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  1. #1

    Default LA Transcontinental Round-trip 2012 - Help needed!

    Hi Guys,

    I am in the relatively early stages of planning a trip for my partner and I in 2012. We're both Australian and wanting to do a "great american roadtrip" for our next big holiday.

    I've been to the US a few times before and done quite a bit of traveling by train (I've done the entire west coast by train, as well as NYC, DC. In a feat of madness I also caught the train from Chicago to San Fran).

    My partner on the other hand has never been to the states, so we have to make sure we see NYC, DC, and Vegas just so he can say he has :)

    The only cities that are on our "must do list" is NYC, DC, and Vegas. I'd prefer smaller towns and more time to see middle America than spending too much time in big cities because I think after a certain point most cities look the same. We are both eager to spend some time in the south but apart from that don't really have much of an idea of what is achieveable in the time we have.

    The idea at this stage is to hire a car (we're over 26 and 27 so hopefully the hire won't be too ridiculous!), do a big transcontinental loop from LA. I notice that quite a few people on the forums have said that a "loop" is doable in about a month. We are hoping to have 5-6 weeks.

    What is the most popular "loop" route?

    I'd love suggestions about "must see" places/experiences.

    I know that most of you are probably locally based - but any suggestions about the best option for hiring a car (we'd prefer an American made car if possible) would be helpful.

    TIA
    --Missy

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default

    Welcome, from one Aussie to another.

    The first thing that springs to mind is, as I am sure you will already know, you will not want a car in NYC or DC. How much time are you likely to want to spend there? You are not going to want a rental car sitting around all that time. So I would definitely go with a loop, but start on the east coast. (There's not a great deal of difference in a ticket to LA or NY.)

    I would start with a wall map of the US, preferably one which has all the NPs etc, marked on it. (I have the National Geographics map). Mark all the places you want to see. When it comes to refining the route, and what to do along the way, the experts here will help fill in the gaps.

    You don't say which month you will be travelling, but that could have a bearing on your route, etc.

    Might see you on the road. My next trip will be 2012 (Mar - Sep). And I am surprised you did not enjoy the train trip from Chicago to SF. In 2009 I did the same trip, and really enjoyed it.... even without a sleeper.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcmiss View Post
    (we'd prefer an American made car if possible)
    Unfortunatly, If you go with one of the major companies (Hertz, Enterprise, National, Alamo, etc.), you will not know what kind of cars are available until you walk up to the counter.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
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    Quote Originally Posted by pcmiss View Post
    we'd prefer an American made car if possible
    I must have missed that, before. Still, I know where you are coming from. But you need to remember that American made cars you get today, are nothing like the dream cars of back in the 50s and 60s. And basically, you will see on the road there, very much the same cars as you see in Sydney... albeit sometimes badged differently.

    You can be assured that the rental companies in the main use the most economical and reliable cars. Unfortunately, often that is not American made.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike and Mandy View Post
    Unfortunatly, If you go with one of the major companies (Hertz, Enterprise, National, Alamo, etc.), you will not know what kind of cars are available until you walk up to the counter.
    Thanks for letting me know - I'm not that fussed about the car (so long as it is comfortable) but my partner would prefer something 'iconic'. I guess I'll just have to tell him that we'll just have to be flexible.

    At this point I think the trip will be in August-September. But I know the holidays are different over there, are we likely to run into problems trying to plan a trip then?

    We would probably only spend a day or two in DC and NYC - enough to do the major sights but still give up plenty of time on the road. I'll definitely look into flying into NYC though (especially since I don't really care about going to LA).

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician
    Might see you on the road. My next trip will be 2012 (Mar - Sep). And I am surprised you did not enjoy the train trip from Chicago to SF. In 2009 I did the same trip, and really enjoyed it.... even without a sleeper.
    I actually loved the trip - I just wish I'd been able to get off in between. I also wish I'd known that it wouldn't stick the schedule. I had wanted to stop in Utah but the timetabled stop was midnight so I ruled it out. The train ending up getting in late morning so it would have been ok after all!

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

    Default One Basic Loop (of Many)

    Those of us who regularly give advice on these forums are justifiably wary of listing a limited number of "must sees" or "best routes" or any single "great American RoadTrip". There are simply too many possibilities, and too many opportunities to tailor a RoadTrip to the specific needs, interests, and tastes of the individuals making it. That is the whole allure of the freedom of the road. We simply don't believe in a one size fits all "best". But on the other hand, there are classic spots that should be included in any first RoadTrip of America, especially for foreigners who have been fed certain iconic images of America. I would certainly expect to include Sydney Opera House and Ayers Rock in any such tour of Australia, and so we should be able to give you at least a hint at what you should try to include.

    As others have pointed out, one of the beauties of a loop trip is that it doesn't matter where you start/end, and you can choose your gateway city on the basis of where you get the best combination of airfare and car rental. While I agree that you don't need a car for your time in New York or Washington, I also wouldn't worry about it too much. Since you'll be renting by the week (or even month) a few days more or less where you're not using the car hardly matter and it would be a false economy to try to not rent for just those few days that you're in those cities. A car is quite handy in most American cities, and absolutely essential in Los Angeles. So, all that said, here is a 'classic' loop trip described as starting/ending in San Francisco and running clockwise.

