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  #16  
Old 3 Mar 2009
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+1 on Camping. Set yourself up with some quality gear as almost all the great things to see here are out in the boonies, and while there a few cities that actually have some character, most of them are just places to avoid - seen one, seen them all. You can camp almost anywhere in a National Forest, and when I go for rides I often just look for some old dirt road to follow for a ways to get away from the highway and pitch a tent. The motels are OK once in a while to clean up and have a nice long hot shower, but they are almost always on a noisy street or next to a freeway that has traffic at all hours. AAA used to make "camping maps" that had different symbols on then signifying different types of campgrounds and what they had to offer. They were great for finding something quickly if "wild" camping was not an option. I'm not sure if they still make them, but it would be worth asking.
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  #17  
Old 3 Mar 2009
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I agree with Thermal that some of the most beautiful parts of the US are far better seen through the flap of a tent (depending on the time of year of course!)...

Again like bike gear, there is no point in bringing camping kit on the plane with you (unless you already have some compact/quality gear) - like most things in the US, they are still significantly cheaper to buy once you get here - either online or in stores like REI which have a huge range... you could buy a decent tent, sleeping bag and air mattress (and a dry bag to put it in) for the same sort of RRP a North Face tent would cost you in the UK...

xxx
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  #18  
Old 4 Mar 2009
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Hi Guys
Thank you so much for all the useful information, wild camping sounds good hope the weather holds.
What are your views on travellers cheques?
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  #19  
Old 4 Mar 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveH View Post
What are your views on travellers cheques?
Do they still have those?! x

Ok then, seriously, most Debit/Credit cards will work in US ATMs (especially once you tell your bank you are going abroad first!), and as Maja posted above, certain UK banks (Nationwide are one certainly) don't charge you for foreign transactions (although be aware there will still be a currency exchange rate on any Dollar transactions, which is unlikely to be as good as the Bank exchange rate).

Alternatively you can get a prepaid 'debit' card (Barclays do one called Travel Money) which you load before you leave, and can top up by phone if required, which essentially replaces travellers cheques, and can be used for transactions as well as cash withdrawls from ATMS/cashback etc. However, be aware the Barclays one does charge you for cash withdrawls from ATMs, only debit transactions are fee-free... Of course you could always use the Travel Money card to purchase an American prepaid card once you get there, as Motoreiter suggests?

I really don't think it's necessary to carry a bundle of travellers cheques or a huge amount of cash with you these days... and as I suggested initally, if you are planning on staying for a reasonable length of time (even just 3 months on the visa waver programme), it might be worth opening a US account and transfering some money across?

xxx
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  #20  
Old 5 Mar 2009
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Not sure about the fixation on Motel 6, sure they're OK, but mom-and-pop places will be cheaper and have more character (although quality can be hit or miss, but hey it's only for a night or two). Off the beaten path, these places can be under $30, and you are almost guaranteed to meet some characters...

As to camping, I generally don't mind sleeping in a tent but after a long day's ride the main thing I want is a cold and a decent dinner, which is difficult on a bike unless you bring a cooler and a load of cooking gear, which I don't think is practical on a long trip.

Don't even think about travellers checks--have you ever tried to use them? Bring an extra credit/ATM card and you'll be all set.
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  #21  
Old 5 Mar 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by motoreiter View Post
Not sure about the fixation on Motel 6, sure they're OK, but mom-and-pop places will be cheaper and have more character (although quality can be hit or miss, but hey it's only for a night or two). Off the beaten path, these places can be under $30, and you are almost guaranteed to meet some characters...
I agree - some of the nicest (well, I mean memorable) places I've stayed have been independent motels - but as you say, not only can quality differ (there was one place in Borrago Springs Ca that I actually had to ask for my money back - the only hotel I've ever had to do that in!), but the price can vary considerably, and sadly a lot of these places can't compete with the budget chain motels...

The reason I mention Motel 6 is not only is it one of the biggest chains in the USA, it is also the cheapest. They maybe a little soulless in comparison, but they are consistant, clean and comfortable - and a good choice if you just want to clean up and crash out... you can get a directory (or look online) for locations, and that can take the pain out of trying to find somewhere last minute... also, if you want to stay in certain cities, they can be a surprisingly cheap way of staying pretty close the the action...

A mix of both would be my recommendation?

xxx
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  #22  
Old 7 Mar 2009
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Travellers Cheques - I don't get out much!!!

JMo

'Do they still have those?!'

You are quite right about the cash passport a search on the net and I have found quite a good deal, the card is a caxtonFX giving a better exchange rate with top ups done over the phone, like you say JMo no need to have bundles of cash. Thanks for bringing me upto the 21st centry!
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  #23  
Old 8 Mar 2009
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Camping is grate in the states and can be free or cheap.
Boondocking (Free Camping)
Amazon.com: Don Wright's Guide to Free Campgrounds: Western Edition (Don Wright's Guide to Free Campgrounds Western Edition): Don Wright: Books
Dispersed and Free Campgrounds in the USA
Then there is BML and National Forest (not national parks or national monuments there something diffrent but some have camping in them) many people dont know its free to camp and the rangers like to keep it that way. Stay off the roads and out of sight and not many will know your there. But free camping has a price you almost never get any thing better than pit to pee in, no water, and wild animals making sounds all night long.

