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September-October Cross-Country

Travel Forums North America September-October Cross-Country

1. Posted by gorillabay (Budding Member 4 posts) 42w Star this if you like it!

Hello, I had posted some months ago about a solo cross-country trip I am planning. I am 42-year-old male. The trip is much more defined now and I would like to give the specs and get any feedback.

Dates of trip: Depart 8/29/17 and return approx. 10/17/17

Route: SF East Bay (California) – Oregon – Idaho – Montana – Dakotas – Nebraska – Iowa – Wisconsin – Illinois – Indiana – Ohio – Kentucky – Tennessee – Mississippi – New Orleans – Arkansas – Oklahoma – New Mexico – Utah – Nevada – SF East Bay

Transport: By car. Which car is still TBD. I own a Honda Civic Hybrid with about 140K miles on it, has been very reliable since purchasing used in 2011. The primary issue there is space. I did a “dry pack” and things did not entirely fit; but even if I whittle it down some it leaves me very little wiggle room, and one objective of the trip is to add to my license plate collection by going to junkyards.

Lodging: A blend of cheap motels, hostels, Couchsurfing (if it works, I have my doubts), and staying with family. In all I will probably stay with family about 40% of the nights.

Objectives: Fulfill lifelong dream of traveling cross-country; see unique roadside attractions; travel mostly via highways that are not interstates but not entirely backroads either; go to junkyards; talk with/interview people connected to the roadside attractions and other stops (will be doing some more main touristy things like Mt. Rushmore); visit a lot of museums; take a lot of photos; write a book about my experiences; visit out-of-state family; take time to reflect on my life and future.

Inspirations: Blue Highways, Travels With Charley, and a host of other, more recent cross country memoirs (such as Turn Left at the Trojan Horse and Wild).

Miscellaneous: Though I have a detailed itinerary (using Lonely Planet and as guides for stops), I am fully aware that half of it could be thrown out the window. There is a lot of unknowns about this trip that I cannot know until I am on the trip. For instance, I do not know how I will tolerate driving several hours every day for so many days in a row, detours and unplanned adventures will take place, it is difficult to predict how much time will be spent in certain locations, etc. I embrace this, however.

I also am not certain I will stick to the 50 days. This is ideal based on being able to return to a part-time job when I return, but I am also willing to forego the job if need be. I have been working a lot of hours and saving this past year for the purposes of this trip. I will be re-joining AAA and obtaining a National Parks pass.

The average time driving per day is 3.62. The actual total will surely be more; this figure is based on city-to-city calculations and these assume as much major highway driving as possible, and also there will be detours, getting lost, etc.

2. Posted by Andyf (Moderator 935 posts) 42w Star this if you like it!

It sounds like you're overpacking, given that some people go round the world on hand baggage. Chuck out duplicate garments, take less tech and chargers, plan on doing an occasional batch of laundry to slim the clothing down further.

4 hours driving per day would be a bit much for me, given that that means every non-driving day buys you an 8 hour driving day afterwards.

3. Posted by hasbeen (Travel Guru 1260 posts) 42w Star this if you like it!

You don't have a map on TP so I don't know if your route takes you near Cody, Wyoming but the Buffalo Bill Center of the West is an excellent museum . . one of the nicest museums I have ever visited & I am not even that interested in the subject ,, I have zero interest in guns but found the Winchester rifle collection amazing & there is some great Western Art too.


4. Posted by hasbeen (Travel Guru 1260 posts) 42w Star this if you like it!

The Evening Lighting Ceremony at Rushmore is very good .. quite moving .. but I see you have to get there by 30 September .


5. Posted by goodfish (Budding Member 115 posts) 42w Star this if you like it!

The primary issue there is space. I did a “dry pack” and things did not entirely fit; but even if I whittle it down some it leaves me very little wiggle room, and one objective of the trip is to add to my license plate collection by going to junkyards.

Good heavens, how much stuff are you bringing?

As you're not camping, I can't figure how the heck you're having a space problem. I drive a Civic and we've NEVER had a space problem when traveling with it...and there are two of us. Even camping, you should be able to get everything in without an issue.

