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Author Topic: State College PA to San Francisco CA roadtrip ideas  (Read 1059 times)

Ketchup99

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State College PA to San Francisco CA roadtrip ideas
« on: February 04, 2021, 11:27:58 PM »

This summer (corona permitting), my family's going on a two-month road-trip-stravaganza with a combination money saved up and what's left after donations from the $12k it seems the Treasury will have sent us by the end of the pandemic. We're tentatively planning on going from State College to the Bay Area, with a few prerequisites:

 - We are stopping in New Orleans.
 - We are stopping in San Diego.

So the three segments I've broken it down to are SC-New Orleans, New Orleans-San Diego, and San Diego-SF. For the last segment, we're probably going to do some mix of routes 1 and 101, taking around a week and a half. We plan to take about three weeks to get from SC to New Orleans, two weeks from New Orleans to San Diego, and spend about five days in each of New Orleans and San Diego.

But in between... what to do? Any thoughts would be welcome. The middle segment, especially across Texas, is what I'm most excited for.

(Coming back we want to knock it out in three days. So stops along I-80 on the way back are largely a no.)
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: State College PA to San Francisco CA roadtrip ideas
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2021, 11:39:39 PM »

CA 1 is out the window in Big Sur unless you want to backtrack to finish the whole thing.  An alternative route I would offer from Ventura to Gilroy:

-  CA 33 from US 101 to CA 166 (essentially former US 399 on the Maricopa Highway and one of the best driving roads in the state).
-  CA 33/CA 166 to Soda Lake Road (Soda Lake Road is one of the best dirt roads in the state and signed at 50 MPH).
-  Soda Lake Road through Carrizo Plain National Monument to CA 58
-  CA 58 to Bitterwater Road
-  Bitterwater Road to CA 41/CA 46 near the James Dean Memorial
-  CA 41 to CA 33 (alternative would be the Parkfield Grade to CA 198)
-  CA 33 to CA 198
-  CA 198 to CA 25 (another one of the best driving roads in California)
-  CA 25 to US 101 with a stop at the Bear Gulch Cave in Pinnacles National Park.

From Gilroy you can take CA 152 reach CA 1 in Watsonville.  CA 1 north to San Francisco along the Santa Cruz Mountains isnít Big Sur but still is pretty damn scenic and passes through the Tom Lantos Tunnels at Devilís Slide.
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SkyPesos

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Re: State College PA to San Francisco CA roadtrip ideas
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2021, 01:03:00 AM »

From State College-New Orleans, for the mostly interstate routes, there are two options recommended by Google maps:
- I-99/I-70/US 522/I-81/I-75/I-59
- I-99/I-70/I-71/I-65/I-59

The latter is more interesting if you want more cities to stop at. I-81 is mostly a rural truckers highway. Recommend stops at Columbus, Cincinnati (yes I know, shameless hometown plug), Louisville and Nashville for starters. I'll list some notable things to do at some of those cities later. Between Bedford and Louisville, you could use US 220/I-68/I-79/I-64 instead of I-70/I-71 and skip Ohio as another option. An in-between route is Corridor D (US 50/OH 32) between Clarksburg and Cincinnati. It's a pretty nice expressway drive, with much less traffic compared to I-70. I've used it as part between Cincy and DC once.
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kphoger

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Re: State College PA to San Francisco CA roadtrip ideas
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2021, 09:29:39 AM »

The middle segment, especially across Texas, is what I'm most excited for.

I wonder if it would be a fun deviation or an insanely boring one to use US-90 between San Antonio and Van Hornóor, better yet, take TX-118 up from Alpine back to I-10.

Assuming you'll take I-10, however, it might be worth a small deviation to Monahans Sandhills State Park.  I've driven through the sandhills on TX-115 but haven't actually been to the state park;  from what I've seen online, though, it could be a fun hour-long stop along the way.

A short scenic drive option closer to San Antonio would be to take TX-16 to Kerrville.

Or combine those last two ideas into one.
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Re: State College PA to San Francisco CA roadtrip ideas
« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2021, 09:48:04 AM »

Not road-related, but be aware that a number of restaurants in New Orleans do not allow shorts or jeans at any time and may impose jacket requirements for men at dinnertime. Don't let that put you off: There are some absolutely outstanding restaurants that are well worth the dress code.
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Re: State College PA to San Francisco CA roadtrip ideas
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2021, 07:36:30 PM »

This summer (corona permitting), my family's going on a two-month road-trip-stravaganza with a combination money saved up and what's left after donations from the $12k it seems the Treasury will have sent us by the end of the pandemic. We're tentatively planning on going from State College to the Bay Area, with a few prerequisites:

 - We are stopping in New Orleans.
 - We are stopping in San Diego.

So the three segments I've broken it down to are SC-New Orleans, New Orleans-San Diego, and San Diego-SF. For the last segment, we're probably going to do some mix of routes 1 and 101, taking around a week and a half. We plan to take about three weeks to get from SC to New Orleans, two weeks from New Orleans to San Diego, and spend about five days in each of New Orleans and San Diego.

