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Thread: Road Trip - USA

  1. Default Road Trip - USA

    Hi There

    I am an Australian about to take a road trip across your great country. After reading Dave Grolman's Unchained America (worth the read) I am wanting to do the drive and see the real America, not the Corporate Chain America.

    Plans are pretty fluid still so was hoping I could get some ideas/thoughts from a few experts.

    Current plan is to either

    a) fly in and out of Chicago where I will hire a car and drive to LA/LV (take an internal flight back to Chicago). On the way I would like to see the following:

    - Yellowstone
    - Mt Rushmore
    - Big Sur and coast road
    - Giant Redwood forests
    - Vegas
    - San Fran
    - LA
    - Santa Monica
    - LV
    - Any other ideas?

    Other option is to fly to NYC and do the drive cross country and include Niagra Falls (and leave out LV if time is short).

    From touching down in Chicago/NYC I have 26 days to find myself at an airport on the west coast for the return flight to NYC/Chicago.

    I don't want to be rushed as this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me coming from the other side of the world and all, and I especially want to spend some time in Yellowstone (any recommendation of hotels to stay in at short notice and what side to stay (i.e. west entrance)).

    If you could give me any ideas, books, websites or driving routes that would be great.

    Thanks

    Sam

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default I hope you have more driving skill than Gorman!

    Quote Originally Posted by samtomrob View Post
    I am an Australian about to take a road trip across your great country. After reading Dave Gorman's Unchained America (worth the read) I am wanting to do the drive and see the real America, not the Corporate Chain America.
    There is an inherent fallacy in Dave Gorman's premise -- those aren't martians who are operating those so-called chain motels/diners/gas stations. They are all Americans and as much as I have enjoyed reading his slightly peculiar tale (here is my book review on this work....) I find his attitude misplaced and a bit misdirected. I hope you are embarking on your trip around the USA with a little more driving skill and awareness than this guy seemed to have. Every person is entitled to create their own vision of a road trip and it is an interesting challenge to create an arbitrary definition of "good" tourist businesses and "bad corporate" tourist businesses, but it all strikes me as a little silly. Personally, I would rather have the expectation of a clean, comfortable bed, high-speed Internet and pleasant dining options (which tend to be what one finds when using "Corporate Chain America" managed operations.

    In Gorman's defense, I would say that his next to the last sentence is certainly one that I would agree with -- "You don't need a convertible to feel the wind in your hair... It is a state of mind..." Pretty much what we feel about road trips around here.
    If you could give me any ideas, books, websites or driving routes that would be great.
    Well, we have a few suggestions for guidebooks here on the RTA site. Here are a few to get started.

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 08-22-2008 at 02:56 PM. Reason: added link to the book review

  3. Default Slightly off topic

    I take your point, and I am personally not planning to hunt for non-branded fuel, definitely have a rough driving plan drawn out, I will be hiring a Mustang (my ultimate American car, if only they were made in right hand drive for a decent price!) and I will certainly stay in a hotel based on its cleanliness/location/view (may be not the WiFi) - I even work for a multinational, however, may be you should re-read the first few chapters again on why he undertook the trip and what he wanted to gain from the trip (as well as some of his other books/documentaries so you can appreciate his mind set).

    I don't see it being a fallacy, he spent 4 months there on a contract on someone elses terms staying and eating in hotels he didn't like and he didn't enjoy his time, so instead of spending his time in London telling people why he didn't like the US, he came back and saw the America HE had romantacised about on HIS terms - and found it. Basically it was his holiday, not ours. I think it was a crazy idea but I think he definitely got some amazing experiences from it that he clearly didn't get last time (and it definitely made for an entertaining read to me - and some decent post reading banter!).

    Now let's get back on topic so I can find MY America:

    Is 26 days enough time to drive from NYC to Chicago via Niagara Falls (how many days should I set aside for that?) or will I be stretching the time and have to rush past too many places worth spending extra time at?

    How long should I plan the drive from Redwood forests in Northern Cali to LA to take, remembering being from Australia, I love the surf/beach? And what are the best towns to stop at overnight?

    Cheers

    Sam

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,359

    Default Rough Guesses

    Given the nature of the trek you want to take, it's hard to give hard and fast scheduling information, but as a general guideline, I'd say that 26 days is enough to have a leisurely (but once over lightly) view of America. I wouldn't set aside more than a day for Niagara Falls, but do take the time to see what's above and below the Falls proper. And I'd leave a good 5 days to a week, minimum to cover northern California, the coast, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

    AZBuck

  5. #5

    Default

    Dave Gorman – rather like his sense of humour but have not read his book on unchained America. Something I’ll have to get round to doing. But can understand the premise of travelling through the vastness of the country trying to avoid the corporate chains e.g. - Starbucks, MacDonald’s, Hilton and the like.

    I pass on the gas point - as gas is gas wherever it comes from.

    Suspect in his tale there is a degree of humour in the mix as well a serious point reflecting the times we live in where corporations are taking over.

    “Unchained” locations are thankfully still out there in abundance. One immediately comes to mind – Halfway / Hells Canyon in Oregon. Wonderful, wonderful place especially going down the Snake River in Hells Canyon.

