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First time traveling alone, no idea where to go/what to do

Old 06-13-20, 07:22 AM
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First time traveling alone, no idea where to go/what to do

I'm a man in my 30's, Chicagoan, getting ready to take my first proper vacation as an adult, but it will most likely be alone. I'm not in a serious relationship and all of my other friends are attached to kids and mortgages and whatnot. I'll have at least 3 weeks in December, one of which I'd like to spend at home relaxing.

I'm making a stop in the Southwest to visit friends, but I can't think of any further activities I'd enjoy alone besides exploring nature or museums, and I'm more of a small town lover. I've also never been the type of person who goes to restaurants or the movies, etc alone. My first thoughts are of Olympic Nat'l park; temperate rainforests are terribly beautiful. I'd also be interested in Yellowstone, or any other breathtaking type of place really. I love most of Florida, but I think it's more of a family or couple atmosphere. I'm saving New Orleans for a future trip. I should probably stick to the lower 48 states; I hate long flights, and I'm a bit unsure about booking international travel right now.

So, where would you like to spend a week or so by yourself in America?
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Old 06-13-20, 07:32 AM
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I mean, being a cycling forum and all....This sounds like an ASTOUNDING opp to do a small bike tour, CC camping type deal.
Obviously it would be advantageous to do in FL (or similar) for that time of year. Some great riding south of Tampa to be had.
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Old 06-13-20, 08:07 AM
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rent a car> hang a bike on back > go west > live out of the car & use the bike to see the places where you stop >>>> it's the serendipity way to travel
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Old 06-13-20, 09:40 AM
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Yellowstone in December would require some real planning. But, on the other hand, because you live in Chicago it may seem like a real treat to get out of the cold...
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Old 06-13-20, 09:41 AM
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Pnw
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Old 06-13-20, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by ahsposo View Post
Yellowstone in December would require some real planning. But, on the other hand, because you live in Chicago it may seem like a real treat to get out of the cold...
Our daughter worked there for a short time and into winter. If you don't already HAVE reservations there I probably wouldn't count on it happening. Another aspect is that major parts of the park are closed and/or inaccessible in winter.
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Old 06-13-20, 10:22 AM
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Olympic NP will be 40F and raining in December. Unless you go to Hurricane Ridge where it will be snowing instead. On the bright side, the waterfalls are a lot more impressive. But the cold is a lot more miserable when you're wet.

I would go to the Methow Valley instead, at the edge of North Cascades NP. It'll be in the 20s and 30s instead, which means dry. They have 125 miles of Nordic ski trails. Anyone who likes cycling can only love xc skiing. Depending when in December you're out there, I might ski with you.
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Old 06-13-20, 10:32 AM
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This thread is motivating me to go on a road trip. But in this covid infested world I’m thinking on ways to be safe. No problem with roughing it. Maybe a tent camping trip to the mountains in New Mexico.
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Old 06-13-20, 10:45 AM
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If it's got to be in December, in the U.S., then I'd probably stick to more-southerly states. Just for weather reasons, alone.

Once did a driving/camping trip from late September to late October, some decades ago, hitting most of the western states. Only got snowed on for an hour, one day, down by Zion NP. Otherwise, aside from a few very cold nights, it was quite beautiful. Very cold, crisp autumn days. A few nights got into the low single digits, and that's certainly no fun when camping unless having a lot of serious cold-weather gear. Lots of great photos, lots of great trails and experiences with a bare minimum of other people around.

Can't say that I'd roll those dice, again, that late in the season, as far north as I'd gone. Certainly wouldn't plan doing so in December.

While western (coastal) Washington and Oregon) can be quite beautiful, it's a crap shoot in winter. Might well get a bit of snow, icy nights and mornings, bad road conditions. To say nothing of high likelihood of mucho rain ... and the occasional landslides and road outages that come with it in the Pacific Northwest. Beautiful place, but December's probably not the time of year I'd plan a couple weeks to tool around off the beaten path. (That's more of a ~September to early-October thing, or perhaps in May, once the worst risk of the winter rains/snow are past.)

In December, I'd consider parts of New Mexico and Arizona. Though, being high desert and plateau country, many spots can see their fair share of snow and inclement weather in the winter months. A lot greater potential for sight-seeing and "the road less traveled" stuff, that far south, as compared to the Northwest.

