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  1. #1
    Glenn Guest

    Default Another Brit doing Vegas (and LA and SF)

    Having recently found a very cheap 2 week fly/drive deal to Las Vegas from the UK I'm about have my first taste of driving in the USA (I've visted before but never driven). So if you'll indulge me I have a bunch a questions about my planned trip and about driving in the US in general. We're intending spending half the time in Vegas (from where we'll do the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon) and half driving elsewhere.

    We're intending leaving Las Vegas on Thursday 30th June and returning on Friday 8th July. In that time I want to visit a friend in L.A. (and take in 6 Flags and Universal) and my wife wants to take in SF.

    My prospective intinery is as follows.

    T Vegas -> Death Valley -> ?
    F ? -> Sequoia -> SF
    S SF
    S SF -> Santa Cruz -> ? (via coast road - I1 ?)
    M ? -> L.A.
    T L.A.
    W L.A.
    T L.A.
    F L.A. -> Vegas

    On the trip
    ----------

    Does that look viable, my job means I'm used to doing 500 miles in a day (although on easy motorways) but obviously in a car I know on roads I know and not day after day ?

    Is Death Valley a sensible trip at this time of year ? Other than extra water, what precautions should I take ?

    This itenary has me doing a large chunk of the coast road on 3th July. Is this a good or bad day to be on the road ? Is there somewhere I should be on the 4th to get a real "feel" for the day ?

    What suggestions do people have for the missing stops, and for "must see" stops along the way ?

    On Driving in the USA
    ---------------------

    By default I'm only likely to be getting a compact or small 4 door car, is it worth upgrading ? (I don't mind small cars, but I'm worried about doing this kind of mileage in one).

    What are the speed limits in the US and how strongly are they enforced ? I spent some time in North Carolina a few years ago and was amazed how slow everyone drove !

    I'm about to get a hand held GPS / route finder, I assume coverage for these is good in the US ?

    Thanks In Advance

    Glenn

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default A few tips

    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn
    ... We're intending spending half the time in Vegas (from where we'll do the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon) and half driving elsewhere.
    Well, you are trying to cover a lot of territory in a short period of time. "Quality over Quantity" comes to mind. But for ideas about really "seeing" Las Vegas, here is an article about the dam and a list of some of the other places we have profiled.
    We're intending leaving Las Vegas on Thursday 30th June and returning on Friday 8th July.
    Death Valley is a favorite of ours -- any time of the year -- but it will be ~115 degrees (F) during the day. Carry water and wear a hat and long-sleeved shirts and pants. We think that Tioga Pass will be open so that you could travel over the Sierras into Yosemite on your way to San Francisco. But your route specifies Sequoia NP on the way to San Francisco. So I assume you are planning to go around the southern end of the Sierras? That will be a long, long day. Depending upon how much time you spend in the Sequoias, you should expect a 12 hour day!
    S SF; S SF -> Santa Cruz -> ? (via coast road - I1 ?)
    So, you are planning to stay overnight in Santa Cruz or Monterey and then do the coast road? If so, get a copy of this guide book -- it will provide info you will not find anywhere else.
    M ? -> L.A.; T L.A.; W L.A.; T L.A.
    F L.A. -> Vegas
    If you leave before 2:00 pm, by the shortest route, it will be a five hour journey. If you leave after 2:30 pm it will be 6-7 hour trip. There are plenty of side trips you could take from LA on the way. Two I would suggest would be Mojave National Preserve and/or Oatman along the old Route 66 road .

    On the trip: Does that look viable, my job means I'm used to doing 500 miles in a day (although on easy motorways) but obviously in a car I know on roads I know and not day after day?
    500 miles is doable, but 350 is a lot more fun. You might wish to look at some of the tips we have pulled together for international visitors
    By default I'm only likely to be getting a compact or small 4 door car, is it worth upgrading ? (I don't mind small cars, but I'm worried about doing this kind of mileage in one).
    I like to travel in SUVs on extended road trips like this one. Yes, I never travel in compacts on road trips!
    What are the speed limits in the US and how strongly are they enforced ? I spent some time in North Carolina a few years ago and was amazed how slow everyone drove !
    Generally highway speed limits are 55 mph to 75 mph. They are enforced. There is a pretty good book about driving in the USA written by a Brit, that you might find userful, called Drive USA.
    I'm about to get a hand held GPS / route finder, I assume coverage for these is good in the US ?
    Yes, although no GPS can compete with a couple of eyes and a good atlas.

