We found a common sight throughout USA was the number of beggars, homeless and buskers/ musicians. This was the worst in San Francisco and in particular in Market street and near the Cable car turnaround on Powell Street (?)where I felt particularly assailed by people “in my face” wanting money for a poorly performed song.
While I felt extremely sorry for them I must admit I was afraid to give anything in case I was then overwhelmed by other "beggars" or then became an easy target.
I do feel particularly blessed that I live in a country where there are fewer people who have to turn to begging to survive.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Update your apparel, Bloomington, IL
I had got a tip from a motorcycle forum that leather motorcycle apparel can be bought in Blain's Farm & Fleet in Bloomington. Exellent tip, we took a course to the store and bought both cheap and good quality staff there.
Leather chaps! Those are quite expensive in mc stores, but here we got them for 59,95$. The chaps have some kind of code, you know, certain people use them, do you remember YMCA and Village people? Later, I used chaps trough whole route, on the morning especially, I remember one man opening gas station door to me with a good day wish: "after you ladies". Seriously the apparel is perfect for riding. You can dress it on on the morning (on cold days) and take it easily of when sun starts burning.Related to:
- Road Trip
Gamble - Laughlin, NV
*** Warning - If you don't have sense and soul when playing, select some other hobby ***
The Colorado Belle Casino Resort has a lot of the games you want to play! 65,000 square foot casino with slots, table games and poker room with tournaments. Of course there are hotel and restaurants, so you don't need to go out (if you go, there are other gambling places, so why to?).
If I understood correctly we could have saved money if we stayed here (we were charged some 65$ per night for two in Bullhead City and the rate for 2012/may/09-11 is between 39 and 119 depending of room type.
But the gambling! We didn't know how to play, we didn't want to learn (I never win) and made a huge 2$ investment and after 10 seconds we got the bill of 50 cents. We took some beers and went home.Related to:
- Road Trip
Stop in Amboy, CA
This tip is needed, otherwise you will pass the Amboy, because it is the only gasoline station on National Trails Highway (and there are interestingly named places a head if you drive to west, like Bagdad and Siberia).
In Amboy you meet Roy's, you can fill your tank and have a discussion with staff, you don't meet a lot of people on this leg. If yo have time take a look to old Amboy and start from Old Amboy Road. But remember to start this leg with full tank, there were four pumps but only two were working. You never know when there are no pumps at all.
Further, you can find Amboy crater from the area, it is an intact volcanic crater that went dormant about 600 years ago. Drive there, don't walk, and take crater road some two miles after Amboy (west).
Midpoint Cafe and sign, Adrian, TX
Again one must and tourist trap, but as only joy here I don't record it to the traps. Very friendly service, take refreshments at least. Souvenirs are sold and this is one of the places you can purchase Route 66 suspenders :) I bought one! I rank the gift shop high and it is quite (to me) authentic 50's style decorated.
Don't pass the Cafe and remember to take a photo of you with the half way sign.Related to:
- Road Trip
Food and meals
In general the price of meals was comparable to Australia unless you had a glass of wine which then raised the price of an average meal to around $30.00. We compensated by buying a bottle or two of wine and having a drink in our hotel room. “Spicy” in USA does not necessarily equate to “spicy” in Australia. We found most food was quite bland and a lot of it too “creamy” for our tastes. The size of serves may also shock. Many restaurants are just hamburger joints. We found the best value and the “healthiest” options were the Mexican restaurants.
We pre-booked all our internal flights beforehand. Seats are selected (from memory) after you have paid. Most of our flights were with American Airlines as we wanted to gain the benefit of Qantas frequent flyer points. They were all on time and without incident. The Delta flight was excellent but we spent an extra $19.00 each so we had more leg room. Check in was very easy. There is a line of check in machines and you punch in your reservation number, confirm and in our case add in checked luggage. This cost an extra $25 each.
There is an airline representative nearby that calls your name and he/she then takes you to the main counter so your luggage can be checked in. Two warnings: the airline is very strict about size of carry-on luggage and secondly, if your credit card has a chip in it, it may not work. On our very LAST internal flight one of the attendants revealed the secret: put the credit card in a transparent plastic bag as you slide it over the machine. If not, you will need to pay cash if you have not already paid for your luggage. Security checks varied. Generally it was fairly straight forward and in many cases they have a machine you step in and you are x-rayed. Be prepared to take off shoes, belts.
Some of the hotel prices seemed quite reasonable on first glance. We learnt the hard way that what was not indicated was the various taxes the hotels extract. Some of the hotels are now imposing what they call a bed rate and a resort tax. This is supposedly a tax for using Wi-Fi, valet parking and other facilities. While we were in the US we noticed in one of the local newspapers there was some discussion about the tax and its impact in dissuading custom. The hotels may decide in the near future to stop this tax.
