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2019 USA Tour

 

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Dave 56
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Sep 13, 2019, 11:53 PM

Posts: 1052
Location: Staffs.
Team(s): Leatherhead

Post #1 of 34 (2922 views)
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2019 USA Tour Can't Post or Reply Privately

Following interest from a couple of people who are considering making a similar trip, I thought I would pass on my experiences and hope that it might be of interest to a few individuals. So, if you like poorly constructed sentences, spelling errors and incomprehensible comments this could be for you. Similarly if you suffer with insomnia this may help. For all others, I would give it a miss!

Trip starts early on Monday 9th, I am dreading the 11 hour flight and could cheerfully turn around and go home. An email from United a week before made matters worse when they advised me that San Francisco airport were shutting a runway for resurfacing work and there might be delays. Great.

As it happened the flight was 25 minutes early into SFO but of course there is still American immigration to deal with and this could take longer than the flight! There must be over 500 people in front of me in the queues and as expected it's close to 2 hours to get through.

Advice here. If you are arriving in the USA and have a connecting internal flight then allow 3 hours for the above scenario. Another tip when comparing flight prices use more than one comparison site, most use Kayak or Travelsupermarket but give Momondo a go it has a good layout. Not all airlines seem to appear on all comparison sites. Personally I prefer to book direct with the airline, saving 50 with a booking agent might be a risk. If you go down that route then google the reviews before booking.

Eventually I pick up my hire car, the delays mean I am just in time for the evening rush at San Fran. The 44 miles to the motel take 2 hours. Checked in, went for a beer and a meal then bed.


Dave 56
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Sep 14, 2019, 12:08 AM

Posts: 1052
Location: Staffs.
Team(s): Leatherhead

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Tuesday 10th dawns and I have been awake for several hours. The main objective today is to buy a satnav, what could possibly go wrong? There is a branch of Best Buys across the street from the motel and I visited it last night. They have something called geek squad who can help with tech matters. Seemed like a good idea as I could be sure the nav was set up and working.

Bought a Tomtom, the geek squad weren't in but a manager tried to set it up for me, failed miserably on two versions, one said we were in New York, the other Dallas, got a refund and left. Will gloss over attempt 2 and move on to 3. Arrived in Reno and found Best Buys, bigger store and yes a small garage at the rear with a geek fitting something to a motor and happy to help me and came over to choose the one he thought most suitable. Narrowed it down to 2. Magic! spoke to the sales lady, she looked on her computer and...... none in stock!! In the end I drove 7 miles to Sparks, got lost going and coming back, bought it there, returned to Reno and got it fitted. Good work out for the blood pressure pills.

Final thought on the drive from Vallejo where my motel was to Reno, boring until you pass Auburn then wonderful Alpine like scenery the rest of the way. More on hire cars another day.

The game at Reno is covered on WDYG.


Dave 56
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Sep 14, 2019, 12:24 AM

Posts: 1052
Location: Staffs.
Team(s): Leatherhead

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Wednesday 11th and the day of the longest drive. 444 miles to Las Vegas. Seems straightforward until you realise there is just a standard 2 way road for most of it, possibly as much as 380 miles and all of across the desert. The temperature at Reno was 47F, arriving into Vegas it was 94.

The only good news was the speed limit which started as 65 MPH and increased to 70. A word of warning though, all police cars are fitted with radar and can clock you coming the other way, tempting as it is on a road with no bends or traffic to put your foot down, you can guarantee the local sheriff is parked behind a rock waiting for you just like they are in the films.


Some facts that you may not be aware of regarding roads. The interstate routes are even numbered when going East/West and Odd numbers for North/South, obviously a few go diagonally but this is a general rule of thumb. Another piece of info which you might find useful is to do with junction numbers. This took a while to realise what was happening but they are not numbered consecutively, so if you get on at J34 and are getting off at J46 it could be the next one. This is because the numbers represent the distance between the junctions, in this case it will be 12 miles, hands up if you didn't know that. Note not all states use the system but where there is a very large state like Montana and you join at J4 and exit at J426, you know you are in for a long haul.


(This post was edited by Dave 56 on Sep 14, 2019, 12:26 AM)


Dave 56
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Sep 14, 2019, 12:36 AM

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Post #4 of 34 (2913 views)
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Thursday 12th. After a night at the Ellis Island Hotel Casino and Brewery, a shorter drive to Los Angeles. Ellis Island leave you a 32oz can in your room which the bar will fill for free. 32 oz is 2 American pints. 6 Beers to chose from and I chose the IPA, turned out it was 6.7%, very good though.

