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Cross Country Trip!
Old 02-14-2005, 10:31 AM   #1
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Cross Country Trip!

First of all, I'm glad to see the new title for this section and I hope more people on this board will be posting here!

My wife and I are preparing for a trip from North Carolina to California and back to Florida. We are leaving about March 1st and will spend about 7 weeks or so traveling. We are basically staying on a more southerly path because of the weather.

Outbound will be through Alabama, Oklahoma, NM, Colorado (southern Grand Canyon), Nevada (Lake Tahoe/Reno) and into San Francisco, then down the Coast Highway to LA (where we go on a cruise to Mexico).

Coming back, we will head down to San Diego, then off to Arizona, NM, spend a lot of time in Texas, Louisiana and the Florida panhandle.

We have never done anything quite like this (uh, we used to work ). Does anyone have any advice or suggestions for 'not to be missed' places or activities, etc? We would appreciate any input.

The Beachbumz
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Re: Cross Country Trip!
Old 02-14-2005, 11:10 AM   #2
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Re: Cross Country Trip!

Hi BUM,

My DW and I put about 40,000 to 50,000 miles a year on our vehicles and most of it is in cross-country trips. Last year we made trips from Phoenix to Illinois twice, to NM, to CO, to OK, to Fort Worth, TX, to Monterey, CA, etc. typically we spend between 10 and 20 days on the road when we travel. We usually start with a tentative schedule and itenary, but adapt it to what we learn along the way, the weather, etc.

One resource that we use to plan and that we take with us is the AAA travel guides for every state and/or major city we will be going through. If you are a AAA member, these are free. Of course you can get travel guides at your library or bookstore, too. We also go to the library and check out a number of books on tape before we leave. If you plan on doing this, check out far more than you think you might want to listen to. You may find you're not in the mood for something or that the book isn't as good as you expected when you're on the road. I always bring my laptop and have some mapping programs and a GPS link. Web links to mapping programs is valuable too.

We spend a lot of time on our trips going to National Parks, Wilderness Areas, archaeology sites and museums. Most people I know would rather be dragged across the desert naked than do that, so I won't offer any specific suggestions for visits.

Have fun.
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Re: Cross Country Trip!
Old 02-14-2005, 11:36 AM   #3
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Re: Cross Country Trip!

Hey BUM,

Sounds like an exciting trip to make. I have never made one but I hope to several months after I ER. I want to start looking for a new place to move to in a couple of years.

What kind of vehicle will you be traveling in? Are you planning to camp out?

Have lots of fun.

MJ
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Re: Cross Country Trip!
Old 02-14-2005, 11:50 AM   #4
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Re: Cross Country Trip!

Sounds like a fantastic trip. *I've got a cross-country trip planned on my things to do.

I take it you are driving your car or truck. *Have you considered renting an RV and cooking your own food? *Or is it easier and/or more economical to stay in a hotel/motel and eat out?

I am considering taking a short 4 or 5 day RV trip in the next few months to see whether my wife and I enjoy the experience of RV travel.

On another topic, have you considered self-protection? *That can take all forms such as clubs, knives, pepper spray, and guns. *I would think someone on a cross-country trip would want to have something with which to defend themselves from either a human or animal attack.
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Re: Cross Country Trip!
Old 02-14-2005, 12:51 PM   #5
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Re: Cross Country Trip!

Done it a couple of times from New England to California.

Get a GPS. No need to spend a lot of money on it as the expensive features in my opinion dont buy you much. We just ran into a few too many "uhh...weren't we on route 80 until a few minutes ago? All these signs say some other route number?" Apparently the US highway system delights in making you take an exit from a major highway in order to remain on that highway. Often. Its also indispensible for when you leave the highway to get into a town and become disoriented and dont know how to get back to the highway.

Bring plenty of stuff for one person to entertain themselves with. Books, handheld video games, a tv, a dvd player. Just note that tvs and dvd players are illegal in almost all states (if not all) if the driver can see the screen. I remember driving by a lot of corn, soy and hay through the midwest, followed by a lot of flat dirt in the southwest.

Do NOT ever do such a trip by yourself. I did it once and by Nebraska I was having excellent and detailed conversations with myself. By Wyoming I was arguing with myself. By Nevada I was no longer on speaking terms with myself. Consider it time spent in a sensory deprivation tank.

