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  1. #1

    Default Another Brit with a heap of questions!

    Hi guys
    You were a great help to me in planning a trip earlier this year. What started out as a cheap flight into Atlanta to go to the Nascar race at Talladega turned into so much more than that - a great couple of weeks! Well now I'm coming back and was hoping you'd be able to help me out again.

    Whilst not wanting to be predictable, we are going to be visiting California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah for a couple of weeks. Initially we had planned that this trip would be based around a trip to the Reno Air Races but we soon realised that we couldn't do everything we wanted to do in the time we had, so we had to cut that part of the trip loose. Still gutted about that.

    There is so much information on this site that I have been reading for the past couple of months that I feel guilty posting more questions. However I hope that doesn't put you off - I'd really appreciate the help as there is almost too much information to read up on! - if a question has been answered a dozen times then a link to some info would be great. The itinerary is very basic right now and I need to fill in the gaps, hopefully you can help me do that by answering some of my many questions! It feels like I've been watching travel documentaries, reading websites and looking at guidebooks for ever but, sometimes, there is just too much information and you need someone who knows the lay of the land to offer their input so you can pull it all together.

    I haven't booked any accomodation at all yet. We plan on spending the majority of the time camping and I would value people's experiences in the National Parks, do we need to pre-book at this time of year, and what level of facilities are generally offered? My only experience camping in a NP was my trip to the Great Smokey Mountains earlier this year where there was no problem camping, but there were no facilities at all, over and above cold running water. I have planned to intersperse our stays in the NPs with stops at more commercial sites in order that we can have hot showers and make use of the launderette if necessary, I have a copy of the Woodalls campground guide and will be making maximum use out of it when we arrive!

    The only hotel stay we plan is whilst we are in Vegas. I can't imagine we'll have a problem finding accomodation on the day we arrive but is this the best way of getting a bargain? I am told that perhaps the best bet will be to buy a copy of the LA Times on our arrival and look for special offers in there. But can either of these tactics beat booking in advance on the net? I thought perhaps we might stay the first night in one hotel before moving on to another for a different experience the following night, is this worth the effort, or should we just stay put?

    We'd like to visit a ghost town when we are over and Bodie and Calico obviously spring to mind. Any thoughts on this; how do they compare? Bodie fits in slightly better with our rough itinerary but the last day of our trip sees us pass along the I-40 right past Calico, though we don't really have time to stop unless we reshuffle the itinerary.

    The whole trip is going to be a little hectic, to say the least, but the last few days might be particularly busy. After leaving the Grand Canyon NP we're pretty much just there for the driving. I initially had Flagstaff down as a place to pass through/visit. But is it worth the trip? Streets and Trips suggests heading south along US180/SR64 may be better. Thoughts?

    Thanks for any help and/or suggestions you'd like to share. I'd be happy for all input so please shout up if I've done something stupid or missed something obvious!

    Thanks
    Craig.

    Saturday 9th September: Depart LHR 1130 local arriving LAX 1450 local. Collect hire car from Hertz and drive to campground at Santa Maria (159 miles) via Beverley Hills. Be sure to pick up a copy of the LA Times for special Las Vegas hotel offers!

    Sunday 10th September: Drive north along the Pacific Coast Highway passing through Big Sur (138 miles) and Salinas. Take the ’17 Mile Drive’ Toll Road through the Monterrey Peninsular. Set up at campground and head into San Francisco (147 miles) for a look around and to eat. San Francisco Giants vs San Diego Padres in the evening.

    Monday 11th September: Explore downtown San Francisco and take Alcatraz tour (tickets booked, check time with Simon). Other ideas include the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, Lombard Street, Fisherman’s Wharf, the ’49 Mile Scenic Drive’, sunset at the Twin Peaks overlook.

    Tuesday 12th September: Explore downtown San Francisco in the morning then head across the mountains to Yosemite National Park. Camp halfway to destination (approx 100 miles).

    Wednesday 13th September: Continue drive to Yosemite NP (approx 100 miles). Stop at park office and purchase National Parks Pass. Explore park and then camp in the park.

    Thursday 14th September: Explore Yosemite NP in the morning before heading to Bodie Ghost Town (66 miles). Finally start driving towards Death Valley NP, stopping to camp halfway to destination (approx 130 miles).

    Friday 15th September: Continue drive to Death Valley NP (approx 130 miles). Explore park (ideas include Devils Hole, Badwater Basin, Mesquite Creek, Scotty’s Castle.) Camp overnight in park.

    Saturday 16th September: Explore Death Valley NP in morning then drive to Hoover Dam (146 miles). Camp overnight near Lake Mead National Recreation Area (8 miles).

