Author Topic: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted  (Read 1790 times)

djdrinkwater

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New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« on: October 11, 2017, 07:35:30 PM »
Hi all

My name is Dan. I am 32 years old from Wellington, NZ.

I hope this is the right place in the forum for these questions.

I am flying from NZ to Houston, TX and doing a clockwise roadtrip with my friend for the period 27 Oct - 13 Nov. We are planning to hire a car in Houston, then drive to Little Rock AR, Memphis, Nashville, Muscle Shoals AL, New Orleans before returning to Houston.

Main question: Does anyone have any tips on hiring a car in Houston? Which companies? Is there a way to search across all companies? We would like to hire a pick-up truck so we can carry bikes. Please forgive the car clown behaviour but we need a car.

Does stopping at Little Rock overnight make sense on the way between Houston and Memphis? If not, where else would you recommend? Does stopping at Muscle Shoals AL overnight make sense between Nashville and New Orleans? Muscle Shoals AL is a small town famous for the FAME recording studios that I heard about in The Blues Kitchen Podcast (excellent podcast, by the way). 

Please feel free to give other general advice about where to stop etc. We are into mountain biking and are planning on stopping at Cypress Creek MTB park, Houston.

We are looking forward to all the live music so please recommend any favourite spots. I also like used bookstores, booze and bikes (motorized or not).

Any off the wall, random recommendations would be great too (like visiting the Tabasco factory at Avery Island, LA.)

Cheers
Dan

neverrun

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2017, 08:08:59 PM »
The major US car companies can be searched via Kayak.com, expedia.com and the like.   A quick search of Kayak shows a deal with Dollar Rental car for a Pick-up for $495 for the time period you are looking at (US$21/day + taxes)  Rentals will ask if you want to add insurance check to see if you need it.  Generally insurance runs $5-10 extra a day.  Don't take the fuel option just fill the tank before you return the car.

It's about a 2.5 hour drive from Nashville to Muscle Shores, and 6.5 hours from Muscle shores to New Orleans.  I'd look at spending one night there.  Florence Alabama is just over the river from Muscle Shores and has a major University so would add to the things to see in the area.   Be aware if you are mountain biking of Southern Spiders.  They make huge webs overnight and you will run into a ton of them if you are the first people on the trail for the day.  (I was very happy to move back to the northern US just to get away from the spiders on the trail.) 

ObviouslyNotAGolfer

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2017, 04:14:39 PM »
I don't know that part of the country myself--although ahve changed planes at IAH, AUS, DFW many times. I spent some time in the Austin area, and can heartily recommend The Salt Lick, Fushak's, Kreuz and Black's BBQ (all of which are a bit oustide of the city) Also, Amy's Ice cream is not to be missed! You can often get some very good (and interesting) advice on the TripAdvisor forums: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ForumHome

I highly recommend a trip to the SF Bay area (although, now with the fires, it is not the best time). Berkeley, Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Napa, Sonoma are all wonderful! Vancouver, Canada, Seattle, Portland, Idaho, Montana are all well worth a visit.

I am actually very interested in visiting NZ. My wife and I would likely rent a car (have driven on the left in Ireland) and try to see most of both islands in a few weeks.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2017, 04:17:57 PM by ObviouslyNotAGolfer »

surfhb

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2017, 04:19:50 PM »
Why in God's name are you coming half way around the world to visit the South and its music with no stops in Memphis and Nashville?  ;)

Free Spirit

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2017, 04:25:37 PM »
I'll think on it more but since it looks like you're a fan of music, I'm going to recommend a stop off in Clarksdale, Mississippi to the Delta Blues Museum. It's right smack in the middle of the area you're touring. :)

http://www.deltabluesmuseum.org/
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lizzzi

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2017, 07:39:36 AM »
Why in God's name are you coming half way around the world to visit the South and its music with no stops in Memphis and Nashville?  ;)

