We’re in the middle of planning our week-long roadtrip (above). We’re getting there, but it’s a squeeze. So many miles, so little time. I’m excited though; I love driving along a long straight road in the middle of nowhere, in a big ol’ American car. I like all the open space – we don’t have so much of that here in the UK. We’re going to spend a day in at the Arches National Park in Utah; on our way down to Phoenix we’re going to pop into Jerome, a mountainside ghost town turned artists’ colony.
I don’t know how we would have managed in the days before the internet, but this is how we have great roadtrips on limited budgets:
- Pick up the brochures in Motel 6s, Super 8s and Econo Lodges, and keep them in the car. Between them, they usually turn up budget motel rooms for wherever we’re headed. They also have maps and directions, which come in handy when we pitch up in towns in the middle of the night. We tend not to book these places online because, well, it’s a roadtrip and sometimes plans (and weather systems) change. Also, if something happens and we find ourselves somewhere completely random as night closes in, we can quickly find out where the nearest clean motel is.
- If we do know where we’re headed, we check out the hotel reviews on Trip Advisor. This has saved us from some real nasties.
- But I have a soft spot for the aforementioned motel chains. Clean rooms, internet connections, cable TV (is that Nancy Grace still on the air?) and parking – can’t go far wrong with that. I especially like the ones that are $30 a night. I bite my thumb at you, Days Inn and Best Western.
- Roadside America. I can’t tell you how much I adore this site; it’s a godsend. It lists all the quirky attractions and Americana, complete with reviews, updates, maps and more. Most of these must-dos are free, or next-to-nothing. For this trip, I am planning stop-offs at destinations including the World’s Largest Watermelon, a Shoe Tree in Nevada, the Singing Sand Dune and Families in Cave Dwellings. I am one spoiled roadtripper.
- Go for the economy rental car. We’ve plumped for Alamo’s cheapest economy model. It’s still enormous and luxurious, by UK standards.
- CDs. We won’t buy any or take any with us, but we’ll pop into a thrift store en route and pick up a few. I’ve no idea what we’ll end up with – it’s a lucky dip! Last time I got lucky with The Sound of Music and Dolly Parton.
- Mexican food. It’s cheap, I loves it – and there aren’t many Mexican restaurants in the UK, so it’s novel now too. By the time that I’ve filled myself fit to pop and am shivering at the very thought of another chimichanga, it will be time to turn around and go home. Perfectly calibrated.
- Dollars booked waaaaaaay in advance, so we got a great exchange rate. I used this place.
- Empty suitcases. Target here we come.
- More than one British Visa card. Occasionally, very occasionally, the US card machines can’t compute the quintessential Britishness of my regular Visa debit card. So this is one of the few occasions that will impel me to dust off my aged Barclaycard Visa, just in case we need it. We shouldn’t need either card if our currency holds out, but you never know.
- A readiness to throw ourselves onto the mercies of strangers, should anything go wrong.
Now, is San Francisco to Ely, NV in one long day do-able, do you think? I contacted the Nevada tourism dept. and asked them if we could drive Highway 50 in November, but they said they wouldn’t know until nearer the time.