We used a number of online booking agencies (Agoda, Expedia, and Booking.com, Qantas) to book hotels, tours and flights. On reflection we wish we had pre-paid all of the bookings as we did not realise the full implications of the extra taxes imposed. (See also tips on taxes and resort tax). The Bellagio booking (Las Vegas) was interesting as the hotel wanted to add the resort tax but for whatever reason because it was through Agoda they couldn’t so we had a win there!! We also pre booked all our internal flights. Generally speaking, the earlier you book the cheaper the tickets and the better your chance of getting the seat you want. If you can, include checked luggage so you don’t have to add it in when you arrive at the airport. Try and pre pay all your hotel and tour bookings.
In Australia our GST is standard across the nation and the price of goods that is displayed is what you pay. In the US this is not the case. A price will be indicated and seem quite reasonable but the tax is not added and this will vary depending on the state you are in and the good you are buying. Generally, for coffee and meals an extra 10% needs to be added but for other goods it could be as much as 18%. In addition, if paying hotel fees you could find yourselves paying the quoted price plus a state tax, city tax and a hotel bed tax and this is pro rata. One example: our hotel bill in New York went up by $800.00!!!
See also my tip on tipping. In general terms we found service was excellent with waiters being very attentive. Unlike Western Australia whereby most waiters are young students working part time in the US it seems that many are middle aged and this is their career. Their wages are extremely low and therefore they survive on their tips. When tipping makes sure that you tip on the total bill that includes the tax.
One of the most challenging aspects for us was the tipping “culture” that pervades it seems, all aspects of American daily life. For us it became a dilemma as we were never sure who we should tip and how much. In some cases it was 10% of the bill and in other circumstances it was as much as 18%. Waiters are obviously tipped but we also found ourselves tipping reception clerks, the bell boy, the hotel maid, the guy who served us a pizza, tour operators indeed, anyone who did something for us.
On reflection, we realised “tipping” does have an impact in terms of maintaining cordial relations between people. It is also justified on the grounds that it ensures every employee has a stake in ensuring the business does well but I can’t help feeling it also justifies keeping wages down. An American told me waiters earn only $2.00 an hour. I don’t know whether this is completely accurate but it is a horrific statistic given that in Australia babysitters can earn much more.
So what is my tip? Make sure you factor in when budgeting that you will have to tip hospitality workers and keep sufficient cash handy for this purpose while you’re travelling.Related to:
- National/State Park
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX
You can find this phenomenon from all guides but to me it was a disappointment, ten old cars in the field, what's the point? Okay, they are Cadillacs and there is a story behind. Or... maybe happened that the story started later, check the list! a) Film "Cars" by Disney, b) song "Cadillac Ranch" by Bruce Springsteen, c) seen in "King of the Hill" d) another songs by John Stewart and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and e) music video and... the list is endless. And you never know what is coming, cars have been white, black, graffiti colored and they are overpainted occasionally.
It is in private land, but visiting (gate is unlocked) is tacitly encouraged.
This is a Tourist Trap, but some of them are just musts, and this is among them.Related to:
- Road Trip
Here we are on Route 66, Gallup, NM
One of the musts on the Route 66 is this neon sign. On day light it was a little bit difficult to find, my motel's clerk didn't know it at all. I was very close, I knew about where it should, but I did not understand to look higher.
"Here We are On Route 66" was a phrase used on a post card that promoted travel on Route 66. The post card was made famous again recently when Michael Wallis, author of "Route 66: The Mother Road" placed a copy of it on the cover of his book.
Jerry McClanahan, who wrote the "The EZ66 Guide for Traveler's" describes the sign as "depicting a pink '59 Caddy headed into a Route 66 neon sunset." This sign can be seen over the entrance to the Gallup Chamber of Commerce in the middle of town.
Btw, Jerry's book was the best we found and I would like to recommend that to you, too. Remember the check editions, currently the third edition is valid (update 6th May 2013). There are updates on Jerry's pages, check them also.Related to:
- Road Trip
Drive the blue highways
The interstate highways in the U.S. are easy safe and efficient. That is the rub of it. Over the last few decades they have become a parade of every place exactly like every other place. So I recommend that you drive at least a portion of your trip in America on what are known as blue highways.
The American Automobile Association publish maps that designate scenic highways with blue dotted lines and they came to be known as the "Blue Highways".Now most road maps have scenic route marked.
You can combine this with a fun game. Try to find the coolest neon, find the coolest waitress, find the best pie. It is a great way to see the "Real America" William Least Heat-Moon wrote a great book on just this kind of travel. If you are coming to America it is a fantastic read.
- Road Trip
- Adventure Travel
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