California's another option. While the mountainous areas, and particularly the northern third of the state, can be risky in winter, it's got varied and beautiful landscapes that are hard to match. Staying away from the major cities, there is much to see. Even in December, one can find quite-decent weather and overall conditions, so long as you don't hit a bad storm or two that comes through the state. The coastal drive up from the ~Ventura area into Oregon is a wonderful way to spend it all driving and camping out (or overnight in a small B&B/motel). Beautiful. And late-autumn and winter months don't tend to see many travelers there. Biggest risk would be rains that drive road issues (outages). Other than that, and a low risk of snow in the northern third of the state, that would be a great way to spend a week or two.
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Old 06-13-20, 10:49 AM
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So if you're going to "The Southwest" which is a pretty broad area and going to be solo, I might suggest the Four Corners area. Beautiful landscapes including slot canyons, if you've never been in one, are a total visual blast.

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Last edited by ahsposo; 06-13-20 at 10:57 AM. Reason: Grammar, damned useless preposition...
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Old 06-13-20, 10:55 AM
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Shiprock in New Mexico:


Monument Valley

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Old 06-13-20, 10:58 AM
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Only 3 weeks holiday in USA is considered Generous.. unfortunately.. December in the southern hemisphere is Summer..


but the Air traffic access, that rather long flight, is vastly reduced at the moment..



NW Coast is rather Wet in December...







...
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Old 06-13-20, 11:05 AM
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Here's a screenshot that tells a story about the Four Corners region; lots and lots to see. Depending on how you travel You could fly into Phoenix, rent a car and drive to Santa Fe or Albuquerque and fly home. Killer 2 week trip.

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Old 06-13-20, 11:19 AM
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Originally Posted by ahsposo View Post
Shiprock in New Mexico:


​​​​​​If you haven't already seen Dirtbag, the story of the first ascent of Shiprock is hilarious (and mean).
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Old 06-13-20, 11:49 AM
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chicago to new mexico > santa fe or taos or SHIPROCK is an easy 3 day drive if you want to stop along the way OR 2 days just cruising along > plus if you like you can night drive in UFO country AND the 4 corners area which is A++
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Old 06-13-20, 02:02 PM
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Just go bum around the southwest national parks, they'll probably be no one there at that time of year. Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Capitol Reef (not sure if its accessible in winter), Canyonlands (also might be inaccessible). Beautiful geological-heavy scenery at all of them, made even more breathtaking if there's a bit of snow.

Also try the California Coast from just north of San Francisco down to Santa Barbara - great national parks just north and south of SFO, great drive down to the Santa Barbara/L.A. area. Maybe a day trip out the Channel Islands natl Park (offshore, need to make boat reservations out of the Ventura Harbor)
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Old 06-13-20, 02:20 PM
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I've pondered going to Arkansas, specifically Bentonville during the winter. I've looked into it around January/February but it gets wet. I bet December would be nice.

You could do some great mountain biking in Arizona.
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Old 06-13-20, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by GrainBrain View Post
I've pondered going to Arkansas, specifically Bentonville during the winter. I've looked into it around January/February but it gets wet. I bet December would be nice.

You could do some great mountain biking in Arizona.
Watch out for those Razorbacks.......
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Old 06-13-20, 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by jack pot View Post
rent a car> hang a bike on back > go west > live out of the car & use the bike to see the places where you stop >>>> it's the serendipity way to travel
The wife and I have done trips like this, where she's the driver and sleeps in, and I get up early and hit the road... I go off in a prearranged direction and she catches me in a couple hours and then we go off to breakfast. Everything is open ended... where we eat, where we stay... the only thing agreed upon is the road I will be on.

The OP could do something similar, although I might recommend renting a van or even a small RV. Arizona is quite nice in December, especially along the south... So Cal in the deserts is also quite nice... and both have enough back roads to make for some nice cycling... it would be an out and back trip though, where what I did was "wonder what's around the next corner... "
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Old 06-13-20, 03:03 PM
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Base out of Santa Fe. If there at Christmas, visit the Pueblo’s for the traditional holiday dances. Walk Canyon Road with the display of faralitas. Lots of museums. Hang out in the plaza.

My wife worked for the Opera for 10 seasons, we were always there in the spring and summer, went back one Christmas and I literally get emotional thinking about what a remarkable experience. It’s a like going to Italy for the holidays, simply magical. And the New Mexican cooking is the best Mexican style cooking on the planet.

Then rent a mt. bike. Head to Albuquerque and ride the exceptional single track. Or further south in Cloudcroft. Or drive out with a road bike and just ride the roads. The most magnificent sunsets on the planet.

