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#1 Posted by DuskVamp (720 posts) -

So this summer I'll be spending two months in the US with @wrighteous86 in Chicago!

Since I'm there for a while we thought we'd make the most of it and visit SF. At first we thought we'd fly out and spend a week there, then we thought, why not make it a road trip? I didn't think a week would really be long enough to be able to stop along the way and not feel too rushed and have a good time, so we're making it two weeks.

Has anyone ever taken part in a big road trip like this that could give us some advice? Any advice on how we should plan our route or places to see along the way?


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#2 Posted by Clonedzero (4206 posts) -

No clue since i'm on the east coast.

Road trips are rarely as fun as they sound unless you stop often.

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#3 Edited by Angre_Leperkan439 (369 posts) -

I never took a long roadtrip, but my friends and I had planned one to Florida (we live in Wisconsin). I don't have much in the way of specific places to stop (short of like Grand Canyon n sich), but I know a lot of people who've driven cross-country before and I've got some general tips that might help?

My tips:

Bring your own food. i.e. Lunch meat, sandwhiches, drinks, etc. My friends and I only planned to eat out one time in a two week trip. It's better to buy food at grocery stores n sich along the way, save money.

Plan to need extra money. Like I said I don't have any actual experience with this, but I know a few people who road tripped and didn't budget as much as they should. While it might lead to some "adventures" (like sleeping on the beach and eating coconuts, and buying a stolen car accidentally), it's probably better to plan ahead and have emergency money if you need it.

One more thing: Don't plan too many activities. You gotta remember you'll be driving all day for like a week straight, so you'll naturally be exhausted. Make sure you leave time to relax n refuel.

Hopefully this helps. Maybe you won't need it, and maybe I'm just full of crap. Regardless, good luck on your roadtrip!

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#4 Edited by Angre_Leperkan439 (369 posts) -

No clue since i'm on the east coast.

Road trips are rarely as fun as they sound unless you stop often.

I gotta be honest, the most appealing thing to me always was the driving part. Just cruising along in the world, going where you wanna go, being free. I always loved driving long(ish) distances for this reason

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#5 Posted by Ubersmake (771 posts) -

Make sure you have a proper spare tire. Not the crappy one that's pumped up to some insane PSI and that you can only drive 40 MPH on. Get a real tire, and put it in the trunk. If you're stuck in the middle of nowhere, and you get a flat, you will thank yourself for doing this.

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#6 Posted by Rorie (4008 posts) -

A whole emergency kit would probably be a good idea. Extra water and such, especially if you're driving through hot areas.

If you need any tips on stuff to see in SF, let me know. Fun city!

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#7 Posted by Slag (7137 posts) -


Sure! That's the best part of America to roadtrip through imo.

Number one, make sure your vehicle is well serviced before going. You will be gaining a lot of altitude along the way and it will likely be very hot that time of year. Both things that can be rough on cars that lack horsepower.

If Wrighteous86 doesn't have a AAA membership, might want to consider getting one, they're cheap and handy to have in case of a breakdown. If your car breaks down, you could be waiting a good while for a tow, AAA makes it easy. Out west is a not a fun place to break down. Very few decent repair shops and dealerships. I once had to have a 100 mile tow, trust me you don't want to do that. Don't be afraid to use lots of sunblock even for the car, The Sun is very intense and you might be surprised how easily your forearms can burn in the car.

two bring and drink tons of fluids. Yes, you will need to stop more often, but people who aren't used to west routinely dehydrate themselves by not drinking enough especially at altitude. It's a very dry heat, so it doesn't feel as hot as it really is. Also make sure if you drink that you are aware your tolerance will be lower at altitude.

three, bring camping stuff! Great way to save money on room and board and out west has the best campgrounds in the US. Plentiful and cheap. It doesn't rain super often once you get west of Kansas. If you use some basic camping smarts (such as checking your shoes for scorpions if you leave them outside a tent and make sure ever camping fire is completely doused before going to sleep), you'll have great time and save a lot of money. It's really pretty and very comfortable outdoor sleeping environment. Plus it's super rad to see the Western night sky.

four, be wary of the weather in Kansas. If it looks stormy don't be afraid to stop (I like to pull under an overpass if one is near by. Kansas storms ain't nuthin to mess with. They come on very fast and can be very strong. I think Tornado season should be over by summer, but might want to check on that as you go.

five, don't try to go everywhere even with two weeks you wont have tons of time. The West is a huge place. Figure out what places you absolutely have to see, figure that's all you'll probably get to do and plan the trip around that.

six, might want to bring a nice camera if you have one. The scenery is world class.

Personally I think i-70 has the most neat stuff around it but it might not be the fastest.

once you get west of Missouri, you might want to pre-plan your bathroom stops in advance. There can be really long gaps between exits in Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada etc.

