Anyone taken a cross-county road trip before? Advice?

I’m at a crossroads of sorts in my life and I’ve decided that I need to make some radical changes. I am 38 and I’ve lived in Georgia, never more than 40 miles away from my immediate family, for my entire life. Now that my grandparents (who were more like my parents) are gone, I no longer have any desire to stay here!

My cousin/best friend (more like a sister) lives in Los Angeles and I’ve spent a lot of time out there over the last few years. She has three adopted children, 11-year old twin boy and girl and their 14-year old brother (who is away at military school). The twins and her husband all love me and, with their blessing, I’m planning to move out there in a few months!

They insist that I live with them for at least a year or so. They live in an affluent suburb, Woodland Hills, and have a 5-bedroom $1.2million house, so who I am to argue??? :smiley:

I’m excited about the move and ready to make the change. Driving out there is actually the only thing that causes me anxiety!

My car is a 2006 Mazda3 Hatchback with 93,000 miles on it (actually the engine was replaced at 49,200 miles under warranty due to a defect that resulted in “catastrophic engine failure” to use the dealer’s terminology). I had my mechanic inspect it top-to-bottom and go ahead and change the spark plugs, fluids and change the transmission oil (gear oil, technically). He also replaced the rear brakes and nstalled new rotors. Freakishly, my front brakes/rotors are still original and the pads have plenty of life left, even after eight years and almost 100k miles!?

My tires still have 5-10k miles or more left in them, but my parents want to buy me new ones before I leave, so I’ll them! :smiley: So the car is ready for the trip, as is my AAA Membership.

My phone can serve as a 4G hotspot in case I need to use my laptop along the way. My Garmin Nav system is updated and ready to go. I’m also planning to take my Glock 19 along for the trip, just to be safe. I have a carry permit in Georgia and it’s valid in several states I’ll be crossing. And once I’m out of legal concealed carry territory, I have a freakishly huge glovebox with a false back to keep it concealed…

My trip will be 2250-2300 miles depending on which route I take.

The ‘southern’ route is Interstate 20 West. It would take me thru Alabama, Mississippi and Lousiana (not appealing so far)…then it cuts thru the middle of Texas including Dallas, Abilene and El Paso. Then it’s on to Tucson, Phoenix before finally crossing Southern California and reaching Los Angeles.

The ‘northern’ route takes various highways from Atlanta to Memphis, then it’s Interstate 40 West all the way to L.A. Lowlights include Little Rock and Oklahoma City, then crosses the Texas panhandle thru Amarillo. Then it’s on to Albuquerque, Flagstaff and that’s about it until Los Angeles.

The northern/I-40W route looks much more appealing to me, so that’s the way I’m planning to go. I tend to set the cruise at 80-85mph outside of suburban areas and I’m hoping to do that for most of the drive. I also prefer to drive at night, so any sleeping will be done during the daytime…whether in a hotel or at a rest area in the car.

I’m planning to ship the bulk of my stuff so I’ll just have clothes and a few essential items (32" TV, computers, etc.) with me. The electronics will be in the trunk, out of sight.

I’m not sure why I’m so nervous/anxious about the drive??? Prior to this, the furthest I’ve driven (alone) was 850 miles to Houston.

Please feel free to share any advice, comments or stories!

56yr old x,xxx,xxx miles driven.

  1. review the laws about "concealed carry, your plan if loaded will not apply and most likely get you in more trouble than its worth. Self defense is important, be smart, do it correctly where appllicable and necessry. Dont be naive or afraid in adventure.
  2. Night driving is great if your a night owl and used to sleeping days, but you will be missing out on the adventure of a lifetime of memories of this great nations scenary. Plan to take in some tourist places like Yellowstone or Mt. Rushmore. These and others have huge significant impact on the American experience, and what it means to be an American. I cant begin to explain the sense of American pride I get when I visit some of our national monuments.
  3. Make your plan. think about your overall goals, have planned contingencies. Take food supplies, take drinking water (can be used for radiator if need be) take any spare parts and tools needed to maintain the vehicle. Take a small gas can, bottle or two of oil. etc.
  4. I spent 30 days on the road one time and camped out under the stars every night, some in KOA some beside the road. Best time of my life. PS been from Key Wesst to Seattle WA with out any need for a gun. Traveled as far with one also. Always more self-concious and stressed about theft of it than without. chain it to the frame when in the shower.

