Tag: "road trip"

Road trip that covers all 50 states

Here’s a short story with a big map.

Randy Olson first used his algorithm to develop a Where’s Waldo search. In the story I link, Olson uses his algorithm to route a road trip that hits all 48 continental United States. In each state you get a national natural landmark, national historic site, national park or national monument. They estimate under 10 days with no stops, 2-3 months with stops.

Cross Country National Park Trip: towing and route advice

Question: Have some time off from work, planning a cross country road trip. 25 years old and not sure when else I would have this kind of opportunity. Plan on hitting a few of the big national parks over a 6 week period (Glacier, Tetons, Rushmore, Yellowstone, Arches, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains, etc.)

I will be towing my friends 17′ travel trailer. It has a weight of 2850 lbs dry, about 3500 gross weight. I have RV/camping experience. Unfortunately my CRV will not tow that (its also brand new not trying to destroy the transmission). I am looking at buying a used suv/truck putting a transmission cooler and brake controller on it (maybe a V8 Explorer) then selling when I get back. I looked into renting but most rental companies do not allow towing and it would be cheaper to buy and then sell a couple months alter than to pay the $45 a day for a car.

Any recommendations on reliable tow vehicles with decent mileage (all things considered)? What advice would you have for towing, and towing long distance. Any other advice regarding the trip route would be greatly appreciated!

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

As always, reader comments are most welcome. I actually got some good towing advice from someone who just went through a similar scenario. Sadly he said there is no good answer currently available.

The first thing that you need to know is that tow ratings are usually given for an empty tow vehicle with a 150-pound driver. The weight of all optional equipment and any other payload (other people, luggage, tool box, etc.) must be subtracted from the tow rating. So that will lower your effective tow rating from the opening number.

Also travel trailers are boxy and have a lot more wind resistance than something like a boat trailer or a even a streamlined snowmobile trailer. And you also want a good margin of reserve over the minimum tow rating to make up for loss of performance at altitude (3% loss of engine power for every 1,000-feet above sea level), to give you some extra margin for passing situations, and to keep you from outright abusing the tow vehicle by overworking it.

Although you can tow with a front wheel drive vehicle, it isn’t the best thing to do because the hitch weight (should be 8 to 13% of the trailer load rating) will be pushing down on the back end of the tow vehicle with takes weight off the front end. So rear wheel drive vehicles with a full frame are the preferred tow vehicles, although really solid unibody models like the Jeep Grand Cherokee can get the job done pretty well, too.

So, you probably need to look at vehicles with at least a 5,000-pound tow rating. That eliminates virtually all the 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder cross overs that are so popular now.

The Chevy Traverse is right there at 5,000-pounds tow rating, but it’s a Chevy and a front-wheel drive one at that. Don’t know how you feel about them but personally I wouldn’t touch one with a ten foot pole. Ditto its butt-ugly GMC cousin. An old style Nissan Pathfinder would work, but they are pretty crude vehicles in some ways and new ones are fast disappearing. The new Pathfinder is only rated to tow 3,500-pounds, which is par for the course for most of the cross overs. Same for the mid-sized Toyotas, and towing reports on the big Nissans and Toyotas (Armada and Sierra) are not very good.

There isn’t anything that will handle your trailer properly that will give you gas mileage like you are accustomed to. But the full sized GM SUVs (Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon) seem to do a little better on gas than most of the others. The Durangos are not as good, although the new ones should be better than the old ones. The ’99 Durango that I had was optimized for towing in winter was bad on gas. On one multi-day, multi-state trip I noted that my buddy’s Tahoe got a mile or two per gallon better than I got despite the fact that his truck was a bit bigger. My ’06 Explorer rear wheel drive V-8 does somewhat better, but this vehicle is no longer available new. Current Explorers are front wheel drive on what is essentially a Taurus chassis.

The Ford Ecoboost twin-turbo does get around the altitude problem, and they get very good gas mileage when running light without a trailer, but suck gas like crazy when towing because they are working hard. And I think the only rear wheel drive choice for this engine is a pickup truck although it might be available in an Excursion.

But a 4-door pickup might be your best solution, if you can live with it. GM, Ford, and Ram all offer diesels now, too, and the mileage with gas engines from all of them is better than it used to be.

