USA Road Trip Route Map – draft 1

I’m sure this will change as we look into things more, but this covers what we’d like to see so far. It doesn’t include some trips off-track to visit people, either. Just the basics.

5,500 miles, according to the boffins at Google. Ay Carumba!


We might have to make some choices here.

E.g. Can we do both Colorado and Wyoming? If we need to choose, which one?

And how does this route change the vehicle choices we have to make?

So much to plan.

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  1. I vote for the South Dakota & Wyoming route if you have to choose. The Badlands, Devils Tower, Yellowstone, etc. are stunning. But if you have time try and do both. I’d allow three days just for Yellowstone. Just a warning on our nation’s most famous National Park. Very crowed in summer which can spoil the beauty if you re not hiking. You can actually get serious traffic jams (“Stop the RV honey, a bear!) but you likley knew that. When are you doing this?

    1. We’re thinking August/Sept so we get out of the major heat and also get some fall driving in New England.

      1. Sounds fun Swade. If it’s West to East you may catch some early fall colors in northern New England in late September but consider the coast of Maine instead at that time of year. I’d be happy to loan you one of my Saabs to cruise NE while you get Pierre to help sell whatever you bought for the trip. Maybe pick up a Saabaru! Not a bad choice now that I think of it.

  2. Looks pretty good to me.

    If you’re going for the mountain scenery, I’d take Wyoming all day long. The Tetons, Yellowstone, Jackson Hole. It’s all there.

    Colorado has some amenities over Wyoming.

    Chicago — one of my favorites. Definitely should be on the list.

  3. Well not exactly as straight as the crow files. Lotta extra miles there.
    Based on this route, you HAVE GOT TO stop and see Wall Drug in Wall, SD, probably the most well-known drug store in the world:
    Click on the History tab for some background. As a 10 year old kid in 1953, my parents took us to Mount Rushmore. I can still smell the leather in that drug store from all the saddles and stuff there. An amazing bit of Americana. If it’s like 1953, you can’t miss it, there will be many signs telling you how close it is, and even more telling you missed it and to turn around and go back — probably not like that anymore.

  4. What is the time frame for such a trip?

    I can see that you left out Yosemite national park in California… Do not miss it!
    Death Valley is also really nice, that one can be covered on the way to the Capital of Tacky… And do not stay more than maximum 2 nights in Vegas unless you both have a gambling addiction that is more severe than the Saab one…
    Tip for Vegas is also to take a heli tour through Grand Canyon instead of driving there.

    1. We’re thinking 4-5 weeks, Pontus.

      We’re missing Yosemite, but picking up with Yellowstone and the Tetons. Had to trade off somewhere.

      Heli-tour is actually a really good idea and could save a decent amount of driving.

  5. You really should stop by Sports Car Service in Wilmington, DE during your trip. He owns just about every model Saab ever made. Definitely worth thinking about!

  6. If I had to choose, I’d do Yellowstone and the Tetons over Colorado. I just spent a week or so in the Black Hills/Badlands area of South Dakota, also worth a long look especially as it is on the way.

    If you want to get a room in or very near Yellowstone/the Tetons, book early. They fill up.

    It looks like you have Monument Valley on the route – I would consider hanging out in that area for a few days. Antelope Canyon, for example, is worth seeing and is a couple of hours from there. IIRC.

  7. Suggest you ride “The Great River Road” from the Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul) to the Quad Cities (Davenport, Rock Island, Moline & Bettendorf). This road is mainly on the west side of the Mississippi River, all curvey, hilly and pretty, even in stick season (which is now thru mid-March). You can still “do” Chicago via I-80 from the Quad Cities in a couple of hours. The Great River Road should take you a couple of days, figure an overnight in Dubuque, IA or Galena, IL (basically on opposite sides of the Mississppi). there are lots of interesting things to see if you slow down to see them.

    I see you’ve planned to go thru fly-over country via I-90. Again, stop at the infamous tourist trap of Wall, SD, also Mitchell, SD for the “Corn Palace” and drive thru Chamberlin, SD (Missouri River) just to get off the superslab. At the Rapids City, SD Air Force base (can’t remember the name) I watched a B-1B bomber do touch and goes on the main n-s runway over I-90.

