First time in the U.S. - Asking for your opinions

Discussion in 'Americas' started by BGil, Jul 12, 2018.

  1. BGil

    BGil Been here awhile

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    From the 4th of August to the 28th of September, I will come for the first time in North America: first the Western US then Northern Mexico. The trip will start and end in Los Angeles (plane tickets already bought).

    I'm more interested in the national parks and monuments, wilderness, forests etc. than in the cities. I plan to camp most of the time, take advantage of the Camp Space thread from times to times, and go to an hotel when neither is possible.

    The bike is a DRZ400-S.

    Could you have a look at my planned route below and give me your opinion:
    Am I missing something nice, is one of these places overrated or best to avoid at this time of the year (because of the heat or the herds of tourists)?
    For instance, is the Route 50 and Bonneville salt flats worth missing the coast of North California and Oregon? Should I leave Mexico for another trip and instead ride North to Canada.

    The map is only here to give an overview of the route. I didn't chose those specific roads, I just entered the places I want to see and ticked "avoid highways" in the options of the route generator.

    [​IMG]

    Start in Los Angeles
    Sequoia N.P.
    Yosemite N.P.
    Colfax, CA
    Lake Tahoe
    Route 50 (Loneliest Highway), NV
    Bonneville Salt Flats
    Craters of the Moon N.M.
    Grand Teton N.P.
    Yellowstone N.P.
    Devils Tower
    Badlands N.P.
    (Maybe Wind Cave)
    Chimney Rock
    Arches N.P.
    Canyonlands N.P.
    Mesa Verde
    Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods
    Bryce canyon
    Zion N.P.
    Grand Canyon north rim
    Meteor crater
    Petrified forest
    White Sands
    Chiricahua N.P.
    Tombstone
    Crossing into Mexico at Agua Prieta or Nogales

    That's around 10 000 km or 6 000 miles, 30 to 40 days.

    That leaves from 15 to 25 days for Mexico and back to L.A.
    If I have enough time, I'd like to go South to visit Teotihuacan before going back North to take the ferry to Baja. If I don't, I will simply go to Chihuahua, Copper Canyon, take the ferry at Los Mochis then Baja.

    Thank you.
    #1
  2. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    You'll get plenty of opinions, soon enough. I love Mexico and the riding is great along with the culture but it's best done in our USA wintertime! The Copper Canyon needs to be done when winters not a factor but otherwise go another time and do it right.

    The rest of the trip- I'd leave off the AZ/NM part, for now, and do the elevated parts of CA and whatever else on the west coast that appeals to you then enjoy the Rockies as thats a best weather time to see the Aspens & cottonwoods turn to gold, plus temps are moderated, but will be chilly by late Sept. so might turn back to CA last part of month for some Mediterranean weather. I'd do mid and N CA then OR & WA then ID, MT, WY, UT and CO and NV then back to CA for the ending.
    Different strokes as they say-I tell this story often- I was once hiking in the Tetons in WY and around us was one of the most beautiful spots on earth for me. I asked a guy, a Euro tourist nearby, as I rested on the trail, what had been his favorite part of the trip so far and he said, "the badlands of SD". I'm not calling him out but have been to the badlands and I trade them all for one little piece of where I was sitting at that moment. I'd leave Nebraska & SD off my trip and do W WY, not eastern! You'll see enough cowboys other places. Just like in Europe, unless one WALKS! you'll miss much of whats actually there. Mother Nature doesn't decide to put all the good stuff beside the roadways for riders and truck drivers, nor are roads built to catch the good stuff. I get it that times limited for such a large area and a tour needs to happen but honestly you could spend that whole time in one state and not see many things.
    If I can emphasize one more time-Leave Mexico for a done right tour and turn N from LA, CA.
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  3. Daleah

    Daleah Been here awhile

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    I agree with Kantuckid. I would skip the badlands. I would rather ride in Idaho and Montana. the Badlands and Black hills are pretty cool, but they are pretty far away from the rest of your trip, so you could lose a day getting there and then getting to your next location. However, if you want to ride through a herd of bison, this is the place to do it!