Good luck with the towing business. Personally, I’m not sure towing a trailer is the way to go. You get to take your home with you and don’t have to pack/unpack, but you’ll spend on gas and camping fees, and the trailer will be a major pain when you’re navigating the switchbacks (and there will be a lot of them in your trek)

Let’s talk about your route. It’s awesome but here are some ideas:

1) Drive back on a different route – no use seeing the same thing twice. Consider coming through KC, St. Louis across KY and WV, and then up through Shenandoah NP.

2) Buy a National Parks Permit for the year.

3) Check out the Navaho Nation Parks, namely Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley when in Arizona/Utah. Two of my favorite experiences from the trip.

4) After Rushmore go to Devil’s Tower, it’s not too far out of your planned route and it’s cool. Also, Rushmore on July 3rd is Fireworks – totally worth it.

5) Glacier is amazing, and I thought it was worth it to go into Canada to Wateron Lakes park too. Depends on your time. Also, I don’t know when you are going, but make sure the Going to the Sun rd is open. They are usually plowing snow off until late june.

6) If driving across Iowa, and you are a baseball fan – Field of dreams is pretty cool.

7) Invest in a good camera and learn how to use it.

8) When driving across Minnesota on I-90, if you see a sign for a 55 ft tall Jolly Green Giant, get off that exit and see the darn thing. Biggest regret was missing that.

9) The Michell Corn Palace however wasn’t really worth the stop.

10) Looking back I’m upset we didn’t do more of the Utah national parks, so I’m jeaolous of that.

11) I would strongly suggest the Henry Ford Museum and/or Greenfield Village. Very family oriented and a historical gem. Located in Dearborn and it seems you are passing it anayway.

12) Although it’s slightly West of your current route, Death Valley is amazing and may be worth a few extra miles.

On the Road for 17,527 Miles

Here’s a funny one: Would you follow the exact route Jack Kerouac took in On the Road?

I loved On the Road (the book, not the movie), but when I look at these directions I think there is no possible way I would ever follow them. Sure, part of me thinks it would be cool to follow Jack Kerouac’s route across America. But part of me would hate that the road trip lacked the improvisation that made On the Road fun and unpredictable.

Anyway, what about you? Would you use these directions for something?

Car travel in the UK

When my wife and I moved from Korea to America, one of the things we were looking forward to were the road trips. And after driving from Orlando to Boston and few lesser road trips around the South, we have managed to put more than 11,000 miles on our 6-month-old Honda CR-V.

So what if we wanted to do it again? I mean we could move to New Mexico and drive around the Southwestern US, but what if we really did it again – just moved to a new country, bought a car, and started driving? Sure I might need to work a little bit to save up for such an adventure but what would it cost to buy a Honda in the UK. Our CR-V has been good to us on our road trips but we could go more economical too. Car deals from Honda UK seem comparable to those in the US. I’m not sure about taxes and insurance though. I know gas is going to cost more, and I know diesel is more popular in Europe than in the US for passenger cars. The new Honda Civic Diesel sounds like fun. Or stick with what we know and like, the CR-V.

But in exchange for the money you could take some nice, long road trips. I know I have seen tons of self-drive tours in Ireland where you drive yourself from one tourist attraction to the next. I haven’t heard of as many self-drive tours in England, but I know they have lots of bus tours (I went to Canterbury on one) so driving has to make some sense for seeing England.

Just looking at the map, and thinking out loud, here’s one possible drive around the UK.


I don’t think I’ll attempt a summary here. I spent a week in London, but there’s plenty left for me to do, I’m sure.


Long-time readers may remember that I have a friend studying at Oxford. He’s still there and I’m still looking to visit him before he finishes his PhD. Known as the ‘city of the dreaming spires’ – a term first coined by poet Matthew Arnold in reference to the gentle spires and harmonious architecture of the city’s university building, Oxford is most famous for its big university. It’s not bad for literature or movie fans either, with lots of links to both. Candlelit evensong in college chapels reminds me of my time in Westminster Abbey in London. Shakespeare in the park reminds me of my time in NYC. And being a college-town, you know there will be stuff to do.


Bath is a World Heritage Site, developed around its hot spring waters discovered by the Romans over 2,000 years ago. Most people go to see the famous Roman Baths that remain. Thanks to the tourist trade, there are a good number of museums, galleries, gardens and other tourist attractions.


