If you paid attention to my “Looking Ahead” post at the beginning of the month, you’ll know that my sister and I are planning a pretty big trip for the end of the summer. You could even go so far as to call it “epic.”
Yes, we’re planning a good, old-fashioned, all-American road trip.
Our goal is to start in Ohio, head out to California, and then make it back to the Buckeye State in one piece in roughly 2 weeks.
It’s going to be a lot of miles through dusty deserts, a lot of stops at dive diners, and hopefully a lot of sisterly bonding. We’ve never done a trip like this before, but we’ve half-talked about it for years.
Well, now it’s time.
The General Plan
We’re planning to head out at the very beginning of August, but our exact dates are still very much in flux.
We do, however, have a rough idea of the route we’d like to take, and some of the major sites we’d like to see along the way. For me, this trip is perfect for ticking off a lot of the items in the U.S. sections of my bucket list.
Here’s the rough outline:
Beginning in Youngstown, we’re going to cut diagonally across Ohio, and head down into Kentucky. I’d like to stop in Louisville and take a tour of Churchill Downs to satisfy the pre-teen girl in me who was obsessed with horses and thoroughbred racing for many years.
From there, it will be on to St. Louis, where a tour of the St. Louis Arch at the very least is in order.
We’ll hop on I-44 and begin tracing the route of old Route 66 through the rest of Missouri. I’ve read that the Meramec Caverns near Stanton might also be worth a stop.
Then it’s into Oklahoma, where we’ll probably stop in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. I wouldn’t mind stopping by to see the Oklahoma City bombing memorial while we’re there.
We’ll transfer over to I-40 in Oklahoma City, and continue following in the tire tracks off all those Route 66 road trippers who have come before us.
Continuing on, we’ll get a little taste of Texas, and I want to be sure to stop in Amarillo to check out the Cadillac Graveyard.
Then it’s into New Mexico. I don’t know much about New Mexico at all, except that Albuquerque might be worth visiting as we’re passing through, and that there will probably be a lot of turquoise jewelry at every rest stop and diner.
After New Mexico will come the state I think I’m most looking forward to — Arizona. Keeping to I-40, I know we’ll be missing out on everything in the southern part of the state. But, honestly, it’s the north I’m more concerned with anyway.
The plan is to book it to Flagstaff, with perhaps a brief stop at Petrified Forest National Park on the way. We’ll spend a night in Flagstaff, and then get up early and make our way to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon for the afternoon.
Then we’ll head north around the Canyon and eventually wind up in Page, right on the Arizona/Utah border. I want to take a tour of Antelope Canyon here. My sister wants to see an Indian reservation, and, while I don’t think she’ll find what she’s expecting, Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo lands. If we have time (and the money), we may squeeze in a boat tour on Lake Powell, with a stop at Rainbow Bridge.
Then it’ll be on to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for perhaps a day.
By that time, I imagine we’ll be all canyoned out. So what better way to mix things up than to head to Las Vegas?! We want to stay in a swanky hotel (that has a good deal on rooms, of course), see The Strip lit up and night, and maybe blow 20 bucks at a casino, just to say we did. We’re not opposed to seeing a show, but I think that may be out of our budget.
From Vegas, we’re making a beeline to Los Angeles. If we take I-15, we can probably get a little taste of Mojave National Preserve on the way.
Once in LA, we’re unsure what our plans will be. Sure, we’d like to see all the touristy sites and perhaps catch a taping of Conan or Ellen if we can manage it. But neither of us is really looking forward to driving in crazy LA traffic. So we’ll see.
From LA, it’s the Pacific Coast Highway for us all the way up to San Francisco. In San Fran, we want to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, ride a cable car, see the most crooked street in the world, maybe take a tour of Alcatraz, and find the “Full House” house. And we’ll probably try to pack it all into as few days as possible, so we don’t blow our entire budget here.
From San Francisco, things get a little fuzzy. We’ll probably head east, perhaps cutting through Yosemite National Park on our way back into Nevada.
We’ll hop back on I-70 in Utah, and hopefully make some detours to some of that state’s national parks. I’m leaning toward Arches National Park, at the very least.
Then it’s into Colorado, where we definitely want to make a stop in Denver. I can’t wait to see those Rocky Mountains.
From there, we’re drawing a blank. Obviously we have to get back to Ohio, but our route is completely up in the air. Most likely, we’ll stick to I-70, cutting through Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana on the way home.
But we also could hop on I-76 in Denver, which would eventually meet up with I-80 in Nebraska and take us through Iowa and then northern Illinois. If we took this route, we could make one last major stop in Chicago before heading home.
And yes, I'm going to be that annoying person who tries to pose with every “Welcome to [insert state name here]” sign along the way.
- Learn how to change a tire.
- Get my sister’s car tuned up and checked out.
- Buy a National Parks pass to save on entrance fees.
- Figure out roughly how much time it’ll take to get from Point A to Point B (to C, to D, to E…) each day so we can start thinking about accommodations. In some cases, it will be essential for us to make arrangements ahead of time if we want to have a place to sleep.
Where You Come In
Since I’m a blogger and I have this great community of other travel bloggers at my disposal, I’d be downright silly not to take you all into consideration.
If you live along our tentative route and would like to meet up, show us around your city, or even give us a place to crash for the night, please let me know! If my sister and I are left alone together for two long, neither one of us is likely to make it home unmaimed.
And, if you know of somewhere along our route that is a must-see, please tell me about it! I only have enough attention span to get through one or two guide books before my brain becomes overloaded and my ears begin to smoke. And, with a trip that covers so many states, there are A LOT of guidebooks out there…
Road Trip Challenge
This is a bit of an experiment, but it plays off of you making suggestions for other places my sister and I should go.
Except this is more fun.
I want you to challenge us to do/see/eat things along our route.
They can be simple things, like a great diner you know of that we should eat at, or crazy things, like adventure sports we should try, or odd museums and ridiculous roadside attractions we should visit.
I’ll keep a list of all the suggestions and “challenges,” and eventually create a master list closer to the trip that I’ll post here on my blog. Then my sister and I will try to complete all the “challenges” we can on our road trip, while you follow along!
But, of course, this will only work with YOUR HELP!