Area: 9,826,630 sq km
Population density: 31 per sq km
Capital: Washington DC
Hassle free return to the USA?
It is paramount that you hand in your I-94 Arrival-Departure Card, usually stapled to a page in your passport, when you leave the country. While this might sound like a simple procedure, at many of the Mexican border towns it is unclear just where you should perform this duty. Quite often, you’ll find yourself off American soil, smelling the barbeque chicken and preparing yourself for the entourage of taxi touts, when you realise you are still in possession of this official piece of paper. If in doubt, ask one of the immigration authorities to point you in the right direction. Sometimes handing it in through the wired gate is sufficient to get it into the right hands.
For those of you passing through Canada between
Alaska and Seattle, it may not be necessary to part
with your I-94 card, but to be on the safe side
check all your documents with officials before leaving.
most states have visitor centres near their state boundaries. They hand out very usefull free maps, like:
If you are a member of AAA or any of its affiliates (32 European ones, like ADAC, ANWB etc), you can get all the maps you need for free at any AAA-shop! So don't forget to bring that card.
|drinks||food: local markets; restaurants; and stores|
bread loaf-multi grain
|cheap chinese meal
udon noodles (fresh)
coffee (cafe / bar)
corn on the cob
| california sultanas
|budget city hostel
budget city hotel
|13-25 per dorm bed
40-60 double with ensuite
| (small roll-on)
||from as little as 3.00 per person in a hiker biker site to 25.00 per night for a campsite in a RV park|
|internet||wifi hotspots available|
Bargaining is not really accepted in the purchasing culture unless it is in bulk, or you are asking for a discount for buying certain brands or items.
Tipping is a complex system in the US and it is expected in all service areas. In fact you'll come away from an evening out thinking, my goodness that wasn't so cheap after all. Nowadays, it basically boils down to 15-25% for restaurants; 10-15% for taxis; and a miserable evening if you don't give the bartender a whopping $US1 per drink in each round. If your travelling in a group, the restaurant may even charge a mandatory 18% service charge on the bill before you've even got your order taken.
And the forking out doesn't stop with the tips. You'll also be stung with government taxes as well. All and all estimate a 30-40% of the menu price on top and that's what you'll be paying at the end of the night.
For all of you who like getting out the exact change while in line at the supermarket, in the US its bad luck unless of course you know the exact tax bracket percentage of the item you are purchasing. The prices on the shelf are all not including taxes. You will also pay deposit on all drink cans and bottles: plastic or glass; beer or wine and getting that deposit back is difficult.
It pays to sign up for a Safeway Card (or similar) while in the US. They are free and done on the spot at the cash register. it'll save you 30% and more of your bill if you don't mind choosing their weekly specials.
There are some great budget hotels in the USA – you just have to know where to look. HostelBookers.com has some top low-priced hotels, including in many top cities, choose from cheap Las Vegas hotels and to cheap hotels in San Francisco. They have the best budget accommodation - perfect for city breaks, beach holidays and weekends away. Staying in a cheap, unique hotel is more fun, and you’re likelier to be in the centre of the city rather than when you stay at the huge chain hotels on the edge of town. You’ll also get a more personalised service that’s sure to be friendlier.
HostelBookers.com also specialises in great value hostel dorm beds in the USA. Some of which are super cycle friendly with racks, rental and secure parking. Having the peace of mind of knowing that your bike is safe will ensure you sleep that bit sounder. Many of the hostels also offer free breakfasts, barbecues and drinks, so you’ll save money too.
Wild camping for cyclists is legal but pretty well restricted to remote areas. The rest of the populated areas are fenced off with threatening signage to 'keep out'. But the State Parks make up for that with their fantastic hiker-biker arrangement (see below for more details). For $US3-4 per night you can camp in a designated area and shower in some of the most beautiful environments the US has on offer. The Oregon and Californian coastline would have to be the easiest cycling run you could think of in terms of food and accommodation logistics.
