Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cross-Country / Chicago to California

Hi Jamie,

Thank you for writing such a wonderful book! Me and my husband are planning for a road trip in the United States after 3 years we have been living in Chicago, working a lot and traveling so little. Unfortunately we will only have 13/14 days. What do you think is reasonable to plan? We'd like to cross the country til San Francisco and Los Angeles and come back, during March. We do not mind driving, but at the same time we'd like to take advantage of the travel and see as much as possible.
Thank you for your precious advice, cheers



Dear Noemi --

Thank you for your lovely note, and I hope I can help you and your husband have a wonderful trip around the US.

I notice you are wanting to go "in March" -- does this mean NOW? If so, because of weather I suggest you start off by going south, perhaps heading west first out of Chicago to the wonderful little town of Galena, where you can get a nice first taste of "small town America".

Then I'd say drive south, along the mighty Mississippi River along the Great River Road. There are some neat small towns and some great old American cities -- and if you have a taste for history I strongly suggest a visit to St Louis, the former French! capital of the whole Middle America. In St Louis, underneath the landmark Gateway Arch, there is a great little museum which documents just how important French explorers and traders were to the development of the USA. And if you don;t loe history, you can simply watch the river flow by.

I'd recommend continuing down the river, to energetic Memphis, all the way down to New Orleans, which is a wonderful place, despite all its misfortune.

You could do all this in 3 or 4 days (I have a friend who frequently drives from Chicago to Memphis and back, just for a weekend of music & BBQ ribs!)

Then you get to drive across Texas, the biggest of the lower 48 states -- this is the day to listen to audiobooks and drive on autopilot.

But cross Texas gets you to a very pretty part of the country -- the desert Southwest, of New Mexico and Arizona. Must see Santa Fe, the ancient cliff palaces of Mesa Verde, and experience the Native American culture that for centuries pre-exist the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492.

March is a wonderful time to be in the Southwest, as all the desert wild flowers are blooming. Then you can continue to California, and see LA and San Francisco -- but don't miss Yosemite National Park, which is one of the scenic wonders of the world!

And I meant to ask earlier: do you own a car? If not, you have a better option for your big cross-country adventure.

Instead of trying to drive all the way, and back again, you could rent one car in Chicago, drive to New Orleans, then give back the car before exploring the French Quarter (on your feet!).

Then fly west, rent another car in Albuquerque for Santa Fe and Mesa Verde, then drive on to California and give back this car before flying home again.

Flying is not as much fun as taking a road trip, but flying will save you a week of driving across the middle of America!

Hope this helps -- have a great trip. Bon Voyage,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA



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