Help troubleshoot and enhance my move / road trip from Lawrence, Kansas to Eugene, Oregon.
July 21, 2008 9:27 AM   Subscribe

Help me troubleshoot and enhance my roadtrip / move to Eugene, Oregon. I will soon depart Lawrence, KS for adventures that will eventually leave me in Eugene to begin graduate studies with UO. I'm going to outline the planned itinerary in the hopes that the hive mind can suggest areas to visit at our planned stops, beautiful or interesting routes to take between them, and interesting pit stops to make. Also, warnings of potential trouble spots or situations will be greatly appreciated.

The Participants:

A mated pair of chemical engineers and myself. We all love the outdoors, interesting technology, interesting architecture/engineering (especially anything energy efficient, otherwise green, or enormous), anything that will increase our nerdlore, and any delicious food of almost any variety. We're all in very good shape, although my 270 lb ass will not be running up any mountains.

The Vehicle:

A 2007 Volkswagen Rabbit, so no unimproved roads.


Day 1:

Leave Kansas and pick up two friends at Denver International, thus officially beginning the road trip. Drive to Great Sand Dunes National Park and set up camp. We're thinking about stopping at Garden of the Gods on the way down. I'm kinda torn between driving down on 29 so that we can see Garden of the Gods and driving out on 70 and then down on 24/285 to get some awesome mountain highway action in.

Day 2:

A hurried attempt at acclimation for days 3 to 4. Play around on the Dunes and see other interesting things in the area. So far, besides the Dunes, I know of Zapata falls, although I cannot remember the exact location.

Day 3:

Get up very early, drive to the Mt. Blanca/Ellingwood trailhead, and pack in to Lake Como. Set up camp and enjoy the lake, trees, and canyon walls. I should mention that I've done the Blanca/Ellingwood combo before and that we are all experienced hikers. I'm not enthusiastic about doing this two days after getting to altitude, but this is the portion of the trip I'm most sure of. One question; on my previous trip, we were in Jeeps and easily made it to the beginning of the serious incline before we got out and started hiking. Are there spots on the sandy, car-navigable part of the road where I will be able to pull over and park without going into the bushes and rocks? seems to indicate so, but I want to be sure that I'm not going to have to park within sight of the highway.

Day 4;

Summit Blanca and Ellingwood, head back to the vehicle, and drive off into the midday sun. Head out to Black Canyon of the Gunnison and make camp. For the drive to Gunnison, we're currently set for doing 285 to 114 to 50, but 149 looks really fun and twisty.

Day 5:

See what we can in Gunnison during the early morning, drive to Arches National Park, see what we can in a few hours, and drive to Great Basin National Park to camp for the night. This is a very rushed portion of the trip, but we want to have several days in SanFran later on and are constrained by plane tickets.

Day 6:

Drive from Great Basin to Grass Valley, CA, where we will apparently be hanging out at some awesome bathing holes near some awesome waterfalls.

Day 7:

Drive from Grass Valley to San Francisco and crash with friends. We will be staying at an apartment in what my friend calls the McBaker Heights neighborhood, although I'm not sure whether that name is colloquial. The intersection of Baker and Golden Gate gives you a general area. My understanding is that the area requires some sort of special neighborhood permit and has no off-street parking, so I need to figure out a safe arrangement for parking my car. Non-exorbitant garage parking would probably be fine. We'll reach SF on a Saturday afternoon, so I'm hoping to avoid doomtraffic.

Days 8 – 9:

San Francisco! Oh, what shall we see?!? Our friends in the city have plans already, but suggestions would be great. Bonus points for godlike sushi and any other kind of interesting ethnic food.

Day 10:

Drive up the coast to Redwood National Park. We're not sure about the route yet, although we would love some awesome coastal highway action. We also aren't sure of what portion of the massive park to camp in.

Day 11:

Drive to Crater Lake, check it out, drive to Eugene and crash at the co-op I'll be living in. Any suggestions for awesome places to eat dinner or night scenes to check out?

Day 12:

Get the other two to Portland for a 10 am flight.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would choose mountain highway/Rocky Mountain National Park over Garden of Gods. Garden of Gods is for people who haven't been to Arches National Park. Since you are already going to Arches it's no point visiting GoGs.

Have you considered Zion National Park in Utah? It's also a nice place to visit.

This is a question that I posted sometime back and it might have some useful answers for you too.
posted by WizKid at 9:52 AM on July 21, 2008

Yeah, GotG isn't taht great if you're gonna go to Arches.

You don't mention when, exactly, you're doing this. Fall color is somethign to consider.

In Monrose, there's a bakery on the SW corner, I believe, of one of the intersectiosn of the main drag. Very good.

If your plans changed and you were to head down toward Monument valley, stay in the Mexican Hat Inn.