    Mark

  3. #3
    zxa Guest

    Default

    From my own experience the cars you get on flydrive from the UK are usually too small and the cost of an upgrade is extortionate.

    To drive distances you need a full size car (Taurus or similar) - you can get one from www.thrifty.com for about £130 a week equivalent (including ldw - aka cdw), also you pay when you return the car, not before leaving the UK. I used to use Hertz, but they seem to have priced themselves out of the tourist market of late. Don't pay extra money at the counter for lis/pai (liability insurance supplement / personal accident insurance) as you don't need them and it's paying money for nothing, although the sales person will try and scare you with uninsured motorist stuff. ldw will cover any damage to the car itself, UK credit cards do not give this cover for free, unlike some US ones.

    You're better off arranging flight/hotels/car yourself separately - I only ever book the first couple of nights accommodation in advance www.choicehotels.com and then plan as I go using discount coupons from guides you pick up on the way (Denny's & McD's).

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default

    I'm going to be the contrarian here on the car issue. Over the years, I've owned a VW Scirocco, an Audi Fox, and currently drive a VW New Beetle. I've also owned bigger cars like a Taurus and a Chrysler Caravan mini-van. I NEVER went on roadtrips in the Taurus or the Caravan. Bah! No fun to drive at all. Hated those cars....but they were practical with the kiddies. On the other hand, I have good memories of numerous roadtrips in the VWs/Audi cars. I loved hitting the road in all of them, they made the drive fun, and I never lacked for enough room for my things. I frequently camp with my New Beetle and have plenty of room for my husband, my dog, and our camping gear and other supplies.

    So, if you're happy driving smaller cars, go for it. However, I would spend more for a model that has good safety features and some zip and zing. No gutless tin cans. Nothing worse than driving along in a car with no power and where you feel you have to push the gas to the floor just to go up a hill.

  5. #5
    zxa Guest

    Default

    If you're taking your own car then it's a different matter ... but when hiring, the difference between a medium and full size car can be $10 or $20 a week, so in that case I would always get the bigger car for the 3L V6 as they cruise nicer over long distances. I agree if you're trying to speed the pch or thru Yosemite then a smaller car is actually better, but for freeway driving the bigger car is better. I don't really like the way suspension is set on most US cars, it's too soft and makes high speed cornering downright dangerous.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default

    While I totally disagree with you regarding "for freeway driving the bigger car is better", this isn't a car review website so I'll not say more about that.

    This discussion got me curious, and it's been so long since I've rented a car, that I decided to check out the websites for the major players. They do have an abysmal selection of car rentals no matter what size you rent, imho. If you can afford it, you can rent a Jaguar from Hertz. Cool! But that, and the Mustang Convertible, were the only vehicles that I saw that I would enjoy driving anywhere, no matter what kind of road we're talking about.

    So I think I'll stick to roadtrips. Or cruises. I like cruising and then you don't drive at all. :-)

    ETA: Back to the topic....yes, the compact choices don't seem to include anything with any power so, in that case, I would go mid-size or larger in order to get some power. Considering the selection, you might end up with a gutless wonder if you stay smaller.

  7. #7
    bruno57 Guest

    Default Tioga pass yosemite valley

    Escuse me i nedd urgently to know if Tioga pass is open....and a forecast for the 25 June!!!!!
    Thank you
    bruno 57

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default It is still closed today

    Quote Originally Posted by bruno57
    Escuse me i nedd urgently to know if Tioga pass is open....and a forecast for the 25 June!!!!!
    It is still closed today and I would say the liklihood that it will be open by the 25th of June is nil. Alot of debris up there -- July 4th looks like a good bet -- but any sooner -- VERY UNLIKELY.

    Mark

  9. #9
    bruno57 Guest

    Default Tioga Pass

    Do you know something, today, about Tioga pass opening??

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default No news in last 24 hours

    Quote Originally Posted by bruno57
    Do you know something, today, about Tioga pass opening??
    Your post makes me think that you know something that the rest of us don't? As I said, less than 24 hours ago, there is no liklihood that the road will open until sometime in July... Click here for the morning report issued by Yosemite NP. And here for the official CALTrans (you need to enter the highway number = 120) report -- which also shows it is still closed today, tomorrow and ....

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