Done a bit of driving around the area a few years back.
Struggling to remember the exact details but somewhere along the lines of:
Arrived in San Fran for 3 nights
Monterey 1 night
Santa Barbara 1 night
LA or 3 nights
Vegas or 3 nights
Flagstaff 1 night
Scottsdale 1 night
Flew home from Phoenix
I might be missing one or two overnight stops, Santa Cruz might have been one.
- Monterey (found it very relaxing and enjoyed Laguna Seca racetrack etc, would add a second night there if going again.) Coast road by Big Sur was good as well. Would recommend leaving some extra time and taking this road over the highway.
- LA was class, would definitely include a few nights here to see as much as possible.
- Grand Canyon at sunrise, nearly my highlight of the trip. Enjoyed drive to Phoenix as well, some cool places like Sedona along the way.
Parts I was 'meh' about:
- Vegas, thought i'd enjoy it but got a bit bored after a day or so. Probably because I didn't have a grand to burn! Was around 50 degs as well and I fell asleep on the beach in LA the day before and got fairly burnt so was literally melting there!
- San Fran, I think 2 nights might have been enough, maybe I didn't explore enough though.
Just a few opinions, most has been covered on this thread already.
Well worth a trip to this part of the world, you'll really enjoy it!