Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What Makes a Drive a Road Trip?

 by Tiberiu Ana Flickr Creative Commons

Be it by car, motorbike or motorhome, a true road trip is an experience, not just getting from A to B. Here are some guidelines for an amazing road trip:

- Take someone with you. Someone you love, someone you like, someone you just met but find interesting- reminiscing afterwards will be half the fun of the trip.

- Take new routes. The highway is the fastest way, but not the most interesting. A road trip is about the journey, not the destination, so can't be rushed. In New Zealand it's called a tiki tour- go down a side road just to see what you might find.

- A road trip is great when it has a purpose, or when it doesn't. You may have taken a few extra days to get to your intended city instead of flying, or you may have packed up the car or RV when a free week presented itself and took to the road with no rhyme nor reason. Whichever it is, embrace it!

- Stop somewhere you've never been before. Be it for icecream, lunch, dinner or breakfast. The smaller the town, the better- and make friends with the locals if the opportunity arises.

- Be spontaneous. This could mean getting out of the car to dip your feet in the water, walking up a hill to see the view, attending anything that might be on in a town without preplanning it. Don't be afraid to take any opportunity that is put in front of you- even if it will mess with your plans.

 by Pete Flickr Creative Commons

And for the more advanced road trip experience, try for one or more of these:

- Break down and fix it in the pouring rain. Flag someone down to help and become lifelong friends.

- Park your RV somewhere unknown in the pitch dark, and wake up in the morning to the most incredible view you have ever seen. This can also be done in a car for extra badass points.

- Find a relative of yours in a forgotten graveyard, and uncover a huge family secret.

 by Kevin Dooley Flickr Creative Commons

- Have a beer in the most rural pub you can find, and have an in-depth conversation with a farmer with no teeth. Learn valuable life lessons.

by Jan Smith Flickr Creative Commons

- Stay in a haunted hotel or bed and breakfast with a creepy owner. Leave the next morning feeling as though you survived an ordeal.

- Buy cheap and fresh meat, cheese and veges from an amazing Farmer's Market in the small town you are staying at. Prepare the most amazing meal of your life on your gas cooker or RV stove.

- Meet a fellow traveler, learn their life story, and be left with only memories and one slightly blurry photo of them as you go your separate ways.

- Build a campfire (where permitted, of course) and spend the night in a toasted marshmallow and wine- fuelled heart to heart. Be surprised to see the sun coming up.

- Get horribly lost. Wrestle with maps, bust out a compass, scan the horizon. Eventually find that you are 5 mins away from where you left 5 hours ago, give up and and revisit the local pub. Tell the toothless farmer what happened, and hear his words of wisdom on getting lost, which are profound despite the fact he has never been more than 10km from his own farm.

 by The Eyes of New York Flickr Creative Commons

Admittedly, those last few are entirely dependent on fate- but the fundamental quality of a road trip is that it can't be planned! Whatever happens will happen, and the key is to go with the flow.

Have a look here for car rentals and here for motorhome rentals and road trip ideas all over the world!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Boston Top Sights

Boston is a city of history, of sports and of academia. The site of the original Tea Party, when the occupants threw tea in the harbour rather than pay taxes on it, it is now a wealthy and thriving city and a hub of culture. Here are some of the top spots to see according to Pittsburgh Live:

Freedom Trail

This trail links the historic sites of downtown Boston, making it simple to see them all by foot. Highlights of the route include the Boston Common, America's oldest public park, the King's Chapel, the site of the Boston Massacre between Redcoats and Bostonians, and much, much more.

 Boston Freedom Trail
by Tim Sackton Flickr Creative Commons

Museum of Fine Arts

Boston's Museum of Fine Arts is one of the United States' largest museums, with over 100 million visitors a year. A new wing opened in 2010 to house the Art of the Americas collection, a series of 5000 works that date from as far back as the founding of the colonies. There are also many contemporary artworks, and a large collection of Claude Monet's Impressionist paintings.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Although a lesser-known museum, this one is well worth the visit, with many priceless works including a Rembrandt self-portrait.

Samuel Adams Brewery

Take an hour-long tour of this brewery founded by Jim Koch, a fifth-generation beer brewer. Beer is a real craft here, and you will taste several different types and learn a bit about the art of brewing.

 Brewery Tour
by mbaylor Flickr Creative Commons

Symphony Hall

This is considered one of the top three concert halls in the world, and the other two are in Europe, making Boston's the best in America. The Hall is home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra as well as several other musical groups, and there are many artists who come from all over to perform there, so check out the programme before arriving in Boston to see if there's anything you'll like!

