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Hints and tips for a once in a lifetime US roadtrip


woodbyte
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<p>Even if you don't fly and drive, I would STRONGLY suggest renting an appropriate vehicle. Years ago, I broke an axle on a car outside of Jackson, WY. It took 3 days to get the parts and repaired. With a rental, if you have insurance, you can usually just get a replacement and be on your way.</p>

<p>my .02</p>

<p>Isaac</p>

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<p>James,</p>

<p>Safety tips:<br>

(1) DO NOT CARRY A GUN. They're illegal in National Parks (and possibly on Indian land, also), and the rules about what you can carry vary a lot from state to state.<br>

(2) Prepare for a WIDE range of temperatures. The weather in the western US is far less predictable than in the east. You can die of dehydration in the heat of the afternoon or exposure in the cold of night. Sunscreen is mandatory, especially at high altitudes where the UV radiation is stronger. If you fall over the edge at the Grand Canyon, you won't survive.<br>

(3) In the dryer regions, carry ONE GALLON of water PER PERSON PER DAY. It will seem like too much when you're buying it, but it will seem like too LITTLE when you need it. PEOPLE DIE IN THESE PLACES.<br>

(4) Lightning can be very dangerous at high altitudes, and storms can come upon you very quickly.<br>

(5) Do NOT try to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon unless you plan to camp down there and hike back up another day.<br>

(6) Never enter a "slot canyon" if there's ANY chance of rain in the area.<br>

(7) Keep your eyes on the road. No picture is worth risking your family's safety.</p>

<p>Photo tips:<br>

(8) Any time the light looks interesting is a good time to shoot. A portfolio of nothing but sunrises and sunsets is BORING no matter how colorful they are.<br>

(9) A good tripod (and head) is an investment that you'll never regret.<br>

(10) The South Rim of the Grand Canyon has lots of beautiful vistas/turnouts. You'll figure it out quickly. You don't have to hike into the canyon (where the views are actually more limited).<br>

(11) The North Rim is more isolated with fewer "easy" places to grab a quick shot.<br>

(12) You'll find plenty of great photo opportunities all along the way, not just in the Big Name parks. Keep an open mind.<br>

(13) Don't forget your battery chargers and some lint-free lens cloth. Don't forget batteries for your strobe unit. Don't forget your USB cables.<br>

(14) Consider going to Arches NP and Bryce Canyon in Utah. (I'm not a big fan of Zion NP.) Consider Sedona and Monument Valley in Arizona. Consider a stop at Lake Powell and the nearby Antelope Canyon (slot canyon). Consider Mesa Verde or Canyon de Chelly to see cliff dwellings. Consider spending at least one night in Las Vegas.<br>

(15) The more memory cards you can carry the better.<br>

(16) The Grand Canyon is frequently hazy. A polarizer will help cut through the haze.</p>

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<p>A few comments on comment on Death Valley. It is a Winter, Spring, or Fall destination. Summer is definitely the least pleasant season to visit there. You'd be dramatically better off going to the High Sierras in Summer and save DV for another trip. A drive up or down Hwy 395 is a must do experience! You can fly to LV in Winter, gamble, catch a couple of shows, and do a DV tour all in 4-5 days. I love DV, but I only go in Winter! Go here if you want to view my gallery on DV: <a href="../photodb/folder?folder_id=885860">http://www.photo.net/photodb/folder?folder_id=885860</a>. Best of luck on your big adventure! -Clayton</p>
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<p>We're going to Yellowstone in the 3rd week of July starting from the Fort Worth area. Four adults & 5 children. The advice on renting a larger vehicle is right on. We have a Tahoe & Dodge minivan but will be renting a 15 passenger van & possibly towing a small trailer for luggage. This will give us a little room to stretch out. Yellowstone will be our only "destination" and have booked cabins 9 months in advance. Seriously - book before you go. Your trip sounds too agressive to me in that you will be tired day after day from traveling. You might consider a Cody Wyoming , Yellowstone/Grand Teton , Glacier Park trip to allow more time actually "being there".<br>

Hope you have fun on your trip - might see you there.<br>

The only photographic advice I can give is to rent a LONG lens for your trip. The wildlife viewing distances will be long.<br>

