in Flagstaff. Depart afternoon for drive to Tucson.
23 Morning in Tucson. Depart afternoon for drive to El Paso.
24 El Paso.
25 Depart morning for drive to San Antonio. Arrive evening.
26 Spend day in San Antonio. Depart evening for drive to Austin.
28 Depart morning for drive to Fort Worth. Arrive early afternoon.
29 Fort Worth/Dallas.
31 Depart morning for drive along old US-80 to Vicksburg. Arrive evening.
32 Depart morning for drive along Great River Road and Natchez Trace Parkway. Arrive evening in New Orleans.
33 New Orleans.
34 New Orleans.
35 Drop off rental car and take morning flight to Washington, DC.
36 Washington, DC.
37 Depart evening on train to Philadelphia.
39 Depart evening on train to New York.
40 New York.
41 New York.
42 New York.
43 New York.
44 Depart evening on train to Boston.
47 Fly from Boston to London.
48 Arrive London.
Aug 17, 2012 3:33 PM
Aug 17, 2012 3:40 PM
2In general, I like cities more than the countryside, but I don't dislike the countryside. I like museums and intend to spend a fair amount of my time in Washington in various parts of the Smithsonian. I really enjoy driving, as do the people I'm going with (which is good as we'll likely be doing a lot of it). I am interested in history, especially the Cold War era. One of my friends has an unnatural obsession for theme parks, which we will try to curb, but perhaps visit one, to keep him happy! We don't do night clubs at all, although good live music would be something we'd definitely be interested in (and a reason why we want to visit Austin). We are all foodies, with no preference for type of cuisine, as long as it tastes good.
Aug 17, 2012 4:05 PM
I'd also add at least one more day to San Francisco, if for no other reason than this is one of the best foodie cities around.
Are you interested in visiting wineries? You can do that on the drive down the California coast.
Not much time in LA. Would your theme park person want Disneyland? That's a whole day right there.
Aug 17, 2012 4:07 PM
4You will be in Salt Lake City so rent a car and drive to Jackson Hole Wyoming and visit Grand Teton NP and Yellowstone NP. Take at least 4 nights to do this. Skip the entire driving trip through Texa. (Day 22 through Day 31, which are nothing but butt-burning driving)
Day 22 and 23 suck Drive 6 hours to overnight in Tucson in the middle of the summer, only to have to leave at noon to drive another 5 hours to El Paso. What's the point of this sort of stuff? You are only going to see dirty gas station bathrooms and fast food places.
Fly from Las Vegas, Phoenix, or Tucson to New Orleans.
Aug 17, 2012 4:16 PM
Aug 17, 2012 4:29 PM
6Frankly, your stated goals conflict with your itinerary (e.g. spending time at the xSmithsonian but barely allotting time for DC).
In general, you hop around a lot without spending much time anywhere, and you have a lot of less than optimal routing, with some borderline impossibilities (e.g. xVicksburg to drive both the xNatchez Trace and xGreat River Road in a day).
And you must remember the heat in some of these places. xPhoenix and xTucson in summer? Yikes.
Since you seem open to flights, here's an alternative itinerary I threw together. Take it for what you will.
1 Fly from xLondon to xChicago. Arrive afternoon.
5 Fly to xRapid City
6 Badlands NP and Minuteman Missile NHS.
7 Mammoth Site on your way to xEstes Park
8 Rocky Mountain NP
9 Drive to xMoab
11 Drive to Bryce via UT-12.
13 North rim Grand Canyon.
15 Las xVegas.
16 Las xVegas.
17 Drive to Mono Lake via Death Valley.
20 Drive to xSF.
23 Drive down the coast, visit xMonterey, night in xSan Luis Obispo or thereabouts
24 Finish coast
28 Fly to xAustin
30 xAustin, fly to xNew Orleans
31 xNew Orleans.
32 xNew Orleans.
33 Flight to DC
36 Day trip to xCharlottesville, xBaltimore, or xHarpers Ferry
36 Depart evening on bus to xPhiladelphia.
38 Depart evening on bus to xNew York.
39 xNew York.
40 xNew York.
41 xNew York.
42 xNew York.
43 Depart evening on bus to xBoston.
46 Fly from xBoston to xLondon.
47 Arrive xLondon.
You'll notice I have the east coast cities via bus. They are not much slower, and by far cheaper. Some, like Megabus and Bolt Bus, are as little as $1 per leg.
Some places, notably xYosemite, xGrand Canyon, and the xCalifornia coast, book up fast in summer. Book well in advance--months, not weeks.
You're not specific about when in summer you are visiting, but be aware of Memorial Day weekend (weekend of last Monday in May), 4th of July (and the weekend following), and Labor Day weekend (weekend of first Monday in September). These are very heavy travel periods.
As an alternative to the xSouth Dakota area, you could fly to xDenver, and replace the time there with xCharleston, SC and xSavannah, GA. Lovely, historical cities with scrumptious cuisine.
Aug 17, 2012 5:40 PM
7We are Australians who have done a number of two-month road-trips in the US, so I will offer my two bob's worth.
I agree that your current plan (a) has way too much driving per reward, (b) has some very difficult inclusions that increase the unrewarding driving because they are not in regional "clusters" (Chicago, Salt Lake City, etc), and (c) most acutely, you miss a great deal that would seem to be on your priority list.
