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Driving Across The Country/long Distances?  
User currently offlineArmitageShanks From Costa Rica, joined Dec 2003, 3797 posts, RR: 14
Posted (11 years 2 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 2949 times:

I am thinking of driving around the United States this summer for my yearly summer adventure. Have any of you done this in the states and if so, what are your experiences?

Should I go out of my way to/not to do/see something?

Is it safe to sleep in the car instead of paying 50+ dollars for a hotel every night?

How long do you think I should allow? I was thinking about 2-3 weeks.

I'm 19 years old and I would be driving a Ford Taurus to save gas, haha.

25 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
User currently offlineNonrevman From United States of America, joined Nov 2001, 1314 posts, RR: 1
Reply 1, posted (11 years 2 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 2923 times:

If you are going coast to coast, 2-3 weeks does not seem like enough time to really get to explore. You would be driving for much of the time. As for sleeping in the car, a good place to do this would be welcome centers/tourist information places. Often, when you cross a state line, there is a large welcome center that also serves as a rest stop where you can park. In the summer, there will be lots of people coming and going, and some of the places are even patrolled.

As far as must sees/tourist traps are concerned, that would entirely depend on your route.

User currently offlineEjmmsu From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 1692 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (11 years 2 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 2922 times:

I also enjoy driving around the country every once in a while. Las time i did it i drove down Highway 82 from Wichita Falls, TX to Tuscaloosa, AL, then up to Nashville, over to Knoxville, to the Tri-Cities, and up to DC and NY. I stopped about 5 times on the way to camp out. I stopped more often in tennessee because i love the mountains, and avioded the interstate for the most part.

Anyway, I think the best thing to do is to buy a small tent and air matress. There are many state parks within a reasonable distance to they highway, and the price ranges anywhere from 8-15 dollars a night, many with separate electric and water for each campsite. Most also have showers, which is a must for me. This will be more comfortable than sleeping in the car for sure, and safer. If you are heading out west from tennesee, both Arkansas and Oklahoma have very well developed state park systems with lots of nice places to camp out. The parks in New Mexico and Arizona, although more spread out, are nice too.

"If the facts do not conform to the theory, they will have to be disposed of"
User currently offlineBMAbound From Sweden, joined Nov 2003, 660 posts, RR: 4
Reply 3, posted (11 years 2 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 2908 times:

I drove from western Montana to the Dakotas (to see Mt Rushmore), then I headed south for a short while, went west to Devil's Tower, Wyoming and then through Yellowstone on the way home. An awesome 2000 mile trip. It was very boring at times but once I got to the sites I visited, it was truly worth it. I recommend that part of the States to anyone that's interested in mountaineering/beautiful scenery.


Altitude is Insurance - Get Insured
User currently offlineDeltaGuy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (11 years 2 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 2898 times:

I grew up in a Navy family, so we were constantly re-assigned from coast to coast...seemed there were never any north-south runs, just Florida-Cali-Florida-Cali. Anyways, that served as a nice time to get some sightseeing done...I-10 is a longhaul route, with alot of boring nothing, (about 1000 miles of I-10 to take you through Texas!) But there sure are some cool things along the way...Baton Rouge, Dallas, and my favorite, Tuscon (home of Davis Mothan AFB and the infamous AMARC boneyard). It ends in San Diego, which, to me, is a treat in itself...beautiful area.

I too have considered it, but in my SS Camaro, gas mileage is crap, and it's not great on creature comforts...plus I don't want to put the miles on it lol. So maybe when I buy a truck next year or so. (Camaro aint goin nowhere though  Big grin)


User currently offlineStevenUhl777 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 5, posted (11 years 2 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 2891 times:

I would maybe recommend renting a car, so that you're not putting all those miles (not to mention wear and tear) on your personal vehicle.

Check with the rental car agencies, you can probably get a good deal somewhere.

User currently offlineGoboeing From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 2801 posts, RR: 14
Reply 6, posted (11 years 2 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 2884 times:

In January I will be driving from Philadelphia to Minnesota and then back in May after I finish work. Although I don't like long car rides at all, I am looking forward to this road trip because it'll be neat to go through a bunch of places that I've not been to before. I was in Chicago twice, but never left ORD. After passing that area the drive will get very boring, however, and it'll be cold and dark in January.


