Driving Cross-Country Advice

So, as 0 of you know, my girlfriend goes to college in California (Los Angeles to be specific). We live in Pennsylvania. This is a bit of a distance. As it turns out she now needs a car at school, so she’s purchased one at home and is planning to drive it out to LA. This is where your advice comes in. We’re planning to take around 7 days/6 nights to make the trip out and are looking for interesting diversions along the way.

The tentative route we plan to follow is I-70 to 74 around Indianapolis to 80 (in order to see the Field of Dreams site in Iowa) then 80 to 76 to 70 around Denver. The follow 70 to 15 to 10 into LA (I’d fly LAX to PIT a few days later). Obviously its a bit convoluted, but we’d be willing to change if there was something more worthwhile to see than the FoD field.

Teeming Millions, if you had to make this trek, what sites along the way would you find interesting and pretty cool to see. I should preface this by saying that neither of us have really been to much of the Midwest/West at all. I’ve been to St. Louis, but that is about it, so we have pretty much a blank slate. So far our only definites are: Las Vegas strip, Hoover Dam, and Grand Canyon. What other sites would be worthwhile in making the drive? For instance, would it be better to drive across Wyoming on 80 and see the Great Salt Lake rather than drive through Denver and central Utah?

Really the only stipulation is that we’d prefer not to drive an excessive amount in a day. Probably 10-11 hours is the absolute maximum in a single day. I’m not looking for a full itinerary here, just looking for suggestions of valuable things to see along the way.

So in short, Pittsburgh to LA in 7 days (or 8 if absolutely needed) what to see along the way? Thanks in advance!

I can help you a little bit…
The drive on I-70 once you pass Denver is awesome . Beautiful mountain views, and Whitewater Canyon is unbeliveable. You also get to see some old mines, etc. I have only been as far as Grand Junction, but that’s very close to CO’s Western border. After that I hear you go through Moab, which is also pretty cool.

As for WY and the Great Salt Lake in UT…I’d pass. WY has some pretty areas, but I’m not sure the route you describe takes you through many of them. I just flew over the Great Salt Lake last weekend, and was singulaly unimpressed. It’s big. That is all. I can’r imagine there being much to see from the ground.

The Great Salt Lake isn’t that exciting. Lived there for more than 25 years (in the city, not the lake) and only visited it a couple of times.

If you have time Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon are also really cool.

Depends on the way you go. I suggest after this point going through Moab, Navajo Reservation, Monument Valley, Flagstaff, etc. Taking the 70 to the 15 is OK, but Utah gets pretty boring in the middle, and there’s nothing worse in the world than that last stretch of the 15 through Baker gag. The 10 from Phoenix to LA is somewhat boring too, but not as bad as the 15 IMO. Of course if you want to go to Vegas (I understand some people like it there; personally it just looks like a big toilet with flashing lights on it designed especially for the disposal of money) then by all means take the 15.

Oh and after Grand Junction, you’ll come to a little teeny burg along the 70 called Thompson (I think it’s by Thompson). If you have a car to handle the dirt roads, you can stop to see the Sego Canyon Petroglyphs which were some of the coolest and eeriest things I’ve ever seen. There are 4 different eras/groups represented through their art there. Further up the road is also a ghost town (not much of one I’m afraid).

Have fun, above all! I loves me my roadtrips.

Ack, just remembered, the turnoff from the 70 towards Moab comes before Thompson, sooo if you go that way you won’t be able to see the petroglyphs. Not as though there isn’t more than plenty to see going the Moab/Arizona route. Which if you do take that one, do the 128 during the day, it’s quite scenic.

I agree with Bryce and Zion, but if you’re not busting your tail to get to L.A., you are really going too close to the Grand Canyon to bypass it.

Exit I-15 at Cedar City, UT, then follow UT-14 to US-89 to Alt US-89 and back to US-89 (which takes you through the Painted Desert), then, just past Cameron AZ, take AZ-64 to the South Rim, then follow it South to I-40.

At I-40, you have the choice of taking it across the Mojave Desert to I-15 at Barstow CA or of branching off at Kingman AZ to take US-93 back up to Boulder/Hoover Dam and up to Las Vegas where you can rejoin I-15.

(Bryce and Glen Canyon are a bit out of the way, but Zion is only 30 miles west of US-89.)

Yep, that was our one absolute definite. I can’t wait!

On another note, has anyone here actually been to the Field of Dreams movie site in Iowa and is it actually worth the stop for a huge fan of the movie/baseball?

Ruckinge can’t help but overhear…

What are some good general cross country driving tips? Other than wear comfortable shoes? Is it safe to pick up hitchhikers again? If they’re wearing a hockey mask and are the strong silent type should they sit in the middle between the kids or get a window seat?

I don’t know how the timing would work out, but I would almost do I80 from PA/OH to I90 and go west on I90. Last year, we drove out 90 and back 80 and I have driven 70 in the past from Illinois west to Utah. The middle of the country is boring. If you take I90, you can see Badlands, Devil’s Tower, Mt Rushmore, divert south through Wyoming, see SLC, Arches, Bryce, Zion, Glen Canyon, etc. and then continue on through to CA. If you are going to multiple national parks, get the national parks pass for $50. some of the parks cost upwards of 10 to get into. the card is good for a year, so you can use it when you go pick her up too…

I70 through the mountains is beautiful, but I have to vote for I90 for the ‘not going to bore you to tears’ award across the plains. You can camp for free on BLM lands in unestablished campsites, but need to provide your own water and bathroom facilities.

