Cross-Country Road Trip Plans

Not sure when I’m going to get around to it, but I’m planning on taking a three- or four-month cross-country road trip. I’d be interested to hear what anyone has to say about where I should or shouldn’t go.

Here are my priorities:

  • States I’ve never set foot or tire in (from left to right: North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Aarkansas (it should be spelled that way), Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maine).
  • National Parks and places to hike.
  • “Checklist” stuff I haven’t seen before (e.g., Mt. Rushmore).
  • Historical sites, monuments, and museums.

Here’s what I have so far as must-see locations (ordered clockwise starting in SoCal):

  • Big Sur and Monterey
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • Crater Lake National Park
  • Glacier National Park
  • Mt. Rushmore
  • That whole claw part of Michigan
  • Wright-Patterson National Museum of the US Air Force
  • Niagara Falls
  • The Adirondacks
  • The far northeastern corner of the country (probably Acadia National Park will suffice)
  • New York City (I’ve been there, I’d just like to go again)
  • Ft. McHenry
  • National Museum of the Marine Corps
  • Shenandoah National Park and the Appalachian Trail (I’m not walking the whole thing)
  • The Outer Banks
  • New Orleans (so at least I know why it is I don’t like the place — or can be convinced otherwise)
  • The Alamo
  • Carlsbad Caverns

Otherwise I’m wide open… If I were to leave in the summer from Southern California, I’d head clockwise (up north through California then into Oregon, across the top of the country, then back down the eastern seaboard and across the southern US). If I were to leave in spring, I’d go counter-clockwise (start out heading east into Arizona).

What else? Rules of the road:

  • Stay in a hotel no more (or less than) once a week — just to get cleaned up.
  • Camp or stay with someone otherwise.
  • Cell phone and laptop: yes.
  • Stick to the state highways (and avoid interstates) as much as possible.
  • Stop to help anyone I see on the side of the road.

I’d need to get a different car for the trip — 17 mpg isn’t going to cut it over 10,000 miles. If I had to choose today, I’d probably go with the Honda Fit (better gas mileage) or the Subaru WRX Wagon (better driving). Both seem pretty versatile (read: I could sleep in either one).

We’ll have to wait and see when it happens.



  • Ian

    Ditto on Devil’s Tower. It’s pretty cool.
    Get there earlier in the day than I did, though, so that it doesn’t get dark while you’re still hiking.

    When I drove from MN to NM prior to starting this job, I went west from Mpls across South Dakota. Most of which was forgettable, except for when the garden snake slithered over me while I was taking a nap at a rest stop, and the part where I almost fell asleep at the wheel. But. Once we got to the Badlands (is that capitalized?), it was well worth it.

    I’d suggest the badlands (I’m doing it both ways), the Black Hills, Mt. Rushmore, and Devil’s Tower all in one leg of the trip. You could do all of that in 2 days, if you pushed.

  • bkdunn

    Yeah, I was wondering about Badlands. The pictures look potentially compelling. And those middle states kind of suck. I’ve driven across Nebraska a couple times and, you know, just looking at it on the map it doesn’t seem all that wide, but brother, it’s WIDE. Makes Wyoming look downright interesting by comparison. Man. Anything worth seeing in Minnesota? It looks inescapable during the northern part of the trip.

  • bkdunn

    Happy to help. And hopefully all your problems can be solved with jumper cables, cuz that’s all I know how to use… I mean it’s the thought that counts, right? 🙂

  • Jon

    You know Erin and I went on a 6-week road trip in 1995. So my first thought is, 3-4 months is probably too long. Maybe it won’t be for you, but at some point we kinda wanted an apartment to crash in and not always be on the road. Geschmackssache, though, I’m sure.

    Check out the road atlas — they at least used to say which states allow camping at rest areas. That came in handy. Kansas had some amazingly nice huge grassy areas for camping.

    You know you need to take a concealable weapon to Vermont.

    At the Mt. Rushmore entrance in 2004, they want to know all about guns in the car. Lame. Park outside somewhere if necessary to avoid that. Mt. Rushmore is pretty cool.

    Be prepared to be eaten alive by mosquitos in Minnesota. But it’s very pretty. I think North Dakota, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky … all very pretty. Wait, I listed about every state you plan to visit. Yes, those United States are mostly purty.

    Have you been to Monticello? That’s a neat place.

    I strongly concur with your plans to stay off interstate freeways — it’s cooler, noticeably, in the summer, and you save gas and have less road noise at lower speed. See more interesting things. Camping or staying with people is a lot of fun.

    You’re of course welcome to come stay with us if you pass through this way. Or we could camp somewhere here in der Naehe.

  • bkdunn

    Well I’ve always said that long, long road-trips have become much easier to deal with over the last 13 years. (Holy crap — 13 years?!) Oh well. Yeah, there’s a good chance I’ll be Sick of it within two weeks of leaving home, but I think I’m going to force myself so that I Know not to do *that* again if it doesn’t work out in the end. Plus, I gotta find some advantages to my current life-situation, assuming said situation remains constant. And I’m guessing it will.

    I’m guessing I’ll have a few stops in apartments along the way — not sure if that’ll help or hinder, though. I got a few people I could bum a few nights out of along the way. Only a few, I think, but still: more than zero.

    I’ve been contemplating what to do vis a vis firearms. As stupid as it sounds, I’d sort of like to bring my ’03 with me — I never get to fire it and I’ll be passing through plenty of places where that would become possible. ‘Course I’ll also be passing through Chicago and DC, so… Meh — I dunno. I should probably get myself something that could actually be useful should I ever need a useful firearm. I’ve sort of been looking at 1911s — although still vintage ones, which lessens the usefulness quotient (and triples the price). I should probably just get one of those newfangled ones from Brazil — and use it to shoot hobos along the way. Before then becoming a hobo myself. I figure, once I’m off the road, it won’t be such a dangerous vocation.

    And thanks for the invite! I’ll take you up on it one way or the other. Maybe you guys can also come up to Glacier NP with me if you haven’t been before. One thing I want to do with the trip is publish enough of an itinerary so that if anyone wants to tag along for any length of it they could possibly plan on it.

    Mal sehen was wird.

  • telkontar

    If you go through Badlands and Black Hills, youmay want to consider Teddy Roosevelt NP in western ND, too.
    Guns in NPs are forbidden (for now). Some congress-person wants a bill to allow guns in parks if the state would allow it. Otherwise, you’re bear food.
    Driving guns through Cook County (Chicago) is OK. Don’t think of exposing it, though. You may trasnport.
    Minnesota has lakes. IF you can canoe in the Boundary Waters, you’re golden. It is an ugly drive on interstates.
    You should hike some of the the AT someday.

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