I suspect you’ll actually go across a number of counties.

Do you intend to try to see anything along the way, or just to get to California? I’m puzzled by the part about driving at night, and really puzzled by the specific mention of carrying a handgun at all times. Driving 85 mph at night would make me very nervous. Your headlights don’t extend far enough to determine if an elk or mule deer has bounded over the fence (an unusual occurrence, but so is needing the Glock). In addition, you’ll be disturbed by the hotel housekeepers if you’re trying to sleep during the day.

At any rate, a cross-country trip is a lot easier than you seem to think. You just head west, and stop every hour for a stretch. There’s no shortage of places to eat, fuel, pee, or sleep.

I have driven coast to coast six times now. Two round trips and two east to west (where I now live). My favorite route was I90 across South Dakota, Badlands, Black Hills then over the Big Horn range to Yellowstone, south through the Tetons to Salt Lake and on to California. That was also the camping trip.

I10, I40 and I70 (2nd best) were less interesting.

I considered a firearm on the first solo trip but decided against and have no regrets. I would consult with others about the legal issues.

His planned route of I-40 goes nowhere near Yellowstone or Mt. Rushmore. More like the Grand Canyon.

I would also not do it at night. It defeats the purpose of driving cross country if you can’t see any of the scenery and is more likely to result in an accident. You’re going to get very tired of constantly flipping your brights on and off, too.

I did I-40 going the other way over the summer. Do not drive through AZ, NM, or eastern CA without at least 1/4 tank of gas, it can be 130 miles between usable stations. We used to avoid getting caught with our pants down.

Another argument against driving at night: there was a lot of roadwork. It wasn’t onerous because the traffic was pretty sparse and of course nobody would be working at 2am but I wouldn’t want to navigate 10 miles of single lanes or contraflow surrounded by barrels and jersey barriers in the pitch dark.

I never had trouble with voice or text service on my phone (carrier is Verizon) but data sometimes dropped in stretches.

I-40 ends in Barstow, CA. It is a total dump and you should drive through as fast as possible.

Edit: I would also look very closely into gun permits in your destination. I lived in LA last year and my impression was that it was extremely hard to get a CCW permit. You also don’t want to beat the shit out of your car on the drive over because then it may fail the (very strict) smog test and not be able to be registered without expensive repairs.

The Grand Canyon is a MUST see. Not at night, though. They don’t light it.

I took I-40 (mostly) last fall between Los Angeles and Springfield, Missouri.

Possible points of interest, I-40: not much between Springfield and New Mexico. Santa Fe is nice, though a little artsy and touristy - but heck, you’re a tourist, so you might as well admit it and enjoy it. In Arizona, there’s the Petrified Forest National Park. Flagstaff is a nice city: to the north, there’s the Grand Canyon, as just mentioned, and to the south, there’s Sedona - another touristy place, but beautiful nevertheless. Near the California border, you can turn north and go to Hoover Dam - a darned impressive piece of engineering. You can go further north to Las Vegas, of course, but I’d suggest it as a stand-alone trip, taken with friends. From the California border, just keep going to LA.

I’ve driven across the US once, and Canada a few times solo, but the same principles should apply in both places. Most recently, I drove 2000 miles to Toronto and back again. I like long solo road trips.

It sounds like your car is ready. About all I can say there is to watch your fuel. You shouldn’t have a problem, as fuel stops are likely more plentiful across the US than they are in parts of Canada, but keep an eye on it.

