The girlfriend and I are planning a 3 week holiday in the US, coming next June. The plan at the moment is to fly to NYC, spend one week there, then fly to San Fransisco, rent a mobile home and then spend 2 weeks driving around the West: Yosemite, Death Valley, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, then maybe up to Yellowstone if time permits, ending back in SF.
I've been to Seattle, Chicago and LA before and my girlfriend studied one year at LeHigh, so the US isn't that foreign to us.
One thing we noted on our previous travels is that Americans are really horrible at Dutch, so we'll already brushing up on the local languages: Spanish and Navajo.
Kidding. My Spanish sucks.
Any useful tips anyone could share, especially about renting a mobile home and roaming the West? Appreciated.
Also, did they catch that guy from The Hitcher yet?
Sounds like a pretty amazing vacation. I would be worried about driving a mobile home through SF though!
We're probably staying in SF for about 2 days before moving on. The mobile home indeed won't be needed until we leave.
Just read on a rental site that "Vehicles may be operated with EXTREME CARE in Death Valley and other desert areas during the months of July and August. In Summer, renters visit these areas at their own risk..."
So, free camper to pick up in Death Valley at the end of June. We'll leave addresses you can send our remains to, if you would be so kind.
Lingo tip, ask about renting an RV or motorhome. If you say mobile home it conjurs up images of these.
Whatever vehicles you rent, make sure the tires are in good condition. Nothing is worse than being stuck in the middle of death valley with a flat tire. Or three. Personal experience.
If you are not used to an RV then I'm not sure I would rent one. If you aren't the outdoors type (sound like you are though) you can rent a hotel room within easy driving distance (a few minutes to a few hours) for all the places you mention. Rent a car and you won't have to deal with driving an RV. You could even rent a SUV, buy a pair of lightweight sleeping bags ($20-$30 ea) and food/drink, and spend an easy night outdoors camping between hotel stays.
If you do rent an RV and intend to use RV campgrounds located at national parks, many will require advance permits.
To add to the discouragement pile, California roads in the places you are talking about are curvy with extreme elevation changes and massive dropoffs if you fuck up. I wouldn't drive to Yosemite unless I was a very experienced RV driver.
Ok, now that is useful info. I haven't driven an RV in my life. The initial plan was to rent a car and then find lodgings every night, but all the National Parks' websites talk about making reservations months in advance. I just checked the Yosemite website and they're talking about "book your camp site 5 months in advance" and "at the first come first serve camps sites, be there at 8:30 AM or you won't have a spot!". Not exactly the stress free road trip we were hoping for. The idea was to keep some flexibility in our itinerary by using an RV.
Question: how hard is it to find a hotel/motel room just outside the national parks? And are reservations needed in June? Staying there for the night and visiting the parks during the day would work fine.
Much appreciated already.
Rent a nice SUV buy a cooler when you get state side and just enjoy your drive. You can find plenty of cheap and clean hotels on the outskirts of places if you are willing to trade 10 min commute time for a 30 min commute time to a park or city.
Those national park websites like to exaggerate somewhat. You might have trouble finding a place to stay during holidays, but typically not otherwise. In terms of driving, once you get out of California everything will be flat and straight. Keep to the interstates, however, as many of the highways in the southwest are almost entirely isolated from the world and will offer no services.
The roads going to an coming from National parks in California can go over some very steep terrain. Unless you are sticking to the San Joaquin valley, the deserts or LA you will be going over hills of varying grades, some pretty damn steep. The big national park campgrounds actually do fill up for most of the summer (Yosemite and the beach parks especially) however there are tons of campgrounds near the bigger parks that sit empty.
If you are still leaning towards renting an RV there are compact RV's you could rent. They are basically full sized trucks with a camper/rv built into them. Cruise America rents them http://www.cruiseamerica.com/rent/ou...ompact_rv.aspx . I must admit their decals they spray their RV's with are pretty ugly though.
Back to OP:
Thanks for not pestering Europe with your "mobile homes" in the summer like so many of your folks do year after year.
Since your not keen on driving one in the US i'd recommend an ordinary rent a car deal, should book them in advance though. Also double check on the tires. (Had a flat tire in northern appalachian region, aka hilly billy mountains once, was no fun also additional bullshit with Hertz to not bill us with the replacement tire)
Its really no hassle to find a good and not expensive motel anywhere in the states.
Also Death Valley is known for having +50°C in the summer and i would not recommend to drive through with (basically) just a tin can on wheels (natives call it "Ford" though).
Big thing to keep in mind is that big ticket places like Yellowstone, Yosemite etc. are tourist traps. So if you do stay there youre going to be paying a lot extra for food/lodging than you would if you went 30-40 minutes down the road.
Last edited by Big Phoenix; 01-05-2014 at 02:51 PM.
Reservation need is based on proximity. Keep in mind the American West is pretty damned big. For instance, if you goto the Grand Canyon on the Arizona side of it, you have a town just outside the park entrance and there is another one like an hour away (the hour away one was sketchy lol). We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express outside the Canyon and it was decent rates and like a 1 minute drive to the park entrance. The sooner you book, the better. Just do your researchQuestion: how hard is it to find a hotel/motel room just outside the national parks? And are reservations needed in June? Staying there for the night and visiting the parks during the day would work fine.
Just remember that all the kids get out of school in Late June, so many families tend to plan their vacations around late June and going into July (August too, but it's not like how August is in Europe vacation wise). It's also going to be hot as fuck that time of year if you're going to be around Nevada/Arizona/etc, so plan accordingly as well for that (clothes, water, etc). Death Valley isn't a joke either in Summer, esp if you're in a RV.
