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  1. Default UK Journo needs your help!

    Hi everyone,

    I'm a journo from the UK (unsurprisingly, I write about cars) and I've agreed to undertake a somewhat foolhardy US road trip.

    Basically, the feature I intend to construct is thus: nobody's feeling flush at the moment, but that shouldn't stop you from fulfilling your inner road trip junky's deepest desire - a trans-USA epic.

    The skeleton of the story is that two colleagues and I buy a junker for $1000 and drive it from Columbus (OH) to San Francisco (CA) spending as little cash as possible, and probably sleeping in the car a lot. We're expected to finish the trip in two weeks and I really want to take in the following stuff.

    - crazy desert
    - forgotten highways (abandoned petrol stations/cars/communities etc)
    - loads of very American eateries (diners etc)
    - plenty of bars (us Brits like a drink, y'see)
    - bonkers must-see communities
    - vibrant local nightspots

    What we really want to do is experience the sort of real, slightly bonkers but ultimately brilliant side of America that appeals to everyone in Blighty. So we want to catch as many little music festivals, car-based events, nightclubs, parties, characters and local scenes as possible. All we have (relatively) sorted is the car and flights to Columbus and from San Francisco.

    So, any tips?

    I suppose the real questions are:

    - where are the most beautiful places to visit along that route?
    - and what kind of scenery can I expect?
    - what should I take with me?
    - is there anywhere I should avoid?
    - can I sleep in the (classic) car in relative safety?

    I have a few dull questions, too:

    - what's the deal with tax? I have the car taxed and licensed in OH. Do I need it taxed for all states?
    - is there an insurance company who can cover me for two weeks only (in a modified car)?
    - how much does petrol cost?
    - is there a national breakdown coverage system in the US I can join?
    - what stops should I avoid making (bad restaurants/rest areas etc)?
    - is there anywhere I won't be welcome as an outsider?
    - what sort of weather can I expect?

    Please consider that I'm not a road trip novice (I drove a Trabant 601 Kombi from The Gambia back to England via Senegal, Mauritania, Western Sahara, Morocco, Spain, France, Germany and Belgium, amongst several other European trips) but I've never been to the US.

    We're planning to fly out in late August.

    Thanks for your help in advance and sorry for the long post,


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    We need to back up a bit - exactly how do you plan on buying a car in Ohio? Since 9/11, it has been made very difficult for a visitor on a tourist visa to purchase a motor vehicle and legally title and register it. You generally need proof of legal presence issued by the US Customs and Immigration, and a verifiable address in the state. Some Ohio counties also require an exhaust emissions test before registration will be granted.

    If this all already taken care of, there are no additional fees or taxes levied by any other states, you are good to go anywhere in the US as long as you have license plates, a registration document, and proof of liability insurance. You WILL need a title to get rid of the car at the end of your trip, even if you take it to a scrapyard.

    To answer other questions - insurance policies are generally issued for 6 months, and can be difficult for foreign visitors to obtain. You may want to see if your UK insurer can assist you.

    Gasoline right now is averaging just over $2.00 a gallon, but by August it could be as much as $3.00. It all depends on what happens to the world barrel price and if any of our refineries get shut down by hurricanes this summer. has a current price map.

    We have the AAA (American Automobile Club). They will dispatch tow trucks to members.

    The only places that I consider safe to sleep in a car are at truck stops at Interstate highway exits, except in or very near large cities. Smaller rural towns are the best bet. You can generally buy a shower for $10 or less at the major chains such as Flying J, and their restaurants are generally decent. If you are going to sleep in their parking lot (with permission) it's nice to give them some business. Don't pull off the road just anywhere and go to sleep, you will most likely be awakened by the police and asked to move on. It is also not legal (or particularly safe) to park in most highway rest areas overnight.

    In August, you can expect anything from 40 to 120 degrees F, depending on time of day and location. You can't generalize about the weather here like you can in the UK! I would recommend that the beater car you get be checked for a working heater AND a working air conditioner.

  3. Default

    Thanks glc.

    The car's all bought and sorted. I found it relatively easy to register in my own name. And thanks for the information about petrol, sleeping and the AAA.

    So, locations - anybody have any suggestions?

  4. #4


    You’ll have to be good because Dave Gorman has beaten you to it.

    "…The plan was simple. Go to America. Buy a second-hand car. Drive coast-to-coast without giving any money to THE MAN…
    Gorman defines "the man" as being "a generic name for the owners of multinational chain stores, brands and trademarks."

    Many travellers not from the US find great difficulty in the process of buying and selling a car to use on a trip. You say quote: “The car's all bought and sorted. I found it relatively easy to register in my own name.”

    Take a little – give a little. Any advice on this aspect?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default this is a two way street

    If you've got the car all sorted out, please share with us how you've gone about doing it. Most people find this very difficult to do, so we'd love to know the secret behind doing it so easily.

    I'm especially curious as to how you've got this all figured out before you've even arrived in the US, and when you're still asking questions about insurance. I can say with certainty, if you don't have insurance, you've still got a significant issue to deal with. I'm also curious what car you've found for $1000 that will be road worthy for a cross country trip, especially when you're going to finish in California, where the car will have to pass the nation's toughest emissions tests before you can get rid of it.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    especially when you're going to finish in California, where the car will have to pass the nation's toughest emissions tests before you can get rid of it.
    I assume that it will be going to a junkyard.

  7. Default

    Well, I had a friend who's local(ish) to my start point and he helped me out with the car - he sourced it and organised all the forms I needed for registration. That's the only advice I've really got! The car's a '66 and GM...

    Ah, didn't know about emissions. Will it have to pass a test even if it's that old?

    Anyway, where should I see?

  8. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by britjourno View Post
    The car's a '66 and GM...
    Are you bringing a mechanic with you? I'd budget some money for car repairs!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I believe that in CA, vehicles built before 1975 are exempt so you should be able to resell it instead of scrapping it. Ohio only requires testing in 7 counties, but I can't find any info on age.

    Just out of curiosity, what model is the car?

  10. #10

    Default One scenic drive...

    I’m biased. When it comes to scenic beauty my first thoughts are always of Jackson Hole which includes the Grand Teton Mountains and the Snake River.

    A fabulous drive is from Red Lodge, Montana, over The Beartooth Highway (cited as the most beautiful drive in America) through quirky Cooke City into Yellowstone National Park and then down to Jackson Hole.

    It wouldn’t be too far out of your way on your journey west.


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