User currently offlineArniepie From Belgium, joined Aug 2005, 1291 posts, RR: 1
Reply 7, posted (11 years 2 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 2878 times:

I did a cross country run with my brother once for 7 weeks starting and ending in LA.
In these 7 weeks we did something like 16000 miles and went from west to east to south and back west.
We changed cars 2 times (2 times a mustang convertible and once a sebring) because we had some technical problems.
we always booked our overnight stays in a motel 6 (1-8004motel6 is the number i believe) except in LA, all the parks, Las Vegas, new York, Chicago and New Orleans where we took a normal center city hotel.
Things you definitely have to visit are Yosemite-park, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone (did this one on another trip) and the Everglades.
I would stay clear of The Niagara falls, Grand Canyon(great if you actually go in the canyon, to many people if you only give it a quick visit) and Atlantic city (major disappointment).
I wouldn't stay in the car overnight if you rent a normal car and not a mobilhome.

In conclusion I can tell you one thing which you'll find out for yourself if you go, America is absolutely one of the ,maybe even the ,most beautiful places this world has to offer and it also contains some very nice and friendly people
(except for new yorkans maybe).

PS: Here in Belgium we have a famous TV show which calls "Man bites dog".
This show deals about everyday small-life stories where a small TV crew just goes to a random village and rings the doorbell of an average Joe or Jane and askes them about the issues at hand in the household, some very good TV comes out of it from time to time.
2 or 3 years ago they did 2 seasons in the US going from Seattle (Washington) in a straight line to Miami (Florida), the best pr and advertising the USA ever had in my opinion.
It was really surprising and heartwarming to see how open and friendly these people where once they overcame the initial surprise of seeing these foreign guys with their camera on their doorsteps !!!GREAT TV!!!

[edit post]
User currently offlineDesertJets From United States of America, joined Feb 2000, 7876 posts, RR: 14
Reply 8, posted (11 years 2 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 2873 times:

I generally hate long haul driving, specifically interstate driving.

Now what might be more interesting than a coast to coast haul is follow some old US highway and take in the off the beaten path sites. Sort of like tracing the old US 66 route, but any old US highway will do. Passing through towns that have long since been bypassed by the Interstate system and the usual state and national parks along the way. Probably a very good way to see non-suburban strip mall America. And if you visit state or national parks you can camp out... again saving on hotels and not having to sleep in the back of your Ford Taurus.

Stop drop and roll will not save you in hell. --- seen on a church marque in rural Virginia
User currently offlineSlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 66
Reply 9, posted (11 years 2 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 2860 times:

I think everyone should do this at least once in their life. You really get to see the country, utterly unlike flying over it. One thing, though; try to get off the interstates as much as is practical. Interstateland is pretty much all the same, same gas stations, same motels, same restaurants. Interstate travel will get you there quicker but at great cost if the trip is the purpose.

I just finished up a good drive. Philadelphia to the eastern tip of Maine, to the most distant point from there, in northern California - coast to coast the longest way. About 4500 miles as I drove it, in nine days. Can't really say that I enjoyed the Interstate portions, but I've now driven I-80 from New York to San Francisco and I-95 from Bangor to Miami and I-5 from Mexico to Canada.

Sleeping in the car: Haven't done that for a very long time. Don't expect to as I am driving a mid-engine two seater now. Once slept in the back of my Buick in (ironically) Goodnight Texas. I don't recommend it. On the drive last month I had my car broken into in Pennsylvania. They didn't get anything but it cost me $260 for a new window and half a day's driving time. I think I'd scrimp on food and feed that money into the hotel cost. There is no substitute for a good shower and stretching out fully horizontal at the end of a long day in a car.

I've gotten into the habit of stopping early in the day. I'll get off the road by five now. Much later than that and the availability of hotel rooms takes a dive. You could wind up paying $200 a night for a suite because it is the last room for three hundred miles. Stay at the places that have a free continental breakfast and you can save yourself one big meal each day. Visit grocery stores and carry an ice chest and you can eliminate the other one.

To sum that up, I think that if you slept in the car and ate three hots in a restaurant each day, you'd spend as much $$ as if you had a decent hotel room with free continental breakfast and ate the rest of your meals on storebought groceries. Use the extra hour or two at the hotel to make up sandwiches etc. for the next day.

If you do sleep in the car, some truckstops along the interstate will have showers.

Another thing I've done (when I was poor) was carry a puptent and a couple of sleeping bags. Campsites were cheaper than hotels and had showers etc. I once saw two women on TV who'd walked across the country. In fair weather they slept out to save money. Where did two women feel safe sleeping? In cemetaries! They said they were never bothered once.