    Sunday 17th September: Drive up to Las Vegas (26 miles). Ideas include Indoor Skydiving, Machine Gun Shooting Range (check address with Woody), checking out the resorts along The Strip, visit Last Vegas Outlet Centre, and the rollercoaster on the roof of the Stratosphere. Stop overnight in a hotel.

    Monday 18th September: Las Vegas. Stay overnight in a different hotel?

    Tuesday 19th September: Set off early and drive up to Zion NP (163 miles). Explore park and camp there overnight.

    Wednesday 20th September: Explore Zion NP in morning before driving to Vermillon Cliffs NM (130 miles) Camp in vicinity overnight (Page?)

    Thursday 21st September: Cross Navajo Bridge and head south to the south rim of the Grand Canyon NP (180 miles) and explore. Camp overnight in park?

    Friday 22nd September: Explore Grand Canyon NP then start to head back towards LA. Pass through Flagstaff (possibly check out Meteor Crater East of Flagstaff on I-40) and Kingman before camping overnight at Lake Havasu (313 miles), making sure to visit London Bridge!

    Saturday 23rd September: Head back to Los Angeles via I-40 (319 miles). Drive through Hollywood and have a brief look at LA before heading to the airport for the 2050 flight back to LHR.

    Sunday 24th September: SLEEP.

    Approximate mileage: 2257 miles
    Approximate driving time: 42 hours
    Rest days: 11/9 17/9 18/9 24/9

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default A Few thoughts

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig Antill View Post
    I haven't booked any accomodation at all yet. We plan on spending the majority of the time camping and I would value people's experiences in the National Parks, do we need to pre-book at this time of year, and what level of facilities are generally offered? My only experience camping in a NP was my trip to the Great Smokey Mountains earlier this year where there was no problem camping, but there were no facilities at all, over and above cold running water.
    This early in the Fall, most NP campgrounds will still be open. As far as facilities go, cold fresh water, a reasonably flat camping space and a bath house is about the extent of it.
    I have planned to intersperse our stays in the NPs with stops at more commercial sites in order that we can have hot showers and make use of the launderette if necessary, I have a copy of the Woodalls campground guide and will be making maximum use out of it when we arrive!
    Good plan -- although the Frommer's Guide is a better choice in many ways for tent camping. And we always recommend the Happy Camper Club for 1/2 price locations.
    The only hotel stay we plan is whilst we are in Vegas. I can't imagine we'll have a problem finding accomodation on the day we arrive but is this the best way of getting a bargain? I am told that perhaps the best bet will be to buy a copy of the LA Times on our arrival and look for special offers in there. But can either of these tactics beat booking in advance on the net? I thought perhaps we might stay the first night in one hotel before moving on to another for a different experience the following night, is this worth the effort, or should we just stay put?
    In Las Vegas, the rates on hotel/motel rooms are set-up to change as frequently as hourly -- if you book on the web, there are two advantages -- peace of mind and a reasonably good shot at a decent rate. If you do it in person, upon arrival, it is is a lot like playing craps -- if the hotel is relatively empty you can get at great rate -- on the the other hand you can pay as much as 2 to 3 times the Web rate... As far as moving -- NO! too much work for two days. You can always visit the properties -- but stay in one spot!
    We'd like to visit a ghost town when we are over and Bodie and Calico obviously spring to mind. Any thoughts on this; how do they compare? Bodie fits in slightly better with our rough itinerary but the last day of our trip sees us pass along the I-40 right past Calico, though we don't really have time to stop unless we reshuffle the itinerary.
    Bodie is a "real" ghost town -- that is, it is a state park and the stewards try and keep it looking somewhat authentic. Here is a field report that includes a visit to Bodie. Calico is a county park and is more of an amusement park -- still fun, but in a different way. Oh, and you can not easily reach Calico from the I-40 (there is an off-ramp from I-15 -- Ghost Town Road)
    The whole trip is going to be a little hectic, to say the least, but the last few days might be particularly busy. After leaving the Grand Canyon NP we're pretty much just there for the driving. I initially had Flagstaff down as a place to pass through/visit. But is it worth the trip? Streets and Trips suggests heading south along US180/SR64 may be better. Thoughts?
    Flagstaff is a college town, has great murals and bars....
    Sunday 10th September: Drive north along the Pacific Coast Highway passing through Big Sur (138 miles) and Salinas. Take the ’17 Mile Drive’ Toll Road through the Monterrey Peninsular. Set up at campground and head into San Francisco (147 miles) for a look around and to eat. San Francisco Giants vs San Diego Padres in the evening.
    Not possible in the time frame you have set, unless you depart SM at 3 am. The route north along Big Sur, with the time for the 17-mile drive (here is a great description of the 17-Mile Drive) and set up at a campground and still make the baseball game ~10+ hours!
    Saturday 16th September: Explore Death Valley NP in morning then drive to Hoover Dam (146 miles). Camp overnight near Lake Mead National Recreation Area (8 miles).
    This day confuses me. How are you getting to Hoover Dam from Death Valley? (It is possible, but Hoover Dam is right next (relatively) to Las Vegas and this seems a little convoluted.
    Sunday 17th September: Drive up to Las Vegas (26 miles). Ideas include Indoor Skydiving, Machine Gun Shooting Range (check address with Woody), checking out the resorts along The Strip, visit Last Vegas Outlet Centre, and the rollercoaster on the roof of the Stratosphere. Stop overnight in a hotel.
    Where were you planning on camping that is only 26 miles from Las Vegas? Also there is no rollercoaster on the roof of the Stratosphere (the track is still there, but it has been shut for months). It was a sissy coaster anyway -- but there are some very scary rides up there now! One is Xscream and here are some more ideas of places we like to visit in Las Vegas. Since you like adventure -- soaring with Dan is pretty cool