OP did say they were going to Memphis and Nashville. I thought the same thing myself, then referred back to the first post. At first I thought it sounded like a really terrible trip, but then I "got it." Sounds like they are following the music. There are a lot of fabulous things to do in the States (I personally wouldn't pick the South...but I'm not them)--but it's a huge country and they have to do what they have to do. It sounds like they're planning carefully and trying to set up an itinerary that will be fun for them without stretching themselves too thin. The only part of Texas I really like is Austin--I think they should try to go there, if they can.

lizzzi

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2017, 07:43:55 AM »
And be careful in Louisiana. I'm always reading about foreign nationals being beat up in New Orleans. Wasn't there an Irish guy killed there fairly recently? My niece lived in New Orleans for many years--was born in Shreveport--so a native and a real southern girl. She told me some years ago that when she and a girl friend were out one evening and felt threatened, they didn't walk over to ask a policeman to help them--because they were afraid of the New Orleans policemen, too.

mcluhan

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2017, 10:11:26 AM »
Hi Dan,

I lived in Houston for more than 30 years and now live in a town close to Little Rock Arkansas. Iíll try and answer some of your questions now, but feel free to follow up and ask me any others. First of all, are you aware that you are planning to travel through some very high crime areas? You may have to take some precautions that you wouldnít normally have to take when traveling around New Zealand.

I assume youíll be flying into George Bush Intercontinental Airport. All the major car rental companies have offices there. As long as you have a credit card you could probably reserve a vehicle over the phone or internet before arrival. Maybe someone else can recommend one rental company over the others. Iíve rented from Budget Rental and have never had any problems. Maybe consider renting a van instead of a pickup truck?

No, I would not stop in Little Rock overnight. Benton Arkansas, right before Little Rock would be a better option. Then travel through Little Rock the next day. If you want to take a short side trip to Hot Springs Arkansas I wouldnít mind meeting up and buying you guys a beer.  I only have a road bike right now, but Iíve been told the nearby mountain bike trails are really good.

katsiki

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2017, 10:19:05 AM »
And be careful in Louisiana. I'm always reading about foreign nationals being beat up in New Orleans. Wasn't there an Irish guy killed there fairly recently? My niece lived in New Orleans for many years--was born in Shreveport--so a native and a real southern girl. She told me some years ago that when she and a girl friend were out one evening and felt threatened, they didn't walk over to ask a policeman to help them--because they were afraid of the New Orleans policemen, too.

I live outside of NO.  Be careful in NO - consider it a little more dangerous version of any big city.  Don't travel alone, after dark, etc.

Crime has ruined a truly wonderful city.
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Rubic

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2017, 10:31:58 AM »
If you like hot spicy food, be sure to try Hot Chicken in Nashville.

mcluhan

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2017, 12:15:17 PM »
Dan, just thinking about your itinerary. Why are you planning to spend time in Houston? Do you have friends or family there? If not, think about renting a vehicle and immediately driving West to Austin. I really think you would have way more fun there. Then drive from Austin to Little Rock. The drive from Houston to Little Rock is incredibly boring. If you decide to go ahead with your original plans I can tell you a few places to stop along the way (highway 59) but you may want to consider avoiding the route altogether.

Telecaster

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2017, 12:19:57 PM »
Car rental companies sometimes have bike racks available for rent.  Reserve in advance. 

yodella

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2017, 02:14:48 PM »
Dan, please don't let anyone scare you out of visiting New Orleans. Yes it's a big city and has crime like all big cities, but it's not as if someone is going to mug you on every corner. Don't walk alone at night in non-crowded areas (take taxis or Lyfts instead) and you'll be fine.

There is an excellent bar in the French Quarter that does tiki craft cocktails called Latitude 29, which I highly recommend: https://latitude29nola.com/

Enjoy your trip!


EricEng

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2017, 11:43:35 PM »
Please don't judge the rest of the country by the horrors you see in Little Rock and Memphis.  Not sure the goals of your visit, but we do have much better sights be it cities, parks, technology, beaches.  You will be visiting some of the most backwater, poverty, and high crime areas in the country.  I used to live in the region and despised it.  At least you aren't visiting Detroit I guess...

