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  1. #1
    Senior Member SkyMax's Avatar
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    Campgrounds or Cheap Motels?

    On my upcoming extended USA tour I planned to camp for 3 days out of 4 because I thought that Motels everynight would be much more expensive than mostly camping.
    But today I talked to another Australian guy who toured across the USA 6 years ago and he said the cost difference between Campgrounds and El Cheapo Motels was neglible and worth the little bit extra for a good nights rest.(Campgrounds can be noisy).
    Although he did say that the Campgrounds in National Parks were cheap, (but high-density).
    In the 6 online journals I have read, the Campsites seem to be usually about $15 and the fleabag Motels about $30.
    What say you all? I'm not as young and tough as I used to be. Should I abandon the heavy trailer or panniers and just take my credit card?
    Clear Skies, Max

  2. #2
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Have you considered hostels?

    http://www.hihostels.com/openHome.do

    If it were me, I'd camp a few days, then spend a night in a hostel, then camp a few more nights, etc.. I did that in Australia when I was touring there, and the hostels were quite nice - clean and comfortable ... as compared with seedy low-priced motels.

    Camping over there cost anywhere from free to about $10 each per night.
    Hostels were anywhere from about $15 - $28 each per night.

  3. #3
    Senior Member saddlesores's Avatar
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    el cheapo motels, often used as the local brothel, can be quite, umm, noisy.
    but bring yer earplugs, and you can often find rooms in small towns for $15-20.

    national brand cheap motels will run $30+. check the websites for motel 6 and
    super 8 to find locations and prices.

    camping is often free in small town parks. check with the courthouse/police/sheriff
    for permission.

    you can also camp free on zillions of acres of public lands (blm,nfs).

  4. #4
    Has opinion, will express
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    There also are a lot of journals that make use of the free campgrounds as saddlesores mentions.

    Why not do both. There is not requirement for you to camp out every night. But motels can become expensive and rather solitary. They might be handy when you are wet, tired and cold and not camping in small town parks or commercial campgrounds are available. But that bugdet can take a beating, when it could be spent on other little leisures and pleasures.

    I gather you will need to understand that caravan parks here in Australia are a little different from the RV parks in the US.

  5. #5
    Senior Member SkyMax's Avatar
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    Machka, thanx but I live in Australia and my tour is going to be in the USA.
    Saddlesores, thanx, are "motel 6" and "super 8" motel chain brand names? I heard if you camp in small town parks you often get harassed by the local delinquents? Camping in a field on public land is probably better than a noisy campground, but err, being Aussie I don't know what blm/nfs means?
    Rowan, (+ Machka) the first line of my post says I'm touring in America, not Australia.

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    you can camp normally and when the weather´s just too miserable or you´re just too tired or you have nothing more than dirty laundries left in the panniers then go for hostels or motels.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan
    I gather you will need to understand that caravan parks here in Australia are a little different from the RV parks in the US.
    there´s the possibility that i might do oz this summer but am not sure so haven´t done any research yet, so how a caravan park´s like?

  7. #7
    Senior Member SkyMax's Avatar
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    Schumius, all I can say is that you generally get a larger plot or space than you do in the US. As in all countries Campgrounds off the tourist trail will be less crowded and possibly more "Quaint".
    Check Wade Hatler's site for a lot of Aussie info and great photos, especially in the Outback.
    http://www.wademan.com/VisionQuest/VQ_Australia1.htm

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    Both Motel 6 and Super 8 are brand names coast to coast, I stay when I drive coast to coast, always been CLEAN and in safe "Hoods. Cost, Rarely in the 30s range more likely in the 40s$. The independent mom and pop places can be just as clean and maybe cheaper but always ask to see the room first, they won't let u see it, you prob don't want to stay there, and the "hot sheet" places ARE in 'hoods you won't be riding.
    Campgrounds can be friendlier, but if I'm tired after a long day I just want to sleep and get away early the next AM.
    Oh, yeh. ck the beds in ultra cheapo motels if the mattress sags u AREN'T going to sleep well
    The motels usually give a small discount if you are a member of AAA if u r a member in OZ bring it with you, It may work here, I always asked for a discount being over 55 even though I'm not a member of AARP or AAA and almost always got the discount, 10% I believe