There doesn't seem to be any legislation regarding displaying the specific gravity of a beer, so it's worth asking as they are considerably stronger generally over there.

Uneventful drive to LA, roadworks and traffic jams are part of daily life and the driving standard far from good. I try to avoid gesturing to them when annoyed as they probably have a gun. LA is not the place to rent a car if you are driving in the states for the first time, in fact anywhere but there or New York.

Glanced at the car thermometer as I entered LA 102F.


dottirofhod
Man City Transfer Target!


Sep 14, 2019, 1:18 AM

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 I try to avoid gesturing to them when annoyed as they probably have a gun.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------

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July 1, 2019 to June 30,2020 = 87 / 75 / 12 / inc 3 x 0-0's. (You know my rules) @ 14 / 10 / 2019.
2019/20. Benelux = Bel = 0-0-0-(I(MUI-I)-0-0)-(0-2-1-1)/ Lux = 0-2 / Neth = 0-0-0-(1 - 2) Others France = 0-0 / Germany =0-0-0 / Italy =0-1(Act 2- Frosinone new)./ Iberia = P = 0-0 & S = 0-0.

Now blogging at https://eccentricity.video.blog/



Dave 56
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Sep 14, 2019, 4:34 PM

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Re: [dottirofhod] 2019 USA Tour [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Survived Friday 13th without any mishaps and enjoyed the drive to San Diego and appreciating that I am fortunate enough to be able to make trips like this. The traffic was unusually light for LA, heavy for anywhere else but driving at 65 to 70 MPH along with everyone else in sometimes 9 lanes of cars is more akin to an arcade game! Also you are normally in lane 7 when the sat nav tells you to be in the right hand lane and take the next exit.

The car I have is OK but not perfect, there are one or two minor issues I am dealing with at Alamo. I usually rent from them as you get to choose your car from those in your category in the parking garage. However when I arrived there were no mid size cars there! eventually one appeared, washed and ready to go. Didn't spot a small dent and that is on the list of things currently under discussion.

Unlike flights, I always book through an agent, comparing the sites but all are similar. I am using Auto Europe on this occasion. I do take the full cover as it includes things such as being hit whilst unattended, something you can't legislate for. Certainly it would be ill advised not to take out the extra cover if you haven't driven in the USA before.

Another useful item is a toll pass, saves having to find coins and now some no longer have toll booths. The rental company simply charges the tolls to your credit card. If you don't pay a toll the hire co will pay the fee and charge you $25 dollars plus the toll, which is usually 50 cents or less.

You can hire a GPS (satnav) but they are expensive, around 200 for this trip, so if you are going more than once it might be worth buying one as I did. Whilst exploring GPS, two people I spoke to said they would advise me to buy a phone and use it on a pay as you go basis and use maps from there. Seems like quite a good idea as you can make calls without switching on roaming on your own phone.

Finishing now and watching the scores on football webpages!


leohoenig
Administrator

Sep 15, 2019, 7:29 AM

Posts: 13548
Location: Outer Cheltenhamshire
Team(s): Cheltenham Town

Post #7 of 34 (2745 views)
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Re: [Dave 56] 2019 USA Tour [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

I use a separate insurance company for the excess, I know they are OK as they paid out around 400 for a small scratch picked up in an Italian Car Park. I did have to pay the money and it took about six weeks to get it back.

I'll have to remember what you said about toll passes if I am in the USA again. How many toll roads are there? I am sure the interstate was toll free

You can use the maps on your phone without paying data all the way, the trick is to download the map as an offline map before you start the journey. Location from GPS can be found without data. I have driven for a whole day in Thailand like this, and also on Curacao. I also download maps of localities which I am walking around



Fat AND Pompous.
The proof that you can have too much of a good thing
Now blogging at http://www.leohoenig.com



(This post was edited by leohoenig on Sep 15, 2019, 7:30 AM)


Dave 56
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Sep 16, 2019, 1:00 AM

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Post #8 of 34 (2603 views)
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Re: [leohoenig] 2019 USA Tour [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Hi Leo,
I have used offline maps on occasions. Not all states have toll roads. There are none in Nevada where I spent two days. Most states that have them use EZ pass valid in most states except Florida who have their own system. California has their own too called tollpass. Also a separate system applies in Orange County but I am told the tollpass works there as well.


