First trip to USA
Replies: 14 - Last Post: Jul 7, 2012 6:56 PM Last Post By: SoloHobo
Jul 7, 2012 2:02 AM
First trip to USAWife & I, both 58, intending to visit USA for the first time 1st september to 16th september. We want to see "small town" USA, minimising time in cities. Will probably hire a car, but don't want to spend the whole time driving long distances. So we have to pick our region.
Will be moving every day or two, staying budget motels, self catering or budget diners for food.
First thoughts - 1.Northern New England - Maine / whatever; 2. New Orleans area 3 California???
Thoughts?? Any other areas to put on list???
Jul 7, 2012 4:25 AM
1Albuquerque, New Mexico, north on Interstate-25 to Santa Fe, then north to Taos, then west through Chama to Highway 550, north to Durango, Colorado, then across the Million Dollar Bridge to Ouray, Montrose, east on Highway 50 to Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, then to Gunnison. From Gunnison, drive north through the beautiful Paradise Valley/Gunnison Valley known for its many wildflowers, to Crested Butte and Gothic, at 9,000-ft elevation. Gothic is the location of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory with all original frontier buildings. It is on the backside of Aspen Ski Resort, in the setting of the Maroon Bells mountains. There are lots of jeep roads in this area that will take you over the mountains. One jeep road takes you along the Taylor River over a pass to the small village of Buena Vista, on Highway 128, which then will take you to Lead and Vail, on Interstate-70. Interstate-70 east will take you to Denver, Colorado. If you continue north on Interstate-25 from Denver, you will drive through Wyoming and Montana. From either of those states, you may take the route to Yellowstone National Park.
Jul 7, 2012 6:37 AM
2To really minimize time in the cities, consider western South Dakota or eastern Tennessee. The Black Hills, with Mount Rushmore and several other national parks and forests, are in western South Dakota. The Badlands are also easily within reach. Plenty to see and do for two weeks. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is in western Tennessee and can easily be combined with a drive to Washington DC. New Orleans to Memphis to Knoxville would be an excellent route.
Jul 7, 2012 7:28 AM
3I love New Mexico and Colorado too, and I'm a big fan of the areas #2 suggested as well. But if I look at the three areas suggested by the OP, I'd go with upper New England. In early September it'll be pretty quiet--too late for summer crowds, too early for the "leaf peepers" who show up to see the fall colors. But it's still a very beautiful area.
Most importantly for your purposes, the actual small towns themselves are quite picturesque in that part of the country. Lots of picture-postcard New England towns with central squares and churches with little white steeples and all that.
Focus on the mountainous parts of Vermont and New Hampshire. Then head to the coast of Maine--Acadia National Park is a highlight.
Fly in and out of Boston to do this. If you can bear seeing just one big city, that's not a bad one to pick.
As for the other two areas the OP mentioned: in Louisiana, Cajun culture is interesting, but I don't think it should be your first experience of the U.S.; also, once you're out of New Orleans, you'll find that the actual scenery isn't all that interesting. "California" is a big topic, and you can certainly construct lots of great trips there, but a "small town America" trip isn't the best thing to do in California, which is all about the scenery.
Edited by: mrpenney
Jul 7, 2012 7:54 AM
Most motels have a coffeemaker in the room, although really budget places may just have a pot of coffee in the office. The one in the room is a coffee pot, not an electric kettle. It won't get water hot enough for a surreptitious bit of cooking. AS a tea drinker myself, I ca tell you that it's also not great for tea. Since most Americans don't drink tea, it's likely that the provided tea bags have been sitting out for months. And the residual coffee oils n the machine don't help tea either. If you cannot live without your morning tea, I suggest you buy tea & some sort of immersion heater on arrival. You might also want to buy some cheap mugs, as the cheaper motels will provide styrofoam or paper cups.
More upscale places often have a refrigerator and/or a microwave.
One way to cut down on food expenses is to have a large breakfast. Breakfast is relatively inexpensive and you can get a lot of food to tide you over.
Especially in small towns, there is likely to be some place where many of the locals go for breakfast. If there are a lot of people who do heavy physical labor (farmers, timber workers, construction workers), breakfast can be massive: I've been to places where you can get a breakfast of three eggs and two pork chops.
These can be fun--if you get there really early. You can chat with local folks (often farmers) who are eating before going to work. Someone will probably tell you about a barbecue fundraiser for the local fire department or a play being put on by the church. There's probably a couple of newspaper hanging around for people to read. The food--well it might be incredible or it might just be "filling."
I can think of a couple of California trips that would involve a lot of small towns, along the coast, in the foothills of the mountains or in the mountains themselves, but I'll wait to see if you'd like more details.
Jul 7, 2012 8:37 AM
5I dont consider the posters request to match up well with the Southwest, as much as I like it, its not really as pleasant as the other options like New England and or also possibly North Carolina/South Carolina and Virginia areas.
My first choice that time of year would be the New England area, its gorgeous weather, lovely small seaside and rural towns, lots of antiquing type places and its also some of the oldest and most historic old homes and buildings in the country, fully restored to their former majestic beauty. Boston is a nice easy city to navigate and enjoy old world charm, then head out from there. The east coast accents are another nice attribute for a foreigner.
