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  1. Default My first road trip


    I have lived on Long Island in New York for about 12 years since my family moved here in the early 2000's. I have long wanted to find a new place to live in another state, but have no idea where to look. My intuition guides me to the southwest. My parents want to move as well, but they would like to stay somewhere in the northeast. I work as a freelance web developer, so could potentially live anywhere as long as I have this type of job, but I'm also looking to potentially change the type of work that I do to something simpler and more social even if it pays less. One of the places that I wanted to look at is Colorado. However, if I go by airplane, it is both expensive and I won't see any of the states in between. It may be a crazy idea, but I thought about just packing all my belongings (I'm a minimalist, so would try to keep everything to one or two bags max) and getting out on the road in the direction of Colorado, stopping in various places along the route. I would want to talk to strangers as much as possible, making friends, and finding out information about the places I stop at to get a better feel of them. I would be happy to stay in hostels, couch surf, wwoof, or even sleep in a sleeping bag if I have to. I have not done any road trips before, so I don't know how to plan this beyond picking places to stay overnight. I also can't decide between going solo or finding a companion. If I go solo, I would have more freedom to move around as I please. I am aiming to go sometime in July. Any tips or suggestions would be welcome. Thanks a lot in advance.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default My kinda trip.

    Hi, and Welcome to the Great American roadtrip Foum.

    As I read through your post, I could relate exactly to what you are trying to say.

    My first tip is - you do not have to *plan* a trip like that. Just hit the road, and as you say, talk with the locals. You may then want to move on or stay a few days. Don't disnmiss the many wonderful areas and places in the States east of Colorado.

    My first trip was done on a shoe string (actually all others have been as well). They consisted basically of hostel hopping. I would see where the hostels were, and decide each day which way I wanted to head - so long as it was in the general direction I was heading.

    If you have never spent time in a hostel, be aware, they differ greatly. Some are fantastic, others not so great and then there are those you would not recommend to your worst enemy. If I had allowed my first experience to set the standard, I would never have stayed in a hostel again. However now, some decades later I have stayed in many hostels on three continents, and would recommend it to anyone, especially solo travellers.

    Couchsurfing is another great way to get to know the locals, especially if you can meet several in any one city/town. But it is a good practice to take something or do something for your host, and not just treat it as a free bed.

    What sort of vehicle do you have? If it is one suitable to sleep in with your sleeping bag, you may find the various vandweller websites helpful, as many if not most of those folk are basically restless and looking for somewhere to eventually settle down. Quite a few of the vandwellers have some income/work on the road or along the way.

    I have learned a lot from them, and travel in my van for up to six months at a time.

    As you suggest, going solo gives you the freedom of going where the mood takes you. The other thing is, people are more likely to chat with someone who is on their own. It does not make them feel as if they are intruding.

    I'd say 'go for it.'


  3. Default

    Thank you for such a thorough answer. Yes, I'm also thinking that I should just hit the road and then play it by ear. My current car is not in the best shape, so I was going to get a new one. I was thinking to get a hybrid car, namely Toyota Prius. It has a good fuel efficiency from what I can tell. The road will be long, so I guess my three top issues are:

    1) How to figure out where to stop - since I could just drive past a spot that would be good and not even notice it - I would like to be able to see parks along the way, and not just be in big cities.

    2) How long to stay in each place - I guess I should play this by ear as well, but I'm worried that a 28 hour trip can get stretched into a month or longer - but then it would probably be fine if you think about it.

    3) How to prepare food - I like to cook, but how do I cook while on the road - I guess I could just buy groceries and offer to cook meals when I couch surf - and if it's a hostel, then they have kitchens.



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default I think you already know what you want to do.

    Anton, you are answering your own questions. I think in your mind you already know what you want to do, and how to do it.