    And once you’re in Minnesota, you should keep on east I-90 to check out the Spam Museum in Austin, MN and thence to Meyer Garage, the oldest Saab dealership west of the Mississippi. Austin is about 40 miles east of Albert Lea, which is the turn north on I-35 to the Twin Cities.

    As far a rides… must be a convertible. Corvette, Mustang or Camaro, in that order.

  8. You don’t need to circle back around in Wyoming and head west to east. That stretch of I-80 is flat for 6 hours from just east of Jackson Hole all the way to Cheyenne. And if you’re not hitting Cheyenne during Frontier Days (last week of July), you really don’t want to hit Cheyenne. Of course if you do hit it during FD, expect crowds. So … I don’t recommend that piece.

    Instead … hit Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, Devil’s Tower in eastern Wyoming, and cruise over to Yellowstone and Jackson Hole. Then drop down into Utah and continue your trip.

    Anyway, my two sense having lived in Cheyenne a total of 7 years and visited all over Wyoming.

    Looks like a fun trip … if you have a car you enjoy driving here.

  9. Looks like a great route! Enjoy the planning 🙂

    One thing that helped us with planning routes was putting the waypoints into an actual car/phone GPS, outside of google maps as we found some of the google maps estimates were a bit high compared to actual transit times (though, that’s better than being underestimated).

    If you are planning to visit several US National Parks along the way, you can buy an Annual Pass for $80 and it’ll cover entry and parking fees. Depending on how many parks you are visiting, that could be pay for itself very quickly and you only need to buy one per car (up to a certain number of passengers).

  10. I would go through the high desert in New Mexico and then head north to Colorado.
    Consider skipping Vegas altogether, or limiting yourself to one night. It’s everything you imagine it to be (if you dream of gigantic convention centers) but, once you’re there, all you do is confirm your suspicions.

    It’s a shame to get so close to Montana without visiting. There’s something special about that state, and it’s hard to explain. In some Midwest states, the mile markers are your only companion, but in Montana you hardly notice them. It’s a similar feeling to sitting on the beach all day, watching the ocean.

    There are tons of options for this type of trip. Your route goes through sparsely populated areas for the first two thirds. I love that sort of stuff, but just hope that you and your wife don’t run out of conversation fuel. The pace will quicken near the end, and that’s good.

  11. There used to be some roads in Montana that had no speed limit during the daytime. Not sure if that is true anymore or not though …

    1. It’s no longer the case. Montana changed their basic speed law (the law in place when there’s no other posted limit) to “reasonable and prudent”.

      That meant, in theory, that you could go 140 MPH if conditions allowed (clear weather, no chance of ice, little or no traffic), but it also meant that you could get a speeding ticket for going 20 MPH, if it were snowy/icy and or traffic was too dense.

      Folks in Montana got it. Out of staters didn’t.

      The law is 80 MPH now.

  12. Well, if you come to Colorado, we have a guest suite waiting to accommodate you and Mrs. Swade.

    That and some of the world’s most impressive scenery.

    1. Thanks very much, Mallthus. Right now, we’re favouring heading straight from Utah to Wyoming and missing that kink, purely on the basis of potential time constraints. It’s something I still have to look into when we get into the nitty gritties of planning and time management.

      Having said that, I have vivid memories of some images sent in by a guy named Tim B back in the days. We had a photo contest and some of his images were breathtaking.

      Thanks again for the offer. I hope it’s one that we can take up as it’d be a pleasure to visit and say Hi.

  13. Another Montana sight: The Custer Battlefield or Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument near Crow Agency, Montana. Figure an entire afternoon to visit the site and listen to the description of the battle from Native American Park Guides/Rangers. I found this park/monument to be of much more interest than Gettysburg. There are no tourist “attractions” to distract one’s attention from both the history or natural beauty of the area.

  14. Mallthus> I am interested in your avatar! I see it is an F-7 or F-9, is it of D&RG origin? Also see the front end of the loco is suspended in mid-air! What was the cause of the airborne front end?

  15. Swade,

    You should order a copy of the “Rand McNally Motor Carriers’ Road Atlas”.
    That’s the trucker’s atlas. It’s quite large (11×17 inches), but cheap at under $15 retail for the paperback version.

  16. It might be helpful if you publish a list of all the places you are considering, (and those along your route you are not).