Instead of the overcrowded south rim of GC, why not see the north rim? It’s higher than the south, and perfectly awesome. (I’ve been to both, and enjoyed the north rim much more.) It also is more or less ‘on the way’ to Vegas.

If you’re on I-70, you’d exit south on 89 at Sevier, follow it thru Kanab (which is a neat little town) and Fredonia to the 67 (at Jacob Lake) which exists only to get to the north rim.

You’d probably want to stay overnight in the park or at Jacob Lake, as it’s quite far from anything else.

Have you been to Vegas before? You can get some great room rates on weekdays, but Fri. & Sat. tend to be expensive. And they have reasonably priced Hoover Dam tours. After all that driving, it might be nice to have someone else in the driver’s seat for a day. :slight_smile:

(At least they used to have tours of HD - I know they stopped them for awhile after 9-11, but I’m pretty sure they’ve started again now.)

Have a fun trip - and remember to buckle up!!


Nope I have not been to Vegas before, and seeing that I’m 20 and my ladyfriend is smilarly young we probably will see little to nothing “interesting” there. It was more about seeing the strip and the novelty of that. Thanks!

It’s been a long time since I’ve been out there, but if you’re going on I70 once you get into Utah you should take the exit to Cisco (I think) to the previously mentioned 128 that starts off on the high desert then winds it way down to the Colorado river and Moab. Incredible canyons. Once in Moab head south on 191 then take 163 down through Mexican Hat and Monument Valley. Then you can head over to the Grand Canyon, then pick up I15 Near Las Vegas. If you have the time, go to the North Rim, but the South Rim is good too and the South Rim is better than no Rim!

Arches NP is just outside of Moab and Canyonlands is further south off of 191. It’s incredible, though, and you should see it if you have a day to spare. If you haven’t seen any of the canyon country you really need to. It’s unbelieveable.

If you find yourself near it, don’t miss Goblin Valley State Park in Utah. I-70 W from the CO border to 24 S. Really easy to find.

It’s a few dozen miles off the highway, but it’s absolutely amazing. We took the dirt road back to the highway and it was absolutely gorgeous.

You should have plenty of time for sight seeing, as we (my father and I) did basically Boston to San Fransisco in three days. Parts of WY are intersting. Iowa isn’t. Nebraska (well, what I was awake for) scarred me.

That sounds like a wonderful trip; I’m pining for a road trip, if I only had the vacation time coming to me.

Your route sounds roughly like a combination of two cross-countries I did, one in 1996, the other in 1997. I don’t know how flexible you’re willing to be on the Iowa thing. Because if I were to have a week to get from Pittsburgh to LA, I’d take I-70 toward Columbus and then get the I-71 South, take it all the way to Louisville. Take in the Kentucky Derby Museum, a race or two at Churchill Downs, see the Louisville Slugger factory. Head south on I-65 from there, there’s a cool Australian-themed zoo and a cave tour called Kentucky Down Under, and further along the 65, in Bowling Green, check out the Corvette assembly plant and museum.

Continuing South on I-65, you’ll hit Nashville, the home of country music, and from there you can get I-40 West, which will take you to Memphis, home of the blues and Graceland, which is well worth a visit even if you’ve never cared for Elvis.

From there, you can take I-40 straight across to L. A., and it will bring you through Little Rock and Forth Smith, Arkansas (home of the only brothel that’s on the registry of historic places), Oklahoma City (Cowboy Hall of Fame, bombing memorial) and Albuquerque before you make it to Arizona, where I-40 goes through the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, as well as to the Grand Canyon, which others have already mentioned. Then you can either stick with I-40, or detour slightly on US 93 to Hoover Dam and Las Vegas, after which you’ll take the I-15 to L. A.

Whatever route you take, the best thing will be the serenity of having miles of open road ahead of you and a 75 MPH speed limit much of the way. Enjoy!

We’re both absolutely willing to be flexible in pretty much any way possible in order to fit in the most interesting stuff possible. I think either cmkeller’s southern route or the I-90 route sound the most interesting. I suppose the I-80 route through Iowa probably skimps out on the most actual things to see along the way. We have 6 nights, possibly 7 if our hotels are fairly cheap along the way, so I think we’d both like to fit in as much as possible.

I’d recommend going through Wyoming. Yellowstone and the Tetons are just incredible. Be warned if you plan on camping in the Rockies, though, pack warmly, even in the summer. When I came east, my bf-at-the-time and I camped one night in Yellowstone and it was FUCKING FREEZING. There was snow on the ground. In the middle of June! We were totally unprepared for that.

I second the recommendation for Bryce Canyon, in Utah. bf-a-t-t and I had time for either Bryce or Zion and randomly picked Bryce. We weren’t sure what to expect at all, and were blown away by the scenery. I am sure Zion is wonderful too, though.