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cross country trip from NM to Central Coast

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Albuquerque, New...
Destination Expert
for Albuquerque, New Mexico
posts: 1,754
reviews: 34
cross country trip from NM to Central Coast

We're planning another of our crazy, fast cross country trips from Albuquerque to Monterey during Christmas week. We always drove from Barstow to Bakersfield on 58, on to 5, and then on to Paso Robles and up. Would it make a lot more sense to take 233 aka Nat'l Purple Heart Trail aka Bear Mountain Blvd aka Arvin to 5?

Also, on past summertime trips (these are one-day dashes) we've found a spray park for the kids to get refreshed on our way. On this trip, any recommendations for quick bite (and even quick refueling?). Thanks.

17 replies to this topic
Grover Beach, Ca
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for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
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1. Re: cross country trip from NM to Central Coast

I would say 58 to 99 north to 46 west would make more sense, than 223/Bear Mountain Blvd. Doesn't make much sense to travel south to go north when you have routes available that are more direct.

Albuquerque, New...
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for Albuquerque, New Mexico
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2. Re: cross country trip from NM to Central Coast

Thanks. That was quick. Interesting, though. I always got on 5 before 46 west, as it seemed to shorten the distance and it would be a faster road. Since 223 appears to parallel most of 58 through Bakersfield, and since I'm coming in on 58 from the south(east) (Tehachapi), it looked like 223 would get me quicker to 5 and then on up to 46 west. I never even considered taking 99 except for that part it shares with 58. So I'm a little confused.

Albuquerque, New...
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for Albuquerque, New Mexico
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3. Re: cross country trip from NM to Central Coast

Well I just got new directions on google for all three possibilities and there was absolutely no significant difference in mileage or time. 5 didn't seem to make any difference to google. that sound right?

Grover Beach, Ca
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
posts: 16,352
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4. Re: cross country trip from NM to Central Coast

The problem with Highway 223 is that it's a narrow 2 lane highway through a lot of ag land with SLOW trucks. While I know some people who swear by it, my own experience tells me it's a time killer. To me, it just seems faster to get on a multi lane highway (99) and take a much wider 2 lane highway (46) toward Paso. And more direct.

Highway 58 (Rosedale Highway) is too slow now with all the build out along that route.

Google can tell you how long a route should take, but doesn't take truck traffic, stop signs/lights into consideration.

Edited: 4:16 pm, November 17, 2011
Albuquerque, New...
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posts: 1,754
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5. Re: cross country trip from NM to Central Coast

Yes, thanks. I figure that about google and that's why I wanted to ask. I've noticed on many occasions that 58 from the center of Bakersfield to I-5 can be very slow, but I thought I was making it up once I got on I-5. What I'm hearing from you is that I may be better off taking 99 up to 46 (and never get on I-5), which I never thought about doing. Seemed counterintuitive just looking at maps, even before there was a google. For some reason, I noticed 223 this time and thought it might mean a quicker route to I-5, which would be less stressful on a cross country trip. By Bakersfield, we've already had more than a full day and more ahead. Thanks for clearing it up. I appreciate that.

BTW, I see you're DE for Big Sur, a long-time favorite, lovely. Have also run several marathons from the park there to Carmel.

Grover Beach, Ca
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for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
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6. Re: cross country trip from NM to Central Coast

At least with the 58 to 99 to 46 route you won't have stop signs, traffic signals, railroad tracks and small towns to pass through for the most part. Highway 46 is a nice wide road and they're even widening the sections between Lost Hills & Paso Robles, so you should see a lot of road work as you drive that stretch.

As for Big Sur: Yes, it's pretty awesome. The marathon this year was re-routed due to part of the highway washing out between the Bixby and Rocky Creek bridges. Not a lot of happy runners this year, I must say.

I hope you have a safe and pleasant crazy cross country trip.

BTW- I lived in Albuquerque for a short time when I was an infant. My dad was never happy and moved us a lot. :-)

Cuenca, Ecuador
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7. Re: cross country trip from NM to Central Coast

Concur with Kibblesmom on CA Route 58 to CA Route 99 to CA Route 46 to Interstate 5.

We had a thread about CalTrans construction this past Summer, and this is the best routing I could come up with through Bing Maps. CA 233 is used primarily for local and agricultural use, and is not a traveler's straight shot. CA Route 58 west of CA Route 99 is being built up with more businesses alongside it, and as a result your travel time on it is longer than it used to be.

