kiwiinoz From New Zealand, joined Oct 2005, 2140 posts, RR: 5 Posted (1 year 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 1644 times:
Hi all, need your help. Next year we are taking most of the year off work and travelling. First 8 weeks in Europe and then the plan is a 3-4 month road trip across America, starting in New York, finishing in San Francisco. My wife and daughter have never been to the USA, and I have only been on work trips so have not really done enough to get a feel for the diversity of the country.
There are a couple of things on our "must see" list, which include:
New York, (probably 2 weeks)
Some nice, leafy rural setting
The rest we are still researching but also plan to go pretty "free and easy" as we have plenty of time. Happy to zig zag a little.
I have a couple of questions:
What other recommendations on an East-West route at that time of year?
We are food lovers....any particular region that we shuoldn't miss?
Should we buy a car and sell it at the end, or is there a better option?, (we decided NOT to do the Winnebago thing....prefer a reasonable SUV and then we will just motel it and in some cases stay with friends)
Your help will be greatly appreciated. I know it's a long way in advance but we are getting excited already and want to start looking at our options!
sccutler From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 5260 posts, RR: 27 Reply 1, posted (1 year 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 1632 times:
For four months, you might well buy and sell, depending (of course) upon your budget. The dollars from down under speak with a thunderous voice these days.
Food? Visit New Orleans; there, and San Francisco, are the two best places in our fair land to get a meal. For that matter, I'd strongly counsel a stop at the Cooper's Barbecue in Llano, Texas, for heavenly food in a ... rustic... atmosphere.
But, every region of our republic has its own food specialties, so long as you are strong and avoid the chains.
I honestly do not see the appeal of Vegas, though.
Tell us more about your tastes and inclinations, and we (the collective "we") can help you out.
...three miles from BRONS, clear for the ILS one five approach...
rfields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 6905 posts, RR: 29 Reply 2, posted (1 year 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 1604 times:
Quoting kiwiinoz (Thread starter): New York, (probably 2 weeks)
Some nice, leafy rural setting
New York - okay
Newport Rhode Island
Washington DC - the Smithsonian complex is worth the hassle
Shenandoah/ Blue Ridge Parkway down the mountains toward Georgia
the Gulf Coast of Alabama and/ or Mississippi
Fort Davis Texas and Big Bend National Park
Carlsbad Caverns New Mexico
Grand Canyon Via Tucson & Phoenix - drive up Hwy Alt 89 from Sonoma toward Flagstaff - not I-17
Furnace Creek in Death Valley
That is about 5,300 miles minimum driving -
Buy Microsoft Streets & Trips on-line from the company store. You can plan your route, stops, etc on your laptop, You can have S&T create daily route files which can be exported to a GPS to help with routing.
The South (Southeast and Texas) is probably the most famous for American cuisine. Both regions have their distinct take on BBQ. Texas also has great Tex-Mex. New Orleans is also amazing. One thing you don't have in NZ is decent Mexican food, but I think California is the best place for that. You also need to make sure that you eat at a diner, which is another uniquely American culinary institution. I don't mean Denny's; there are mom-and-pop diners all over the place.
While in New York have the New York-style pizza, New England clam chower (best mixed with so many cracker crumbs that your spoon stands up in it), and something from a hot dog cart.
In Chicago, have the pizza, which is deep-dish. One slice is a meal.
Quoting kiwiinoz (Thread starter): Should we buy a car and sell it at the end, or is there a better option?, (we decided NOT to do the Winnebago thing....prefer a reasonable SUV and then we will just motel it and in some cases stay with friends)
You could well put 50,000 miles on that car in 3-4 months. The Continental US is *huge.* So I worry about depreciation. But in 3-4 months, you'll see a lot of it. Rushing, I drove from Detroit to Los Angeles in three days of driving, so it's big, but manageable... and you're rarely far from civilization.
There are long-term rentals. I think that might be the way to go. You also MUST have a US mobile phone. You'd like to have an arrangement with AT&T or Verizon because they have the largest networks and often work even in the middle of nowhere (there's a lot of "middle of nowhere" in this country). You'll want a smartphone with a decent GPS program, trust me.
When you get to San Francisco, I hope we'll have a chance to get a beer and you can tell me of your travels.
