Plan the best road trip EVER
November 15, 2009 9:53 AM   Subscribe

Help me plan the most epic road trip from Wisconsin to Aspen, Colorado!

Three friends and I have just been given an awesome opportunity. We're going to visit an uncle who lives in Aspen, Colorado. He's invited us to come over the winter holidays and stay at his house and ski, provided we can get there ourselves. We want to leave the day after Christmas and come back on the 3rd of January, giving us 9 days total for the trip. We figure we'll allot two days for travel both ways, which will give us plenty of time to do some sightseeing while getting there.

I know that one stop will be Colorado Springs, because I really want to visit the Air Force Academy there. Otherwise, everything else is open.

With a quick google mapping, this will generally be the route we'll take.

Where can we stop along the way? What cities are worth walking around in? Google puts us through places like Des Moines, Omaha, and Denver. Of these cities, what are some cool things to see or places to eat?
For those of you who've been on long road trips, what should we bring to make the experience easier or more enjoyable?
What should I expect as far as driving conditions in late December through these areas?
What can we see once we're in Aspen? We figure we'll ski most days, but I'm planning on one or two off days where we'll bum around town or drive somewhere nearby. Where do you suggest we go?
Any other fun advice you can give us?

posted by pyrom to Travel & Transportation (3 answers total)
Driving conditions through Western Iowa, Nebraska and Eastern CO during the dead of winter can be pretty harsh. The stretch from Omaha to Aspen - especially once you cross into Colorado/Weird Government Military Testing Land - is almost entirely sans gas, food, people, etc. So plan accordingly. Getting up to Aspen can be even trickier. First and foremost, be careful, and do the dorky thing with bringing blankets, flash lights, etc.

As far as things to see? Well, it's a weird part of the country.

Omaha has gotten pretty hip in recent years, and you can see some pretty good rock music if you hit it at the right time.

Right before you hit Omaha, you could swing through Denison, IA and eat at Iowa's oldest diner, Cronk's (food questionable, but atmosphere unbeatable).

The Farm and Ranch Museum is sort of a Nebraska institution.

I don't think you can tour it anymore, but NORAD is located on Petersen Airforce Base, right outside of CO Springs.

Aspen as a town really sucks. If you're not in the market for a boob job or a $37 sandwich, there isn't much. Red Onion is an institution with good food and drinks. Aspen all around, sorry, is a little meh, IMO.

Anyway, have fun! I'll post more ideas if they come to me.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:35 AM on November 15, 2009

While in Nebraska, stop by the Great Platte River Road Archway, which spans I-80 at Kearney (the best exit is slightly west at MM 272). Nearby is Harold Warp's Pioneer Village, which is alot like Henry Ford Village, but quirkier.
posted by carmicha at 4:41 PM on November 15, 2009

For those of you who've been on long road trips, what should we bring to make the experience easier or more enjoyable?

If you aren't in the 'just drive-drive-drive to get there ASAP' mode and want to sight-see along the way, time is the biggest thing to give yourself. It's high on the list when you might run into inclement weather, too. A good map of each state (and a skilled map-reader on staff) is a good thing to have on-hand, because if you wake up on your first day and the weather looks good and you're not struggling to hit your milemarkers, you can usually find a state highway running parallel to the freeway -- nothing's more fun than going through all the small towns and running into whatever jumps up in your path, and in my experience a day spent driving 60 on side-roads saves you gas money, too. If it's starting to get dark and the snow is coming down harder, you're going to be much happier if you can stop for the night and leave later the next day than to push ahead recklessly because you're worried about being late. But, if the going is good, and you only got 1/3 of the way because you took a 2-hour lunch in some small cafe and stopped at a flea market and found a small county museum that looked cool but turned out to suck, you'll be ready to do the same thing the next day if you aren't worried about driving the whole remaining 2/3 of the trip on day #2. Just consider National Lampoon's Vacation -- a few longer-than-expected stops can really throw off a long road-trip, so afford yourself time so you don't go crazy and shoot John Candy. Go into the trip with the idea that 2 days to Colorado would be great, but 3 days is no big deal.

Sidenote: Remember you're going both ways; maybe plan a second route (maybe I70?) back, so you see different things, or save a notebook and write down things that you missed on the way down because it's too late, but can stop and see on the return route.
posted by AzraelBrown at 4:46 PM on November 15, 2009

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