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Opinions/suggestions for Chicago > Bay Area route?


amarie1
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Last year I took my maiden voyage in Bessie from Chicago to Oakland via I-80 all the way, and it was pretty successful, thanks in no small part to all the tips and suggestions I got from you all. I went back the same way, and enjoyed it. Both trips were mainly to get from Point A to Point B and little time for sightseeing. Most places I stayed only one night, a few two nights. 

This year I have a bit more time and would like to do a little sightseeing, especially visiting a canyon or two, which I've never seen. I'm leaving mid-April and have about 3 weeks to get to Oakland. 

So what do you all think of this route, my first stab at planning the trip? It's basically Chicago to Santa Fe NM, then up to Antelope Canyon, Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon, then over to southern Calif and up to the Bay area. I'm a bit worried about the long stretches of nothing from the canyons to California. (will I have enough gas and water? what if I break down? etc).  At least on I-80 I was comforted by all the truckers going my way and the number of truck stops ;-).

 

route-1 chi oak 2021.jpg

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You won’t have any trouble with gas on that route, and you’ll be far from alone.  Maybe fill up in Barstow if you need to (though I have no recommendations, I never used to gas up there).  Any place after that will be more expensive until you get to I-5.

I can’t quite tell if you are planning on driving Hwy 58 to Mojave, then the 14 south a bit to the 138 which connects to I-5 just south of Gorman.  If so, then the 58 is now 4 lanes all the way through.  You can get off of the 58 before Mojave and it will meet up with Hwy 14 just south of town.  It’s not far south on the 14 to the 138.  Hwy 138 is a 2 lane road, there’s not much on it (a couple of gas stations were open the last time I was through that way) but it’s also something like only 60 miles.  It’s a well-traveled road - one section was a little rough the end of 2019, I think that’s the last time I’ve driven it.  Hopefully it’s been replaced by now.  The 138 is pretty boring across the north Antelope Valley but nice enough as it gets into the mountains south of Gorman.

Don’t know if it’s changed or not, but traditionally gas was very expensive in Gorman - less than 2 miles further north there’s a Flying J with reasonable gas (at the Frazier Mountain Park Road exit).

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From the map I can't tell exactly what roads you're taking.  It looks like to do your stops you should plan to hit Bryce first (& Zion is nearby) then Page/Antelope Canyon, then Grand Canyon South Rim.  Page & Bryce are in the general vicinity of Grand Canyon North Rim but it doesn't open until May 15.  Also, from Page taking 89 south the east entrance of the South Rim - Hwy 64 west -  may be open which would save you some miles. Just before the intersection of 89 & 64 on the right side of hwy.  is a wonderful place - Cameron Gift Shop.... excellent Navajo tacos (& a huge menu) and high quality gifts - many made by the local tribe.  Keep checking the official national park website to see if they'll open 64 from 89.  It's been closed because of the virus and it also has a lot of Indian reservation land there & they've been closing roads.  Then exit the South Rim via 64 south to I-40. All good roads.

Edited by 2gypsies
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Your route across KS all looks good to me as I have traveled all of those roads more than once over the years. If you are interested in a stop or two in KS, Milford Lake SP has camping and while it has been a few years, we really enjoyed spending time there. A little farther west is Old Abilene Town, which is interesting and would probably take only a few hours to see.  Traveling more to the west, Dodge City has a lot of history and much to see. 

I agree with the others that there is nothing to be concerned about traveling over the desert by the route that you have planned as all of it is major highways with much traffic and plenty of fuel stops. The one thing that I might suggest is that it would not take a major route change to go up to see Yosemite NP while you pass through. 

EDIT: Now that I have looked at your link, I will confirm the previous statements about ample fuel and food stops along the route and that you will never be alone on the highway in the desert. Those are all heavily traveled roads. 

Edited by Kirk W
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I see from your map you'll be visiting both the South and North rims of the Grand Canyon. You'll get entirely different perspectives of the Grand Canyon. The North rim is about 60 miles from Kaibib Utah(movie set for westerns) and relatively undeveloped compared to the South rim. It has primitive camping in the forest very near the rim of the canyon with lots of walking trails to vistas along the rim.

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Well I'm relieved that it won't turn into a Lawrence of Arabia-like trek across the desert, thanks for that!

