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I'm from England and have never been to the Americas. This is a situation I've decided to rectify this summer. I'm taking the whole of August off and plan to drive from New York to either San Francisco or Los Angeles. At the moment I'm leaning towards San Francisco.
My route has to pass through Chicago and Las Vegas because a mate is joining me from London for that part of the journey.
I'm posting this to ask for advice from all you American Archinecters (and those others who've done this kind of thing).
If you were planning to drive across the US (via Chicago) where would YOU go?
What would you want to see, architectural or otherwise?
Would you take a detour to Cincinnati just to see some Zaha?
Is Falling Water house worth booking 2 weeks in advance for a tour?
Would you finish in LA or San Fran?
I'm doing this on a tight budget so will be looking to save $$ wherever possible (A friend did a similar trip in 1999 and ended up sleeping in his car in Walmart parking lots most nights). Any tips for cheap travel?
All commentary/advice/tips gratefully accepted, people!
is a great resource for planning and mapping what (non-architecture) to see.
Definately visit Falling Water & Columbus Indiana. No comment on Zaha...
From Vegas - go to SF via Death Valley & Yosemite (with a stop in Manzanar). Then drive down the 101/pacific coast highway to LA.
Are you buying a car or renting??? More road maps here.
I grew up in LA and lived in Chicago, I now live in New York. So I've done the drive in chunks but never all at once.
I would advise to drive a hybrid first off, as gas prices are sure to keep going up.
As far as route and possible pit stops, Cinci and Fallingwater are a worth while idea since they aren't that far out of the way plus driving through those Pennsylvania forests in Fall would be worth it. You should check on the status of Fallingwater. When I went it was under repairs and not in its full glory. However, it is great to see first hand architectural landmarks so you can know about it and not just have seen a pic or heard what it was like. Otherwise you'd never now how cramped it feels inside with the low ceilings and in turn how much more grand it is when you head out to the balcony and everything opens up...etc.
I never stopped in Cincinatti but it would be quite doable. My two cents are to check out New York of course and then.....
First day from New York to Pennsylvania. See fallingwater and camp out.
Day two you can get yourself to Cinci and sight-see a bit before continuing to Chicago. You should stop before you get to Chicago to camp out in Indiana. Yeah I know, it's Indiana but you might be surprised.
I'll post more as to where to go in Chicago and where to continue with your trip. Overall, I think it would be a sweet trip and your best bet not only to save money but to really have a memorable trip would be to camp outside as much as you can. I remember never knowing there were so many stars in the sky when I camped out in New Mexico while driving to Tijuana from Chicago.
More to come...
I don't know how you intend on breaking up your month. Do you plan on staying for a couple of days in any cities in particular? New York, Chicago, Vegas, San Fran or LA?
You should map out how long you want to stay at different points to know how much time you have to get from point A to B and what you may be able to check out along the way. It takes three days to drive from coast to coast. But you have a month to spread it out.Here is some inspiration to get you started.
I just completed the same trip in reverse. Cincinnatti is a must. Make sure you make it to the University to see the Hargreaves master planned campus as well as buildings by Morphosis, Tschumi, and Graves. As you move west don't miss the stream of National Parks in the southern portions of Colorado and Utah. Mesa Verde, Capitol Reef, Bryce, Zion, and Grand Canyon moving east to west. These would all be easily accessible as you approach vegas.
It will not be hard for you to use the entire month to drive it. We made it in 3 weeks and felt as thought I was always in a hurry. It cost us over $800 in gas alone so the Walmart parking lot idea sounds great. Even camping gets expensive at right around $18/night.
I hope you really like your friend :)
Remember that you have California waiting for you at the end of your trip, so leave yourself several days to explore the west. I absolutely recommend visiting both SF and LA and taking highway 1 between them. It's a slow winding road, but so worth it. In SF you can see the new Herzog & de Meuron museum and the new gov't building by Morphosis. Also visit the Cal Trans bldg in LA by Morphosis.
Make sure your air conditioning works!
It's hot out there.
p.s. one of the best investments I made pre-road tripping was to buy an "i go" charger from Radio Shak. You can buy different attachments for all of your stuff...cell phone, laptop, digital camera, ipod. If you're camping you'll be desperate for electricity and your car has plenty.
