Tag archive for "los angeles"

Jucy Wheels out West: the good, the bad and the budget

Destinations, Road Trip, USA, USA

Jucy Wheels out West: the good, the bad and the budget

No Comments 01 March 2013

We’ve been driving higher and higher on Highway 180 en route to the Big Stump Entrance of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, elevation markers letting us know we’ve reached 2000, 3000, 4000 feet. The last few miles have not been easy. The fog is so thick I can’t see more than 15 feet ahead. Then it disappears and reveals one of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever seen.

I’d tackle any hard drive for this view. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Rocky mountains and trees fill the scenery to my left and ahead, two my right, the tips of a few mountains peaking above the clouds. I realise I wasn’t driving through fog before, but those clouds below me right now. If that’s the case, then this must be heaven.

It looks like it anyway.

It’s next to impossible to justifiably sum up my three-week road trip with Jucy Rentals in Western USA. I met so many characters, fell in love with so many destinations and the number of moments that almost brought me to tears driving in this beautiful country, well most of those moments will remain within me.

For me, this wasn’t just a road trip through California, Nevada and Arizona, but a chance to reignite the flame with my homeland. I’ve been away from it for three years now. In that time, I started to forget just how incredible it is. This trip was a serious reminder of that.

So while I can’t possibly share with you all my best moments and stories from the road, I can explain this trip in terms of numbers and figures and a few of my favorite things along the way.

Route and destinations

I kicked off this three-week road trip in Los Angeles, headed straight for the Pacific Coast Highway and never looked back. After a night in Santa Barbara, I continued onwards to Morro Bay then to Big Sur with a quick stop at Hearst Castle. After a three-day love affair in Big Sur, I headed up to San Francisco, to visit Alcatraz and take advantage of all the free things to do in the Bay Area.

Sunset at Morro Bay made me wish I had more time to visit the waterfront town. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

The furthest north I hit on this trip was Napa Valley. From there I headed east to Yosemite National Park, then along the west side of the Sierra Nevada to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, after which I spent a night in the Mojave Desert. I spent one day cruising through the state of Nevada and one night in Lake Mead National Park.

I drove for about an hour on Route 66 on the way to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. A night in the national park there and I made my way back to the Pacific Coast with a few stops in between.

Three nights in Las Vegas, a day in Joshua Tree National Park then I was spreading my toes in the sand at Huntington Beach, CA. I beached it up during my last weekend with my Jucy Champ, visiting Venice Beach, Santa Monica and Malibu.

Distances and travel times

Altogether I covered just under 3000 miles around three states in Western USA: California, Nevada and Arizona. This took about 44 hours driving time in total, but fitting it all in three weeks was really tight. My longest drive in terms of distance was from the Grand Canyon South Rim, AZ to KOA at Circus Circus in Las Vegas, NV, 277 miles over about four and a half hours. The longest drive in terms of time, excluding inside national parks, was from Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA to Fernwood Resort in Big Sur, CA, only 66 miles, but took about five hours, because of the routes winding roads and I kept stopping to take photos.

We made it to the Grand Canyon just before dark. Photo by Richard John Hackey

Budget (fuel, accommodation, food, activities, rental and insurance)

I spent a total of $559.94 on fuel. It cost me $505.71 to camp out 15 nights during the trip. I stayed with a friend for three nights in San Francisco, got a hotel room for one night at $70 in Napa Valley and used American Express points to spend two nights in a hotel in Las Vegas, which would have costs $60 total.

I went to the grocery store three times on this trip, which cost a total of about $150 in total. I spent about $400 between snacks, eating out and alcohol.

Between five National Parks ($90), various tours and tastings ($111) and one show in Las Vegas ($89), the total of activities adds up to $290.

Three weeks with my Jucy rental with unlimited mileage ($1,410), plus 21 nights of partial insurance ($189), since I was already covered for Supplementary Liability Insurance because with my own car in the USA cost a total of $1,599, plus taxes etc. All trip prices vary depending on how long you’ll be renting for, how many miles you’ll be traveling and what kind of insurance you require, so it’s best to get a quote for yourself.