6. Posted by greatgrandmaR (Respected Member 492 posts) 42w Star this if you like it!

You are only going half way across the country - not all the way to the east coast. The AAA tour books are great for listing museums and out of the way attractions. When we travel we don't usually drive more than 300 miles a day and that is a good amount which allows visiting along the way. (IMO). Be sure your car has a good radio. Listening to the local radio stations is a good way to get acquainted with the country. (Although we were driving through Louisiana in a driving rainstorm where the roads were almost flooded and I heard that there were tornadoes sighted near Rain (it was really spelled Rayne, but I didn't know that) and if we saw one we should stop and get out of the car and lie down in a ditch, at which point we would have drowned. Stop a little before or a little after the regular meal times to eat (so it is not so crowded) and go to places in a town that aren't chains but have a good bunch of local cars parked there. You might want a fridge or cooler. Back in the day, we would stop and get ice at ice houses to melt water to drink and use the ice to cool ourselves. The ice in ice houses didn't usually have so many dissolved minerals which sometimes caused my dad the runs.

7. Posted by gorillabay (Budding Member 4 posts) 41w Star this if you like it!

Thank you for your replies, everyone. As for the car, I am getting a lot of early returns on this and it seems the consensus is that I'm overpacking. I will have to re-think it.

hasbeen: I will be in Rushmore around September 13th if all goes according to plan, so thanks for the tip! As for Wyoming, I'm not planning on passing through there. I saw the museum you are talking about in one of my guides and want to go, but I think Cody was just too out of the way based on other spots which took a higher priority.

Andyf, I think maybe I was unclear on the driving. The average is 3.62 like I said, but it does not mean I have to drive 8 hours one day after driving 4 the previous day. My longest in any one day is about 6, but most days are 3-4 hours.

Thanks again!

8. Posted by karazyal (Travel Guru 1937 posts) 41w Star this if you like it!

You should be able to get by with fewer clothes by stopping at a laundromat every now and then. Have you done any planning on how to have spending money during the trip? My advice is to not rely on a single credit or debit card for spending money. Have back up sources for cash.

Consider some sort of small electric device for boiling water. (I like some coffee first thing in the morning.) Good for instant noodles, good for instant coffee, etc. Small first aid kit even if just band aids, gauze and alcohol. I always travel with some sort of hand wipes - such as Wet Wipes. Good for snacking on the road and keeping grease off the steering wheel.

Obvious stuff such as a good safety check for your vehicle before your trip. Verify your insurance is up to date. With my computer I can still pay bills using Bill Pay through my bank/credit union accounts. Also I like to check my my debit and credit cards to see if any fraudulent charges.

Have fun.

Post 9 was removed by a moderator
10. Posted by Beausoleil (Travel Guru 446 posts) 35w Star this if you like it!

We took our three kids (total five of us) on a 6-week cross-country camping trip with all our equipment in an old Toyota Tercel hatchback (when they were tiny cars) and had enough room for everything we needed including our large canvas tent and cooking supplies. If you can't get enough for just yourself into a modern Honda Civic and you are not even packing camping supplies, you need to seriously rethink your packing. Take no more than clothes for a week and stop at a laundromat. If you are staying with family, they should have washing machines you can use.

I'll admit we used a car-top carrier, but we had a huge tent back in the days of canvas. Currently, my husband and I can easily get our things into our Toyota Prius for a month-long trip and that includes full camping equipment . . . and no children; they've grown up. You're not moving; you're visiting. Take no more than you need and remember, if you don't have something, forget something or run out of something, you can always buy it on the road.

The occasional day of long driving is fine; just don't do it often. We drove San Diego to San Francisco on the PCH (rte. 1) in one day and while it was a spectacular drive, we were wiped out. Fortunately, we spent a few days with friends in San Francisco to recover. Your idea of avoiding the Interstates is good but some of the Interstates in the West are beautiful drives. I think of I-15 between Canada and Nevada.

It sounds like a fun trip. Enjoy yourself . . . and the suggestion for Cody, Wyoming above is excellent.