Don’t exhaust yourself. If you feel like stopping for the night, stop. My shortest day on the road was six hours; my longest was 14. If you don’t have a schedule to keep to (and it doesn’t sound like you do), and you’re by yourself, don’t push it. It’s not a race; if you feel like it, pull over and find a place for the night.

I agree about driving during the day, not only for the sights, but also for safety. If you’re on roads you don’t know well, you might not be aware of bends, of bumps, of where it is best to slow down before you hit the curve. In the day, you can see things much better.

Enjoy the drive, and let us know how it goes!

If you’re a coffee drinker I suggest:

  1. Get a thermos bottle.
    B. Get a travel mug.
    iii. Flying J and Pilot truck stops have really good coffee. They have separate parking and fueling areas for cars , so you won’t get run over by an 18 wheeler.

I do NOT recommend you set the cruise at 80-85 along I-40. Unless that’s the posted speed limit. They’ll give you 5 mph maybe, but what’s your rush? Will you be taking I-75N to Chattanooga to get on I-24W to get to I-40W? You’d do well to miss either rush hour there. You probably don’t want to take I-40 through Memphis. Take I-240W/I-55N instead. They’ll bring you back to I-40W once you cross the river and are in West Memphis. Take I-240 West under Oklahoma City. Unless you want to try to take a quick glance at the aircraft park at Tinker AFB that’s briefly visible if you take I-40 through the city. I don’t recommend that. There’s all sorts of merging there and the traffic is a pain.

I like to stop in Amarillo. The Big Texan is there. Even if you can’t finish a 72 oz steak dinner in an hour, you should experience it. And the Cadillac Ranch is there. Bring some spray paint with you. They actually encourage you to paint something on one of the cars.

You might want to consider taking the northern route one way and the southern route the other way. There are some sights off I-10/20 you don’t get on I-40. If you try I-10, there’s a stretch just south of El Paso to Quitman Mt where I-10 runs parallel to the Mexican border. You should turn your cell phone off there because you’ll be dipping into Mexican cellular areas, so if you make or receive a call or text there, you might have to pay International rates. If you’re determined to set the cruise for 80 or so, I-10/20 is the place to do it.

Oh, would it be too much trouble for you to take the mag out of your pistol and lock the unloaded pistol into a case to put in your trunk while you’re rolling? I hardly think you’d need it then.

I appreciate all of the comments and advice so far!

As for carrying a gun, I’m probably being a bit paranoid and my parents have helped fuel the fire as well. My neighbor and I were mugged at gunpoint in 2007 and he actually fired a shot at us as he ran away! It hit the corner of our building less than five feet away from where we were standing. That’s when I went bought my first handgun and obtained a “Carry Permit”. In Georgia, a carry permit allows you to carry a loaded weapon, concealed or not, in most public places. The only prohibited places are government buildings, churches and bars.

In reality, I’m 38, 6’2", 235# and driving an 8-year old Mazda, so I’m not exactly a target for most criminals. A much more effective defense against most attacks is the ‘Panic’ Button on my keyless entry remote. I’ve taught all the women in my life (due to their inherent higher risk of being targeted) to keep their remote in their hand and finger on that button any time they’re walking to their car alone or feel unsafe in any way! And if they are confronted by an attacker, to put their ignition key between their fingers and stab for the eyes! So the gun can stay in Georgia…

I’m surprised by the response to my preference of driving at night. After a few hours, sunlight starts to make my eyes burn and I get very tired, very quickly once that happens. I can drive 8-10 hours (if it stays dark that long) without feeling nearly as tired. I recently had the Xenon (high-intensity discharge) headlamps replaced in my car, so I can see further than most at night. I also have the ability to adjust the trajectory of the high beams to compensate for passenger/cargo load and/or to focus the light further down the road. (It sounds kind cool and they work great, but those damn replacement bulbs were almost $300 total)!