It's going to be wonderful. I just finished the same trip and I'm ready for more.
good to know:
make sure your air conditioning is working.
if you'll bring a laptop, you can get internet in the parking lot of any motel as they don't have secure networks (at least not in small towns)
when you drive through Kansas make sure you fill the tank whenever you have a chance because there really aren't many gas stations on the way (there is NOTHING for miles)
falling water is in visitable (I went there 2 months ago) and even if you can't book for the inside tour you can still visit the outside
on your way to Chicago, you could stop by the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit for the only surviving prototype of the Dymaxion house and other design stuff. lots of cars if you're into that, or you can also visit the village museum in the same complex.
You don't need to book a reservation at Fallingwater if you are by yourself. I've been there 3-4 times and just jumped in with another tour. A good camp site 1/2 mile away from Fallingwater is Scarlet Knob, camp site with car and fire ring $16/ night. Make sure you buy a combo pass to see Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob (another FLW home about 3 miles away).
Lots of good advice in this previous discussion about road tripping across the USA.
Anonymous that video rocks and makes me seriously lust for the open road again - I love a road trip. God I love a road trip!
I've done Oregon -Michigan six times and went a different route each time. Get a really good atlas that shows lots of little back roads and try to avoid the interstates as much as possible.
If you stop outside Detroit per ckl's suggestion, a visit to Cranbrook campus would be a good choice: Eliel Saarinen's original campus plus recent additions by Dan Hoffman, Peter Rose, Steven Holl, and Williams Tsien.
Fallingwater is probably worth it, honestly, though I've never been myself, it IS the most recognized home in the world so it would be good to get first hand exposure to it.
Carhenge in Nebraska is funny as a piece of Americana - and getting to it takes you across some empty, proverbial wide-open spaces that are so beautiful in their desolation. Also, maybe a trip to Marfa, texas to see theDonald Judd work?
Definitely see the Grand Canyon, from the north rim if possible. Definitely have air conditioning in your car!
I'm so jealous - have a great time!
Brilliant. I'm already glad I posted this! Thanks for the responses so far. I'll try to answer them in order.
I have RoadtripUSA. Great book. Takes a bit to get used to the format but I now find it brilliant to use while sitting down with a big map of the continent.
I'm not sure about Zaha either. I've seen so many photos and drawings of her work and I'm not really convinced by it all. However, I've heard that the museum in Cincinnati is a really great building. I've never seen one of her buildings in person so I think I really should go take a look.
I thought about renting a car, but using a conventional rental firm would be prohibitively expensive. I know very little about engines and stuff like that so am wary of buying a car. Does anyone have any alternatives to suggest? I've tried to enquire about the cost of "Rent A Wreck", but they haven't got back to me yet.
Thanks for the LV - SF parks tips. I hope I'm not all parked-out by the time I've gone through Colorado and Utah!
I'll drive a hybid if I can get one, but that's mainly because I feel so guilty about this kind of gas-guzzling holiday. The petrol (gas) prices don't worry me so much, coming from a country where it costs Â£1/litre (roughly $7/gallon). Then again, American cars are massive, so maybe I need to adjust my expectations (on US car rental websites there are cars listed as "compact" that would be considered a spacious family car in Europe!).
I had thought about camping out but I don't have any equipment and haven't camped in years. Maybe I should look into it more. Maybe I could get cheaper equipment in the US.
My rough breakdown for the trip is as follows:
Days 01-04 New York
Days 05-09 Solo between NYC & Chicago
Days 10-12 Chicago (meeting a mate who's flying from London)
Days 13-19 Between Chicago & LV (maybe via St Louis, the scenic routes south of Denver then plenty of national parks)
Days 20-22 Las Vegas (my companion is a lawyer & wants to throw money around before he goes home)
Days 23-25 Solo between LV and SF via the parks suggested above
Days 26-29 San Francisco and then fly home
That's all just a first idea, though.
Thanks for the detailed advice, Anon. Keep it coming!
What route did you take? How was it?