Stop a lot, at least once every 90-120 minutes, just to get out and stretch. When you're in your 4th or 5th day and "just want to get there", its tempting to drive through. Dont.

Make your end stops and get reservations. We decided to just go with the flow and stop when we felt like it. Worked good for a couple of days. My favorite moment of my first cross country trip was getting into Nebraska at 9 at night to discover a Garth Brooks concert, the state roller skating championships, the Polish Festival (apparently there are a lot of people from Poland in Nebraska), and a few other innocuous sounding events had every hotel room in the eastern half of the state jammed up. At midnight the fuel pump decided to start leaking. At 2am and hoping the car wouldnt burst into flames at any moment we finally found a place with one room left. And no, AAA will not only not do anything for you in the middle of nebraska at midnight on a saturday, they wont do anything for you at noon on the following sunday either. So I guess its a good idea to have a roadside assistance plan for something like this, but I wouldnt count on actually getting any service from them in remote areas.

Dont speed. Or do anything else illegal. I firmly planned to avoid offering any of the various local law enforcement folks an easy ticket when they saw the out-of-state plates, I still found my foot getting very heavy in parts of the midwest and southwest. I caught myself going 105 on one stretch in Nevada.

Dont leave anything of value in your car in plain sight, even for a few minutes visit into a convenience store. There are people who do nothing but hang around in the parking lots off the interstates looking for out of staters with something valuable in their car. You arent going to hang around long for the police to take a report, you arent going to keep looking for who took your stuff, and you wont be coming back to press charges.

Take a nice cooler and fill it at a local supermarket with drinks and snacks or small sandwiches you make yourself. Every motel we stopped at going cross country had an ice chest that you could use to fill up your cooler with ice for free. Not paying $2 for a can of soda or $8 for a sandwich that makes you ill is priceless. I liked querying the locals for a good breakfast joint or a nice place for dinner, but your lunches will probably be best taken picnic style at a rest stop or off an exit with something nice to look at.

See the sites, but you're gonna get tired of the "worlds biggest ball of string" stuff pretty quick.

You will rapidly become familiar with the "pig truck". These are found in abundance on our interstates. Its a large metal semi trailer with a lot of oval holes in it, filled with pigs. You will smell it 3-4 miles before overtaking it. It is the strongest and most unpleasant thing you will ever smell in your life. The drivers appear to enjoy doing whatever they can to keep you from passing. I had one race me going uphill in a torrential rain storm on route 80 in Wyoming up to roughly 90mph to keep me from passing. Given that I was in my then-girlfriends firebird with a u-haul trailer on it and the trailer was going to wrench us off the road at any moment, I had to settle for following him for another 20 miles to a rest stop, where he quickly slunk into the restaurant and merged with about 20 of his buddies. Closest I've come in recent times to punching someone out.

The AAA maps is also a good idea...they gave us a complete turn by turn booklet of submaps all strung together for free, along with lots of good info on where to stay and what to see.
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Re: Cross Country Trip!
Old 02-14-2005, 12:52 PM   #6
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Re: Cross Country Trip!

Quote:
I would think someone on a cross-country trip would want to have something with which to defend themselves from either a human or animal attack.
Especially up here in the great Northwest where one has to keep an eye out for Bigfoot. A rocket launcher is recommended.

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Re: Cross Country Trip!
Old 02-14-2005, 01:43 PM   #7
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Re: Cross Country Trip!

Quote:
Dont leave anything of value in your car in plain sight, even for a few minutes visit into a convenience store. *There are people who do nothing but hang around in the parking lots off the interstates looking for out of staters with something valuable in their car. *You arent going to hang around long for the police to take a report, you arent going to keep looking for who took your stuff, and you wont be coming back to press charges.
Lots of good advice in that masterpiece of a post.

The quote above got me thinking of the movie "Breakdown" with Kurt Russell. It's one movie not to watch before driving cross-country.
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Re: Cross Country Trip!
Old 02-14-2005, 03:37 PM   #8
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Re: Cross Country Trip!

Never seen it but I'll have to put it on my tivo for future taping!

I think its sad that a technologically adept person still says that a device with a hard disk in it will "tape" something. I guess I'll have to stop rolling my eyes whenever my dad calls his cd player a "record player" or a "victrola".

