Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Boston to California Road Trip

boston to california road trip
Left: Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge, Boston
Photographic Print

Boston to California, are you nuts? Driving from Mass to California will take roughly five days of continuous 8 hour driving per day, but more comfortably, will take about a week. If you live in Massachusetts or California, you're in luck, because you're in the perfect area to drive to via road trip. You'll get to see the best the country has to offer and you can switch up your driving route on the way back to see a whole new set of destinations.

So what will you see along this route?

Starting in Boston, you'll see the Berkshires of Massachusetts along I-90, the upstate part of New York, which is close to the Hudson River Valley, the cities of Buffalo, Rochester, and Niagara Falls, and you'll have the option to either drive through Canada above Lake Ontario or south of it. Go south and you'll drive through the Cleveland, Ohio, and right underneath Michigan into Indiana (be sure to stop at the Indiana Sand Dunes!). This should take two days, or more if you're planning on spending some time in any of the local areas (which you should).

Further west, you'll drive through the city of Chicago and into the heartland. This is where the trip might get a little bit boring. From a few miles outside of Chicago to South Dakota and Nebraska, you'll drive through endless corn fields and farmlands. My suggestion would be to make these long driving days if you can handle it, since there's not much to do around (sorry Nebraska and Iowa) these areas.

After much driving, you'll approach a recognizable crinkle in the earth. The land will start to slope upwards as you head up I-90 towards the Badlands area of the United States. The Badlands is kind of like a dividing line between the grassy, flat farmlands and the wide open, dusty, hilly, yet interesting terrain of the west. Progressively the landscape gets more mountainous as you head further west. Consider it a foreshadowing of the western scenery to come.

Further to the west in South Dakota lies Mount Rushmore, along with the Black Hills region. This area is very close to the Wyoming border, and again the elevation starts to rise up from the flat lands to the east. As you cross over to Wyoming, you'll be near the famous Devil's Tower National Monument. This monument you would recognize from Close Encounter's of the Third Kind. It's slightly off the main path, but worth the drive out. The famous biker rally, Sturgis, is also nearby.

Grand Teton with Barn
Grand Teton with Barn
Art Print

Head west again and you'll find Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. These two parks are amongst the best in the United States, known for their geysers, amazing mountain scenery, bison herds, and spectacular landscape of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. If you're staying in the area, Jackson Hole is a nice town to spend a few days and enjoy the scenery. It's also central to many of the attractions nearby.

You're getting close to California at this point, but you've still got a few more states to pass through. Heading southwest, you'll pass through Utah. This state is a road trip in itself, so you'll have to decide whether you have more time to spend in this incredible state.

Last stop before California: Nevada. Don't let the state fool you, it's one of the biggest in the country and can take a sizable amount of time to travel through. On the north side of the state, you'll find Lake Tahoe and Reno, to the south, Death Valley, Las Vegas, and Great Basin National Park. Like Utah, there's a lot to see in this state, but they are very spread out. Plan accordingly!

Finally, last stop, California. California is an easy vacation, with vineyards, sandy beaches, rocky cliffs, beautiful National Parks, desert cities, Disneyland, Hollywood, the list goes on and on. The best approach to seeing the most in California is to break it down into two mini road trips. Start in the northern section and pinpoint what you'd like to see. Make a circular tour arcing back towards the coast, and travel south. In the southern portion of the state, also take the arc approach. Once you pass below Santa Barbara, you can plan to head southeast towards Palm Springs, then back to the southwest towards San Diego, and back north to Los Angeles. Then, if you have time, you can take the southern road trip route home to see a whole new set of destinations.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Head to Utah and Experience A Drive Like No Other

Utah the Unique
Right: Utah the Unique
Art Print

Utah was made for driving and road trips. It's backcountry like no other, with unparalleled views of canyons, rivers, overlooks, mountains, Bighorn Sheep, winding roads, sandstone arches, hoodoos, eagles, coyotes, archaeology and small towns. A road trip to Utah is also the best way to see the state.

If you're flying in, you're probably going to be headed into Salt Lake City, the largest city in the state. The city is set against the backdrop of some beautiful mountains, nestled into a valley, with dry salt beds and the Great Salt Lake to the west.

Rock Formations on a Landscape, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, USA
Rock Formations on a Landscape, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, USA
Photographic Print

Utah also has some of the best National Parks to choose from in the entire country, like Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce, Zion and Arches. These five National Parks are all located in the southern portion of the state, and can be driven to within just a few hours drive between each destination.

The best time to visit? Spring and fall are less crowded, and less hot. Summer temperatures are nearly unbearable for many visitors, with 100 degree temps a regular occurrence. Visit in Fall for incredible foliage, and spring for gushing rivers and snow capped mountains.

Also nearby, you may want to check out the Grand Circle region, which Utah is a part of.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Plan out your Road Trip Across the USA

Jumbo rocks at Joshua Tree National Park, California, USAIt's warm, you have some vacation time to use up, and the open road begs to be explored. It's the perfect road trip season, and there are millions of destinations awaiting you all across America. Picking places to go is the easy part. So how do you plan all this out?

First, you'll want to map it out. Head over to Google Maps or Mapquest (I prefer Google Maps because their directions seem more accurate and they have a street by street view in many neighborhoods). Punch in all of your destinations and see what makes sense. Click "add destination" after your first search to add more places. When you're done, you'll have a map that pinpoints all of your arrival points, along with the time. I keep the rule of thumb that more than a few hours on the road and you'll get bored, and won't really experience what the area has to offer. If you can, space out your destinations so there's only a few hours at most driving between destinations.

Next, you'll want to visit the How to Plan a Road Trip guide page. This will give you some excellent tips on packing, where to stay (so you can get in and out quickly!), and how to pick destinations. You'll also find out how you can save some cash on the road.

Before you leave on your road trip, you'll also want to go through your own checklist of things to do. Preparing for vacation, especially the long ones, will give you a good peace of mind so you can actually sit back and relax while you're on the road (and have less to do when you get back).

To plan out individual sections of your trip, check out these trip planners below:
Florida road trip
East Coast Road Trip
California Road Trip