    Check out: Glacier NP, Beartooth Highway, Saint Joseph scenic byway in Idaho. One of my favorite rides ever was when we started in St. Regis, Montana and ended up in St. Maries Idaho. We were on a schedule, so we couldn't explore, but there are a lot of interesting roads in northern Montanta and Idaho.

    My bucket list also includes Mount Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, and the Olympic peninsula, but you need to prioritize. you have a lot of time to do what you want, but you will run out of time before you run out of roads!!

    Good luck and keep us posted.
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  4. stormdog

    stormdog Long timer

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    Is there any way to move your time from August 4th to the first week of September for a start time?
    Temperatures drop and the crowds go home once the children start school.
    Giving you more flexibility with accommodations
    Also that puts you in Old Mexico in October which works a lot better heat wise.
    #4
  5. BGil

    BGil Been here awhile

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    Thanks for your advices.

    Stormdog, unfortunately it's too late to change the date of my trip.

    I guess I will go South directly after Yellowstone then, and forget about visiting South Dakota and Nebraska.
    I will also keep going North after Lake Tahoe. I wanted to see Crater Lake
    That will save me almost a thousand miles. I can use that time to explore the Rockies.

    There are so many places to see in the world, I don't know when I will come back in North America. So I don't want to miss Arizona.
    We will see, maybe the heat will keep me in the North!
    #5
  6. oldmanb777

    oldmanb777 Just say NO to socialism!

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    Looks like a nice trip. Already some good insight, so guess I will add mine. I have a DRZ400s as one of my bikes. great bike. However wrong tool for the job. Yes it can be done, and has been, but why. Its so much more dirt bike oriented than street. And the vast majority of your riding will be on pavement, some on nice gravel roads. Here in the U.S. especially the western half of the country, even secondary roads could and will be many miles of fairly highspeed tarmac. One of the consistent comments I hear from riders from Europe is "We weren't ready for all the high speeds and traffic". Even when avoiding the interstates. Spending a day at 75 mph across the desert in 100F heat with a loaded dirt bike will make for a long day. While lots of bikes would make that more comfortable and still be good on back roads and dirt back country roads. Distances here can be very long.
    You have nice mountains, so do we, they are however very different and worth seeing the differences. Even between the Sierras and Cascades and Rockies, vast differences. The low lands will be hot and dry. Higher altitudes will be cooler, and could be cold at night. Temperature variations will be huge. Have a great time, you certainly will. Post up when you are going to be in certain areas, you just might get a guide for a day or two.
    #6
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  7. phoenixdoglover

    phoenixdoglover Where to next?

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    I agree with the idea of cutting out the South Dakota (northern plains) part of the trip. Trade that for going further north. In addition, at the end of your trip, I would avoid southern Arizona low altitudes until the very end when you have to return to LA.

    At the beginning of your trip, I would recommend heading more north (It's August, head for cooler air, and avoid that long hot crossing of Nevada)
    The main objectives being
    - A few stretches of California coast (but I would alternate with some stretches inland as well
    - Redwoods of northern California
    - Crater Lake in Oregon
    - Northeast to Idaho/Montana. (from Crater Lake, to Bend, Oregon, to Baker City Oregon, then via the Snake River and Salmon River canyons to Kooskia Idaho, and Rt 12 to Missoula Montana)
    - From there, it's easy to head south to Yellowstone park, etc.

    Looking at Arizona in particular, and coming from Southern Utah (Bryce and Zion Parks are great), the order of places to visit could be:
    - Northern Rim Grand Canyon
    - Flagstaff
    - Rim country from Flagstaff, to Payson, to Alpine
    - Rt 191 south from Alpine to Safford (the primo windy road in Arizona)
    - Continue on 191 south, and then southwest to Sonoita and Patagonia
    - North to Tucson


    Enjoy!
    #7
  8. boatpuller

    boatpuller Long timer

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    Welcome to America! I hope your trip is everything you want it to be, and that you leave thinking Americans are the nicest people you've met. That's our goal anyway. And Sept is a beautiful month most parts of USA and Canada. You've picked a good time.

