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Author Topic: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast  (Read 12870 times)

Duke87

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Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« on: May 13, 2012, 07:36:56 PM »

Posted here because this spans multiple regions.

An idea I've been mulling over for a bit which is about now starting to congeal: drive to Santa Monica, say I've touched the pacific ocean, then drive from there to Miami to visit my best friend, and subsequently back home to New York.

I'm allotting myself four days to get out to the Pacific and four days to get back to the Atlantic, but since I plan to spend six days in Miami I've got plenty of float time to absorb delays of even a couple days in the process. I've never driven anywhere west of the Mississippi before, so I must admit I have a sketchy concept at best of how long it actually takes to cover ground out there. But I've been using Google to assist with estimating and assuming I can comfortably cover 700-750 miles in a day, maybe a little more if I make good time. I've come up with the following general plan:

Day 1: I-70 west to Indianapolis or Terre Haute, IN
Day 2: I-70 west to Hays or Colby, KS
Day 3: I-70 west then US 191 south to Monticello or Blanding, UT
Day 4: through Monument Valley, west to St George, then I-15 south and I-10 west to Santa Monica, CA
Day 5: Arroyo Seco Parkway, I-/CA 210 east, I-15 north and I-40 east to Albuquerque, NM
Day 6: I-40 east to Fort Smith or Little Rock, AR
Day 7: I-530/US 65 south, I-20 east, US 59 south, US 98 east, I-10 east to Pensacola or Tallahassee, FL
Day 8: I-10 east, I-75 south to Miami, using US41/Tamiami Trail instead of Alligator Alley if time permits.
Days 9-14: Miami, with side trips to Key West and possibly also Disney (though that's pushing it for a day trip)
Day 15: I-95 north, I-26 west, I-77 north to Statesville, NC or Wytheville, VA
Day 16: I-77 north, I-79 north, I-68 east, I-70 through Breezewood, PA Turnpike/I-81/I-78 back to New York

Other than Santa Monica, Miami, and knowing I have to stop in Winslow, AZ (it's the music fan in me) all I have planned here is a roadtrip, not a sightseeing trip. But I am open to suggestions for any possible quick (<30 mins) stops along this route, of roadgeek or general interest.

I know when driving through the middle of nowhere out west that I have to be cognizant of where gas stations are and where they aren't, but, any other advice on managing that environment? The nights after days 2 and 3 are leaving me in small towns where hotel room availability may be questionable. I can spend the night in my car if I have to, but this is obviously unideal. I at least know rest areas and WalMart are places where that can be done. Again, any advice on handling this? Things/places I should avoid? I'm assuming there isn't much trouble to be found out in the country vis-a-vis sketchy individuals who will see fit to vandalize/rob/assault/etc., but my Connecticut plates may draw attention, particularly from the constabulary... which leads me to one final question: any common speed traps along my route that I should watch out for?
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corco

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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2012, 07:47:50 PM »

Generally you're in good shape in the west as far as safety goes, and then as far as places to sleep, you also have the option of a lot of public lands in the west. If you're on forest/grassland service or BLM land, you can legally just drive down a dirt road and sleep somewhere. Lock your car obviously, but I've never had/heard of somebody having any issues.

Hays and Colby are solid sized towns though- you should have absolutely no trouble finding an affordable hotel room. Colby is the last real stop before Limon, CO, so it's built up just as an overnight destination. Hays is actually a decent college town, which draws hotels. WaKeeney even has a few chain hotels if you needed. You'll find that unlike back east, a town of 2,000 people tends to have all the major services, especially if it's more than 30 miles from anything else- these places become regional hubs. A town of 5,000 may as well be a big city!

Monticello and Blanding should be the same way because of the tourist draw, but the rooms will likely be more expensive. If I had to pick a night to drive up a random well-graded dirt road, enjoy some scenery, and spend the night, I'd do it in the national forest west of there. I haven't actually been down there yet (I will be in three weeks!), but one of my very good friends is from Monticello and the camping there is awesome. You also won't be nearly the only person doing it, which may or may not add to your sense of safety.

