Planning Our Seven Week RV Road Trip: California to Illinois and Return

May 5th ~ Happy Cinco de Mayo – Southern California

Ice Plant in bloom here in Southern California

**Our niece is getting married on June 1st in Illinois and we are ramping up our plans in preparation for our road trip from California to Chrisman and return.

Departure date is May 10th and we are allowing two plus weeks to get there. We will be traveling some of the original Route 66. Our itinerary east will take us from Southern California through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and into Illinois.

Road Trip – looking down the highway…

Scheduled stops include Petrified Forest National Park, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Taos Pueblo, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, Philbrook Museum of Art, and Missouri Botanical Garden.

Roadtrippers.com was an invaluable tool in planning all of this out.

Springtime will melt into summer

Click here to see our route going east.

After the wedding and festivities we will be taking a northern route back west. Tim’s mother, Shirley, will be joining us. Shirley has not had the opportunity to see some of our most magnificent national parks, and we look forward to seeing them freshly through her eyes.

Hay in the field

The states we will be transiting back from Illinois will include Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Arizona and returning to California.

Looks to be about a dozen different states from start to finish.

Usually see plenty of wildlife in the National Parks.

The highlights planned on the return route will include Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, Porter Sculpture Park, Badlands National Park, Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Wind Cave National Park, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Yellowstone NP, Grand Teton NP, George Eccles Dinosaur Park, Salt Lake City, Bryce and Zion NP, and the Grand Canyon.

Click here to see our proposed route from Illinois back to California

We look to get back home in time for the 4th of July Parade and fireworks in Huntington Beach.

Kind of looks like a fireworks 🙂

I’m still in the planning stage, so if you have any MUST SEE recommendations along or near our route, we would love to hear from you.

GRATITUDE MOMENT: A couple of big items jump out at me today as I write this. We are thrilled to be able to attend our nieces wedding. Ashley and Will are an adorable couple, madly in love, and truly sweet, kind kids. I’m sure I’ll be sharing a few pictures from their special day. Another big one is the opportunity to revisit several of our nations true treasures and see them from a fresh, new perspective.

Hope you will join us as we explore more of our beautiful country!

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About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our "next chapter". At a stage in life where traveling the world, taking pictures, and sharing our adventures with friends and family will be our dream come true.
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57 Responses to Planning Our Seven Week RV Road Trip: California to Illinois and Return

  1. If you are on Facebook, there is a very good Route 66 group.They can guide you through some details like good places to eat and so on. If you can’t find it, friend me, and I’ll point the way.

    I know New Mexico Route 66 very well having lived in Albuquerque after Hurricane Katrina blew us out of NOLA. Garcia’s Cafe is a legendary restaurant located on Central, which is Route 66. There is also one on 4Th Street, which is pre-1927 Route 66 and will eventually take you to Santa Fe. (The hard way)

    If you’d like I can put you in touch with a photographer friend of mine who lives in New Mexico. She’s driven all of Route 66 in order to make pictures.

    And, if you want a break from your RV, stay at the Swallow in Tucumcari. Don’t forget to see Cadillac Ranch, near Amarillo.

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  2. Terry says:

    Sunset Crater just north of Flagstaff, Meramec Caverns off the 44 in MO. Check out Springfield, IL and all the Lincoln sites. Looks like on the return route your seeing a lot. Missed if your stopping at Devils Tower and Deadwood.

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  3. emjayb says:

    In the Santa Fe/Taos area are Bandolier National Monument and the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Both are interesting for their native pre-culture remnants.

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  4. nelson2021 says:

    We have traveled portions of the old route 66 highway. Best preserved stretches that we have been on (we haven’t traveled all yet) are in arizona and oklahoma. My blog has a few entries about it. We love the national parks, hopefully you can spend several days in each! Enjoy!

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    • We have already visited almost all of these national parks, some more than once, so this is more intended as an introduction to them for my mother-in-law. I’m very excited to get to see them with a fresh perspective through her eyes.

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  5. What a marvelous trip this is going to be! I’m looking forward to see all the photos. When in South Dakota, stop long enough in Mitchell to see the Corn Palace. It’s well worth it and won’t take long. There’s also a giant Cabela’s store there if you need any outdoor gear. Al’s Oasis in Chamberlain is a great place to eat. I definitely second the tip to see Devil’s Tower. If you’ve never been, drive through the Badlands and maybe Custer State Park. Mt. Rushmore comes to mind as well. 🙂

    janet

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  6. El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, NM is worth a quick stop – the place where all the movie stars stayed when they filmed all those westerns. And Los Alamos up near Santa Fe/Bandolier is really a great stop. Just seeing the topography of the place explains a lot of why that place was chosen to do the work they did.

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  7. Sounds a great trip. We are crossing some of your routing when we embark on 7 weeks through the Rockies in late August. Certainly, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. Devils Tower, Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Badlands, Litle Big Horn are on our lists plus Cody, Virginia City, Gates of the Mountains…. We got a lot of help and suggestions on the Road Trips Forum of TripAdvisor. Lots of wonderful advice on routings. Also from the individual State forums on there. Looking forward to reading your blogs a few months before we visit some of the same places.

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  8. TCast says:

    This will be fun, Tim and Joanne! I am excited for you both!

    Regards
    Teresa

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  9. Darlene says:

    Sounds like a fabulous trip and you are going to some of my favourite places in the US. I based Amanda in New Mexico in the Taos area. The Taos Pueblo plays an important part in the story. Look forward to your posts and pictures.

