Help plan a tour around the U.S.A. for my great mom!
September 8, 2007 5:55 PM   Subscribe

One of my mother's dreams is to take a road-trip through all the states that run along the border of the U.S. I could use some suggestions for sight-seeing and other practical advice to help make this dream a reality for my amazing mom!

First, my mom is an extremely intelligent and well-learned librarian. She is fascinated by history, murder mysteries, haunted houses, and artwork. She would probably prefer to visit the less touristy areas of a state and find somewhere with character and charm. Though she still would love to visit the most famous landmarks. The catch is that she can't take a great deal of time off work (maybe 1-2 months?) so she can't really soak in anything. She's happy just touring the country.

Things I could really use are suggestions for:

  • Landmarks, places of interest (1-2 per state)

  • Estimates of time and cost

  • Food styles per state

  • Driving routes

  • Anything else you can think of. What would *you* do on such a trip?

  • I really appreciate any advice you can give. I think it would help her decide to go for it if someone were helping lay the groundwork. Thank you!
    posted by TimeTravelSpeed to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
    This guy is doing it by bicycle, you can sort of see the route he's taking. I've driven cross-country about ten times and also up and down both coasts pretty often. You're talking about half the US, maybe 25-28 states depending how you pick them and what you do in New England, so a list of things to see would be sort of ... long.

    A rough estimate for the trip would really be maybe 15-20 days if you pretty much drove and didn't stop much, maybe double that if you did sightseeing. 10,000 to 12,000 miles which would be 400 gallons of gas at $3/gal is about $1200 for gas. Hotels range from $50-150 a night depending on what her comfort level is. Meals are somewere between $20-80/day depending if she likes to eat at nice places or just wants road food. Are you going with her? These are the things I would suggest.

    1. get AAA and have them make you a triptik. This will be a farily basic route going the whole way but it will be with easy to follow maps. You can tell them if there are special places you want to stop. Even if she decides to go off the map, it's a great starting point. AAA+ is a little mor expensive but offers decent road service if you're in a jam and also "tour guides" with hotel and restaurant info. Maybe not exactly what I'd use, but good for moms and packed with information
    2. If she doesn't have a cell phone, get her a trackphone or something else that she can have with her for safety and staying connected.
    3. Assuming she likes to read, I'd recommend Roadside America [for quirky weird stuff] and Road Food (for good food recommendations). Both are fun and interesting and a good complement to AAA's more straightforward listings.
    4. get her a Road Atlas, a good spiral bound one, also a datebook or a diary that she can take with her to document her trip. If she's techie, give her a laptop and set her up with a flickr account and a blogspot blog so she can share her travels. Give her a stack of postcard stamps and a decent pen and a list of her friends and family's addresses.

    A lot of the stuff you're looking for is going to show up in travel guides and reference books. Without knowing more about your Mom, it's going to be hard to give specific advice, but obviously she should take the lovely coastal roads instead of the interstates (but be prepared for some traffic) and eat at local olaces instead of right-off-the-highway fast food.

    Another thing to consider is weather. Driving across the top of the country in the winter or the bottom of the country in the summer is likely to be less than optimal so give some thought to what the climate is going to be like when she's going to help you plan.
    posted by jessamyn at 6:13 PM on September 8, 2007

    1. Yes, I agree, stay the hell off the Interstates (pardon my French). Doing that one little thing will magnify the experience..

    2. Do NOT skip US 90 through southwest Texas (especially between Del Rio and Marathon). It's what I'd call the last frontier. Remote and bleak. There's a fantastic bridge over the Pecos River near Langtry, and in Marathon there's a fairly nice old-school, upscale hotel/restaurant called Gage Hotel. The desk clerks sucked, but the ambience was great and the restaurant food was just unworldly.

    Anyway I figured I'd mostly give you advice for Southwest Texas since no one on Metafilter will probably have much experience out that way. And of course near Marfa you can investigate the tourist trap stuff with the Marfa lights, though personally I think it's all a bunch of hooey.
    posted by rolypolyman at 6:23 PM on September 8, 2007

    Would she camp? State parks can be amazing, and very cheap. Went from Mississippi to Minnesota on $10/night.
    posted by thebrokedown at 9:56 PM on September 8, 2007

    wow, what an amazing trip! does she want to do both borders or just southern? the canadian border would be really lovely this time of year, and it's always given me a little shiver to cross the mighty mississip'. it might be nice to make a point of crossing it at both the southern delta and at lake itasca, in minnesota.
    posted by thinkingwoman at 11:56 PM on September 8, 2007

    i would definitely *not* skip the inner coasts. the shores of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are awesome. much better than skipping through the middle of those respective states. (besides the fact that those areas are vastly more boring, IMO.) The North and South Shores of Superior, the UP (all those abandoned copper mines north of Houghton-Hancock, especially), and just generally the remnants of a pre-interstate car culture are fascinating, though sometimes desolate.

    is a good stop for those with her interests, though i've never been there myself. there's a book that explains all.

    don't be afraid to stay at little family owned motels. and as someone who's always traveled off-season, i encourage it in others, as well as the allergic avoidance of all interstates.

    have a cooler to store food for healthy breakfasts and lunches, and eat out only at dinner. (with an occasional stop at the in-the-middle-of-nowhere breakfast diner where the local old men go--those are great.)
    posted by RedEmma at 11:28 AM on September 9, 2007

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