    and I really think you would enjoy Grapevine Canyon too!

    The balance of the trip looks fun and doable --

    Happy Planning!

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 09-09-2006 at 01:32 PM. Reason: Added a link or two

  3. #3

    Default

    Thanks, Mark, for your input and reassurance that the trip is largely doable!
    I am especially pleased that you are based where you are as this is the area which had the most question marks over it for me; having a site like this where people can offer local knowledge is invaluable for people like me, sat thousands of miles away in London, England.

    Regarding the Saturday 16th - Monday 18th segment, that is pretty much what was spat out by Streets and Trips when I entered Death Valley NP, Hoover Dam, Vegas and Zion NP and hit 'Optimize Stops'. I added an overnight camping at Lake Mead NRA as it seemed to be pretty close by and the idea of renting a boat for a few hours seemed cool!! I would certainly welcome your suggestions for improving this segment of the trip though!

    Thank you for the link to Megan's site, which I found very interesting, some nice stories on there! The glider thing sounds absolutely terrifying, yet strangely fascinating...! I will certainly have a ponder over that. But I hope you're not on commission as there's certainly no guarantees!!!

    As you spotted from my rough itinerary, it is exactly that, rough! There are certain things that I guessed at, such as the time of the baseball game. I presumed it'd be something like 7 or 8 (I have only been to two games in my life and they both started around that time) so that's a bit of a downer. I'd been looking forward to that! But it's not the end of the world, I guess.

    Regarding accomodation, I think I'll probably play safe then, and book before we go. I may even have a look at what is available for our stay in San Fran. Does anyone have any personal favourites for either? Budget is a consideration but I wouldnt want to be staying in some flea pit to save 20 bucks a night!

    Another question that comes to mind. With the high levels of security will I need an address for the visa waiver form? Last time I filled out the address of the campground and was asked to produce paperwork confirming my reservation. Do I absolutely need to have an address? I can get on and book a campground if people think it's necessary, but I wanted the flexibility to be able to pull over prior to SM if we felt tired from the flight.

    Thanks again for your interest and your help.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Death Valley and Beyond

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig Antill View Post
    Regarding the Saturday 16th - Monday 18th segment, that is pretty much what was spat out by Streets and Trips when I entered Death Valley NP, Hoover Dam, Vegas and Zion NP and hit 'Optimize Stops'.
    I would eliminate the camping night at Lake Mead (or at least delay it until you see what the lake is like...) I would drive from Death Valley to Las Vegas and spend your two nights. There are lots of posts on this Forum about this route. Here is a good one -- (read the entire thread as the advice changed over the course of the thread....) For one of the day-trip excursions -- run out to the Dam -- take the tour and go look at the campground and decide if this is what you want to do. Then do the LV to Zion route as planned.
    But I hope you're not on commission as there's certainly no guarantees!!!
    On commission? What? There is no revenue stream here?
    As you spotted from my rough itinerary, it is exactly that, rough! There are certain things that I guessed at, such as the time of the baseball game. I presumed it'd be something like 7 or 8 (I have only been to two games in my life and they both started around that time) so that's a bit of a downer. I'd been looking forward to that! But it's not the end of the world, I guess.
    You do need to look at the club site as some professional games start in the afternoon. You can still do this attraction, but you can't drive the Big Sur... Average speed is about 35 mph with traffic and topography up the coast.
    Regarding accomodation, I think I'll probably play safe then, and book before we go. I may even have a look at what is available for our stay in San Fran.
    Holiday Inn -- Golden Gate is probably the best "deal" in town, nice views, adequate rooms -- reasonable rates -- it is where we stay when we are in town.
    Another question that comes to mind. With the high levels of security will I need an address for the visa waiver form? Last time I filled out the address of the campground and was asked to produce paperwork confirming my reservation. Do I absolutely need to have an address?
    Not our area of expertise -- sorry!

