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

I’m insanely jealous of you! I’ve made a few cross country drives utilizing the southern and northern routes, including up to Alaska & back, and it’s great fun. If I could offer you any advice it’d be to read Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon before you go if you get a chance, or bring it along w/ you, it’ll really get you excited about exploring the country off the beaten path, did for me anyway. Try and stay off the interstates as much as possible and allow as much time as you can. Make a point of getting out of your car frequently and having a look around. Stop in at diners, bars, cafes, truck stops, & chat w/ the locals. If you have a cell phone and a triple A card I wouldn’t worry too much about anything else.
Have a great time! :slight_smile:

If I was on I-40W and the weather forecast took a turn for the worse, it looks like I could alter course in Oklahoma City or Amarillo to jump down to I-20 for the remainder of the trip. From Oklahoma City, I could take I-35S to Dallas (206 miles). Further along I-40W in Amarillo, I could take I-27S to Lubbock, then make my way via various national and state highways to pick up I-20 in Midland (238 miles).

Would that be a realistic contingency plan if snow caused I-40 to be closed in NM or AZ?

My plan is to make the trip in late January or early February. So it will be in the middle of winter. If heavy snow is in the forecast, I can delay my departure date to avoid it.

You all have convinced me to reconsider driving at night for most/all of the trip! My first day of driving is actually going to be from North Georgia over to Oxford, MS. My cousin is the Assist Girl’s Soccer Coach at Ole Miss and she’s wanted me to visit since she moved there three years ago. So I’m making a minor detour to work that in…the drive from Oxford to Oklahoma City is 550 miles and I feel confident that I won’t miss a damn thing driving in pitch darkness on that leg of the trip! But from Oklahoma City onward, I’m going to drive during daylight hours.

My goal is to cover 400-500 miles per day, which I’ve done many times. One of the things I love most about my Mazda3 is the firm but very supportive driver’s seat (with adjustable lumbar support). Even after eight hours, the only thing that hurts is my butt (they’re VERY firm) but I don’t have any of the other aches, pains or stiffness that I get in most other cars!

Another question I just thought of- I doubt there’s an abundance of radio stations along much of the route, correct? I’m planning to reactivate my SiriusXM subscription for the trip. It’s only $9.95/month and I’m only obligated to keep it for three months, so it’ll be worth the $29.85 even if just use it for the trip out there!

I’ve not driven I-40 since the 90’s, but one thing you want to watch out for in the southwest are tumbleweeds. The do indeed tumble, and some are pretty big. They also like traveling in what I call ‘families’. You’re driving along, and all of a sudden 6 of them bound across the road.

During the day, you can see them coming. At night, you usually see them when it’s far too late to do anything and you’ll hit them. Aside from a loud crunch they’re not bad, but their sudden appearance in your headlights can startle. Don’t panic swerve to get out of the way.

Locking a firearm in a glovebox in California is a no-no. Also, locking a loaded firearm in any container in your vehicle is a no-no unless you have a CCW, but as you’re not a resident you do not have a permit California recognizes. You’ll need to being a locking container along with you and unload the firearm before crossing the state line.

I get sweaty palms, nervousness or adrenaline, when on cross country road trips, so I wear biker gloves when at the wheel. And sometimes my eyes will tear up from the sun or dust esp when fatigued, not fun to go temporarily blind while driving. Water bottle handy to squirt into towel or something for a cooling compress on one eye first then the other.

Don’t fall for scammers at the rest stops, lock your stuff & stow your valuables out of sight.

Yes, those alternate routes would work well for you. You’re not likely to see snow along I-20 or I-10. Those stretches of I-40 that I mentioned only get closed on rare occasions (maybe once or twice each winter) but due to the lack of alternate routes, it would suck to be stranded for a day or two.

Edit: Yes, I think SiriusXM would be a good investment for the trip!

I prefer driving at night as well but would suggest dropping the setting on cruse control about 10MPH. Lots of cops out looking to write tickets on travelers.

Have you thought about a Midnight to Noon driving schedule? Get some miles under your belt while dark and can sight see in the afternoon then dinner and sleep. And never have to drive into the Sun.

I have driven cross-country a few times. I agree with the comment that it isn’t nearly as difficult as you seem to think it is. It is just like the rest of the driving you do every day, there is just more of it.

