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  1. Default Two Brits planning a California road trip in January

    Hello everyone!

    My boyfriend and I (both British) are planning a road trip around California in January and as we're quite prone to mishaps on holiday (finding ourselves stranded overnight in the Arabian desert being our least successful adventure so far!) we could do with a little bit of advice.

    He is going to be in Los Angeles in January for business so the plan so far is that I will fly out to meet him at the end of his work on Monday 17th. Tuesday 18th we'll spend in LA hiking up to the Hollywood sign and take in a few sights (I appreciate LA is enormous & impossible to see in a day but I'm not much of a city person so there are only a few things on my must-see list). Then on Wednesday 19th we're going to pick up a rental car and start driving. Neither of us have ever driven an automatic car before and we've definitely never driven on the other side of the road so I'm sure this will be quite an experience!

    We're planning on mostly staying in campsites (maybe one or two hotel nights here or there) but we thought it might be easier to hire a car that would allow us enough space to sleep in the back rather than messing about buying a tent in LA and then wondering what to do with it at the end. The car we've been looking at is a Dodge Caravan (http://www.dodge.com/en/2010/grand_caravan/gallery/). It looks like it would do the trick but if anyone has any experience of living out of this car for a week we'd love to hear all about it.

    My major concern is the weather. My boyfriend works in LA every January and he swears the weather is usually in the high twenties (celcius) but every climate website I've checked seems to say otherwise. We've barely had a summer in dreary old Wales for two whole years now so I'm pretty desperate for some sunshine! Can anyone offer any advice on the weather in mid to south California? Best places to go for guaranteed warmth?

    Here is our road trip route so far:

    Wednesday 19th - Pick up car and drive to Death Valley (using a route I found via this super helpful forum: http://living-las-vegas.com/2010/03/...road-to-vegas/). Visit some ghost towns (still need to do more research on this) & take it sloooow so we can get used to the car and enjoy the scenery. Camp at Furnace Creek.

    Thursday 20th - Day in Death Valley. Still camping at Furnace Creek.

    Friday 21st - Drive from Death Valley to Las Vegas and stay in a hotel. Wander up the strip, put a few pennies in the gambling machines, see the sights, try not to accidentally get married... ;) Might like to see a show (Penn & Teller is fully booked - boo!) but need to research some.

    Saturday 22nd - Drive from Las Vegas to Joshua Tree through the Mojave Desert. Not sure where we will camp in Joshua Tree as I'm still researching campsites. Any recommendations? We don't mind roughing it although I'm sure we'd like to take a shower at some point!

    Sunday 23rd - Hiking & exploring in Joshua Tree.

    After that we're just not sure what to do! Our flight from LA leaves the following Wednesday (26th) night so we'll probably need to be back at LAX by 5pm. We'd maybe like to go a bit further south, do some coastal driving and visit some beaches. My main concern is SUNSHINE! As I mentioned earlier I'm not really a big city person and nightlife/clubbing is definitely not a priority and as we're already doing LA & Vegas we'd like to keep out of the big cities for the rest of the trip. Any suggestions for rounding off our route or places to see on the way? We would love to hear them!

    In fact, any suggestions on anything would be greatly welcomed! I'm sure this forum is going to be a regular stop for me over the coming weeks :)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Worry a Good Bit Less

    Cymru am byth! Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    First off, I've never understood the trepidation of people who learned to drive manual gearbox cars coming to automatic transmission cars for the first time. All you do is put the little lever dealy in 'D' (or 'R' for reverse) and thereafter just press the go and stop buttons (accelerator and brake). It's really that simple. As far as driving on the 'wrong' side of the road, being on the 'wrong' side of the car will make it fairly obvious that everything is backwards. That and the fact that our roads are considerably wider than what you're used to should take care of most problems. The one place you really do need to pay close attention is when you are making a turn from one road to another. First, think about what side of the road you want to end up on before you start your turn. Second, look BOTH ways before starting your turn. It will all soon become second nature.

    While the Dodge Caravan (particularly the stretched Grand Caravan version) would have room to sleep in, that is only if you take out all the seats. Unless you and your boyfriend are quite short, there will not be room to sleep comfortably in the seats provided. But if you are going to take the seats out of the car for the duration of your trip, where will you put them? Just spring for the occasional motel and get a real night's sleep.

    Your boyfriend is right. Average daily highs in Los Angeles are around 20°C, although that will drop considerably once you get too far away from the coast. If you want warmth, stay on the coast or in the southern deserts such as the Mojave.Sunshine really should not be too much of a problem anywhere in your travels, It will certainly be better weather than in Snowdonia!

    AZBuck

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    With the money you would save by renting a standard sedan instead of a van, you can buy a tent and sleeping bags at a Walmart on your way out of town and donate them to a Goodwill or Salvation Army store on the way back in. You might even want to get an air mattress with a 12 volt DC pump. You would need everything except the tent to sleep in the back of a van with the seats removed anyway.

  4. Default

    Diolch yn fawr!