I would add that for gas and things of that nature, be weary in the west. Oftentimes there will be towns on the map that have absolutely nothing in them- best bet is to time yourself to fill up in places with the second or third smallest dot on the map, as opposed to the smallest. If there's 2000 people, you can pretty much bank on a gas station. If there's 1,000 people, there will likely be a gas station, but it might not work 24 hours (probably less of a problem right along the freeway). Less than that and there might be gas, but it could very well be a private co-op you can't use especially in the Great Plains.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2012, 08:36:38 PM by corco »
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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2012, 07:56:54 PM »

The police see plates from everywhere. Particularly on the interstates, you should have no problems from cops with out of state plates.

As for speed traps, I-95 in Ridgeland, SC has speed cameras. Arizona does as well. Florida roads are lightly policed; unofficial policy is 15 over on the interstates before they pull you over, unless you are otherwise driving like a douche, but YMMV. I75 through Gainesville and Ocala does usually have a speed trap set up however.

I highly recommend Key West over Disney. It's more fun for adults IMO, and the Overseas Highway has more road geek appeal (and awesome scenery) than the drive to Orlando.

It's an ambitious drive. If it were me, I'd split it up with a rest day in LA.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2012, 09:09:54 AM by realjd »
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corco

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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2012, 07:58:12 PM »

Quote
Arizona does as well.

Not anymore

realjd

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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2012, 08:16:14 PM »

^^^
That's great news! Are they gone from the whole state or just interstates? I know two people who got tickets on city streets from Tuscon PD during business trips last year.
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corco

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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2012, 08:18:00 PM »

Quote
That's great news! Are they gone from the whole state or just interstates? I know two people who got tickets on city streets from Tuscon PD during business trips last year.

They are still on some surface streets in Tucson, but they're off the interstates and out of Phoenix.

J N Winkler

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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2012, 08:29:37 PM »

Corco is right--motel-type accommodation will not be a problem in Hays, Colby, or Goodland for that matter.  I'd be more concerned about the average daily mileage:  700 is pushing it.  550 is more realistic.
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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2012, 05:41:30 PM »

As for speed traps, I-95 in Florence, SC has speed cameras. Arizona does as well.

Florence, SC has illegal speed cameras.  They violate SC state law.  Get a ticket from them, report it to their attorney general.

As for Arizona, the current governor removed the speed cameras that Napolitano put up across the state.
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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2012, 05:54:29 PM »


As for Arizona, the current governor removed the speed cameras that Napolitano put up across the state.

plenty of speed cameras left in Arizona.  One of Globe/Superior/Miami comes to mind.

I have no idea if they are operational.  I err on the side of caution and do 5 below the limit.
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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2012, 06:15:41 PM »


As for Arizona, the current governor removed the speed cameras that Napolitano put up across the state.

plenty of speed cameras left in Arizona.  One of Globe/Superior/Miami comes to mind.

I have no idea if they are operational.  I err on the side of caution and do 5 below the limit.

So you weren't the fellow who set the land speed record for an unmodified Hyundai Sonata? (A couple years ago, someone very illegally exposed a flaw in the Arizona radar units, or proved Car & Driver didn't hit a true closed-course top speed...a re-test was closer to the ticketed soeed, but still off.)

I'd definitely recommend the Tamiami Trail section through southern Florida, but there is a ten mile stretch that's presently under construction to aid in drainage and natural water flow to the Everglades. You might enjoy a little diversion via I-275 in Tampa, and see the Sunshine Skyway bridge.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2012, 06:18:38 PM by formulanone »
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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2012, 06:33:21 PM »

Corco is right--motel-type accommodation will not be a problem in Hays, Colby, or Goodland for that matter.  I'd be more concerned about the average daily mileage:  700 is pushing it.  550 is more realistic.
Eh, I can hit 1,000 miles on a good day. I racked up 6,100 miles in 9 days of driving the Midwest, mostly off freeways and including several hours of stops, and limited by sunup to sundown. 700 miles a day is fine.

Regarding things to see, get off the freaking Interstate! How did I find out about the world's largest umpire and Budweiser Clydesdale in the middle of Iowa's cornfields? Google each city/population center along the way and "Attractions." Many cities have set up a part of their own website devoted to things to see and do in the area, and some of the smaller towns are represented on travel websites. I was very willing to modify my route and clinch different roads in order to see the most interesting things along the way; it's a question of priorities, so you may rather stay on the road and miss the interesting stuff, but I would think if you're only in an area once, being able to brag "I clinched I-70 in Kansas" has less cachet than "here's a picture of me next to the world's largest ball of twine." You can see roads everywhere, but some things you can only see locally.