There are a few places off the Interstates where I felt a little less comfortable than some vacation spots in mexico and central america I've been to.

Keep your eyes open, minimize unnecessary opportunities for bad things to happen to you, and have fun!
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Re: Cross Country Trip!
Old 02-14-2005, 04:14 PM   #9
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Re: Cross Country Trip!

We went cross country 2 1/2 years ago. 33 days, 9500 miles, 4 kids, 2 adults with a 28' travel trailer. We're still married and we still have the 4 kids so it was a success.

We went from NJ to San Diego/Coronado. We had the first half of the trip pretty much planned and reservations for the camp grounds. After Arizona, we changed course somewhat and decided to use whatever campgrounds we found as we went along. We didn't have any problems and found that the Trailer Life directory was indispensible (www.tldirectory.com - a yellow pages of campgrounds). Most campgrounds you can drive in after hours, set up and pay in the morning.

We had a great time, took a lot of pictures and overall only spent about $5,000 for the whole trip for 6 people.

Some of the highlights: We were in a Wild West Park and were waiting for the wagon to take us gold prospecting. The wagon came, DH and 3 kids get in - one of the boys was rope tied up to a post by his brothers and I am trying to untie him before the wagon leaves. We put "Twister" into the VCR while traveling through Oklahoma (Hurricane Alley). We watched the "Dirt Devils" out the windows and received pamphlets at the campground on what to do during a hurricane. The kids eyes were really wide as we drove through a thunderstorm out of Oklahoma.

When we liked an area we stayed a day or two extra, when we didn't like it we left. Graceland was a let down, we had planned on two days but left after one. The Mammoth Caves in Kentucky were pretty cool, the Grand Canyon, and the painted desert were amazing. Tiajuana was an eye-opener for our kids (small children begging in the streets) especially since our kids are from Mexican heritage on their fathers side.

All in all, it was a great experience. Just remember to enjoy the places and people you see and not spend your time thinking about the next stop and how soon you'll get there.
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Re: Cross Country Trip!
Old 02-15-2005, 06:04 AM   #10
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Re: Cross Country Trip!

Hi Guru,
Thanks for the advice. We are AAA members and will carry the travel books. I never thought about the books on tape, that's a great idea. We are taking the laptop (wouldn't know what to do without it ).

Quote:

We spend a lot of time on our trips going to National Parks, Wilderness Areas, archaeology sites and museums. *Most people I know would rather be dragged across the desert naked than do that, so I won't offer any specific suggestions for visits.

Have fun. *
There's a visual I probably didn't need!

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Re: Cross Country Trip!
Old 02-15-2005, 06:07 AM   #11
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Re: Cross Country Trip!

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Hey BUM,

Sounds like an exciting trip to make. I have never made one but I hope to several months after I ER. I want to start looking for a new place to move to in a couple of years.

What kind of vehicle will you be traveling in? Are you planning to camp out?

Have lots of fun.

MJ
Hi MJ,
Thanks, we are looking forward to the trip. We are traveling in our 4Runner. We considered renting an RV for the trip, but it was cost prohibitive . We have thought about purchasing one for a while now, but are not quite ready for that. Hopefully, with priceline, hotwire, etc., we can get some good deals on hotel rooms along the way.

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Re: Cross Country Trip!
Old 02-15-2005, 06:13 AM   #12
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Re: Cross Country Trip!

Quote:
Sounds like a fantastic trip. *I've got a cross-country trip planned on my things to do.

I take it you are driving your car or truck. *Have you considered renting an RV and cooking your own food? *Or is it easier and/or more economical to stay in a hotel/motel and eat out?

I am considering taking a short 4 or 5 day RV trip in the next few months to see whether my wife and I enjoy the experience of RV travel.

On another topic, have you considered self-protection? *That can take all forms such as clubs, knives, pepper spray, and guns. *I would think someone on a cross-country trip would want to have something with which to defend themselves from either a human or animal attack.
Hello Retire@40!
We have rented an RV for a week in the past and had a great time, we also have friends with an RV and have spent many nights with them (it's a whole lot better when YOU have the bedroom ); but as I mentioned in my previous post, renting an RV was just tooooo expensive for this long a trip. We will prepare a lot of our own food and share meals when we eat out; we've gotten pretty good at that.