CA Route 46 is your ticket.

I've driven from home here to Albuquerque earlier this year, and I can tell you the distance was 780 miles, and 15 hours of time on the road with stops. To go to Monterey, which is further, my hope is you have a driver to switch off with. Stay safe on the roads, and eat all your fruit and veggies before you get to the Needles California border Agricultural Inspection station. You'll lose them there if you have them.

Recommended stops, with a few caveats:

NEW MEXICO

Forget Acoma and Sky City for fuel stops. Far too expensive.

Downtown Gallup for fuel on Historic US Route 66 - lowest prices compared to those on the Interstate in the Gallup area. Food? In Gallup? Unless you want to sit down for a meal at Earl's, just do McDonald's. Food is not anything more than grub in this town.

ARIZONA

I-40, exit 353 for the Navajo nation gift shops. Restrooms onsite. Just ask.

Flying J at Winslow for fuel. Exit 255. Great fuel prices, and convenient. Not near as clean a facility as I would like, but they got better last trip after I let the manager on duty have a talking to in front of all her customers. . . I was livid that nowhere on site at either restroom - commercial driver or noncommercial driver - was soap to be had for customer use. You make up your own mind based on my last two trip reports here. Arco is nearby, but not obvious to cross country travelers on the north side of I-40.

At exit 123, get off at Seligman, Arizona for the Roadkill Cafe. Fun place, with humorous names for the selections. Laid back waitresses, and no one takes themselves too seriously. Enjoy! Worth the 45 minutes to one hour break, imho.

Flying J in Kingman for fuel. Exit 53. Big sign, can't miss it. Hands down, the cheapest place for fuel almost always. Downside is that their pumps here don't always have their debit card readers working at all the pumps. . . they work intermittently, and don't put up any "out of order" signs. I hate that double trip to the cashier for fueling. If you don't want Flying J, pick the Arco up the road a bit at the Stockton Hill Road exit, turn right/north, and it's right there on the right. Same price as Flying J 90 per cent of the time. US 93 exit fuel stops of late have been having higher prices than these two this year for some reason. Del Taco on Stockton Hill road up a bit from the Arco is a great food pit stop. WalMart is also in back of the Del Taco.

CALIFORNIA

For God's sake, DO NOT BUY FUEL IN NEEDLES! The prices are easily $1.00 more per gallon than Kingman. You have been warned. . .

Barstow: Flying J past the CA Route 58 exit at the Lenwood exit. Left over the viaduct, and look left at the big Flying J sign. Cleanest and best run Flying J facility in perhaps the whole chain. . . but it's pretty new. Reliably low fuel prices. In-N-Out Burger is nearby for a great road burger. . . recommend these folks to you. Look south in the shopping complex a bit and you'll find them.

Bakersfield: Flying J off of CA Route 99 at the Merced Avenue exit. Very good fuel prices compared to the rest of Bakersfield, and convenient. Another dirty Flying J. Wish they would clean up their act. The convenience and low fuel prices often trumps cleanliness with this chain of truck/traveler stops, and sometimes - like with Winslow, AZ above - I get ticked off enough to let the store know it. Another upside to Flying J is their grocery and hot food selections. Reasonable prices in general, but fattening hot food overall. Alternatively, you can pop popcorn in their microwaves like I did. . . just fill up at the pump if you do as a courtesy. Jack in the Box and Burger King are nearby this location.

There. Have a wonderful and safe road trip!

Albuquerque, New...
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8. Re: cross country trip from NM to Central Coast

Hey. Thanks for all these tips. I'm going to save and incorporate. My first fuel stop to top off has been the travel center about 10 miles before Gallup. It's not as nice as it once was but it's my first break from ABQ. The big secret for a great family rest stop is the oasis of clean bathrooms, museum, Harvey House cafeteria & gift shop (even a small gas station & mart...and no trucks) in AZ at exit 311: Petrified Forest/Painted Desert. But the gates are closed at night. In Flagstaff, it's become our tradition of sorts to stop at Little America. Again, clean restrooms and a small "truck stop." I've never figured out Kingman except I think last time there was a Smith's gas I tried. Yes, agree about Needles. Last trip I found out the banks will shut down your debit card there. There's a good rest stop in the Mojave and we also stopped in Ludlow last time. In Barstow, there's a Radisson on Main Street with reasonable rates and clean rooms if we need an overnight at this point. Have to keep family away from outlet malls; that can kill a lot of time. On our last trip we got stuck in Techapi because of a big accident. Nice town, nice folks, and we found a scenic route around the highway closure. Once I'm on 46, it feels like I'm almost there but I'm not really. On the other side of the overpass at 46 and 101 we found a decent little Mexican restaurant and some gas options. 101 brings lots of memories for the final stretch. I'll be curious about gas prices along the way. With prices going down recently, it should feel like a bargain...relatively speaking. We just dropped below $3 here. I have made a little map to take with me and I'm going to include your tips. Thanks again to all.

