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The Great Cross-America Road Trip? 94

Greg Chappell asks: "I'm about to undertake a great American tradition of road tripping from Massachusetts to Washington State. I've got a moving company to tote my stuff on my one-way journey, and a handful of friends brave enough to venture by my side. Have any slashdotters recently attempted such a trip? What are the best solutions for on-the-road email, cellular, and Internet access? Where are those attractions, parks, and museums across the US that every road tripper needs to see? What's the best technique for planning such a trip, other than the usual websites? I've got no limits on the places I can visit or the distance I can travel. Any advice you can toss my way would be greatly appreciated!" People interested in this article, might also want to check out the older version of this topic. Also, what travel devices (no, not the laptop, think smaller) should no geek leave home without?
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The Great Cross-America Road Trip?

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  • Wall Drug! [walldrug.com]

    • I went there. The signs leading up to it were interesting. Wall Drug itself was just your average overly-commercial cheesy touristy place.

      • Wall Drug itself was just your average overly-commercial cheesy touristy place.

        Exactly -- and what trip through the US would be complete without cheese, an overdose of commerciality and an overwhelming sense of "average."

    • KEXP rocks - listening right now.
  • Hey,

    I go road tripping for at least one month every year. I'd recommend picking up the Rough Guide to the USA from your favorite book store. It will list camping spots, cyber cafe's, national parks, museums, all that good stuff, targeted to the sort of young, independent traveler that you probably are. Every time I visit a new place, I check up on it in the Rough Guide, and I know the cool restaurants, bars, and out of the way attractions.

    Get a dual band phone that supports analog, in case you get into an accident, or you need to make a phone call.

    There are cyber cafes in almost every big city, and anywhere near a tourist stop. You'll probably go through Yellowstone National Park on your trip, and I know there is a outdoors store with iMacs in Livingston, MT, just north of the park. The Rough guide has a good list of places that sell internet access, not just cybercafes.

    Bring a laptop for offloading pictures from your digital camera if you have one. Those memory cards quickly fill up at a megabyte a picture.

    Get a good tent, and practice putting it up at home, so you aren't trying it for the first time when it's dark, rainy, and 45 degrees :)

  • A supply of Charmin quilted toilet paper.

    A buttload of cash. ATMs are hard to find sometimes.

    And an atlas [amazon.com].

    If you are interested in the touristy stuff, visit the local chambers of commerce or visitor information booths in each town. They usually have a sign posted on the highway to alert you to these repositories of bland pamphlets.

    I recommend just going. If you don't have a time limit and money isn't a problem, just go. Get lost. If at all possible find your way to New Orleans and stay for 3 or 4 days (any less and you don't really get the whole experience, any more and you'll never be sober enough to drive your car again).

    If you have a digital camera, buy lots of storage media instead of bringing a laptop. They will be smaller, lighter, and easier to swap in and out rather than carrying a bulky laptop around with you.
  • what you need (Score:3, Insightful)

    by oyenstikker ( 536040 ) <slashdotNO@SPAMsbyrne.org> on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @11:42PM (#3733995) Homepage Journal
    sleeping bag
    ground pad
    good water filter
    several pocket knives
    paper towels
    toilet paper
    small kerosene or propane stove
    a few good books
    buy food along the way

    Sorry guys, but sometimes its best just to leave the electronics out of it.
    • You left out the compass and atlas. Never take a lengthy road trip without a current atlas. I've not followed my own advice and regreted it almost every time. And pain relief, Aspirin, you may think your cars seat is comfortable, after day three or four you'll pray for a spinal block.
      • Re:what you need (Score:2, Informative)

        by linzeal ( 197905 )
        You really really really should get out of your car every time you begin to feel back pain, don't take pain relivers to fix what can be solved by stretching.
        • Ta hell with dat. Shoot up some morphine for the pain; it also makes the drive much more interesting. Wooooo.....
        • We are all Palestinian [sinkers.org]

          Leaving aside the racist, flamebait site you link to, what exactly is this supposed to mean? Are we `all' citizens of a totalitarian regime whose tinpot dictator offers us wads of cash to send our children to blow themselves up in the children's area of restaurants or on school busses, in order to distract us from the fact that we have no rights and have thrown away the whole economy of our country in attempts to annihilate our neighbor? I guess I'm not buying it...

    • And a can opener. Don't forget the can opener - most of the things that come in cans can be eaten without heating, and pork-n-beans is a great meal for under a dollar.

      And I second leaving the electronics at home. Pick up a 5 pack of legal pads and a couple of decent paperbacks, and write and read to your heart's content.

      The highway is a wonderful frontier - I've been on a few multi-month road trips myself, and there's nothing like it. Despite all the bitching people do, this is a wonderful country full of wonderful citizens; you can criss-cross it for the rest of your life and never even scratch the surface.