Here's a few links<br>

http://www.travelyellowstone.com/<br>

http://www.bbhc.org/home/index.cfm?CFID=8048798&CFTOKEN=19284587<br>

http://www.ask.com/bar?q=grand+teton+lodge&page=1&qsrc=145&ab=2&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.jacksonhole.com%2Finfo%2Fnp.grandteton.asp</p>

<p> </p><div>00Sngw-117543584.thumb.jpg.a5e5278065fd735dec4b7aec59935fb8.jpg</div>

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<p>

<blockquote>

<p >Probably the same place so many people heard firearms were illegal in National Parks and Forests.</p>

<p >There's a difference between complicated, restricted, annoying, and subject to broad range of potentially caprious differences from place to place and "illegal."</p>

</blockquote>

<p > </p>

<p >I stand corrected. The law was changed three months ago after a 25-year ban. Forgive me for not being "up to the minute." </p>

<p > </p>

<p >By the way, guns are still banned in some parks and public lands. Call ahead to be sure.</p>

<p > </p>

</p>

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<p>Actually "the law" wasn't "just changed." The blanket statements several people made or repeated about firearms being illegal in national parks and forests were overstatements and wrong. As with anything "legal," one generally would be better served to get their legal advice from local, competent lawyers and not photographers.</p>

<p>There have been provisions for the legal transportation of firearms through national park service units (with local provisions as to specifics). Typically one was to report the firearm(s) on entry and demonstrate that it met certain conditions of storage, etc., so it wasn't readily available for poaching, illegal discharge, etc. This is from the Yosemite website"<br>

<!-- LARGE IMAGE module-->"The possession, use, or discharge of a firearm in Yosemite National Park is prohibited, to include pellet and BB guns.</p>

<p>Weapons may be transported through the park, provided that they are unloaded, broken down or cased, with ammunition kept separate from the weapon, and securely stored in your car or hotel room.</p>

<p>You may not carry the weapon."</p>

<p>Recently changes have been made to allow individuals with concealed carry permits to continue to carry according to the provisions of their state's permits and local laws in NPS areas. What this typically would do would mean a person with the permit would not have to stop at the entry point, reveal the concealed weapon, unload it, case it, hide it, etc., then on departure go through the reverse. That issue is like any concealed carry, complicated by the patchwork of different local and state laws and carry provisions, reciprocity (or not).</p>

<p>National forests in a general sense have always been multiple use areas and possession of firearms, hunting, sports shooting activities, etc., has not been "illegal" as such. </p>

<p>What there are and remain are a patchwork of varying federal, tribal, state laws and particular requirements tailored to individual locations. People travel all the time with firearms and don't have trouble doing so, exercising a modicum of common sense. For the casual traveler, it's probably not worth the bother.</p>

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<p>Hello from Minnesota!</p>

<p>Ugh! I-90 across southern Minnesota and South Dakota, best to do that when the kids are asleep. Hundreds of miles of flat prairie land, hour after hour after hour. From west of the Mississippi River to Rapid City, you will see three trees. That's a strong 600 miles, one very solid day of driving. That's not counting substantial breaks in the action, only gas and potty and drive-thru McDonald's.</p>

<p>I've got to be honest, James, and a few others near the top of this thread said similar things (before I just jumped to the bottom)- 7 people in a mid-size vehicle for 2.5 weeks of long travel days... "Have allowed 18 days and think we'll drive each other mad, but all are willing to try it." For whom will this be enjoyable? How old are your kids? (Infants may be fine, they sleep constantly, unless they get an ear ache. Small kids can't sit still for more than an hour. Mid-size/age kids may likely grow bored out of their minds and torture everyone in the process. Teen-agers, well, all bets are off with them.) How well do you or your wife get along with your/her parents/inlaws? Vice versa? I love my parents and my parents-in-law, but more than an afternoon with any of them makes me a bit... edgy.</p>

<p>Do like someone suggested- pack all these folks in that car, drive 12 hours out, spend the night in a Motel 6, get up before dawn the next day, and drive home. Then everyone have an honest heart to heart talk about the 2-day trip and then decide if this is a good thing to do.</p>