This brings my trip to a grand total of $3,574.65. This is a basic budget you could use if you are interested in doing a similar road trip of the USA, but consider how many people will split the cost of fuel, camp fees, entrance to national parks, etc. Plus you know yourself best, how often will you be eating out or going out for the night. I did very little on both.

Favorite drive

There’s a reason why my drive from Hearst Castle to Big Sur was the longest in terms of time. The drive alone is stunning, sun setting on the Pacific Ocean to my left, rocky mountains to my right and to add to the thrill of it, this drive is along a cliff with a massive drop to the sea. But I also got to see some really cool things at stops along the way, elephant seals, whales, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and Henry Miller Memorial Library.

I must have stopped ten or twenty times in Big Sur to look at the sights. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Least favorite drive

After a long day of driving through Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, I went through the worst driving conditions I’ve ever experience on Route 58 in the Mojave Desert. Fog so thick, you could only see about two lines on the middle of the road ahead. This happened at night as well, when all I wanted to do was park up and sleep.

Favorite stop

This is a very hard one, but overall Joshua Tree National Park was best for me. I’ve wanted to see the National Park for a very long time and it was even more interesting than I anticipated. The town of Joshua Tree is small, but quality. The people in this area are really unique and fun. Plus we came across some random things in on our drive through here, like a drummer in the desert and an old western Hollywood set.

Make like a Joshua Tree. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Favorite RV park

During my trip I stayed in 13 different campgrounds and RV resorts. I can honestly say that they were all friendly and special for different reasons, but my favorite is going to have to be Fernwood Resort in Big Sur. The woods there are beautiful and I was parked up right next to the Big Sur River. The bathrooms are heated. Plus the Redwood Grill attached to this resort is cosy and filled with really friendly and interesting locals to talk to.

Colorful lights line the bridge across the Big Sur River at Fernwood Resort. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Best lesson

Buy a national park pass if you plan to road trip Western USA. The $80 “America the Beautiful” pass will allow you to enter and leave all National Parks in the country for an entire year. It be dumb not to visit National Parks in the USA and they each cost $10-25 to enter. We visited five in three weeks, which cost a total of $90, which means we could have saved $10 if we had known about this pass.

Want to read more? All posts about my trip out west can be found here. Enjoy and safe travels!

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

As always, all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

The road tripper’s guide to cooking like a champ

Destinations, Road Trip, USA, USA

The road tripper’s guide to cooking like a champ

4 Comments 27 February 2013

Being a budget traveler and just enjoying cooking in general, it means a lot when I can cook while traveling. That’s why the best thing, for me, about traveling with my Jucy Champ in California had to be the full kitchen in the back. I loved waking up and making breakfast in the middle of a Cachuma Lake Recreation Area or cooking as the sun sets next to me in Big Sur.

The nice thing about cooking on the road is not only that you eat more affordably, but also that you can pick the best seat in the house.

I mainly ate what was cooked from the back of my Champ on my tour out West. No matter how equipped the kitchen, cooking from the back of a vehicle is a lot different than cooking at home. This guide will name the essentials that should be on your first shopping list, things to keep in mind and my personal road trip recipes.

Cooking essentials

Do you often catch yourself saying, “Oh no, I forgot….”? Road trippers should purchase these three things on their first trip to the grocery store to be used throughout the trip.

  1. Salt and pepper
  2. Dish soap and sponge
  3. Olive oil or butter

Boiling some water from the back of my Jucy Champ for coffee in the morning at Cachuma Lake. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Make sure you have

You think soup would be something inexpensive and easy to make on your road trip, until you get back to the car to find you don’t have a can opener! Luckily, my Jucy rental came fully equipped, so I didn’t have to buy any extra appliances, but it’s always good to be sure. Before planning out your meals, make sure you have these key items.