I agree with Doc regarding a long-term rental. One of the big agencies like Hertz, National or Enterprise might even do a multi-month lease or a series of 30-day rentals where you pick it up in one city and drop it off in the next. Beauty of that is the car you get will be far newer, and if it breaks down, they'll bring a new one to you on a flat-bed truck! You'd also skip having to pay sales tax on the full value just to get it registered, and you might get put into the high-risk group for insurance for a privately-owned car if you haven't had insurance in the U.S. before.
If you decide to drive along the California coast and would like to work in a bit of history along with the sights, the historic chain of Spanish Missions are along US101 from San Diego to the SF Bay Area, plus there's Hearst Castle near San Luis Obispo.
Superfly From Thailand, joined May 2000, 39455 posts, RR: 76 Reply 9, posted (1 year 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 7 hours ago) and read 1478 times:
Quoting kiwiinoz (Thread starter): Should we buy a car and sell it at the end, or is there a better option?,prefer a reasonable SUV
Sounds like an awesome adventure!
I've known of a few tourist from Europe that have done just that. Buying a used car for about $5000 - $7000 and then driving it around the country for 3 months then selling it. It's much cheaper than renting a car for that period.
As far as a good, comfortable road car, I'd highly recommend looking for a used Mercury Grand Marquis, Ford Crown Victoria. It's much better for long distance trips than an SUV. The high winds in the plains and the deserts will whip around any high center of gravity vehicle and with drunk a lot of gas.
ZANL188 From United States of America, joined Oct 2006, 3372 posts, RR: 0 Reply 10, posted (1 year 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 2 hours ago) and read 1426 times:
For a nature break I'd suggest the National Parks in the Western US. Glacier National Park is my favorite. Canada has an adjacent park across the border. Driving thru the park during the summer months (roads closed in winter) is an experience you will not soon forget! (You will come away with a new appreciation for guard rails!!)
Legal considerations provided by: Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe
DiamondFlyer From United States of America, joined Oct 2008, 1370 posts, RR: 3 Reply 11, posted (1 year 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 2 hours ago) and read 1407 times:
Hey rfields5421, your plan looks great, but geographically, it leave a large (and I do mean large) portion of the US out of the trip. Basically any of the Midwest and great plains were omitted. Any particular reason? There is quite a bit you can do out in that area, especially if the whole trip is 4 months.
BMI727 From United States of America, joined Feb 2009, 15129 posts, RR: 26 Reply 12, posted (1 year 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 1389 times:
Quoting DiamondFlyer (Reply 11): Basically any of the Midwest and great plains were omitted. Any particular reason?
Well, it's big and mostly empty. Granted, there is plenty of time on this trip, and it's awfully hard to get from New York to San Francisco without crossing through it, having lived in the middle of it for most of my life, getting across the Midwest is a long and boring drive. Honestly, for anyone visiting the US, I'd recommend focusing on the coasts. That's where most of the really good stuff is, the Midwest and plains is just kind of there. Not bad, but not much there that tourists would find exciting.
Quoting kiwiinoz (Reply 4): Might even have to do the Orlando thing as a treat.
You don't want to be there, or anywhere in the Southeast during the summer. The weather is unbearable. I'd suggest Disneyland in Anaheim instead, and if you need something to do somewhat smaller theme parks dotting the country. Or catch a state fair. Those are interesting, but not necessarily in the good way, pieces of Americana.
Why do Aerospace Engineering students have to turn things in on time?
rfields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 6905 posts, RR: 29 Reply 15, posted (1 year 11 months 3 weeks 2 days ago) and read 1360 times:
Quoting DiamondFlyer (Reply 11): but geographically, it leave a large (and I do mean large) portion of the US out of the trip.
He said he was traveling with his family - and his age in his profile indicates children would be young. He later said the child was age 4.
So a relatively sraight trip hitting his desired waypoints was the criteria. With the child being only 4, I would take out the Smithsonian, and possibly Natchez Mississippi (The old Antebellum homes are amazing - but probably not interesting for a child that age.)
On a trip that length - keeping the child happy and interested is going to be crucial. He can't do 8 hours driving a day for 100 days.
As a parent who has made the cross country trip with young children, older children I've been there, done that, have the scar. As a grandparent, I'm being a little smarter about the trips I take when they are younger, and older.
If he was single, or just a couple, or even with children ages 10 or older - a loop trip which included Upper Michigan, Chicago, St Louis, the Ozarks, Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo, the Cumbres & Toltec Railroad on the CO/NM border, the Durango and Silverton, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Yellowstone, Glacier NP, along with Seattle, Portland and the drive down the Pacific coast.
I'd also like to hit Key West on such a trip.