  • No internet (Score:3, Insightful)

    by benh57 ( 525452 ) <bhines AT alumni DOT ucsd DOT edu> on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @11:50PM (#3734024) Homepage
    You don't need internet access on the road. A digital camera might be nice, but once you get "out there" you realize that life goes on without 'net access. It's almost liberating being "disconnected" for a while! (this is coming from a true geek)
  • I made a similar trip a long time ago (MN to WA) and two highlights of the trip were Devil's Tower National Monument in WY and Going-to-the-Sun road in Glacier National Park.
  • My Experience (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jcsehak ( 559709 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @11:51PM (#3734031) Homepage
    I did a Connecticut -> Montana trip almost a year ago. I wrote all about it in some emails I sent to friends and half of them told me they busted a gut laughing, so I archived them [joshuacsehak.com] on my website. The first installment is more expository, and they start getting good around the 2nd.

    I strongly recommend stopping in Montana and doing some hiking and/or fishing, if you're into that sort of thing. The nature around here is second to none.

    One thing you have to look forward to in the great northwest: Moose Drool. Best. Beer. Ever.
    • Yes, Montana is gorgeous, but beware of state parks. Well, I'll qualify that and say beware of state parks on the weekend.

      My wife and I have an annual tradition of venturing west for 2-3 weeks each August to do the hiking and camping thing. Usually we try to use most of our time for the national parks since they tend to have the coolest stuff, but occasionally the drive between parks is a bit long for us to confortably fit into a day so we stop at a state park in between.

      This was the case for us in Montana where we needed to get from Theodore Roosevelt Nat'l Park to Glacier, which is something like 600-800 miles. The first state park we hit was great (I think it was called Ackley Lake). It was a "primitive" park with one outhouse for the about 20 sites, no water, no electricity, but it was free! Nobody's there since it's Tuesday night. Wonderful. Watching the stars come out with almost no city lights to see was worth the stop.

      After we hit Glacier, we backtracked a little and headed toward Yellowstone (drive-thru only... too crowded), but we really wanted to drive through Bear Tooth pass on the north edge of the park to see the sun rise. We ended up staying in a park about 30 minutes northwest of Red Lodge. The name escapes me now, but it was sizable. All of rural Montana is here with their RVs, boats, jet skis, children. Very loud, very busy.

      We try to find the furthest, most isolated site (did I mention we go on vacation to get away from people?) to set up camp. We drink some beer and settle in to get some sleep. As I'm cleaning up before bed, this truck full of high-schoolers drives up to the site 2 down. They seem pretty civil, not much noise, just a fire, some laughing. I head to bed.

      Next thing I know it's 3AM, their fire's still going and so are they. They've obviously been using the last 4 hours to pickle themselves. Conversations are veering in and out of college plans, sex, etc. It becomes apparent the group consists of about 2-3 couples. Sounds like one of the couples has a long-distance relationship decision to make. The girl's heading off to MN for school and the boy's staying in MT to farm or ranch or whatever they do there. I hear them start fighting. After some struggle, the girl exclaims, "Don't point that thing at me! What are you going to shoot me?!" Ok, great, he has a gun pointed at his female companion. At this point I'm wishing I could suddenly have all of our gear in the car and take off. Can't say it would make our vacation great to have to take part in a murder investigation.

      He ends up storming off in the truck only to return 10 minutes later and attempt to apologize to his girlfriend for threatening her. While this is going on, we are packing up and getting the fuck out.

      Nothing happened to us other than not getting any sleep, but, for the love of god, if you're in MT on the weekend, stay at Holiday Inn!
  • Dear Schmuck (Score:4, Insightful)

    by m_evanchik ( 398143 ) <michel_evanchikA ... t minus caffeine> on Thursday June 20, 2002 @12:30AM (#3734171) Homepage
    The whole point to a road trip is to get away from it all.

    Ditch the "connectivity". Talk to people you meet. Go to a local bar, get drunk, try and get laid.


    Actually, one great icebreaker is a digital camera.

    But the best icebreaker is confidence and friendliness.

    Remember that you don't have to worry about making a fool of yourself. That's why you are traveling.
    • Oh yes, spread your STD far and wide.
    • In addition to (or rather than) a digital camera: bring a minidisc recorder and a good microphone. You have more sense organs than just your eyes: every so often, get out of the car, close your eyes, and listen to your environment. (I would suggest smelling your environment, but I live in New Jersey :-] )

      See phonography.org [phonography.org] for more on field recording.

    • Understood. I'm looking forward to getting away, but I'm also sensitive to being `geeky' enough to warrant a slashdot posting.

      A private email brought up the possibility of checking email from computer stores- that was a possibility that I hadn't thought of. Internet cafes seem to be turning extinct, for better or worse. I feel that would be a good solution instead of purchasing a wireless Internet device.
    • I'll have to agree with the multitudes that recommend leaving the digital equipment behind. Here's another reason: You might stop by a mountain that you just have to climb, but can't for fear that someone plunders your prized gadgets while your car is at the trailhead.