<p>I sure hope I'm not throwing a wet blanket on your plans, but <em>in my opinion</em> this isn't sounding like a good time. I hope you prove all us naysayers wrong.</p>

<p>The trip- Mitchell, South Dakota. Take a picture of the outside of the Corn Palace, but don't bother going inside. Keep moving. Wall Drug, somewhere west of the Corn Palace (you'll see the signs, don't worry)- just keep on driving, no need to stop (you won't be able to carry the junk you'll end up wasting your money on anyway, your car won't have the room). Yellowstone- wonderful to see, can test your nerves with the traffic, especially the gigantic motorhomes driven by, err, people that probably should have turned in their driver's licenses long ago.</p>

<p>I really wish you well for your excursion, but be safe and be smart. Best Wishes!</p>

<p>(edit) I should have kept reading, you may have changed your plans. Oh, well. Best Wishes just the same!</p>

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<p>Lots of suggestions and ideas here. Good luck in sorting it all out. If you end up coming through South Dakota on this trip or a future one, I've included many suggestions for photos at my photo blog - <a href="http://www.Dakotagraph.com">www.Dakotagraph.com</a>.<br>

You might take a look at Badlands National Park in western South Dakota. Not exactly the same, but can be similar to much of the desert southwest area, and even give a Grand Canyon feel, but not so deep.</p>

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<p>Well, finally after much heartache, the flights are booked as follows:<br>

Fly Milwaulkee to San Francisco. Hire a BIG car or van. Drive to Las Vegas. (1500 miles ish) in 15 days finally think this is manageable.<br>

On the way the agenda is rough, but still to be refined:<br>

few days in SF<br>

few beach days round Montery<br>

few days in Yosemite<br>

few days in Sequoia Nat Park<br>

few days driving south of rockies<br>

few days in Grand Canyon<br>

few days in Vegas<br>

fly Vegas to Milwaulkee<br>

Really heartfelt thanks to all that contributed, and will be checking out in more detail the recommendations y'all made that coincide with this route.<br>

ya just gotta luv p.net<br>

:-)<br>

james</p>

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<p>The thing I might suggest - if you can but there's no good way to predict it at this point, the pass will probably be open but may not be depending on late season snow storms and conditions when plowing - if Tioga Pass is open, the east side of the Sierra would be easily accessible for places like Bodie, Mono Lake and then south via 395 and potentially through Death Valley to the Las Vegas area. This would mean going out the east side of Yosemite instead of heading south and through the Sequoia/Kings Canyon area. It also depends on if you felt like any "Los Angeles" type time. South out of Yosemite (with side trip to Sequoia or not), the main road is Highway 99, when you get to Bakersfield, east on 58 all the way to Barstow then back on I-15 to Vegas, that passes south of Death Valley. If you can go east on the 120, then south on 395, it's possible to hit the routes to DV or just continue south on 395 to the 58 and east as well. The Owens Valley route could allow you to pass Mt. Whitney (high point in the 48 contiguous states) and also pass through Death Valley.</p>

<p>Note that if you consider this, Bishop, Lee Vining, June Lake Loop and the Mammoth Lakes area offer quite a bit of lodging, it's possible to find some lodging in the small towns of Big Pine, Lone Pine and Independence but then from there through Death Valley to Las Vegas, except for Barstow, lodging can be very limited and very difficult to find and advance reservations are probably very important.</p>

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One camera/lens. Film, so you won't be tempted to spend your time taking pictures while ignoring the others. If it's not too hot the day you're there hike down one of the trails from the South rim of the Grand Canyon or take the mule trip. The rim is boring by comparison. Plan to spend two days around Santa Fe, an interesting mixture of Indian/Spanish and Anglo. See the Navajo reservation and go to Canyon de Chelly. Go north to Kansas and travel across the praries and across Missouri to St. Louis and the Gateway Arch
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<p>Plan sounds better and even though you still have a lot of country to see in a short time. I would suggest that you have a long list of things/places you wish to see. Get the family to help create the list. The list should be so long that its impossible to see everything on the list. :) </p>

<p>If the list is so long that it cannot be all seen you won't feel so bad for missing one or two places. And the long list gives you the list of saying list go east to see A instead of south to see B. Hopefully in what ever direction you end up taking you will have something on your list to see.</p>