Also, for the distance you'll be along I-40, there are a lot of things to see on US 66. You can capture most of them by simply taking every Business loop that presents itself - that will give you all of the old hotels, some old gas stations, and random museums. But you'll still miss a lot of old alignments, cool bridges, and random sites like Jackrabbit (you are here!). Again, priorities - if you plan to ever come back and drive old 66, fine, but I would drive it now (old things are always disappearing) and save the Interstate for later.

So, on that note, when you say Tamiami Trail "if time permits" - screw that, take the trail. You can see alligators along the road, stop in the Everglades center and get up close and personal with an anhinga. (You can also get up close and personal with alligators, but not recommended.) All you get on Alligator Alley is paying a toll and being subject to speed enforcement.

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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2012, 06:57:41 PM »

Corco is right--motel-type accommodation will not be a problem in Hays, Colby, or Goodland for that matter.  I'd be more concerned about the average daily mileage:  700 is pushing it.  550 is more realistic.
Eh, I can hit 1,000 miles on a good day. I racked up 6,100 miles in 9 days of driving the Midwest, mostly off freeways and including several hours of stops, and limited by sunup to sundown. 700 miles a day is fine.

Regarding things to see, get off the freaking Interstate! How did I find out about the world's largest umpire and Budweiser Clydesdale in the middle of Iowa's cornfields? Google each city/population center along the way and "Attractions." Many cities have set up a part of their own website devoted to things to see and do in the area, and some of the smaller towns are represented on travel websites. I was very willing to modify my route and clinch different roads in order to see the most interesting things along the way; it's a question of priorities, so you may rather stay on the road and miss the interesting stuff, but I would think if you're only in an area once, being able to brag "I clinched I-70 in Kansas" has less cachet than "here's a picture of me next to the world's largest ball of twine." You can see roads everywhere, but some things you can only see locally.

Also, for the distance you'll be along I-40, there are a lot of things to see on US 66. You can capture most of them by simply taking every Business loop that presents itself - that will give you all of the old hotels, some old gas stations, and random museums. But you'll still miss a lot of old alignments, cool bridges, and random sites like Jackrabbit (you are here!). Again, priorities - if you plan to ever come back and drive old 66, fine, but I would drive it now (old things are always disappearing) and save the Interstate for later.

So, on that note, when you say Tamiami Trail "if time permits" - screw that, take the trail. You can see alligators along the road, stop in the Everglades center and get up close and personal with an anhinga. (You can also get up close and personal with alligators, but not recommended.) All you get on Alligator Alley is paying a toll and being subject to speed enforcement.
New Mexico posts many of the old U.S. 66 alignments along I-40 with "Historic 66" signs on freeway exits. To catch the westernmost opportunity, exit I-40 at the last Arizona exit (Lupton), turn north toward the rest area which is a little west of this junction, and then go right (east). The road becomes NM-118, a designation which continues for quite a distance past Gallup. NM-122 is another old 66 alignment, as is the obvious Central Avenue through Albuquerque which turns into NM-333, beginning on the east side of the city and continuing through Tijeras Canyon.
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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2012, 07:41:25 PM »

Lots of water.  Figure on drinking 1 quart a day if you have AC and 2-3 quarts if you don't, and have an extra 4 quarts besides that in case you get stuck for a few hours and have to wait for help.  Separate one-quart bottles so a leak or spill doesn't run your day.  Also sunscreen if you'll have an open sunroof or window. 

If it were me, I'd opt for more time exploring Utah and New Mexico rather than get to L.A. just to stick your toe in the Pacific and turn back.
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J N Winkler

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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2012, 08:15:25 PM »

Eh, I can hit 1,000 miles on a good day. I racked up 6,100 miles in 9 days of driving the Midwest, mostly off freeways and including several hours of stops, and limited by sunup to sundown. 700 miles a day is fine.

The distance driven in a day is a matter both of endurance and personal preference.  I have done more than 550 miles (yes, more than 700 miles) in a single 24-hour period before, but I would not call it comfortable.  For this reason I would not advise the OP to budget more than 550 miles per day unless he has experience sustaining his chosen daily mileage over several consecutive days.