    On much of your map, looks like you are seeking desert areas especially. If so, then the following may not be for you, as it's mountain and vista oriented.

    Due to the time of year, I'd suggest working your way north through CA, OR, and WA after seeing Lake Tahoe. Try to get to the coast and ride 101 most the way. It will be cooler than the Aug heat in the middle of the state, or in NV's desert. Go on to BC Canada, either Whistler or Frazier Canyon (more desert-like) and work your way east to Jasper, and then down to Banff. The Canadian Rockies are possibly the prettiest sight in North America, and BC's mountains may be #2. Continue working your way south into USA's Glacier National Park and the Going To The Sun road. Then down to Yellow Stone and Bear Tooth Pass and Chief Joseph Hwy, Cody WY, Grand Tetons, etc. Cut out Bad Lands (as Utah's parks are similar and much better) and make sure to spend a lot more time in CO, a lot more. Then Utah, northern AZ, The desert of southern NV, and Death Valley, before heading back to LA, CA. Leave southern AZ and NM for a Mexican trip later.

    I agree the 400 is not the bike for this trip; while it's doable, I can't think of any Americans that would want to use it for such a trip. It might be the bike for Mexico and central America though. I'd strongly suggest you talk with Tucker's here on ADV, about getting a better motorcycle for this trip. They specialize in helping foreign motorcyclists, though time is tight. He might have a line on one already. V Strom 650s seem to be popular affordable choices for this trip if you like that type of bike. Maybe you can work out a buy and then sell back arrangement, but I'm not speaking for him or committing him to anything. Regardless, give him a call.
    #8
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  9. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z I'm serious.

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    My favorite National Parks, of the 20 or so which I've visited are Crater Lake, Glacier, and Big Bend.

    Crater Lake is not a big park, and you can spend a day or two there and see a good chunk of it. I was awestruck when I was there.

    Glacier has miles and miles of hiking. Big Bend is known for it's different types of geography. There's low desert, high mountains. Again, good hiking, but that time of year will be HOT!

    Mesa Verde is almost on my list of top National Parks, too. Get there early and sign up for every tour you can fit in (I think there are three, but if you don't start early, you can't do them all in one day). Also make sure to ride the Million Dollar highway between Durango and Silverton. Both are very cool towns. Silverton has the old west feel that you're looking for, as long as you're there when the train (and all its tourists) are not in town.

    Tombstone is a touristy, Disney-style town. I stayed there about two hours before I decided it wasn't my thing. Bunch of actors dressed up as cowboys, and everybody trying to sell you something. No loss if you skip it, in my view.

    I live just outside Denver, and I came here for a reason. The mountains and climate are amazing year-round. It might be 35°C in Denver, but go an hour west into the mountains and it's 25°C (or 5°C if you're not careful).

    And if you like beer, and I know you do because you're from Belgium, Colorado has hundreds of craft brewers to try.

    Jamie
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  10. BGil

    BGil Been here awhile

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    Thanks, I take note of these 2 routes. That's what I'm looking for.

    Boatpuller, I got that bike through James Tucker. As I said in the first post, I wanted to do Mexico, especially Baja too, but you guys keep pulling me to the North :lol3 !

    Oldman, I'd rather skip many of the places on that map just so I have time to travel on gravel roads, where this bike would be at its place. Don't hesitate to recommand some of them!
    Unpaved roads are forbidden to motorised vehicles almost everywhere in Belgium and that's someting I really enjoy to do when I travel. That's why I was happy with Tucker's suggestion of a DRZ400. I just need to use it well.
    Also, I remember the saying: "It's better to ride fast on a slow bike than slow on a fast bike", or something like that.
    But you're right of course. I will try to adapt my route to suit the bike. I will make it shorter for instance, possibly by leaving out Mexico.

