Wednesday, December 15, 2010

US50 & Route 66 Loop?

Hi Jamie --

My husband and I are considering a road trip out west this year. We've been intrigued with both Route 50 and Route 66 and completed a stretch from Cincinnati to Ocean City, Md a few years back on 50.

I'm curious about US-50 traveling west and coming back east on 66. Is it reasonable to think we can accomplish this in a 2-week period and actually see some sites?




Dear Glenna --

Many thanks for writing in to Road Trip USA -- I think I can help you plan a fun and memorable road trip!

If you take US50 west to San Francisco, cruise south along the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway, then head back home along Route 66, you're looking at something close to 5000 miles, which if you give yourself two weeks would work out at an average of just over 300 miles a day -- or about 5 hours of driving each day. Which sounds like a lot, but if you could add a couple of days, and maybe have some long days broken up with some more leisurely days, it could make for a fantastic trip.

Alternately, you might want to think about taking US50 as far as the Utah national parks, then heading south thru the spectacular Four Corners region -- Monument Valley and all that, and maybe the Grand Canyon -- before heading back east via Route 66 from Santa Fe NM. This would save you around 1000 miles (and at least $1000 in West Coast hotel prices!), and would give you more time to savor the sights along the way.

Then again, some people could spend 2 weeks just in San Francisco, so everything depends on you and your tastes.


I would say 3 weeks would be closer to an ideal amount of time to do the full cross-country loop, but depending on your stamina (and if you can take turns driving, which I hardly ever can...), there are some wonderful things to see and do, no matter how far you decide to go. One the route west, I really like stretch of US50 across southern Indiana (thanks to Larry Bird's French Lick, and the historic hotel at West Baden Springs), and if you are a history buff the old Santa Fe and Oregon Trail remnants make the drive across Kansas more interesting than it might otherwise appear. The best parts of US50 are across Colorado (highlights here include Royal Gorge, Salida and the Million Dollar Highway); the amazing national parks of Utah (Arches, Canyonlands and many more), the wide open spaces of Pony Express country, on the Loneliest Road across Nevada; and Lake Tahoe and San Francisco in California.

The drive south from SF to LA is one of my favorites in the world -- Hwy-1 from Monterey and Carmel, through Big Sur, is deservedly an All American Highway, the best of the best (and worth dedicating 2 days to, at least). Then you can have fun in the expensive-but-idyllic southern California paradise of Santa Barbara, before cruising thru Hollywood and heading back east on legendary Route 66.

Next stop: London Bridge? or the Grand Canyon? (or Sedona, or the Native American lands of the Four Corners region -- all of which are unforgettable!)

Then there's Santa Fe New Mexico, then the Great Plains (to my mind, the best and longest stretches of old Route 66 run across Oklahoma). Then comes the Ozark hill country (and Branson Missouri, if you want to see any of your old favorite TV entertainers). Then St Louis and home again. Sound fun?

As you hint from your question, you may feel this means too much driving and not enough "seeing the sights" -- but if you can find a balance between all this, you will have a fine time. As you may have found on your Ocean City road trip, once you get in the right groove a road trip is a great way to see America. For me, driving 100 miles, stopping for cherry pie and a cup of coffee in a small-town diner, wandering around oddball local museums or hiking thru a state park, then getting back in the car and doing it all again a couple hours later, is a perfect pleasure. However and wherever you go, the magic lies in doing what you want to do, when and how you like, and the flexibility a road trip offers is pretty hard to beat.

And the western US places you are thinking of seeing are really amazing -- and to my eye are best experienced via a road trip along great old roads like US50 and Route 66.

Hope this helps you have a great trip! Thanks again for writing in, and keep in touch,

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA

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