    Didn’t see any evidence of the men in suits in that part of Oregon :- )

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
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    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default It still comes down to the personal level

    Quote Originally Posted by Eris View Post
    Suspect in his tale there is a degree of humour in the mix as well a serious point reflecting the times we live in where corporations are taking over.
    I guess my point is that I don't see "a problem" with corporations who can often offer services and goods that exceed the value of those previously supplied by "mom & pop" operations. In my experience, the quality of the place, service or product is directly proportional to the efforts (or lack thereof) of the people at the point of delivery -- it doesn't seem to make much difference who the employer is -- good service looks and tastes like good service the world over.
    “Unchained” locations are thankfully still out there in abundance. One immediately comes to mind – Halfway / Hells Canyon in Oregon. Wonderful, wonderful place especially going down the Snake River in Hells Canyon.
    Yep, one can easily find excellent businesses serving the needs and desires of the road tripping public in virtually every place in the Americas. (of course, one can also find less-than-ideal service providers as well).
    Didn’t see any evidence of the men in suits in that part of Oregon :- )
    "men in suits" isn't all that common in any tourism-related business (except in the more upscale lodging establishments).

    Mark

  7. #7

    Default Dave Gorman

    My take on America Unchained is that it's simply a theme on which to base an adventure, a bit like crossing Death Valley on rollerblades or attempting to climb the Eiger via the north face rather than the south. There's room for Subways alongside local sandwich shops and I for one have been very happy to succumb to the uniformity and guaranteed comfort of a Holiday Inn room after 2 or 3 nights of run-down and dirty independent motels.

    I haven't actually started the book yet but I'd be surprised if Gorman - a writer I enjoy very much - really was suggesting that any large corporation was, by default, bad news. What? International publishers, book stores and DVD distributors too?

    Bet you wish you'd never mentioned him now, don't you? Anyway, by way of an apology for the slight hijack, here's a possible route that'll take you through areas you'll never forget:

    Head west across South Dakota (a place we fell in love with).
    Through Wyoming to Yellowstone (we stayed in Cody, to the east of the park and famous for its nightly rodeo).
    Head north through Montana to Glacier NP.
    Across northern Idaho, down through Oregon (taking in Crater Lake NP)
    Reach the redwoods of California - you could do far worse than staying at the Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park.

    Depending on how many miles you like to get under your belt every day and how many days you've spent at Yellowstone, you should now have at least a week - possibly longer - to explore the Pacific coast, either north to Seattle or south to LA.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
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    3,318

    Default Fun thread!

    I kinda enjoy talking about routes and places to see, mixed in with social/corporate commentary.

    I'll jump into the fire first. I haven't read Gorman's book but I tend to agree with his premise. I absolutely hate the corporatizing of America.
    Whether for better or worse, I always enjoy and better-remember those places that I find that aren't the same-old thing one can find most everywhere. The quaint little, inexpensive cabin with 1950s decor (not retro, just not redecorated since then) that I rented for one night 7 years ago is fresh in my mind while the Motel 6's and other chain hotels pretty much run together in a mush. Same with meals in locally-owned diners, etc. over those meals in chains. Not to say that some chains aren't pretty good. They're just not memorable. But I sure do hate how pulling into most any town means you're greeted by virtually the same signs advertising virtually the same establishments as you saw in the last 100 towns you passed through. Too homogenous for my tastes.

    Now onto the fun stuff...if you want to do Niagara, it would make more sense to fly into NYC instead of backtracking there from Chicago to turn around and go west again. If you decide you can skip Niagara, then Chicago makes more sense based on your list of things you want to see the most. And that would give you more time to explore the places on your list as well.

    Generally, it takes five good days to cross the US so 26 days gives you roughly 21 days to play and explore. If you decide to fly into NYC and go to Niagara, that will take 3 days, minimum. One day to travel to Niagara, your day exploring Niagara (or partial day), and then at least one day to get to Chicago area. So skipping that part of the country really gives you a lot more time for those other areas.

    Vambo's recommendations are spot-on (and his roadtrip reports are always a great read!).

    The best way to come up with your driving route is to get a papermap of the US and highlight the areas you want to see most. The best routes and order should jump out at you. You could also use an online or software based mapping program. Since every trip is individual, you might start with doing some of this yourself and then coming back here with your route ideas so we can help you tweak it or point out any potential problems. We could also then give you ideas of other things to see along those routes. There are just too many possibilities of things to do in 26 days for us to give you a one best route.

  9. Default Thanks for the tips

    Thanks for the excellent tips.

    I have enjoyed the banter as well, its good to see people can actually discuss topics without being emotional/over reactive/insulting each other.

    As far as the book goes Judy, you have pretty much summarised exactly what the author is trying to express. You will definitely enjoy the read (the documentary does not do the book justice).

    I will have a good look through the maps/travel guides and see what else I like the look of.

    Sam

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Keithville, LA
    Posts
    638

    Default That Book Sounds Interesting

    I may have to pick it up for my upcoming flight.

    But I sure do hate how pulling into most any town means you're greeted by virtually the same signs advertising virtually the same establishments as you saw in the last 100 towns you passed through. Too homogenous for my tastes.
    That's one of the reasons I've started taking the 2 lane US Highways. Although, sometimes it would be nice to see a McDonalds or Burger King just because their bathrooms are usually clean and I can get a fairly cheap cup of coffee. :)

    Have you looked into flying into someplace like Buffalo, NY rather than NYC? It doesn't sound like the city is your major destination, but I could have misunderstood you. Not sure of flight cost differences. However, for less than $100 more I was able to fly out of Shreveport rather than Dallas for my upcoming trip to England. It was definitely worth it to me.

    But, as Judy said, if you can give a rough estimate of where you want to go and some of your interests/hobbies we will be glad to help in anyway that we can.

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