    I guess the main reason for worrying about driving an automatic for the first time comes from having driven a manual for so many years that the clutch control & gear changes have become ingrained in my muscle memory (or something of the sort!). I have visions of forgetting where I am every now & again & scrambling around for the clutch pedal & gear stick in a panic. You're right though - turning into a new road will probably be our biggest brain melt but take it slow and I'm sure it will become second nature after a little while.

    I'm so glad I mentioned the car model we were thinking of renting because I was wondering exactly what happened to the seats when you wanted to bed down for the night. In some of the pictures I've found online it appears that they fold into space in the floor but in others it looks like they need to be removed completely - in which case the car is not really a good choice for us. I'm small enough to sleep anywhere comfortably but my boyfriend is 6'2". Damn! If the weather allows I'd really prefer to camp rather than stay in too many hotels so I guess if we can't find a vehicle with enough space a tent will have to be our only option. I did a Trek America tour two years ago and some of the national park campsites we stayed at were absolutely beautiful. I'll never forget stumbling out of my tent in the night to find the toilets, looking up through the trees and seeing the stars. I'd never seen stars like that before in my life! And all those wonderful nights around the campfire - I really want to re-create that with my boyfriend. Hotels don't quite capture the same road trip spirit for me :)

    So - do you think we might be a bit chilly at night in a tent in some of the locations I have mentioned? Can you recommend any good southern coastal locations to stop at?

    Oh & do Walmart sell camping gear all year round? I was planning on taking as much as possible in my luggage but we would have had to stop somewhere to pick up a little cooking stove & two chairs anyway. I guess if we did decide to tent it we could get the bulkier things there too and I'll try to find a charity shop near the airport to leave the extras with on the way home.

    So many things to think about!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    I would think Walmarts in Southern California would sell camping gear year round. Along the route you have linked to, there are 2 Supercenters in Palmdale and 2 Supercenters in Lancaster.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default This and That

    Right. I had forgotten about the "Sto'n'Go" option on the Chrysler minivans. But I think that is an option, and will not necessarily be on the relatively bare bones cars of the rental fleets. But it might be worth checking with your company to see what they offer.

    Near the coast, nighttime lows will be around 10°C, but inland and in the mountains it will get considerably colder. Even in the deserts it can get quite cold, down to around freezing in Death Valley and Joshua Tree in January.Your best bet for camping, besides the national parks) are the various state park systems, particularly California's.

    With your last couple of days after Joshua Tree, I would think that some time on the coast would be in order, but unfortunately, two days really isn't sufficient to do it full up. So, instead I'd suggest that you head for roughly San Diego by way of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and then depending on how much time you have, visit Balboa Park in San Diego and a few of the seaside towns heading north back to L.A. such as Oceanside, San Juan Capistrano and Newport Beach.

    AZBuck

  7. #7

    Default "Or similar................"

    Hello ffotogirl,

    Beware the US car hire (rental agency) term "Grand Caravan, or similar" (emphasis added).. The point being, it can be difficult (or impossible?) to nail down an exact vehicle make/model in advance.

    In addition to glc's excellent advice concerning Wal-Mart, I would add REI (Recreational Equipment, Incorporated) to the vendor list, and I would wholeheartedly suggest some email and/or in-person telephone communications concerning the availability and price of any camping items deemed needed as your trip's details unfold. Chances are greatest anything you envision needing is readily available, and at a fair price.

    Have fun planning and taking your RoadTrip!

    Foy

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    Foy is very much right that even if you are requesting a Dodge Caravan, that is no guarantee that you'll get that specific model. You'll most likely get a minivan, but even that isn't a 100% sure thing - it is even possible they'd switch you to something like an SUV, although that is less likely.

    Honestly, I think you'll be a lot more comfortable staying in a tent than a mini-van anyway. Even if you find away to lay down comfortably, you really can't get up and move around at all in a mini-van, and after a day on the road there is something more restful about going somewhere else like a tent at the end of the day.

    As far as getting camping gear, yes it is sold year round at all Walmarts or any of the other big box chains. Even in northern climates, that's not consider a seasonal item - although you're not as likely to find items at a discounted "sale" price and your selection may be a little more limited.

    REI is a great place to go if you want higher end gear, and it would make sense to check out their website, but I suspect you won't want to be trying to bring all of your gear home with you, and so I'm guessing you'll want to stay with the lower priced products.

  9. Default We Do It Every Year!

    Hi Brits!

    We're living in Kansas City, MO, but we're actually residents of Santa Rosa, Ca, which is Northern Ca (yay Sonoma County and San Franscisco!). This means we go back West just to see a Real Mountain! lol We love the drive, and we do it in a Caravan to boot (Ours doesn't have the seats that fold into the floor).

    We bought the camping equipment, but have only used it twice for the purposes of going cross country. It was much easier to spend 70 bucks on a hotel room (If you're only going to be there for the night, why pay for more than a place to sleep, shower, and watch a bit of television?). And there's ALWAYS a hotel room (Days Inn, Motel 6, etc.). It's not a Hilton, but neither is camping.lol

    Since we're both driving - and used to traveling this way - we don't really stop and sightsee anymore except for a few places we love driving through. Otherwise, we leave Kansas City at 5:30 am and we're on the West Coast 2 1/2 days later.