I'd suggest you see the sights that are representative of the various parts of this country. In the west you are going to see desert, but the Grand Canyon is absolutely incredible! You could go in from Williams AZ and then exit to the east toward Page AZ or up toward Kanab UT so as not to have to backtrack so far. I'd recommend seeing a good redwood grove while in California. I-5 sort of bypasses the Rockies, so I'd recommend one of the other roads across that area. Even I-70 is more scenic there.

I'll leave the eastern time zones to those more familiar than I am. I have done some wonderful sightseeing in Kentucky and North Carolina and New England though - there is just so much to see.

Good luck. Enjoy the drive. Tell us how it was.

Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineDeltaGuy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (11 years 2 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 2847 times:

I just finished up a good drive. Philadelphia to the eastern tip of Maine, to the most distant point from there, in northern California - coast to coast the longest way.

Good reply Slamclick.....were you moving your airporter MR-2 back out to RNO? (somehow I remember you had one lol)


User currently offlineSlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 66
Reply 11, posted (11 years 2 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 2846 times:




Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineScarletHarlot From Canada, joined Jul 2003, 4673 posts, RR: 55
Reply 12, posted (11 years 2 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 2821 times:

So now what, SlamClick? That sounds like quite the trip...I've done Toronto - Seattle (or return) three times. First was really great. Second was not so great. Third was pretty boring.  Smile/happy/getting dizzy

But that was when I ruled the world
User currently offlineArmitageShanks From Costa Rica, joined Dec 2003, 3797 posts, RR: 14
Reply 13, posted (11 years 2 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 2818 times:

Wow. Great advice so far. Thanks a lot. It's still just an idea, but it's realistic for me so I am going to see where I end up. Keep it coming.


User currently offlineKYIPpilot From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 1383 posts, RR: 6
Reply 14, posted (11 years 1 week 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 2783 times:

I've wanted to do that since before I could drive. I even mapped out a route on an old road atlas. The only problem is I would like to go with someone, but then you just can't always do what you want to do. I finally have a vehicle that gets good gas mileage, a Honda Civic, so that would be the car I'd take. I planned on just sleeping in the car. But where to take showers? I guess camp sites.

Mitch, are you planning on going alone? Slamclick, did you drive alone?

"It starts when you're always afraid; You step out of line, the man come and take you away" -Buffalo Springfield
User currently offlineDLKAPA From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 15, posted (11 years 1 week 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 2776 times:

Have fun in Kansas, I know I do  Smile/happy/getting dizzy

User currently offlineSuperfly From Thailand, joined May 2000, 40298 posts, RR: 73
Reply 16, posted (11 years 1 week 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 2770 times:

I love a long cross country road trip. The longest road trip for me was when we moved from Indiana to California. I liked the idea of seeing the country but I hated the 1981 Toyota Corolla we were in. I hated small cars since!
I we blew several tires along the way.

I take my car out on road trips about once a year.

SlamClick is right about avioding Interstates if you can.

Bring lots of tapes and/or CDs.

Bring back the Concorde
User currently offlineAzoresLover From United States of America, joined Jun 2004, 776 posts, RR: 6
Reply 17, posted (11 years 1 week 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 2766 times:
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I have taken numerous driving trips across this great country, coast to coast and north to south. Doing that is one of the very best ways to really see what this country is like. I think all parts have their own special beauty. A couple of my longer trips have been: start Ohio, through IN, IL, IA, SD, WY, MT, ID, WA, then down to OR, southern CA, then up through NV, UT, back across WY, down into CO, NM, then across TX, OK, MO, IL, IN, back to OH.

Another trip was WA, OR, CA, AZ, NM, TX, LA, MS, AL, GA, SC, NC, VA, WV, OH.

Many shorter trips in the east, especially up in New England.

What I like to do is start driving every day very early, like 4:30-5:00am, get where I'm going early enough in the day to be able to sightsee at my destination, and have time to enjoy the local flavor a bit. You've been given good tips here about how to overnight cheaply. I even slept on a California beach one night, it was free, and what a great experience it was.

My trip across Canada was driving 400-440 miles per day, then enjoying where I was the rest of the day. By starting early I was at my day's end no later than 1:00pm. My stops that trip included Thunder Bay, Ontario; Winnepeg, Manitoba; Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan; Calgary, Alberta.

Whatever you do, please DON'T abandon your plans to drive all around the country. Later, when you're out of school and working for a living you'll never have time to do it. You have the time now. Whatever the sacrifice, please just DO it.


