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Tips for a USA trip

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Hello fellow ... people :)

Long time no see as usual ;\

anyway ...

going with a friend to America soon, and was hoping to get some tips. We're going to sleep in the car we're renting most of it, some hotels i guess and some other places. But I've heard that sleeping in the car is not safe over there? Which I find wierd, since it's totally safe here ? ..

Anyway, any other tips for the trip? only thing we've planned is to visit a Norwegian friend who's also going (she has no idea we're coming too) and that should only take a few days .. So we have like ... 2 weeks of nothing to do ... besides shopping and ... watching American stuff ... Any cool ideas? What is it we HAVE to see?

Hope you can help a bit,


√ėyvind ;)

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Sleeping in your car... in most places, it shouldn't be dangerous but that all depends on where you stay. And you should check local laws first, in many states, it is illegal to sleep in your car outside of designated rest stops. You can get pretty cheap hotels outside of the really popular areas during peak season. Or there's always hostels.

And like Mythos says, it's a pretty darn big place. I personally think the northeast (Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont) and the northwest (Oregon, Washington) are beautiful - especially in the Fall. Some popular locations... Washington D.C., Times Square in New York, Las Vegas, New Orleans (or what's left of it?), Florida Keys, the Alamo, San Francisco/California, Mount Rushmore. Obviously you can't expect to see a whole lot of the country in two weeks.

Edited by HG-Alex

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Landing at Newark airport in New York (New Jersey?).. Going to ... Grand Forks. I think it's what it's called. And from there, we have no idea. Googlemaps said it should take about 24 hours to drive from Newark to Grand Forks, so after that it's pretty much ... whatever :)

Hmm, ok. Illegal. Have a huge fear of ending up in jail somehow... Just seen what they look like in movies and all, and I know that's not reality, but still ...

Thanks for the tips guys. If anyone else has a tip, feel free to share =)

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Newark is in New Jersey, right across from New York City. :) So what I would do is visit New York City for a while - see Ground Zero, Battery Park, Liberty Island (Statue of Liberty), New York Stock Exchange (which is situated like a temple squeezed into a canyon - you'll see what I mean), Mid-Town Manhattan (Times Square, Empire State Building, Central Park, Central Park Zoo). Make use of taxi cabs and a lot of walking. New York City is actually now one of our safest big cities.

Don't get a rental car until you get back out of the city - take a cab from Newark into NYC, then get a rental car after you're done in NYC. A rental car for this trip will be hella expensive. Just a warning. And there's no way to make this trip unless you want to take buses cross-country (which will take a crapload more planning) or by hitch hiking (which I wouldn't recommend, but I am a @#$%). Lucky for you, the exchange rates between the Euro and USD are very favorable to you.

Before heading to Grand Forks, North Dakota (really? wtf? why North Dakota? Family?), I would see a little of the East. To save time you're gonna have to skip New England. Head Southwest and hit up Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. You can see the Liberty Bell and run up the steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art like in Rocky!

Next head West a bit and try the Pocono Mountains (I visited there on vacation as a child - beautiful). Stop in Gettysburg and walk on the grounds of the largest battle ever in the Western hemisphere (to my knowledge 150,000 combatants). Nice scenery and history.

Head Southeast from there and you hit Washington DC. You can see The White House, The U.S. Capitol, and Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I have a Dream" speech, maybe even the JFK and Vietnam Memorials. Make sure to see the Smithsonian Institute and its associated museums on the National Mall!

So, well, since you only have a grand total of two weeks in the country, you need to start heading West. Sorry, no Charleston, Florida, or Myrtle Beach. :( Alright, the road West out of Washington DC/Northern Virginia will be a half-day slog. Because there is no straight-shot interstate highway across West Virginia you'll have to change highways a few times. Just stick to your maps and watch for signs. ;) while you're here it would be good to go ahead and pick up a Rand McNally road atlas of the country. It'll be an invaluable resource for you and I think some editions mark the rest-stops and some hotels.

About every 50 miles or so on our major interstate highways we have "rest stops" or "rest areas." They usually look something like this:


with a huge car park (parking lot) in front of them with spaces for cars and semi-trucks. There will be signs informing you of an upcoming rest stop at least a mile in advance. Rest stops have toilet facilities, pay phones, vending machines for snacks, and maps (most have a HUGE wall map of that state with an 'X' "You are here" on it). You will not find rest stops in or around cities, you'll find them between cities. Some cities, like Chicago, have what are called "Oases" (singular: Oasis), which are basically a rest-stop, but commercialized. It is perfectly legal to sleep in your car at a rest stop, in fact you are encouraged to do so as we don't want sleepy drivers on the roads. Google Maps might indicate where rest stops are located, I'm not sure. Google Earth might as well. If you want to sleep in your car, a rest stop is the best bet, so plan accordingly. There are also 10s of thousands of budget hotels and motels throughout the country.

