Monday, January 23, 2012

USA from South Africa - American Dream road trip!

Hi Jamie

My name is Sean and I live in South Africa. I have been fascinated by America since childhood (I am 46 -- so childhood was 1970s...).

I am planning a road trip across the US with Judy, my wife, in September 2012.

I am setting aside 6 weeks for the adventure of a life time.

I looked at your amazing website and was thinking that this would be the way to go;

Fly into Chicago and meet up with the legendary Route 66, continuing along to San Fransisco and then cutting through along the US 50 or Loneliest Road back to New York.

Would this make sense and how long would you allocate to each half of the journey?

Many thanks for such an informative website.




Hi Sean --

Many thanks for your nice message -- I hope I can help you have this "adventure of a lifetime" you've been dreaming about for 30-plus years!

So far, so good: Six weeks should be just about perfect, and September is just about the best time of year to be "on the road". I'd recommend you give yourselves a few days in Chicago (which to me is the quintessential, all-American city!), then hit the road down Route 66. Depending upon how much time you want to spend in museums vs "Mother Nature", I'd say two weeks would be good for Route 66 -- maybe a little more if you feel like heading down from St Louis for the trip to Memphis and New Orleans, along my "Great River Road" trip along the Misisissippi. This is a wonderful drive, well worth making as part of your adventure.

The other question for the westbound trip is how much time you want to linger in what I rate as the most amazing part of the US -- the Southwest states of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Here you can admire 1000-year-old "cliff palaces" of Mesa Verde National Park, the natural wonders of Monument Valley and Zion, and millions of ares of undisturbed country. Not to mention the Grand Canyon, and of course Las Vegas (which is ideal if you need a bit of insane "civilization" after some time in the "wilderness").

Then you have Los Angeles, then another real highlight: the drive up the coast of California to San Francisco. I would allow 5 days for the LA to SF drive, so you can enjoy towns like Santa Barbara, Carmel and Monterey, and the splendid scenery of Big Sur.

San Francisco is a blast, too -- and if you like wine, the Napa and Sonoma valleys are just to the north. So, just to keep track of time, I'd say you are 3 or 4 weeks into your trip by the time you are ready to head east again.

One place I'd add to your itinerary is Yosemite National Park, in eastern California -- one of the wonders of the world (worth 3 days, 2 nights... at least!)

For the drive east, the US50 / Loneliest Road is nice (though you can hit some of the Utah and Colorado highlights on your way west, if you do some detours from Route 66.

Since you have a good amount of time, I think I'd recommend heading further north, maybe taking in the coast of Oregon, Portland and even Seattle, before heading east via Idaho and Yellowstone National Park (another wonder of the natural world!). And Mount Rushmore, those iconic stone heads of the US Presidents, carved into the Black Hills of South Dakota.

And finally, I'm not sure you need to see New York and Boston -- unless you see them after you've dropped off your car, because driving and parking in NYC is an expensive nightmare! Also, the East Coast can be hot and sweaty in September, though if your trip extends through mid-October then by all means make your way up to Vermont and Maine and enjoy the famous "fall color".

How's that for some ideas? (I should say that I've got a new edition of Road Trip USA coming out in April 2012, which will be about 5 years more up-to-date than the website info...)

Hope all this helps you plan a great trip - and please feel free to write back if you have any more worries!

With best wishes,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA


Post a Comment

<< Home