Thanks for the Cincinnati tips. I'll definitely take a look.
I'm already planning to take a look at some of those parks. D'you think it's worth trying to do them all or just concentrating on a couple?
Yes, I do really like my friend. We've been mates since we were 10 and lived together for 2 years. If I can tolerate anyone, it'll be him!
What route did you take? How was it?
Good point about California. Then again, I guess that I'll hope to come back there at some point later in life (same with NYC). This could be my only chance to see the bits that're harded to get to.
I had thought of trying to do LA and SF but I reckon it might make me even more rushed. However, my current addiction to Entourage (I've been honoured with the role of E amongst a group of mates!) may mean that I have to see me some LA. AS for SF: the deYoung was already top of my list. Damn, that's a great-looking building.
an iGo sounds like a good idea. About as essential as an iTrip, I suspect.
All great points. Thanks!
I think I'll be bringing a laptop if possible. Apparently there're a lot less internet cafes in the US than Europe. I'll be taking loads of photos and only have about 5Gb of memory cards so will need a way to upload regularly. A laptop is probably my best bet, I reckon.
No petrol in Kansas, eh? I'll remember that.
That's EXACTLY the kind of insided info I was looking for. Brilliant.
It's 2am in London now so I'd better get to bed. Thanks for the tips, everyone. Keep 'em coming.
don't do the Rent a Wreck thing - I'm not sure it'll be less expensive
I haven't seen Grand Canyon which could be crowded but I was really impressed with Canyonlands National park (if you take I-70, it's near Moab). You can camp in Moab or around - even next to Colorado river. Lots of german tourists in Utah!
if you're weary of too much camping, a motel from time to time next to a little town you never heard of before is not that expensive. stick with a chain motel if you don't like surprises.
once in Nevada, you can take I-50 - the loneliest road in America.
really smooth, well maintained. nice landscape
then in California, you can go down on the coast on highway 1 and camp at Big Sur. kind of a hard drive, because it's winding and beautiful, but I-5 is full of trucks. 101 is ok, but not as nice
I took a southern route coming out of CA towards vegas but did not go. Instead stayed north of there near Lake Mead at a place called Valley of Fire (very cool and Nevada State Parks are in great shape due to the gaming tax coming out of vegas. Then east through the parks I mentioned (I skipped Grand Canyon actually). I would say Mesa Verde is a must. Aside from that Bryce was my favorite. From Mesa Verde down to Albequerque, New Mexico. Then straight east thru NM, the Pan handle of texas (Cadillac Ranch was done by Ant Farm and is just outside Amarillo, TX), and Oklahoma (OK City has a great new memorial). Then down into the South to New Orleans. After New Orleans I came back up towards NYC through Memphis (Graceland - Liberty, I think Elvis might be 'Tak'n Care of Business' better than FLW when it comes to notorious homes :), Nashville, Louisville, Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland...I enjoyed the route quite a bit actually. Wish I had more time. As far as camping goes, you don't need to be an expert. A cheap tent and a sleeping back will save you a lot of money. And if you stick to state parks they are pretty user friendly and safe. Best of luck!
Okay, so now I'm getting excited for this. I think you should try to get a little extra California (CA). Camping at Big Sur is a must. From Vegas you should drive through Death Valley and go to Yosemite (great hiking and camping) then you should go west (and slightly south) to Big Sur and camp. It's on the coastal cliffs and one of the most impressive landscapes you'll ever see. Then you can drive north through some interesting industrial and former military lands to San Francisco. It's worth it, and Big Sur is not very far from SF (+/-2 hours) so you'll still have plenty of time in the city for architecture, museums, bars, and music.
You would be surprised to know that I live in NY. I'm just very fond of the west coast.