But in between... what to do? Any thoughts would be welcome. The middle segment, especially across Texas, is what I'm most excited for.

(Coming back we want to knock it out in three days. So stops along I-80 on the way back are largely a no.)

First of all, $12K? How many are in your family? The first stimulus was $1,200 per adult and $600 per dependent. This last one was $600 per adult with no guarantee they will increase to the full $2,000.

If you're going to take three weeks to make what would be an easy two-day drive from State College to New Orleans, you'll be making a lot of stops.

Depending on your route, there are a lot of things roadwise and non-roadwise you could see. New River Gorge bridge, old bridges on the National Road, Great Smoky Mountains, Cumberland Gap (and the tunnel), Mammoth Cave, Lincoln's birthplace, Grand Ole Opry, Corvette Museum (and sinkhole), Graceland, the Vulcan statue in Birmingham, Lookout Mountain...

A lot of it depends on what route you take and what you want to see on the way. The best route from State College to my location in Kentucky is I-99/US 220, I-68, I-79, I-64 and various south/southwest routes once you reach Kentucky.

I'm sure you've already run Google Maps, which gives the fastest route as taking you to Hancock via I-99 and I-70 through Breezewood, then US 522 to I-81. The second option is 15 minutes longer and uses I-68, US 19 (Corridor L) and the WV Turnpike to get to I-81.
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Ketchup99

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Re: State College PA to San Francisco CA roadtrip ideas
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2021, 12:54:55 AM »

Thanks for all the advice so far!

Why is CA 1 out of the question? That's probably the likeliest route for us to take up to the Bay Area, unless we do 101. I-5 is probably out of the question. But now you've got me intrigued - that route you proposed, from a cursory glance on GSV, looks very fun. 33 and 146 in particular look cool, and Pinnacles, though I didn't know about, doesn't look like too shabby a stopping point.

I doubt we'll end up going north through Ohio, but Louisville and Nashville are certainly attractive, the latter especially. Reasoning being that I very well might end up paying a visit to Cincinnati and the Children's Hospital several times in the next few months (Covid vaccine trial). I've done 81 and (IMO at least) it's boring as hell, although I do have one distinctive memory of my dad getting nailed for 81, 83, and 81 again (in Virginia) on the same trip on I-81. (What state does this???) Good times... although we're considering doing the West Virginia route to poke into Morgantown and check out some the New River Gorge.

It's quite possible we'll end up on a lot of I-90 in Texas, because if we're going from San Antonio or Austin (that's likely, because I hear there's a CERTAIN road to Austin which might be fun to hit triple digits on) to El Paso, Big Bend National Park beckons. That would entail I-10 to US-385 on the way down and TX-118 to US-90 to I-10 on the way back. 90 looks kinda boring, but 385 and 118 look... wow. Just wow. TX-16 to Kerrville looks cool, as does Monahans Sandhills State Park. But the latter is probably incompatible detouring to Big Bend - although with weeks to kill in the hinterlands, who knows?

New Orleans - wouldn't pass up the food for everything. But I'll bring what passes for Sunday best just in case.

The stimulus - I'm assuming the $1400 checks go through, which they almost certainly will, and which my family will just barely qualify for. We've got four, so the first round of checks got us $3400, the second round got us $2400, and the third round is looking like $5600. Put together, that's $11,400.

But the Appalachian part of the route is probably the least-well-defined, just because there are so many potential routes. With a couple weeks between here and there, we're not that worried about an extra hour or two of driving time, which opens the door to some alternative routes like I-99 to I-70 to I-270 to I-95 to I-85 to I-65 to I-10, through the heart of the South. Problem is, we'd love to see Nashville and Atlanta, which is unfortunate, given that a line from SC to NOLA runs perpendicular to a line from Nashville to Atlanta, and it would be four extra hours to hit both. But then again, what the hell? You only get this kind of chance once in a very blue moon, I suppose.

Again, thanks for all the advice! Another thing - we're looking at a few days in New Orleans and then a stop in Lafayette, with the bayous right there. I'm anticipating using US 90 to I-10 instead of 10 the whole way - just looks more interesting - but what's the best way to experience the bayous? We're considering following the Mississippi River past New Orleans for a day trip, out to its mouth. Do you recommend this? Anyone done it?
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: State College PA to San Francisco CA roadtrip ideas
« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2021, 01:21:11 AM »

Regarding CA 1 in Big Sur there was a large slip out at Rat Creek which is impassable:

https://www.ksbw.com/article/section-of-highway-1-in-big-sur-falls-into-the-ocean/35356732

In theory the Nacimiento Ferguson Road would be open by your trip as a way to get from CA 1 near Gorda but that isnít a reliable road given it is Forest Service and enters Fort Hunter Liggett. 
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Ketchup99

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Re: State College PA to San Francisco CA roadtrip ideas
« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2021, 11:58:43 AM »

Regarding CA 1 in Big Sur there was a large slip out at Rat Creek which is impassable:

https://www.ksbw.com/article/section-of-highway-1-in-big-sur-falls-into-the-ocean/35356732