Driving West out of Washington DC/Northern Virginia you'll make use of rest-stops frequently. Depending on how much time you have left (a week or more?) you can go a slightly southerly route and visit Nashville Tennessee (there are a lot of sights to see, including a full scale replica of the PARTHENON). A more northerly route will put you into Southern Ohio. Here you can stop and spend a day at KING'S ISLAND amusement park a little North of Cincinnati. This is a great fun place, with roller coasters and other rides. I've visited there many times in my youth, but it is expensive.

At any rate, you'll need to keep heading Northwest. Go into Indiana. You can stop in downtown Indianapolis and visit the Indianapolis Zoo, walk around downtown and check out the Circle Center Mall. From here you can head straight to Chicago or you can head North to Fort Wayne and hang out with me for a day and I'll let you spend the night at my family's house. You'll have to sleep on the floor. ;) If you're over 21 I can take you out to our clubs and bars, or if not over 21 you can see our Fort Wayne Zoo, which is one of the best in the U.S. PM me if you are interested. :P

So, you're now in Chicago. I'd definitely stop either at the Chicago Field Museum (dinosaur skeletons, etc.) or the Museum of Science and Industry. You can see the Sears Tower in Chicago too. It's the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Like in New York City, traffic here in Chicago will be INSANE. haha. But if you're like me, you'll look at traffic like a fun challenge. Just follow the signs and you'll be fine. Interstate-90 takes you straight into downtown and then right back out again in the direction towards your final destination, so that's cool.

So, now you're heading out of Chicago in a Northwest direction. Now you've entered the not very exciting leg of the journey. The big towns/cities you'll hit in the way are (in order) Rockford (say hi to my son for me), then Madison (a nice college town, but not much else there), then Minneapolis/St. Paul. While in Minneapolis, make sure to check out the MALL OF AMERICA - the largest indoor mall in the world (I think). I've never been there, but I hear it's huge. That's pretty much the only "tourist" spot I can think of between Chicago and Grand Forks, ND.

Truckin' up Interstate-94 you'll hit Fargo (made famous by the movie of the same name). Turn North on Interstate-29 and you'll hit Grand Forks and your final destination. The drive on these highways should be pretty flat and boring. Make good use of rest-stops on this leg of the journey.

A fun little game to play when driving cross-country is to call out when you see a license plate from a different state. The passenger can write them down on a pad of paper and when you either get to 48 (48 contiguous states, Alaska and Hawaii are bonus and count as double) or when you get bored of the game you can count them up and see who spotted the most. ;) This is fun to play for an hour or so, maybe once or twice during your trip.

Don't worry about "getting shot" or "robbed." These events happen less frequently than the media would have you believe. Americans, especially fellow travelers, are generally pretty friendly. Just don't take it personally if someone is rude. Americans in the heartland get tickled pink when a tourist takes the time to visit our little slice of heaven (heh). I think this trip you'll have seen about 1/4 of the U.S. You'll need 3 or 4 more trips to see the rest of it. ;)

What I would do when renting a car is find a rental place near the airport that also has a branch in Grand Forks. That way you can rent the car in Newark and "drop it off" at the branch in Grand Forks. This is tricky because you haven't said where from you are leaving the country? You could leave from Chicago/O'Hare airport. If that's the case, then you are more likely to find a rental car place that has branches at both Newark airport and at Chicago/O'Hare.

I spent an hour typing this out for you. Hope it helps!!! :D

PS: Things to pick up when you are here and some extra tidbits...

- Rand McNally Road Atlas. You can find these at just about EVERY gas (petrol) station. This will be handy whenever your Google Maps fail you.

- Stop at a Wal-Mart and buy most of your food there instead of eating out at restaurants all the time. This will save you a lot of money. Wal-Marts are everywhere and Google should help you locate one. If you buy a Rand McNally Road Atlas at Wal-Mart it'll have the locations of all Wal-Marts in the U.S. in it too. lol. Wal-Marts are HUGE and have a very large selection of food to choose from, including fresh fruits and vegetables, but of course also prepackaged crap that'll make you fat. Thing is - it's up to you what food you buy. ;)

- Pick up a First-Aid kit at Wal-Mart or the Gas Station. I'm not saying you're going to get shot or anything, but if you fall and scrape your leg or something minor like that why waste time at a clinic when you can patch yourself up easy peasy? It doesn't hurt to be prepared. :) It'll give you piece of mind.

