Tuesday, March 16, 2010

RV-ing across America in April

Hello Jamie,

Early April we pick up a RV at Middlebury, Indiana and have to drop at 28 days later in San Francisco.

Due to the weather we intend to head South to Memphis. From there we do not yet know.

We do like to enjoy the scenery and parks. What can we do best and what are the must-sees?


Hans en Marian from Holland


Hallo Hans & Marian --

Thank you for writing in to Road Trip USA -- I hope I can help you plan a great trip.

One general word of advice: if you want to see the "real" America, as much as possible stay off the main freeways and "Interstate" highways (like I-10 and I-20 and I-40). Instead, pick up a good road atlas (like Rand McNally, these are available all over the USA and possibly in Holland, too!) , and drive your RV down the less-busy slightly older roads, which actually take you to nice places. There are something like 3 million miles of roads in the USA, and choosing the right ones will make a huge difference in what you experience on your big USA tour.

I'm pleased to hear to have plenty of time -- 28 days is a fine length of time to see some of what the USA has to offer. Heading west is a great idea -- your RV will be very useful in the wide-open spaces of the American West, as you will be able to go just about everywhere and not have to worry too much about finding places to stay or eat.

Here's my suggested All-American route: From Indiana, heading south is a good start -- try following some of the "Great River Road" route along the Mississippi River, which will take you past some truly fascinating places (2000-year-old Native American burial mounds in Iowa, the frontier community at Nauvoo Illinois, Mark Twain's hometown in Hannibal Missouri, the great city of St Louis, and more...) on your way to Memphis.

I have just finished a "mini-book" on this route, called Road Trip USA: Great River Road (You can get it, and my "big book" which covers 40,000 miles of great American highways, fast at Amazon.de in their "Englischer Bucher" pages ... !):

I would also encourage you to travel south from Memphis, into the Mississippi Delta region, and especially to old American towns like Natchez Mississippi, which have hardly changed since the 1850s . Maybe even all the way into New Orleans, though you'd probably want to park the RV and ride the "Streetcar Named Desire" trams into the historic French Quarter.

This first part of this trip could take a week or so -- now it's time to head west! Though it is not a region I cover in Road Trip USA, the Gulf Coast of Texas has some neat spots -- like Galveston, and Padre Island... I'd also recommend a visit to San Antonio -- home of the Alamo, a famous American landmark.

(Padre Island and the Alamo get covered in my US-83 "Road to Nowhere" chapter of Road Trip USA.)

The landscape of Texas really improves in the west, where you have Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and nearby Carlsbad Caverns, too. (This is all covered in my "Southern Pacific" route, along old US-80 and US-180. Please take care traveling along the Mexican border -- there have been all sorts of awful crimes lately.)

If you enjoy Native Americana, you may want to veer into northern New Mexico, where legendary Route 66 brings you to Santa Fe, one of the oldest and most attractive small cities in the country. All of Route 66 is included in Road Trip USA - so go "get your kicks!"

West of here is Arizona, which is at its best in April and May -- wildflowers are blooming across the deserts, and the weather is not too hot, so you enjoy the scenery -- I really like the Saguaro National Parks areas of southern Arizona, around Tucson, and Arizona is also home to the cliff palaces of Canyon de Chelley, and the famous red-rock monoliths of Monument Valley. Not to mention the Grand Canyon... So there is a lot to see here -- I would count on spending more time in the "Southwest" than in any other part of your tour. By the way, it can snow at the Grand Canyon, even in April or May -- the rim of the canyon is nearly 8000 feet (2000 meters !) above sea level.

Next and last stop: California, which is gorgeous and very varied. Beaches in the south, incredible coastline in rugged Big Sur, towering waterfalls and granite canyons of Yosemite National Park, amazing trees of Redwood National Park, plus the lovely city where you are bound -- San Francisco.

A week in the Deep South, two weeks out in the Wild West, then a week in California -- What a great trip!

Heb een grote reis, (?)

Or as we say in the USA, Happy Trails !

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA



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