Dave 56
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Sep 16, 2019, 1:06 AM

Posts: 1052
Location: Staffs.
Team(s): Leatherhead

Post #9 of 34 (2602 views)
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Saturday 14th was a long day, hot weather, two matches and a two hour drive afterwards in order to be clear of LA for the 300 mile drive to Sacramento.My GPS surprised me as I thought it would only give live traffic when connected to my phone but that isn't the case.

It has notified me of accidents and delays and yesterday asked if I wanted an alternative route, I was looking for the button to push to say yes when I realised it was voice commandBlush. Better be careful what I say in the future!


KnowYourMarket
Man City Transfer Target!


Sep 16, 2019, 12:08 PM

Posts: 10969
Location: Longton, Stoke-on-Trent - Ar Bay a Brummie
Team(s): WBA, FC Saarbruecken, Brierley Hill Alliance (RIP)

Post #10 of 34 (2506 views)
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if you have a TomTom the better versions have a built in modem which connects to the local mobile network. A UK tomtom will work across Europe as well and they are a god send.



Last ground visited(update requested by Spud): Wellington . New grounds 18/19: 38


Part-Timer
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Sep 16, 2019, 1:00 PM

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Post #11 of 34 (2483 views)
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In Reply To
if you have a TomTom the better versions have a built in modem which connects to the local mobile network. A UK tomtom will work across Europe as well and they are a god send.

Four years ago we undertook a driving holiday in the US. I covered over 2,000 miles in six states including some pretty remote locations as well as big cities. I downloaded a US map on to a TomTom before I went and it worked perfectly.


Dave 56
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Sep 16, 2019, 5:19 PM

Posts: 1052
Location: Staffs.
Team(s): Leatherhead

Post #12 of 34 (2415 views)
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GPS seems to be working well, so hopefully there won't be any map issues. Currently have roaming switched off but can put that on if really necessary. I have a fixed satnav in my car at home otherwise I would have done the same as you.


After a long drive and football on Sunday, I finished up in the old town area, still has a great feel about it and the buildings are well preserved. Sadly the railway museum was closed, no surprise on a Sunday evening but the bars and restaurants were open and very busy. 1950's and 60's American cars cruised the streets, apparently this happens most Sunday evenings.

One final point I should have mentioned is regarding an ESTA, required to get into the states, in fact you can't even check in without it. A few years ago my friend travelling with me had an ESTA but couldn't check in. Turns out he had a new passport with a different number, so hurriedly we found a computer terminal and arranged a new ESTA. So, new passport, new ESTA.
I should also mention you now need an ETA for Canada, theirs is valid for 5 years.


leohoenig
Administrator

Sep 16, 2019, 5:48 PM

Posts: 13548
Location: Outer Cheltenhamshire
Team(s): Cheltenham Town

Post #13 of 34 (2403 views)
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In Reply To

I should also mention you now need an ETA for Canada, theirs is valid for 5 years.


Although, from what you have just said, I assume if I was to apply, it would only be valid until my passport runs out (three years)



Fat AND Pompous.
The proof that you can have too much of a good thing
Now blogging at http://www.leohoenig.com



KnowYourMarket
Man City Transfer Target!


Sep 16, 2019, 7:24 PM

Posts: 10969
Location: Longton, Stoke-on-Trent - Ar Bay a Brummie
Team(s): WBA, FC Saarbruecken, Brierley Hill Alliance (RIP)

Post #14 of 34 (2380 views)
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Re: [Dave 56] 2019 USA Tour [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

I also have a fixed SatNav in my car which uses traffic data from TomTom, however, the routing software on a stand alone TomTom is far superior.



Last ground visited(update requested by Spud): Wellington . New grounds 18/19: 38


Dave 56
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Sep 17, 2019, 5:21 PM

Posts: 1052
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In Reply To
I also have a fixed SatNav in my car which uses traffic data from TomTom, however, the routing software on a stand alone TomTom is far superior.
------------------------
Mine links via hotspot to the phone and is unreliable. Pretty sure you are right that stand alone is better.



Dave 56
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Sep 17, 2019, 5:22 PM

Posts: 1052
Location: Staffs.
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Post #16 of 34 (2224 views)
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In Reply To

In Reply To

I should also mention you now need an ETA for Canada, theirs is valid for 5 years.