    To minimise the chance of missing attractions, scenic routes and places of historic significance, etc. get hold of some good maps and/or a road atlas. Pick up a State issued map at the Welcome centres when you enter a new State. Most states issue them free. While there, pick up some brochures which interest you. Look for attractions along various routes on your maps, research a route or place on the web and see what their tourism people say. Always visit a visitor bureau or rangers office, or any other office where you know they have information about an area. These folk can often tell you about obscure places which are not necessarily on the web or on a map. Use all the resources you can think of, and keep a log of what you have learned, where you want to go, etc. Mark them in order of priority, so you do not spend all day at one place and have to miss out on a more interesting place further up the road. For this reason it is also worthwhile to have several different maps. I travel with a Rand McNally road atlas, AAA maps and pick up State issued maps wherever I go. Occasionally you will find something on one, which is not on the other two. My gps is used for finding addresses, and can't always get them right. I would not trust it on a multi State route.

    Buy food at grocery stores, get a small campstove, so that when on the road and you want to cook up something - even for lunch - you can. Most rest areas have picnic tables. I always carry an old table cloth to cover the table, they are not always clean. Get the basics, knife fork spoon a small saucepan and a small frypan. I bought all those in shops like Goodwill. Even now when I find I want something, I go to Goodwill, and usually find it. Lots of ways to save money, check out the special forum for it.

    To keep perishables, either get yourself a small fridge or get a cooler for which you will need to buy ice most days. With a fridge you would need an extra battery in the car., so that the fridge can run overnight without flatting the starter battery. I use mine to run my computer as well. Depending on your budget and the time you think you will be enjoying it, I would highly recommend the fridge, as you do not need to worry with all that water all the time. But they come at a price. However, I use mine at home even when I am not camping. Just going to the grocers in summer, perishables go into the fridge till I get home. That way the ice cream does not melt, nor the milk go off if you happen to be caught in a long hold up. You might like to explore the various brands. Mine is a Dometic. But you may be lucky enough to pick up one second hand. There is a Youtube video of the Dometic/Waeco 35 (which is the one I have), but unfortunately it is not in English. However you might find that a 25 or even an 18 would be big enough.

    If you are looking at buying a new car, look for one that you can sleep in if need be. Some SUVs have fold down seats to give a flat floor. I know the Dodge Grand Caravan does, and have seen quite a few folk use that as a camper.

    Last edited by Lifemagician; 05-24-2016 at 04:32 PM.

  5. Default

    Awesome, thanks. I have new questions based on what you just wrote:

    1) I live in New York, and I wasn't aware that there are any visitors centers or bureaus. How would I locate such centers or bureaus along my route when I'm in other states?

    2) Where do you go to wash your utensils (frypan, saucepan, fork, knive) after you're done cooking?

    3) If I were to use a fridge with an extra battery, how would I charge that battery?

    4) Are you saying it's ok to just unpack the stove, etc. in a rest area and cook stuff there, and the rest area management won't complain about it?

    I didn't know about Goodwill stores - will go there and check what items they have. :)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California



    Visitors centers and tourist information centers are often marked with a blue sign as you enter a state on an interstate or US highway. They are usually full of great information, from maps to tourist pamphlets, and often have a docent or volunteer who can answer questions.

    If you are carrying a campstove, pots/pans, dishes, etc., also carry a dishpan. (Pick one up at a big box store for a couple of dollars.) Fill it in the sink in the rest area bathroom or, if there's a faucet, there. If you want hot water, also carry some sort of pot in which to heat up water, since not all rest areas have sinks with hot waters. You can also wipe down pans, etc., with a rag or paper towels. (My husband and I travel with these things and cook in a motel room periodically. I hate washing dishes in a bathtub, so that's how we do it. But it's easier to get hot water there.)

    We're talking a 12-volt battery. Your vehicle would have to be set up for this. It would recharge while you're driving.

    As long as you clean up after yourself, picnickers at rest areas are left alone to cook if they want to. I have seen many families using campstoves to cook dinner, having breakfast of cereal and milk, or whipping together sandwiches for lunch at rest areas. There are a few places where it will say "no fires" but usually they mean no open fires, and campstoves are fine.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Throw a bag of charcoal in the car - I've seen grills at some rest areas.

    If you want a hybrid, I think a RAV4 would be a lot more suitable than a Prius for traveling. Have a second battery along with the proper isolation equipment installed, in the back just inside the tailgate would be a good spot, along with the refrigerator. Get a fridge that can also run on AC power so you can bring it in hotel rooms, etc.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Oh Boy!