John F. Kennedy Library and Museum

This houses a lot of contemporary history, with digital archives, books, oral records of the Kennedys. Permanent Exhibits include showcases on the Space Program, the Oval Office, Jackie Kennedy and JFK's campaign trail. An interesting look at one of the US's most treasured and tragic presidents.

Campaign Trail Exhibit
by Randy Robertson Flickr Creative Commons

Check here for great USA RV rental deals!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Big Sur Road Trip

If you are picking up your motorhome in Los Angeles, a Big Sur Roadtrip is an excellent and highly scenic choice. A region of the Californian coast north of Los Angeles, the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean there, making for amazing vistas. Here is a suggested easy itinerary that will allow you to take it easy and travel a few hours a day, whilst taking in all that the coast has to offer.

View Larger Map
Day 1: Los Angeles to Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara is less than 2 hours from Los Angeles, but after the fuss of picking up an RV from the depot and figuring out how to get out of the city, it can be nice to have a short trip on day 1! Take CA-1/US101 out of the city, and this will take you directly to Santa Barbara. Once through the peripheral suburbs, the road goes along the coast for Pacific views. The route takes you through Carpinteria, which is set around a beautiful and safe swimming beach, a great spot to take a dip. Santa Barbara is only a short drive from here. The city is loved for its fair weather and spanish architecture.There are many annual events in the city- the 'Fiesta' in August, the French Festival on Bastille Day weekend in July, and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in February being the best ones. If you wish to stay in town, the Sunrise RV Park is right off the highway on S Salinas Street.

 Santa Barbara
by Konrad Summers Flickr Creative Commons

Day 2: Santa Barbara to Monterey

Spread the 4-5 hours of driving out, and take the chance to see some of the amazing views that the Big Sur is known for. Head out along the coast on CA-1. As you turn away from the coast and get on US-101 towards Buelton, you will drive through the Gaviota State Park, popular for swimming, fishing and picnicking. Inland, the highway passes through several towns of the Santa Ynez Valley community- Buelton, Los Olivos, Los Alamos, before arriving in Santa Maria.This city is known for its wine industry, and is also a popular location for filming- Pirates of the Caribbean and other films have scenes set there- so look out for cameras! After San Luis Obispo, which advertises itself on the town website as the happiest town in America, head back towards the coast and make your away along CA-1.

The 'Big Sur' can't be easily defined- it is not a single State Park, although it contains several, and it is more than just the Big Sur River Valley- the definition can be extended to include the entire coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco. However, this section of the CA-1 between San Luis Obispo will take you some of the rocky coastal stretches that are typical of most people's visions of the Big Sur. Along here, the mountains meet the ocean and the road is carved into the cliff in many places. The landscape has attracted many writers and artists, as well as international travelers, so be sure to stop in a few of the small towns and interact with the fascinating locals. Interesting stops along here include Hearst Castle at San Simeon, the Elephant Seal Rookery, Jade Cove at Plaskett where pieces of jade can be found, and the several State Parks that are scattered along the coast. Lime Kilns State Park near Lucia has beautiful redwoods in its rugged terrain, and still houses historic lime kilns in which limestone was reduced to lime. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park features a stunning 80-foot waterfall which drops into the ocean, and further north is the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

 by cjuneau Flickr Creative Commons

by Meg Lessard Flickr Creative Commons

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
by Mike Baird Flickr Creative Commons

Monterey is a coastal city with a lot of history and a lot of diverse marine life! The Monterey Bay Aquarium is among the largest in North America and attracts and educates millions of tourists a year. Just outside, Cannery Row is a main street lined with hotels, restaurants and amusement, named for the novel by John Steinbeck about life in Monterey during the height of the canning industry. The charming city has many other spots to explore, and a handy spot for the night is the RV Park at the County Fair.

 Monterey Bay Aquarium
by Jim G Flickr Creative Commons

Day 3: Monterey to San Francisco

From Monterey to San Francisco is only 2 hours, so take  your time and get to the Aquarium if you didn't have time the day before.Head out of the city on CA-1 and head along the coast to Watsonville. Back from the coast, this city is known for its agriculture. The next city is Santa Cruz, which has an original Spanish settlement dating back to 1791. Watersports are popular here, especially surfing, so stop in at one of the beaches to get in the water or just watch!

Santa Cruz
by Adam Freidin Flickr Creative Commons

After Santa Cruz, go right onto CA-17 and head in to San Francisco. San Fran is known for diversity, hills and eclectic architecture. What to do in the city if you are staying is a whole other topic, but there are plenty of RV Resorts around, like the San Francisco RV Resort which overlooks the coast just out of town.

Find some great USA RV Rental deals here!