Hiker-biker (hike bike) sites along the westcoast of the USA
Hiker-biker sites are special areas in a campground set aside for people using non motorised forms of transport. In the state of Washington these sites are quite expensive ($12-$14 per person per night, including showers), so it might not be worthwhile staying here. In Oregon and California on the other hand, the sites are $4 and $3 per person respectively and therefore a bargain. Showers are free in Oregon and $0,50 in most campgrounds in California. Here is a list of hiker-biker campgrounds along the Pacific coast of the US (from north to south)
|Washington||orientation (in miles)||more info|
|San Juan County Park (San Juan Island)||16 miles W of Friday Harbor|
|Moran State Park (Orcas Island)||13 miles N of Orcas|
|Washington Park (Fidalgo Island)||1 mile W of Anacortes|
|Deception Pass State Park (Fidalgo Island)||8 miles S of Anacortes||Cranberry Lake Campground|
|Fort Casey State Park (Whidbey Island)||@ Keystone Ferry|
|Fort Worden State Park||3 miles W of Port Townsend|
|Old Fort Townsend State Park||7 miles S of Port Townsend|
Dosewallips State Park
|12 miles S Quilcene|
|Potlatch State Park||4 miles S Hoodsport|
|Lake Sylvia State Park||1 mile W of Montesano|
|Twin Harbors State Park||1 mile S of Westport|
|Lincoln County Park Campground||3 miles W of Port Angeles|
|Bogachiel State Park||5 miles S of Forks|
|Ocean City State Park||3 miles S of Ocean City|
|Grayland Beach State Park||2 miles S of Grayland|
|Cape Disappointment State Park||4 miles SW of Ilwaco|
|Oregon||orientation (in miles)||more info|
|Fort Stevens State Park||11 miles W of Astoria|
|Nehalem Bay State Park||3 miles S of Manzanita|
|Cape Lookout State Park||6 miles S of Netarts|
|Devils Lake State Park||2 miles S of Lincoln City|
|Beverly Beach State Park||8 miles S of Depoe Bay|
|South Beach State Park||2 miles S of Newport|
|Rock Creek Campground (Forest Service)||10 miles S of Yachats|
|Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park||12 miles S of Yachats|
|Jessy M. Honeyman Memorial State Park||2 miles S Glenada|
Umpqua Lighthouse State Park
|2 miles S of Winchester Bay|
|William M. Tugman State Park||7 miles S of Winchester Bay|
|Sunset Bay State Park||3 miles W of Charleston|
|Bullards Beach State Park||2 miles N of Brandon|
|Capo Blanco State Park||6 miles NW of Port Orford|
|Humbug Mountain State Park||8 miles S of Port Orford|
|Harris Beach State Park||1 mile N of Brookings|
|California||orientation (in miles)||more info|
|Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park||11 miles S of Crescent City||Mill Creek Campground|
|Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park||6 miles N of Orick||Elk Prairie Campground|
|Patricks Point State Park||4 miles N of Trinidad|
|Humboldt Redwoods State Park||5 miles N of Myers Flat||Marina Garden Club Grove Campgr.|
|Humboldt Redwoods State Park||4 miles N of Myers Falt||Burlington Campground|
|Benbow Lake State Recreation Area||5 miles S of Garberville|
|Richardson Grove State Park||8 miles D of Garberville|
|Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area||2 miles N of Leggett|
|MacKerricher Beach State Park||2 miles N of Fort Bragg|
|Russian Gulch State Park||2 miles N of Mendocino|
|Van Damme Beach State Park||3 miles S of Mendocino|
|Manchester State Beach||2 miles NW of Manchester|
|Gualala Point Regional Park||2 miles S of Gualala|
|Woodside Campground||8 miles S of Stewarts Point|
|Stillwater Cove State Park||10 miles S of Stewart Point||* $5 per person, showers $1,50|
|Bodega Dunes State Beach||10 miles S of Jenner|
|Samuel P. Taylor State Park||6 miles SE of Olema|
|Half Moon Bay State Beach||4 miles W of Half Moon Bay|
|New Brighton State Beach||8 miles SE of Santa Cruz|
|Sunset State Beach||20 miles SE of Santa Cruz|
|Vets Memorial Park||3 miles SW of Monterey|
|Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park||2 miles S of Big Sur|
|Kirk Creek Campground||4 miles S of Lucia|
|Plaskett Creek Campground||3 miles N of Gorda|
|San Simeon State Beach||5 miles S of San Simeon|
|Morro Bay State Park||6 miles SW of Morro Bay|
|North Beach Campground||5 miles S of Pismo Beach|
|Oceano Campground||7 miles S of Pismo Beach|
|Lake Cachuma County Park||11 miles SE of Solvang|
|Refugio State Beach||9 miles N of Goleta|
|Carpintaria State Beach||1 mile S of Carpintaria|
|Emma Wood State Beach||@ Ventura|
|McGrath State Beach Campground||7 miles S of Ventura|
|Sycamore Cove and Canyon||5 miles S of Port Hueneme|
|Leo Carillo State Beach||10 miles S of Port Hueneme|
|San Clemente State Beach||3 miles S of San Clemente|
|San Onofre State Beachround||@ San Onofre||Bluffs Campground|
|South Carlsbad State Beach Campground||2 miles N of Leucadia|
|San Elijo State Beach||4 miles S of Leucadia|
There is also an array of other camping opportunities and you'll pay anything from 15 dollars to 35 dollars. And for this money you never really know whether it is going to be a primitive pitch in a National Forest or all the mod-cons in a characterless RV Park right next to the busy highway. When planning your cycle route, spend a bit of time online on the National Park Services and National Forest Camping websites for camp spots and available amenities.