As I've never seen *any* canyon before I wouldn't know the Grand Canyon south rim from the north rim. I just want to look at it 😉  I'm guessing it'll be crowded if it's even open (thanks for the heads up on that). I would go back and spend a week at one or two during another trip.

For at least one of these canyons I'd like to find some sort of place to park the rig and walk over or take a shuttle (won't have a toad) and do a short hike and explore.  I'll have my doggo with me (staying in the RV) so I couldn't be out all day. Not sure how to work the logistics out with that.

All suggestions of where to stay on that route are so welcome. (thank you Kirk!). Any idea of the temps/weather around this canyon area in early May? Should I plan/dress for cold during the day?

Great suggestions for stopping at close-in canyons, thank you!

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Your map shows you staying on Hwy 58 and then cutting through Bakersfield to get to I-5.  While going through Tehachapi is probably a prettier and shorter route than the one I suggested, you would have a fair amount of city traffic cutting through Bakersfield.  As I recall, there’s a weird jog taking Hwy 58 from Bakersfield to I-5 - I’ve only done it once though.  Plus the interchange of the 58 and 99 has been under construction for years and a friend of mine went through in January and said it’s still a mess.  

So I would recommend going the route I outlined above: in Mojave go south on Hwy 14 to 138 (Ave. D exit) and go west to I-5 just south of Gorman and well before the I-5/Hwy 99 split.  You avoid Bakersfield’s city traffic completely and the two lane road section across Hwy 138 is well traveled, if rather boring until you get close to Gorman.

I’m not good with Google Maps - but you can see the route if you set up directions from Barstow through Gorman to Buttonwillow (it’s where Hwy 58 comes into I-5 from Bakersfield).  The route is further, but it’s not a bad route and a lot less urban traffic.

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Both Bryce and Grand Canyon have shuttles that run all day.  Get on.. go as far as you want .. get off.  If you stay in both parks they are accessible from the campgrounds or a short walk.  At Bryce, the campgrounds don't have electric so staying right outside the park gate is Ruby's RV w/hookups and the shuttle stops there.  At Grand Canyon, Trailer Village has hookups and the shuttle stops there.  At Grand Canyon the Rim Trail allows dogs and it's just about flat.  You can get on it at various places.

https://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm

https://www.nps.gov/brca/index.htm

Study these park websites thoroughly for ideas and any special alerts, closings, road info, etc.

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I have been traveling from the desert to my home near Paso Robles for 30 years. We always take 58 through Tehachapi to 99 North and turn West at 46. Stay on 46 west to I5 north. Yes, there is traffic at 58/99 but you can manage.  No big deal.  If you live in Chicago and have driven in Oakland you're fine.  I avoid both those two cities!!!

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I don't see from your route that you're planning on visiting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, but it's unlikely to be open in mid- to late-April, anyway.  

You can always check the National Park/Monument websites to get information on what's open, what's closed, camping, etc.  For any National Park/Monument, use the URL http://www.nps.gov then add the first four letters of the park's name -- or, if two words in the name, the first two letters of each name.  

Therefore, Grand Canyon's website is http://www.nps.gov/grca

Bryce Canyon:  http://www.nps.gov/brca

Zion:  http://www.nps.gov/zion

Edited by LindaH
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12 hours ago, usbusin said:

I have been traveling from the desert to my home near Paso Robles for 30 years. We always take 58 through Tehachapi to 99 North and turn West at 46. Stay on 46 west to I5 north. Yes, there is traffic at 58/99 but you can manage.  No big deal.  If you live in Chicago and have driven in Oakland you're fine.  I avoid both those two cities!!!

I agree. I have taken this route many times. I lived in San Diego for 35 years and to avoid Los Angeles I would take I-15 up to Victorville, over Hwy 58 thru Tehachapi, to Hwy 99 and cut over Hwy 46 to I-5. There are a few good camp grounds in both Tehachapi and Bakersfield. 

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Weather in April around Bryce Canyon will be cool 60-70, evenings very cool - 40-50's.  Dress in layers.  Bryce is at 7-9,000ft elevation.

If you do Zion, be prepared for the opposite.  Temps 80-90s, lower elevation.

If it is running, sign on for the half day shuttle trip all the way out to Rainbow Point all the way to the end of Bryce Canyon.  Good way to see lots, ranger talk and not nearly as many people.  (it is 9,000 feet elevation there so windy and cool)

 

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