As others said, Kayak will find you a car.  You'll have to look elsewhere for an armed bodyguard.

alexpkeaton

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #14 on: October 15, 2017, 03:05:56 AM »
Not sure what others are going on about crime for. You'll be fine. This isn't the '80s.

jmecklenborg

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #15 on: October 15, 2017, 03:23:03 AM »
New Orleans and the small towns in the poor states are still fairly corrupt.  Not as bad as when the mafia was still a force in the United States but there is still a lot of shady stuff going on at the local and county level.  You will be fine if you can avoid getting drunk in those places, so look but don't touch.  You DO NOT want to spend the night in jail in any of those places so DO NOT give the local police any rope to hang you with.

Ms. Frugal Lawyer

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #16 on: October 15, 2017, 07:53:35 AM »
Wow, as someone who lives in Nashville and used to live in New Orleans (after growing up on the West coast), I'm kind of saddened by all the negative posts about the South.  I absolutely love both Nashville and New Orleans and think they are fantastic places to visit.  Are they less safe than small town America?  Yes.  Do they have better music and more interesting cultural things for a visitor to see?  Yes.  So come on over!

In Nashville I'd recommend walking around East Nashville and Germantown, getting biscuits and ham at Loveless Cafe (on a weekday - weekends have crazy long lines), bluegrass at Station Inn, walking across the pedestrian bridge downtown to get an awesome view of the city at night and walking Broadway to see and hear the honky tonks and the tourist spectacle.  You can park for free on the East side of the river at the base of the bridge near Titans Stadium, walk across, and be right at Broadway.  Or if you're staying in East Nashville, you can just bike there.

It's been several years since I lived in New Orleans, but when we go back, we enjoy hearing music at Tipitina's, walking Magazine Street and the Garden District and riding the streetcar to Camellia Grill for lunch, going to the night-time art market in the Marigny, and always checking the Gambit online for whatever awesome music and cool events are going on (Rebirth Brass Band, cat circus (not a band, it's really a circus of performing cats), etc.).  I hope you have an awesome time!       

Ms. Frugal Lawyer

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #17 on: October 15, 2017, 08:07:15 AM »
Forgot to mention - for booze in Nashville, I have several favorites, depending on mood.  For locals dive bar and hangover food, Dino's in East Nashville (there's outside seating in back).  For high end cocktails, Rosemary in East Nashville (there's no sign, it's a yellow house with a guy out front).  Attaboy just opened and is supposed to be good, but haven't tried it yet.  Patterson House is also good.  For cheap eats and yummy drinks, Mas Tacos.  Or if you want American BBQ and drinks, Edley's. 

elaine amj

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #18 on: October 15, 2017, 08:20:53 AM »
Haven't been to New Orleans but loved my trip to Nashville. It was a girls trip and we both felt perfectly safe, even staying out at the honky tonks on Broadway until late at night. The live music everywhere was soooo much fun.

And yes, Loveless Cafe should be a must-do especially for non-Americans. If you can, hit up a songwriter session - Bluebird is the iconic place but reports are you pretty much give up a whole day to stand in line. I went to a different place.

Also look for delicious ribs and a BBQ joint in the South :)

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glassgost

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #19 on: October 15, 2017, 11:15:39 AM »
As far as everyone else who's posted saying they're in Nashville or have visited it, they've had pretty solid recommendations. Loveless and Bluebird being the best mentions so far. Get some barbeque in Memphis, BBQ Shop is a personal favorite. New Orleans is like any city, just keep your eyes open. If you go to New Orleans, you have to go to the French Quarter.

