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  1. Default West Coast Baby!

    Hi, Me and some friends are planning our best holiday yet after going to europe for the last 6 years.

    My plan so far is to fly into san francisco, have a few nights there, then onto lake tahoe for a couple of nights, down through yosemite, death valley (a night at each) before heading of to vegas for 3 nights. then off to the grand canyon and barringer crater (again a night some where near each). then off to LA for a few nights before heading back up to san fran (stopping for 1 night on the way).

    while im excited with this route do you reckon its a bit much to be doing in about 16 days?

    Also, i noticed that american road laws have a 60 MPH speed limit. While this seems redculous i'm interested to knw how much people stick to this over there. Here in the UK when ever i travel down south (im from the north east) i just drive 90-100 mph (obviously watching for the poh-leece). but most people drive like that here. What are american drivers like on long distances - what are the un-written rules so to speak.

    Also, as part of trying to get into the spirit of it all and not wanting loads of faff on ebfore i leave i want to know how hard it will be to get a hotel/motel at the places im going to. is there anywhere i should really arrange accomodation for before flying?.... and how much should i be looking to pay.

    well thanks for you help.
    Last edited by Mass Tim; 10-19-2006 at 04:10 AM. Reason: Good neighbor policy

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Western/Central Massachusetts

    Default Driving

    Welcome to the RoadTrip America Forum!

    I don't know where you heard about those road laws - for Interstate highways, the speed limit varies depending on location from 55mph - 75mph. Montana used to have a "reasonable & prudent" policy in some areas, but too many people going there just for a thrill ride ruined that. You'll find that you're going to average about 53mph overall, that's the general consensus here and time and time again it has proven true.

    That said, in many areas you will find people travelling around 80mph, slower near the cities.

    This route sounds doable to me, but perhaps someone from the area will have more pertinent information for you. I definitely recommend checking out the Grand Canyon.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Québec, Montreal, Arizona, California, France

    Default Speed limits

    Hi Salts,

    What are american drivers like on long distances - what are the un-written rules so to speak.
    The highest posted speed limit I saw on a US Interstate is 80 mph on I-20 in Texas. In my experience, in the south west a lot of people drive slower than the posted speed limit. However, in certain areas like L.A. and SF things can get a little more crazy, even though that area is known to have photo radar devices. I've never been to the PNW but I believe the upper east coast, Florida and Chicago has a lot more speeders than any other part of the US.

    If you plan on driving 90-100 mph during your trip, I guarantee it's going to be an expensive trip, especially if you stick to California. If you don't get any ticket while you're on the road, you might get a couple of unpleasant surprises in the mail when you get back home.

    Drive safe!

  4. Default Speed Limits and Tickets

    Hmm.. if you drive 90-100 mph in the states you will get tickets.

    As a rule of thumb, California drivers are pretty good drivers and the roads are typically in very good shape. The big governing principle (and its in the California state traffic law) is "Never driver faster than is safe".. so you can actually get a ticket for driving lower than the speed limit, if it is unsafe to be going at that speed. For example, trying to drive 60 mph in very heavy fog where you can't more more than 5 meters ahead of the car...

    Inside major urban areas the speed limit is lower -- typically 55 mph on major crowded urban highways. On surface streets it can be as low as 25 (in a school zone with children present). In special situations it may be even lower (blind turns on a hillside with no margins on the road) -- but that will have to be posted. Some cities have photo ticket cameras set up at major intersections for people running red lights. These are required to be posted as "photo enforced".

    There are some photo-enforced speed traps -- usually on suburban streets.

    Outside the cities, the speed limit is typically 70-75 mph. The speed guns used by the highway patrol typically have a 10% calibration rating so you can go a few miles over the speed limit without getting a ticket -- but then how well is the speedometer on your car calibrated? It's not uncommon for a car's speedometer to be 10% off as well.... so the best advice is stick fairly close to the speed limit. You don't get to challenge this on the spot -- but you can come back and challenge this in court if you want to claim the car's speedometer is out of whack, for example. But you'll need testing results from a dyno lab to do that...

    You should be aware that the highways are sometimes patrolled (and speeds judged by) laser guns, radar (microwave guns), trip wires (pressure plates across the road a specific distance apart), photocells, or from the air (timing a car between two known points). Aircraft are commonly used over the long stretches across the desert to look for vehicles in trouble, but they can also pick out a speeder -- so you may not even know you are being tracked for speeding until a CHP vehicle pulls in behind you. Unusual vehicle behaviour may also attract attention to you -- weaving in and out of traffic, going much faster than other traffic, slowing down abruptly, etc. That tends to attract the eye of the CHP in the sky.

    Bottom line -- don't drive faster than is safe. Period. When its safe, sticking with speeds around the speed limit is the best way to avoid getting pulled over and ticketed.
    Last edited by W. Larrison; 10-19-2006 at 09:25 AM. Reason: I hate typos!! and always have them....

