Tuesday, March 15, 2011

April in the West / Wisconsin to California

Hello Jamie,

Thank you for your website and for making yourself available to answer questions.

My husband and I will be traveling to Malibu, CA towards the end of April. Our stay there will be short and so we would like to use this opportunity to
visit sights yet seen, going and coming back home to Wisconsin. We are still mulling over whether or not to take Amtrak or drive ourselves, though I think we are both leaning towards the most freedom possible; getting on and off the road at our leisure.

So, I would love to visit a few places in New Mexico, my husband has his sights set on some stops in Arizona. We may give up to two weeks to this trip. Besides beautiful places to see along the way, do you advise traveling through the Rockies in May? I confess my absolute fear of edge of your seat driving...nothing between me and the edge of a mountain but a rail, but I may overcome my fear if you advise it. In other words, going to CA through the south, home through a more northern route.

Enough. Help!

And thank you!!!



Dear Jacqueline --

Many thanks for your message -- hope I can help you plan a great trip west.

I've been thinking over your options, and wonder whether you might want to contemplate the best of both worlds -- leisurely Amtrak journeys across the Great Plains, joined by a wonderful road trip around the beauty spots of the Far West. What I'm thinking is that you could take the train (from Chicago to Albuquerque maybe?), then get a car there and cruise around Santa Fe, the lovely scenery of the Four Corners region and everywhere in Arizona (gorgeous wildflowers in April!), then cruise into Los Angeles along old Route 66.

You could have your time in Malibu, and hit the road again -- exploring California, Yosemite National Park and maybe Death Valley, on into Utah for all the national parks (Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands... the whole southern half of the state, really). Then see some May-blooming wildflowers (the Colorado state flower, columbines, are my favorites after sweet peas). It's pretty easy to avoid any vertiginous cliffs, to ease your fears, though if you feel you could bear it, the edge-of-the-world Million Dollar Highway from Ouray into Silverton and Telluride offers some pretty amazing vistas.

After Colorado, you could loop back down toward Santa Fe (via the cliff palaces of Mesa Verde National Park?), dropping the car in Albuquerque and hopping the train for the ride home to Wisconsin.

Amtrak train tickets are pretty reasonable (around $150 each way for the 24 hour, Chicago to New Mexico journey -- much more pleasant than flying, and much more restful than driving all that way!) And if you wanted to arrive in style, you could look into renting one of Amtrak's Pullman-type bedroom for the night (I think these run around $300 -- including meals.)

All this adventure would be very manageable in your two-week time-frame, for sure. Let me know what you think, and if you do decide to take the trip, I hope you'll get a chance to check out my 900+ page book version of Road Trip USA, which has a lot more info and ideas (and pictures!) than what I've managed to post up on the website.

Thanks again for writing,

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA

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