    Based on your route you could swing & hit: Charlottesville (Jefferson & Madison sites), Memphis (Elvis, MLK Jr, Blues & BBQ), Albuquerque or Sante Fe. On your trip through Illinois, I hope you are going to stop in Springfield & see the Lincoln sites.

    Since you will be traveling though August & September any plans to try to catch a US sporting event such as a baseball (even if just minor league) or a football game (college or pros)?

    Also, while the National Parks get all the hype, there are a number of really nice State parks on your journey you might want to check out, like Starved Rock in Illinois.

  17. Swade – looks like you’re heading through CT straight up into MA. If you’ve got a little time you should swing through Rhode Island. Beautiful state right on Narragansett Bay. You can grab some local seafood (clam cakes and chowda!).

    Also lot’s of SAAB’ers here. Conn Tech in Warwick is our awesome local Indy. Great folks and crazy about SAAB!

  18. I was thinking about the western part of the trip… Like someone mentioned before, I wonder if Vegas is really worth spending time on (not that I have any experience, but anyway). So I have a suggestion.

    Start in Los Angeles and drive along the ocean north to San Francisco, visiting Vandenburg AFB, Monterey, and Apple HQ in Cupertino on the way. 🙂

    Then drive east to Salt Lake City, visiting Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, Carson City, Reno, and Bonneville Flats on the way. That should take care of the Godfather II and Top Gear references. 🙂

    Then north to visit Yellowstone, and then south again via 25 to Denver and Colorado Springs. Skip Mt. Rushmore and go straight over Nebraska for Minnesota and Wisconsin.

  19. If you go west to east, and leave Yellowstone through the northeast entrance, you can go over Beartooth Pass (a spectacular drive) down into Montana, and that would take you to Billings, home of an outstanding (former) Saab dealer, Dana Motors. The good people there are now selling used cars and doing Saab repairs, and might be able to help you source something to buy in the US, We’re partial to North Dakota, and the little town of Medora, in the ND badlands on I94 just east of the Montana line, is a great place to visit in the summer. The Black Hills area in South Dakota has a lot attractions. I would not miss Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, plus the bison in Custer State Park (though we also have bison in Theodore Roosevelt National Park near Medora).

    As to vehicles, I would go with something modern, with good a/c. Once you get down from the mountains, it’s still plenty hot in the US in August and September. My wife and I have done several long distance trips in everything from a Porsche Boxster to a Ford F150. Tires might be a concern; a flat tire in a remote area might require a replacement, and some of the more exotic cars have pretty rare and expensive tires. That’s the one thing I dread when traveling in our 2006 911, but all the rest is pure joy.

    Sporty cars are a lot more fun to drive, but trucks and SUV’s are fine for long distances on the interstate. Saabs are, of course, good for both, but servicing one outside of a metropolitan area would be difficult. Even so, a cross country trip in a newer 9-3 convertible would be sweet. For an American car with a little zip, I think a newer hemi Chrysler 300 might be nice compromise. The new Jeep Grand Cherokee is a very nice vehicle, and you can get a hemi in that, too…

    Have fun planning!

  20. Have I got the perfect car for you! How about a low mile 1970 Fury III 318 V8 convertible? Been thinking of selling ours to facilitate the restoration of our ’58 Chrysler. I’d drive this Fury from NY to Cali and back without a moment’s hesitation… well, OK maybe I’d change the oil. ‘See the USA in your Chevrolet” …um, well, Fury, a true classic full size US car, made as God and Walter P. Chrysler ready to help you create a lifetime of road trip memories!
    Roger A.
    SAAB driver since 1971

    1. Hi Roger,

      Traditional convertibles aren’t really our cup of tea, but I’d be more than happy to take a look. Can you send me some pics and indicative price? swade99-at-gmail-dot-com

  21. This topic gave me so many suggestions that my head exploded. Result? I’m holding off. There are just too many things to mention.
    But DO…use a windshield cam and use it often…for stills also. Images can be easily flipped later. Cards are incredibly cheap.
    Check out Phil lace field,s cross country trips at one shot per second. (19 minutes to cross U.S.)

    1. Have seen Phil’s video. Enjoyable, though I hope we get better weather 🙂

      Our plans have actually changed a bit due to some unanticipated events. Will post soon.