Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Bound for Yellowstone!

Hey Jamie,

A buddy of mine and I are planning a trip across the country. We really have dont have a final route figured out, but we are starting from northern Virginia and hope to travel through Lawrence Kansas, Chicago, and make it to Yellowstone. We are pretty open to the directions and are looking for a lot of great natural wonders of America.

The help would be amazing! thanks!



Hello Jacob --

Thank you for writing in to Road Trip USA, and I'll try to help you plan a great trip. Lawrence KS is a fun college town, and between there and your start point in Virginia I think you might enjoy stopping in Louisvllle KY -- not only is it home to Fort Knox, and the World's Largest Baseball Bat, but it is generally erudite yet low-key (home of original "Big Lebowski Festival", if that means anything to you...)

The drive west from there across Indiana and Illinois is pretty eye-opening if you've never spent much time in this part of the country. I cover much of this stretch in the "Loneliest Road" chapter of my book, Road Trip USA -- if you like natural wonders, I recommend the Bluespring Caverns , near Bedford Indiana, limestone caves which you can tour by boat, on the underground river!

From here it's an easy detour up to Chicago, where you'll want to spend some days I'm sure. From Chicago, you can hop onto Route 66 across Illinois (be sure to get out and wander around Springfield, the state capital) and down to St Louis, another history-rich city. Then, stay on RT66 along the Ozark Mts, or bomb west on I-70 to Lawrence & Kansas City.

To get to Yellowstone from KC, you can follow the historic emigrant trails along the North Platte River, at Scottsbluff (via I-80 and US-26), and some great old Oregon Trail remnants. (My favorites are near Fort Laramie, in Wyoming's Guernsey State Park -- a 10-minute walk from you car let's you experience the Great Plains of two centuries ago... )

Yellowstone is a definite don't miss -- just make sure you sort out your lodging or camping as soon as you can (especially if you want to sleep in a bed -- there's usually campsites available but hotel rooms go fast.) It takes some times to absorb the scenery here -- so take the time to do some hikes away from Old Faithful.

And on the way home (?) you can see all the things you raced past on your way west -- or maybe take a totally different route and swing north via the amazing but under-appreciated Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which is packed with natural beauty. Maybe you could add in Vermont and New Hampshire, too -- flexibility is the greatest thing about road-tripping.

Whichever way you go, this sounds like a great trip!

Hope this helps, drive safe, and

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA


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