January 19, 2011 1:49 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I are driving from L.A to New Orleans next week, and are looking for any advice you might have. (best route, food, lodging, speed traps, tourist traps, etc.)

We are moving from northern Ca to N.O, But are first going to spend a little Time in L.A (we have tickets to see assscat!) , the trip L.A I know well enough, but I have never driven I10 and could use some advice.

We are probably just going to stay on 10 the all the way, but if anyone has any ideas for a more interesting route that would be great. We have no hard deadline to get there, so getting there a little slower is not a problem.

Also I any advice for vegetarian eating along the way would be good.

We are thinking of checking out the Salton Sea, and perhaps Carlsbad Cavern. Maybe making a detour to Austin and and spending a little time there (anything interesting happening there in the next few weeks?,) but everything is still quite flexible.
posted by St. Sorryass to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I drove from New Orleans to Los Angeles in mid-December with a friend, and back by myself about two weeks later. My trip was all about getting to my destination, so I cannot recommend any particular tourist destinations, but I did stop at a lot of rest stops along the way.

My only real tip is that if you're driving through west Texas at night, be sure to stop at one of the unlit rest stops. It sounds a little sketchy, but the view of the stars (and near-complete lack of light pollution) makes it totally worthwhile.

Also, be sure to fill up on gas once you get below a quarter tank. I almost puttered out on my way back, and with patchy cell phone reception (AT&T), I would've been out of luck.
posted by mps at 1:57 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

mostly Texas advice for you here.

West Texas has some real gems: Big Bend National Park is beautiful if you're interested in camping for a night or just hiking around for a day. Ft. Davis has a cool observatory, and it's not that far from I-10, so you might as well swing by. Marfa is a charming little artsy town in the area that a lot of people recommend (and you can try to get a glimpse of the famous Marfa lights!).

Austin's great, and fun to visit, but San Antonio is a great tourist town, too, with lots of history, a nice downtown, and a plethora of good Mexican restaurants. I'd recommend checking out both if you have time and stamina.

On the way from San Antonio (or Austin) towards Houston, you can take a trip to Shiner to tour the Spoetzl brewery, home of Shiner Bock beer. Or tour the Blue Bell creameries in Brenham, TX. Houston to the Louisiana border can be rough--it's not very pretty and there's not much to look at. Then in Louisiana things perk up a little, and you can always check out some swamp tours.

I also recommend listening to Lucinda Williams albums (especially Car Wheels on a Gravel Road) as you go through East TX and Louisiana, b/c she name-checks about a thousand towns along I-10, and that's always exciting.
posted by aka burlap at 2:36 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

The coolest part of Carlsbad Caverns is the bats, which you won't see this time of year. Instead: Kartchner Caverns which is awesome. If you're on I10 though Tucson, the Desert Museum (museum/zoo/botanical gardens) is also pretty rockin.'
posted by aint broke at 2:50 PM on January 19, 2011

My family did the reverse trip circa 1995, when I was 14. IIRC, we went via Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada - along as much of the old Route 66 as we could cover (I am pretty sure this is not the most efficient route).

We drove up I-49 to I-20 into Texas via Shreveport (for boring reasons - I think we spent the first night at my uncle's house in Bossier City and the second night at my other uncle's house near Dallas), and from there I'm not sure exactly which route we took west (though I have conflicting memories of both driving through Oklahoma and passing through El Paso, which I don't think could have been the same drive). We may have taken I-40 through New Mexico and Arizona, because I have a strong memory of eating in a diner in Winslow, Arizona (and the necessary standing on the corner and singing the Eagles song), as well as having car trouble outside Flagstaff.

We stopped at the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, and various sights in and near the Navajo reservation. From there we passed through Nevada for a second, then the Mojave, then to Los Angeles.

I think we maybe took I-10 back, though honestly I have no memory of the trip.

If you guys take I-10, I'd definitely recommend a day or so in New Braunfels, TX. Weird quirky fun, vineyards in the hill country near there, and if it'll be hot enough there's also The Schlitterbahn, AKA the trippiest water park ever. I-10 also puts you near Joshua Tree (never been, always wanted to visit). Eat lots of Cajun food as you hit Southwestern Louisiana!

Have fun! This is a dream trip of mine!
posted by Sara C. at 2:56 PM on January 19, 2011

Stout's cider mill is fun, and has great apple pie.
posted by annsunny at 3:15 PM on January 19, 2011

If you're passing through West Texas via Marfa and Fort Davis/the McDonald Observatory then add Prada Marfa to your route (also).
posted by caek at 3:26 PM on January 19, 2011

Welcome to New Orleans! Take a detour around Lafayette/Breaux Bridge/Atchafalaya on your way down here and eat some good cajun food and maybe even take a swamp tour. I haven't been to Blue Moon in Lafayette yet, but from what I understand it's the place to go to. I once stayed in a cabin on the Atchafalaya Basin (Basin Landing), which was fun. And I always though swamp airboat tours were way touristy, but I must admit they're quite fun if you've never done one before.
posted by mostly vowels at 3:32 PM on January 19, 2011

When driving in Texas, stick to the speed limit and don't litter. They take those offenses seriously. And the speed limits are often lower at night, so watch out for that.