- other stuff I'll put here if I can think of anything.

Edited by Mythos_Ruler

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Excellent advice! ^

While in Minneapolis, make sure to check out the MALL OF AMERICA - the largest indoor mall in the world (I think).

I *believe* there's a larger mall in Canada and a good amount spread throughout Asia. But all the same, it's a lovely mall with an aquarium, theme park, movie theatre, lego center, etc. :)

And if you're driving through the DC area, always keep some change on you. There's a lot of toll booths around here.

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Yeah, like the Sears Tower, I think it opened as the largest indoor mall in the world, but was quickly eclipsed. And Alex is absolutely right - both DC and Chicago will require some loose change for tolls. You can pay in cash for the first toll then use the change for subsequent tolls.

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Thank A L O T for the info. No doubt I'm printing this out to go!:)

Actually we have some friends in North Dakota so we're probably gonna visit them for a while :=)

And yeah, the rentalcar was expensive. Since we were both under 24, we have to pay a lot more. I get it, but still it's kind a unfair. ;) For instance, my friend who is drives for a living, like 7-8-9 hours a day, probably knows more about driving than many 24 year old people, if not 30 year old people... :P

Loved the picture btw ;) And had a good laugh reading! Love it! :)

Thanks for a lot of help! I won't forget it! ;)

Love! ;)

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Well, I guess I should try as hard as I can to tell you people who might be interested what happened "over there" :ok:

First of all, sorry Mythos, didn't drive near you. When we were heading that direction there was a huge storm southeast so we turned north.

Anyways, lets begin! This would probably be a quick (as possible) story of our trip. And how we viewed America!

We arrived at Newark Airport. The border guy behind the desk was very very rude, so not a great start.

However, when we got to the rentalcar office, the african-american behind the desk was just awesome. She was helpful, funny and sarcastic. We loved it. Made our day! Big cheers to her! :D

So we drove off, heading east. To Pittsburg if i recall, where we booked our first night.

Went in different directions for a while untill we figured out the signing system (which btw, as soon as you get it, is much much better than anywhere else I've been).

On the way to pittsburg we ate at (of course) Mc.Donalds. Tastes better than Norwegian McDonalds food!

I fell asleep shortly after and woke up as we were walking in to the hotel. Pretty bad hotell actually.

The next morning I ate minidonuts for breakfast (baaad idea) and we went GPS searching.

After about 2 hours driving back and forth we finally located Best Buy.

Here we bought CD's and GPS. And headed for Grand Forks.

I drove some of the time and when it got dark my friend took over. We drove all night and arrived in GF at about 6 in the morning.

Having NO IDEA what we were supposed to do, or where to eat. McDonalds became the obvious choice.

After a day trying to contact our friends, we decided to check out some bars. My friend was driving and I was drinking.

After a day of alcohol we met up with Stephanie who were friends with our friends little sister. So she took us to surprise our Norweigan friend.

It was good times. Hugging, laughing and all the normal stuff

So we went to some parties, and an awesome time and woke up the next morning with INSANE headache.

So the following day my friend hung out with our Norwegian friend and her American friends, and I slept all day.

Next morning we went downwards and drove all day and all night untill we reached a very small American "Oasis" or something. About 30 minutes outside Las Vegas. It was 117 (If a recall, i remember it was 47 C) F and insane. It was so hot. Never ever experienced anything close.

So at night we drove to Las Vegas, just to look around and it was fun!

Next day we drove to LA. Here we spent 3 days.

no bars! Went to Universial Studios street thing and bought a lot of stuff and saw some movies and had a great time. Funny thing with the shrimp restaurant. And tasted the worst beer EVER.

So spent a day there, and spent a day at Venice beach i believe.

Was very shocking to come to LA, was not as we had imagined. Not very fun there, and not friendly people at all. Only one friendly there were other tourists.


Was going to drive to Miami and back up to NY, but a huge storm hit Miami and was going to keep staying there for a while so we drove the same way back.

Went to Yellowstone National Park. WAS AWESOME. Saw Grizzlybears.

And checked in to a random hotel in the middle of nowhere. With no plans we thought we'd check out the local pub. So we went there, played some pool untill some guys told us that "this was their table"... After some talking (and they screaming) we suddendly joined them celebrating someones birthday.

