Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Outback Australia to Out West, USA !

Hi Jamie,

Found your web site, which is the best I have seen and very informative. I hope you can be of assistance to us.

We are 4 Aussie country folk – myself, husband (farmer), his agile & healthy 75 yr old dad (farmer, a national park enthusiast, not a ‘city’ person, but wants to do San Fran) & my 16 yr old son (who wants ‘to do America’). So quite a mix. But all get on well & excited about our quickly organised road trip.

Arriving Los Angeles 17th Jan 2011. Leaving LA 30th Jan. So 13 nights.

Hiring a car from LA.

Don’t mind early starts & a few long distance days. Driving not a problem (2 drivers -experienced & confident. Have driven some of Europe).
Would like to see some ‘farmland’, countryside, a few National Parks, travel more ‘country’ roads, keep away from most cities.

Plan a circle trip-must do’s San Francisco, Death Valley, Las Vegas. Like to keep clear of McDonalds, but feel the real character of a US road trip eg Diners, majestic landscapes etc

I would love to do Yosemite. Been told Yosemite not drivable in winter but read on one of your blogs that OK & of course beautiful with snow.

Our research has confused us, as there's so much info out there (some differing opinions) & the USA is such a big country & so much to see.

Can you suggest a rough road trip starting & finishing in LA, that is feasible in the time frame & weather conditions.

Also any hints appreciated.
Looking forward to your reply.
PS: I forgot to say that we are taking a notebook computer so we can book online as we go. I’m a amateur photo enthusiast. Husband would like to go to Texas.

Is that too far in the time frame we have?



Hi Kathy & Co -

Many thanks for your message, and your nice words about Road Trip USA -- if you like the website, I think you'll love the book, which has a lot more ideas and maps and other info, plus many dozens of color pictures and old postcards and more...

I just noticed you are nearly on the road, so thought I ought to get back to you asap. Hope you are having a good start to the New Year (and that you are not affected by the Brisbane floods!)

First off Yosemite -- yes, Yosemite is open and lovely in winter! The one main part that is closed in winter is the drive over Tioga Pass, across the mountains from Yosemite to Mono Lake, but the rest of the park is fabulous in winter (especially the lovely waterfalls). There is even a small ski / snow play area, called Badger Pass, which is the oldest on the West Coast. A snow shoe tour is a lot of fun -- and Yosemite is definitely worth seeing. There's also a grove a Giant Sequoia redwood trees -- one of which you used to be allowed to drive thru (see picture above!)

There are some other national park areas south of Yosemite, at Sequoia and Kings Canyon, which are great if you like massive old trees (the biggest in the world!), and the foothills area near Yosemite is where the 1849 "California Gold Rush" occurred, with lots of well-preserved, very characterful towns and historic sights to see, if you like that sort of thing. Sonora and Columbia are two good places to see, and they are easy to reach along Hwy-49, the main "Gold Country" highway.

If you want to see Death Valley and Las Vegas, you have two realistic choices. One way would be to go there and back, direct from Los Angeles; my preferred option would be to visit Death Valley and Las Vegas on a loop, on your way from San Francisco via Lake Tahoe. The main road from Lake Tahoe to Death Valley is Highway US-395, which is spectacular -- your photography enthusiasm may recognize some of the scenery from Ansel Adams photos (besides famous photos of Yosemite, he also took some great pictures of Mt Whitney as seen from the town of Lone Pine, the western gateway to Death Valley.)

So, for a rough itinerary, I would say land in LA, relax and recover from the long flight, then get a car and see the sights (museums and/or Disneyland!) Then head north, along the coast, via Santa Barbara, Hearst Castle and Big Sur, Monterey and Carmel -- maybe 4 days?

Then San Francisco -- a wonderful city. One great walk heads west from the touristy center of Fishermen's Wharf, winding along the waterfront past Fort Mason, all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge (which you can walk across -- stunning!). Alcatraz is a good day out, too, and if the weather is dry you may want to drive north across the GGBridge to Marin County, maybe even up to the "Wine Country" of Sonoma and Napa. Sonoma is especially nice -- historic, and peaceful, and onetime home of writer Jack London, if that appeals.

Then do the Yosemite / Lake Tahoe / Death Valley / Las Vegas loop, then make your way back to LA (perhaps via the desert areas of Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park, if you have any time after the rest of your trip.)

I do think Texas is too far -- it would add 4 days driving -- but you can get a feel for what it looks like by seeing Death Valley and Nevada and Joshua Tree.

Doing the California / Las Vegas tour makes a good, fun 2-week trip -- hope this note finds you well, and helps you on your way!

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA

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