    Contevita, I have a little experience on riding in a desert, not much, but enough to know that I need to bring plenty of water and prepare for the worst.

    Jamie, Tombstone is on my map only because it's close to Chiricahua. I will cross it off my list without regret.
    I'm glad to hear that Crater lake is so beautiful. I will take a day or 2 to enjoy it then.
    Big Bend is a thing I didn't think about. Thanks for the tip.
    By the way, do you think that 80$/day is a reasonnable expectation considering that I will be camping at least half the time and eat for cheap (including fuel)?
    #10
  11. squr3l

    squr3l Been here awhile

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    Looks like an awesome trip. I’m hoping to hit some of those same places up by Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming before heading south later this year.

    Since you’re going for a lot of off-road, take a look at the newly released California BDR that would replace plenty of pavement, though the Eastern Sierras are a great ride too. Also the Oregon BDR is perfect for the DRZ if you want to head up towards Crater Lake. That’s only a day or 2 into Oregon along dirt.

    I’m in LA if you need any extra help, though it sounds like you have some contacts here already. Have a blast!
    #11
  12. phoenixdoglover

    phoenixdoglover Where to next?

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    Gasoline: USD $3.50 to $4.00 per gallon (USD $25 per day?)
    Campsites: On National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands (dispersed camping away from developed areas) free with no water/bathrooms etc. At commercial campgrounds with water/ bathrooms/shower/maybe laundry $30 per night. So maybe an average of $10-$15 per night assuming you want a shower every few days.
    Food: Prices are probably what you expect. Fast food meal $10 or less. If you're the camping type, probably fix your own breakfasts. Daily budget $25 to $40 on the cheap.

    So your $80 per day looks OK, assuming no Hotel stays. Me, I would go for a hotel every 5 to 7 days. 2 star basic places are $50-$60 per night away from the cities.

    Edit: also, if you throw yourself on the kindness of ADV strangers, I'm sure there are people who will put you up for a night or two...you could probably do that every few days if you really worked at it. But the most beneficial places for that are near the National Parks where the close by camping site availability gets pretty thin during the high season.
    #12
  13. phoenixdoglover

    phoenixdoglover Where to next?

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    I'm doing some trip planning myself. So your mention of the Chiricahuas and dirt riding reminded me to map out a partial route. I have taken all of this at various times.

    Assuming you are coming south from Alpine, AZ. The objective is Onion saddle and Rustlers Park in the CHiricahuas, and then on to Sonoita and Patagonia (The AZ "wine country", no kidding)

    Map from Furkot. Red sections are dirt.
    [​IMG]
    #13
  14. BGil

    BGil Been here awhile

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    That's great! The BDR will make a wonderful experience. I will try to find these maps.
    But I can't find the California map. Is it already released?