Don't be afraid of camping. The only gear I had for my road trip was a small tent ($25) an air mattress ($20) a battery pump ($12) and a sleeping bag (hand-me-down). I had a couple of candles some cigarettes and daily sack of grub and was perfectly content.
p.s. you can buy my car. it's for sale :)
zaha's cincinnati project is definitely worth seeing. and the university cincinnati campus, too: lots to check out.
columbus indiana was mentioned above: a good architectural theme park - really some very beautiful projects there. strange urban conditions when all the star buildings start grouping together without much regard for each other....
new harmony indiana has meier's atheneum and the historic early town - a planned 'utopia'. but most interesting and surprising is phillip johnson's roofless church. see it in the morning when the fog along the wabash river hasn't yet lifted.
fallingwater was all that i expected. i think the site for the flight 93 memorial is not too terribly far away?
you ought to be able to work in a few of the beautiful sullivan banks along the way, as you travel through the midwest.
st louis has the saarinen arch, of course. and the recent buildings by ando and allied/cloepfil.
columbus ohio: eisenman's convention center and the wexner center.
cleveland ohio: gehry's case western bldg, the rock-n-roll museum, and the wonderful neighborhood known as 'the flats'.
and then louisville, where i am, doesn't suck. we've got our mies, our graves, our johnson/burgee, our som, some stern, a little chu/gooding, a touch of deborah berke, and lots of other things which you may not know but would find interesting - all wrapped up in a parks system designed by olmsted and recently complemented with a new hargreaves park.
ditto everything that everyone said above. regarding cars, you probably won't be able to rent a hybrid, I don't know of any major car companies that rent them. my suggestion is to go for Alamo or National, they let you choose your car. I'd suggest anything japanese, they will be your best bet for gas milage.
if you do stop in Cincy, please let me know and I will give you a tour, as I am apparently "Ms. Cincinnati", as dubbed by a panel of my peers.
i am drunk right now and will post more when I come up with something original.
Ms. K is indeed "Ms. Cincinnati" and gives an amazing and fun tour of the new projects at U Cincy. And I second Steven, the Zaha building is really worth seeing in person.
Sadly, I'm only drunk from Prismacolor marker fumes tonight - presentation tomorrow.
Do not come to 'Merica and miss out on some of the real treasures. Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, Yosemite, Glacier National Park, Mt. St. Helens, Olympic National Park. Bricks and steel are cool, but this stuff is timeless. I'm no nature hippy (I hate camping), but I was showing pictures to my coworker the other day and realized that is stuff that will take your breath away. Waking up to the see bison roaming around is pretty damn cool.
If you are headed from NYC (and possibly visiting Fallingwater) to Cincy, you will most likely drive right through Columbus, OH. In addition to the Eisenman works listed above (Wexner Ctr. & Convention Ctr.), make sure you check out Scogin & Elam's Knowlton Hall (Knowlton School of Architecture's home) as well as Antoine Predock's RPAC (athletic & recreation facility), both on Ohio State University's campus.
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
to shining sea!
that was...ahem...lovely, hasselhoff. homesick or something?
Aww, Hassel...that was wonderful. Gives me chills in a way that those damnable rah-rah-USA country songs never do. We miss you, too.
Nah, bored at work. Plus, there is really just some great "only in America" stuff that shouldn't be over looked for a Zaha or some building that you can't go in anyway. A lot of buildings are better in magazines because you can never get into the cool spaces, but the stuff in my photo montage is never done justice by film. We've got some kickass stuff that no one else has. I think most Americans don't appreciate it and never visit or see it.
(Also glad to see your truly liberty bell made the montage.)
Yeah I was gonna say the same thing--buildings are great and all but the richest part of my cross-country experience was DEFINITELY just the scenery itself. This land is amazing and empty and everything you every thought it would be. Beautiful and ugly and inspiring in both.
So, I say: Fallingwater, yes, without doubt. Partly because the house is amazing and changed my opinion of FLW but also because the forest it is in is beautiful, too. (There is excellent camping all around, and a beautiful river called the Yough that you can take a good rafting trip on if you want some wilderness for a day.) (Also caves to explore.)
As for general route tips: Rather than try to see one little building here and there, I would focus on absorbing a couple days per big city, then on enjoying the drive itself and seeing the land (which it sounds like you are doing.)