How wide is I-40W in most areas? If it’s only two-lanes for any large stretches, I will definitely want to drive those at night. Being stuck behind slower moving traffic with no way to pass drives me insane!

I only have two ‘sights’ that I really want to see along the way- (proof that I’m a total geek)- Hoover Dam on the AZ/NV border and Meteor Crater near Winslow, AZ. On my first trip to L.A., the HOLLYWOOD sign was a total bore, but I was fascinated by the Los Angeles Aqueduct!

I hadn’t thought about things like water/coolant, motor oil and an empty (new) gas can, but will definitely add those! I already have a tool kit, jumper cables, first aid kit and flares/reflectors. My spare tire is unused, in good condition and I just checked the air pressure. I also have a small air compressor that plugs into the lighter. Perhaps a can of tire sealant wouldn’t hurt either.

I hadn’t even thought about the distance between fuel stations out west, so thanks for that! I’m notorious for pushing it 50 miles after the low fuel light comes on just to minimize gas stops when I travel…really bad idea for this trip! Thankfully, my Garmin has info about the services available at each exit, how far until the next gas station, hospital, etc. So that will serve me well, but I’ll keep it over 1/4 tank at all times to be safe. Even if I set the cruise at 80mph and have the A/C going, I still average 26-27mph on the highway.

My initial plan when I first decided to make this move was to do it in three 800-mile days. But now I’m inclined to make it at least a five day trip since I’m not on any sort of schedule.

Dear God NO! I’ve been trapped on I-24 between Chattanooga and Nashville more than once and I despise that drive!

I’ve driven to Memphis a few times and I always go to Birmingham, then pick up US-78 which goes thru Tupelo and on to Memphis. It’s four lanes and controlled-access for most of the way, so it’s almost like an interstate. It takes about 3.5 hours from Birmingham to Memphis.

I live about 50 miles north of Atlanta and I despise I-20W, so I actually take two-lane highways over to Gadsden, AL (about 80 miles) then I pick up I-59S for 60 miles and I’m in B’ham. It takes less than 2.5 hours from my driveway to downtown Birmingham. So Memphis is about six hours going this way.

Yes, US-78 northbound doesn’t turn into shit until just before you cross into TN. There’s a shorter way mileage wise to get to Memphis from Gadsden, but I’m not sure if it’s faster. It just strikes me as out of the way to go SW from Gadsden to B’ham, just to go NW to Memphis.

I actually won’t be registering the car in California. Legally, it belongs to my mother and she is a resident of Georgia, so it will remain registered in Georgia. It’s a long story, but my mom was involved in a serious accident while driving it back in 2010. It should have been totaled and ultimately cost the at-fault driver’s insurance company $14k to repair it when it was only worth $10,500. But they wanted to play nasty, so I showed them just how nasty I could be! It took 38 days and I refused the car the first two times the body shop said it was ready because I wasn’t satisfied. I also specifically chose a body shop that they didn’t have a ‘contract’ with and that has a reputation for their work (and their prices)!

After the repairs were finally done, I had the car appraised and filed a claim for the Diminished Value due to the severity of the accident. Multiple dealers also gave me a trade-in appraisals in writing. They all stated that the would be unable to re-sell it on their lot due to liability issues because the airbags had deployed in the accident. The independent appraiser I hired stated the Diminished Value was at least $3600. I ended up suing them for that amount and in pre-trial arbitration they stated that they would pay it if I sold the car for that much less than book value. I would have won had he gone to trial, but they put the noose around their own neck by stating that condition. So I sold the car for $4000 less than KBB private party value…to my mom! They had no choice but to cut me a check for $3600.

We kept it in her name because she planned to buy a new Mazda CX-9 and it qualified her for an extra $2000 Owner Loyalty rebate when she bought it last November.

It’s insured on my parents’ policy with me listed as the primary driver and the garaging location as my address. It has $500k in Liability plus they have a $1 million Umbrella, which I’m also covered by. I’ve spoken the Regional Underwriting Manager for their/our insurance company and they’ve agreed to changee the garaging address to my cousin’s home in California when I move out there but keeping it on my parent’s policy. It costs $58/month vs. $160/month if I insured it in California (with less coverage).

