Which way to you want to go, up or down?
September 21, 2006 9:09 AM   Subscribe

As previously discussed, Eattheweak and I will be finding our way from Denton, TX to Olympia, WA. We're trying to nail down the particulars. Help us pick our route and then tell us what to do on it!

We have two paths we keep knocking back and forth. Both routes go across texas, up to Santa Fe (it's where I'm planning to spend my birthday, any suggestions for what to do there?), skirt across Colorado and stop somewhere in southern Utah. Now the first option(warning: yahoo maps link, it could take a while to load) is to go west, straight across Nevada, to California. From there it's north to Olympia. The other option(yahoo maps) is to go north in Utah, through Idaho, over the line in Washington and across to Olympia.

Do these routes seem to work? We plotted them on an atlas and on Yahoo Maps but we're sure there's a lot we're not taking into account.

As we've managed to figure out here are the things to keep in mind:

Route A seems to have less high mountains. Route B leaves less of a chance of being stranded in a desert. Route B would let us visit his brother. I am concerned also of how boring a drive through Utah/Idaho will be. He is concerned about the day we'll drive through Nevada and not see another living soul.

So, hivemind, what to do? I have a 99 V6 Chevy Malibu. It's getting serviced and new tires before we go. We're loading everything in the car, so it will be weighed down, but we won't be pulling anything behind us.

Also: if you've managed to read this far, what the hell do we do for entertainment on the way? Any awesome places we just have to stop off? We're thinking lots of mixtaps and a couple books on tape (so far we have John Hodgeman's book and On the Road). What else do we do?
posted by nadawi to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
Both routes work. They actually don't matter so much, because there is literaly *nofink* between Colorado and California, or Colorado and the Columbia River Gorge. (Well, 'cept for Salt Lake City on that route.) There is *nothing* in Nevada or Southern Utah (AFAI'm Concerned) worth seeing, 'cept some dusty little towns and roadside kitch. Similarly, there is nothing in southern Idaho worth seeing 'cept the Sawtooths, and for that you need a week to explore.

When I moved from Portland, OR to College Station (Whoop! Gig 'em!), I drove from Portland south to San Fran, Los Angeles (both cities so I could stay with family), and then headed out I-10. I had everything I owned in my car, and it was loaded down to the point where I got stopped by the border patrol near el paso so they could see what I was smuggling. This was in the winter, so it was nice and cool at 80 degrees. I wouldn't worry about high mountains; your car is fuel-injected and therefore won't be air-starved. My parents hauled a trailer up and over some of the steeper interstate passes in colorado.

TBH, what I'd do would be to drive up through western Colorado and stop off at places like the Dinosaur National Monument & similar. The continental divide is *fun*, and there's tons of interesting places and towns. Utah is a trip in and of itself, was there for the olympics. I enjoyed Salt Lake.

For entertainment, I had an XM Radio. I was fine by myself. With someone to talk to, you should be golden.
posted by SpecialK at 9:38 AM on September 21, 2006

Woo, someone moving to Olympia. Drop me a line when you get here.

Other than that, one suggestion I'd make is that you should seriously consider approaching Olympia from the south. The speed limit on I-5 is 70 through there, and if you're coming over on I-90 and down I-5 (not sure you are, but the yahoo maps thing is being wonky) you'll have to deal with the hell that is Seattle traffic.
posted by Captain_Tenille at 10:40 AM on September 21, 2006

It's a regular Olympia party in here!

C_T is right on about approaching from the south. Apart from Seattle, the northern route takes you past Tacoma and Ft. Lewis, two places that have recently developed serious traffic-jam issues. As for the rest--don't go through Pullman. The entire eastern half of Washington is occasionally beautiful, but always deadly dull. Go through Utah/Nevada to California, then head north. Besides, Utah has Bryce and Zion, both parks that are worth stopping at. Skip Vegas. Depending upon your schedule, the Pacific Coast Highway could be a worthwhile (but slower) route. And now that most of the summer vacationers are off the roads, it's probably a lot less frustrating to drive it than when I went in June.

Also: If you're going through Grants Pass to I-5, look for a greasy spoon near Roseburg called Heaven On Earth. You don't have to sit down and eat, but you should definitely buy one of the cinnamon rolls the size of your head.

Hope the moving preparations are going well. The rainy season is just kicking off out here, so get that water-repellant gear now!
posted by Vervain at 10:54 AM on September 21, 2006

Take the high road. The desert is bloody boring and hot, but the mountains are cool in both senses of the word.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 10:55 AM on September 21, 2006

Response by poster: The boy and I were thinking that soon after our arrival we'd see if any Oly area mefites wanted to go grab a beer or a burger or something.

The PCH is definately on my list of things I want to see if the time allows and we go that way. I use to live right off of it and man is that a beautiful stretch of road.

Thanks for the advice so far. Keep it coming!
posted by nadawi at 11:18 AM on September 21, 2006

I suggest "the other option," more or less. The landscape of Southern Utah is awsome. If you have time, try to hit a bunch of the national parks and monuments. Bryce, Arches, Zion, Capitol Reef (my favorite for car camping). When you go, I suggest taking at least a couple of hours in each for a leisurely hike and picnic. Don't go too out of your way just to drive in and look at a few view points.

The weather should be quite pleasant at this time of year. Getting into later october though, and there is a decent chance of snow, which is really pretty, but not necessarily as fun.

Salt Lake City is worth a stop too. City Creek Canyon is a nice easy hike and incredibly cool looking if you get up into the top reach. The other canyons are also cool, and the city has some interesting stuff and good food.

Going north, it might be worth a jaunt west to check out the Golden Spike Monument and the Spiral Jetty, more for the sheer middle-of-nowhereness of it as for the attractions themselves.

The first route takes you mostly across a rather featureless part of utah and nevada. The drive up the coast could be cool, though dealing with the traffic through much of California could be a big buzz kill. It would certainly expose you to more urban/suburban areas than the other option.
posted by Good Brain at 12:01 PM on September 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

The drive up the coast of northern CA is great; redwoods are amazing, cool cliffs etc. Salt Lake City and the Bonneville salt flats are great for alien-landscape ness. Vegas is a place you should see once, plus hotels are usually cheap there. You're correct that Nevada is freaky for its emptiness. If you're driving through/near Reno, go slow and obey traffic laws in Lovelock NV.

On the other hand, there is some cool stuff in eastern WA -- eg Grand Coulee Dam, Dry Falls which is really incredible if you're at all moved by geology or epic events. (Although the intervening landscape is indeed dull.) The Columbia Gorge is awesome.

I think you can't lose, here.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:14 PM on September 21, 2006

But, now that I look at where the highways actually go, Grand Coulee and Dry Falls will be farther north than you're going. But a great trip for someday when you're living out there.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:21 PM on September 21, 2006

FYI: The rockies are getting snow already. 0_o... winter weather advisories are up for most of Utah right now. You might want to watch the weather when you're looking at a route.
posted by SpecialK at 5:54 PM on September 21, 2006

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