Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Southwestern USA, in Springtime 2011

Hi Jamie,

We have two weeks to go on a holiday early next year (February/March), and we are looking for wide open country, a little bit of physical adventure and to see something of America. We are from Sydney Australia, and will be celebrating our 1 year anniversary as Michelle's 30th birthday, and are prepared to stay in a range of accommodations.

We will fly into LA, as we can get relatively cheap flight to and from Sydney, but beyond that aren't really sure what route we should consider. We are prepared to fly internally and then rent a car from the start point of the route you suggest, however our two-week-only time limit is not negotiable (as much as we would love to stay longer).

Michelle has only been to the USA once to run the NYC marathon, but was hoping to avoid revisiting places she has been to (New York and Washington) for this road trip.

Do you have any suggestions as to what route at that time of year would make a lovely road trip holiday?

Any other key tips would be gratefully received.

Thanks Jamie - we both love your website - it's awesome!

Michelle and Jeff.


Hi Michelle & Jeff --

Many thanks for your nice message -- and congrats on the wedding and next year's anniversary!

In February & March (which is our winter time), I think you will have the most fun if stay in the warmest and driest corners of the USA -- so LA is a good place to start.

March in particular is a great time to explore the deserts, because that is "wildflower season", when the landscapes come into brief but spectacular bloom. Arizona is a great place to explore -- and it has lots of the "physical adventure" possibilities such as Sedona, seen in the picture above, or the Grand Canyon, or another hundred or so less famous but still amazing scenes, almost all of which are open to the public as national and state parks, full of hiking trails, river rafting, rock climbing and more.

You could also add in a visit to Las Vegas -- if a bit of garish spectacle and adult indulgence suits your celebratory needs. Las Vegas is surprisingly convenient to some of the amazing red-rock landscapes of southern Utah (Zion National Park, and much much more), as well as desolate Death Valley to the west.

Whether or not you take in Las Vegas, in two weeks you could do a great big loop trip around the southwestern US, incorporating some of the classic roadside Americana of Route 66. (Maybe even driving as far east as Santa Fe New Mexico, a beautiful and historic place). On the second leg of your trip, consider taking in some Wild West history of Tombstone and Bisbee Arizona (southeast of Tucson) in what is my "Southern Pacific" route along old US80, then looping back to LA via San Diego.

Or you could do a similar loop in the counterclockwise direction, starting off down the coast from LA, heading east then north then back again. Lots of possibilities -- and all very desirable. One thing about traveling at that time of year -- the weather can be very variable, ranging from sunny warm and dry (ideal), to stormy and wet and cold -- it frequently snows at higher elevations, including the rim of the Grand Canyon and much of the surrounding "Colorado Plateau" country of Arizona and Utah. But when it snows in the mountains it can still be warm and sunny in the lower desert areas (like Phoenix, which in March is in the middle of its main tourist season.)

This region is also heartland of what tourist bureaux used to call "Indian Country", so there is a lot of cultural diversity (Navajo and Hopi Indians, plus Spanish colonial heritage) to complement the wide open scenery.

I actually wrote a 500-page book just on "California and the Southwest" many years ago, covering a lot of these places in greater detail than I do in my big Road Trip USA book; it's filled with ideas and pictures (even though some of the details are 10+ yrs out of date!).

Hope these ideas help to whet your appetites -- and good luck with the trip.

The desert Southwest is one of my all-time favorite places to travel, so I hope you enjoy it.

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA

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