So technically, I’m not breaking any laws and the insurance company is aware of what’s going on. The only thing I will need to do to comply with the law is get a California Driver’s License.

First stop - AAA office to get all the maps and tour books that you’ll need.

Do it! Cross country trips are the way to go! You can see everything along the way and get out of your car and experience the places you go firsthand.

(See my thread about our current trip from Calgary to San Diego and back if you like. :slight_smile: )

Good idea. By my estimates and experience, you’ll take at least 13 hours to drive 800 miles–and that doesn’t include gas stops, pee breaks, and speed limits. It sounds trite in such a discussion, but YMMV.

Not to mention the terrain. Through the Rockies, you’ll be (as a buddy of mine so eloquently put it), “puttin’ the slats to 'er” on the upslopes, and braking on the downslopes, all the while watching out for that semi on your tail, the camper ahead who has too much trailer and too little truck, and the tourists who are ogling the scenery. Mountain driving requires you to be alert as to the other traffic at all times–not all traffic will move as quickly as you (in your Mazda) can on the upslopes, and a fully-loaded semi on your tail cannot break the laws of physics on the downslopes. I’ve found that mountain driving is mentally exhausting–always be careful, and always be alert. When I drive through the mountains, I take a break in a pullout or rest area from time to time, just to refresh my mind. Besides, it gives you a chance to enjoy the scenery.

Are you talking about US-72W from Gasden to Memphis (goes thru Decatur, AL)? It’s about 33 miles shorter (267 vs. 300) and Mapquest estimates it at 11 minutes longer than the longer route. Hmmm…

I wonder if the US-72 drive is more interesting that the way I’m familiar with? What the hell am I thinking…we’re talking about North Alabama and extreme North Mississippi, it’s nothing but mud huts and single-wides either way! :smack:

I’ve only driven in the Appalachians and I find mountain driving very taxing as well! But if there’s anywhere that my little Mazda still shows off, it’s on the curviest of mountain roads! I’ve always joked that if I had the Mazda when I was a teenager, I’d have avoided many tickets! It can lose cars with twice the power once we hit the S-curves and switchbacks!

The trade-off for the handling is less-than-cushy ride quality. I also learned the hard way about the dangers of low-profile high-performance tires hitting potholes! When it was less than two years old, I hit a nasty pothole going about 50mph and instead of damaging the tires, it warped both wheels on the right side of the car. They were almost $600 each to replace. It also caused one of the fluid-filled engine mounts to explode and trashed the strut on the right front! Since then, I’ll swerve into an oncoming school bus rather than hit a pothole!

I think you’ll find that the Appalachians (which I’ve driven also) are quite different from the Rockies. Regardless, be careful in the mountains, and let us know how the trip goes.

Since you’re looking for advice, moved to our advice forum, IMHO (from MPSIMS).

Mountains shouldn’t be too much of a problem on I-40 (you won’t actually be going through the Rockies, they end around Santa Fe NM). You’ll cross a couple of ranges but it’s nothing like, say, I-70 through Colorado.

Just east of Albuquerque you’ll cross the Sandias via Tijeras Canyon, then you’re back in the desert. Around Flagstaff is more rugged terrain, and honestly that’s about it.

You say you’re moving in a few months- if you’re doing the drive in the winter, be aware that you could see snow. From approximately Santa Rosa NM to Albuquerque you will be at 7000 ft. elevation, then again around Grants-Gallup in western NM, and finally around Flagstaff. Any of these areas can get heavy snow- enough to close the interstate, and there aren’t many alternative routes. So watch the weather reports.

I agree with the others who say you’ll be missing a lot of beautiful scenery by driving at night. I love the desert southwest- that’s why I moved here! At any rate, have a safe trip!