      I recommend that you bring:

      -Adequate equipment for stopping / camping anywhere along the road.
      -A lot of time. Because you are driving, I assume you want to experience the country.
      -Addresses of long lost relatives in the middle of the country. Nothing like a little hospitality to break up a road trip. Who knows, maybe there's an interesting second cousin you haven't met?
      - Maps of adequate detail to find interesting local sites. Raid your local AAA.


      Almost every small town has a chamber of commerce that puts up a web site.. Even Lone Pine, CA: http://www.lone-pine.com Pick 10 towns off the map along the route, and see what they have to offer. Anything in a guide book, while interesting, will be heavily touristed, driving up prices.

      I've made the cross-country trip at least 10 times by various routes, mostly before 1990, here are the items that have lodged themselves in my mind:

      - Greasy spoons.
      - Breaking down in Lone Pine, CA. 60 miles between towns, only every other one had a movie theater. Seriously, Eastern California is worth a detour. Death Valley, Mono Lake, Joshua Trees. Driving 80 miles an hour and thinking you aren't moving.
      - I slept through most of the Mid west each time - and played a lot of canasta in the back seat. We invented a 4 canasta, 6-deck version to make it through Kansas.
      - Dude ranches. A little cheesy, but fun.
      - Glacier Park. Leave time for hiking, if you enjoy it.
      - Yellow stone (already recommended). Doesn't require as much time as you'd think, as you can drive to a large number of sights.
      - The Pasayten Wilderness (North Cascades) in the Okanogan Forest. http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/oka/ The North Cascades make you wonder why the Appellations are called mountains. The scale of the terrain in the Pasaytan reminds you that you are in fact, just another ant crawling on a monstrous planet. During my last 4-day trip in the Pasayten, I saw only a 10 other hikers - on Labor Day weekend. Winthrop, WA has numerous horse outfitters, if you prefer a sore butt to sore feet.
      - Take the North Cascades highway (Route 20) across the Cascades instead of I-90 or other monster roads.
  • Hi! I have a similar problem. Could someone give me helpful tips on how to enjoy the real world? Do you recommend anywhere to eat better than the local quickie mart and pizza delivery place? What can I do when I'm not plugged in? What are these hobby things that people talk about?

    Dude! Enjoy the trip. Don't sweat the internet, cellphone's, etc. Just grab a camera, some friends, and explore! You'll find your local AAA office will have more information, maps (quite useful), and tips than most slashdotters.
    • Join AAA. You don't have to get their insurance, but their services will more than pay for themselves on this trip. If you need a tow, flash the AAA card. AAA can help you plan (keyword: 'trip-ticket', where AAA puts together a route you choose, giving you maps and stuff of the area you want to go. It's helped my family on decades worth of trips.), get you maps (members get maps free :), and it's nice to have that extra bit of security; if you get in car trouble, AAA helps.

      Also look at Thomas Guides [thomas.com] for maps. They don't cover the whole country, but if you plan on visiting a city they have a map for, get it. When I moved to the Seattle area a year ago, that was the first thing I bought, while filling up the rental car with gas. It's a big book with street-level detail maps, large overview maps, and a set of maps in between those scales. Handiest thing since sliced bread. (What was the standard by which sliced bread was measured?) Powerful, logical, not too hard to use; sounds like a good OS. :)

      Enjoy the trip. Bring TP.

  • Last year I moved myself from Chicago to Mountain View. I packed every worldly possession and two cats into my Subaru and a U-Haul trailer. Did the drive in 5 days, taking my time.

    First suggestion: forget about the Internet, your job, and all your silly little fucking gadgets, pardon my French. You are driving across the country. Enjoy it. I do recommend having a cell phone just as an emergency communications device. Other than that, seriously, just enjoy the ride.

    The country between Chicago and the West Coast is beautiful. You'll most likely be taking I-90/94 as I did. I recommend camping out in South Dakota's Badlands. I also recommend seeing Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Monument and Devil's Tower. Don't forget about Yellowstone National Park.
    • Current sig of parent:
      That which does not destroy you makes you stronger.
      This seems to be a variation on one I've seen on a lot of 'tough guy' sports shirts: "That which does not kill me makes me stronger." I heard this rather funny variation on that recently.
      "That which does not kill me better start running."
  • by Tumbleweed ( 3706 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @01:11AM (#3734274)
    Okay, you _need_ to go through the Grand Tetons and through Yellowstone Park in western Wyoming. Enroute, you should pass by Devil's Tower (you know, that place in Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Strangely, all the aliens I saw there looked like prairie dogs!). And enroute to Devil's Tower, on the South Dakota side, you might as well see Mount Rushmore, since it's so close. Do not speed on the Wyoming side of the border in the area. (personal experience)

    Depending on how much of a straight line you don't want to make, perhaps the cliff dwellings in southern Colorado would be worth your time (having to go through the Rockies down from Wyo is nice, but the Grand Tetons are the most beautiful mountains in the lower 48 United States - the rockies are nothing in comparison, though they are quite nice). The big grey cloud sitting on the horizon is Denver - feel free to drive around it. *cough cough* There's a great raptor (the bird kind, not the dino kind) in Idaho that I forgot both the name and location of. Feel free to drive REALLY FREAKING FAST through eastern Oregon or eastern Washington. Same for eastern Colorado if you go through there. And don't bother to stop in South Dakota for anything except Mount Rushmore - it's like the far side of the moon, basically.