For your route: DON'T MISS the Grand Tetons--whatever the scenic routes south of Denver are, they are probably nothing compared to seeing Denver and Boulder and then crossing the Rockies from Boulder to the West. Trust me on this. You can't miss it. Plus Boulder is a great litttle town. I personally do not feel the Grand Canyon is worth it; it will be packed and with the heat haze in August you won't be able to see very far and you won't get any kind of concept of how big it is. Trust me. Also, it is pretty far out of anyone's way and costs $20 just to get in (plus a day's detour). Plus, in August it will be PACKED with crying, hot youngsters and their obnoxious, cajoling parents and you won't be able to soak in the view for all the noise around you. ...as you can tell I went in the summer and was highly disappointed. I wish so bad in retrospect that instead of detouring for the Grand Canyon, I had detoured for King's Canyon or Bryce National Park in Utah--those are supposed to be beautiful desert views (one of those is where those rock arches are that you see in a lot of pics).
Otherwise, I second the highway 1 drive from LA to SF. If you have time to go a bit further up it from SF you will go through the redwoods and see the Big Sur area of the coast which is stunning. Also, Yosemite is worth a detour, for sure. Beautiful, beautiful park.
Also, Kansas was my favorite state to drive across, and Missouri was by far my least favorite state to drive across.
Kansas has no billboards at all (thanks to beautification laws)--just miles of rolling picturesque farmland, just like you always imagined. Flatter than a pancake, as someone once scientficially tested. You can see for miles. Missouri on the other hand appears to be rolling miles of scabby strip-mall suburbs and billboard after billboard after billboard, which seem to alternately feature God and Adult Video Stores. Yeesh.
Wow. So many replies full of so much good info that I can't quite keep up with them. Thanks, all.
The one reply I will make is to the various comments about taking in natural and man-made sights, landscape vs architecture.
I definitely want to see a fair amount of both. As the Hoffmeister says, natural landscapes can't really be expressed by movies or photographs. Then again, I'd say the same is true of good/great architecture. The finely structured, perfectly positioned photos in magazines are just not the same as experiencing the building as a whole (especially if you can get in there and look around). This being an architecture site, my questions naturally veered towards asking for opinions of which buildings/cities/places to see, although all the advice about different parks is excellent too (I'm loving the sound of Bryce Canyon, getting wary about the Grand Canyon).
I'm trying to structure my journey so I get a good mix of seeing big geography and famous architecture, but I'm also really interested in all the bits in between. That means the small towns, the motels, the urban sprawl, the forest roads, the open desert, the 2-lane routes through the Rockies (apparently I-550 is amazing, so that's why I might skip Denver).
One of the things I'm really interested in is that there's so much geographical variation (altutude, landscape, climate) within one country. It'll be interesting to see the variations in living styles/conditions and how different elements of US culture(s) are prominent in different areas of it's landscape. That's the way I see it anyway. I'm looking forward to seeing the variation, but also the lack of it. I'm interested in the beauty, but also the ugliness.
Hoffmeister (as your namesake is known over here), thank you very much for your inspirational photographs. Marvellous.
As for camping... I'm coming round to the idea. I will look into buying a tent over here, but it may be cheaper in the States. Who votes I should go a-camping? All in favour say "aye" and please give any outdoors-y tips you may have. I grew up in the rolling hills of Dorset, but these days I get quite nervous if I stray too far from bricks and concrete...
WonderK: your offer sounds brilliant. I will be in Cincinnati sometime between 7th - 11th August. Will you be around? I'll drop you an e-mail.
C'mina: I've sent you an e-mail about that car. If the price is right, I may well be interested...
If anyone else has any ideas for ways of getting hold of a car, please let me know! I REALLY don't want to end up in a greyhound. It just misses the point...
renting isn't that expensive (if you're over 25)--and anyway everything's gonna be wayyyy cheaper here than in the UK! Should be a pleasant sticker shock. :)
Your goals sound balanced and realistic! You'll have a great trip!
You might find sadly less regional variation on housing than you'd think. There are a few distinct predominant typologies these days... "mediteranean" style in the west, "adobe" style in the south-west, "cape-cod" saltboxes in the northeast, various differing styles in the south (i'm guessing from pics that the most persistent historical vernaculars are to be found down there)...and split-levels and ranch-styles filling in allllll the rest. Definitely worth checking out small towns--don't get me wrong--but the vast majority are not what movies lead you to believe.