A short drive from Bath, and still not very far from London, we have Bristol, the capital of the South West of England. This historic maritime city has different festivals and events depending on what time of year you’re in town. The most famous are probably the waterfront regattas and the ballooning. There’s shopping at Cabot Circus,fresh food markets in the medieval Old City, restaurants and cafes on the Harbourside and theaters and concert halls. Nearby is Gloucestershire and The Cotswolds.

From there you’d probably want to drive along the coast and visit some nice coastal towns in Wales, but I’ll need to do a bit more research before continuing the particular trip.

Self-drive Australia itineraries – road trip ideas for southern Australia

The South Australia Tourism Commission recently emailed me, suggesting a sunny destination for North Americans to vacation this winter. Living in sunny Florida for the first time (instead of Seoul, which will soon be freezing) I had been too busy applying sun screen, swimming, and drinking fresh orange juice to notice.

But it will be summer in South Australia, and it is a “fantastic destination offering scenic drives from the vines to the sea. Striking coastal views, abundant wildlife and magnificent vineyards are just some of the highlights on a self-drive journey.”

Well I do like road trips, even if the flight to Australia would be fairly brutal for many North Americans. Nevertheless, certainly worth thinking about. This one, for example covers South Australia, specifically Kangaroo Island & Murray River:

Day 1: Adelaide to Kangaroo Island
Day 2: Kangaroo Island (Free Day)
Day 3: Kangaroo Island to Adelaide
Day 4: Adelaide (Free Day)
Day 5: Adelaide to Renmark (Murray River Region)
Day 6: Renmark (Free Day)
Day 7: Renmark to Adelaide

You can click the link above for details like maps and pictures of that particular itinerary. Here’s the list of possible road trip itineraries. Here comes the press release:

South Australia offers unique road trips that appeal to every type of traveler. A 6-day self-drive itinerary is optimal for travelers looking to personalize their adventure and South Australia’s most renowned regions, including the famed Barossa Valley and wildlife haven of Kangaroo Island.

The journey begins in Adelaide, the capital city with a knack for food, wine and historic architecture. Perusing the Central Market—the largest covered fresh produce market in the Southern Hemisphere—and other shopping areas, galleries, museums, street cafes and restaurants offer a taste of the local culture. Day tours to surrounding areas, such as the charming town of Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills, are a great way to soak in lovely scenic drives with plenty to discover on the main streets, including art galleries, artisan craft stores, and its historic cultural influences from the early German settlers of the region.

Travelers will make their way up the lovely vine-lined roads to the Barossa Valley. This leg of the journey will showcase the uncrowded and vibrant landscape. Driving through the Barossa Valley, travelers can see the beautiful, historic wine estates, stop at one of many galleries and indulge in superb Barossa cuisine on the “foodie trails.” Other sightseeing highlights include artisan culinary tastings, hot air balloon rides over the vineyards, a “make your own” wine experience with Penfolds, and bicycling through the rolling hills. Spending the night at the new Kingsford Homestead allows a taste of the region’s best wines and meet the makers or set off to explore this property transformed from historical sheep station into intimate getaway.

For more iconic wildlife encounters, visitors can drive to Kangaroo Island. On the way down from Adelaide, the landscape will transform into lush vegetation bounded by brilliant blue coastline as they make their way down the open roads. Travelers can stop at Aldinga Beach, one of few beaches in Australia that allows cars on the sand and get their feet wet in the sparkling water. At Cape Jervis, passengers and their vehicles will be boarded on the SeaLink ferry to Kangaroo Island.

Upon arrival, the roads lead to a number of journeys including wildlife spotting “in the bush, expeditions to discover the natural landscape wonders, and culinary adventures along the new Farm Gate and Cellar Door Trail. Must-sees include Flinders Chase National Park to visit the Remarkable Rocks natural cliff formations, and discover the unspoiled wildlife along the many walking paths with koalas in the trees, kangaroos in the bush, and exotic birds that soar above. Seal Bay National Park is a unique location to observe the rare sea lions and fur seals.

Self-drive itinerary options can be booked through About Australia and are fully customizable to be combined with Barossa, Kangaroo Island, and other Australian regions. Pricing starts at $1,421.00 per person and is subject to availability. To book, please contact About Australia at 210-299-1077 or visit www.aboutaustralia.com. For more information about South Australia, contact the South Australia Tourism Commission at 323-503-4210 or visit www.southaustralia.com.