    Phoenixdoglover, I want to use the Tent Space thread. It's a bit difficult to plan when I don't know yet wich road I will take, or how fast I will travel and I prefer to avoid last minute requests.
    Beside Chiricahua, any nice things to see in the area?
    #14
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  15. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    For some understanding on USA gravel roads- there are many thousands of miles of gravel, public roads, especially in the midwest and western areas. I lived on them in my native Kansas. Many residents use them for hours before they get to pavement. Private roads that feed into farms and ranches will be clearly marked, unless they've granted something like public access to fishing, which is seen but not usually the case out west.
    Quite unpaved roads near me in KY,etc., too. Our dirt, non-gravel roads are usually national forest and vary as gated, no access or maybe will be open-it varies a lot. The trick is not if they exist but which ones go somewhere you want to be as many are simply roads not scenic in fact.
    Gasoline is not usually found on non-paved roads!
    Camping in the west you can find showers in some mtn towns- I've used the ones found at laundromats in the western towns where lots of outside workers are found. Large truck stops in the USA all have showers and a great way to combine camping spots that are cheap and secluded in the forested areas with some comfort and extend your money to periodic brew stops. Motels in the mtns are more expensive if tourist are there nearby. Only off the beaten path will motels be cheaper for most part. Bookings.com will get you discounted lodiging if you do plan for some planned "luxury stops"?
    Jamie Z lists Big Bend as one of his favorite parks. My wife and I spent a week there and while it's unique and scenic-it's far from my fave place in the western USA-just pointing out the difference in peoples "rathers" as we call them here.
    If you go to Mexico on a later trip you'll find that much of that country has mountains (do they have mountains!!!- the riding is spectacular there) not so much different than Big Bend-but that's just my opinion.
    I'll say it again, I'd save Mexico for a dedicated trip rather than spread yourself thin or visit what I'll call the (to be kind here) the lesser interest areas of Mexico and not see whats beyond those border areas.
    I don't disagree with the AZ comments at all! Tombstone is not worth a visit. We've done S AZ a bunch in springtime visits and places like the desert NP and Kartchner Caverns SP are far more interesting. Some of the old mining towns are neat places but also touristy in fact. We stay at a County park on Lake Pleasant outside Surprise, AZ as it's nice and not so far from our baseball interests-KC Royals. Given we live very rural camping is typically far more crowded than when we just stay home. Thus being in proximity to Phoenix is a treat for eating out and lots to choose from. My point is each of us must pick our parties!, meaning what will you seek? If it's desert most of AZ will be great for your trip. Even the forested parts will be drier than the other parts of the rockies.
    In my opinion, if I had to nail down one part of Colorado that's my favorite, I'd agree with the San Juan's as mentioned above. That's said after a lifetime of going to Colorado. That said I've done many trips to Rocky Mtn NP and last two backpacking trips were there.
    Olympic NP is very similar to parts of the Alps that I've visited.
    Given your beginning point the Redwoods and Pacific coast are not to be missed. The neatest state park I've ever been in is found there. It's arguably as neat as the actual national park in the same area! My point is that very special scenery can be found not only in what are adesignated national parks.
    The larger challenge of this trip is no taking on too much and really seeing what you pass through.
    #15
  16. phoenixdoglover

    phoenixdoglover Where to next?

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    In answer to your question about places in southern AZ. Here's what I consider to be worth visiting:
    - Alpine and the road south, Rt 191
    - The Chiricahua mountains, especially the approach from the east side and the high country
    - Sonoita - the wineries and the rolling hills, not dramatic, just a peaceful countryside
    - In Tucson, the Pima Air and Space Museum (if you like airplanes, this place is great)
    - West of Tucson, Saguaro National Park (even outside the park, at the right elevation, thousands of Saguaro cactus)
    - An interesting dirt ride could be, just northeast of Tucson, up Mt. Lemmon on pavement, down the old county road (dirt) on the north side. I did this in an SUV and it had some "pucker factor". If you were going Tucson to Phoenix, this would be the slow and exciting way to start that.

    Also, if you are in the Phoenix area:
    - In August or September, it is consistently hot, but with the possibility of dramatic afternoon or evening thunderstorms, or dust storms
    - The Apache Trail, east of Phoenix, is an excellent ride, especially early morning. It is pavement to just past Tortilla Flat (food/drink/no gas), then turns to dirt for the remainder to Roosevelt Lake. A good ride. Too many cars after about 9am on weekends.
    - A loop out of Phoenix: From Tempe/Mesa area, take Rt 87 north toward Payson about 25 miles; right on 4 Peaks Road (dirt) to Cline Cabin Road; becomes forest road 143, then FR 401, over Four Peaks Summit, becomes Pigeon Spring/El Oso Rd (all this is dirt). At Rt 188, go right down to Roosevelt Lake, the Dam, and follow Apache Trail (Rt 88) back to the city. Sounds complicated, but the dirt roads all link together nicely. Last time on the Four Peaks ride, I almost ran over a rattlesnake, and then scared a tarantula on the road.
    #16
  17. boatpuller

    boatpuller Long timer

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    On your 400 (that you bought from Tuckers - that's funny) with preference for dirt and gravel, I'd suggest checking out the Idaho BDR. While I've not gotten to ride it myself, the reports and pictures from those who have are very impressive. Once again, I'm drawn to mountains, and maybe you are not.