I never gave any thought to security, but I guess I should, thanks for the suggestion.

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Re: Cross Country Trip!
Old 02-15-2005, 06:24 AM   #13
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Re: Cross Country Trip!

Hi TH,
I lot of great advice/information in your post (I won't quote it again ).

I agree big time with the cooler idea. We always carry our own drinks. We will also make a lot of our lunches (and look for coupons in the paper ).

Can you recommend a good, but inexpensive, GPS and do you know the best place to purchase one?

Although our schedule is very flexible, we will decide where our next stop for the night will be ahead of time and try to find a deal on a hotel online the night before. We have run into the situation of no hotel rooms for miles, that's no fun!!!

On the speeding issue, does anyone know (or know a link) regarding the legality of radar detectors in the states we are going to? We try to keep our speed reasonable and will not be in a hurry, but I don't like surprises.

As far as security, I think you said it best: "keep your eyes open, minimize unnecessary opportunities for bad things to happen to you and have fun".

We will try to avoid the "pig trucks" at all costs.

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Re: Cross Country Trip!
Old 02-15-2005, 06:37 AM   #14
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Re: Cross Country Trip!

Quote:
We had a great time, took a lot of pictures and overall only spent about $5,000 for the whole trip for 6 people.

Some of the highlights: We were in a Wild West Park and were waiting for the wagon to take us gold prospecting. The wagon came, DH and 3 kids get in - one of the boys was rope tied up to a post by his brothers and I am trying to untie him before the wagon leaves. *We put "Twister" into the VCR while traveling through Oklahoma (Hurricane Alley). We watched the "Dirt Devils" out the windows and received pamphlets at the campground on what to do during a hurricane. The kids eyes were really wide as we drove through a thunderstorm out of Oklahoma.

When we liked an area we stayed a day or two extra, when we didn't like it we left. Graceland was a let down, we had planned on two days but left after one. The Mammoth Caves in Kentucky were pretty cool, the Grand Canyon, and the painted desert were amazing.

All in all, it was a great experience. Just remember to enjoy the places and people you see and not spend your time thinking about the next stop and how soon you'll get there.
Hi Artist59 and welcome to the board!
We are going to try to keep our entire trip (including the cruise) below the $5000 mark. This will depend on keeping the hotel prices reasonable. Thanks for your specific remarks about the places you visited. We will stay in an area as long as we are enjoying it and then move on. Our only schedule is that we have to meet friends in LA on March 29th. On the trip back we have no deadlines (except our OF condo will be empty and calling my name 8))

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Re: Cross Country Trip!
Old 02-15-2005, 11:10 AM   #15
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Re: Cross Country Trip!

I use a garmin emap, which is probably not sold anymore and its an old product even if it is. Look for a handheld black and white garmin or magellan unit with a built in basemap of US highways and exits. PC connectivity is a plus but unnecessary for most uses. I've only used mine for "ok, where the ^%#$ are we?!?" and "I know the dang highway is right around here, now where is it, how do I get to it, and wheres the nearest entrance ramp?". The compass and altimeter are modestly useful at times to get general bearings and see if you're above or below freeze-lines and need to watch for black ice.

Check here
http://www.cycoactive.com/gps/gps_compare.html

For a comparison...looks like the garmin etrex legend or vista is what you want...I've seen them around for $99-150 a pop. The $99 price was a circuit city clearance item. Amazons prices aint too bad. You might want to go into staples or a circuit city and poke at them to make sure you like how the screen looks.

Note that they need line of sight to lock the satellites, so in the middle of an RV or inside a building, even under very heavy tree canopies you can lose the lock.

Gotchas: the downloadable detail maps are expensive, often out of date or surveyed wrong so things are in the wrong places. "autorouting" is worthless...my last autorouter tried to take me through an active trainyard to get to a street. If you're going to want to download detailed maps into the unit, find one that takes a standard compact flash...garmins proprietary flash is 10x the cost of regular flash. If you're one of the super detail types, you can work out routes and stopping points on a big map on your pc and then download the routes, waypoints and points of interest to the gps for later use in the car.

If its something you think you're going to use all the time, and you want a more prominent/permanent mount, a larger color unit IS easier to see and use but you're going to have to pony up $300+ for one, probably closer to $450 for anything decent. The small handhelds are pretty handy though, I've taken my emap on boats during ocean sailing trips, out on lakes, and on walks through the state forests. Pretty much paid for itself 10x over when we were sailing on the SF bay and the fog rolled in and we didnt know where the shoreline was.