That said, Michigan has some of the best remaining small towns that I know (Traverse City, South Haven and Benton Harbor, etc.). Quaint downtowns, cute houses on tree-lined streets, little diners left over from the 50s, etc.
If your going to be in chicago, i know minneapolis is a little out of the way, but if your gonna take a road trip you can make minneapolis in 6-7 hours, hitting milwaukee on the way... in milwaukee you can see the art museum calatrava did, in minneapolis you can see jean novel's new guthrie theatre as well as the herzog de meuron addition to the art museum, another wonderful...cough cough... cesar pelli building as well as some great local architecture along the mill road next to the guthrie theatre. driving west across the prarie from farther north will not only be more comfortable, but more beautiful in my oppinion... omahas not that bad if you wanna see a REAL american tonw... you could see des moines too... that place is fantastic..... ok the last one was sarcastic
Deadwood - ND
not as cool as the hbo show, but still fun!
And to throw a spanner in your plans, you could also head south to Texas from Kansas and see the Kimbell by Louis Kahn, the new museum by Ando (both in Fort Worth) and the new sculpture museum by Piano in Dallas. There is also interesting new architecture in Phoenix and from there you could go to the Grand Canyon (ignore the naysayers, it is one thing that everyone who visits/lives in the United States *must* see once in their lives, it's overwhelming and there are places to get away from the crowds) and then hit Vegas (which is a another must see), also consider Palm Springs for the modernist houses, San Diego (only 2-3 hours from LA) for the Salk Institute, and then party in LA (if I had to pick between LA and SF, I'd pick LA and this is from someone who used to live in the Bay Area and loved it-but LA is a real city).
on the whole landscape thing...one thing that you'll find is that
this country is huge..and you'll definitely see a lot of landscape
midcountry. sounds as though you've given yourself enough
time though...crossing the rockies for the first time is an awe
inspiring experience. and absolutely beautiful...
sounds as though you'll also be driving through monument
valley which is very cool...i drove through there in the middle
of the night with a full moon.
don't know if i'd dedicate more than a day to las vegas..but
that's just me...if your gambling i guess it's worth spending that
long there...but i don't usually like to stop too long when i'm
road tripping in general.
i second carhenge. also as a purely unique 'american' experience
i also highly reccomend mt. rushmore...mainly because the
sculpture of crazy horse is also there. and you can drive down
through custer state park and see the buffalo and evidence of
forest fires etc. and that way you get to drive through the badlands
of south dakota as well. and from there you can head south
down through colorado towards the grand canyon.
as far as Zaha...she has a major exhibition at the Guggenheim
here in new york..so you can sort of kill two birds with one stone
there. haven't seen the exhibition yet personally..but the
Guggenheim is worth the price of admission alone..even in disrepair
the new moma is also nice.
i third columbus, oh. very nice small town on your way...you could
also drop in on toledo, oh and see the gehry museum there..it has
a nice collection and an interesting old building that it's attached
to..and i don't think it's all that far off the highway.
you have two options for driving to san fran from las vegas..
north through salt lake city..or south basically through LA...
it's a short trip to LA from LV...and a not so nice trip from LV to
SF. LA is worth the visit alone..and as many have said here..
the highway along the coast is a beautiful drive..you just feel like
you're on the edge of the world staring over the pacific...and it's
kind of hairy too with the steep drop off and two line highway.
if you go the north route you can see one of the creepiest places
in the US in Salt Lake City. super clean..but like disney world
without mickey...the KOA campground there has a pool though
and that was super nice whilst making the trip.
there's no straight line between LV and SF
also...'blue highways' are nice and i'd second that reccomendation
as well..but maybe if you had more time...the average day in
the car will probably be about 8-10 hours...although with a month
you may be able to take longer. just so many great things to see.
I will be here during that time! Awesome, let me know.
Also, I am sober now, so I will contribute the following:
I am no stranger to road trips in this country. In fact I'm quite fond of them.