Other useful links:
www.nps.gov National Park Services
Forestcamping.com National Forest Camping facilities
Free camping in the States!
Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Washington State Highway
Washington State Highway map
Oregon Coast Bike Route Map
Oregon State Transportation
Californian State Parks
California State Parks camping (pdf)
East Bay regional park district with several good trail maps
The other side of California Death Valley and the eastern Sierra
Las Vegas regional transport commission of Southern Nevada
Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition
Inyo County parks and recreation
Travelworm for cheap accommodation in Las Vegas
BikerCamps.com: a website actually dedicated to motorcycle rallies & camping, but has a decent list of linked campsites throughout USA and Canada too.
Tap water is okay to drink, but it often tastes a bit brackish, so for the water connoisseur, you can buy bottled varieties for reasonable prices in the supermarkets. Otherwise there is plenty of free-flowing rivers and streams to filter and wash yourself from. That is, unless you are heading into desert regions and then you really need to take extra water on board and read up about the area so you know where all the water stops are. Places like Death Valley have well documented information on their website about this.
|Acommodation we used while in the USA (August - November 2008): (prices based on two people sharing)|
|Star system explained: from 0 to ***** where 0 is a total disaster and ***** is luxurious (and out of our price range)|
|City / town:||Name accommodation:||Our experience:||Price:||Stars:|
|29 Palms||29 Palms Resort||big RV park, not for camping really||US$ 20||*|
|Banning||KOA Campground||that much? WiFi||US$ 25||½|
|Bishop||Brown's Town campground||rip-off, poor facilities||US$ 20||½|
|Boulder City||Boulder Beach campground||nice site, shady spots||US$ 10||**|
|Briceburg||Merced River Canyon campsite||great setting, poor facilities||US$ 10||*½|
|Brookings||Harris Beach SP hiker/biker site||great campsite, plenty of space||US$ 8||***|
|Clatskanie||Perkins RV||big open space, free firewood||US$ 20||*½|
|Coos Bay||Sunset Bay SP hiker/biker site||bit of a dump||US$ 8||*|
|Cottonwood Cove||Cottonwood Cove campground||basically very basic||US$ --||*|
|Cougar||Lone Fir Resort||well kept campsite, friendly, WiFi||US$ 15||***|
|Coulee City||Coulee City campground||lacks some tender loving care||US$ 15||**|
|Florence||Honeyman SP hiker/biker site||cute, but cramped||US$ 8||**|
|Fort Ross||Stillwater Cove SP||quiet little campsite||US$ 5||**|
|Furnace Creek||Sunset Campground||camp on concrete, no showers||US$ --||½|
|Keller||Sanpoil campground||beautiful spot, basic facilities||US$ 15||**½|
|Kettle Falls||Kettle Falls SP Campground||great site, good facilities||US$ 10||***½|
|La Grange||Stanislaus Off Highway Park||poor||US$ --||½|
|Lake Elsinore||Lake Elsinore campground||poor state of repairs||US$ 20||½|
|Las Vegas||Binions Hotel and Casino||internet bargain booking, great!||US$ 19||***½|
|Lee Vining||Mono Vista RV||hot shower, recreation room||US$ 20||**½|
|Leggett||Standish-Hickey SP hiker/biker||pretty bare site||US$ 6||*½|
|Lone Pine||Portagee Joe||smelly and barren||US$ 10||½|
|Manzanita||Nehalem Bay SP hiker/biker site||ok site, bit small||US$ 8||**|
|Mendocino||Van Damme SP hiker/biker site||basic, old facilities||US$ 6||*½|
|Netarts||Cape Lookout SP hiker/biker site||scenic spot, right on the beach||US$ 8||***|
|Newport||Beverly Beach SP hiker/biker site||too small for all those cyclists||US$ 8||*|
|Olema||Samuel P. Taylor SP h/b site||watch out for those racoons||US$ 5||**|
|Orick||Elk Prairie SP hiker/biker site||towering trees, elegant elk||US$ 6||***|
|Pahrump||7 Palms RV Park||decent camp, friendly folk, WiFi||US$ 15||**|
|Panamint Springs||Panamint Springs Resort||could do with a clean||US$ 15||*|
|Port Orford||Humbug Mountain SP hiker/biker||good set-up, friendly host||US$ 8||***|
|Steamboat Rock||Steamboat Rock SP campground||great setting, luxury at a price||US$ 19||***½|
|Tracy||Carnegie SVRA campground||out in the sticks and in the dirt||US$ 10||*½|
|Trinidad||Patrick's Point SP hiker/biker site||wonderful, simple, quiet||US$ 6||***½|
|Vantage||Vantage campground||ridiculous prices due to concert||US$ 30||*|
|Warrenton||Fort Stevens SP hiker/biker site||nice little spot||US$ 8||**½|