  1. Can-opener (soups, tuna, sauces)
  2. Sharp knife (meats, vegetables)
  3. Cutting board
  4. Colander (pasta, rice, vegetables)

Tips and reminders

Some things that are obvious to seasoned road trippers are unknown to newbies. Keeps these things in mind when cooking in your RV or camper van.

  1. No illegal dumping. This applies to anything and everything coming out of your vehicle, not just bathrooms. If you are emptying your waste tank ask people on the campground where to dispose of it.
  2. Consider how long things take to cook. The butane gas cartridges used for portable gas stoves pack quite a bit of cooking time, but be realistic with how long your meal idea with take.
  3. Wash up immediately. This is the golden rule in all kitchens, but especially those in cars. It’s not a good idea to drive with things floating around. Wash up and put everything away after eating, so you can go as soon as you want to.
  4. Cool off. Make sure your stove top and any pots or pans have cooled down before putting them away.
  5. Plan ahead. Purchase all your groceries etc. in advance of visiting national parks or secluded areas. These places have few choices and most are more expensive than say in the suburbs or big towns.

Three meal ideas

There are so many things you can cook from the back of your camper van. My advice is to keep it simple, but still have fun. These three videos were all shot from the back of my Jucy camper van and will give you some ideas of things to cook on your road trip.

Breakfast: Eggs California

Lunch: Nachos Grande

Dinner: Creamy fettuccine with three-cheese sausage

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

As always all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

The road tripper’s guide to Los Angeles

Destinations, Guides, Road Trip, USA, USA

The road tripper’s guide to Los Angeles

2 Comments 19 February 2013

More than any other city, people need their own vehicle to tour Los Angeles. Getting around on public transportation is extremely time consuming and can be quite complicated. The city is very spread out and public transportation is, unfortunately, somewhat unpopular here. To make matters worse, because of how large the city is, taxis can be expensive as well.

So by choosing to road trip to Los Angeles, rather than just arrive by plane and spend a few days here, you’re already one step ahead.

Basing your trip on the fact that you will need a car, makes things like picking a campground to stay a lot easier, because location doesn’t matter. On the other side, it makes things like planning nights out a bit more difficult because either someone must volunteer to be designated driver or you need to split the the cab fare. This guide will help you understand the city of LA better, from a road tripper’s point of view.

The view from Malibu Beach RV Park. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Sleep

Since Los Angeles is very spread out, finding the perfectly-located accommodation is not as much of a concern. Most of your camping options in Los Angeles are going to be on the coast, which makes for some gorgeous beach locations, slightly out of the city. Dockweiler Beach, a state park close to LAX, is a favourite among campers. Malibu has quite a few camping options, including Malibu Beach RV Park, which is located right on the Pacific Coast Highway with an incredible view of the coast. Plus there are options outside Disney Land in Anaheim.

Staying at a campground or RV will save you a lot of money in LA as they average about $35 for partial hook up per night, whereas you’re looking at spending at least $60 per night on a hotel in the city. But if you choose to stay in a hotel, whether or not they’ll have free outdoor parking depends on their location, so call ahead to find out if they do and if there are any height restrictions.

Go

Those driving in LA should avoid doing so during rush hour. Since almost everyone here drives, the traffic is horrendous. If you can, always have at least one passenger in the car so you can use the carpool lane on the freeways. There are a lot of parking options here, usually affordable ones depending on the area. However, fuel is not. Stay away from wealthy areas like Beverly Hills and Malibu when fueling your car.

A crab cake sandwich from Neptune’s Net, located right on the Pacific Coast Highway. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Eat

Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods rule this city, as well as a few high-end grocers. I would say Trader Joe’s is the most affordable and plentiful option to choose from. It’s very easy to find grocers with parking inside the city. It might be better to go during the week rather than the weekend to avoid any kind of rush by locals off work.

For meals out, take advantage of having a car by visiting restaurants on the coast with the perfect view of the sunset in beach towns like Malibu, Santa Monica and Venice Beach. A lot of these are going to be pricey. A popular option that’s very affordable is Neptune’s Net in Malibu.