I can't say I know Houston very well, I've only been there once, and work paid for the rental car. Wish I was more help with your primary question.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2017, 11:18:11 AM by glassgost »

PizzaSteve

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #20 on: October 15, 2017, 11:31:44 AM »
Might want to check out the web site for Enterprise Rental Car for locations and rates.  They are a company that specializes in longer term rentals, usually to people who had car accidents or need a car for an extended period.  Their site will be off airport, so factoring in how to get there is something to note, but you also avoid special airport taxes and fees which can really add up.  I am not sure these sites often show up when you pick Houston Airport, but if you are renting for 3 weeks, their weekly rate is likely to be low.
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BrakeForTurtles

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #21 on: October 15, 2017, 12:54:33 PM »
Australian living in Canada here. I went on a road trip from Louisville, KY to NOLA a few years ago. The highlight of the trip was stopping in Lafayette, LA on a Wednesday night. It's cajun jam night at the Blue Moon Saloon (which also doubles as a hostel for out of towners). When we were there about 10 people were crammed on the stage playing every instrument you can imagine. Old timer cajun gentlemen were teaching the newbies how to two-step. Truly an amazing insight into the local culture. Lafayette also has a Cajun museum, and awesome food.

For your research before hitting Louisiana I would recommend watching the TV series Treme, set during the recovery in New Orleans after Katrina. And the Dollop (a comedy-history podcast) has an episode about the Acadians that provides a good backgrounder on the Cajun culture. It paints an overly rosy picture of what happened to the Acadians/Cajuns after arriving in Louisiana though.

As for NOLA itself, just keep your head on you like you would anywhere. Don't buy drugs, or get too shitfaced on Bourbon St (avoid it altogether if you can, Frenchman's is waaay better). We stayed in an airbnb in a semi-sketchy neighbourhood but we discovered some really cool spots as a result.

Nashville is awesome too: the Gulch is a nice area and has a few good breweries/bars.
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Soccermom2b

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #22 on: October 16, 2017, 06:15:32 PM »
Think you will have a different experience than most visitors to the US but all solid cities in their own way.  I think the South in general is viewed as being more dangerous than other US cities, but I'm not sure there is a single US city I'd walk alone at night though, so...

Most US cities are pretty dead at night on non-weekends.  I can't speak to Nashville, but I would not spend more than a couple days in Memphis.  If the Grizzlies (basketball) are in town during your stay, it is worth it to head  there one night as resale tix can be as low as $5 and it's usually a good time (same is true for Pelicans in Nola)..  The FedEx forum is near Beale street and you can usually catch some good live music there too or make reservations at Itta Bena (third floor of BB Kings).  For biking in Memphis, head to Shelby Farms for at least one day and if you like music, you need to go tour Gibson's guitar, Graceland, and Stax records.

There's also a new bike trail across the Mississippi, if you want to tackle that.

In Nashville, I'd recommend heading to Grand Ole Opry and hitting the mountains to the north or east.

Never been to Muscle Shoals but I'm guessing there isn't much there.  May want to stay in Huntsville instead-it's a big military town but there appears to be some limited opportunity for live music https://www.huntsvillemusic.com/choosedate/?w=11/2017  you can hit the tours you referenced on your drive to NoLa.

I'd second the recommendation to head to San Antonio or Austin if you like outdoors and live music.

And I'd recommend visiting the Space Center in either Houston or Huntsville-both are fascinating spots.

I love New Orleans and always have had a great time there.  And if there are two of you and you stay in populated areas, you will be fine.  Stay clear of Bourbon (overrated), but Frenchman street is great. 

avenger441

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #23 on: October 16, 2017, 07:19:47 PM »
I am from Muscle Shoals, AL. 

I would not drive an hour out of the way to go to Huntsville unless you just really wanted to also go to the Space and Rocket Center.  Huntsville is the birth place of NASA. 

I would recommend touring FAME studio but Google the tours website.  They do not do tours all of the time and work around when the studio is being used by artists.  I would also recommend touring the Muscle Shoals Sound studio as well.  That is where Lynard Skynard originally wrote Freebird and where Southern Rock sound was originated.  Also where the Rolling Stones wrote most of the Wild Horses album. 

I would go to the Rattlesnake Saloon for dinner.  The food is nothing amazing but the atmosphere is interesting and they have live music a lot of nights.  The restaurant has been featured in a lot of magazines. 

