Advice and suggestions for a solo cross-country road trip?

Are you allowed to build a fire? I know how to build a fire safely, just wouldn’t want to make one illegally.

Oh, I know all about audiobooks. Comedy CDs work great for long trips too.

What’s a good channel to listen to? Whenever I’ve tried it I don’t hear anyone.

This really depends on what you want to experience. A quick but pretty trip can be made on any major highway. In the summer at least.

I 70 through Colorado is a beautiful and safe drive. And it ends in Utah a few hundred miles into Utah. I 15 north to Salt Lake, or I 15 south towards Vegas.

Breaker 19 is the standard channel for truckers, IME.

There are some great tips in this thread; here are a few more:

Pace yourself: Day after day of driving can start to wear you down. Be very flexible in your scheduling and expectations. Go with the flow of what comes. It sounds like you are planning this but driving day after day will tire out out. Especially if you are taking side roads…

Side roads: as mentioned below, taking only side roads will take much longer and additionally they will wear you out mentally as they are much curvier and usually two lane. This combination means you need to be on your toes when driving when compared to an interstate. You might want to mix it up to use the interstate in some areas.

Traveling alone: I’m sure you could have a great experience with a great friend or significant other, but my best experiences with travel have been alone. It is easier to connect with local people and areas because I think it makes you more open to it.

GPS: I second the GPS recommendation.

Write about it and take pictures as you go: As you see and experience, try to capture the details. Later you will be thankful you did.

Plan only what is needed…enjoy!


But have paper maps anyway for sanity checks. GPSs are not infallible, and might route you a way you would otherwise not have wished (speaking from a friend’s experience; driving from DC-area to Wildwood NJ, her GPS routed her via the Cape May ferry. A fun experience but not what she had wanted to do).

I’ve got GPS and google maps on my phone, along with an atlas. I definitely will pick up road maps for the areas I really want to explore.

Napier beat me to it when he mentioned William Least Heat Moon’s “Blue Highways”. Totally recommend that book. However, he was on a journey that took substantially longer than 2 weeks.

My parents were missionaries, so every couple of years, we would return to the US to raise money. We would spend an entire year traveling around the US. To save time, we usually took the interstates. However, we still stopped and saw many wonderful things that were billed as “World’s Largest [whatever]!”. Just because you take the interstate doesn’t mean you have to give up seeing kitsch.

I don’t know how close this idea is to William Least Heat Moon’s “blue highways”, but consider using the state highway systems. These typically run parallel to the major highways, although sometimes separated from them by 40-60 miles. For example, just last weekend I was driving Highway 36 through Missouri, which is about an hour north of I-70. Two-lane highway, straight, very little traffic, 65 mph speed limit. Best of all, I didn’t have to slow down to 35 in any towns. Plus, it was close enough to the major highway that it wouldn’t have been seriously out-of-the-way to drop down to find a big truck stop for the night, if I had needed one.

I seriously caution you about some of the smaller roadways. You will be doing 55 mph and then have to drop down to 35 to go through town. I know for a fact that small-town speed traps exist. Going on the smaller roadways will put a serious dent in your travel time.

On the whole, though, the trip sounds like fun. Keep safe!


Enormous cones are not from redwoods. The Giant Sequoia cone (scroll down a bit) is a couple of inches long; the Coast Redwood cone is less than half that.

Amazing for sure, but it’s a National Park - one of the world’s oldest and best-known.

Almost any route would be good. If you want a lesser-known one that is astonishingly scenic, try Route 14 along the Cache Le Poudre River.

Head for Ft. Collins CO, and grab Route 287 northwest toward Laramie WY. About 10 miles outside Ft. Collins, Route 14 heads west into the mountains on a circuitous and dramatic route. You can follow this all the way (about 120 miles) to Route 40, just where it enters Rabbit Ears Pass. Following this west takes you to Steamboat Springs CO - well recommended for hikes, restaurants and general touristing.

Fires are tightly restricted in many (most?) western areas. The issues include the danger of starting a wildfire and the way wood-seeking tourists tend to attack trees. You’ll do much better to carry a camp stove for cooking (models sold to backpackers tend to be small, well-made, long-lasting and very effective) and enjoy the sunset and the stars for evening entertainment.

Oh yeah, I definitely plan on sticking to state and US highways. I didn’t mean I would be on only back roads.

Off-interstate travel can be a disparate, mixed bag in the West.