Whiskey A Go Go is a major venue in music industry. The Doors were the house band here for a while. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Drink

While there is no one party area in this city, there are plenty of places to party. LA is known for its trendy and unique bars and clubs as well as a few timeless rock venues like Whisky A Go Go on Sunset Blvd. If you want to have a big night out, research LA’s most popular clubs at the moment, choose one then plan your night around getting to and from there whether it be by public transit or sharing a taxi. If using public transit, check to see if your service runs late.

Having a car in LA makes it a lot easier to reach spots up in the hills like Griffith Observatory. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Play

Arrange your trip by accomplishing everything you want to do in one section of the city in one day. For instance, spend a day in Hollywood doing the Walk of Fame, Chinese Theater, Hollywood sign and any tours you fancy. Let another day be all about Disney Land. This will avoid you wasting money and time going back and fourth to an area.

Some musts for those with cars include cruising on the Pacific Coast Highway, driving up to the Griffith Observatory and visiting famous homes like the Getty Villa.

Road tripping to San Francisco or Los Angeles? There’s a guide for that!

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

As always, all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

Tour the Jucy Champ (Video)

Destinations, Road Trip, USA, USA

Tour the Jucy Champ (Video)

14 Comments 15 January 2013

The sun is shining, ocean calm calm and the Pacific Coast Highway empty. Sounds like a good day to start my Jucy road trip in Western USA.

The down-under rental company premiered in the States this past summer and after driving it for only one day, I can honestly say it’s a unique addition to the country’s roadways. Everywhere I stop people stare, ask questions and get excited about my adorable green Jucy Champ, a pimped out Chrysler minivan.

It’s easy to under stand why.

To start with, the van drives like a dream and isn’t too much to handle for people who aren’t used to driving big cars. It’ll get you more miles to the gallon than those massive RVs, but still has plenty of space to spread out and get comfortable.

And what does all that space include?

On top of all the basics of modern vehicles, power-steering; air conditioning and what not, this ride also includes:

  • penthouse bed on top with ladder to reach it
  • a fold out, standard-size bed inside, suitable for two people
  • sheets, pillow, towels and blankets
  • DVD player, CD player and radio
  • 41-liter fridge
  • sink with a fresh water tank
  • gas cooker
  • interior table as well as another fold out table for outside
  • dishes, cutlery, kettle, pots and pans
  • interior lighting, blinds and electrical outlets

The Jucy team in Los Angeles were extremely helpful in showing me how to use the all the Champ’s goodies. I’ve already assembled my bed for the night and am now laying down in it, parked up on the beach in Santa Barbara. Already loving my life on the road with Jucy.

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. As always all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

Jucy Wheels Out West

Blog, Destinations, Other, Road Trip, USA, USA

Jucy Wheels Out West

10 Comments 09 January 2013

There’s something about Western USA that just pulls people in. It’s in the shining lights of cities like Los Angeles and Las Vegas, the wide open roads on the Pacific Coast Highway and especially the jaw-dropping landscapes of national parks like Yosemite and Grand Canyon. The West has long attracted travellers looking to stretch out or even make it big.

And in 2013 that’s going to be me.

I’m happy to announce that for my first trip of 2013 I’ll be heading out with with Jucy Rentals in the USA. During the three week tour of California and Nevada, I’ll be stopping at three major cities, at least five national parks and as many beaches as humanly possible.

I was first introduced to Jucy almost three years ago in Australia. Their cute green and purple vans with an even cuter pin-up girl on the side were extremely popular down under, which made me envious that we never had anything like that in the States.

Not anymore.

A look at my Wheels out West, the Jucy Champ campervan. Photo courtesy of Jucy Rentals

The vehicle rental company premiered in the USA this past summer. Why is this so exciting? Because they offer affordable rentals allowing people at all ages and budgets to go on the road trip they’ve always dreamed of, including me.

It may sound weird, but I’ve traveled the world more than my own country. This will be my first serious road trip of the USA since childhood. Sure I went on the regular family road trips and I’ve been on a few weekend trips here and there, but I’ve never been on a large-scale road trip anywhere in the USA and have traveled minimally out West.