    There are real working ranches and cowboys/girls in the west, especially WY, MT, and Alberta Canada. Many graze their cattle on public lands, and do real round ups when needing to move them. I had to share the Chief Joseph Hwy east of Yellowstone with cowboys and cowgirls on horses, herding dogs, and a lot of cows while they were being rounded up. They were trying to keep the cows to one lane, honestly. And this is just considered normal out there, but it's not that frequent.

    Another thought: The Continental Divide Trail, which runs from Canada through MT, WY, CO, NM, and is mostly unpaved.

    August is the hottest month in much of America, so during the first half of your trip try to stick to the Pacific coast or in elevation in the mountains, where you will find comfortable temperatures and humidity. During August, most Americans elsewhere are hiding inside with the air conditioning. Sept should be beautiful. For riding in hot temps I try to use this technique, which even works in high humidity area where I live, should be fantastic in the arid places where you are planning: https://ldcomfort.com/productuse.htm While it works best with their products, it does work with other long sleeves too. I strongly suggest only wearing clothes made from wicking fabrics.

    Oh, another thought, the National Parks will be very crowded in Aug with school kids on vacation, but less so in Sept. But, many empty nesters (parents with no kids living at home anymore) travel in Sept, so the parks will still be full, but with older couples instead of families with screaming tired kids. You pick.
    #17
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  18. jonz

    jonz Miles are my mantra

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    I'd make a couple of changes. First, I'd ride from Lake Tahoe to Lassen National Park. Great motorcycling roads and you stay at elevation. As mentioned, I'd continue north in the mountains into Oregon and check Crater Lake National Park. Then east through some of my favorite parts of Idaho (Lowman to Stanley) and north into Montana and Glacier National Park riding the Going to the Sun road. Here's a google maps route:
    https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Lak...02d!2m2!1d-113.4295461!2d48.7438663!3e0?hl=en

    After that, head to Yellowstone NP (use parts of the Continental Divide route. Rather than swing east to South Dakota, I'd head south to Colorado and stay in the mountains. Look for squiggly lines - lots to be seen and ridden there. Then it kind of depends on whether or not you're going to head south into Mexico or not.
    #18
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  19. BGil

    BGil Been here awhile

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    I will try to get the BDR for Idaho, Utah, Colorado and Oregon (route 3 looks perfect). Maybe Arizona too.

    I really want to see Yosemite, Yellowstone and Bryce canyon/Grand canyon. If I can see that in my trip, it will be a success.
    Riding on the less travelled roads seems the best way to do it, both for my bike and for my taste.
    When I remember past trips, my favourite memories are from "extreme" environments, like deserts or mountains. Remote and empty places.
    Alternating stretches of roads from the BDR maps and paved roads will allow me to have a great time while moving that huge country of yours.

    Boatpuller, I grew up with horses; my mother was running a riding school. Also I come from a rural part of Belgium, so having a herd of cows in the middle of the road, while still rare, is something that I encounter at least once or twice a year. And while travelling, ... Cows, sheep, goats, horses, camels, yaks, ... I still have to meet cowboys and buffalos !

    We will see if I go to Mexico or not. Probably not. But when I travel I usually find it difficult to just stop and enjoy the place. I like to keep moving. Maybe the sight is even more beautiful after that bend on the road, after that hill. So, sometimes, at the end of the trip, I regret not having stopped here or there.
    So I don't know how fast I will travel.
    #19
  20. Kyron

    Kyron Oncler Inds

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    Yosemite (half dome and Tioga pass) are must see's for sure..... I'd do more of Northern Ca coast then loop around mt Shasta and Mt Lassen then to Tahoe ......

    everything else sounds good-ish to me
    #20
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