Denver is a super fun town, great place to stop. It is the best city between Chicago and San Francisco. I think they still have a pedestrian only mall street. It's like you typical healthy big city with an active nightlife. It's very clean and new feeling compared to Chicago but definitely smaller. Boulder, Colorado and Rocky Mtn National park are super fun as well.

Utah is awesome for the scenery, try to hit Arches and Zion if you can although they might be too far south. Zion in particular is pretty rad, it's very lush and a gorgeous canyon. However there is nothing weirder than Utah radio, so might want to make sure you have stuff to listen to.

If you go to Salt Lake City, I believe they finally lifted the weird old private club practice about having to pay a membership before you could set foot in a bar.

Las Vegas imo is very overrated and can be skipped. One crazy strip of excess glamour surrounded by bombed out former casinos and flat surface lots. That being said it is a neat spectacle to see once. And the food and the shows in the casinos can be very good. Some of the dance clubs are a lot of fun as well. Las Vegas is what it is.

Make sure you get Mexican food (assuming you like it) once you get in Colorado and further west. Mexican food in Chicago is crap compared to that part of the country.

make sure you have quarters available so you can play slots while you pump your gas at gas stations in Nevada if you like.

Yosemite national park is super pretty as well but might be too far out of the way.

and of course San Francisco when you get there is loaded with tons of stuff to do.

if you need more advice, feel free to ask.

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#8 Edited by Robinson (213 posts) -

I'd agree about taking i-70, it has a lot of neat stuff along the way to stop at or just drive by. I've driven I-70 across Missouri hundreds of time for school. Columbia, Mo is a great place to stop for lunch. College town of Greg Miller (and Jon Hamm and a semester from Brad Pitt), has a lot of great cheap places to eat/drink, beautiful botanical campus. Even has an amish community less than a mile out of town (amazing chocolates and treats) (legal for passengers to consume while in motion, just not for the driver, in Missouri. Think Kansas too.)

You can drive up a mountain or two in Colorado. My favorite is Pike's Peak. Not too tough, just have to put it in 1st gear. Paved all the way to the top.

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#9 Posted by TheVeteran13 (1407 posts) -

Be aware of your liberties with speed limits, from my experience cops like pulling over out of state cars because they figure you probably won't be around to fight the ticket...

: (

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#10 Posted by EVO (4029 posts) -

I did a roadtrip from SF to NY a couple years ago. If you're stopping off at LA or Santa Cruz or somewhere I'd suggest taking Route 1 up the coast to SF. I don't think it's the quickest way but the view is amazing, like driving on top of clouds.

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#11 Edited by myketuna (1864 posts) -

@slag said:


make sure your vehicle is well serviced before going.If your car breaks down, you could be waiting a good while for a tow, AAA makes it easy.

bring and drink tons of fluids.

Figure out what places you absolutely have to see, figure that's all you'll probably get to do and plan the trip around that.

once you get west of Missouri, you might want to pre-plan your bathroom stops in advance. There can be really long gaps between exits in Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada etc.

Denver is a super fun town.Boulder, Colorado and Rocky Mtn National park are super fun as well.

Las Vegas imo is very overrated and can be skipped. That being said it is a neat spectacle to see once.

Make sure you get Mexican food (assuming you like it) once you get in Colorado and further west.

Yosemite national park is super pretty

if you need more advice, feel free to ask.

This man has the right advice. I've taken a couple road trips with the family in my time. WA to TX (going along the west coast), TX to WA (going through NM, CO, WY, ID), and my dad has gone TX to VA (going through most of the Southern US) and a couple others I can't remember.

I've bolded the parts of @slag's post that I've either heard my dad tell me or that I believe are important overall based on my experience. I can't speak too much on Kansas or Utah (never been) or camping (never done it during a road trip). You should probably read all of it though just to be safe.

Other than that, make sure you have enough money. Money is power...on a road trip.

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#12 Posted by McGhee (6128 posts) -

That guy that mentioned Mexican food has got the right idea.

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#13 Edited by aurahack (2539 posts) -

Probably really banal considering you're both most likely equipped with camera equipment to take advantage of such moments, but when I would take routine trips from Montreal to Davenport, IA by bus, (a 28 hour bus ride) I'd save a page in my sketchbook (artist) purely for stray thoughts. If something interesting caught my eye, I'd note it down. If something really dumb caught my eye, I'd write it down even faster. Heard an interesting story from a local or a passenger on the bus? Noting that shit down hard.

At the end of a trip, I had about a page or two's worth of really disjointed but really fun things that were neat to read and sharing with others. You tend to forget the little things in such a big trip, so it's nice to have some kind of way to remember them.

Sorry it isn't survival advice or anything, haha.