So after three years of living abroad, it’s finally time to travel the homeland. The trip will start and finish in Los Angeles, looping out to Las Vegas than on to the Grand Canyon and back.

Photo courtesy of Google Maps

Here are a few of the things I’m most excited about:

Big cities:

  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Las Vegas

Big parks:

  • Big Sur
  • Yosemite
  • Grand Canyon
  • Joshua Tree

Big attractions:

  • Eames House
  • Hearst Castle
  • Alcatraz
  • Napa Valley

It’s going to be a full three weeks. Luckily, I won’t be doing it alone. I’ll be catching up with friends along the way, traveling with Emily, one of my best friends from college, from Big Sur to San Francisco and meeting up with Ric in Napa Valley to finish off the trip together.

I’ve done my research and picked out a lot of places I’m eager to visit, but I want to hear from you! Where would you visit on a road trip of Western USA? What sights are you eager to see and what would you like to know more about?

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. As always all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

A diamond in downtown LA: Cecil Hotel

Destinations, USA

A diamond in downtown LA: Cecil Hotel

2 Comments 29 September 2011

In a city that actual icons of success call home and the word millions is thrown around daily, it’s pretty much a giveaway that Los Angeles isn’t the easiest place to find cheap accommodation.

Searching through hostels and hotels in America’s most glamorous city, there seems to be a clear cut divide between the cheap accommodation being in terrible locations and great locations only have overpriced accommodation

Dorms starting at $30 something a night? C’mon

Reasonably priced privates in Venice Beach? I want to be in Hollywood!

Good rates in Compton? No thank you.

Dorm, private, I didn’t care. I just wanted to find a reasonable rate at a place actually in the city.

Luckily, I found Cecil Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles, which offers a private room  suitable for two people at $50 per night.

Location

Located on S. Main Street in Downtown Los Angeles, Cecil is a bit of a diamond in the rough. It’s classic interior and grand architecture seems to clash with the lackluster buildings that neighbor it and garbage-filled shopping carts that grace its sidewalk.

However, the hotel is located only two blocks from a subway. So even if you’re not in the center of all the action of Hollywood, you’re only a short walk and a few stops away.

Photo courtesy of Cecil Hotel

The Staff

I didn’t really have too much interaction with the staff, but what little I did have was good. They were very friendly at reception, helpful with directions and they looked after our bags for the day.

Cleanliness

Completely up to par. The rooms are a bit worn, but very clean. Shared bathrooms were spotless.

Rooms

Our standard hotel room came with a double bed, TV and sink. The room is worth the price and even had a little view of the city. It must be said that after three nights of struggling with sleep due to jet lag, Ric and I both had the absolute best night of sleep our first night at Cecil.

Vibe

It’s no Roosevelt and I doubt any A-listers would be caught dead there, but the hotel actually does have an old Hollywood feel. While all the rooms in the massive hotel are pretty simple, the lobby and second floor are really beautiful. I actually felt like I escaped to the Hollywood of the 40s or 50s upon walking into the hotel.

Travelers lounge around the hotel’s second floor to use the hotel’s free internet. But other than that, it’s a pretty private place to stay. Even though it offers prices cheaper than some hostels in the city, it doesn’t have a hostel feel at all. Don’t expect to make friends.

Photo courtesy of Places Online

Safety 

Sure it’s probably not the nicest area in LA, but I don’t think it is as bad as the reviews make it out to be on Orbitz. It’s really only the street it’s on that doesn’t “look” up to scale. Everything that surrounds the area is extremely commercial.

You’ll meet a few crazy street dwellers hanging around the area, but I think that kind of adds to the California trip. Luckily, the hotel staff are pretty mindful of this and keep a close eyes over the hotel

Overall

We got really lucky with Cecil Hotel. It’s not the spectacular Hollywood accommodation that people dream of, but it was comfortable, clean and a decent price in a city where that affordability isn’t a concern.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)


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