Edited: 9:44 am, November 18, 2011
Grover Beach, Ca
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
posts: 16,352
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9. Re: cross country trip from NM to Central Coast

WOW! Your gas prices are below $3.00? Prepare for sticker shock, as gas here is hovering around $3.70-3.90 a gallon and it's expected to rise in the next few days/weeks.

Edited: 10:42 am, November 18, 2011
Cuenca, Ecuador
Destination Expert
for California Desert
posts: 1,225
reviews: 50
10. Re: cross country trip from NM to Central Coast

Hello, bleicherblog. I know the travel stop you mention before Gallup. Pricewise, it's no bargain anymore. Hence my rec to go to old Route 66 on the east side between Earl's restaurant and the end of town for gas.

I like the Petrified Forest too, and my Sweet Polly Purebred and I have stopped there before. My usual overnight is in Holbrook nearby at America's Best Value Inn, or failing that for a rare full house, Motel 6, which has free computers in the lobby area for guest use. . . great for catching up on news and road traveler info. My strategy given the limited number of computers was to wake up in the middle of the night, and. . . voila! There were always a few open at that hour.

The Butler Avenue concentration of lodgings and restaurants in Flagstaff just on the other side of I-40 from Little America is also a mainstay with me (see my Motel 6 review). Actually, since I know Flagstaff fairly well (my older brother attended Northern Arizona University there years ago) I know where to look for fuel. Fry's supermarket, incorporating a gasoline station, is on Historic US Route 66 in the middle of town. Always a low price place for gas, and sometimes beats out the Flying J by Winslow. They're not open (fuel or food) 24 hours, though. Dunno when they close up daily in the evening.

Kingman. . . that Smith's gas fueling stop (with the supermarket next to it) is actually just a block up from the Del Taco and the WalMart I mentioned. Not a bad choice afaik. The Arco, which is just south of the Del Taco, I've price checked repeatedly through gasbuddy.com. In fact, gasbuddy.com is an excellent way to figure out which stops to make each trip. . . prices change at stops, and it's nice to have the updated info to make your stops before you head out.

Ludlow will charge you an average of 30 to 50 cents per gallon extra for gas. Nice place to stop and rest and get a Dairy Queen fix, but it's an old Route 66 place that's just hangin' on. . . not a place for any bargains. Hold off 'til Barstow for fueling would be my recommendation.

If you're trying to keep the family away from the Tanger Factory Outlet mall, fuel up at the 76 on East Main Street (Historic US Route 66) just off of the I-15/I-40 split. A couple of blocks west of Barstow Station. Great fuel prices, clean restrooms. If you are interested, the oldest Del Taco is in town further west on Main Street in downtown: look for the big Del Taco billboard with the arrow directing you to it. Drive thru and dine in, and I believe they are open 'til midnight daily in the drive thru service. Traveler's article here: tripadvisor.com/Travel-g60902-d2189785/Barst…

Shhh. . . don't let anyone know how nice we are in Tehachapi. . . we all moved there to escape the meaner side of city life for the most part. That "scenic route" is old decommissioned highway 58, aka old decommissioned US Route 466. You may view the Tehachapi Loop by traveling that old road. Limited parking for viewing, though. I know, you'll be at nighttime hours by the time you get here. . . just sayin'. . .

Gas prices: California is reliably higher than anywhere else in the nation in the lower 48 states. Don't get me started. . . Expect to pay 70 cents more in general than current Albuqurque prices. Our Lancaster Costco is now dropped to 3.689 for regular, down from a steady 3.749. When I last was in Albuquerque the Renaissance Costco was easily 50 or so cents a gallon less than us. Lowest price for the whole trip. ABQ for some reason is a low price leader for gasoline these days.

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