NYC you can do car rental free pretty much. SF also has decent public transit (when BART isn't striking...have a contingency plan in place!). Driving in SF isn't as bad as NYC, although parking still sucks. You may want to rent a car anyways so you can check out some of the semi-nearby Redwood Forests and so you can avoid taking transit through Oakland ;P
BART won't be on strike for a while. They signed a three or four year contract to end the most recent strike. Renting a car in SF is a really, really bad idea. I can get to a lot of places faster by walking. Traffic is terrible, parking is impossible and expensive, and you don't get to enjoy the city's sights and architecture as much when you're stressing out trying to navigate the hills and Market St.
Just be aware of how far you are planning on driving. Some europeans come over to the states, plan a road trip and are then all like "wtf america is fucking huge".
This thread is packed with pussies. A mobile home isn't that hard to drive, especially if it isn't a huge one.
That said, the problems you are going to run into with finding a spot to camp are ony if you want to camp *in* the national park. All of the big three parks are surrounded by tens of thousands of acres of national forest and it's not usually too tough to find a campground in the national forest within easy striking distance of the park. You really do need to make reservations *way* in advance to get a camping spot in Yosemite and then when you do you're going to be pitching your tent 5 feet away from someone else. You will have a much better experience camping outside the park and just driving in to hike half dome or whatever you're going to do there.
Plans changed a bit: we'll be skipping NYC for this trip and just do 3 weeks (May 12th - June 4th) of traveling through the South-West, with an RV (CruiseAmerica Intermediate model E27, since it was cheaper that period than the smaller models). 3 weeks will give us enough time to travel at leisure. I started using Google Maps to plan our itinerary. Since we're traveling in May, I expect the amount of other tourists will still be acceptable. We'll see how we handle Yosemite anyway, it's not like we won't have anything else to see on our trip.
Check out Kampgrounds of America. koa.com They are very friendly to Cruise America users.
They have a large network of campgrounds across the United States and it looks like plenty in the areas you want to visit. You can book your reservations online. They generally have nice facilities, stores, hot showers, etc.
May is a good time to go to Yosemite. The waterfalls should be looking good at that time. If we get any precipitation, that is.
Did someone mention waterfalls? Pls post pics of your wet t-shirt gf taking a trip to the waterfalls rerolled style.
Kidding, that was a dude way out there on the rocks. Another dude a bit on the right.
So we're back and the trip went smoothly. Drove exactly 3033 miles in total.
Itinerary in bullet points: SF - Lathrop (middle of nowhere, south of Stockton) - Yosemite - Lake Isabella - Yermo (another middle of nowhere near Barstow) - Las Vegas - Valley of Fire - Lake Mead - Grand Canyon, south rim - Lake Powell - Zion and Bryce - UT 12 - Sevier - UT 21 - Lehman Caves - US 50 - Lake Tahoe - Bodega Bay - CA 1 - Big Basin SP - SF again.
Driving the RV (27ft long) was a lot easier than I feared. The CA 1 between Bodega Bay and SF was the biggest challenge, that road has some nasty curves.
First time I drove an automatic transmission but I loved it from the start. Very convenient for all the uphill driving.
About the campsites, we only made reservations months in advance for Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Bryce campgrounds. All the other campgrounds we just called a few days in advance, always had room to stay.
Hard to pick favorite spots, but the Grand Canyon and driving along the UT12 stood out for me. Amazing views.
Surprisingly cold during the night though. Almost freezing temperatures in Yosemite, Grand Canyon and at Lake Tahoe.
One last thing: the US of A has one thing in excessive amounts and that is space. Square fucktons of emptiness. UT21 was the most extreme: we met 5 cars on a 83 miles stretch.
Plug those plains full with wind turbines and BAM energy independence achieved! My pleasure, glad to be of service, come again.
No really, we only saw one wind turbine field with 64 units on our whole trip and no solar energy plants to speak of either.
Y U no liek alternative energy, Murica?
Ya, it snows at the Grand Canyon, even in the spring sometimes. Automatic transmission is rather useful in places like San Fran...dem hills.
n/m, I see that you're back.
Good choice on Zion though. I wasn't a big fan of Bryce (it's like looking at a fish tank as opposed to being in the fish tank that is Zion). Sounds awesome.
We were in Zion on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend though. According to one of the shuttle drivers, there were 30000 visitors in the park at that moment. If you've been on Angel's Landing, you know the last part is a steeper rocky part with a chain as handhold. There was a constant flow of people trying to get up and trying to get down on what is normally a single file path. As it was already late in the afternoon and we still had to get to Bryce for our campground, we decided to skip the last part to the top. So that was a bit disappointing.
Here's the view from the top. The ground is 1700 feet below me.
It wasn't nearly as crowded when I went. At the very top, there were maybe 15 people total. It was a really good trip. A few years previously, we walked the narrows (inside of the canyon) for almost the whole day. That was really fun. We went later in the year, so the water was actually warm by then. This past visit, the water was freezing, so we didn't do that section. By freezing, I mean it was around 50-55 degrees. Fucking chilly to walk through.
Nice, about 500 turbines there. That's exactly what I was thinking the US could do with all that empty land available.
Edit: We just missed that. Drove south on the 14 but exited to see California City which was featured in a Belgian documentary (Desert Haze) we saw shortly before our trip, then continued east on the 58 towards Barstow.
Last edited by DiddleySquat; 06-24-2014 at 03:06 PM.
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