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Old 06-13-20, 03:21 PM
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I live in the PNW. Love it. December is when I want to go somewhere else, with sunshine.

I lived in the SW, west Texas specifically, for a while. December could be 90f or 20f or both in the same day, but will almost certainly be sunny. Don't forget the days are short, however.

I'd be tempted to go with the Florida keys. I biked down the keys and back one January, and wished I had the time to slow down and explore. Key West is a destination and hang out spot for all kinds of people; you won't be alone in being solo.
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Old 06-13-20, 03:27 PM
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You know, I was thinking I'd rather go PNW, having forgotten all the beauty the southwest has to offer, but it would actually be perfect for me to start out in Reno, go through Yosemite and Sequoia Nat'l parks, maybe Vegas for a day or two, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, etc. I feel like that general route would be the most fun without having to travel too far between stops. I'd definitely have to spring for something nice to drive.

The Keys are very nice though and are definitely on my short list.

Thanks for the ideas, feel free to keep 'em coming.
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Old 06-13-20, 05:20 PM
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Well, you did not state funds were a problem, so if you have funds, wherever you go, consider employing a tour guide, but no more than one per day and a more than a couple days like that in a week would be too much. It seems crazy, but you can find a guide to you tastes (in terms of language and subject of interest) and they can tell you 100x more than the self-tour. An example for me was a touring in Rome, I wanted to see the vatican but I'm not really into paintings so I searched around and e-mailed various tour companies and ultimately paired up with a person who was an archaeologist who talked non-stop at every step through the vatican, the sistine chapel (well, really, guides are not allowed in there) and saint peters. He had create historical details and stories on sculptures and buildings and art. Compare this to a group tour of ancient rome, with a guide but also with 20-30 other people, it was almost like the audio self-tour but not quite. Old adage, you should get what you paid for.

In terms of sights in the USA, my favorite is far from the west, on the east coast, the outer banks, where the wright brothers flew the first plane. No sky scrapers on the beach. An ancient herd of wild horses to the north that were left behind by the spaniards (take the tour, 4-wheel drive only, there is a city there with no paved roads!), lighthouses to climb everywhere, kayak tours of the flora and fauna with an environmental bent, tours of the salt marsh and it's ecology, the giant sand dunes, a long-running outdoor theatrical plan of the first colony at roanoke island, ghost tours at night (because nags head used the nags (horses that is) with a lantern around the neck, to make the coast look like other ships at anchor so that ships would sail in and crash, making them available for looting, and of course, the food.
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Old 06-14-20, 08:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Wilbur Bud View Post
Well, you did not state funds were a problem, so if you have funds, wherever you go, consider employing a tour guide, but no more than one per day and a more than a couple days like that in a week would be too much. It seems crazy, but you can find a guide to you tastes (in terms of language and subject of interest) and they can tell you 100x more than the self-tour. An example for me was a touring in Rome, I wanted to see the vatican but I'm not really into paintings so I searched around and e-mailed various tour companies and ultimately paired up with a person who was an archaeologist who talked non-stop at every step through the vatican, the sistine chapel (well, really, guides are not allowed in there) and saint peters. He had create historical details and stories on sculptures and buildings and art. Compare this to a group tour of ancient rome, with a guide but also with 20-30 other people, it was almost like the audio self-tour but not quite. Old adage, you should get what you paid for.

In terms of sights in the USA, my favorite is far from the west, on the east coast, the outer banks, where the wright brothers flew the first plane. No sky scrapers on the beach. An ancient herd of wild horses to the north that were left behind by the spaniards (take the tour, 4-wheel drive only, there is a city there with no paved roads!), lighthouses to climb everywhere, kayak tours of the flora and fauna with an environmental bent, tours of the salt marsh and it's ecology, the giant sand dunes, a long-running outdoor theatrical plan of the first colony at roanoke island, ghost tours at night (because nags head used the nags (horses that is) with a lantern around the neck, to make the coast look like other ships at anchor so that ships would sail in and crash, making them available for looting, and of course, the food.
I had considered a tour guide for parts of the trip. I'm not made of money but I have few financial responsibilities and am generally frugal, I can afford to treat myself. A kayak tour is definitely something I'd be interested in, almost no matter the setting. I've always heard the Carolina/Virginia coasts are beautiful. It's going on the list.
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Old 06-14-20, 09:46 AM
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I swear every time I see the title to this thread I see: "First Time Traveling..." and then get all excited thinking about Time Travel.

Just remember, if you go back in time... don't change anything. Causes those pesky Time Paradoxes.
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