The other option of possibly Wash DC a few nights, then head to the many civil war sites, as well as important and lovely small towns and cities like Richmond, Charleston, Asheville and all points in between. This is also lovely countryside in the Appalachians as well as lot of down home southern low country cooking. Though it would be a tad more spread out driving wise, than in New England area. The accents you hear are more southern and drawn out, with the birth place Bluegrass music, banjo picking and a lot of Violin fiddling..
California is great, but overall its kind of congested when all said and done, though Wine country and northern California are really special and nice on many levels, its not as old and red white and blue in its foundation of Americana.
A few nights in the Asheviile area on the Blue Ridge Parkway are well worth your time.
I would budget more for old Bed & Breakfast and Inns/Lodges $125-$175, as the offerings are great and it all part of the fabric of the region. Not sure what your budget is, but a typical low budget hotel that is void of nay charm is about $50 at a Motel 6, a little more is a Hampton Inn $75-$90 and more typical 3 star would be Marriott Courtyards and Hyatt Place hotels $100-$140, or Holiday Inn Express. Many of these type places will be outside of town or not as close to the historical or charming areas of the small town settings.
Jul 7, 2012 8:53 AM
6Quick thanks to the repliers so far. Like the tip about breakfast in local caffs, and ligging BBQ's! New England seems to be coming out tops, and I take the point about the countryside around New Orleans, but will NE be "foreign" enough - if you know what I mean - I'd expect it to be the bit of the US that's most like "Old" England, whereas NO looks from a distance to be really different (but as I said, we don't want to spend much time in cities, rather the small places around). Would like to find genuine local culture - music, especially, rather than tourist gimcrack.
Jul 7, 2012 9:18 AM
7I'm a biased CA native and suggest the following. Fly into SF. Enjoy the city for three full days walking and using public transport. The Sausalito Art Festival is held on Labor Day weekend, the first weekend in September. Huge US holiday as it marks the end of Summer. You could take a bus or ferry from SF to see it. Day 4, early start and use BART to travel under the bay and over to Richmond, in the East Bay. Make arrangements with Enterprise Car Rental (the one on San Pablo Ave) to deliver the car to you five blocks away, outside Richmond City Hall where Civic Center Plaza dead ends at Nevin Avenue. Enterprise is known for delivering cars. Head out on Interstate 80 to Sacramento. Stop for lunch in Sacto's old town, tour the Capital, then head east to the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas to explore the Gold Rush Mining towns on Hwy 49. Fall is a lovely time to visit. Favorite towns of mine are Jackson, Columbia, Angel's Camp, Murphys, Sonora, Jamestown. Take a look at these links to see if this part of California's history is of any interest to you: http://www.historichwy49.com/empiremine.html, http://www.sierranevadageotourism.org/content/49-miles-along-highway-49-a-historic-driving-tour/sie5EED3673579739D6C and check this link for motels: http://www.hwy-49.com/, http://www.roadtripamerica.com/drives/ca49.htm. Lastly, Coloma's American River and Music Festivals. http://www.coloma.com/ is being held in September. If you plan it right you could even include a visit to Yosemite in this trek. Start looking for accommodations in Yosemite Valley NOW. From Yosemite, return to the Bay Area via Oakdale, Escalon, Manteca. Then catch 580 and follow it back to East Bay and to Richmond to drop off the car. Take BART back into The City for another day of exploration and then back to SFO on BART. With this itinerary you'll have seen one of the best cities on the planet, a State Capital, historic gold rush towns, the grandeur of Yosemite, the central valley's farmland as well experienced a small sense of CA's natural diversity.
Jul 7, 2012 11:07 AM
Jul 7, 2012 12:32 PM
In that case, I agree with SoloHobo that you should head for the South. Here is the FAQ, which I wrote a couple weeks ago, and I think covers all the bases.
Jul 7, 2012 1:06 PM
10I agree with SoloHobo on western North Carolina, and would look into West Virginia. You would get a unique cultural experience staying in the small mountain towns, watching local musician perform bluegrass and dance, and that area is beautiful.
Jul 7, 2012 1:12 PM
Jul 7, 2012 3:23 PM
12If you could wait a couple weeks and coordinate with the color season in the New England states you won't be disapointed
I would like to suggest where I live in Traverse City, Michigan. Traverse City is a small town, but a big tourist attraction. After the beginning of September the tourest have gone and it is a beautiful place. Many small towns in the area to explore and you can enjoy the shores of Lake Michigan with it's sugar sand beaches and unsalted water. We also have a National Park in the area, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore. Here are some links for you:
While most the children are back in school at this time, you will have less people in these highly visited tourist area and still have the nice weather. You can fly directly into Traverse City (TVC) via Detroit or Chicago. Accomodations prices will also drop some.
Jul 7, 2012 6:42 PM
13General suggestion for self-catering, given the lack of in-room cooking options: many supermarkets have salad bars, self service, pay-by-weight, that are ideal for lunches. Also pick up, at a supermarket or large drugstore, a styrofoam picnic cooler for $5 to $10, which will last you as long as you need it. You can carry a day or two worth of supplies if you'll be out of range of easy food shopping.
Jul 7, 2012 6:56 PM
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