But again, the key factor in my suggestion was the age of children. They aren't going to like a 12-15,000 mile trip.
BTW - I strongly endorse the idea of buying a used car - from someone like CarMax which a coast to coast network would be a good choice. The cost would be a bit higher, but he could get their extended warranty and a guaranteed buyback.
Unfortunately getting a good deal on a used car, and selling it for the best price takes time. A lot of time. He should not give up two weeks one each end of the trip dealing with transportation.
azoreslover From United States of America, joined Jun 2004, 750 posts, RR: 7 Reply 16, posted (1 year 11 months 3 weeks 2 days ago) and read 1356 times:
I'd like to mention a treat that I love, and always get when I am in the area...
When around Phoenix, be sure to buy some Cactus Candy! It is a truly unique treat to me. When flying to SoCal I usually try to connect at PHX just so I can pick up a load of Cactus Candy in the airport.
I'll leave routing suggestions to others. I do have my favorites, since I have driven all over the United States, only missing 3 states...North Dakota, Nebraska, Arkansas. But you've been getting plenty of good suggestions here already.
I will mention, though, that one of my very favorite places to visit is Stone Mountain Georgia, about 17 miles east of Atlanta. I have been going there since my college days in the late 1960's. To me, it is a wonderful place to spend a couple days.
Those who want to do something will find a way; those who don't will find an excuse.
luckyone From United States of America, joined Aug 2008, 1952 posts, RR: 0 Reply 17, posted (1 year 11 months 3 weeks 1 day 23 hours ago) and read 1341 times:
Quoting Braniff747SP (Reply 3): This is all a easy cluster. From the Canyon to Vegas, one drives through a large part of Arizona. That can be a few days.
Actually it's only about a four hour drive between the two, although I've done it in three and a half--speed limits mean nothing in large parts of the American West--and a straight shot now that the Hoover Dam Bypass has been completed. The part of Arizona he'd be driving through is mostly wooded believe it or not, and there really is nothing between the two destinations but trailer parks. Beyond driving along the South Rim or taking a helicopter tour, exploring the Grand Canyon with a young child would be difficult. However, spending a day doing that is rewarding enough.
The following link is a trip I took with my mom and my brother through some of the American West, so maybe it can give you some ideas about things to do, and distances and timing. http://sometimesitsabitchsometimesit...om/2009/08/road-trip-out-west.html
Quoting kiwiinoz (Thread starter): New York, (probably 2 weeks)
Some nice, leafy rural setting
I might suggest actually basing yourself in Flagstaff if you're interested in the Northern part of Arizona. The Grand Canyon is about an hour away. When we did it, we left Vegas early in the morning, did a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon, and drove along the South Rim. Flagstaff is about an hour away once you're done. If you so desired you could do the reverse on your way to Vegas. If you go to Arizona, Sedona is a must. It's about thirty minutes South of Flagstaff, and the drive is a leisurely and scenic one through a stunning valley. Monument Valley, though most if it is in Utah, is a great day trip, and it is absolutely gorgeous. The drive between Flagstaff and Monument Valley goes through the Navajo Nation and parts of the Painted Dessert. Two hours east of Flagstaff on I-40 is the Petrified National Forest National Park which would be worth stopping at on the way in from New Mexico. There is also Meteor Crater, which is along I-40 as well.
If you want leafy and rural, the American South is delightful in the spring, especially if you time it when the azaleas are blooming--usually around April. Drive through any historic district--such as North Druid Hills in Atlanta--and the architecture and horticulture is lovely. If you come to Atlanta, kids love Stone Mountain. Plenty of kitsch to keep them happy, and plenty of stuff for adults to appreciate as well. Charleston is a place you might consider for the same reason. A light jacket is sufficient in February and March. After May or early June it can get very hot here if you're not used to it, BUT, our hottest days are usually July through September. New Orleans is not one of my favorite destinations. The food is great but the city itself is just a cesspool. I've been twice, both before and after Katrina...and frankly not much changed.
It'll be hot for most of your trip. You will probably want to zig-zag the country if you're going to be here for 4 months (with a concerted effort, you can drive across it in 4 days in early July, if you only drive during daylight hours). I suggest exploring New England during July. You can also go to Washington, D.C. from New York. It might be a better idea to do NYC and Washington, D.C. before you get your car. You can take a train between the two in about 3 hours and a car will only be a burden in both cities. The same is true of Boston.