  9. #9
    Hooked on Touring
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    Schu -

    Lemme tell you a story about a "cheepo" hotel. On my first cross-country tour I stayed in the Sacajawea Hotel in Casper for $5 - yes, it was 1987, but still $5 was cheap. Of course, it was filled with winos and bums and the room was super funky. I put my tent fly over the bed and put my sleeping bag on top of that. Then in the middle of the night I heard a ferocious row going on. Turns out that two beat-up old drunks were parting company as a couple in the middle of the hallway - fighting over the ownership of a pathetic pile of possessions. I recall saying, "You pays your $5 - you gets your $5 worth."

    I agree with Machka that hostels make a nice break, but I find camping preferable to motels not just on cost alone. I sleep better in campgrounds than motel rooms plus get an earlier start the next day. I can't tell you the number of times that I've listened to the TV in the next room past two in the morning or had someone warm up the diesel truck to go fishing starting at four.

    There are three major public lands agencies in the West:
    NPS - National Park Service - where you must usually camp in designated sites
    NFS - National Forest Service - where you can camp anywhere
    BLM - Bureau of Land Management - where you can camp anywhere

    The "rule of thumb" >>> NPS - the spectacular stuff, NFS - the nice stuff, BLM - what was left over.
    If it's not fenced or posted , then you can assume it's public land, also a lot of BLM land is fenced for grazing, but it still open to public use.

    Small town parks are hardly filled with rowdy locals, small town police generally don't permit errant behavior to continue for long. More likely, you would get the 10-year-old kids doing the 101 question routine - but the camping would be fine. Also, in the Midwest and east there are often rural county parks that have limited camping - these are very pleasant.

    Enjoy your trip. J

  10. #10
    Senior Member librarian's Avatar
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    And if you use the adventurecycling.org maps (30,000 miles worth) they have made arrangements in most of the towns for cyclists to camp there. The one nice thing about this is that it us usually free and frequently has showers in the little league (baseball) field, town swimming pool etc. When crossing the US I was never bothered by anyone. The townspeople are used to bicyclists. I couldn't begin to tell you the number of free sodas (pop) that I got from locals.

  11. #11
    Senior Member gregw's Avatar
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    Hi Max, welcome to the USA, I hope you have a great time here. Back to your original post, if your friend was comparing KOA campgrounds (A national chain $18-$28) with “El Cheapo, Fleabag" motels $25-$40, than he is right, but that comparison on a day to day basis is not typical.
    On an “Extended USA tour” you will need to be as versatile as possible. There are many small towns that don’t have either campgrounds or motels. In these places you just ask the local Police where they will let you camp. I’ve never been turned down and they usually look out for you. I’ve slept in city parks (avoid these on the weekends), court house lawns, Fire stations and Post office lawns when nothing else was available.
    More typically, campgrounds run between $8 and $18, and hostels between camping and motels. (The mid-west and south have few hostels)
    So, in short, bring your camping gear and your credit card, you will need them both. Camp when the weather is nice and the campgrounds available and motel it when the weather turns bad or you just feel like it. Never feel guilty for staying in a motel, bike tours can be tough enough without guilt.
    Again enjoy your trip. Greg

  12. #12
    cycling fanatic Ken Brown's Avatar
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    I thought I had pretty low standards, but it is a long time since I have found a motel in the US for $40, let alone $20 or $5. When you are cycle touring you have less flexibility than travelling by car, where it is easier to go to the next town if you don't like what you find in the town where you run out of energy (or light). Also, in North America the tax is added to the quoted price, and sometimes there is a local tax plus a state tax. I would budget $50 per night if staying at motels.

  13. #13
    Senior Member balto charlie's Avatar
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    I agree with jamawani. Lots of great free stuff out there especially in the mnts. the Delorme Atlas has the areas(National forest/BLM/Nat.parks) well marked. You might want to take a water filter with you if you don't go to organized campground. Plus the solitude and scenery more than make up for the cold river baths. Those starry nights can't be had in the motel.