A few years ago when my dad wanted to drive from New England to California when he was moving here, I sent him a Garmin Colormap pre-programmed with the route he needed to take to get here from there, and a countdown showing the miles left to go to get to my house. All he had to do was turn it on and drop it on the dashboard. He said it saved his bacon a couple of times.

Radar detectors are worthless these days. I spent many years with expensive dashboard ones and when driving extensively in connecticut where they're illegal, with a hidden remote one run from the cars grill into a receiver in my glove compartment. Saved me a lot of tickets then.

While radar detectors are a lot better now, radar has simply outpaced them. Instant on, lidar, short pulse Ka and better trained cops have gotten things to the point where they're going to have you before you get an alert. Further, having a detector in sight makes you not only a theft target, but a "nuisance ticket" target. The average person breaks 6-15 obscure and not so obscure motor vehicle laws per day. Seeing a detector ticks off the cop sitting at the light next to you, and theres a good chance you'll get harassed. I used to get tickets for "improper starting, stopping or turning", license plate obstruction (a dealers plate frame), operator visibility obstruction (a map book sitting on the dashboard), etc. Then I wised up. Drive within 10mph of the speed limit, watch for anyone weaving up through traffic behind you, or ideally find some dick in a Porsche with a radar detector thats going 80 and keep him barely in view ahead of you. When he gets pulled over and written up, you drive right by and wave.

There are a hundred people who will line up to tell you their fancy and expensive detector has saved them dozens of tickets. I can ante up a thousand cops that will tell you they've nabbed people every day with every model detector on the market.

In my old stomping grounds, there was a CHP that had a nice routine...he sat right on the other side of a sharp berm in the highway with the low power Ka pointed down at the road. You went over the berm and he was about 40 feet away and you hit his beam just as he came into view...and neither of my two very good detectors even uttered a peep until I saw the police car. When I drove across country with my Escort, I had a dozen highway patrollmen hit me with the instant on out on open roads when they were coming in the other direction.
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Re: Cross Country Trip!
Old 02-15-2005, 09:03 PM   #16
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Re: Cross Country Trip!

Bum
Where in OK are you going? If you like western art, check out the Gilcrease in Tulsa, or the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in OKC.
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Re: Cross Country Trip!
Old 02-16-2005, 02:19 AM   #17
 
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Re: Cross Country Trip!

Man, there is a western art museum in downtown Fort Worth that is just awesome. I have been there 3-4 times and am going back. Lots of Remingtons and Russells. I can't recall the name of the Museum offhand
but I think it was fianced by the Bass Family of Fort Worth fame.

Re. the Kurt Russell movie, I've seen it (twice). You will
probably feel like packing "heat" on any long trips.

Other my my longer motorcycle trips, the only real cross country vacation we
ever took was from Illinois through Missouri and
Oklahoma to Dallas, then west to New Mexico, then north through Nevada, Wyoming and Idaho to
Oregon, and then back through Washington State,
the Dakotas, Minn., Wisonsin, etc. Glad we did it.
Wouldn't do it again.

I will say this. I no longer fly at all and have not for
years. And, I have been in all of the lower 48 states
except maybe 4 in New England, so I've seen a lot of real estate up close and personal. It really is a great country, in spite of my frequent rants.

JG
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Re: Cross Country Trip!
Old 02-16-2005, 05:56 AM   #18
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Re: Cross Country Trip!

JG, the museum in Fort Worth is the Amon Carter. And it is very good.
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Old 02-16-2005, 05:59 AM   #19
 
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Yep, that's it.

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Old 02-16-2005, 07:22 AM   #20
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Re: Cross Country Trip!

Thanks TH for the info and link on the GPS. As for the radar dectector I pretty much agree. I try to keep speed below 10 over, especially when I'm alone on the road. I really like to have the porsche or bmw in front of me. It's amazing the number of them that drive 25 over and don't even have a detector. Besides, I'm not going to be in a hurry on this trip anyway.

VoyT, we are going to OKC, I will put that on my list!

Thanks John, we are planning on going through Ft Worth on the way back, we will have to check out the museum.

Beachbumz

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