Goth Panda

Cross-Country Road Trip

Neither Mike nor I had the quintessential cross-country road trip experience as young adults. It is something both of us have always wanted to do, and given that we are also trying to visit all 50 states, it would be a great way to knock some off of the list.

The only problem is that since we both work, it is very hard to find enough time to do it. We originally thought it might have to wait until we retired. But then we realized something. We both work in higher education. Which means we get extra days off around the holidays, and it is very easy to take additional time since things really slow down between the semesters. Add to that the attraction of a baby panda in San Diego (the famous Mr. Wu), and we had both a plan and a goal. So we are planning to make an epic 17-day road trip at the end of December.

I am concerned about the weather. Driving there we will going through the southwest, so I don’t expect any problems, and we will spend a few days driving up the California coast. But for the return trip, we’d like to stop off in Wyoming and South Dakota if there is a chance of doing so without getting stuck in a huge blizzard. I think we are going to monitor the weather while we are in California and make the final route decision based on the forecast. If we can do it, we will go the northern route; otherwise we will go a central route. If all the options are bad, we can always go back the way we came, although we will lose out on states if that happens.

Here’s the rough itinerary. I tried to keep the driving time to 8 or 9 hours max per day.

Thu Dec 19: Philadelphia to Lexington, KY (9.5 hours)
Fri Dec 20: Lexington, KY to Joplin, MO (9.5 hours), with a stop in St. Louis
Sat Dec 21: Joplin, MO to Roswell, NM (10.5 hrs), with a detour into Baxter Springs, KS for the sole purpose of picking up a state if we end up going the northern route
Sun Dec 22: Roswell, NM to Carlsbad, NM (2 hrs.), spending the day at Carlsbad Caverns
Mon Dec 23: Carlsbad, NM to White Sands, NM (3.5 hrs.), spending a few hours in White Sands, and then to Tucson, AZ (4.5 hrs.)
Tue Dec 24: Tucson, NM to San Diego, CA (6 hrs.), after stopping at Saguaro National Park and Mission San Xavier
Wed Dec 25: San Diego Zoo (open on Christmas!)
Thu Dec 26: San Diego, CA to Legoland, Carlsbad, CA (40 min.)
Fri Dec 27: Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Barbara, CA (around 4.5 hrs.), with many stops
Sat Dec 28: Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur, CA (around 4 hrs.), with many stops
Sun Dec 29: Big Sur to Carmel and Monterey, CA, (around 1 hr.), then on to either Sacramento, CA (3 hrs.) for the northern route, or Las Vegas, NV (around 8 hrs.) for the central route

Northern route:
Mon Dec 30: Sacramento, CA to Salt Lake City, UT (9 hrs.)
Tue Dec 31: Salt Lake City, UT to Gillette, WY (8 hrs.)
Wed Jan 1: Gillette, WY to Devil’s Tower (1 hr.) to Mt Rushmore NP (2 hrs.) to Badlands NP (1.5 hrs.) to Sioux Falls, SD (4 hrs.)
Fri Jan 3: Sioux Falls, SD to Joliet IL (9 hrs) through Omaha, NE
Sat Jan 4: Joliet, IL to Pittsburgh, PA (7 hrs.)
Sun Jan 5: Pittsburgh, PA to Philadelphia, PA (5 hrs.)

The central route would be:
Mon Dec 30: Las Vegas, NV to Moab, UT (6.5 hrs), stop at Arches NP
Tue Dec 31: Moab, UT to Denver, CO (5.5 hrs.)
Wed Jan 1: Denver, CO to Lincoln, NE (7 hrs.)
Thu Jan 2: Lincoln, NE to Joliet, IL (7 hrs.)
Fri Jan 3: Joliet, IL to Pittsburgh, PA (7 hrs.)
Sat Jan 4: Pittsburgh, PA to Philadelphia, PA (5 hrs.)

I realize the central route will take us into snow, since the interstate seems to take us right through prime Colorado ski country. However, I figure for that very reason, they will keep it plowed. I am more concerned about getting stuck in a blizzard than I am about snow on the ground.

So the central route would get us (not counting the states we have already been to): West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana. The northern route would add South Dakota. Hmmmm….

Updated on Nov. 10, 2013

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