Take lots of sunblock and BUG REPELLENT (ticks abound in the Northeast during the summer). During August, you should head west along I-80, which will teach you what it means when we talk about the Midwest. This is when you should go to Niagra Falls. Make sure you have a Canadian visa if you need one. At Chicago, where you should stop for a few days, you can head north into Wisconsin along the shore of Lake Michigan and enjoy our inland, freshwater seas. As you head West, you'll cross Minnesota and the Dakotas, where you can see Mt. Rushmore. I hear that crossing Montana is quite the experience. And if you time it right, you can wind up in Seattle in mid-August. From there, you would slowly make your way South-East. Stop in Salt Lake City and see the Mormon Temple... and the Great Salt Lake Desert, Bonneville Salt Flats (home of many land speed records), and the Great Salt Lake itself. Denver is also on that path. You can head to St. Louis and check out the Arch (and the toasted ravioli... a local institution). Head on through Tennessee and Kentucky. They breed horses and make some spirits to bring you to your knees. From there, head into the Carolinas and Georgia, checking out Atlanta (ATL... you can't miss ATL) and heading south to Florida. Orlando has the Space Center, Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studios... Then Miami is... Miami. Maybe stay on the keys for a few days and enjoy a sandy beach under the shade of palm trees.
Heading North from Miami, join up with I-10 West and pass through the Florida Panhandle, on into the Gulf Coasts of Alabama and Mississippi (4s's, 2p's) and then jog south to New Orleans for a Hurricane (bring cab fare), Creole cooking (red beans and rice), and the strangest red light district in the country (you don't need to patronize... but you have to see it to believe it). From there, go on to Houston and across Texas into New Mexico, which shares the American answer to the Australan outback with Arizona. The Mojave Desert stretches across that part of the country pretty much to the Coast. As you explore the beauty that is our Southwest, learn about the Native populations. They built cliff dwellings out of adobe. Make sure to see the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley.
You should then head West to San Diego and Los Angeles. Highway 1 heads up the coast. You can spend over a week going from one bed and breakfast to the next all the way up. Stop in Santa Barbara and Pismo Beach (Buggs Bunny was often trying to get to Pismo Beach, and he should have tured left at Albuquerque, which means that Buggs is an illegal immigrant from Mexico ). You should also spend time at Big Sur, Monterrey, Carmel (which is like something out of a storybook). By now it will be October and the rest of the country will be getting chilly, but the West Coast will be having its "Indian Summer." This will be the perfect time for you to explore some of Northern California. Pass through San Francisco and rent a house on the ocean in Mendocino for a few days. Then come back down into San Francisco and give me a call.
airport1970 From United States of America, joined Apr 2011, 62 posts, RR: 0 Reply 20, posted (1 year 11 months 3 weeks 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 1222 times:
I have a funny anecdote... Early 90's... I was a ski bum working the slopes in Colorado and I had 4 Kiwi's as next door neighbors. They landed at LAX, bought a newspaper and looking through the advertisements found a cheap car and called and asked if it could be delivered.. to the airport. Years later in internet randomness I ran across one of the guys online and I asked what they did with the car... he said they parked it in a lot at LAX, locked the doors and walked away.
kfllcfii From United States of America, joined Sep 2004, 3283 posts, RR: 32 Reply 21, posted (1 year 11 months 3 weeks 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 1197 times:
Quoting kiwiinoz (Reply 4): Forgot to mention, my daughter will be 4 so parks, etc are definitely going to feature. Might even have to do the Orlando thing as a treat.
Quoting DocLightning (Reply 19): and heading south to Florida. Orlando has the Space Center, Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studios...
And many great water parks, perfect for that mid-summer cool-off. Disney's Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon are two of the highest-rated water parks in the country and individually themed (not just a bunch of plastic tubing poking every which way from an unfinished steel tower). My experience in the summer there is that many families, especially from across the pond, spend more than a few days (weeks, from a few I've talked to) in extended stays covering basically everything Disney and Central Florida has to offer. You can get a package deal through them which includes hotel on property, park hopper tickets, and a flexible dining plan. Plus if you stay at one of their hotels on site, transportation to/from all the parks is included and runs very frequently on resort loops...a huge benefit to avoid gas/parking costs.
They do get extremely busy during the summer peak, but if you can hold off until after the first or second week in September when most local kids are back in school, hotel costs come way down...and they've been known to throw in the dining plan at no additional cost once that peak is over to keep people coming through the gates.
