Monday, September 13, 2010

SF to Michigan - August 2011

Hey Jamie

Two of my friends and I are planning a road trip next year and we are really excited because we have been talking about it for two years.

We all live in San Francisco and we go to school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I am planning the trip and have taken a hard look at your specific trips and I have been overwhelmed by the amount of thing there is to do.

We are planning on doing a one-way trip out to school at the end of next summer.

What is the best way to get there in your professional opinion?

Thanks a lot!



Hi Louis --

Many thanks for your email -- living in SF and going to school in Michigan, that's quite a commute! You are right to feel a little overwhelmed by all the things you might do on a cross-country road trip, but the key to making it fun is to enjoy what you do, and not worry too much about what you might be missing.

My favorite route for your trip would probably be a combination of my Road Trip USA roads -- from SF, I'd head east along old US-50 (and probably I-80, at least as far as Sacramento), then up to Lake Tahoe, where the fun begins. Tahoe is gorgeous, as you may know from your SF time, but east of there the landscape changes dramatically: the dry, angular mountains and valleys of the Basin and Range country, which stretches for more than 500 miles. If you like to feel like a pioneer, this is a great route: what the tourist boards have dubbed the Loneliest Road, it really can cause some existential angst, with miles between gas stations, or other signs of civilization. But it is very cool -- riding along the same route as Buffalo Bill and the rider of the Pony Express, past petroglyphs and the mountain wilderness of Great Basin National Park (which also has some very cool caves).

In Utah, you can detour north to Salt Lake City (and maybe take in the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone?), or wind across the red-rock deserts of Canyonlands and Arches national parks. Then come more mountains, across Colorado (where if you are in a hurry, I-80 is still a very pretty drive, though US-50 still wins for scenery, especially if you make the detour south along the "Million Dollar Highway", toward Durango.

The Great Plains are not as thrilling, but if you want to visit a classic road trip destination, veer north to Mt Rushmore, which is a bit silly, but surrounded by the verdant mountains of the Black Hills. This would also be a natural stop, if you decide to go to Yellowstone

Finally, your last big decision is whether to approach Ann Arbor via Chicago and the "Rust Belt" cities along I-80, South Bend and Toledo et al, or if you want to see some of un-sung wonders of the Great Lakes, specifically the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which is former mining and logging country where, despite the heavy industry, they have managed to preserve some intense wilderness. This route is covered in my Road Trip USA "Great Northern" chapter, following US-2. This way you could approach Ann Arbor via that quintessential Michigan city, Green Bay, and maybe see some of the Apostle Islands (in Wisconsin) and Pictured Rocks national seashores -- before they freeze over for the long long winter.

OK, you've still got a nice long time to plan this trip, so let me know what you think of these ideas, and maybe I can fine-tune a few things before you go.

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA


Post a Comment

<< Home