Can I also respectfully advise that while you wish to downplay "the countryside" in favour of what cities and towns can offer (museums, history, the arts, the music, the food), there are in fact a number of very good regions where you can easily do both. And USA "countryside" is like nowhere else - it is truly spectacular in regions, but the down-side is that if you go relentlessly by land (car, bus, or train), you have many miles of very un-scenic travel to endure (Nebraska and Texas comes to mind).
I won't propose an alternative itinerary yet - not until you get back - but I would make the following comments:
• are you wedded to that particular long train journey, or just wish to do any train trip (a good thing)?
• what is the motivation for Salt Lake City - after seeing Temple Square for an hour or so, there's nothing there
• there is no point just over-nighting at Yosemite NP - it's a long drive there, then another west to Monterey - you need a full day (ie, two nights) to bother doing it - and you must secure accomm, as noted above
• three full days in San Francisco (four nights) are recommended (given your interests)
• another night on Hwy1 is recommended (Monterey and San Luis Obispo say ) - good wine & food
• the LA>SD>LV>national parks>Flagstaff route needs considerable work (and two more nights)
• definitely consider Santa Fe and Taos New Mexico, plus Los Alamos (for its cold war role), plus Bandalier NM
• skip all further land travel east to New Orleans - not sure Austin is worth the effort
• consider a southern loop from New Orleans and return
• I agree with above - consider a South-North Carolina / Virginia / Washington DC segment by road
• yes - the buses in the Northeast are fine - and cheaper than the train
Some things to consider.
Aug 17, 2012 5:46 PM
8IMO, you're doing WAY too much traveling.
This day stands out.
Leave Vegas, 2 hours in Zion, then on for a drive-by of Bryce, then on to Kanab?
That's ~8 hours in the frigging car, and maybe 3 out of it. Seriously, why bother? To 'check' your latest conquest off some dumb list? Travel should be about unique experiences, not trophy hunting. Right? In this case you may as well save the driving and bother and just buy yourself a few post cards...
Many of your travel legs seem equally rushed.
In general, I'd cut about half of your destinations, and also fly from point to point when possible. Then rent a car and take a series of day trips to explore the area. As is, you're trying so desperately to see 'everything' that you'll wind up seeing very little apart from the inside of your vehicle. (This would be OK if you had the time to get off the interstate and relax, but you don't seem interested in that sort of trip.)
Cold War points of interest.
Tucson has a few worthy destinations:
and the less specific
The 'boneyard' tour is pretty cool.
Vegas has http://www.nationalatomictestingmuseum.org/
It's nothing terribly deep, but is probably worth mentioning.
Or go hard core with ... http://www.nv.doe.gov/outreach/tours.aspx !
Albuquerque has http://www.nuclearmuseum.org/ Again, 'OK' but nothing too profound.
White Sands http://www.wsmr-history.org/
The Trinity Site tour takes place on the first Saturday in April and October - probably outside your window.
San Francisco - http://www.nps.gov/goga/nike-missile-site.htm
Aug 17, 2012 5:50 PM
9Personally, I would fly from Chicago to San Francisco. You will get enough real scenery during the rest of your trip. No need to spend 3 days and lots of money on train-by scenery. Use the time you gain in SF to go to Yosemite overnight.
Skip San Diego (unless the SD Zoo or Wild Animal Park is a must) and add that time to SF/drive down the coast/LA.
Spend way less time in Texas (or skip it entirely) and add that time to the national parks (Zion, Bryce, the Grand Canyon) or the east coast or even the west coast. I guess in a nutshell, allocate days 22 - 32 to better things. New Orleans is a big tourist destination, so you'll be able to fly there from anywhere. You can probably get your "southern" fix with a day trip or overnight trip from NOLA.
Aug 17, 2012 6:03 PM
Aug 17, 2012 6:04 PM
Aug 17, 2012 6:13 PM
12And for a genuine road-trip, as a general principle, we try to average no more than 150mi (250km) of travel per day. Some days you won't drive much at all of course, and others you will do 300mi plus - but as an average, 150mi is not too rushed. And also - as much as possible and where the destination is worthy - have two nights in each place.
Aug 18, 2012 1:23 PM
13I stopped reading at "day trip to Yosemite." You need to do more research about distances, weather, and what you really hope to accomplish on this trip (if something other than spending a LOT of time in the car).
I agree with other posters that a much saner plan would be to pick a couple regions to enjoy in depth.
Aug 18, 2012 4:01 PM
14Thank you all so much for your numerous suggestions. I'm going to take a couple of days to digest everything and come up with a better plan based on the ideas you've given me, and then I'd be so grateful if you could tell me how much better (or worse, but based on what I've read, it would be difficult to make it worse!) it is.
Regarding heat, I lived 19 degrees south of the equator for a good while, so I'm fairly used to it. I should probably try to avoid putting my friends through that experience though!
Also, the California Zephyr is something I've wanted to ride since I was a kid, and even though lots of people say it's not all it's cracked up to be, I still have to experience it for myself, just to find out if it lives up to my childhood dream!
Cutting Texas might be the way to go - I think I might have become a bit biased because it was the first section I read in the Lonely Planet, and they made it sound so awesome!
(And to the person who asked why I'm going to Salt Lake, I have an old colleague who lives there that I'd like to catch up with, although it would be a great idea to stop here for a few days and use it as a base for exploring nearby National Parks. I could probably convince my old friend to come with...)
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