Hi codeman. i havent done my 1st travel assignment yet but i am a traveler. I have seen 49 states except hawaii. i have driven cross country from nj to cali before. so i though i'd give you some tips.
i have found mapquest to be helpful. u can plug two places in and find out how many miles, how long it would take and approx how much gas you will use. it also depends on how much time you can spend in your road trip to see some things. it depends on how many hours u feel comfortable driving per day as well.
check out the different routes and states on those routes and see if there is anything you'd like to see or major cities you'd like to see . i have done the rt 66 and has many interesting things on that route as well as attractions that u can see if u venture off ( if you have time) like the grand canyon, monument valley etc etc etc
make sure you have navigation system or be really good with maps. make sure you have FM radio or lots of CDS/ipod. make sure you bring cooler with drinks and snacks so that u don't spend too much on conveinence stores. road trips can be fun and interesting if you prepare. some of the experence is just going with the flow as well.
and be very careful with truck stops, shady motels, shady situations etc. people have been abducted before.
definitely check in with people when you reach destinations or let someone at home know which route you plan on taking.
have car charger for phone and iPod .
i wish you well on ur 1st assignment