If your willing to spend $10 to $20 you get showers, flush toilets, a fire pit you can use and if you plan gust a bit a night in some of grate places of the USA.


just some things to look at till you set your plans.
America's Byways®: National Scenic Byways Online
Top US National Monuments: Travel Guides and Reviews | GORP.com
Maps of Parks, Map of Southwest and Western United States, - DesertUSA
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  #24  
Old 9 Mar 2009
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A little late on the camping thing, but a place to purchase camping equipment for a decent price is a place called Big 5. I used to have several near me when I lived in L.A., and still have one in Yuma, Arizona, but I am not sure how far of a reach they have to the rest of the US. They are a sporting goods store that always has good deals, and a few page ad in the Sunday paper listing all their sale goods. They always have camping equipment on sale. In L.A., there are a few other large chain sporting goods stores as well, which would make it worth your while to purchase the equipment here, if you are starting off in a large city, like L.A.
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  #25  
Old 14 Mar 2009
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Steve

In 2002 I flew my bike to Vancouver then rode down to Nogales on the Mexican border then up to Toronto before returning home.

In 2006 I shipped my bike from Southampton to Newark then spent three months riding to California and back - 17,000 miles in all.

I stayed with friends from a motorcycle forum and motels, some Mom & Pop motels, but mostly Motel 6. I only briefly considered camping but the thought of humping all my camping gear through airports - the bike has to travel 'empty' - didn't bear thinking about. Motel 6 were always excellent value and cheap. The highest I paid was on the outskirts of Washington DC, $115 a night during the week, dropped like a stone at weekends. Hotels in Las Vegas were extremely cheap as the widespread gambling subsidised the cost of the rooms.

Get a Moleskine diary, the best available, and make notes of important names/addresses/phone numbers/etc in the back and a daily diary of your trip. Invaluable.

Get an American friend to get a supply of free AAA maps - sod GPSs - as these are excellent.

The typical American if ghastly - Miller, Coors, Bud, but they have thousands of excellent micro-brews many are as good as you'll find here. If all else fails, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is good and widely available. Don't expect restaurants to have a liquor licence, most don't. I walked out of more restaurants that I care to mention. Food without wine is like fish & chips without salt & vinegar.

Don't filter (they call it 'lane splitting') as it's illegal in every state other than California. The cops are hot on it and the car drivers can get very shirty to, even opening their doors to prevent passing.

Treat the fifty states like fifty seperate countries. Each has it's own laws on speed limits and crash helmets. Some of the petrol pumps are bit odd. In some states, they have a sort of concertina device over the end to suck back the petrol fumes, and these can be difficult to use for a rider. Petrol was one third of the price of UK petrol. Tyre wear can be a bit extreme also, the minor roads being very abrasive. I needed a new set of Avons by the time I reached Tucson AZ, only 7,500 miles, but heavily loaded.

Any other advice - it would courteous to get to learn how to spell the names of their states correctly for instance - please get back to me.
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  #26  
Old 16 Mar 2009
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Hi Paul

Sounds like you have had some good experiences and plenty of miles under your belt!

I will definately be looking for the liquor licence as I hate fish n chips without a good helping of salt and vinegar!
I have had a couple of quotes to get a bike shipped out and it's around £970 out and £800 to come back still hoping the dollar will weaken before I arrive, as I've been scouring Craigslist and ebay for a suitable ride.
I was planing to take a note book but the moleskin diary sounds good. Are the AAA maps only available in the US or would I be able to buy over the net?, was thinking about the gps though
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  #27  
Old 17 Mar 2009
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If you have the budget, I would definitely get a GPS that gives audio directions. They are incredibly convenient and are a real safety feature because they allow you to focus on the road rather than constantly glancing at a map, GPS screen, street signs, etc. Moreover, usually picking "shortest route" will often take you down small roads and keep you off the highways. I would get a US road atlas in the states ($20 in the US) and every night pick the route for the next day by perusing the atlas, and then punching it into the GPS.
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  #28  
Old 17 Mar 2009
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I believe the AAA maps are free to AAA members and cannot be purchased by non-members.

As for a GPS, I have one but have never got on with one. My Garmin StreetPilot III is not at all user friendly and for the life of me I can never remeber how to work the thing. For a while I carried the instruction manual aroundwith me but eventually gave up.

Maps are brilliant and held us in good stead for hundreds of years. I have a Touratech Roadbook device , the one with the roll of cash register tape inside. Each day I'd write down my route and road numbers using the maps and that was that. No danger as the Roadbook was mounted on the screen inches below my line of sight.

In addition US roads for the most part are way way quieter than those in the UK. If I needed to look at a map I'd just pull over, have a good look, then get on my way.

Ask me one about Merrycan mobile phones (sorry, cellphones)

PS Those shipping prices you mentioned, are they Wallenius Wilhelmsen prices?
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  #29  
Old 18 Mar 2009
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you can get a road map at most gas stations but for planing you may want to get a good atlas such as.Amazon.com: National Geographic the American Road: Atlas & Travel Planner (NG road atlases): National Geographic Society, Melcher Media, Kay Scheller: Books

or here for some America's Byways®: National Scenic Byways Online
get a book for free! Request a Brochure
grate book to pay for it it runs $14

You will save a bit of time an money if you do a bit planing now and spend a little now.
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  #30  
Old 7 Apr 2009
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DLbiten......

I would like to say that National geographic book is pretty good received it a couple of days ago amazing how much information it contains, thank you for the tip only problem being I might have to stay a little longer than planned!

Regards
Steve
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