    Get a nice big road atlas with detailed maps of each state, and pay attention to the 'scenic routes' marked thereon. They're not kidding, most of the time.

    If you go through Oregon and then up into Washington, go all the way to the coast and go up Highway 101 along the coast. Among the most beautiful and peaceful areas you'll likely ever go to. If you go far enough south in Oregon, check out Crater Lake. Very nice.

    In Washington State, make it up to the San Juan Islands. In Seattle, take the Underground Tour in Pioneer Square. See the city skyline at night from Alki in West Seattle. Go to the Arboretum. Eat at Copacabana at Pike Place Market (have the lomito soltado or the paella). Spit at the Microsoft campus in Redmond (across the lake from Seattle). Ride the Ducks! (look it up when you get there). Ride the Monorail and go to the observation deck of the Space Needle. Oh yeah, walk all through all levels of the Pike Place Market before you eat at Copacabana. Earlier the better.

    I suggest you bring your passport and go up to Vancouver, BC (last time I was there, after 2001-09-11, they were requiring passports - this may have been lifted). Go eat at the Afghan Horseman. Best food you'll likely have. Also try the place a few doors down at the Mongolie Grill. Or the same block - Sheba, an Ethiopian place. That's one great block for food! While you're there, go shopping for CDs - cheapest place in the world to (legally) buy CDs. No joke, no exaggeration - the exchange rate is _schweet!_ While you're in Vancouver ('The Couve'), check out the zoo - it's great. Note: if someone walks up to you in downtown Vancouver asking if you have a 'loonie', don't be worried - a loonie is a Canadian dollar. (there's a Loon on the coin). Their two-dollar coin is, naturally, a 'Twoonie' (sp?).

    Oh yeah, back to Oregon, Portland specifically - stop at Powell's Books with access to lots of monetary units - this is undoubtedly the best bookstore on the West coast. I could live there.
    Fun street in Portland: Hawthorne Street.

    Back to Seattle - Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe on the waterfront. Freaky stuff, not for the squeamish (real stuffed heads and unwrapped mummies, etc.)

    Other places to eat in Seattle: Tup Tim Thai near Seattle Center - best Thai in Seattle (arguably).

    Depending on timing, if you'll be in Seattle during Labor Day Weekend (Sept 30 - Aug 2), you MUST attend 'Bumbershoot', a really great festival with lots and lots of food, music, and other entertainment. Attend as much as possible, and expect crowds and light rain (or sunshine). Carry a bumbershoot (umbrella). Check out the events at www.bumershoot.org [bumbershoot.org] . Don't park near apartment buildings - that's for the people who live in the area. Fork over the dough to park at a lot you cheapskates!

    Best Chicken Teriyaki in Seattle: 'Nasai Teriyaki' - a few locations in Seattle. My favourite: 'Domeburger' - this is a little dive near where the Kingdome used to be - great chicken teriyaki sauce. Yum yum. Great gyoza (pork dumplings), too!

    That's all I can think of for now. Have a great trip and take lots of pix!
    • I'm a Vancouverite: some recommendations if you make it out here: CDs are particularly cheap at A&B Sound. Head down to Stanley Park, it's a huge peninsula with North America's first- or second-largest park (can't remember if Central Park in NYC is bigger or smaller). We don't call it 'the Couve' -- that's just hokey.

      It's a toonie. Not 'twoonie'.

      Forget about the Internet access. Not that we don't have it (of course we do!), but it's a *holiday**.

      The aquarium, which is very close to the zoo in Stanley Park, is much cooler. Really.

      The dense residential area just south of Stanley Park is called the West End, and boasts the highest urban densities on the continent. Plenty of good Japanese restaurants there, particularly along Denman street.

      And hey, we've got lots of great cheap bud too. Head down to Blunt Brothers on Hastings. Just please don't go on about how socialist we are. We know. And we don't care.

      • For great ramen in Vancouver, try Kintaro ramen on Robson and Denman. If you're into sushi, try Musashi right next door. Very, very good and cheap (for sushi).
      • re: toonie vs twoonie

        Ah, that was the American spelling. :)

        re: aquarium vs zoo

        Actually, I meant to say the aquarium - I haven't been to the zoo. This aquarium will make you a believer. Quite awesome.

        re: the Couve

        That was a joke. I used to work with a bunch of Canadians. Which reminds me - do you know how they came up with the name Canada?

        A: C eh N eh D eh

        hahaha! :) I love that joke.
    • Feel free to drive REALLY FREAKING FAST through eastern Oregon or eastern Washington.