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#14 Edited by Blackout62 (2010 posts) -
@slag said:


Yosemite national park is super pretty as well but might be too far out of the way.

Yosemite is only 3 hours away from San Francisco. If you have a free day you could get up early and drive there. That said there's isn't actually a road that goes through the valley proper and into Nevada so you it would be really out of the way to go there while driving.

No Caption Provided

That said GO TO YOSEMITE! Everything is beautiful, I took this photo somewhere near the entrance to the Ahwahnee hotel. If I still had it I'd show the photo of magnificent woodland just beyond the door of a gas station bathroom on the border of the park. It is that abundance in beauty.

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#15 Edited by ManMadeGod (1625 posts) -

Great thread. I'm getting ready to take a drive from NYC to San Jose in a couple of weeks. Thanks for everyone that posted tips.

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#16 Edited by YoThatLimp (2299 posts) -

Last summer my wife, a friend of hers and I drove from Chicago to LAX/Venice Beach (via Route 66) then up to Yellowstone and back to Chicago in 12 days. You should be totally fine. Plan on keeping more money on hand then you think you need, shit happens!

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#17 Posted by csl316 (13705 posts) -

I'd say stay in Chicago because we're awesome but Slag probably has far better advice for you.

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#18 Edited by Subjugation (4960 posts) -

I traveled from southwest Idaho (Eagle) to Nauvoo, Illinois a few years ago with my family. It's just about the same distance you will be traveling. Let me tell you, I never want to drive that much again. Spending 8-10 hours in the car a day, because we only stopped to sleep/eat/use the bathroom, can really wear on you. Who knows, maybe this will be the catalyst for the first fight between you two! I kid, I wouldn't wish for that, but long stretches in a car can make people grouchy.

The best advice I can give you is to figure out how much money you need to travel, and then bring more than that. Expect the unexpected. Things happen and you'll be glad to have things you didn't plan on needing rather than the alternative of not having something you end up needing. Access to emergency money, an emergency kit, blankets in the vehicle in case you get stranded, water, know the information to contact emergency services, etc. Other than that, spend some time looking up the notable attractions in the areas you plan to stop at and enjoy the journey. If there is one thing that I would've changed about my family trip it would have been to allow more time for the trip so we weren't so rushed and unable to stop and enjoy things.

Also also, will this mean an interruption in the XGAL podcast? D: You two are getting better and it's becoming more entertaining.

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#19 Edited by TyCobb (2025 posts) -

Whenever I see a thread about visiting SF, I must always let the traveler know that SF smells like piss. You have been warned and others can verify. Have fun with the rest of the trip though. That should be a fun drive. Just don't forget to pull over if both of you are just a little bit sleepy at night.

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#20 Edited by MordeaniisChaos (5904 posts) -

Two week road trip? What are you, hotel heirs? WHO HAS THE TIME FOR THAT?

Also, bring guns. I hear it's dangerous out there. Criminals. Criminals with guns! Yikes.

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#21 Edited by Wrighteous86 (3926 posts) -
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#22 Posted by DuskVamp (720 posts) -

@angre_leperkan439: We'll definitely pack a big cooler box of food and drink, @wrighteous86 isn't one for packing a lunch... always buying lunch in work instead of taking my advice and making his own sandwiches, but I'm super thrifty like that! I am worried that we'll plan to see all these cool places, arrive and just wanna have a nap in the car instead, so we'll have to pack plenty of ice coffee, too!

@ubersmake: That's a great idea actually, it's not something that crossed my mind, thanks!

@rorie: Aww Rorie, I've missed you duder! Great to see you back! Thank you for your advice, we'll definitely pack an emergency kit. All that travel might make me grouchy so @wrighteous86 will be relieved to have some rubbing alcohol and plasters... band aids? If I have an outburst! Any tips on where to visit in SF would be great, we're planning on spending most of our time there over the 2 weeks.

@slag: We were planning on hiring a car, but it's far too expensive so we'll be sure to have @wrighteous86's car checked over before we head off. Don't scare me with the idea of tornados! That thought didn't even cross my mind!

We'll be borrowing his dad's DSLR hopefully, we've already been to all these gorgeous places and all our photos have been taken on an iPhone :( I really want to be able to document this trip with lots of, hopefully, gorgeous photo's!

According to @wrighteous86 Denver is a bit out of our way sadly. Las Vegas is somewhere I'd be interested in seeing. I'm not really the type into big OTT glitz and glamour, so it was never somewhere I'd been interested in holidaying to, but I'd like to experience it, if somewhat briefly. And Mexican food, yes! I will definitely have to try it down there! You've given us so much advice, thank you so much, it's all appreciated!