  14. #14
    Senior Member gregw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Brown
    I thought I had pretty low standards, but it is a long time since I have found a motel in the US for $40, let alone $20 or $5. When you are cycle touring you have less flexibility than travelling by car, where it is easier to go to the next town if you don't like what you find in the town where you run out of energy (or light). Also, in North America the tax is added to the quoted price, and sometimes there is a local tax plus a state tax. I would budget $50 per night if staying at motels.
    I thought the very same thing. For my cross country (Transam, Northern tier and pacific coast) last summer, I budgeted $55 per motel stay and was pleasantly surprised to pay much less. The lowest was $21 but this was not typical. Except for the West coast, the motels typically ranged between the high $20's and the high $30's. These are not chains, like Best Western or Marriot, but family run tiny little places. They were usually OK, not to write home about, but OK. When it's cold, raining and you have been fighting a headwind all day, they are GREAT!

  15. #15
    Stand For Something mntbikedude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkyMax
    On my upcoming extended USA tour I planned to camp for 3 days out of 4 because I thought that Motels everynight would be much more expensive than mostly camping.
    But today I talked to another Australian guy who toured across the USA 6 years ago and he said the cost difference between Campgrounds and El Cheapo Motels was neglible and worth the little bit extra for a good nights rest.(Campgrounds can be noisy).
    Although he did say that the Campgrounds in National Parks were cheap, (but high-density).
    In the 6 online journals I have read, the Campsites seem to be usually about $15 and the fleabag Motels about $30.
    What say you all? I'm not as young and tough as I used to be. Should I abandon the heavy trailer or panniers and just take my credit card?
    Clear Skies, Max
    I think the advice to do a combination of camping and hostels and cheap motels is good. If riding across the US remember there is many miles of nothing out west. Kind of like riding across Australia, ok not quite that barren. At any rate out west there are plenty of places to camp very easily that would be hidden from view, (its not just a flat desert thru Utah, Colorado ect). And most people are very friendly and would be happy give you assistance if needed.

    MBD

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani
    I find camping preferable to motels not just on cost alone. I sleep better in campgrounds than motel rooms plus get an earlier start the next day. I can't tell you the number of times that I've listened to the TV in the next room past two in the morning or had someone warm up the diesel truck to go fishing starting at four.
    ture, i agree, that´s also why i like camping. but sometimes the´re folks making never ending noises from their radios, generators, whatever in the campsite, but of course, that´s if you stay in a campsite. go somewhere else and you can have a peace of mind.

  17. #17
    Senior Member SkyMax's Avatar
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    Wow such a good reponse of information thank you all!

    Individual cyclists experiences seem as varied as the weather, however all agree on flexibility and using a combination of accomodation as circumstances require.
    It seems that camping in a secluded field or forest gives you the quietest nights sleep, which is important.
    I would rather have a cold wash from a stream than no wash at all, you feel better afterwards.

    I am not going to take a tiny single skin tent as the space and dryness of something better is worth the extra weight in bad weather. Same for the Therma-rest mattress, 1.75" Min. I'm using a "Quick-Pak" trailer so I have plenty of room for stuff.
    Info gleaned from reading many journals on "CrazyGuyOnaBike.Com" has taught me many things. I will have an online journal there myself which will be posted before I commence my ride.Without Neil Gunton's site and Forums with helpful ppl like yourselves it would be all trial and error.

    I don't know anything about bears or where they hang out, which would worry me when "bush camping". Information on bears would be appreciated, I notice that some of them are rather large.
    The only dangerous carnivore we have here are crocodiles, but they live in the Far North and only eat Overseas Tourists who think it's a nice day for a swim. Also they don't chase bicycles, not far anyway.

    Thank you all again I feel I have met new friends already!
    Mark (Skymax) Townsend.

  18. #18
    Sore saddle cyclist Shifty's Avatar
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    Jamawani and Machka ALWAYS give the best advice around, I tip my hat to you both! I'll just throw this in, State Parks and Forest service campgrounds are the nicest and will be quiet, in both, if you ask the campground attendant that you need a bit of quiet for sleeping, they usually will bend over backwards to help you, and we are suckers for foreigners in the west, really lay on the accent it will help you.
    On the west coast, Oregon, Washington and Calif., the State Parks have bicycle camps. The best thing about these is being with other tourist for the evening, I learned alot about thing to see, resturants to try, or avoid, and about road conditions.
    Those voices in your head aren't real, but they have some great ideas

  19. #19
    Senior Member kbabin's Avatar
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    You might also check the Warm Shower List. Depending on your route you might find people on the list willing to give you free night on their floor....

    http://www.rogergravel.com/wsl/vh_for_a.html

    If you pass though Fayetteville, AR....give me a call.

