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State College PA to San Francisco CA roadtrip ideas

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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.)

Max Rockatansky:
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.

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.


--- Quote from: Ketchup99 on February 04, 2021, 11:27:58 PM ---The middle segment, especially across Texas, is what I'm most excited for.

--- End quote ---

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.

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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