Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cross-Country -- How To Do It?

Hello, my name is Krystal. Im 20 years old and me and my friend are planning on going on a trip in late May. Due to work, we can only afford to take off two weeks. So that gives us two weeks to travel from our home in Washington DC, to California. We want to see the Grand Canyon, rocky mts and just anything that will wow us and give us a fantastic road trip. We aren't sure how much money to bring, nor average how much gas we will use. But we have a lot of passion for making this happen.

What route would you suggest, how much money should we should bring and is there anything spectacular we should make sure we see on the way? Thank you so much.



Dear Krystal ---

Thanks for writing in to Road Trip USA, and I hope I can help you have a great trip.

First the numbers: From DC to California is about 3000 miles, so depending on your vehicle and your driving habits, you're looking at a week or so of driving (less if you pull some long all-nighters across the Great Plains), and probably 100 gallons of gas each way, so around $600 (?). Plus food & lodging for 2 weeks -- will you be staying at motels? sleeping onto the backseat of the car?? -- or luxuriating in Hampton Inns?? -- All this will add up to another $150 or more each day -- so count on budgeting around $3000, plus any fun you want to have.

(Not to mention all the snow globes you'll have to purchase as keepsake souvenirs!)

Now onto the fun (mostly free!) stuff: spectacular things to see along the way. My favorite stop west of DC is Harpers Ferry, an old town that climbs above where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers come together. Gorgeous and very historic -- or if you want more "nature" there's the Shenandoah National Park.

The real "spectacular" stuff is further west, however -- one of my favorite areas is around Pike's Peak, where the funky old resort town of Manitou Springs sits near the lovely "Garden of the Gods", and the deep canyon of Royal Gorge rises above the Arkansas River as it crashes out of the Rocky Mountains. The scenery gets even more amazing as you head west: the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, the winding, mountain-top "Million Dollar Highway", then the truly spectacular sights of the Colorado Plateau: Arches and Canyonlands national parks, all of Utah, really.

Continuing west, I love the drive along US50 across Nevada -- this is the "Loneliest Road in America", where you pass by old mining camp / ghost towns (and Great Basin National Park), while following in the hoofsteps of the legendary Pony Express. Fresh air, bright stars, petroglyphs aplenty and much much more.

West of Nevada, you'll enter California high up in the Sierra Nevada mountains at delightful Lake Tahoe, then can race along to the Pacific Ocean on the shores of San Francisco. Nice trip, huh?

If you want to wind back east on a different route, run south along the California coast thru Big Sur, then turn left at Hollywood and hop onto Route 66, which will take you past the Grand Canyon all the way to the Mississippi River, where you might want to hop onto the I-70 Interstate freeway for the fastest ride home to DC.

If you rise early and drive fast, you can do all this in 15 days or so -- just be safe, and don't drink too much Red Bull. :-)

Hope this helps whet your road trip appetite -- please check out my books, and let me know how your plans shape up.

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA



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