I work on the basis that any average speed of 50 miles per on-road hour involves speeding, which I generally avoid.  (In this context on-road time includes not just time the car is moving, but also time spent on fuel and restroom stops, and any other type of stop not lasting more than 30 minutes.)  For comfort and safety I also need a minimum 8 hours of sleep per night (I can do with less, but I prefer to keep my risk of dozing at the wheel at a minimum without relying on chemical assistance).  This leaves 16 hours per day that are potentially available for driving.  Allowing one hour each for three meals and one hour each for departure preliminaries in the morning and after-arrival activities in the evening, that leaves 11 driving hours, or 550 miles.

700 miles is perfectly feasible day after day, but inevitably something else will get squeezed--the choices include compliance with speed limits, mealtimes, camera stops, preparation time in the morning, unwinding time in the evening, sleep, and so on.

My own approach to travel is to reserve the full 550-mile days for point-to-point travel with an absolute minimum of intermediate stops (generally between my origin point and a designated entrepôt where the vacation proper begins or ends), and then to average no more than 300 miles per day otherwise.  This pace is very easy to sustain over a month or longer.
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realjd

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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #14 on: May 14, 2012, 10:15:54 PM »

I find that, for me, my usual limit is time based, not distance based. I can usually drive for about 12-13 hours hours (including bathroom, gas, and drive-thru lunch breaks) before stopping for the night. On interstates, this usually works out to 750-800 miles. I figure less distance on non-freeways and if I have to drive through cities at rush hour. I don't know if I could sustain it for a month, but I do fine with this pace over several days.
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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #15 on: May 14, 2012, 10:33:22 PM »

Meh, roughly 500 miles a day is about right for me; maybe one long stint to make up time, but if you have the time to stop, it's a lot more enjoyable, and it feels less like work. Unless it involves lots of winding roads, slow roads, or (intentional) traffic, then less than that doesn't seem to accomplish much if you're only roading.

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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #16 on: May 14, 2012, 10:38:24 PM »

Indeed, I speak in terms of mileage but it is functionally more a matter of time. 12-13 hours per day on the road sounds good to me. I tend not too stop too often or for too long, and if I were the type to comply with speed limits I wouldn't have asked about speed traps. :)

Anyways, thanks for the advice, guys (and keep it coming). I have of course intentionally scheduled a few deviations from the interstate into my trip to make things a little more interesting, but I do have a lot of ground to cover so we'll have to see how many deviations I can really make.
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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #17 on: May 14, 2012, 11:17:12 PM »

I would add that for gas and things of that nature, be weary in the west. Oftentimes there will be towns on the map that have absolutely nothing in them- best bet is to time yourself to fill up in places with the second or third smallest dot on the map, as opposed to the smallest. If there's 2000 people, you can pretty much bank on a gas station. If there's 1,000 people, there will likely be a gas station, but it might not work 24 hours (probably less of a problem right along the freeway). Less than that and there might be gas, but it could very well be a private co-op you can't use especially in the Great Plains.

Also, in some of the smaller off-Interstate towns in Utah, gas stations might not be open Sundays.  Whichever day you pass through southern Utah and far northern Arizona, services are sparse enough that you'd be better off refueling when you can rather than letting the tank go under half-full.

One alternate route in southeastern Utah, if you don't mind a few miles off-pavement, is to work in the Moki Dugway via UT 95 and UT 261 into the Monument Valley.  The steep drop into the Valley (that's the unpaved part of UT 261) is spectacular.  My Prius handled it comfortably in both directions.
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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #18 on: May 14, 2012, 11:49:58 PM »

About 20 years ago, my dad, brother and I went west. We left Kentucky at 0-dark-30 and made it to Hays, Kan. for the night. My dad was more into stopping than I would be, so we probably stopped more often than I would if driving alone, but I don't remember that drive (53 miles to I-64, then 98 miles across Kentucky, all the way across Illinois and Indiana, then I-70 and I-670 across Missouri and that far into Kansas).

Google Maps says 917 miles, 14 hours 49 minutes, but that's taking I-64 all the way to its terminus. Back then I-64 wasn't finished so we hit I-70 right after crossing the Big Muddy.

If you are going by times, remember than you'll pick up an extra hour when you cross time zones. I remember our arrival in Hays being early enough that we were able to get something to eat from a sit-down restaurant, and going into what at the time was the biggest Walmart I'd ever seen. Plus we actually stopped and ate in at an Arby's somewhere west of I-70 and US 40-61.