    Anton, I have been to NYC twice, for a couple of days each time. You are teaching me a lot. This trip is going to be one huge learning curve for you. Take your time and enjoy it. I did not know there are people who have not heard of visitor centres. For me they are a wealth of information when on the road. Nothing like talking with a local who is there to promote their area.

    1. I would guess that there is a visitor or tourist centre somewhere on Long Island. Perhaps the way I would go about finding that, is to start by asking at a Chamber of Commerce or at a travel agency. They often know where these places are. Why not go there first, and see if you can find one, and see what they have in stock. I have found the ones in upstate very comprehensive and useful.

    In other cities, if I have not entered the State on an interstate highway, I will go to whatever town I am in and do the same. Often business people will know where these places are. Once again, ask. If the first person you ask can't tell you, ask a couple of others. Often the person at the customer service counter in a supermarket, especially a more mature person, will know if they have lived there for some time. I usually ask if they are a local first, and they will come back, 'sure, what is it you want to know?'

    2. Mostly in the middle of the day,I would put all my dishes from lunch (a knife, a plate and a cup, maybe a small saucepan) in a plastic bag to wash later. That would be at wherever I am staying, or stop by a truck stop. Most big truck stops have a little sink with hot water and you can wash them under the tap, or fill a small washing up dish and take it back to your vehicle. Carry a dish or bowl large enough to wash a couple of things. Oh! and don't forget some diswashing liquid and a teatowel (if you know what that is. - lol)

    3. An auto electrician would install a dry cell battery in the vehicle. This then charges while you drive, but should you ever flattern the 'house' battery, it cannot flatten your car' battery. A good batterę (around $200) will run the fridge for up to three days without having to drive. Mine has never been flat.

    4. As Donna mentioned, I too have seen many folk use campstoves at rest areas. I have sometimes in summer, stopped to cook dinner, if I was not at my destination yet. You might get a couple of interested bystanders come over and have a chat, but that is what you want when a solo traveller. You never know what useful information they can give you. I have seen the grill or bbqs at some rest areas, but they are few and far between. I would not rely on one. Anyway, you may only want to heat something, rather than throw stuff on a grill - which is rarely clean. Most of the time for lunch I have a sandwich, prepared earlier, or I go to a grocery store where many of them have prepared salads or sell hot soup, and have some of that.

    5. You have taught me quite a lot. I had no idea that there are people who do not know what a Goodwill store is. Goodwill are where people donate mostly their unwanted items, and they resell them. At the same time they give employment mostly to people who are often regarded as unemployable. Charities often have similar stores and use them to raise funds. You can't always find what you are looking for, but there is always another store or two in the next town. Once again, ask a local. [I tried for a while to find them using my gps or the computer, but was so often sent to old addresses, or distribution centres (not stores) that I gave up on that. Locals are a far more reliable and up to date source of information than electronics.]

    As a minimalist you will already have learned to do without, and to make do. Don't collect too much 'stuff'. Your most important objectives will be to eat well and to get a good night's sleep, every night.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    There is a AAA on Long Island - 729 Smithtown Bypass, Smithtown, NY - they will have tourist information, maps, and more. If you're a member of AAA, a lot of that will be available to you at no extra charge. Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau - 330 Motor Pkwy #203, Hauppauge, NY 11788.


  10. #10


    Hey Anton,
    I agree that driving is a much more worthwhile experience than flying. That way, you'll really get to "see" more of the country.
    As for how to figure out where to stop - this somewhat depends on what kind of lifestyle you're looking for (urban, suburban, rural, etc.)
    If you can keep your schedule somewhat flexible and open, plan to stay 2+ full days or more if you find that you enjoy the location.
    As for food, there are lots of options. When I drove cross-country, I loaded up on non-perishable snacks (or things that could make it for 2 weeks, such as granola bars). Keep a cooler in your trunk. You can also find a camping stove (at places like REI) if you'd prefer to do your own cooking, and stop at local supermarkets along the way for things like produce.

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