On the topic of NYC to Cincinnati and all points mid-western, much can be said about the crop of modern architecture popping up here and in other smaller cities, but you should get here via Washington, DC. If for no other reason than you can start to compare the city grids of all of these places versus the traditional, organic city grids of European cities. DC (have we really not mentioned this yet? hmmm) is crazy. Its over-planned, in my opinion, and not easy to get around. Unlike NYC which is as simple as it gets. Also DC is unique in the country because of its lack of high-rises. It's one of the only places you'll see such density in this country. You won't want to miss the National Mall and some of the museums that surround it, which are architectural treasures in themselves.
You could easily do NYC to DC then back through Pennsylvania. Or NYC through Philly, to DC. I mention Philly because I think it's underrated, and Philadelphia City Hall is newly cleaned, and one of the most remarkable classical structures in the country, IMO.
Eventually you'll get to Cincinnati and beyond, but I think what will really catch you off guard is how crazy far apart everything is. If you want to see "small town" America you might want to do some research first, because it is not necessarily very accessible from the inter-state freeway system that you'll primarily be using. I would suggest a combination of inter-state and highway roads, and watch out for tolls in the Northwest, specifically on the Penn and NJ turnpikes.
Essentially what I'm saying is plan for vast amounts of time in the car, especially the further West you get. All of these places are not just 1 or 2 hours apart, they are more like 3 or 4 or 6.
I think of all the places that I've driven, and seriously, I've driven a lot, some of the most remarkable experiences were in California. Every climate imaginable! Snow and rain and beaches and mountains and plains and deserts. There is a reason it has the most people in the US and the 5th largest economy in the world, it is remarkable, and both incredibly livable and incredibly dangerous. With your car, you might want to get an oil change and fluids topped off before you get to Cali because temps in the mid-south of the state will be astronomical.
A month is really not even enough, is it? Do your best and maybe post your schedule when you decide on a final route, so we can all fight about it :o)
Good tip about the car, WonderK--but check your oil OFTEN starting in Kansas. Temps on the prairie there will hit 100 on August. Out in Las Vegas it will probably be around 110. Be wary. It is much harder on your car than you think.
Oh MAN this makes me itch a) for a roadtrip b) to go home to my beloved state of California... oh I miss you so much!
You can rent hybrids. Not sure if it was Hertz or Avis, but one of the big majors had Toyota Prius hybrids. Also look at a Toyota Corolla. Probably the most bland car you could pick but good MPG ratings.
My suggestion would be to spend some time in Wisconsin. Calatrava in Milwaukee is ok, but visiting the Miller Brewery is true Milwaukee. I'd suggest checking out the Sullivan banks in IL, WI & MN. Also you could see FLW's Taliesin in Spring Green, WI. The "House on the Rock" is nearby which is mostly a museum of everything. Interesting if you've got time. The rolling hills in the area are just breathtaking. You can see why FLW wanted to live there. Don't skip Wisconsin for Iowa, you won't regret.
I'll second lletdownl's suggestion of Minneapolis. The city was mentioned in Newsweek magazine as setting a higher standard for design. Always think the city gets too many kudos until I visit other river towns like St. Louis, New Orleans, etc. Cross the Mississippi in Minneapolis! Plenty of the big stararchitects are for the showing. Also, I'm going to vomit for mentioning it, but Americana is for the having at the Mall of America in Bloomington MN. Consumerisim at its best, or worst. One tip is to park there at the mall - it's free - and take the light rail downtown where everything is walkable but parking isn't free.
Heading west I would suggest a more northern route as well. Nebraska and Kansas (I-70 & I-80 land) are much more busy than the Dakota's and more boring. Head through South Dakota through the badlands and into the Black Hills. You can see Mt. Rushmore and visit Deadwood. (treekiller - deadwood is in SD, not ND.) Mostly a tourist trap but gambling and booze make it fun - in a wild west kind of way.
It's a quick drive from western SD down into Denver and into the rockies. Or just head across Wyoming (cheap gasoline) and see Yellowstone if you want to fight off Japanese tourists. Or visit Grand Teaton Natn'l Park if you want to see some of the most beautiful mountains and lakes in the States.