Me, if I'm trying to make time, I tend not to stop unless I need gas or fuel or need to use the restroom. If I want lunch, I'll drive through somewhere.
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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #19 on: May 15, 2012, 08:39:34 PM »

Also, in some of the smaller off-Interstate towns in Utah, gas stations might not be open Sundays.

One alternate route in southeastern Utah, if you don't mind a few miles off-pavement, is to work in the Moki Dugway via UT 95 and UT 261 into the Monument Valley.

I'm looking at being through there Monday and Tuesday.

As for the Dugway, seems easier to make it a sidetrip there and back from US 163 so I don't miss clinching that, but it's too close not to do. Thanks for pointing that out!

If you are going by times, remember than you'll pick up an extra hour when you cross time zones.

And lose them coming back east, which is the shorter trip. Convenient that way. We'll see, though. I may just keep myself on Eastern time with regards to what hours I do what, and figure more power to me if it results in a little early to bed/early to rise.

Last time I messed with time zones I crossed between eastern and central four times in the space of a few hours and it confused my phone a bit. I did learn that it automatically adjusts though.
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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #20 on: May 15, 2012, 08:55:58 PM »

As for the Dugway, seems easier to make it a sidetrip there and back from US 163 so I don't miss clinching that, but it's too close not to do. Thanks for pointing that out!

That's how I did the Dugway, for that reason (US 163 to the Dugway and beyond to UT 95, then back to US 163 via the Dugway, so I could clinch both US 163 and UT 261).  But the most interesting part of Monument Valley is west of the Dugway, IMO. 
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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #21 on: May 16, 2012, 09:58:12 AM »

Last time I messed with time zones I crossed between eastern and central four times in the space of a few hours and it confused my phone a bit. I did learn that it automatically adjusts though.

When I was clinching counties in northwestern Illinois recently, my work-issued BlackBerry (roaming off Verizon) kept switching from Eastern to Central time and vice versa, even though I was miles away from the time zone boundary. Not sure why it was doing that, but it kept throwing up messages that the time zone had been adjusted.

My AT&T iPhone stayed on Central time while i was in that area.
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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #22 on: May 16, 2012, 12:28:25 PM »

And lose them coming back east, which is the shorter trip. Convenient that way. We'll see, though. I may just keep myself on Eastern time with regards to what hours I do what, and figure more power to me if it results in a little early to bed/early to rise.

Last time I messed with time zones I crossed between eastern and central four times in the space of a few hours and it confused my phone a bit. I did learn that it automatically adjusts though.

The general rule for jet lag is one day per time zone change to adjust (worst case). Driving is a slow enough means of transportation that I wouldn't expect you to have any issues adjusting to the different times. Staying on Eastern time is probably going to be more hassle than it's worth for you, especially since you get a gradual adjustment driving back east.


When I was clinching counties in northwestern Illinois recently, my work-issued BlackBerry (roaming off Verizon) kept switching from Eastern to Central time and vice versa, even though I was miles away from the time zone boundary. Not sure why it was doing that, but it kept throwing up messages that the time zone had been adjusted.

My AT&T iPhone stayed on Central time while i was in that area.

A single cell tower can provide service to a large area in rural areas. I suspect your Verizon phone was bouncing back and forth between a tower in the other time zone while the nearest AT&T towers were all in the Eastern time zone. I had a similar thing happen with my AT&T iPhone last time I drove I-8 between Yuma and San Diego; it kept bouncing between AT&T and Mexican cell towers, and I got a "make sure data roaming is off" text from AT&T every time it did that.
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vdeane

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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #23 on: May 16, 2012, 01:22:20 PM »

All this talk of cross-country driving is inspiring me.  Too bad I can't make such a trip for at least a year.
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Re: Bouncing a roadtrip off the west coast
« Reply #24 on: May 17, 2012, 01:21:03 PM »

Last time I messed with time zones I crossed between eastern and central four times in the space of a few hours and it confused my phone a bit. I did learn that it automatically adjusts though.

When I was clinching counties in northwestern Illinois recently, my work-issued BlackBerry (roaming off Verizon) kept switching from Eastern to Central time and vice versa, even though I was miles away from the time zone boundary. Not sure why it was doing that, but it kept throwing up messages that the time zone had been adjusted.

My AT&T iPhone stayed on Central time while i was in that area.

My phone has done that several times in Grayville, Illinois.  It used to thrown me off, as I had to write down my arrival and departure times for every delivery.
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