      Hey, thats my home your talking about. If you follow his advice, do be careful, the cops are like locus around Ritxvile, and speeding tickets are pretty high in Washington. Actually that county has one of the highest fell aaleep at the wheel per capita death rates because its so boring and unpopulated.
      • Okay, I should have worded this better. Instead of: "Feel free to drive REALLY FREAKING FAST through eastern Oregon or eastern Washington.", I should have said: "Don't bother to stop anywhere in eastern Oregon or eastern Washington." or perhaps, "If you're driving at night anywhere on this trip, these would be good areas as you won't miss seeing anything." :) That also applies to eastern Colorado. And all of Kansas and almost all of South Dakota.

        When I moved out to Seattle (have since been forced to leave due to economic circumstance), I drove about 100mph for several hours without stopping through most of eastern Oregon. Fun.
    • ...and when passing through Idaho, be sure to visit the quaint little town of Arco. On December 20, 1951, EBR 1 (Experimental Breeder Reactor 1) became the first power plant to produce useful electricity through atomic energy. EBR-1 operated from 1951 through 1963. In 1966, it was dedicated as a National Historic Landmark. Don't eat the hotdogs!
    • If your trip is coming up soon and you'll be in Seattle by July 4th, then you'll want to take this advice for fireworks:

      Go to Gasworks Park (north end of Lake Union) - go there early (like early afternoon, or even late morning), and spend the day until the fireworks starts. This is a amazing fireworks display done by two grandmaster fireworks artists. One is European, I think, and his fireworks display from ground up to a certain height, and then the American one takes from that height on up, all done to classical music. Very nice - easily the best fireworks display in Seattle.

      The fireworks display off the Space Needle every New Years is nice but very very short. *sigh* (Just thought I'd mention that while on the subject of fireworks in Seattle.)
    • Thanks for your great ideas. I've heard a lot of good things about Vancouver, but I think I'll save that for my first long weekend road trip once I arrive in Seattle. I also heard rave reviews about the Underground Tour, which might make a good first-thing-to-do-in-Seattle once I arrive with my friends. (I'll make a list about all the sites that you recommended visiting- it certainly sounds like you've had some good ideas).

      I planned on going from Denver-ish to Portland-ish before swinging up to Seattle. I hadn't thought about visiting Crater Lake, but it's not much farther out of the way so I'll be sure to visit. I'm ecstatic about 101 North being the final leg of the trip!
  • AVOID: (Score:2, Funny)

    by Satai ( 111172 )
    Avoid Wall Drug. Do not pay attention to the signs. Please. Ignore it. Maybe it will go away...
    • If he tries to not pay attention to the signes, he's gonna need to wear a pair of blinders. Yeesh. 200 miles of solid "X MILES TO WALL DRUG" billboards.

      He should, however, go see the Corn Palace.

      And, he should stop and visit the Beaver Creek Recreation Area.
      • Definatly see this. It's in Mitchell SD, around where the Badlands are (another must see). Going stargazing in the summer in the badlands is great, no lights, no humidity, only clear skies. Better than this Jersey shit.
      • The corn palace is pretty lame. It used to be cool, but then they had to regulate it to death because it was a fire hazard.

        Go to the Carlsbad Caverns
      • Corn Palace? Wall Drug?
        Spare me.
        Check out the Journey Museum:

        (Full disclosure: my Aunt works there. I'm from that area originally.)
  • Going from MA to WA will take you through OH. Which gives you the perfect excuse to spend a day at the Cedar Point Amusement Park link [cedarpoint.com]. Many would say that Cedar Point is America's best park for roller coasters. Whatever roller coaster enthusiast web site you visit on the web, Ceder Point roller coasters are included in the top ten list. It's located 2 hours west of Cleveland on the shores of Lake Erie.

    If you pass through Cleveland on I-90, stop and catch a ball game at Jacob's Field then walk to the wharehouse district after the game for food, drink, dancing...

    Most of all... have fun!
    • On The SHores Of Lake Erie" is a town called Sandusky, OH.

      Just so you know.

      (Immortalized forever as the starting point of 'LEather Goddesses of Phobos".)
    • I'll second the Cedar Point suggestion, but I will also reccomend PA's Kennywood Park Link here [kennywood.com]. A few really good coasters, a neat atmosphere. Worth a stop.

      Once you are done there, it's only part of a day to Cedar Point... enjoy!
  • who can pass that up?

    Potato Expo. [ida.net]
  • For some time I've been working on a contingency plan for the event that I might end up unemployed.
    A major part of it is this [mapblast.com] trip - just under 6500 miles covering many places I've been before, or would love to go to.
    I estimate it would take about 3 months to do properly, so that I could enjoy everything I could without having to rush through it.

    I figure camping along the coast of Lake Superior by Wawa would be a great start.
    I've spent many a week off in the summer camping there, and never run out of things to see. [Pictures [ofdoom.com]/Writeup [ofdoom.com] of a recent trip].

    After that, it would be a westward run along highway 1 accross the canadian shield towards Clagary, Banff, and Jasper.

