Roadtrip from Hammond, Louisianna to Vancouver, BC
April 25, 2014 11:34 AM   Subscribe

I will be in Hammond, Louisiana this October and wanted to make a road trip back to my home in Vancouver Canada. The current plan is to buy a vehicle in Hammond or New Orleans, then drive through Texas and up the coast. I am an artist, so visiting sites like Marfa to see the Chianti Foundation and visiting LA to see the MOCA and the Hammer are priorities. I am asking for advice on art sites and routes with the most interesting or essential things to see. I've visited a few places in the US but this is a big trip for me I may not be able to make again so I'd like to make the most of it. If you are American, assume I know nothing. The obvious for you may not be that obvious to a Canadian. Thanks!
posted by Staples to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A few tidbits for you:

-- October is crawfish season still I think in Louisiana. I am very jealous! You must go to one of those crawfish boil restaurants.

-- Houston has a good art museum, and Johnson Space Center, which is super awesome.

-- The drive from Houston to El Paso (the typical route west across Texas on the 10) takes 12 hours and is only kind of boring.

-- The drive from El Paso to LA (on the 10) is also 12 (extremely boring) hours.
That's the shortest route.

I would honestly consider flying from New Orleans or Houston to LA, and getting your car there. If I recall correctly, it's about 5 hours to drive from New Orleans to Houston. If you're set on driving, you might look into taking the "northern" route across Texas/Arizona/New Mexico (US 40). At least then you have Flagstaff and the Petrified Forest to break up the trip. It's still really long and really boring drive though.

-- People like the new Getty Museum in LA. And the old one is still open; they have different types of art, check it out first on the internet. You need parking reservations at the New one, but I think they're easy to get now.

-- Other stuff in LA you can pretty much figure out from online resources. Don't forget LACMA.

-- If you're going "up the coast" there are really 3 possible routes: Hwy 1, the Coast Highway, is extremely slow but very scenic (like, maybe 10+?? hours from LA to San Francisco). 101 is less slow, a little less scenic. 5 is an inland connector from LA to San Francisco, which is very fast but nothing to see without side trips. Sounds like you want 1 and/or 101 probably.

-- You might want to check out Hearst Castle, which is near Cambria. Reservations are necessary, check online.

-- The town of Santa Barbara is a nice place to stop. Great food, art scene, pretty setting.

-- You MUST drive through Moss Landing (north of Monterey) so that you can stop at Phil's for lunch or dinner. Absolutely the best fish restaurant on the planet.

-- I expect there is a bunch of good art stuff around Monterey/Carmel, but I don't know specifics.

That's as far north as my knowledge goes. You didn't mention an interest in nature, so I left off all the National Park type options -- there are bunch of good ones you could hit with minor detours in your route -- if you're interested, check out Death Valley, Yosemite and Joshua Tree National Parks, especially.
posted by bluesky78987 at 12:26 PM on April 25, 2014

On the home stretch: Cape Blanco, Oregon.
posted by Beardman at 12:54 PM on April 25, 2014

Let's see...

I've done the drive from new Orleans to LA. Texas is loooooong.

Stop by the grand canyon. It's really only 2 hours off of 10.
The world's biggest cross and the spray paint nose down cars are in texas. Bring your own spray paint. Good way to waste a few minutes.

There are a bunch of national parks along 10 (redwood forest, painted desert, some cool park in new mexico). Otherwise it's pretty desolate.

Stop in armarillo at the stake house that makes 72 ounce steaks. Don't Order it though.

There is so much once you head north up the coast but I'm much less familiar. Good luck.
posted by AlexiaSky at 2:57 PM on April 25, 2014

People passing through Seattle generally notice the Seattle Art Museum. Significantly fewer find their way to the Frye Museum. Also, as you're driving north through Tacoma I think it's worth getting off the freeway and making a stop to see the Bridge of Glass.
posted by Nerd of the North at 7:09 PM on April 25, 2014

It's definitely a long drive, and I worry about the idea of buying a car for the trip - you are looking at about 3000 miles one way, which is a lot to ask from a car you don't know. If you do this and you aren't getting a pretty new car, get a gold AAA membership to insure your towing &c as this can be a huge deal.

I don't have any arty things that come to mind, but I'd advise avoiding the interstate where you can - the trip will be slower, but much more pleasant. There's a small graveyard that is probably on your way in northeastern New Mexico that I've found to be tremendously moving (and is right off I40). PM me for details if you are interested.

I find the slowness and tedium of this drive to be a feature, not a fault. The stillness and concentration of of covering long distances by car in a region that is rather free of distractions is good for the mind.

You absolutely need to follow Highway 1 and 101 up the coast, probably to Canon Beach in Oregon (though there are some sites in the Oregon Cascades I'm not familiar with that might be worth cutting east sooner), in any case cutting east to go through Portland and onward. There are some fine things in the Olympic Peninsula (Ruby Beach and the Hoh Rainforest come to mind) but by that time you'll probably be a bit coast fatigued, and the northern reaches of the Oregon and Washington coast are inefficient to traverse and more subtle in their charms than suits their place in the trip. Instead, Mt St Helens won't be far off your path. And if you've the time and inclination near the very end, and if the highway is still open at that point in the year, duck out through the Cascades on Washington route 20, as that's a delightful stretch of desolate highway.
posted by wotsac at 11:42 AM on April 26, 2014

FYI, Houston doesn't have one good art musuem--it has a bunch (I'm guessing bluesky78987 was thinking of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, which admittedly is fantastic). There are 19 museums in the Museum District alone. Also recommended are the Orange Show and the Beer Can House and the Art Car Museum and you can visit the US Presidents' heads at a warehouse district in the city, all as examples of outsider or less mainstream art.