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  10. This was such a beautiful read, hopefully I will get a chance to visit all these beautiful places too 🙂 Congratulations to your niece! I can’t wait to see the pictures

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  11. Melissa Leebaert says:

    I want to be you guys when I grow up which I’m hoping is not tooooo long from now.
    I’ll be following your trip! xoxoxooxox Melissa

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  12. Christie Brown says:

    So what’s a couple of hours more? Why don’t you come further east to Cincinnati for a visit? Would love to see you!

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  13. Have a wonderful trip! My favorite pueblo is Acoma, west of ABQ; Acoma Pueblo pottery is amazing. I’ll also second Bandolier. I have cousins in Santa Fe so have spent a lot of time in the area; my favorite museum is the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in downtown Santa Fe, although parking is certainly easier up on Museum Hill! You can’t go wrong with any of the museums, though. I look forward to seeing it all through your eyes.

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    • We have now added Bandolier to our itinerary. I marked Acoma Pueblo on the map, but not sure if we will go that route or not. We made notes on several places in Santa Fe to check out. Sure appreciate your input!

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  14. Sounds like a great trip. Can’t go wrong with Route 66 and the national parks you listed. Looking forward to your journey. –Curt

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  15. I’m excited to hear about this! I LOVE Route 66!

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  16. Widdershins says:

    Emegherd!! Road trip!!! … I’m so excited. 😀

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  17. Sara H says:

    Hi Tim and Joanne,
    My Mom and I just completed driving Route 66 and I have a few recommendations for you. First, not sure what tools you are using to navigate Route 66, but we found that it was easy to miss turns, as not all 8 states have continuous signage (Missouri and Illinois were the best). We used a combination of these two books: Route 66 Road Trip, by Moon and EZ66 Guide for Travelers by Jerry McClanahan to help us navigate. Even then, we did quite a few “oops, we just missed our turn”, so be prepared in advance for making adjustments.
    Second, Route 66 east of Amboy and Cadiz Summit was closed when we tried to drive it on April 22nd. We ended up stopping in Fenner and took I-40 to Exit 78 (Kelbaker Road). Of course, that was traveling westbound, so if you are on Route 66 after Amboy, you will see the road closed signs (assuming it’s still closed) and can take Kelbaker Road up to I-40 and then jump off again at Exit 107 in Fenner and get back onto Route 66.
    Third, if you have the opportunity to eat at Rock Cafe in Stroud, OK, I highly recommend it. They make the best Reuben sandwich I’ve ever had! Doesn’t look like much from the outside, but don’t let that fool you, the food and service are fantastic.
    Last, but not least, have a fabulous trip. Your journey sounds amazing and I’m so glad to read that you are taking people up on their ideas on where you should stop. Devil’s Tower is pretty cool, so I’m glad you are going. Look for the hundreds of prairie dogs that live along the road as you drive into the park.
    Safe Travels and can’t wait to hear all about your adventure!

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    • Sara, thank you so very much for your detailed recommendations. We usually just plug our next destination into Maps or Waze. Most of the time that works pretty well for us. I’ll try to find some info online to see if that section is still closed. I will take a look at the menu for Rock Cafe. Sounds delish, but my hubby has some food allergies and can’t eat a Reuben. I’ll see if there might be an alternative for him. A few years ago we drove a similar northern route and got some adorable pictures of the prairie dogs. Would enjoy seeing them again. Appreciate your help!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Marie says:

    Hi, Time and Joanne. It sounds like a fabulous trip. I hope you enjoy the Porter Sculpture Park as much as I did. If you have a bit of extra time, I highly recommend the Grotto of the Redemption in Iowa. It is a bit of the main drag but a fascinating place. Have a wonderful journey.

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  19. Just love your flower photos! Happy road trip!

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  20. LTodd says:

    Oh, my. I’m exhausted just reading your list of must sees and suggestions in the comments. I thought I might have something to add to the conversation but it seems like your compressive list and comment suggestions covered it all. As we may soon be on our way to NM I hope you don’t mind if I steal from your list or comments. Have a wonderful trip with only safe travel days ahead. And congrats to your niece and soon to be husband.

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    • Our itinerary does seem a bit daunting doesn’t it. We already had a good start mapped out, but I was so happy that we got some wonderful recommendations to add to it. One of the nice things about traveling in our RV is we can stay an extra day here or there if we get tired, or if we want to see more. Please help yourself to the ideas that others shared. It is a combined effort and I loved it when others are inspired to get on the road. Appreciate your good wishes ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I know it’s way past planning time for you, but here are two serendipitous stops we found on a similar route a couple of years ago. Neither need take more than a couple of minutes unless you’re so inclined (we were):

    (1) Chamberlain rest stop on I-90 for fabulous photo ops of MO River, the stunning Native American sculpture, Dignity (https://www.travelsouthdakota.com/trip-ideas/story/dignity-earth-sky), and an interesting Lewis and Clark display–they camped here.

    (2) On Rt 66 in TX–not only is Cadillac Ranch too iconic to pass up, but when we saw the Devil’s Rope Barbed Wire Museum in McLean (east of Amarillo) what seemed like a fun, quirky stop turned out to be super interesting and educational. Free, too.

    btw, we would have gladly spent more time in Badlands and Custer State Park. Decided at last minute to pass on Mt. Rushmore in favor of the more natural beauty, though we had good views of it from Custer.

    Good luck with last minute preparations and have a great trip! So many great possibilities!

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    • I love these ideas and have added them to the itinerary. I’m not sure if we will be able to squeeze everything in, but will sure have fun trying. The Dignity statue looks stunning. We have been to Rushmore, but Tim’s mom has not so it was on our original loop. We did already add Cadillac Ranch, but was not familiar with Devil’s Rope. We enjoy unusual and quirky stops, so put it on the list, time permitting. Many, many thanks for your suggestions!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  22. fotosbykarin says:

    I love the fireworkplant 😀

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