Monday, September 13, 2010

Baltimore to LA -- in April

Dear Road Trip USA,

My boyfriend and I are moving from Maryland to LA this coming April. We are very interested in taking one of your routes - possibly the Appalachian Trail or the Atlantic Coast to get the Southern Pacific route. However, there were a few additional stops we wanted to make; namely New Orleans, Charleston, Savannah, and Atlanta, and it looks like that might require some zig-zagging. Do you have any suggestions?
Also, both of us have always wanted to visit the Gulf Coast - are there any routes you would recommend, perhaps on the way to New Orleans, for seeing the coast?
And finally - do you think it will be warm enough in April to camp out? Both of us are novice campers, but would love to give it a shot, perhaps switching back and forth between hotels/motels and campsites....

Thanks so much - we are great fans of your site and books!



Hello Phoebe --

Thank you for writing in to Road Trip USA, and I hope I can help with your trip. I'm glad you like my work, and as you can probably tell, to me "additional stops" are what road-tripping is all about.

Especially when the stops are such fascinating places as you propose: New Orleans, Savannah, Charleston. Even Atlanta -- which if nothing else, will prepare you for the sprawl and traffic of your final destination, Los Angeles.


I'll try to answer your questions in order -- here goes. Charleston and Savannah are both in my "Atlantic Coast" chapter, and in April I'd say the coastal route is a better bet than the Appalachian Trail (where there can still be snow, even that late in winter/spring, especially around Asheville NC (which is a very interesting place, worth considering for your itinerary). Or, if Spring comes early next year, you could drive the "App Trail" route down to Atlanta, then easily add a loop east to Charleston and Savannah, perhaps then continuing on via Georgia's Jekyll Island to the Gulf Coast beaches, the best of which are in the FL panhandle. I've been to Seaside FL, which is nice and unusual -- it was seen in the movie "The Truman Show" -- though I don't know a great deal about any of the other Gulf Coast towns, like Panama City Beach.

And so long as stay at around sea level, I think the weather should be warm enough for camping. Elevation will make the biggest difference, but in Florida and Georgia, and possibly all the way down the Outer Banks even, you should be fine. Probably not 80 degrees warm, but you never know. Also, I think I ought to remind you that April is "Spring Break" month for a lot of college kids, so Gulf Coast beach towns can be very busy that time of year.

OK -- now west. New Orleans, definitely a must-see (and must-eat, must-listen-to-music sort of place...)

From there, I would be tempted by "Cajun Country", which stretches along old US-90, and to be honest I'd wait to join the "Southern Pacific" route until you are most of the way across Texas. To my mind Houston / Austin / San Antonio & the Hill Country have more to offer -- remember the Alamo! -- than Dallas, though Fort Worth is pretty interesting, too.

I'd recommend a trek up to the Guadalupe Mountains / Carslbad Caverns area, which is very interesting, though Big Bend is amazing in a wide-open Wild West sort of way. Very Cormac McCarthy / No Country for Old Men. Silver City NM and Bisbee AZ are worth a visit on your way toward Tucson, and April is a great time to be passing through this part of the world -- if you have time, think about making the backroad detour up through Portal AZ to the aptly named Paradise, and nearby Chiricahua National Monument. This is all little-visited but scenically amazing land -- with lots of history (and hiking). I'm jealous -- southern AZ is my favorite place in the world to be, in April.

Hope this helps -- and if you do make the trip, before you hit the road I'd suggest having a look at my "mini-books" on the App Trail and Atlantic Coast -- these are less than a year-old, and the most up-to-date available.

Thanks again for writing -- be safe, and have fun!

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA

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