Seeing as though we have our upcoming and ridiculously long drive from Kansas City to Seattle in a few days, I figured I would share how I went about planning the drive. Simply put, I treated it as a REALLY long bug out trip. In fact, I intend on keeping the information I compiled for this trip if I ever needed to reverse the trip to make it back to Kansas City someday. Let’s hope not…
A few Things to Note
- I chose to break up the drive into at least four days of several hours of driving a day. Although you could conceivable make the drive straight through (it’s about 30 hours or so) if you have enough drivers, which might be a better plan if you needed to G.O.O.D. quickly, you would still want plenty of places to stop if you had to. And, just in case, I have shorter stops planned as well in case of inclement weather.
- I placed emphasis on larger cities to allow for several choices for hotels, especially those with Wi-Fi and that accept pets, but if I were planning this purely for bug out then I would have taken any hotel I could find since I wouldn’t need Wi-Fi and I would figure out how to sneak my dog in. I wanted more places with more options rather than less in case my first choice in hotels were booked.
- I included two major routes. Typically, in a bug out you would want as many potential routes as you can–let’s say two at minimum with three or four being preferable–and the preference would be on lesser-used routes, including back streets, outer roads, even public land access roads…. anything other than the interstate. But, sadly, a 2000 mile trip is simply going to include the interstate. Of course, if I were planning this for a but out (and I will adjust it eventually) then the most useful plan would be to get out of the city where the trouble is using lesser-traveled streets while avoiding interstates and THEN–once cleared of trouble–to use the interstates.
- If I had thought about this before I packed everything I might have considered planting caches along the way. But since we’re in a sedan that probably wouldn’t have happened due to a simple lack of space for anything besides what we MUST take with us like clothes and such.
Pick Your Primary and Secondary Routes
Now, the first thing I did was to open Google Maps and choose to get Directions and typed in “Kansas City MO” as the starting point with “Seattle WA” as the destination. I assume you know how to do this. As you can see, Google wants me to take I-90 but offers two alternatives, I-80 and I-70. You can even drag the route to change it if you like. Here’s what I saw to begin with (click image to enlarge):
After talking to some people and doing a bit of internet research I decided against I-90 as my primary route due to the potential for worse weather that far north, though, I realize both I-80 and I-70 can be bad too. Besides, my wife wanted to see her grandmother in Utah one last time so that settled any debate on taking I-90. That said, we choose I-70 as our primary route so we could stop over in Denver to see friends, however, the following will discuss I-80–our secondary route–because I have been that way before going to Salt Lake City. Here’s what that leg looks like (click image to enlarge):
My intention on this route would be to stop over in Cheyenne, Wyoming the first night and continue on to Salt Lake City, Utah the next day. So, the next thing to do is to note several hotels in Cheyenne because I plan on staying there.
Find Your Stopover Cities
As you can see from the screenshot above, I’ve also circled two other relatively large cities in the image above: Lincoln, Nebraska, and Rock Springs, Wyoming as potential stopping off points if weather was bad. And, so, I’ll find hotels in those places as well for my “something bad happened” scenario. You might also notice that I have a rather long stretch of highway without any obvious stopovers between Lincoln, Nebraska and Cheyenne, Wyoming which doesn’t make me very happy. So, I zoomed in a bit more focusing on the span between Lincoln, NE and Cheyenee, WY and found some smaller towns, including Grand Island, Lexington, and North Platte, Nebraska (click image to enlarge):
You’ll also notice another circle on the far left that doesn’t have a town name which means it’s an even smaller town I found after zooming in even more named Ogallala, Nebraska which is starting to make me a bit concerned because there’s not much between North Platte, Nebraska and Cheyenne, Wyoming which is over 200 miles.
List and Refine Hotels That Meet Your Criteria (and then some)
After identifying the route and the best stopover cities I could, the next step was to find hotels in each of those cities. While I could use sites like hotels.com or expedia.com, I choose to simply use Google Hotel Finder and found the following listings for Cheyenne, Wyoming (click image to enlarge):
There are two major things to point out. First, you can refine your search for any number of options, including price point, hotel class and ratings, and amenities of which I required both “internet” and “pets allowed” and preferred better rated hotels, usually 3.5 starts or better. Second, if you look at the map on the right you can get a general idea of where the hotels are located around the city, if interested, but that wasn’t a major concern for me.
After refining I still had quite a few options available in a larger city such as Cheyenne and so the easiest thing to do was to click on each hotel, scroll down to the bottom, then copy and paste the hotel’s information–name, address, and phone–into a Word document like this (click image to enlarge):
Since it’s a relatively fast process there’s no reason not to copy and paste details for several hotels in each city or all of them if you prefer. You can even jot down notes after printed such as general pricing for each, preferences, or whatever you like. Simply repeat this process for each additional city identified and you’ll quickly develop a list of hotels you can call and reserve as needed. Even smaller cities like Ogallala, Nebraska offered a handful of choices… I was surprised.
Rinse and Repeat!
Obviously, then, you would repeat this process for each major route. In my case I would do this for both I-70 as well as I-80 from Kansas City, Missouri to Salt Lake City, Utah. I would first pick the routes, identify major cities (and minor ones too if needed), list hotels with preferences (especially phone numbers) and that’s about it. of course, I would repeat this process for each major leg of the trip and get as detailed as I needed.
While hotels are a higher priority, it couldn’t hurt to also list and print rest areas along the way for each major interstate you intend on travelling too: http://www.interstaterestareas.com or http://roadnow.com link to the major highways. I did… why not.
While I could do the same for gas stations that could get rather involved. Instead, my plan is to force myself to fill up like I would if I were driving around the city and that’s to keep the tank filled at half full or more. Besides, I’ll have a GPS that identifies nearby gas stations and dining too and I’m sure the family needs to stretch their legs every so often. Of course, if I were truly bugging out then I would have also taken my gasoline cans–strapped to the trunk–but I figured my wife would have a heart attack if I did that for this trip. 😉
Once I had it all together the last step was to let family know the dates I will be travelling, what legs I’ll take and when, and the hotels I expect to stay at with phone numbers. Then I would immediately let these people know if plans or routes change, hotels changed, and so on. And, needless to say, I would tell these people when I’ve arrived at my destination each night too.
What additional steps would you have taken? I would love to hear them before I leave in a few days.