Why does everyone always mention Carhenge on any roadtrip thread? Saw it in an Nissan commerical recently too. One would think that Alliance Nebraska was some special amusement park type place.
Not sure I'd suggest it to someone who is limited on time and is making a 1st trip to the states. The town is way out of the way and aside from Carhenge, nothing is nearby to see. Flat, hot, dry and dusty in August. Save your time.
but Alliance is basically halfway between the badlands and
denver...the route you suggested he take. there's no real
highway that goes between the two..so taking the semi
highway that goes through custer takes you basically right
I am desperate to see Yellowstone and Montana. Someday, someday.
If you head up to Wisconsin, there is a ton of FLW stuff there--the Johnson Headquarters, for example, which I believe offer tours. Also of course the other things people mention (but I for one can't wait to see those mushroom columns in person in all their teetering glory).
Yeah, guess Alliance is kinda in a round about way between the Black Hills and Denver. If heading west through the Black Hills I would head into Wyoming and see Devil's Tower.
So.... much.... information.... can't..... quite..... take it.....
Got home after a few drinks and just read all these responses. The whole thing is a complete mind-f**k and makes my head hurt at this time in the morning! I think I'm going to have to print them out, annotate and suitably cross-reference them. Thank gods I've got a big map of the US on the wall in front of me. I really need to start putting pins in it to mark recommendations. Europe is SO much simpler because there's more coastline and the borders aren't so straight! Argh.
Anyway, thanks everyone for the input. Keep it coming! People seem to be venting their ideas for the perfect roadtrip and that's just what I wanted.
By the way, if anyone wants to join me/us for part of the journey they're very welcome (subject to character tests and negotiation!). The only problem will be if I buy C'mina's Miata. It might be a tad on the small side...
Right. Bed time for me. Keep it coming please. Maybe we could all turn this into a book called " The Archinect Architect's Roadtrip"? Marvellous idea, I think.
North or South, I can't keep the Dakotas streight.
I'm moving to Minneapolis in september, so gearing up to make the LA to Mpls road trip over labor day weekend... My only indulgence is detouring through the Owens Valley, (the deepest valley 15,000' tall mountains on either side!) 200 miles north of LA, next to death valley
and skipping Vegas - then interstates the rest of the way via Denver.
treekiller - that photo is amazing. I've gotta check that place out. So if you are skipping Vegas will you be taking I-15 north-east or head up to I-80 and head east? Cutting across Nevada and western Utah via I-80 was one of my favorite interstate drives. I'm sure I-15 isn't much different. Drove it at night. Being on the interstate didn't bother me since there was literally nothing out there except for me, the sky and a whole lotta space.
Chris - I like the idea of an archinect road trip guide. Work always has me traveling via airplane which sucks since I know so many places by their airports and not the landscape. Earlier this year I was contemplating a Minneapolis to Calgary trip. Since it was a trip to visit family I ended up flying and having more time up there. Guess I get to comment on that trip some other time. Love driving through lots of empty space.
the photo is a lingering fascination with my thesis topic - you're' looking north above the dust mitigation project on Owens Lake just west of the town of Keeler. More photos here and [url=http://www.grist.org/news/maindish/2005/01/19/maisel/the best are by David Meisel[/url].
c'mina, you're selling a Miata? What year? I just got a '92 and it is BY FAR the most fun drive I've ever had. Love, love this car.
Chris, buy the Miata! Although honestly camping and stuff would be tough in it, no storage space, etc. But damn is it fun to drive. Also the AC in mine doesn't work and believe me you will want to have AC driving across the West in August.
i like the way that sounds.
oh, and: maisel.
Chris- a convertable is the ultimate road trip vehicle, just think of all those great movies set under the speeding across the open road with the top down.....
Must see road movies before you leave:
The Vanishing Point (the original 1971 version)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
The Blues Brothers (1999)
Easy Rider (1969)
My Own Private Idaho (1991)
Natural Born Killers (1994)
Thelma and Louise (1991)
Two Lane Blacktop (1971)
two for the road >audrey hepburn and jack finney!
I think Britney Spears starred in a road trip movie.
2.9 rating??? thats the worst rated movie i've ever seen on imdb.