KirstyB

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #24 on: October 16, 2017, 08:09:50 PM »
Re mountain biking, cypress is ok, but that is based on the fact that we houstonites have nowhere else within an hour of the city to go. Much better to either head west to Austin, or if you are planning on heading east stop at Tyler State Park (east of Dallas), the Womble trail in the ouachita national forest in Arkansas, or in Ruston Louisiana where there is a great little state park.

By the River

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #25 on: October 17, 2017, 08:18:49 AM »
I see you are flying out of Houston on Monday.  I would suggest Fred's Bar in Mamou, Louisiana on Saturday morning (they are open from 8 AM to 2PM, get there before 9:00 for a seat)  Maybe back to Lafayette for Saturday night or 40 miles from Mamou is Port Barre's Cracklin festival which will have more great Cajun/Zydeco music plus fried cracklins and Cajun food. 

simonsez

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #26 on: October 17, 2017, 10:06:31 AM »
I just visited Memphis and had a wonderful time.

Graceland was great.  We did the house/airplanes tour (not the one with everything) and that was perfect in terms of the time commitment, about 2-2.5 hours.  You can't do that sort of tourism all damn day when Beale St is calling, right? 

The Peabody ducks (ducks at a hotel that live on the top floor swim in the lobby fountain and then waddle to the elevator at 5 pm everyday) were cute if that's your thing and just a few blocks away from Beale.  My wife loved that.

Oh and Mud Island was a pleasant surprise.  The River Walk was fantastic but admittedly right up my alley (engineering, planning, geography, history, infrastructure, etc.).  They have a half mile long scaled version of the southern half of the Mississippi River with the various towns it passes by before ending at the Gulf.  It's cool to see all the contours on the ground as well as the sense of the geography and water sources.  Be sure to walk the bridge (free) to and fro.  You can park at the visitor center for free, located on the left en route to Bass Pro.

Sun Records/Studio was fantastic as well.  I got goosebumps after being in the recording room with all the legendary musicians and stories that took place there.  Did not have time to squeeze in Stax but heard good things.

Of course the real treat is hanging/carousing around Beale St.  You should be able to find plenty of great music at places that don't charge cover.

Dicey

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #27 on: October 18, 2017, 07:51:55 AM »
Forget renting a truck and get a minivan instead. You'll save a buttload of money and your stuff will be more secure.
Bonus for you is it could comfortably be slept in, if desired and it's somewhat under the radar.

On a recent trip to Denver, we used a price comparison service recommended on this site. I'm blanking on the name ATM, but I'll edit/add it when it comes to me.  You go to their website, enter your info and they email you back with the best rates. It's only a reservation system, so you don't pay in advance, which is a bonus, especially if you need to make changes. (Hint: Don't use Kayak.)

The best rate offered was from National.  I made a reservation for a mid-size sedan,  then called National directly and joined their Emerald Aisle Club. It's free, and it allows you to choose your own car. When we got to Denver, all they had was minivans. I found a brand-new Dodge Grand Caravan that was fully loaded, including heated leather seats (!). It was a dream to drive and got nearly 25 mpg driving in the mountains, including crossing the Continental Divide. While we were choosing a vehicle, more cars were added to the selection. Every sedan was immediately snapped up by someone with a briefcase. We were so, so glad we took the minivan. Had we set out to rent one, it would have cost a fortune. I suppose that by arriving mid-morning on a weekday, we enhanced our chances of getting a minivan than arriving just before a weekend.

I loved my visit to the Land of the Long White Cloud and hope you enjoy your trip here. BTW, this is NOT a good time to travel to the Bay Area, especially the wine country. The fire devastation is terrible and 40k+ customers are still without one or more utilities. Next trIp.

I'll be back later with the missing info...

I'm back! The search engine is called AutoSlash.com. it saved us $200 over the best deal I could find, including taking public transit to an off-airport location. I don't do Priceline, because I refuse to stand in endless lines, and I like a little more control, especially when time is limited. AutoSlash and National's Emerald Aisle was a winning combination. Also, if you're going to haul bicycles, they're safer inside a minivan. Stop at a Harbor Freight or Home Depot and buy a dark colored tarp to cover them with so they're invisible to the casual observer. Hope you have a great trip.

