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Road Tripping in the USA!

Discussion in 'Motors' started by [TW]Fox, Jan 8, 2011.

  1. [TW]Fox

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Oct 17, 2002

    Posts: 154,117

    Sorry its taken me so long to get around to writing this, I know several of you have asked about it and it keeps coming up as a common theme in GD as well, so finally, here we go. It’s like its taken months to write for some reason. I've been quite breif but if you want any more detail on stuff just ask.

    There are many great photos but most are not car related and this is Motors not GD so I've stuck to the car pics.

    I’m sure most of us enjoy road trips – and after my trip around Australia last year I’ve certainly been hooked. Once I’d got that out of the way I knew it was time to start planning the next, and this time it had to be the USA. I’d done New York and New England before, but that was more a holiday than a road trip as such.

    So where to go?

    I wanted a bit of everything – great coastline, fantastic cities, amazing mountain ranges and arid deserts. There was only one choice - an area of the country that has all this and more.

    California and Nevada.

    I sketched out a basic route – Los Angeles > San Diego > Las Vegas > Death Valley > Yosemite National Park > San Francisco > Pacific Coast Highway > Los Angeles.

    Two flights with Virgin Atlantic at just over £450 each and we were on.

    So, destination and flights sorted it was time to pick a car. I bored you guys with a thread and the overwhelming opinion was that only one choice would do – the Mustang Convertible. Got a great deal with Hertz - £422 for 15 days, then 10% with Quidco so just £380.



    I booked the first half of the accommodation (one night in LA, 3 in San Diego and 3 in Las Vegas) in advance and decided to leave the rest to chance and book as I went.

    First stop on the trip was Los Angeles. I’d heard mixed things about LA so it was good to see it for myself. Generally though, this was not a good start to the trip. The city of LA is unfortunately… a complete hole. Sure there are nice areas, Beverely Hills was pretty cool and Mulholland drive offered fantastic views over the LA basin, but generally speaking, it was a grotty, dirty, smoggy city of more or less complete fail. The view from the hills over the city rather summed it up – it was shrouded in foggy smog.

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    With that, it was good to get out as we headed towards San Diego, a 2-3 hour drive South of LA. My first real taste of the American freeways on this trip. Firstly, the roads are in pretty rubbish condition. Potholes, flaking tarmac, etc etc. Secondly, everyone is a bit bonkers, chopping and changing lanes at random.

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    Wow. San Diego. Not far from LA but it feels like another world. San Diego is a beautiful city that’s often overlooked by people who visit California. If you’ve got time, go. The second you see it on the horizon you know it’s going to be nicer than LA and the city itself doesn’t disappoint. Lots of nice buildings, plenty of great restaurants – the gaslamp quarter is really worth a visit. Plus you’ve got Sea World to shut the girlfriend up, and the world famous San Diego Zoo is the largest on the planet.

    I spent a few days here before moving on to Las Vegas. The drive to Las Vegas took about 6-7 hours because we stopped off at Ontario Mills, an outlet mall that happens to be the largest single floor shopping centre in the USA. You skirt around LA on the way from SD to LV and as you climb into the hills that form the gateway to the Mojave desert you go through a pass which contains several freeways and railway lines and… a McDonalds. This was quite a surreal experience – we stopped for a quick drink, opened the door of the car and…

    …. Wow. The heat really hit you. 99f!

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    It only got hotter and hotter the closer you got to Las Vegas – it was a level of heat I’d never experienced. It peaked at a place called Baker – site of the worlds largest thermometer – at 107f.

    Thank goodness for the aircon!

    Las Vegas!

    Managed to completely miss the ‘Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada’ sign which was irritating. All the freeways around Vegas are pretty good – nice and new feeling. Made it onto the strip and far from being gridlock it was free flowing – which is a shame as all I wanted to do was gawp at the enormous skyscrapers I’d previously only seen on the credits to CSI. What an intriguing place. It’s really, really fake and tacky yet really quite cool at the same time.

    Followed Rottys advice and stayed at the Planet Hollywood. It was a great hotel, fantastic room and a complete bargain at just £40 a night. If you stay in Vegas during the week the prices are ridiculous – this place is geared up for weekends. Take advantage of this!