Those who want to do something will find a way; those who don't will find an excuse.
User currently offlineMD-90 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 8520 posts, RR: 11
Reply 18, posted (11 years 1 week 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 2741 times:

The longest I've ever driven was from Huntsville to Hartford, which is about 1150 miles. That was solo, and took two days. The 95 Camry was actually a very good vehicle to make the trip in--comfortable and I got 32 MPG (granted, I was trying to max out the fuel economy so I wasn't speeding).

When we had the motorhome (1986 Fleewood class-C, 26 ft, Ford 460), Mom always wanted to make a big trip out west to California and back over about 3 weeks. Unfortunately, the motorhome's 7.5 MPG fuel economy (6.5 when running the generator) meant that gas would've been prohibitively expensive (this was back in the mid-90's when gas was $1.20/$1.30, not almost $2 like now). So we took it to Oshkosh and back for EAA 1994 and later to Hartford and back.

New England is beautiful in October.

User currently offlineArmitageShanks From Costa Rica, joined Dec 2003, 3797 posts, RR: 14
Reply 19, posted (11 years 1 week 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 2730 times:

Yes KYIPpilot, I'm going solo.

Seeing I'm a college kid I don't have too much money to spend. I would like to do it for about 1,000-1,200 bucks total- Gas and all. I like going on a small budget.

The main reason I would be going is for the journey. I don't really have a destination in mind... As soon as I get fed up with it I will turn around. I just want to capture as much of the trip on camera (still pictures). I want to make it sort of a documentary of the trip for when I'm older.

User currently offlineORDflyer From United States of America, joined Aug 2004, 511 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (11 years 1 week 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 2713 times:

Sounds like an exciting trip! I don't think you'd have any problems sleeping in your car, just be sure to follow all the common sense safety rules of being in well lit and safe areas. Rest stops/truck stops are probably your best bet for sleeping in your car, if you try and pull over and sleep on private property (ie. gas station etc) you might be chased away. My cousin likes to take long road trips, and he always raves about how much he enjoys truck stops...most of them have decent food and showers and locals can tell you if there are any worthwile attractions nearby. I would suggest that if you are planning on being gone for several weeks that every few days you splurge for a cheap hotel room to get a good night's sleep on a real bed. Your back will thank you! Other than that just be sure to get your car checked out by a mechanic before launching on your trip so you hopefully don't have any unforseen mechanical troubles, and have a good time exploring the country.

User currently offlineJ_hallgren From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 1507 posts, RR: 0
Reply 21, posted (11 years 1 week 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 2709 times:

I would allow some bucks for fees/admissions to places you may want to see...even the small places charge something usually...and govt parks/sites have started charging also...

I "move" to/from FL/MA twice a year and when on road, use the Roomsavers coupon books found at places such as IHOP, Denny's, etc...look at their website also...I saved around $20 off room rate by using them...

COBOL - Not a dead language yet!
User currently offlineJGPH1A From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 22, posted (11 years 1 week 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 2693 times:

I still plan to drive across the US, from San Diego to Boston, one day - it just looks like one of those Must Do trips. I've done some longish drives (2 or 3 days at most) but never right the way across.

User currently offlineSeb146 From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 13320 posts, RR: 14
Reply 23, posted (11 years 1 week 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 2685 times:

First: I would pack a tent and towels and stay at campgrounds.

Second: If I could take one trip around the West it would be SEA-SAN-LAS-SLC-DEN (US 6 from Provo to Grand Junction is amazing!) Then north to The Badlands, across Montana through Spokane, down to Pendleton and back to SEA. But that's just me.


Life in the wall is a drag.
User currently offlineGoboeing From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 2801 posts, RR: 14
Reply 24, posted (11 years 1 week 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 2682 times:

I recommend Microsoft Streets & Trips as a place to get all of your driving information. If you are just hitting the road with no plans it might not be of any help but it's a great tool for measuring distances, looking up accomadations or attractions within a specified radius from where you are, and many more things.

My drive shows 975 miles (straight line). Should take about 24 hours on the road.


User currently offlineClrd2go From United States of America, joined Feb 2003, 1000 posts, RR: 0
Reply 25, posted (11 years 1 week 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 2682 times:

Last time I did a cross country (US) trip was in 1988, my son and I drove
a car that his grandmother had given him from CA to NH..was a fun time, except for some problems we had with the car..we stayed in motels along
the way..took 5 days as I recall.

10 years ago my youngest son and I drove from NH-Colorado and back..stayed in motels, a real nice trip.

More recently I've made a few trips from NH-Atlanta area to visit my sons..I love the drive..doing it again between Thanksgiving and Christmas


What a long strange trip it's been
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