    Kevin

  20. #20
    Senior Member madhouse's Avatar
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    I've camped in State Parks in several different States. Every State has their own set of rules and fees, but the fees are consistent throughout that particular State. Most have "primitive" camping sites that are away from the weekenders but the showers and water are farther away.

    Across the Midwest farm country there are few who wouldn't give you permission to set up camp on their land. As a kid I remember a few cyclists sleeping in their tents, using our shower and having breakfast all for the cost of 101 questions.

    If you're planning on cutting through Minnesota give me a PM.

  21. #21
    Senior Member SkyMax's Avatar
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    Wow, this bike touring idea seems good. I'm meeting new friends already and I havent left yet!
    I should tell you that I have only done one 560Km tour before and that was a camping, supported mass-ride, so really I am a total newbie at this whole thing.
    Never solo toured, never ridden a Recumbent. Sometimes the whole idea scares the bejeezuz outta me.

    LOL Shifty, I have been in the States on business trips and when I spoke "Australian" ppl just looked at each other and said "Wha'd he say"? Because I am a Sales Rep I had to speak slowly and put a little "burr" in my voice to be understood. I worked for a light Aeroplane Manufacturer http://www.storch.com.au/ and we did trips in our aircraft to places like Oshkosh, Tampa and Memphis. On one trip we flew from LA to Florida in 5 days. It was all good but we never had time to kick back with the great ppl we met or really visit the amazing country we were flying over. That is the main reason for me returning to the US, so I can really experience it at my leisure. The Pacific West Coast is about the only place I do not have in my plans at the moment, if that's what you mean by "the West"?
    Starting at Peter Stull, The Bicycle Man's, shop in Alfred NY (with my new Bent,,, new everything actually) I will be hopefully doing bits of, Northern Tier, Lewis+Clark, Transam, Great Rivers, Southern Tier, and Atlantic Coast are the main ideas at the moment. The Civil War sites in Virginia interest me very much as does Carolina. And I'm bringing my Paraglider to do a bit of flying at Roanoke Mt.
    The idea of meeting other touring cyclists in Campgrounds would be well worth any occasional negative experiences. CLEAR SKIES, MAX.

  22. #22
    senile member
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    o 560 km tour is good enough as a first try, mine was 30 km short of yours. just follow the common sense, precautions and i´m sure you´ll be fine.

    they also have a hospitality list on http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/resou...category_id=13

  23. #23
    Sore saddle cyclist Shifty's Avatar
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    Have fun where ever you go, hope you find us welcoming. By west I generally mean west of the Rocky Mountains, there's an old saying that I firmly believe, "The West is The Best". Lot's of great ideas here, always more where those came from, feel free to ask.
    Those voices in your head aren't real, but they have some great ideas

  24. #24
    Sweetened with Splenda
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    At least on the East Coast, pretty much all of the prices above are vastly understated. On my recent tour, I was astonished to discover that even most state parks ranged between $25 and $45 per night for a campsite - apparently because the vast majority of campers along the coast don't actually camp... they arrive for the season in giant RVs, and expect to pay a fortune in exchange for lots of facilities that I, as a cyclist, had no need of. My understanding is that the rest of the country isn't quite so bad - yet - but be sure to allow a bit of wiggle room in your budget!

  25. #25
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkyMax
    Machka, thanx but I live in Australia and my tour is going to be in the USA.
    Saddlesores, thanx, are "motel 6" and "super 8" motel chain brand names? I heard if you camp in small town parks you often get harassed by the local delinquents? Camping in a field on public land is probably better than a noisy campground, but err, being Aussie I don't know what blm/nfs means?
    Rowan, (+ Machka) the first line of my post says I'm touring in America, not Australia.

    Yes, I know. That's why I posted the hostelling INTERNATIONAL link.


    BTW - if the national parks in Canada are anything like the national parks in the US, you're looking at about $30/night to camp.

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