    I-80 across the Sierra Nevada, through the Basin and Range province of northern Nevada and around the Great Salt Lake before tuning north on I-15 up into Idaho, the Snake River Valley and eastward into Yellowstone National Park. I-90 out through Wyoming to Devils Tower and the attractions of western South Dakota such as Mount Rushmore and the Badlands, and on over the Great Plains to Chicago. I-80 east through northern Indiana and Ohio, across the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania and into New York City. Grin and bear it down I-95 to Washington with a stop in Philadelphia to tour Independence Mall and then take I-81 and/or the Blue Ridge Parkway down the spine of the Appalachians to Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Turn west and follow either I-40 to Memphis (Graceland) or I-24/I-57/I-64 to St. Louis (the Arch) and then continue westward on I-40 through the great Southwest stopping at Petrified Forest and, of course, the Grand Canyon. Then a stop at Las Vegas and I-15 into Los Angeles and end up by taking the Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1) back up to San Francisco. You will still need ot thoroughly check the maps and guide books to see what else is along that basic route that appeals to the two of you, and where you might want to alter that route, but that should give you a good rough start, but only a rough start, in your planning.

    AZBuck

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
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    6,936

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcmiss View Post
    I actually loved the trip - I just wish I'd been able to get off in between. I also wish I'd known that it wouldn't stick to the schedule. I had wanted to stop in Utah but the timetabled stop was midnight so I ruled it out. The train ending up getting in late morning so it would have been ok after all!
    My big disappointment was that we had to be detoured from Denver to SLC, and did not go through Glenwood Canyon. That was my main reason for taking that train, since I had driven through the canyon on a couple of ocassions, and really wanted to see it from the train. Am seriously considering it for next year. We stopped for more than an hour in the middle of the night, in SLC. I think it may have been closer to two hours. The announcements on the train encouraged people to take a trip into town. I chose not to. Would be good if you could get off, and then take the train for the rest of the journey on the following day.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    I-80 across the Sierra Nevada, through the Basin and Range province of northern Nevada and around the Great Salt Lake before tuning north on I-15 up into Idaho, the Snake River Valley and eastward into Yellowstone National Park. I-90 out through Wyoming to Devils Tower and the attractions of western South Dakota such as Mount Rushmore and the Badlands, and on over the Great Plains to Chicago. I-80 east through northern Indiana and Ohio, across the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania and into New York City. Grin and bear it down I-95 to Washington with a stop in Philadelphia to tour Independence Mall and then take I-81 and/or the Blue Ridge Parkway down the spine of the Appalachians to Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Turn west and follow either I-40 to Memphis (Graceland) or I-24/I-57/I-64 to St. Louis (the Arch) and then continue westward on I-40 through the great Southwest stopping at Petrified Forest and, of course, the Grand Canyon. Then a stop at Las Vegas and I-15 into Los Angeles and end up by taking the Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1) back up to San Francisco. You will still need ot thoroughly check the maps and guide books to see what else is along that basic route that appeals to the two of you, and where you might want to alter that route, but that should give you a good rough start, but only a rough start, in your planning.
    Thank you so much - this a perfect start. Just out of interest how long would you normally expect this loop to take? Or perhaps a more general (but possibly easier question), how many miles should we plan on covering a day? At the moment it looks like my partner will have to do all of the driving, since I won't be fully licensed when we travel.

    We've done quite a bit of driving in Australia, but everything is so far apart that you end up almost 'having' to drive long distances in a single day.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
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    6,936

    Default 'Uluru', no longer Ayers Rock

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    I would certainly expect to include Sydney Opera House and Ayers Rock in any such tour of Australia,
    Buck, for your information, and for others who may read this forum, and not be aware of it....

    There is no longer an 'Ayers Rock'. The site is on native land and has been given its native name of 'Uluru'. It is now also requested that you respect their wishes, and not climb to the top. You won't be stopped, if you really want to, but it is no longer an acceptable activity.

    Lifey who is yet to visit there

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
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    For general travelling purposes you can figure on travelling up to 500 or 600 miles per day, but this would only leave time for short stops out of the car for lunch, bathroom breaks and to fill with gas on main Highways, no sight seeing. Once you have some dots on the map I would urge you then to study what is between those dots and not to be in a hurry to get from A to B all the time and the bonus is you have time to do so. Some of the great road tripping memorys come from those little things you stumble across along the way.

    If natural wonders are your 'thing' then the National parks find a park page is very good. Click on a State, click on a park and you will get all the info you need on each one.

    Buck has given you a good start with your study, but I would recommend you also check out Southern Utah and Colorado 'in between' the loop Buck has described, and check out Yosemite and Sequoia NP's not to far from San Fran.

    September into October is my favorite time to travel when the crowds start to dwindle and the temps drop in the desert areas. Yellowstone is cooler and winter comes earlier in that area so starting out by heading that way and arriving in the Southwest later in your trip will work well.

    As well as searching the forums you can use the Map centre in the tool bar above to create and save routes and find attractions along the route or by doing a 'Radius' search in any area.
    Once you start putting bits together and questions come up, just ask and we can help to 'Fine tune' your trip.
    Enjoy the planning, it's a great part of the journey !

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