  5. Default Thanks

    Thanks for the answers there folks.

    I never thought american roads would be so 'well bahaved'. while the UK isn't large enough to have a road classed as an interstate. our 'big roads are motorways'

    Its about a 4-5 hour drive from my house to london. Most of which is on a motorway. You can more or less get away with doing 100mph all the way, just slow down when you see a policeman or a photo camera. my firend once drove 120mph all the way.... he never got caught.... and it shaved about an hour off.

    also if a policeman pulled anyone in the UK for driving too fast without breaching the speed limit, even if there was thick fog and a force 5 hurricane, and the martians had attacked. The policeman wouldn't have a leg to stand on, and would most likely be reminded of that pretty quick.

    well i think your advice will be quite useful. i was just thinking that if i can drive fast here, then i definately can in america........ apparently not.

    2500 miles..... its gonna be a long 2500 miles. worth it though. america is so much better than the UK.

    anyways. what about motels and stuff.

    does anyone know whether i can just drive to the places i mention and expect to get a room somewhere the day i arrive without pre-booking. And how much is this liekly to cost.

    or are there any places that will be busy and i should book well before flying?

    thanks in advance.

  6. Default 16 days... 15 nights? ..

    Hi Salts --

    I think you might be a few nights short on your plan -- Here's my take on your plan, based upon your original message.

    San Francisco Days 1-3 (3 nights)

    Day 4 To Tahoe from SF (About 3-4 hour drive),

    Day 5 at Tahoe (2 nights at Tahoe)

    Day 6 to Yosemite (4-6 hours drive, depending upon what time of year)

    The fast and scenic route to Yosemite from Tahoe area is over the Sierras at Tioga Pass (from east to west). However, Tioga Pass closes during the winter, usually by mid November and doesn't reopen until post April some years. You can come down the west side of the Sierras through the central valley or the gold country, but its a bit longer and takes a bit more time to drive.

    Day 7 at Yosemite (2 nights in the park)

    Day 8 to Death Valley (at least 8 hour drive)

    The short route is to go back over the Sierras at Tioga Pass and then down to Death valley. That's a fairly long driving day on 2 -3 lane secondary highways. If Tioga pass isn't open, you'll be going down to Bakersfield and then heading east and north to Death Valley around the southern end of the Sierras through the high desert. That's longer -- doable in a day, but a longer drive by a couple of hours (although the roads are faster)

    Day 9 In Death Valley, departing to Las Vegas (night in Vegas)

    Day 10-11 in Vegas (total of 3 nights in Vegas)

    Day 12 to Grand Canyon

    Pretty much a day in the car -- figure 6 ish hours drive time (less depending on stops -- you'll probably be in the car and on the road for at least 5 hours, not including lunch stops, gas stops, biological need breaks, etc.)

    Day 13 out of GC via east entrance, then to Meteor Crater, and then head back west. I drove about this route a couple of years ago (we went on to Holbrook to go to the Petrified Forest), Its around 4-5 hours to Meteor Crater from the GC. Then to LA its another 7 hours or so of time in the car (plus meals, gas stops, bio breaks etc). Plus any sightseeing you did at Grand Canyon, or any of the stops in between (like Meteor Crater). You could probably make it back to Needles (not much there), or head south to Phoenix area.

    Day 14 -- back to LA. Figure 4-5 hours from Needles, 5-7 hours from Phoenix.

    Day 15 - Los Angeles

    LA's geographically a big town -- where do you want to do here? It can take like 2 hours to get from one side to the other at times..

    Day 16 - Drive to SF. Full day's drive (about 5-6 hours on the unexciting I-5, or 8+ hours on 101 more interesting but slower).

    It is doable, but just barely. And you'll be spending a lot of time in the car going places after you leave SF, instead of sightseeing. If I had to drop something, I'd drop out Tahoe and add in Holbrook (for a night) and Petrified Forest and come back via Phoenix to LA --which still gives an extra day to play with for somewhere like LA or Hearst Castle/ Big Sur.

    Hotels outside of high tourist areas will run you (depending upon your tastes) from $50-80 per night for a good quality but not fancy hotel, usually with a continental breakfast included the next morning. In high tourist/ high density urban areas you'll pay more -- SF, Tahoe, Yosemite, at the Grand Canyon, downtown LA. You can get get somewhat lower prices by staying outside of the city core or away from the tourist areas. When I did my trip to the GC, I stayed at Williams, about 45 minutes drive from the rim of Grand Canyon, which cut my hotel room to about 1/2 what it was quoted in the Park.

    Booking in advance will probably be required if you want to stay in the Parks at Yosemite, Death Valley or the Grand Canyon. There are a very limited number of hotel rooms in these places, and they can fill up fast. In LA, Tahoe, Vegas, or SF, the issue is just highly desirable hotels and the time of year or else things like a big convention in the city. But there are lots of hotel rooms in these towns, and you probably can find a room with a few hours notice at most. (For Tahoe, you can always go to Reno, which has thousands of hotel rooms)

  7. Default wow

    What an answer, Thats's exactly the kind of thing i was after. much appreciated!!!