    Yes, L.A.will be chilly in December, and that's a fact. We're heading up that way next month for a week's cruise to the Mexican Riviera (Dec. 19 - 26), and we're packing for warmth for the few days we'll spend in L.A. when we get off the ship. If the weather holds up, we'll stop by Grand Canyon for a day on the way back.

    If you need the camping equipment, great. But you'll appreciate the motel more, and trust me, I love Caravans, but even the ones with the fold down chairs don't beat stretching out in a nice, warm bed.

    CruisintheUSA (Johanna)


    Quote Originally Posted by ffotogirl View Post
    Hello everyone!

    My boyfriend and I (both British) are planning a road trip around California in January and as we're quite prone to mishaps on holiday (finding ourselves stranded overnight in the Arabian desert being our least successful adventure so far!) we could do with a little bit of advice.

    He is going to be in Los Angeles in January for business so the plan so far is that I will fly out to meet him at the end of his work on Monday 17th. Tuesday 18th we'll spend in LA hiking up to the Hollywood sign and take in a few sights (I appreciate LA is enormous & impossible to see in a day but I'm not much of a city person so there are only a few things on my must-see list). Then on Wednesday 19th we're going to pick up a rental car and start driving. Neither of us have ever driven an automatic car before and we've definitely never driven on the other side of the road so I'm sure this will be quite an experience!

    We're planning on mostly staying in campsites (maybe one or two hotel nights here or there) but we thought it might be easier to hire a car that would allow us enough space to sleep in the back rather than messing about buying a tent in LA and then wondering what to do with it at the end. The car we've been looking at is a Dodge Caravan (http://www.dodge.com/en/2010/grand_caravan/gallery/). It looks like it would do the trick but if anyone has any experience of living out of this car for a week we'd love to hear all about it.

    My major concern is the weather. My boyfriend works in LA every January and he swears the weather is usually in the high twenties (celcius) but every climate website I've checked seems to say otherwise. We've barely had a summer in dreary old Wales for two whole years now so I'm pretty desperate for some sunshine! Can anyone offer any advice on the weather in mid to south California? Best places to go for guaranteed warmth?

    Here is our road trip route so far:

    Wednesday 19th - Pick up car and drive to Death Valley (using a route I found via this super helpful forum: http://living-las-vegas.com/2010/03/...road-to-vegas/). Visit some ghost towns (still need to do more research on this) & take it sloooow so we can get used to the car and enjoy the scenery. Camp at Furnace Creek.

    Thursday 20th - Day in Death Valley. Still camping at Furnace Creek.

    Friday 21st - Drive from Death Valley to Las Vegas and stay in a hotel. Wander up the strip, put a few pennies in the gambling machines, see the sights, try not to accidentally get married... ;) Might like to see a show (Penn & Teller is fully booked - boo!) but need to research some.

    Saturday 22nd - Drive from Las Vegas to Joshua Tree through the Mojave Desert. Not sure where we will camp in Joshua Tree as I'm still researching campsites. Any recommendations? We don't mind roughing it although I'm sure we'd like to take a shower at some point!

    Sunday 23rd - Hiking & exploring in Joshua Tree.

    After that we're just not sure what to do! Our flight from LA leaves the following Wednesday (26th) night so we'll probably need to be back at LAX by 5pm. We'd maybe like to go a bit further south, do some coastal driving and visit some beaches. My main concern is SUNSHINE! As I mentioned earlier I'm not really a big city person and nightlife/clubbing is definitely not a priority and as we're already doing LA & Vegas we'd like to keep out of the big cities for the rest of the trip. Any suggestions for rounding off our route or places to see on the way? We would love to hear them!

    In fact, any suggestions on anything would be greatly welcomed! I'm sure this forum is going to be a regular stop for me over the coming weeks :)

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,747

    Default Right foot, Right on red.

    Pick up car and drive to Death Valley (using a route I found via this super helpful forum: http://living-las-vegas.com/2010/03/...road-to-vegas/).
    Cool, that is the RTA 'sister' site.

    With your extra few day's you could head over the Hoover dam and head for the South rim of the Grand canyon before heading to the Mojave, going to be a lot colder though!

    As a fellow 'Brit', I will confirm that driving on the wron.....oops, other side of the road is not much of a concern, it feels real natural real quick. When turning at junctions just think of 'long left' and 'short right,' that will keep you out of the way of on-coming vehicles. I have heard of a lot of Brits getting the horn [pardon the expression] when waiting at traffic lights on red. This is the 'Right on Red' rule that we are not familiar with. If you are turning right [kerbside] you can drive through a red light, if the road is clear and it is safe to do so, but remember only when turning right.

    As for the Auto box, the biggest problem I have come across with people who have not driven them before is left foot braking. Use your right foot only and you will be fine, the left foot and the brain is automatically in tune with the weight and resistance of a clutch, and when using it to slow down, it usually ends in an 'emergency stop' type scenario that causes confusion to those around you, and worse case scenario, a rear end shunt.

    Don't be put off, it really is that easy and I am just pointing out a couple of things that will make your transition a little easier. Forewarned is forearmed as they say.

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