Travelogue: The Ultimate West Coast Road Trip?

City Hall
All Photos by Randy Stern

I looked east because I had to. Yet, I grew up out west…Reseda, to be exact.

So, why can’t I figure out an epic road trip out west?

I never did a road trip past Sioux Falls, South Dakota. You have. They are indeed epic, considering the crossing over/through the Rocky Mountains. It is a long journey, but it is doable.

But, how? What would a western road trip look like for me? How should I accomplish such a monumental feat?

I went back to Google Maps to plan out such as a western road trip. I took in consideration routes that would help break up the trip based on attractions, people I know, and level of driving challenges – which is really down to the bare minimum.

Given the distances between cities, it could be a task. Am I up for it?

The operating word here is “how.” The “where” part could come pretty easily.

LEG 1 – V&R HEADQUARTERS TO SIOUX FALLS, SD (237 MILES/4 HOURS)
I call this a “staging leg.” This gives me a chance to relax and not worry about pushing myself westward to meet time constraints and such. The most direct route is through Mankato on US Highway 169 to Minnesota Highway 60. Eventually, I will meet up with Interstate 90 into South Dakota. There’s plenty to do in Sioux Falls – nice restaurants and places to stay. All I need is just one night in Sioux Falls. This is just the beginning of something a bit epic…

Sioux Falls Drive

LEG 2 – SIOUX FALLS, SD TO RAPID CITY, SD (346 MILES/4 HOURS, 48 MINUTES)
By crossing through South Dakota, I am attempting to not push myself before I get into the Rockies. This is just a direct shot on Interstate 90 across South Dakota. And, the Rapid City area has plenty to see – from Mount Rushmore to a private car museum in Sturgis. This is another one-nighter of many.

LEG 3 – RAPID CITY, SD TO DENVER, CO (389 MILES/6 HOURS)
This is just touching the tip of the Rockies. The trip involves a mix of US Highway and Interstate, meeting up in Cheyenne, Wyoming. From there, it is Interstate 25 down into the Denver area. I have some friends in the area, plus there’s plenty to check out based on the last time I was there. This could be a one-night stop – don’t worry, Denver, I’ll see you on the flip side.

LEG 4 – DENVER, CO TO SALT LAKE CITY, UT (546 MILES/7 HOURS, 45 MINUTES)
It’s through the Rockies, I go. I have to come back out of Colorado via Interstate 25, taking US Highway 287 to Laramie, Wyoming before hitting Interstate 80 westbound. This will be a test of endurance, not because of the Rockies themselves. It is about distance and patience. This will just be an overnight in Salt Lake City. I have a coast to make.

LEG 5 – SALT LAKE CITY, UT TO BOISE, ID (339 MILES/4 HOURS 45 MINUTES)
It out of Utah via Interstate 84 in Ogden towards the Northwest. I’m still in the mountains, but I have a goal in sight. Boise is not my real goal, but it is an overnight stop. What to see in Boise? A nice comfortable place to sleep…

Portland Streetcar

LEG 6 – BOISE, ID TO PORTLAND, OR (430 MILES/6 HOURS, 30 MINUTES)
One destination that is worth going to! To get there, I take Interstate 84 all the way into Portland. There, I have friends to see and things to do. It is such a wonderful town that I may just take a couple of days there to do everything. This could be a three-nighter out there. I will need that extra time – it would have been a long journey across the Rockies to get there.

LEG 7 – PORTLAND, OR TO MEDFORD, OR (273 MILES/4 HOURS, 30 MINUTES)
Why Medford? More friends down in the Rogue River Valley! I return to Interstate 5 for the first time since 1995. It should be a familiar route mixing the Willamette Valley with some mountain areas. This will be a one-night stay, as I have another big goal to reach…

LEG 8 – MEDFORD, OR TO SAN FRANCISCO, CA (363 MILES/6 HOURS)
Back to the place I called home for nine years! I am not quite sure what to think about that since I have mixed feelings about the Bay Area. I might as well get it over with. It will back on Interstate 5 southward into California, bypassing Sacramento onto Interstate 80 into the Bay Area. I should give myself two nights there with a day to explore my old haunts. I could stay outside The City, take BART or other public transport in and just bless a place I used to love.

LEG 9 – SAN FRANCISCO, CA TO LOS ANGELES, CA (383 MILES/5 HOURS, 45 MINUTES)
This leg will be the most anticipated one of the trip! I’m coming home! This time, I take Interstate 5 through the western part of the San Joaquin Valley and over the Grapevine. I may have to take several days and nights, as I have too many people to catch up and some industry stops to make. The big thing is to find an amenable place to stay since I have my family and friends spread out from Ventura County into South Orange County and up into the Antelope Valley.

Reseda Park

LEG 10 – LOS ANGELES, CA TO PHOENIX, AZ (373 MILES/5 HOURS, 15 MINUTES)
I have never been past San Bernardino on Interstate 10 in my life. This is the leg to do it. It is through the desert – mainly through Palm Springs. I should stop by, but I need to push eastward. In Phoenix, I have a couple of folks I want to see – so this could be a two-night stay. It’s been too long, Phoenix…1996, right? Oh, and sorry San Diego, maybe some other time?

LEG 11 – PHOENIX, AZ TO ALBUQUERQUE, NM (419 MILES/6 HOURS, 15 MINUTES)
It is back to climbing elevations and keeping pace. On this leg, Interstate 40 is my goal. To do so, I have to take Arizona Highway 87 through the forests to get there. Once Interstate 40, it is a direct shot into Albuquerque. This will be a one-night stay.

LEG 12 – ALBUQUERQUE, NM TO DENVER, CO (448 MILES/6 HOURS, 15 MINUTES)
I said I would be back in Denver, right? This run up Interstate 25 through the Rockies should be worth it. It will be grueling, but I can do it. I think I’ll stay a couple of nights to catch up with friends. Also, to make amends to a city that needs a further exploration.

LEG 13 – DENVER, CO TO OMAHA, NE (541 MILES/7 HOURS, 30 MINUTES)
It’s all downhill from here. But, it’s through Nebraska – which I heard was absolutely boring. However, there is a reward at the end of the trek- Omaha. It will be the last “new” city I have yet to visit west of Des Moines. I wonder what I’ll do when I get to Omaha…maybe,. I’ll just sleep.

LEG 14 – OMAHA, NE TO HOME (383 MILES/5 HOURS, 30 MINUTES)
Just east on Interstate 80, turn left in Des Moines onto Interstate 35…and I’m home.

Des Moines Skyline

Are you for the numbers on this one? In total, this road trip will cover 5,470 miles of driving – at least. This could end up taking more than two weeks to accomplish – possibly three. OK, definitely three!

As for a budget, I estimated a cost with gas alone is almost $613.00. I have a feeling this trip would cost me between $5,000-6,000 dollars including food, accommodations, and admissions to attractions I want to see.

In comparison, if I simply flew out to Portland, I would easily spend over $1,100. That is based on a three-night stay, including airfare, accommodations, food, and so forth. A trip out to Denver would be a bit less – if I did it “right.”

So, a West Coast drive seems very ambitious. Any road trip of this magnitude usually is. For those of you who do this – you have my utmost respect. Me? I’ll just fly back to Denver someday and a stay a couple of nights…

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