In Moab, pick up a six of Polygamy Porter, at any gas station (the Maverick at teh north end of town has the best beer selection of the stations in town).
posted by notsnot at 10:13 AM on July 21, 2008

Day 5: It is a long drive up to the high altitude campground at Great Basin, but well worth it. The views are outstanding and the green alpine meadow is such a surprise when you get there.
posted by LarryC at 10:38 AM on July 21, 2008

Day 10:
Go along the coast to get to the Redwoods. I personally like seeing the redwoods in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. When you get there, don't forget to visit Stout Grove, which is where they shot the Endor scenes in Star Wars (I don't know if you care about that, but it's an interesting piece of trivia). The trees in Stout Grove are immense.

In going to Crater Lake, you should continue along the highway (Highway 199) through the redwoods, and on through the Smith River Canyon. The Smith River is a gorgeous river that winds it's way right next to the highway. There are places you can stop and admire the river.

Possibly Day 11:
If you do go along Highway 199, this will eventually lead you to Cave Junction. The one remarkable thing in Cave Junction are the Oregon Caves, which are (I think) the only significant caves in Oregon.
posted by Axle at 11:00 AM on July 21, 2008

Regarding parking stickers in San Francisco: You don't need one for parking on the weekends. It's a M-F thing.
posted by rtha at 11:27 AM on July 21, 2008

It would help to know what time your friends arrive at DIA. Regardless, RE: Day 1, leave Lawrence at dark-thirty. You're looking at a 12+ hour drive -- not including time to get to/from the airport and time spent there -- from Lawrence to the Great Sand Dunes if you take I-29 out of Denver, 13+ if you take 285. (Traffic in Denver will slow you down, accept it.) (Personally, I'd take I-29 and stop in Colorado Springs overnight and head out for the dunes early the next morning, but I'm very biased in favor of Colorado Springs.)
posted by cog_nate at 11:33 AM on July 21, 2008

Response by poster: cog_nate: they come in waves at 9 AM and 4 PM. In between arrivals we'll do food shopping for the flyers. I will probably be handing over driving duties as soon as the first person arrives. So, uh, what's in Colorado Springs?
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 11:45 AM on July 21, 2008

I made some Colorado Springs food/beer/recreation recommendations last year, here and here.

You're clearly after more outdoorsy stuff. Just off the top of my head (and in addition to Garden of the Gods) there's Helen Hunt Falls, Waldo Canyon, and Barr Trail (but probably not the cog incline, as it's really not all that fun) for hiking. If you take Barr Trail, you can camp at Barr Camp, which is about halfway up Pike's Peak. Then, the next morning, you can hoof it back down and eat breakfast at Adam's Mountain cafe. The huevos rancheros are completely kickass.
posted by cog_nate at 12:13 PM on July 21, 2008

Here's the Barr Camp website.
posted by cog_nate at 12:16 PM on July 21, 2008

As resident of Eugene and former resident of Lawrence, welcome.
Which co-op are you joining?

For Day 10, my personal favorite campground in the redwoods is actually in the state park, not the national. I camp in Elk Prairie, Prairie Creek SP.

If you are driving up I-5 from Crater Lake, start your tradition now, and stop at Peggy's in Rice Hill for some ice cream. However, depending on if you are just plain sick of driving or not, I'd recommend taking the north exit from crater lake then jumping on 58 to Eugene. It's not super scenic, but it's not an Interstate either.

2 other notes, if you like BBQ, stock up while you're in KS. It's hard to come by out here.
Also, it's "the UO" not "UO". heh.
posted by madajb at 1:07 PM on July 21, 2008

San Francisco tips:

IMPORTANT: Leave NOTHING in your car in view, ever for a little bit. You will get your window smashed and loose all of your stuff. This is likely true in any big city, but I see so many bands and visitors come into town and then loose all of the stuff stuff the first day. This is especially true in the Mission, SOMA and downtown.

Walk the Golden Gate bridge, it's so amazing sunny or foggy. Worth the trip alone.

Out near Ocean Beach there are short tunnels near the old Sutro Baths.

It's been really foggy lately in SF (50s and fog/drizzle), so bring warm clothes. Layers are important.

Twin Peaks is amazing during the day AND at night. You can drive up to the top.


I had the worst pizza of my life in Eugene. Tread carefully.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 1:12 PM on July 21, 2008

SFO: you would love the Exploratorium.
posted by neuron at 2:52 PM on July 21, 2008

Between SF and Redwoods - take the PCH, Highway 1 to Leggett then 101 North. It will take you about 8.5 hours to get from SF to Crescent City.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is not far from there, but unless you leave close to sunrise, setting up camp is going to be a dark affair. Camp at either Jedediah Smith Redwoods or at Elk Prairie Campground. Make reservations for the campsite.
posted by kirstk at 4:18 PM on July 21, 2008

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