BTW, you don't need a CC to reserve a car with AutoSlash, so if you can't book from NZ, PM me and I think I could make the res. for you from the US.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2017, 09:14:05 PM by Dicey »
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Clean Shaven

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #28 on: October 18, 2017, 08:00:45 AM »
Another recommendation here to rent a minivan and not a pickup truck. You may be able to fit two bicycles and all your stuff inside the van, so it'll be a lot more secure than leaving anything in the truck bed. Also, minivan rentals are much more common than pickup truck rentals, so you should be able to get a better price. Mileage will be better too - all rentals you are likely to find will be gas (no diesel rental cars).

I suppose there is some reason you are focusing on the south (music? relatives?) - but if I were traveling to the US to go mountain biking, I would go west: Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Washington, California.  As a western US based bicyclist, there's nothing in the south that makes me want to take a road trip there to ride trails.

Nightwatchman9270

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #29 on: October 23, 2017, 08:43:22 AM »
If you're going to be driving around Memphis, buy a gun.  You can thank me later.

mathlete

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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #30 on: October 23, 2017, 10:12:18 AM »
Rental Cars

I've had good experiences with Hertz, Alamo, and Avis. Agree with others about searching on Kayak to compare all options. As for insurance, check your personal policy to make sure your liability coverage extends to when you rent a car. It usually does, but I don't know if that changes if you're coming from out of the country or whatever. Also check to see if you have a credit card that provides collision damage waiver coverage if you book with the card. Between liability, and collision damage waiver, you should be set as far as insurance goes.

Make sure that the quote you get for the rental either includes unlimited miles, or the mileage estimate is close enough to the distance you actually plan on driving.

Take pictures of any damage you note on the car before leaving rental car center. And take a picture of the odometer. I've rented dozens of cars, and I've never had to use these pictures for anything, but it takes like, three minutes, so I do it every time. Thus far, no rental car company has been sleazy and has tried to pin anything on me, but it provides some peace of mind.

Itinerary

Take the trip that you want to take. Don't be discouraged by people bagging on the South. It has plenty to offer to interested parties (and it sounds like you're an interested party). Make liberal use of Yelp! and TripAdvisor for the lowdown on cool stuff to do in the cities you plan to visit.

I agree with mcluhan that Hot Springs is very nice, if you can work it in.

On the safety of American cities

It's true that some American cities suffer from high crime. And it is true that Memphis is frequently near the top of the list. But these places are often more dangerous for the people who live there than they are for folks just passing through. Most would-be criminals don't start the morning thinking, "Boy, I hope I get to accost a random person today!" As long as you're not planning on joining a gang, or becoming romantically entangled with a drug dealer, you're probably fine.

You can further mitigate the risk by,

-always traveling with your friend (personally, I tend to feel safe, even with walking alone at night, but I'm a 6'1 man, and I understand that people who don't fit my profile can have different experiences)
-don't get shit-faced drunk in public, or make ostentatious shows of wealth (if you're on this website, I'm guess this isn't in your nature anyway)
-hiding your valuables when parking somewhere that you perceive to be sketchy

I've chosen to make a safe, low-col, suburb with good schools my home. Life is not lived entirely in these places though. Have fun!




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Re: New Zealander traveling to US - help wanted
« Reply #31 on: October 23, 2017, 09:57:09 PM »
I am guessing Houston is part of the trip because it has a very large airport and perhaps decent deals from NZ rather than it's music scene....certainly no mountain biking.

RE car - perhaps if you can put your bikes inside wherever you may be staying, rent whatever and buy a bike rack for the back of the car.

Yah, like others have said, with Memphis and NO, just use common sense.  Haven't been to Memphis in a while, but with NO, stay outside of the French Qtr and take Ubers.  Reasonable and easier. 

Someone mentioned Hot Springs.  AR is very scenic.  Could do a lot of biking there.