Had a great time untill my friend had to urinate and some random big guy told him to get the ***** out or else he would kick both of our asses. Hating people who say stuff like that, we stayed with our new celebrating friends and had a great time with them :)

So no fighting for those of you who wanted that ...

Went back to Grand Forks after that, but all our friends had gone to Minneapolis.

So we stayed in GF for two days... with nothing to do ... :P Had awesome lunch at Dennys however. Finally found a place to eat breakfast (Mcdonalds breakfast : Awful!)

Then we went to Minneapolis (drive by) and ate at the Hard Rock Cafe and almost got mugged by a black dude which was very scary!

Drove a LONG TIME though Chicago again and for some reason... to Canada. So we drove through Canada and up to Niagara Falls. Which everyone in the world should see. Was amazing.

Then we headed back to New york and stayed there for the rest of the trip (3 days).

Was by far top 2 cities EVER. It was fun, no bad experiences and just... plain awesome. Amazing. Can't say enough about how great New York was. And the pizza: Simply great. Never tasted anything like it. And probably never will (n)

SO, went home. Got yelled at by the rental dude for not throwing garbage (we cleaned the car and put it in 2 bags which we thought they wouldn't mind doing for us) ... fun! :P

Went home !

SO, thats the trip. Here are some quick opinions:

Americans are mostly very nice. They are polite and helpful. Also very kind.

American hotels are very cheap compared to Norwegian.

American roads are crazy and awesome.

Americans are very different from what I've heard. They are not all fat and crazy, but instead cute and nice.

I felt that the laws are wierd. All signs have letters. Not symbols. Thats wierd. And I read you get 15 years minimum if you by accident kill or injure a roadworker? WHAT? What if he throws himself in front of the car?? I was very stressed out.

Tolls are wierd. We didnt get the system. So we had to pay like 20 bucks every time for not having a ticket! ?!?

A very open people. In Norway, no one EVER speaks to you unless they know you. For some reason, we kept getting talked to by random strangers. It was fantastic. I love the openess and the hospitality you people show.


had an awesome trip. Could really see myself going back soon. Amazing country. Amazing people.

And btw, tip to all you Americans: Be nice to tourists. Not only do they come to experience your country and it's people, they leave a great deal of cash behind for you to enjoy.


If anyone wants to see photoes, just say so. I have a bunch on facebook. Easier than uploading or whatever.

Hope SOMEONE (:P) will find this interesting. And hope someone will read at least half of it :P

Thanks! And thank you Mythos for all great advice!

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Glad you had a nice road trip, ZeZar.

I felt that the laws are wierd. All signs have letters. Not symbols. Thats wierd.

The only reason Europeans have symbols on their signs is because they want them to be readable even for foreigners. In Israel, signs are trilingual (Hebrew-Arabic-English) but translating each sign to the 15+ official languages of the EU is impractical.

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Great to hear about your trip (and no, it wasn't too long :) )

I doubt that's the only reason Aviv, while it probably is part of the reason I think (though I don't know for sure) that it's more due to symbols being easier/faster to understand than pieces of text (once one knows what they mean of course :ok: ).

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Hard Rock Cafe

It was nice of to eat like a local and dig into America's healthy delicacies. :)

And I read you get 15 years minimum if you by accident kill or injure a roadworker? WHAT? What if he throws himself in front of the car?? I was very stressed out.

Hmm, this isn't really the case. Pedestrians do have the right-of-way but it can still be their fault if you hit them. For road workers, you should always slow down for construction zones but they should be far enough away and there should be enough warning cones that you don't have anything to worry about.

There was a case not long ago when a football player was driving/speeding drunk and hit, and killed, a person and got off scot-free (except for a short suspension from football) simply because the person was jaywalking.

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Tolls are wierd. We didnt get the system. So we had to pay like 20 bucks every time for not having a ticket! ?!?
And btw, tip to all you Americans: Be nice to tourists. Not only do they come to experience your country and it's people, they leave a great deal of cash behind for you to enjoy.
Be nice to tourists, but make sure you don't explain the toll system to them :)

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Haha, that could work in your favour :)

@Alex: We ate some other places too (n)

We actually ate the best hamburger I have ever tasted somewhere a long the road ... about an hour before Chicago I believe.

AND we ate the worst pancakes and egg and toast at some random "motel and restaurant" place, an hour from the Canadian border... was awful! But looking at the place, we should have known! :ok:

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