|Weott||Humboldt Redwoods SP h/b site||bit dark, not too much sun light||US$ 6||**½|
|Wilmont Creek Bay||Wlmont Creek Bay campground||very simple, very quiet||US$ --||*½|
|Yosemite NP||North Pines Backpackers||basic, big bear boxes||US$ 10||*½|
|Yosemite NP||Porcupine Flat campground||basic facilities||US$ --||*½|
|Yoesmite NP||Toulumne Meadows campground||basic facilities, great site||US$ --||**|
Welcome to the United States and the world of food consumerism. In recent years, every type of dietary requirement is and I dare say for fear of discrimination, must be considered. Low fat or calorie light meals are even sold in fast food joints where the idea was once to go and get a fat-fix. Vegetarian options are therefore represented quite well in the restaurant sector, as well and in heavenly proportion in the supermarkets. Not only that but organic and environmentally friendly products line the shelves.
Outside of the larger urban areas, vegans may have a bit more of a problem finding something suitable in the local take-away and cafes, but you can always step across the road to the Safeway, Vons, Walmart or Albertsons, (often you'll have a choice of two) to buy from their infinite range of ready-made meals or snacks. Self catering is easy if you camp throughout the country and little planning is necessary, unless you are heading into remote areas and National Parklands. With an eye for bargains, you can eat well for very little outlay.
Co-operative stores are also well worth taking a peek inside. Their produce is quite often locally grown and produced and selling at very reasonable prices considering the quality. The only frustration you are likely to battle with, is the inability to get things in small sizes. Toilet paper rarely comes in 4-packs anymore, let alone one and condiments and dry goods tend to be expensive in the smaller volumes. Ironically, you can sometimes purchase double quantities of the product you want for exactly the same price.
The main cities have a wide network of vegan/vegetarian and alternative living restaurants and if you are not on a budget, you could eat something different every night. It is expensive to dine out though, especially after you have finished paying all the extra added taxes and service charges. For a full list of veggie restaurants in the USA take a look at the HappyCow website
American Cookery is quite difficult to categorize as it is more a blend of cuisines from across the world and then adapted to the environment and traditions of the land. One thing is for sure, it is not just about hamburgers, pizza and fries. However, from a vegetarians point of view, there is little in the way of traditional cooking that is suitable. Meat plays an important element in soul food, cajun, tex-mex and new-england styles. There are a few adaptations that may be considered worthwhile hunting down and then there is always time for sweet treat.
Why not try these for starters?
Baked Potatoes with
Soul: Corn Fritters, Fried Green Tomatoes, Chowchow
and Home-Style White Gravy.
Steamin' Hot Corn
Cobs and a Hoppin' John Salad
Orleans Pecan Pie with Vanilla Whipped Cream
Tradition holds that the French brought this delicacy to New Orleans: sweet and syrupy roasted pecan nut custard in a flaky pastry is nothing short of gastronomic heaven. Top it off with vanilla spiked cream and a strong espresso and your day will be better than absolute.
If you like blueberry muffins, you're gonna love this old-fashioned single layer cake. Dotted with berries and topped with streusel crumble it is literally like one big delicious muffin. Serve as is or warm with custard.
à la Mode
Outside of the States, the image of American beer goes about as far as Miller and Budweiser. This is so far from the truth, it is amazing that not more is written about the booming boutique beer industry. Bottles with punchy names and groovy labels, and beer with fantasy flavours of unlimited varieties: flying dog - doggie style; arrogant bastard; boont amber; brooklyn black chocolate; goose island honkers ale; left hand milk stout; rogue brutal bitter are just the tip of the icebox. While they might be of excellent quality, they are not cheap.
|Laguna Beach, CA||Rainbow Bicycle Co. **
485 N. Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, California
tel: (949) 494 5806
|Our experience: tiny one-man store; but great service and wheel building skills. More repairs than accessories. (October 2008)|