The one regret I always had after my trips was that I rushed too much to get to the final destination and wore myself out. It would have been better and much more fun if I had tacked on a few extra days and dialed the daily mileage back to no more than 350 - 400 miles a day. That is doable and still leaves time for relaxing or sightseeing along the way. Adding in extra time will allow you to take that detour to see the second largest ball of twine in the U.S. if you want rather than just grudgingly driving straight past that exit.

Make sure you have a good GPS solution too. Smartphones will work fine as long as you can get a signal but you can also by a dedicated portable GPS for $100 or less that frees up your phone for other things. Someone may even have a portable GPS you can borrow for the trip.

That’s how you’d go if you’re going Chattanooga to Memphis and want to avoid Nashville. 72 only gets good speed-wise once you hit the MS state line, then slows down as you head into Memphis. I’d stick with 20 to Birmingham and then 78 - you’ll make decent time on 20, lose some on 78 in AL, but once you get closer into Memphis it gets better.

FWIW, I drove Youngstown, OH to Tucson, and Tucson to Atlanta when I made those moves. Oklahoma is a LONG state - there was a point after OKC that I was really hoping for the next exit a lot sooner than it came!

May I make one comment about hotels and day sleepers?

Almost invariably check in times for hotels are 3 pm, but you can get it pushed up to 1 pm. Check out times are almost invariably 11 am, but can occasionally be pushed to noon.

If you check in at 5 am [for giving some random morning time for us night owls] if you stay until 4 or 5 pm, you will get charged for 2 nights stay. That is pretty much the way hotel software works.

I find that while driving westwards I only have sunlight issues when the sun gets to the windshield frame, call it around an hour before dusk. We tend to stop for a rest break, walk around, meal and fuel top off until the sun gets to under the horizon. I have dry eye issues, made worse by the flow of air conditioning, and keep my favorite eye drops always handy and also neutral saline drops for the more frequent use. I also have some pretty dark polarized prescription sunglasses - I really recommend polarization for sunglasses, and the right tint level. I have fairly light grey-blue eyes and am pretty photosensitive.

[my favorite way to travel, which is OK with mrAru as he has no trouble sleeping in cars, is to simply alternate driving and napping around the clock, with showers at truck stops and one break in the middle somewhere for a night in a motel. Since I have issues with most fast foods, we have one of those plug in refrigerated coolers and take sandwich and salad makings, instant plain oatmeal and fixings for breakfast, and a 12v plug in teakettle for hot water and a french press for coffee.]

OK, then here’s another piece of advice: you will be required to take the written test again when you switch over your license. They make everybody do it. Study the handbook! I think it’s available online. There are 36 questions and even if you’ve been driving for decades, some of the questions are about California-specific rules or random factoids that seem to have nothing to do with actual driving. I was asked what the specific penalty was for fleeing and eluding during an attempted traffic stop. If I hadn’t read the handbook the day before, I would have failed. Don’t think you’ll know it all because you already have a license, read the study guide!

Also, the California DMV has an online appointment system. Use it! Especially in LA. I was also in the Woodland Hills area and had to go to the Winnetka DMV and the line for people without appointments was out the door and wrapping around the building.

Oh, and it’s not your route, but I ran into this oddity one summer traveling from New Mexico to Ohio in the mid 90’s. Must have been ~June, '95.

I passed eastbound through St Louis, Missouri, and after about an hour I decided it was time to find a hotel as it was getting late. Every place I tried was full. I mean, everything. I met travelers headed west who were also struggling to find a place to stay, which is disconcerting as they were coming from the direction I was headed! Needless to say, they weren’t happy to hear there was nothing to the west either.

I finally found a room - a couch hide-a-bed in a hotel’s conference room. I didn’t get to bed until midnight.

I don’t know if there was some event that booked every room in existence for hours in each direction or if it’s the way of the Midwest, but next trip I’m making reservations ahead of time.

Regarding a place mentioned by Beelzebubba, Meteor Crater: interesting, I suppose, but I was kind of underwhelmed. It’s run as a private tourist attraction - not bad, but a little expensive. It was around $16 for access to the top of the crater just to see, well, a crater. Okay, a big crater. They never found the meteor - I think the theory is that the meteor itself simply vaporized. Well, impressive, yes, but the nearby Grand Canyon is a lot more impressive. IMHO.