When you get to New Orleans, you'll want to post a question about all the places you'll want to eat.
posted by Night_owl at 4:03 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Take the blues trail through the Mississippi Delta. Stop in Clarksdale, "the crossroads," visit the Blues Museum and stop at Red's and the Ground Zero blues clubs. Look for Robert Johnson's burial site. Stop at BB's bar. Eat, drink and listen to the Delta. Great place and people.
posted by mbx at 4:12 PM on January 19, 2011

I made the same trip last summer. Unless things have changed since then, in Arizona there are an incredible number of speed cameras on I-10 and a cop looking for speeders at every single road construction area, so observe the speed limits, and if you see all the other cars suddenly braking it is probably because the locals know you're coming up on a speed camera.

If you need a coffee break in Tucson, AZ, I recommend Revolutionary Grounds. In west Texas, The Cornerstone in Van Horn is another nice coffee shop with nice folks. We were driving without a lot of stops, so I don't have much else to recommend, but White Sands Natl. Monument isn't that far out of your way (outside of Las Cruces, NM). If you like cacti, Joshua Tree Natl. Park and Saguaro Natl. Park are also good options. The I-10 is definitely not the most scenic route across the country, but it's basically the only way to get where you're going fast.
posted by unsub at 4:47 PM on January 19, 2011

Just be really careful about speeding in Texas. I've heard a lot of horror stories about Texas cops giving tickets and not being too nice about it.
posted by radioamy at 5:44 PM on January 19, 2011

The Mississippi Delta is way out of your way. And not even in a "detour off of I-10" kind of sense, but like in an "overshot our destination by several states" way. The Delta is in northern Mississippi and southeastern Arkansas close to the border with Tennessee.

Though it is an amazing place to travel after you get settled in New Orleans - it's my dad's preferred direction of retreat in hurricane season (you will eventually need a Typical Evacuation M.O., yourself, btw).
posted by Sara C. at 5:52 PM on January 19, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice everybody, lots of ideas. My girlfriend is very excited about White Sands, and the Petrified Forest always fascinated me as a kid, my grandfather had a piece of petrified wood that was the most amazing thing in the world.

We are now thinking we will probably take I20 up to Fort Worth, visit a friend and bypass Houston. So if anyone has Fort worth recommendations let me know.

When you get to New Orleans, you'll want to post a question about all the places you'll want to eat.

That is a particularly Interesting question with us, I am a vegetarian, my girlfriend is terribly allergic to bell peppers, and every Cajun dish is some variation of meat stewed in bell peppers. Last time we where there the diet was mostly french fry po-boys from fraidys, and the occasional black bean Po-boy at 13. The plan for New Orleans is to get quite fat.
posted by St. Sorryass at 8:04 PM on January 19, 2011

Head south 20 miles from Quartzite (on the 10 upon just entering Arizona) to take a hike to Palm Canyon in the Kofa Wildlife Refuge. There you can see a few remnant patches of the only native species of palm in Arizona (it's actually the only native species of palm in California, too).

Be sure you know what you're in for with the Salton Sea - it can be creepy if you're not expecting it. There's a bunch of deserted vacation developments from when there was a "seaside" housing boom in the 1950s or so - before the water got stinky. Now it's just a bunch of eerie abandoned properties. There are fish kills due to the high salinity of the water and probably the agricultural chemicals as well - sometimes lots of dead fish on the shorelines. There is good birdwatching there though.

The Heard Museum is a good stop in Phoenix. Phoenix Metro is also the site of Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture school Taliesen West and the Desert Botanical Garden. If it works out with your schedule, "First Fridays" are when small galleries in the downtown area open up for open houses; there are street vendors, performers, and hundreds if not thousands of people milling about in a kind of semi-street fair atmosphere.

If you decide to go up to the 40, you could stop at Sedona (red rocks) or see some cliff dwellings around Flagstaff - my favorites are at Wupatki National Monument and Walnut Canyon.
posted by scrambles at 9:37 PM on January 19, 2011

Oh, and for a fun place to eat in Tucson, there is a Guatemalan restaurant in the University area. A review.

Another fun place is the Pima Air & Space Museum. They have an amazing array of planes, including retired Air Force Ones, b-52 bombers, a Guppy, and the plane graveyard. All the docents are vteerans, and really fascinating to talk to.

White sands is really great. There is no camping, just day admission. Carlsbad Caverns is fun, but it's worth it to do one of the special tours. The main cave is amazing, but the tours take you into live caves. You will need flashlights.
posted by annsunny at 9:54 PM on January 19, 2011

St. Sorryass, you want to make a stop at Green Goddess in the French Quarter.

And, yeah, Cajun cuisine uses bell peppers a lot. But Creole and southern food doesn't, necessarily.

Also, there's tons of great food in New Orleans that isn't even remotely Cajun. I grew up there with heavy doses of Thai, Middle Eastern, and Italian. Nowadays there's amazing Vietnamese food, not to mention all the usual cuisines you'd find in any major city (Chinese, sushi, American, French/German/Continental, locavore, pub grub...).

Do you guys eat seafood? Because that's the real question. It's very, very difficult to be a vegetarian in New Orleans if that doesn't mean pescatarian.
posted by Sara C. at 10:51 PM on January 19, 2011

Response by poster: No seafood for me, only french fries.
posted by St. Sorryass at 11:39 AM on January 20, 2011

I hope you plan to cook at home a lot, because there are going to be very few places you guys can eat out.

But Green Goddess is going to be your favorite!
posted by Sara C. at 12:15 PM on January 20, 2011

FYI, there's a proposed NOLA Metafilter meetup in the works for one of the lower-profile day parades. More details as they develop.
posted by mostly vowels at 7:00 PM on January 20, 2011

« Older Is smart a/c a smart move?   |   Words to Motivate! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.