    Next day took a drive to the Hoover Dam. They’ve built a new highway bypass around the Dam and over a new bridge which opens this month. I was amongst the last people to drive over the Hoover dam, as once the bridge is open it will be closed to traffic. A shame, but it was good to do it. The Dam itself is absolutely stunning, its well worth a trip to see. You can park free on the Arizona side, so don’t pay to park on the Nevada side!

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    Next day was car free – flew to the Grand Canyon. Pretty wow. Surprised at how cheap the tour package was - £150 each. Won’t waste too much time on this though as it isn’t car related.

    So, onto the next day. Quite a long drive today – Las Vegas to a small place called Bishop. This might seem like an odd destination but Bishop is a small town which lies right between two national parks – Death Valley and Yosemite. And that was the next job on the list – drive through Death Valley, overnight in Bishop, and then do Yosemite park the following day.

    Starting to really turn into a proper American road trip now – the roads from Las Vegas to Death Valley are straight of the movies – long, straight, nothing for miles around.

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    The feeling is isolation is pretty cool, although the hot weather most certainly isn’t! Death Valley itself is famous for being one of the hottest places in the world. On July 10th 1913, a temperature of 56.7c was recorded – the highest ever in the Northern Hemisphere.

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    The centre piece of Death Valley is a basin called Badwater Basin. It lies 228 feet below sea level and contains a myriad of strange minerals which lie in the basin – it rarely rains here, and there is nothing to wash them away.
    Luckily it was nothing like that hot – infact it didn’t go above 95f all day.

    So obviously , we had to drive through the hottest place in the Northern Hemisphere with the AC off and the roof down :cool:

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    Because of the uniqueness of Death Valley, it’s used by a lot of car manufacturers for extreme weather testing on new, unreleased cars as part of the development process. They are often driven for days around here in punishing temperatures to make sure they can cope. Managed to find Hyundai testing some new cars:

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    The roads out of Death Valley were even more spectacular than the roads in, we left through the North West via Panamint Springs. Mountainous terrain and spectacular views.

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    Won’t bore you with Bishop – it’s just a small American town. Did spend 30 minutes trying to find Dominos pizza until we realised it had gone bust, mind.

    Next day!

    Yosemite National Park.

    We entered Yosemite using a road known as the Tioga Pass. It’s only open in the Summer because this road, yes, in California, is closed all winter due to snow. Regular as clockwork, the snow falls in October and doesn’t clear until April! At it’s peak the pass reaches 8000ft above sea level, this is about 3 times higher than the highest point in the UK and it’s a road!

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    As for what we saw, well, same old story I’m afraid. Just more and more spectacular scenery.

    Finished up the night in a place called Modesto, about 2 hours drive from San Francisco. Next day we drove into San Francisco but came at it from the top, over the Golden Gate bridge. Driving in San Francisco is quite fun – it’s very hectic, very manic and there is very little parking. It’s also a tad hilly as I’m sure you are all away.

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    Drove down there!

    Spent a few days here, ready for the final part of the road trip.

    The next bit is the special bit. This is the reason we hired the Mustang. The iconic Highway 1 – Pacific Coast Highway.

    I’m going to let the pictures do most of the talking, but the PCH is simply astounding. It is miles upon miles of fantastic roads and gorgeous coastline scenery. Along the way you’ve got brilliant towns like Santa Cruz, Monterery and Carmel (This is also where Pebble Beach). The best bit by far is the stretch from Carmel to Morro Bay – this is where you’ll find Big Sur.

    Before I show you Highway 1, I’ll let you know about a little detour I made from Monterery. About 20 minutes drive inland is a State Park. Inside this State Park is some tarmac… Laguna Seca Race Track. Had a word with the guy on the gate and he said sure, go in, take a look around! I was able to drive around all the access roads to various parts of the track and get some great photos. Even watched people racing around – Mazda use it a lot for training days etc. Definitely worth the detour!

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    And now for the Highway 1 pics…

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    After Highway 1 that was pretty much it. Stopped off in Malibu, which was crap but as you can see is rather awash with nice cars, drove the road they race the Ferrari on in the Fast and the Furious, and ended up back in LA.

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    Quick stop off at the end of Route 66 to signify the end of the trip...