Oh, yeah, there’s a science exhibit/museum at the crater, of course. Decent, but nothing much to write home about.

Small town McDonalds restrooms tend to be moderately clean, so they’re a good place to stop along the way if you need to sit down. Interstate wayside rests can be a bit iffy on that front.

That route along the south there? In west Texas it will take you through that county where they routinely bust all the musician’s tour buses. Probably a fair number of other people too. Might want to change that up if by chance you have both weed and a gun in the car. Even without the former, I’d have the latter well concealed, probably unloaded and cased, and drive to the letter of the traffic laws. God only knows how many non-weed carrying vehicles they pull over claiming they “smelled marijuana”. Especially if you have long hair, a beard, anything left of Reagan bumperstickers, etc.

I have done cross-country trips four times. Some people do them more but most people do it exactly once if they ever do it at all. I think the most important thing is to make it memorable if time is not a huge factor. Adding on extra days is surprisingly cheap if you do it right. I never cared about the star rating of the hotel I was staying in, only that it had a bed and plumbing. You can get those all day long for $40 a day or less on that route as long as you stay outside the major cities. It is fairly easy to do it on that route as long as your are willing to follow a slight zig-zag pattern.

I would head South to I-10 and take that straight into New Orleans if you have never been there. Head west from there and see some Cajun country. Texas isn’t going to be that interesting once you get past Houston but that is beautiful in its own kind of way. I would shoot for the Grand Canyon from there and then into Las Vegas for a day or two. Rooms off the strip are super cheap if you don’t gamble. Get one from It is an easy few hours drive from Las Vegas to Los Angeles after that.

If you take a week or 8 days rather than the 4 day minimum it takes to make that drive on your own safely, it makes all the difference in the world. I have advised that to a few people who didn’t take that advice and all of them lived but they seriously regretted it.

The meteor is in the main building. Great big thing about the size of a chest, IIRC. Also, lots of little iron pieces abound. A guide when I was there told tales of ants bringing fragments up as they built nests, which then attract lightning.

I liked it. Someone objected to my Darwin fish on my car. When I got back I found the Jack Chick tract Big Daddy had been slipped through my driver’s window. :slight_smile:

I agree with others to take more time and drive during the day to see more. Both the I-40 route and the I-20/I-10 route can be nice drives, but the southern route will have less chance of foul weather, though I-40 is usually clear most of the winter. If you take the southern route, I suggest you take a couple or three extra days and swing through Big Bend Texas. It’s well worth it but so remote that this trip might be your best bet to see it.

Okay, I was a little confused - I saw the fragment pictured in Wikipedia’s entry, but missed seeing the display label and somehow thought it might be some other artifact. Wikipedia says that most of the meteor did vaporize.

One further clarification: the Grand Canyon is emphatically a lot more impressive. It is big, and it is beautiful.

Regarding hotels - always ask for a discount. I find that the natural way to broach the subject is to ask if they give a AAA discount (a whole bunch do), but even if they don’t, if you’ve driven all day and are showing up at nine or ten and the hotel is empty, they’ll probably work with you.

That really is an oddity - we’ve car-tripped all over the western and middle USA, and never found a town that was completely full up. It’s unusual to even find a hotel that’s booked up - it’s only happened about twice in many years of travelling. I suspect you did run into an event - that’ll cause unusual conditions.

I drove from the L.A. area to Colorado and back many years ago in 1985, driving
a 1977 Honda Civic and using paper road maps. It seems so primitive now - no
cellphone if you got stranded and no GPS to guide you.

I enjoyed the meteor crater and spent a couple hours there going through
the museum and hiking all the way around the rim. The Grand Canyon
is not to be missed and is much more spectacular than the meteor crater.
The petrified forest in Arizona was a bit off the highway but I found it was worth
visiting. I took a tour of Hoover dam when I was a little kid and was very
impressed by it. It is definitely worth seeing if you happen to be in that

Make sure your air condition works or else carry something cool to
drink - even in the fall it can sometimes get very hot crossing the desert.
Just use some common sense while you’re traveling and you’ll do fine.
Enjoy your trip!