<p>The trip you are planning I wanted to do decades ago when I was in school. But I never had the time. I surely don't have time now. One day though.</p>

<p>If the vehicle you rent has a hitch you can also get what is called a hitch hauler. Its a platform you can tie stuff down on outside of the vehicle. This keeps the luggage off the time of the vehicle which can be a pain to load, makes noise in the windstream, and cuts down on mpg. You should be able to buy a hitch hauler at any sporting goods store or RV/trailer store. They do come in different hitch sizes so you have to be careful. </p>

<p>Driving out west can be boring depending on the landscape and the person. Make sure that everyone has something to do on the drive to keep them from getting bored. I would also try to not spend too much time driving. Getting in the car and driving for hours and then stopping to see something for 30 minutes is not my idea of fun. My kids would go bonkers after a day or two of that kind of travel.</p>

<p>Later,<br>

Dan</p>

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<p>Just to make a suggestion about your "few days" Grand Canyon. If you are going to the North Rim, do make a reservation in advance. I did, last summer, and listened to the desk clerk turning away four or five people who did not. It was hours to the nearest alternate accommodation, and no guarantee there would be space there either.<br>

I drove from Salt Lake City to Houston and back (3300 miles) in 10 days last summer, and we saw and photographed a great deal on the way. The advice to ignore the sit-down breakfast is good. If you make your trip a little more regimented by making reservations, you always know where you are staying, and you won't be spending time checking out this motel and that motel during prime photographic shooting time!<br>

The very best advice I can offer, is to research what there is to see in each of your chosen destinations, and try to avoid too many unscheduled stops. Our trip last year concentrated on the Utah National Parks, and it was so tempting to stop and take a lot of pictures on the outskirts of the parks. We avoided the temptation, and were well rewarded, there is good reason why those particular parts of the land are National Parks!<br>

National Geographic has a great book on Scenic Highways and Byways of the US. I used it to plan last year's trip, and in every case when we took one of their recommended backroads it was well worth it. Use the interstates to get from one area to the other, but check that book in your local library to plan your routes in each area.<br>

Louise</p>

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  • 2 weeks later...

<p>1. No need for a gun. I've travelled many times throughout the US via Jeep and never needed one.<br>

2. Don't miss S Utah (Zion, Bryce, route 12 is fantastic). Bryce is best before/at sunrise or sunset and there is no one at the gate before 8AM so you'll save $$.<br>

3. 18 days is a rush-job to see that much. Well, if you're planning on just getting out of the car at overlooks, you can do it. My suggestion would be to gather details on everywhere you want to go. Then play it by ear and change plans based on how you feel. With a compressed timeframe, you'll often get to places when the light is not at its best. I personally hate Bryce at mid-day and if that was my 1st experience, I would have not gone back.<br>

4. I use nothing but 4x5 now ("upgraded" to sheet film, and will never look back). But in my Nikon D80 days, I found a 20mm prime, 28mm prime, and the 70-200mm VR was all I needed for all situations. Other lenses were not even used. If I was to go digital on a trip like yours, I might throw on a 50mm as well. A Circ. Polarizer is useful as is GND's. At 8000-11000 feet, there's a bit of distant haze in the mountains as well.<br>

5. On image storage...On my 1st trip I brought a bunch of SD cards. After that I always brought a Wolverine unit which acts like a portable hard drive. When an Sd card got filled, I popped it in the Wolverine and it sucked all the images over. Then I deleted all from the Sd card and started again. Ended up with 3 Sd cards (2 backups, just in case) but always used just 1.<br>

6. A decent 1st aid kit, pocket knife, compass, and the right socks. I cannot tell you how many times I run into people doing 5 mile hikes (non-hikers) in the desert wearing cotton socks. I stop, patch up their blisters, and move on.<br>

7. Back onto my #3. A few years ago in October I was heading to Zion and there were terrible rains. Flash flooding, a lot of water. It was to go on for a few days. So I re-routed. I guess what I am saying here is that you could spend years seeing the southwest. So if you get hit with bad weather or a setback, go somewhere else.<br>

And have fun,</p>

<p>Good luck.<br>

Ron</p>

 