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    Then back to the Hertz rental desk. Where sadly some guy took my Mustang off me and dropped me off at the worst airport in the world – LAX.

    Doh!

    Hope you’ve enjoyed the read – if you are thinking about a trip like this, go and do it. Road tripping is fantastic where ever you do it, but it holds a special sort of appeal in the USA. If you do this particular trip you MUST MUST MUST hire a Convertible. It just MAKES the trip!
     
  2. Axeboy

    Mobster

    Joined: Nov 13, 2002

    Posts: 4,592

    Location: Scotland

    Was considering arranging a road trip in the US for later this year, thanks for the thread :)

    I assume the mustang is ideal? Would be 4 of us so the choice is 2 mustangs or some big SUV
     
  3. bainbridge

    Mobster

    Joined: Dec 9, 2009

    Posts: 3,010

    Location: Bristol

    How much fuel did you get through?
     
  4. [TW]Fox

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Oct 17, 2002

    Posts: 154,117

    I reviewed the Mustang shortly after I got back. To sum up, it has a completely crap gearbox, is made of cheap plastic, but is a great great rental car.
     
  5. DM

    PermaBanned

    Joined: Jul 11, 2009

    Posts: 11,386

    Location: West Kingsdown, Kent.

    Good job :)
     
  6. [TW]Fox

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Oct 17, 2002

    Posts: 154,117

    $278.32
     
  7. ajstan

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Jan 3, 2009

    Posts: 2,058

    Location: London

    That looks like a fantastic trip, I'd really like to do something like that
     
  8. Will Gill

    Don

    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 54,693

    Location: Cornwall

    awesome write up, septicville is an awesome place to visit :cool:

    however! Not enough pictures of your face though :(

    purely on that point 3/10
     
  9. ajstan

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Jan 3, 2009

    Posts: 2,058

    Location: London

    Do you mind if I ask how much it cost including everything?
     
  10. [TW]Fox

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Oct 17, 2002

    Posts: 154,117

    £3k for two, inc everything :)
     
  11. flibbage0

    Mobster

    Joined: Jun 6, 2010

    Posts: 4,934

    Do you think they are the sort of cars that would only work in the USA but not in Europe?
     
  12. [TW]Fox

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Oct 17, 2002

    Posts: 154,117

    Yes.
     
  13. reevsy

    Hitman

    Joined: Jun 20, 2009

    Posts: 883

    Location: Plymouth

    Good read, thanks. :)
     
  14. whitecrook

    Sgarrista

    Joined: Aug 22, 2005

    Posts: 8,245

    Location: Clydebank

    Interestng read Fox. Is this the first time you have driven in the States? Is there anything particulary different from driving in the UK that you noticed/found strange? What about highway patrols? Speedlimits / speeding/ cameras etc?
     
  15. VTR

    Mobster

    Joined: Oct 29, 2002

    Posts: 3,837

    Location: South Wales

    Excellent read :)

    £3k, that's not too bad for 2 of you, something I'd love to do.
     
  16. ajstan

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Jan 3, 2009

    Posts: 2,058

    Location: London

    Not as much as I thought actually - must have taken quite a bit of planning though :p
     
  17. [TW]Fox

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Oct 17, 2002

    Posts: 154,117

    No, it isnt the first time, I drove a Jeep Grand Cherokee around New England and down into Manhatten in 2005.

    Everything is more open, the roads are wider, bigger. The speed limits are generally lower and the lane discipline is non existence. The quality of the roads in places is so awful it makes British roads look world leading.

    Highway Patrols are quite common. Didnt see any cameras.
     
  18. hurfdurf

    Sgarrista

    Joined: Dec 17, 2009

    Posts: 8,462

    Top tier thread
     
  19. semi-pro waster

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Sep 27, 2004

    Posts: 25,819

    Location: Glasgow

    Good write up, one of my mates has recently moved out to California so was hoping to try and get some sort of road trip organised for later in the year.
     
  20. Blackhawk47

    Capodecina

    Joined: Sep 17, 2007

    Posts: 10,915

    Location: West Yorkshire / Market Bosworth

    I like how the car doesn't seem to get dirty at all. :D

    Sounded like a good trip. :)