In theory the Nacimiento Ferguson Road would be open by your trip as a way to get from CA 1 near Gorda but that isnít a reliable road given it is Forest Service and enters Fort Hunter Liggett.
That's unfortunate. Odds they'll have it back open by summer?
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: State College PA to San Francisco CA roadtrip ideas
« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2021, 12:05:35 PM »

Regarding CA 1 in Big Sur there was a large slip out at Rat Creek which is impassable:

https://www.ksbw.com/article/section-of-highway-1-in-big-sur-falls-into-the-ocean/35356732

In theory the Nacimiento Ferguson Road would be open by your trip as a way to get from CA 1 near Gorda but that isnít a reliable road given it is Forest Service and enters Fort Hunter Liggett.
That's unfortunate. Odds they'll have it back open by summer?

Close to zero, thatís probably closer to a 9-12 month fix if everything went well and Caltrans doesnít go with a more creative structure. 
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dkblake

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Re: State College PA to San Francisco CA roadtrip ideas
« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2021, 02:53:27 PM »

Three weeks to get from State College to New Orleans is...a lot. You could essentially do anything east of the Mississippi that you'd like. Why not do Blue Ridge Parkway going down and some hiking in/around Shenandoah? There are some neat caves in the area as well- I remember enjoying Luray Caverns.

Depending on how much you've traveled in the east versus the west, you might pinch your to NOLA timeline significantly and take more time between NOLA and SD. One slightly crazy option would be to travel over TX via Big Bend then basically go north up through NM/CO/WY to Yellowstone then go back down south to SD. You've got that much time to do it.

More philosophically, though, since you've got a lot of time, you and your family might think of places where you'll want to immerse yourself. How long at NOLA? How long in SD? Have you always wanted to spend a couple of days at the Grand Canyon? Nashville? And no matter what you pick, you'll find new/interesting ways to get from point A to point B to satisfy your roadgeekness.
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Re: State College PA to San Francisco CA roadtrip ideas
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2021, 03:18:40 PM »

Highway 1 is supposedly going to be fixed by "early summer" although who knows what that means, and I'm sure it's just an estimate. https://www.latimes.com/travel/story/2021-02-25/highway-1-to-big-sur-will-reopen-by-summer-caltrans-says
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jander

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Re: State College PA to San Francisco CA roadtrip ideas
« Reply #12 on: April 18, 2021, 07:46:11 PM »

 Ok, so here are som things to think about, and it all depends on 1) when you are going, 2) what you are into and 3) how much you want to go out of your way.  Lets begin.

* Vegas. Leave Tucson and head north to Vegas.  See Phoenix on the way. Stop in Boulder, see Lake Mead, Hoover Dam. One of the best road trips of my life was driving between Vegas and Phoenix.

* After Vegas, you need to get to San Diego. Go through the Mojave National Preserve. See Joshua Tree National Park. See Palm Springs. Drive through the the San Jicinto Mountains. Drive through Julian, Ca to get to San Diego.

* Alternate. : check out the Salton Sea.  Its weird, and cool
* Alternate, check out Death Valley its amazing.

* Traveling between LA and SF is one of the most covered road trips out there, so I am going to gloss over it. 

* Other options.  Go to Sequoia National Park.  Its freaking amazing.  There is nothing like it in the wold.  IMO, way better than Highway 1.

So, you have to go home, right?  Drive US-50 between SF and Salt Lake City.  This is not optional. This was also one of the best road trips I have ever done. I did it in 2 days, and If I were to do it again I would take 3.  Its so beautiful and there is so much to see.

Save time up front to do US-50, itís seriously worth every minute.

Also, remember a lot of what you are driving is desert. And if you are doing this in the summer, its going to be hot. Like 120degrees hot.  This is not an ideal time to be in a car for 8+ hours, no matter how good your  AC is. End of September beginning of October is ideal (and still hot).

Final thoughts: SF to State College is a 4 day drive at best. Ad the end of a major road trip itís probably 5. 
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: State College PA to San Francisco CA roadtrip ideas
« Reply #13 on: April 18, 2021, 07:55:38 PM »

Iíll add if Sequoia National Park is on the menu that I can attest that the Generals Highway probably is one of the best National Park Roads.  That said, if you want to be really hardcore Mineral King Road is in Sequoia National Park and one of the most badass paved roads out there.  CA 180 into the Cedar Grove annex of Kings Canyon National Park is another top flight scenic Highway.  Of course CA 245 is nearby which also happens to be one of the best driving roads in California.
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Re: State College PA to San Francisco CA roadtrip ideas
« Reply #14 on: June 16, 2021, 11:54:19 AM »

I will add to Jander's suggestion of driving Phoenix to Vegas. It was a very cool drive on US 93 with light traffic. Kingman has an old 50s style dinner on Route 66 called Mr D'z where the food was excellent. North of Kingman, about 40 miles or so, is this "gas stop" in the middle of nowhere where while you wait for your lunch, you can fire off a few at the gun range in back. Just an odd place but the cheeseburger was worth it.  Hoover Dam is amazing but crowded.
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