Although, from what you have just said, I assume if I was to apply, it would only be valid until my passport runs out (three years)

-----------------------------
I presume so. I will be applying next year and will be in exactly the same position as you.



Dave 56
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Sep 17, 2019, 5:41 PM

Posts: 1052
Location: Staffs.
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Monday 16th was another day of traffic delays. I always thought the worst traffic was in LA but maybe I am wrong. San Fran seems far worse to me these days. Every route over the bridges is nose to tail slow moving or stationary vehicles. After a relatively smooth journey from Sacramento, the build up began at least 10 miles from the Oakland Bay bridge and continued for 10 miles afterwards. GPS didn't offer any alternatives either. Great views of the city though and the Golden Gate bridge.

After the game I crawled out of San Fran over the San Mateo bridge, constant stop start and never exceeded 30 mph for 58 miles! and people do this every day there.

Finally arrived in Modesto at the Clarion Motel. Another meal along with a couple of beers as you get a bogof voucher. First was Firestone Mind Haze IPA and the other Lagunitas IPA both 6.2%, had a large in both cases, slept well!

More on motels tomorrow as I stay in a different one in Modesto.


Dave 56
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Sep 18, 2019, 6:08 PM

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Tuesday 17th and a day in California with no traffic delays. Afternoon match in the sunshine, temperature around the mid 80's. Back to the motel and a walk of 15 minutes or less to the downtown area for a meal and a couple of beers.

Majority of my time was spent looking for a motel for Wednesday in Fresno. One of those days where there seemed to be an issue with each one I viewed. I use booking.com a lot at home but find it can still be cheaper to book direct with the hotel in question.

Over here you get senior discount at 60 in most motels and it is always worth checking their rates direct. The current exchange rate means I am staying in a slightly lower standard of motel but so far this has not been a problem.

Also I registered with choice hotels which include, Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, Clarion, Econolodge and Rodeway. Just by registering I am gaining points toward a free night and a discount of around 5% on each booking, saving me around $80 over the trip.

Much less common now are the books of motel vouchers, usually found in rest areas on the interstate, worth looking out for as the motels usually honour the coupon rate.


leohoenig
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Sep 18, 2019, 7:19 PM

Posts: 13548
Location: Outer Cheltenhamshire
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Having not arrived long before the start, I spend a fruitless hour in Fresno looking for somewhere open before heading up the motorway, (I wasn't doing an overnight as I needed to leave the car in San Jose (I did know the way) around 6 a.m. before getting a flight out) It appeared to me that the only places open were bail bondsmen offices.



Fat AND Pompous.
The proof that you can have too much of a good thing
Now blogging at http://www.leohoenig.com



Dave 56
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Sep 19, 2019, 4:43 PM

Posts: 1052
Location: Staffs.
Team(s): Leatherhead

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Re: [leohoenig] 2019 USA Tour [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Wednesday 18th was another quiet day, no delays and just a 90 mile drive. Leo's thoughts on Fresno were shared by a couple of people I spoke to in Modesto, so I wasn't expecting much but actually found it a decent place to be, perhaps because of the area I was in.

Food is somewhat predictable , burgers and sandwiches, which in the American's style is a filled bun cut in half, with a fairly standard selection of contents. The standard question is "do you want fries with that?" which comes with everything cooked, I vaguely wonder if they ask it when you are organising a cremation!


Dave 56
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Sep 20, 2019, 5:40 PM

Posts: 1052
Location: Staffs.
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Thursday 19th, a day driving the 300 miles to LA, according to satnav when I set out, due to arrive 15:00, actual was 16:45. One accident started the delays and it snowballed from there. At one stage my arrival time was moving faster than me.

It was at this point I questioned if it was all worth it and had I not had the two MLS grounds still to visit I might seriously have come home earlier, that was the state of mind. However I am now in LA until Monday morning with a little less driving to do, tickets bought in advance too for the MLS matches.


There is no doubt the June trip is usually more relaxed with several days gap between matches allowing a more leisurely pace. Of course I could see less matches here but when you know there is one on...............

That said there is a tight double today but I'm not going to attempt it, one match will be enough.


Dave 56
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Sep 21, 2019, 4:38 PM

Posts: 1052
Location: Staffs.
Team(s): Leatherhead

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Re: [Dave 56] 2019 USA Tour [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Friday 20th was a stress free day. The drive across LA demonstrates the vast size of the city and suburbs. From my base in the East it is 88 miles to reach the motel in the West. An early check in allowed me to book all the remaining hotels for the trip.