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#23 Posted by DuskVamp (720 posts) -

@robinson: I'm not too sure about driving up any mountains, we drove up one in Spain and there were flowers and gravestones along the edge all the way up, cars overtaking you round blind corners. I don't think I blinked the whole way, my hands were practically welded to the steering wheel!

@theveteran13: We'll be keeping that in mind, thank you!

@aurahack: No, that's a great idea, thank you :)

@blackout62: That looks gorgeous, I'm a big nature fan so somewhere like that I'd love to go trekking through! So we're definitely going to try and make our way to somewhere like Yosemite, Rocky Mountains or Zion!

@subjugation: It wouldn't be our first fight ever! But it is something I was initially worried about, long distance travel can make some people crabby, but you never know it might make us stronger! Over the summer there might be a slight one, but then we also have the opportunity to record together whilst in the same room which will hopefully make things better! Thanks a lot for your support of our podcast! :)

@tycobb: Really?? But it looks so pretty! I'll stick some aromatherapy oils in my bag to sniff while we walk around, thanks!

Thanks everyone for your advice! It's all been taken on board and maybe I'll write a blog this summer about how the road trip went!

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#24 Edited by Subjugation (4960 posts) -

@duskvamp said:

but then we also have the opportunity to record together whilst in the same room

whilst in the same room


Oh man, @wrighteous86, I think you may have a keeper.

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#25 Edited by Live2bRighteous (338 posts) -

If you're going to be staying in Chicago for a bit of time, make sure you hit up Navy Pier. The museums are pretty damn awesome too.

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#26 Posted by Slag (7137 posts) -

@duskvamp: No problem, happy to help! If you have any questions please feel free to ask, I've done large parts of your drive many times if you can't tell.

Really tornadoes should not be an issue, just something to be aware of. Wasn't meant to scare you

What's much more likely is Sudden very strong but very short Hail and/Rain storms as you cross the Great Plains. They can cut visibility down to what feels like 10 feet. Not a big deal either if you aware of them, but also not something you want to be driving 75 mph in either. Just saying don't be afraid to pull off the road and wait them out. Western storms are stronger than you might think. Fortunately most of them are comparatively short in duration to Chicago rain storms.

Here's another big tip I forgot. Be morning people on the trip. You'll be driving through some cool stuff and you'll want to be able to see it, not to mention there's a safety side to it as well. It's not uncommon for large animals to cross the road at night (I nearly hit a Moose once near Vail and a Mountain Goat near Estes Park) and out west you might be surprised by just how dark it gets on the road with so few city lights. When I drive out west I try to get going around 5am ish and pack it in around 6pm ish at the latest. It's a much less stressful way to do it and more fun frankly. Most of the fun stuff to do along the way is daytime stuff anyway.

Plus if you plan to camp along the way it will give you a much better shot at getting in some of the campgrounds, which the popular ones can fill up rather early in the day (often early afternoon) that time of year.

I must disagree with @wrighteous86 about Denver being too far off the route. I assume He's thinking i-80 all the way, where I'm suggesting i-70 for at least some of it. i-70 goes right through the heart of Denver. Since you are planning two weeks to get there (or is that two weeks total? if it's total that might be a different story), this should not be an issue.

i-80 is definitely the more direct route and the shortest way there if that's your primary concern, but at least through Colorado and Utah i-70 is closer to the big name Parks and goes through a lot more interesting areas than i-80 does in my opinion. My basic suggested route is only ~three hours longer but has a lot of the big name world class stuff along I think a Non-American might want to see. The stretch between Denver and Las Vegas has a lot of great stuff within an hour to two hours drive north or south of i-70. You won't be able to do it all obviously, but i-70 gives you many more opportunities to pick and choose and more flexibility to change your mind along the way. It has better cities to stop in as well. Salt Lake can be fun if quirky, but it's the only thing really between Chicago and San Franscisco along 80. Reno is just kinda ok imo.

Plus if you go my way you have the option of taking the 1 up part of the California Coastline (if you're willing to add more hours on). Which may be the most famous drive in America. :)

If you're really getting ambitious you could potentially add the Grand Canyon and Los Angeles along my route, but I wouldn't recommend that since they are much further way than they appear on the map (especially the Grand Canyon). But hey it's an option.

Oh and the Mexican food opportunities are generally far superior along my route. :)

If I did this correctly you should be able to see what i'm talking about in this google link


version going up the 1 (which adds a few more hours, google says two, I say probably more like 4 because it's a mentally tough drive due to all the twists.)


Just depends what your top priorities are to see and do, and how many hours you are willing to drive in a day. Just something for you guys to mull over and see if it fits what you both want to do. Look it over , see what you think. You guys should have plenty of time to figure out

Anyway I hope you guys have fun, there really isn't a wrong way to do this. And no matter how you guys go, there will be gorgeous scenery and I'm sure you'll have a great time.