The high points:

  • Desert and high-mountain basin state highways through Death Valley, Nevada, eastern Oregon, New Mexico, Arizona, extreme NE California, Colorado and Texas can be great.

Nobody on them, interesting little stops, lots of opportunity to spot wildlife (antelope, elk, moose, wild turkeys) and you can probably drive anywhere from 5-105 mph without too much trouble.

The state highways going through the Northern CA redwoods are awesome.

The low points:

  • The winding, mountain 2-lane jobs through the Rockies and Cascades in Idaho, Montana and WA state are beautiful and scenic, but can really slow you down. I don’t know what kind of schedule you’re on, but on some days you will be lucky to average 35 mph if you stay on those types of highways. It can take well over a day to go tip-to-tip in Idaho if you want to avoid the interstate. Believe me, I know.

The interstates in some of the lonely stretches of the western states like MT, WY and ID are actually quite scenic, and the stops are chock full of friendly people and small-town-ish sorts of things. I’ve pulled off on the interstate between Salt Lake City and Burley, ID many times to change clothes (from business attire to shorts and a T-shirt) and didn’t need to drive more than 100 yards off the exit ramp before I was completely by myself, with nothing more around than a rolling tumbleweed.

Heed the advice of others and take a sleeping bag, or at least a thick blanket and pillow. The temps will drop into the 30’s, and occasionally the 20’s, all through the summer on virtually any night of the year once you get up into the Rockies. I always wear running tights, warm socks, a turtleneck, a hat and light gloves before I climb into my bag on any night in the summer, if I’m up in the mountains. Them thar places can get cooooold!

Take some beer, too. It helps a lot.

If you really, really want to avoid spending money on camping, I would also heed the advice of others and go with

  1. National Forest logging roads. Just pull off on one, drive a few hundred yards until you’re out of view of the main road, and hunker down. Lots of people do this.

  2. Truck stops on the interstate. You’ll notice the trucks starting to pull in around dusk, parking with the APUs running.

  3. Rest stops with a lot of trucks parked. Ditto.

Me personally, I like option 1 above, although you can’t be the type that is freaked out by being all by yourself in the middle of nowhere. My wife, for example, rousts herself at the slightest snapping of a twig, or elk crashing through the brush. But I would rather trade that off against the rumbling of engines and slamming of doors that come with options 2 and 3, above.

Heck, I just slept in my car in the usual wayside rests. I never got rousted.

1991: 5000 miles through 13 states in 13 days. From Minneapolis; Black Hills, visit friend in Denver, Mesa Verde, Painted Desert, through Vegas, into Yosemite through the back dook, drove through San Fran and over the Golden Gate, Patrick’s Point in northern CA, friends in Grant’s Pass, Crater Lake and home.

Keep a cooler in the car, filled with pop, milk, WATER and plenty of ice. FRUIT!!! Dried fruit. Beef or Turkey Jerkey. Ice means plenty of cold water.

If you drink a lot of pop or caffeine to wake up, do not hesitate or be annoyed at stopping at every wayside rest along the way (usually every 45 minutes to an hour or more) to walk around a bit and piss. Your legs and back will thank you, especially at night.

Ignore most of the cheezy tourist traps, but definitely hit some of them.

Beware of remote waysides at late night or early morning. I was nearly mugged at one in Idaho on that trip at 7am on a Sunday morning. Only avoided because I happened to be carrying a gun and they ran off at the sight of it.

Pulled into Patrick’s Point State Park just after 8pm. Gate wide open, staff gone. Didn’t have to pay a cent. Drove off at 6:45am, before the staff arrived. No one came around to check or roust me, or I would have paid.

Don’t pull off onto those logging roads after dark. Dumb idea.

Sounds great. About what percentage of the trip was spent driving?

Large amounts of it. Lots of interstate, you gotta figure that’s at least 100 hours of driving over 13 days, probably more, so let’s say at least 8+ hours of driving per day. Hence the advice to stop every 45 minutes and walk around.

I’d recommend against this - an average of 4 hours per day will allow you to cover ground, but also give some time to actually enjoy it.

The “We did 8 National Parks in 5 days!” approach is really common, but rarely satisfying.

Yeah, I might have to push it to next spring and try for three weeks. I’ve got a route where I touch every state west of the mississippi except for louisiana and north dakota. But I feel like a might spend to much time driving. I’ll have to dial it down.