One subject not covered so far is Walmart, famous for it's many internet pictures of their shoppers. Great place to shop though, many visited over the years as you can purchase quite a few things cheaper than at home.

For example at home a pack of 16 Ibuprofen cost around 40p, whereas here you can buy a tub of 500 for around 6. Braun electric shaver foil/cutter at home 25, here $25(still looking on this trip for these). Always end up purchasing shirts and other clothing items. Whatever you are looking for in the states check out Walmart first for a price comparison.

One sad change that may apply to California only is many items are now locked away in glass cabinets, theft seems to be a big problem here. I asked for a basket to put my items in, they told me they didn't use them anymore as customers stole them. Sign of the times, there used to be a person greeting customers as they entered, now they scan your receipt when you leave to check you have paid for everything.


Dave 56
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Sep 22, 2019, 4:58 PM

Posts: 1052
Location: Staffs.
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Saturday 21st. Very warm day, even in the shade but two matches both without any real delays on the interstates. Bought my ticket for LA FC through Ticketmaster, who no longer do will call for collection. Been unable to download the USA TM app either at home of over here, although this could be an issue with me or my phone.

Received an initial text with a barcode link which as it happened scanned correctly much to my relief. I had contacted the club when initially I couldn't register with TM via the LA site and the lovely Amanda came back to me very quickly offering to help but I had managed via advice from TM UK to log in, seems it was a fault with the LA site.

After a brief flurry of emails Amanda was interested in what we do as a hobby and wanted to meet me at the stadium, telling me where she would be working. Not easy but I did find her eventually and we chatted for a few minutes, really nice girl probably early twenties, keen on the Premier league and has flown over several times to London and will come again. Naturally I offered to help if I could!

Not previously covered is filling up with fuel.Most cars here are on unleaded but to keep you on your toes they have a green hose for diesel and a blck for unleaded. You cannot fill up as you do in the UK, you have to prepay but when you insert your credit card it asks for a zip code, so no go there although I am still experimenting to find a way round that.


Only option is to go into the pay point and ask for a specific amount, say $30, return to the pump, fill up and go. If it doesn't take the full $30 you have to go back in and get the balance refunded, a real pain, so I just put an amount in that will be appropriate.

Fuel price? In Nevada i paid as little as $2.77 for a gallon (not a litre!) but in California it's around an average price of $3.69 with some charging over $4.


leohoenig
Administrator

Sep 23, 2019, 6:08 AM

Posts: 13548
Location: Outer Cheltenhamshire
Team(s): Cheltenham Town

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Fuel price? In Nevada i paid as little as $2.77 for a gallon (not a litre!) but in California it's around an average price of $3.69 with some charging over $4.


Just for comparison sakes, a gallon in the US is around 3.8 litres, while in the UK it is a little over 4.5



Fat AND Pompous.
The proof that you can have too much of a good thing
Now blogging at http://www.leohoenig.com



Dave 56
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Sep 23, 2019, 5:07 PM

Posts: 1052
Location: Staffs.
Team(s): Leatherhead

Post #25 of 34 (1381 views)
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Sunday 22nd and after another game going to golden goal extra time, I head north for the final stages of the trip. Some delays but not as bad as those heading back into LA from the north.

A couple of pints of Sierra Nevada with my curry, the only curry on this trip as Indian restaurants are still in the minority, plenty of Chinese but I'm not a fan of their food.

Credit cards are worth a mention on this thread, if you are hiring a car you will have one with you anyway. Although I don't have an account with Halifax, I did get one of their Clarity Mastercards as they don't charge fees for withdrawing cash or using for purchases abroad. I set up a direct debit with my main bank account so the full amount is taken each month and no interest accrued. For anything financial then a look at the Martin Lewis site Money Saving Expert will provide excellent advice.

Using your credit card in the States is like stepping back in time. Some places still swipe the card, some have chip and pin, some have just chip, where you insert your card into the reader and it accepts it without a pin number! and finally a few have contactless, in fact only twice have I managed that on this trip.

Another thing to watch for when paying by card in a restaurant is that they give 3 options for a tip, the minimum is 18%, which is quite a lot so look for the button that allows you to add an appropriate tip. I tip according to the level of service. In one bar the service was so poor I even waited ages for them to come and take my card, gave up, looked at the bill $28.79. Threw $30 on the table and walked out. The service wasn't even worth the $1.21 tip.

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