On the way to Houston is a little city called Orange which is right on the border of Louisiana and Texas. Orange has four great art and cultural sites that you might want to visit if you have time. Of the three, you'd probably want to see the Stark Museum of Art (supposed to have some of the best paintings of the West) and perhaps the Shangri-La Gardens.

I'm not sure what route you're taking to get from Texas to Los Angeles (that's a massive, and somewhat empty in parts, area of the country), but if you go through San Diego you should visit Balboa Park. The Timken, the Mingei, the Museum of Natural History, the Reuben H Fleet, and the Air and Space Museum are all a great deal of fun (and that just touches the surface). You'd probably also like the Gaslamp District as base, and there are lots of other great San Diego threads for more details.

bluesky78987 is also correct that there's two Gettys (the Getty Los Angeles and the Getty Malibu, the latter of which is maybe 20-40 minutes drive from the main Getty depending on traffic). Getty Malibu has some of the contested Greek art (which they've repatriated recently) but it also has a fabulous view of the Pacific and is one of the few places to see such art in a less museum-like setting.

Also in LA is LACMA, which I've always liked better than MOCA. LACMA has fantastic modern art and a significant collection of Japanese art. It's also right next door to the La Brea Tar Pits, which are so incredibly unique (bubbling tar pits! You can nearly walk right up to some of them!). Finally, I've never been super impressed with the Hammer (unless you know they'll have an exhibit you want to see) and parking in Westwood is a bitch, so you may want to think about that carefully.

Finally really finally: this is a gigantic trip you're proposing. Just Los Angeles to Vancouver is a gigantic trip (the basis of one of the great American roadtrips, the I-5 from border to border, is nearly what you're describing) and that's before adding in Louisiana to California, which is a gigantically huge trip in itself. There is not much in the way of art (except for small stuff like Marfa) between say, San Antonio and San Diego. I know a bunch of people in Arizona just sat up and howled, but western Texas/New Mexico/Arizona/desert California are all far more renowned for natural scenery than for art. Don't get me wrong, the natural scenery in these areas is tremendous and even life-changing and October is a fabulous time to go you have a solid month, maybe two, to do this trip? Otherwise you will have to rush from state to state and will miss so much of what makes each state unique. The western half of the US is wondrously large and you want to cover 2700 miles (as the crow flies) and seven of the hugest states the US has in one road trip. That's a big bite of food there, friend.
posted by librarylis at 12:55 AM on April 27, 2014

Late to this but I love driving across the country here's some places I would recommend along your route:

(I should say first that there is A LOT between all these places if you look. I alternate between hauling it on the interstates and spending LOTS of time on two lane back country byways. Each state usually has interesting scenic byways that make the drive much more tolerable than just cruising through on the interstate. Not that there's anything wrong with interstate routes - I think a balance between interstates and byways makes the best road trips. Only you can figure out what that balance is).

NOLA: just explore this wonderful place. You'll find good stuff no matter what.

Notice how long the bridge out of NOLA is on I-10 over the bayous. Kind of intensely long.

Breaux Bridge: wonderful old suspension bridge over the bayou to get into town. Lots of places to eat here also have amazing local music.

Lafayette La:
Blue Moon Saloon and Guesthouse. Great place to hear local music, get tips on local roads of interests, get info on local art, food.
St. John's Cathedral Oak lovely 500 year old oak tree.
Get a poor boy at Old Tyme or eat at The French Press.

Lake Charles La: drive around the downtown. Charming, nice old ads painted on the sides of old brick buildings. Some good places to eat.

lots of museums as mentioned above. The Menil, Art Car Museum, the Orange Show, CAM, Funeral Museum (along I=45 out of center of town), Printing Museum, Contemporary Craft, Project Row Houses and Lawndale are my favorites and I'm sure I've left out a few really great places.

Drive by Houston:
Beer Can House
David Adickes president heads outside his studio
Catch an Aurora Picture Show screening if you can.

San Antonio:
McNay Museum. I know there's other great art spots in SA but I don't know them right now. Could be worth finding out. Great salsa here too; eat a meal here.

Many great small towns in Central Texas. Look into it if you're interest go this way.

Consider detouring towards the Texas border off I-10 after San Antonio to Highway 90 towards Uvalde and Del Rio. Interesting border drive that will take you through Marathon, Alpine and then Marfa. I love Marfa - but those towns nearby are all worth a stop (add Ft. Davis too).

Carlsbad, Roswell, White Sands all interesting places in New Mexico. NM is beautiful and there are some great backroads that will be lovely in October.

Cut up to Globe AZ from Tucson (charming town) there's some lovely driving around Globe.
Stop by Joshua Tree NP.

PCH in California.

Look at the general road trip sites for routes and weird stuff:
Atlas Obscura
Roadside America
Road Trip USA
Search scenic byways sights or if you have a Rand McNally map seek out the green dot roads.

And pardon this but I must counter an earlier post: going near Amarillo will take you way off track for Marfa. That's different driving trip. And the Grand Canyon is 2 hours off I-40 not I-10. Much too far from I-10 and really a destination place not something you drive by.

Make the trip your own. Don't let others tell you you missed something because this is your experience not theirs. This part of the country is rich in exploring and you'll never see everything but you will enjoy what you do find. Have a great time.
posted by dog food sugar at 10:53 AM on May 7, 2014

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