    I probably would dip towards the south as I approached Calgary, to pass through Fort Macleod so that I could visit the Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump [head-smashed-in.com] again, before I lingered for a couple of weeks around Banff and Jasper.
    I have only been in this area twice, once about 9 years ago as part of the last long road trip I took with my parents, and last year with a friend [Pictures [ofdoom.com]]. The Banff and Jasper parks are amazing. The Icefields Parkway is Breathtaking. I could probably spend every summer out here for the rest of my life, and never get bored or stop discovering new things.

    When it was finally time to move on, I would push on to the west coast, and gradually wander southward along the coast from Vancouver, to Los Angeles.
    I intend to try out a small chunk of this part of the run in July, taking a week to drive between Los Angeles and SanFrancisco (and back) with my brother.

    After this, everything gets vague. I could swing south, and see Mesa Verde [nps.gov] for the first time since middle school, take the central route and revisit Dinosaur National Monument [nps.gov], or swing to the north and rexperience the solitude of the badlands. I probably wouldn't decide until I reached LA.
  • things to bring:

    a digital camera, preferably a nice small one that you can carry with you painlessly.
    a laptop, to dump the images from the camera onto every few days.
    a book of cds or an mp3 player

    places to go (assuming a not particularly direct route):

    hike a piece of the appalachian trail
    eat some steak and catch a ballgame in chicago
    drive through huge amounts of fucking nothing
    arches national park
    grand canyon
    vegas baby, vegas!
    drive the pacific coast highway, and check out one of the many waterfalls
    use a quarter as an inexpensive GPS alternative. heads means turn left, tails means turn right. see where it takes you.

    and for chrissakes, fuck net access. go out, smoke some pot, drink some beers, and enjoy LIFE!

    • If you're in that general area, go to Bryce Canyon and Zion. Beautiful rock sculptures are a hell of a lot better than having PORN shoved in your face on the strip.

      • yeah, bryce is nice, and the south part of zion is beautiful (some awesome views from relatively short dayhikes), but vegas still rocks.

        there's something wonderful about walking into a casino covered in dirt from the playa, cleaning yourself up, having a fine meal, playing some blackjack or shooting some craps, then going back to your loved one in a big comfy bed.

        and hey, if you don't want porn shoved in your face, don't accept the hooker trading cards.

      • I tried picking up a virgin mormom girl in virgin utah up in those parts once. I got invited to their church, hahaha. I went and asked questions like, "Well if this joseph smith guy didn't know about superstring theory how the hell am I supposed to believe that I will get a planet of my own to be god of if I join up with your religion." Lol, good times.
  • Take a swim in the Great Salt Lake. Sure, it may not smell nice, but it is one of two places on earth (that I can handily think of) where you will float naturally in water. Has to do with the extremely high salt content, some freaky chemestry shit. Other place is the Dead Sea, and you really don't want to visit that place this time of year/decade/century. Take a swim in the Great Salt Lake, it will give you something to remember your trip by, and something to talk about for years from now.

  • what you need : a classic supercar(vintage AC cobra, Ferrari Daytona, Porsche 911 turbo, Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing...), a nice pair of gloves, a leather jacket, yellow sunglasses, a radar detector, Hershey bars and water. Spot the gas stations, be sure they have tires for your car, and floor it ! You could take a DV camera onboard, it would surely cut some of the expenses thanks to MTV jackass.

    On the 36 hours for the trip, you sure won't need any Internet access.

    See and IMDB... [att.net]

    Please contact me if you do it this way !

  • Get the Bill Bryson books on his travels around the USA. Just don't read them before you leave, or you might not want to go.

    In fact, just get all his books! [insert amazon.com link here].
  • If you ever plan to motor west,

    travel my way, it's the highway that's the best.

    Get your kicks on Route 66.

    (apologies to the late Bobby Troup [emergencyfans.com]).

    Seriously, if you're going from MA to WA, Chicago to LA might seem a little out of the way (ok, 3000 miles all the way), but once you get to LA, you can drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, which, in my opinion, has some of the most amazing scenery anywhere.

    So, my first recomendation is "Route 66" and the PCH.

    Option B

    Of course, the I-90 Route (Boston, Albany, Buffalo, Erie, Cleveland, Toledo, South Bend, Gary, Chicago, Madison) is fine until you cross the Mississippi, but after that, it's 500 miles of Wall Drug billboards and prairie as you drive through Minnesota and South Dakota.

    Stopping in Mitchell to see the Corn Palace is a good side trip. And of course you have to see the Badlands, Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore, and Devils Tower. I stopped there, but I expect that the rest of Wyoming, Montana, and points west are just as fantastic.

    Travel Tips

    Bring a laptop with a modem, ethernet card, and wireless card (might as well get all your bases covered). I also recommend getting some cheap pre-paid phone cards. You can make an 800 number call from your hotel room and dial your regular ISP. Once you tweak your dialup settings, it's a pretty good setup. I don't notice a problem with line noise or the carrier dropping, but YMMV. The big benefit of using a pre-paid card is avoiding the (often excessive) hotel phone charges. 1-800 calls are usually free, or a nominal charge (50 cents).