My other recommendation, while you're in Florida, is this:
You can't beat Miami Beach, great for the adults and kids. Not so much in "attractions", but the atmosphere and that tropical sandy beach where everyone seems to want to be. But I wouldn't put it past more than a day or two's stay, because:
If you've never gone 100 miles out to sea --by driving-- then you've never been to the Florida Keys. Once a railroad extension from Miami over an island chain, the Florida Keys begins about an hour's drive south of Miami and extends approximately a hundred miles into the Gulf of Mexico and Straits of Florida over beautiful tropical waters and through secluded mangroves and small communities, ending at Key West.
The railroad is long gone and although the original rail bridges were turned into road bridges, they have since been replaced by a dedicated highway alongside, with many of the original rail aqueducts still visible. In fact, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the completion of Florida East Coast Railway's Key West Extension. And if it weren't for that unnamed hurricane in 1935, you still might have been able to take that entire trip down from Miami and points north over a railbed.
As for Key West, it's filled with sights to see, rich in history, and some sort of museum or interesting facet on almost every corner...especially in Old Town near the seaport on the west end. My personal favorites in the area include the Shipwreck Museum, great treasure hunter Mel Fisher's exhibit/museum, and the Key West Aquarium with "petting tank". GREAT for kids, especially those who may not have been exposed to much marine life. It's actually quite a drive from Miami if you do it all in one shot, and to give a full day in Key West, I would recommend at least two nights so you have a travel day on either side. Plus there are many stops along the way worth seeing, and I can definitely name a few if you decide to make the trip.
Once you go down there, you might never want to leave.
"About the only way to look at it, just a pity you are not POTUS KFLLCFII, seems as if we would all be better off."
rfields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 6905 posts, RR: 29 Reply 22, posted (1 year 11 months 3 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 1179 times:
Some other thoughts.
#1 priority for an automobile is a good reliable working air conditioner. You can expect to see daily high temps over 30C for most of the trip that time of year whenever you are not in mountains. You can expect most of the trip across the south/ southwest (Florida to California) to be low temps above 33 C at night and highs near 36-37 C and at times above 40C.
We had about 20 of those 40C+ days last year in Dallas, over 100 consecutive days where the temp never dropped below 33C.
Another major priority for the vehicle is a new battery. Anything over two years old should be replaced. Our summers will kill a battery very easily.
I also recommend you join AAA or a similar service and sign up for their Roadside Assistance plan. Hopefully you will not need it, but it can save the trip if you do.
Mailing Address - for many things like car registration and insurance you are going to need a US address. There are many "UPS Stores" across the country which offer a mail box service. You can probably find one which you can use as a US address, yet they will gather up all your mail and overnight it to you when you call in and ask for that.
Lodging - is going to be your major expense. Look into national US motel/hotel chains. Staying at a Bed & Breakfast is a wonderful way to travel. The wife and I do it whenever possible. However, they are seldom small child friendly. They are also more expensive than most national motel chains.
You should be looking for (1) loyalty program - so you can earn as many free nights as possible during your trip, (2) indoor swimming pool - in much of the US it will be simply too hot to swim in an outdoor pool during your trip. Kids love pools and it is a great way to relax while they burn off some of the excess energy they store up while you are driving, sight seeing, (3) consider looking into places which have kitchenettes - almost all will have a small fridge, but look for a microwave and a stove if possible. Any meals you can prepare in your temporary residence will be cheaper than eating out.
While traveling, I find the restrooms at McDonalds and Walmart to be the reliably cleanest and easy to access. Gas stations vary tremedously, even among major truck stop chains like Love's Travel Stop.
McDonalds also has the asset with indoor playlands in most locations - so you can take a short break, and let the youngster get some active play time.
I see many people recommending buying a used car. However, even though it might save a little money, are you really going to want to spend an indeterminable amount of time trying to sell it when you're ready to get the heck out of town after all that driving? And lord only knows what shape it's in or any hidden gremlins which will appear at the worst possible moment, and which YOU are responsible for.
Do you really want to be stuck with a repair bill, potentially in the thousands $$, on top of the price you already paid for the car, just to keep the trip moving and still have to attempt to sell it in an unfamiliar country for an assuredly huge loss at the end?
Go with a name-brand rental. They're maintained. It breaks, not your problem. Get their loss/damage insurance. And no matter what happens, you walk away at the end.
"About the only way to look at it, just a pity you are not POTUS KFLLCFII, seems as if we would all be better off."