    I hadn't anticipated them kind of driving durations, i think because i was just thinking how long i would expect the same milage to take me in the UK (where we can get away with speeding).

    I know i'm being picky but me and my friends are good at messing things up. If we buy a sat nav when we arrive are they able to tell you if some of them passes you spoke of will be open or not? or if not are the raods well signed to tell you?

    How much would a sat nav set me back.... ill be landing in san francisco most likely. i now know im gonna need one.

    I've been to the grand canyon ebfore and was quite taken by it. as such im looking to spend the night as close to it as possible. So ill take you advice and book early.

    I think we do nee to have a re-evaluation of the route and time scales. Many thanks for this because we didn't really know.

    well, thanks once more.

  8. Default Check the CALTRANS web site for pass information

    To check Tioga Pass there are several ways is the direct information link through the Dept of Transportation in California (AKA "Caltrans") for State Route 120, which goes over Tioga Pass.

    You can also call 800.427.7623 or 916.445.7623 to get the information over the phone (just remember you're looking for info on SR 120) -- the 800 number is toll free in California.

    A Sat Nav (GPS?) unit will not give you this road information, but might help if you know where you want to go. A cheap simple one (I have a handheld one with simple maps for backpacking and that I use in the car) is about $100-150. A good one designed for use in the car with point-to-point turn information and routing is maybe $700-800. Some rental cars have them installed. If you get one in the UK, just make sure its loaded with the maps for the western US. And if you want to get one in the US when you arrive it would be good to see if you can also get maps for the UK so you can take it back with you. I've seen them at most major discount electronic chains (Fry's, Circuit City, Best Buy, etc. )

    As for the time on the roads -- I typically run at or slightly above the speed limit so I'm not traveling slow (65-75 on the interstates, depending upon the limit). Even so, you're talking about fairly long distances here -- California is 800 miles from end to end. Over say 300 miles, the difference between 75 mph and 90 mph is only maybe 30-40 minutes over that distance -- which isn't much more than a food & gas stop's worth of time. Think of it as a marathon rather than a sprint. *Grins* Besides dude, you're on vacation...

    If you want to check on trip times between places, which will also give you the option of printing out customized maps from point A to point B, you can try some of the internet mapping sites. www., and the Yahoo maps site of some of which I've seen a lot of people use. They'll give you distance and estimate the driving time (time behind the wheel) between two points. The mapping engines these sites use do try to account for the quality of the road and typical speed limits, in the paths -- but don't include times for things like getting gas, stretching your legs, meal stops, or finding a bathroom. You can do a bit better on the road than these times I've found, but once you add in the necessary other stops, you'll run longer than the purely mileage based estimates. I typically stop on a trip about every 2 hours or so to stretch my legs, put some gas in the vehicle (heck, I'm stopped.. why not), find a bathroom, and check the ice chest for water or something to snack on.
    Last edited by W. Larrison; 10-20-2006 at 09:02 AM.

  9. #9


    Would lose too much sleep over the speeding thing. We did recently did a 4000 miles or so trip through California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah and let's just say we weren't hanging around ;) The closest we got to a speeding fine was one police cruiser coming towards us switching on it's strobe lights and gesturing to me to slow down. Just use common sense as you would in the UK ;)

    I personally wasn't that taken with Vegas. It was okay but I enjoyed the natural scenery far more (you'll understand what I mean when I say I'm a London boy and don't get to see anything quite so stunning very often ;)) so I'd probably lose a night there and spend it elsewhere. I'd definately run up the coast road (PCH) from LA to San Fran. It'll be an awesome end to your trip.

    Ref accomodation, I wouldn't book anything. We didn't last time and we managed to find cheap motels everywhere we went without any problem. The only exception to that might be Vegas where you can have a nightmare queuing only to be told there's no room at the inn. However the only problem with that is it ties you down to an itinerary. I don't like that. Perhaps just phone ahead to the hotels 24 hours prior to your arrival.

  10. Default shamone!

    once again thaks for the replies.

    7-800 dollars eh. looks like im skipping that one. never mind though, it'll add to the fun no doubt.

    craig. when you say you recently did the 4000 mile thing was this in the summer? its just i can imagine the demand for hotels being much greater in summer.

    i agree, just pulling up to a town and finding a room feels more of the wall but i was just scared i may end up sleeping in the car with 3 other men - no good!

    ive been to vegas before but it was with my parents when id just turned 17 so when they were gambling i was upstairs watching the TV (it was when bush stole/won the election, i remember watching the whole thing unfold).

    anyways. with that i think ill have enouyght o go off for making some decent plans.

    cheers dudes.

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