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<p>1. No need for a gun. I've travelled many times throughout the US via Jeep and never needed one, doesn't even cross my mind.<br>

2. Don't miss S Utah (Zion, Bryce, route 12 is fantastic). Bryce is best before/at sunrise or sunset and there is no one at the gate before 8AM so you'll save $$.<br>

3. 18 days is a rush-job to see that much. Well, if you're planning on just getting out of the car at overlooks, you can do it. My suggestion would be to gather details on everywhere you want to go. Then play it by ear and change plans based on how you feel. With a compressed timeframe, you'll often get to places when the light is not at its best. I personally hate Bryce at mid-day and if that was my 1st experience, I would have not gone back.<br>

4. I use nothing but 4x5 now ("upgraded" to sheet film, and will never look back). But in my Nikon D80 days, I found a 20mm prime, 28mm prime, and the 70-200mm VR was all I needed for all situations. Other lenses were not even used. If I was to go digital on a trip like yours, I might throw on a 50mm as well. A Circ. Polarizer is useful as is GND's. At 8000-11000 feet, there's a bit of distant haze in the mountains as well.<br>

5. On image storage...On my 1st trip I brought a bunch of SD cards. After that I always brought a Wolverine unit which acts like a portable hard drive. When an Sd card got filled, I popped it in the Wolverine and it sucked all the images over. Then I deleted all from the Sd card and started again. Ended up with 3 Sd cards (2 backups, just in case) but always used just 1.<br>

6. A decent 1st aid kit, pocket knife, compass, and the right socks. I cannot tell you how many times I run into people doing 5 mile hikes (non-hikers) in the desert wearing cotton socks. I stop, patch up their blisters, and move on.<br>

7. Back onto my #3. A few years ago in October I was heading to Zion and there were terrible rains. Flash flooding, a lot of water. It was to go on for a few days. So I re-routed. I guess what I am saying here is that you could spend years seeing the southwest. So if you get hit with bad weather or a setback, go somewhere else.<br>

And have fun,</p>

<p>Good luck.<br>

Ron</p>

 

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<p>Some of these may be off your route but these 3 books are what got me hooked on photographing the southwest. Be warned, they are addictive.<br>

All by Laurent Martres.<br>

Photographing the Southwest: Volume 1--Southern Utah (2nd Ed.) <br>

Photographing the Southwest: Volume 2--Arizona (2nd Ed.) <br>

Photographing the Southwest: Volume 3--Colorado/New Mexico </p>

 

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  • 8 years later...
Also guns are prohibited in US National Parks so that may be the kicker anyway.

Handguns are allowed in all National Park land (not buildings) if carried in a manner consistent with local state law. Long guns must be cased and unloaded. You can't hunt or shoot, except in self defense. Once you cross the Mississippi, two-legged predation is fairly rare outside major cities, and never as often as in Chicago. Nearly everyone there owns and many legally carry a firearm, which means you are far less likely to need one yourself (a process of natural selection). Bears are another thing if you cross their path. Bear spray is generally a more effective defense. If you have never fired a gun, you don't want to start with a .44 Magnum, and anything less is a waste of time.

 

You drive a long way between stops, which will take most of your time. It's good to set some tentative goals for stops, but be prepared to trim the list once you see how you are progressing. If you see something photogenic, stop, but make sure you leave time to explore the parks and other places of interest. Dallas is best seen in the rear view mirror, unless you are amused by people wearing cowboy boots and Stetsons in public. It's a big city with fewer landmarks than Chicago. Call ahead for lodging! Places near parks fill up quickly, especially with tour buses, and you can drive a hundred miles or more to find an alternative. The internet is your friend.

 

Before you go, or at the first opportunity (e.g., a National Park or monument), purchase an NPS Pass, which will give give your family admission to over 2000 parks and monuments. It's an annual expense, unless you are a senior citizen, which is good for a lifetime. It opens the door to places you would otherwise pass by due to admission fees, and pay for itself quickly.

 

America the Beautiful - Annual Pass

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Apparently, Ed didn't realize that the thread is 8 years old and was revived by a spammer.

I didn't notice the date. Still an interesting question. People are still traveling out west, myself included. I just avoid those states which have seceded from the Constitution, if not the country.

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