    Also, bring a small digital video camera. I agree with someone elsewhere that this is a good icebreaker, plus it's also your camera.

    When I travel with my gear, I try not to spend my time in the hotel room on-line. Hotel Rooms are either utilitarian, or else there really cool and (a) really expensive or (b) really small.

    If you must work on the laptop, bring it to a coffeeshop or cafe, so you can pretend you're socializing. Better yet, just check your e-mail daily while you're waking up and get out and enjoy the trip.
  • If you're in the area, hell, if you're within 800 miles of it, you absolutely MUST visit The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota. It's a beacon of American ingenuity and freedom... or something like that.

    • Good idea! But being a full-blooded Minnesotan myself, I would say that a stop in Austin, MN would be worth it. Austin is the home of the SPAM (the canned meat, not the junk email) factory. Tom Brokaw was up here a few days ago for the opening of the SPAM museum!

      Good stuff!
  • While it may be a bit out of your way, the various Smithonians in Washington, DC are very interessting and lots of fun.
    You should be prepared to spend a couple of days, though, as there are a lot of museums, and some of them are quite large. For example, I spend 8 hours in the National Air and Space Museum alone.

    Also, be sure to check out some of the awesome geographt you'll be passing, like the Rocky Mountains or Yellowstone, and even the huge cornfield in the Midwest can be exiting.

    You should be able to cope without internet access of a while, but in an emergency, you should be able to find an internet cafe or you could use a laptop with a 56k modem. Hotels and camping grounds should have someplace where you're allowed to plug in a modem.
    • I hate the Air and Space Museum. Nothing but crowds and commercial crap. Not to mention the Enola Gay travesty of an exhibit. That particular museum requires a couple hours max.

      The Museum of Natural History, OTOH, is a great place to spend a whole day.

      If you're in the DC area, you might as well head over to Rosslyn and have a few beers at Bardo Rodeo.

      A day trip into Adams Morgan is also warranted.
  • Make sure the people you bring are really good friends. Your car is going to get real small real quick...

    • Of course, you're going to need to bring along some music to keep you from going insane during the drive, but here's something that can be entertaining after you've listened to all of your CDs too many times:

      I like to listen to movies while I'm driving. Not watch movies (that would be dangerous) but I've recorded some of my favorite movies on audio tape and CD for road trips. I'm not talking about audio books, since they cost upwards of $40 per title, although I'm sure that it would also be a good way to keep yourself from falling asleep at the wheel, too. Just use the audio out on your VCR or DVD player to record to your tape deck or PC. (Or if you're one of the fools that bought a component CD recorder, here's your chance to use it. :))

      This works well for movies that you know very well but love nonetheless. Some suggestions from my preferences: The Star Wars Trilogy, The Godfather parts I and II (to hell with III), Tommy Boy, Caddyshack, Groundhog Day, etc...
  • You'll find life much more interesting. For example, "Blue Highways: A Journey into America" by William Least Heat-Moon. Mr. Least Heat-Moon (yes, that's really his last name) also ran the rivers (as much as was possible) from NY to Portland (Oregon).

    Interstates were made to get stuff from point A to point B, not for your to experience the country and the people.

    As for must-sees, pretty much anything in the National Park System is worthy of a look. However given the trip you're talking about, U.S. 2 (the highway) runs from where you are to where you want to go, isn't an interstate, and has several things along it that are interesting and scenic. The Grand Coulee in Washington (skip the dam -- ugly and boring), Glacier National Park (some samples on my website in /scenery), the badlands of the Dakotas....
  • A small hand-held GPS will be both useful and fun. It can help you track your progress (or lack of it) across the country and has great geek value too.

    If you have one with a serial port, you can pre-program your route, or track your position in real time on laptop-based maps.

    If you hike in strange new places, a hand-held GPS can get you back to your vehicle (often by guiding you back along the exact path you followed earlier if you want).

    I'm fond of the Garmin 12XL, under $200.

  • Wife and I bought this at Costco before our Road Trip from Washington, DC to San Diego, CA. Also, came with software that helped us plan the trip. Had lots of places of interest and good directions. I still use it to plan some longer and shorter trips (Went out to Joshua Tree a few weeks ago).
  • Planning my road trips (I've driven about 7k miles in the past year- around the US, southern Canada and northern Mexico) is something I do most of online and with the help of an atlas. Most important tip: Don't be afraid to detour! You see random sign for a "Dutch Windmill" in the middle of rural Iowa, well, go see what the fuss is about! Even if the destination isn't all that, the sideroute offers more of a view of what Iowa looks like than the highway does, and those detours will be the most memorable parts of your trip. Second most important tip: Truck stops are awesome. They have great, cheap food at any time of day; they have showers and laundry facilities, should you be desperate; they have anything you could possibly have run out of or not known you needed; and they are full of the friendliest and most open people, people who know the roads well, that you'll ever meet. And this is coming from a young, not-bad-looking woman who travels alone a lot; I stop at truck stops all the time and always feel safe and welcome and well-fed. Truck stops are awesome.


