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  1. Default How to Familiarise Myself

    Hi

    I'm planning a trip touring California this summer with my family, arriving (from UK) into Los Angeles, spending almost a week travelling up the coast to San Francisco, and then spending just over another week travelling back to LA via Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.

    I've found the information on this forum invaluable for planning and I'm sure I'll be back to ask more detailed questions nearer the time.

    One thing I haven't seen discussed on here ... I apologise if this has been covered, but I didn't find it ... is approach to familiarising yourself with a new town/city quickly and efficiently when you first arrive.

    My main experience of touring has been in Europe (mostly France and Belgium, Germany to a lesser extent) where I would generally drive myself to the middle of town, usually marked by the l'Hotel de Ville (Town Hall), park up and go for a walk around the middle of the town, checking out Restaurants, Theatres, Museums, posters for events, etc. To get a feel for what's there and what options there are to do whilst visiting.

    Now, my (admittedly very) limited experience of the US suggests that towns/cities tend not to be as centralised, nor are they quite so easy to get around on foot. So ... could any of you provide your tips for where to head or what to do to find your way around some place (in California) that you've never visted before and will only be visiting for around 24hrs?

    Thanks in advance.

    PhilB

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,067

    Default for me

    You are right that US cities just are not as centralized and can be very difficult to walk around. On a positive note, San Francisco is pretty good in that regard and is one of the easier cities to get a feel for thing. On the flip side, LA is about the worst, with parts of the city/metro requiring multi-hour drives to get between areas.

    For me, just spending a little time studying a map of the city is a big help. That usually will give me at least a starting point so I'll know where different areas of a city are. Even that isn't perfect, and but its probably what works best for me. (Sometimes, I will even end up with a better knowledge of the city than people who live there!)

  3. #3

    Default

    A GPS ( satnav), even a basic one, can be a most useful aid and a comfort in dealing with journeys in the large built up areas. Especially at large and busy intersections which can be somewhat daunting to a new visitor.

    Also the options of finding points of interest, lodgings, dining, gas etc are a big bonus. Just a thought.

  4. Default And what about the smaller places?

    Hi

    Thank you Michael and Eris for your replies.

    Michael, your comments about LA and SF are useful, but in an interesting way those are the areas that my question was least about ... I know those were two of the few places I mentioned in my question, but they are also two of the best documented locations for tourists probably in California, and possibly in the whole US/World ... I guess what I was really asking for here is hints and tips that people have for finding what's going on in those places that I may find myself in along the Pacific Coast or in the Gold Country when travelling between the places I mentioned.
    I don't want to ask particularly about Santa Barabara, for instance, because I may spend more time in Summerland before I got there, or drive on through to Naples further along the coast ... if only I could find some way of getting to know what was going on in those places when I got to them.

    Eris, the GPS option is interesting. Are you suggesting that I should take a drive-by tour of the town/city, instead of my walking tour approach around European towns?

    Any other suggestions from anyone else? Are there places I should be looking out for? e.g. Tourist Information/Visitor Centres?

    Cheers, PhilB

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default A bit of research.

    I familiarise myself with places prior to leaving home. Firstly, if for instance I am travelling between SF and LA, I look at places along the route and research them on the web to find those that might be of interest and those that I might want to give a miss. We are all different as to what appeals to us.
    Once you have done so, most city's will have visitor info pages and maps of that place on the web and possible info on a visitor centre location. I often take a couple of notes and print of a detailed map of that city so that on arrival I am partly familiar with what to do and where to go.
    I don't just rely on city tourist guides though, you will find many links associated with said place and first hand accounts, photo's of previous peoples personal experience to help guide you.

    Googles your friend ;-)

  6. #6

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by pkb4809 View Post
    Hi

    Eris, the GPS option is interesting. Are you suggesting that I should take a drive-by tour of the town/city, instead of my walking tour approach around European towns?

    Cheers, PhilB


    US communities, for better or worse, have been built / designed mostly for vehicle users. A big country so they use the space. Most towns/communities are well spread out but usually with plenty of parking amenities. Walking is not the norm - unless off course you go to a shopping mall but you still need a car to get there.

    Bears little resemblance to UK / continental communities where the town centre/ high street is in a concentrated area with signs pointing the way.

    Agree with the above, do your research before you go – most communities have a website which will provide information.

    The benefit of a GPS, as well as giving directions, is they contain most of the local facilities / points of interest wherever you are at a particular moment on your journey and the device will direct you there.