    Mark

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
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    Default Navajo Bridge

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig Antill View Post
    Thursday 21st September: Cross Navajo Bridge
    Here is what that looks like!

  6. #6

    Default

    Thanks for the info, good stuff. I will amend the schedule with your suggestion.

    Thanks too for the photo of the Navajo Bridge - looks awesome! Can't wait for the trip now, it's gonna be mega :)

    If anyone else has any info they would like to contribute, Please do, it'd be very welcome ;)

  7. #7

    Default

    Well I am back at home now. A thoroughly entertaining and eventful trip, to say the least!

    Not possible in the time frame you have set, unless you depart SM at 3 am
    Welllll... we didn't leave at 3am. We left at 4 :) Damn you timezones! But we had a fantastic drive along PCH and made the ballgame in plenty of time. The locals in the Bleachers were VERY entertaining and we had a great time heckling the opposing fans despite the Padres running out 10-2 victors :)

    The provisional itinerary proved to be way too conservative and we found ourselves in Vegas by Thursday! So we extended the trip to include Moab, Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Monument Valley, San Diego, Long Beach and a proper look at Hollywood and Beverley Hills before spending the final afternoon at Santa Monica.

    Whilst I enjoyed the cities, the National Parks were easily the best part of the (4000 mile) trip. It is hard to decide which I enjoyed the most, I just wished we had something like them in the UK! I was amazed at how accessible Yosemite and Death Valley were by car (the latter saw us do 75 miles of gravel road in under an hour without seeing a single other car!) Both were spectacular but I really enjoyed Arches and Canyonlands, presumably because they weren't planned.

    By the time we reached Grand Canyon NP I was 'scenery'd out' and couldn't really take any more in - perhaps we should have gone there first? Having said that, I'd not change a thing about the trip, was a great experience.

    Should add that my favourite memory is of our stay in Page. With the Vermillon Cliffs being a wash out we were delighted to almost accidently fall over the Glen Canyon dam, the Horseshoe Bend (sunrise was awesome!), Lees Ferry and a hilarious restaurant in Page itself which name currently escapes me. Oh and the cheapest motel in the world too! The only worrying experience there was when my friend took off down the slipway into Lake Powell at about 60mph. Maniac!! :)

    Crossed three more ball parks off my list (AT&T, Petco and Dodgers) and two more race circuits (Las Vegas and Long Beach) although I am extremely annoyed with myself now I have realised how close we were to the hallowed Laguna Seca.... aaaargh!
    Last edited by UKCraig; 09-30-2006 at 12:09 PM.

  8. Default Wish I'd know you were looking for raceways..

    You were also within spitting distance of California Raceway, Willow Springs, and Pomona (home of the Winternationals.. drag stip par excellance). Also the one in Vegas.

    There are several old sites too, for the history fan... Ontario International Raceway (now mostly redeveloped, but you can still see where it was if you know where to look), Orange County International Raceway, and Riverside (the sign is still there, but hidden...)

  9. #9

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Larrison View Post
    You were also within spitting distance of California Raceway, Willow Springs, and Pomona (home of the Winternationals.. drag stip par excellance). Also the one in Vegas. </p>
    There are several old sites too, for the history fan... Ontario International Raceway (now mostly redeveloped, but you can still see where it was if you know where to look), Orange County International Raceway, and Riverside (the sign is still there, but hidden...)
    Wasn't specifically looking for circuits but it's always nice to pop in to see them if we're passing :) My favourite was Toronto last year (four days before the haulers moved in... poor timing or what?) where I almost totalled the hire car... (I trust no-one here works for Avis?!) I would dearly loved to have visited Laguna Seca though. Having been a motorsport fan since I was about six and been around the race industry for a good few years now, it's just one of those circuits which means something. Not sure I'd have wanted to visit Fontana though, the memory of is still very fresh in my mind. (Stupid really, given Gonzalo @ Laguna... but...)Anyway, next time I take a holiday, I think I'm gonna take my 'Guide To World Motorsport Venues' book with me :D

    I have just been pointed in the direction of Flickr by a friend and have uploaded a few photos if anyone is interested: I will put some more up tomorrow.
    Last edited by UKCraig; 10-01-2006 at 12:57 AM. Reason: Fixed the broken link

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Captured some great photos!

    How fast were you driving on some of those legs???

    I enjoyed the photos!

    Mark

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