    Resources by state, including computer-friendly truck stops [layover.com] (easy access to phone jacks &c.)

    List of truck stops [truck.net] in general

    Another truck stop guide [professionalpilotcar.com]

    If you're going to be connected on the road, this is a great link: TruckerNews [truckernews.com] has updates on road conditions all over the US, as well as stop closures, detours, weather, &c. Check your route in the morning and you won't have to detour or backtrack during the day.

    Roadside America [roadsideamerica.com] has a great list of quirky roadside attractions (ever wanted to see the world's largest ball of twine?)

    Another great attractions link is Hidden America [hiddenamerica.com] ...lots of great Americana.

    If you really want to take your time and look around, try some scenic byways [byways.org]. A really wonderful way to get a taste of what America looks like at her best.

    If you're like me and enjoy feeling the wind rush by, speedtrap.com [speedtrap.com] is a great resource. Look up the places you'll be travelling the next day, and make sure you know where to watch for The Man.

  • The main reason to go to wall drug is self serve coffee for a nickel on the honor system. Also hit up Thermopolis public bath house, and Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming. The 'scenic bypass' is not to be missed.

    If you will be camping, stay another night for free (you already paid to get into the park) in the Badlands western campground, strange colored grasshoppers are everywhere and it's nice to wake up with bison across the creek from you.
  • I'm passing through there on vacation this summer and I'm going to visit a awesome little place again-- Woolaroc [woolaroc.org] which used to be Frank Phillips (of Phillips66 Petroleum) large mansion-estate outside of Bartlesville. This was a man with money and passion for everything. He collected native artifacts from ALL over the world, guns, weapson, and animals. Yes, live animals. The drive in from the highway passes through the estate's private reserve of wild animals of amazing and zany types that you would not see elsewhere. Have you ever seen a Zony? (Zebra+pony cross).
  • You're asking this on Slashdot? Most of us never leave the house. Ruins your flourescent tan.
  • the interstate system is nice for getting place to place, but some of the best places are well off the beaten path. I recomend a compass. Everytime you come to an intersection flip a coin to decide which way to go, but narrow out all directions that are obviously the wrong way. Oh, and beware of roads marked "Minimum maintance road, proceede at your own risk" they are not kidding, those roads go from nice gravel to quicksand in negative distance (that is you are diving just fine and suddenly you have been in quicksand for 100 feet.) nice roads to drive, but only if you have serious 4 wheel drive equipment (if you do, ignore my advice, try to drive nothing but minimum maintance roads)

    Everytime you see a sign "Historical marker ahead", stop, read the marker. Often they are cheesey, but just often enough they are worth reading that you should read them all. If nothing else it gives you insite into the thinking 100 years ago, and it often isn't pretty.

    Pick up hitch hikers! Of course this is a room in the car thing, there are obvious safely issues. In general you can meet some interesting people (sometimes truely people you want to meet, and some as the chinese curse, but either way you learn something) by picking up hitch hikers and giving them a free ride. If you can afford it buy them lunch, maybe pay for their admission to some attraction you want to go to. (depending on what money they have). Be a good human being. Help your fellow man.

    Stop for parks. There are many state, county, and city parks that are worth visiting. Many have tour guides for free that can give you an excellent education on the area. (the free guides tend to be the best in my expirence)

    Eat at local cafes as much as possible. Avoid national chains. (not entirely, just in general) Tex-Mex is best in Texas. Walleye is a minnesota favorite, but I haven't seen it elsewhere. Good chinese good is only aviable in the chinse section of town. (NY and San Francisco) You can't try them all, but try what you can.

    Remember, the car is a means to get from place to place, but not a way to get a feel for the country. Stop often and chat with the natives. If you do this right you will randomly come across some small town (population less than 200) with some sort of (spud fest or some such) festival. Stop for the day, see what crazy things people do for a party. Dance with the potatoe queen, wrestle in the greese pit, or whatever they do. (depending on your interests and abilities of course - but don't be afraid to make a fool of yourself)

  • You have to see a Cubs game at Wrigley. I'm a Rangers fan myself (yes, still) but I know a good piece of history when I see it. Go see Wrigley. You won't be sorry (unless you have something against baseball).
  • go to Graceland, Memphis Tennessee.
  • One of the best narrations of a cross-country trip (and it's even more than just that), is Phil Greenspun's Travels with Samantha [photo.net]. Great photos too; this sounds like a good/fun thing to do while traveling, plus if you're not already a good photographer, it's a great chance to improve.
  • Don't forget to take some great music with you, nothing is complete without the perfect soundtrack to go with it. Happy Travels
  • I've made the road trip between Washington and back east several times over the years, using varying routes, and I can assure you that you really can't go wrong any way you go. Stay off the highways as much as reasonably possible, talk to people, eat at interesting places, the usual advice... but one thing you absolutely must not miss no matter which way you go is the House on the Rock in Wisconsin. Just... go. Really.

Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do. -- R. A. Heinlein