  7. Default What about spontaneity?

    Guys

    Thanks for the responses. I really do appreciate you taking the time to reply, but ... I must admit that I am a little surprised by the advice I have received so far, the summary of which is reasearch, planning and (satellite aided) positioning and routeing.

    Which seems a little out of synch with the "Roadtrip is a state of mind" ethos I was expecting from members of this forum.

    I apologise if this looks like criticsim of those that have already responded, it is not meant to be ... of course I am doing my research, and I am planning where might be interesting to go ... that is why I am looking at this forum after all .... but, I was also planning to be spontaneous some of the time!!?! ;-)

    Which is why I asked the original question ... and why I'll try to re-ask it.

    If you turned up at some town in California and wanted to decide whether or not this was a place worth spending some more time in (either a few hours or an overnight stop), or you should just drive on through to the next place ... What would you look for to help you decide? And how would you go about finding that thing that would help you decide?

    Thanks in advance,
    PhilB

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default Informed spontaneity!

    Knowledge is not a burden to carry !

    I don't think anyone is suggesting you plan your whole trip, but by familiarising yourself before you leave will assist you in finding more places that you wish to be at than not, which makes for a more enjoyable trip.

    Which seems a little out of synch with the "Roadtrip is a state of mind" ethos I was expecting from members of this forum.
    Not at all. There are many places that you will discover along the way that some people will find worthy of stopping for and others won't. The freedom that the roadtrip offers is one that allows you to decide for yourself what is "worthwhile" rather than a travel agent [or us] doing it for you. A state of mind is a very personal matter and different for everyone. There are those that just hit the road without any idea of where to go or where they will end up, or like yourself who has an outlined plan that will help guide you.

    If you turned up at some town in California and wanted to decide whether or not this was a place worth spending some more time in (either a few hours or an overnight stop), or you should just drive on through to the next place ... What would you look for to help you decide? And how would you go about finding that thing that would help you decide?
    Pure instinct and state of mind. I sense when something is right for my mood/taste and rarely do those instincts let me down. Especially as I already have a good idea as to what options there are further down the road a way ;-)
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 04-27-2009 at 04:08 AM. Reason: Typo

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,067

    Default Personal Contact

    I think Dave has done an excellent job of summarizing the concept of "informed spontinaity" where having a good base of general knowledge will help get you started, and then you can feel things out once you are on the road.

    I guess the one thing that really seems to be missing from the advice you've been given so far is personal contact - which is probably the most important thing for the type of trip it sounds like you want.

    If you really want to know what is going on in a local community, you have to ask the locals themselves. Yes, in most cases, there will be some sort of visitor center or other official place to help guide you, but it certainly doesn't have to be that official. Simply asking someone on a street, at a gas station, or in a restaurant will go a long way towards finding things you might not be able to see any other way.

    Personally, with all of the advice given so far, the only one that wouldn't work for my kind of trip is relying on a GPS. I find that using such a device distances you from an area more than it helps you get to know it. Instead of paying attention to streets and landmarks to find your way, you are following directions to turn when you are told. Thats a big reason why in many cases, I'll have a better feel of a city than people who live there but just follow a gps to get where they are going. If you are trying to find a store/restaurant/attraction, you're going to get an list of options and addresses from a GPS, but it isn't going to give you that personal contact or local knowledge. Certainly, a GPS will help you get to things faster you probably won't get lost using one, but getting lost on a roadtrip isn't necessarily a bad thing.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    el cerrito,california
    Posts
    27

    Default GPS and California Travel

    Doing research is invaluable. I have to say driving up the coast of California is a well worn travel route as is Yosemite during the summer/ in fact too well worn.It is very crowded during the summer months along route 1. Maddingly so. Yosemite is also jammed with tourists. As a California resident I avoid those places like the plague during the summer months and go there in the Spring and Fall. Now since you are a foreign visitor one might not have a choice as to what time of year to come here so one has to make the best of the crowds. I advise thinking about driving during off hours, not during the prime time to avoid traffic. Also a GPS is invaluable traveling to places unknown, well worth the investment. I have found local places I wouldn't have normally found using this incredible technology. In fact by having this I was able to find coffee shops and local restaurants that the locals frequent, off the beaten track and have had remarkable contacts with people and places on my cross country journeys. When traveling to Yosemite and Sequoia I advise you take the time to hike a mile or two down a trail. Many people never go that far and you will certainly find magnificent scenery and quiet away from the rat race. Best of luck on your travels and welcome!
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 04-27-2009 at 09:10 AM. Reason: signature lines are not used here very often

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