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Parking your Car

Old 07-19-10, 06:47 AM
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Parking your Car

I have always left for tours from my home. But today as I was walking my dog, I was wondering about how some start from a different location. For those that do take their gear by car to another location, where do you park your car? How long do you leave your car there?

Any troubles with leaving your car somewhere for a week?
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Old 07-19-10, 07:08 AM
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All depends where. I live in Philly and sometimes don't see my car for a week depending on where I park it.

Would I leave it for a week in a high-crome area of Detroit. No. Would I levae it parked legally on the streets of down town Whotefish, MT. Probably. Whenever I pakr I make sure there is nothing attractive visible throught he glass. In fact, I usually leave my car looking trashy. Gives the suggestion that there is nothing inside worth stealing.
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Old 07-19-10, 07:18 AM
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Over the past year or so, we've done a lot of hub-and-spoke tours where we drive out to a spot we deem our headquarters, and then we ride out in all different directions over the days we're there. In those cases we leave the car at our cabin or campground.

I imagine you could leave a car parked in a residental street somewhere for a week. When I lived in Edmonton for a semester, I would drive up to Edmonton on the Monday, park my car on the street somewhere near the place I lived, and then I wouldn't touch my car again until Friday when I drove back "home" again. No one bothered with my car for those days. If a person were to leave a car in a place like that without using it or moving it for a month or more, that might be more of an issue, but a week isn't very long.
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Old 07-19-10, 07:59 AM
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I've used a couple of techniques. The most common has been to drive the night before to where I'm going to start my tour and spend the night in a hotel there. Typically it's been an inexpensive place on the edge of town somewhere. This way space for hotel parking is not at a premium and it has the extra benefit of getting me closer to the rural roads great for cycling. At the same time I make my reservation, I work out an agreement with the hotel that I can leave my car with them during the nights I'm away. That way if they say no (which has never happened), I have the option of finding a different hotel. (Note: Do not reserve through a chain hotel toll free booking site. Call the hotel directly so you will be talking to the same people that staff the hotel where you plan to leave your car.) I make it a point to park my car away from the choice parking spaces near the building and leave absolutely nothing of value in it.

One one occasion, I parked in a gated parking lot near an airport. It cost about five dollars a day for a four day tour. I figured it was worth the $20 for the 24 hour security in a lot where people typically leave cars for days at a time. The same would probably also hold true for major train stations and ferries.

If you are camping at a state park or private campground, maybe the park staff or campground owners would allow you to leave a car there. I would think the private campground would be most receptive as I'm sure many have had RV's or other campers left there for weeks at a time.
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Old 07-19-10, 08:34 AM
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Originally Posted by SweetLou
I have always left for tours from my home. But today as I was walking my dog, I was wondering about how some start from a different location. For those that do take their gear by car to another location, where do you park your car? How long do you leave your car there?

Any troubles with leaving your car somewhere for a week?
There are several ways to handle the car situation. I have 3 or 4 that are my current favorites. First, if you are starting from a fair sized city, check the local airport. I did a tour in Arkansas this spring and was able to park my truck at the Texarkana Airport for the 2 weeks. It cost me $5 per day. Not too bad for cost. My wife and I are planning to do the Natchez Trace in the fall and we are going to park our vehicle at the Nashville Airport. It's a larger city and a larger airport but it should be secure.

You could always take advantage of the Warmshowers network. But that depends on your host having space and on whether or not the local ordinances allow for long term street parking. Check first. My wife and I did something similar in St. Charles, MO at a bed and breakfast. We got the permission ahead of time and made sure that we were going to stay there the night before we left and for at least one night (we stayed 2) after we got back from the tour. We wanted to be fair to the host.

My favorite...not necessarily cheapest...way of dealing with the car is to not deal with it at all. I do one-way car rentals if I can. If you can travel the distance to the start in 24 hours, it's about as expensive as an airline flight but without all the hassles. If two or more people are going, it's much cheaper than airlines. Then you don't have to deal with parking, worrying about your vehicle or with designing a loop ride. You could even use hybrids of this method for point-to-point rides. Drive your car to start city, park at the airport and then ride to the destination. You could then rent a one-way to return to your car. Since most one-ways have to be dropped at airports, you have built in parking for your car.

Just be flexible and think a little out of the box
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Old 07-19-10, 09:16 AM
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Pardon me if it's an impractical suggestion, but can you not leave the car at home and take your bike on a bus or train?
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Old 07-19-10, 09:50 AM
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Churches and many small town airports are likely candidates for short or even long term free parking, with permission of course. I've even gotten the ok from a private business to park for several days in an out of the way spot. I sometimes leave a note on the dash board explaining why I've left the vehicle, when I'll return to get it, and a cp #. This for curious law enforcement. An appropriate tip is usually in order. I think bicycle tourist get a bit of extra sympathy for this sort of thing.

Round trip touring with your own transportation at the start and finish certainly has a lot of advantages over commercial.
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Old 07-19-10, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Al Downie
Pardon me if it's an impractical suggestion, but can you not leave the car at home and take your bike on a bus or train?
Unfortunately, Al, the USA is not well set up for such practical solutions. That can be done in some locations, but there are many areas which receive no train or bus service at all. For those that have service, many trains require bikes to be boxed and checked, yet even some long distance routes may have only a few stations that provide checked luggage services. Very few routes provide roll-on, roll-off bike access. This greatly limits your options if you are going to use a train to get to your tour start.

I have never used a bus to get to a starting point, but I've been told that it can sometimes be difficult to get a bike on a bus. Again, it usually has to be boxed, and the driver has the final say whether or not you can take it on the bus. The one time I attempted to use a bus to get to my starting point, the route was so complex that it was going to take nearly all day to get me somewhere that I could drive to in a mere fraction of the time, so I drove instead so as not to waste my very valuable and limited vacation time.
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Old 07-19-10, 10:24 AM
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I've used a variety of methods. The one-way rental works well, especially if you can do it from an airport since otherwise I've found there tend to be rather steep drop-off charges for returning it to a different location. One time I called the local police and asked for advice on an appropriate spot and they indicated that there was a lot right next to their station where I could leave my car. Another time we drove through a convenient residential area until we saw someone outside in his yard - asked his permission to park in front of his house and let him know about when we expected to return.
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Old 07-19-10, 10:25 AM
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Some good ideas here that hadn`t occured to me. The only one I have to add is parking at trailheads. I`ve done that twice, both times only for weekends. I figure that`s pretty much what trailheads and staging areas are for, anyway- I just take a different "trail".
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Old 07-19-10, 11:16 AM
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Originally Posted by PurpleK
Unfortunately, Al, the USA is not well set up for such practical solutions. That can be done in some locations, but there are many areas which receive no train or bus service at all. For those that have service, many trains require bikes to be boxed and checked, yet even some long distance routes may have only a few stations that provide checked luggage services. Very few routes provide roll-on, roll-off bike access. This greatly limits your options if you are going to use a train to get to your tour start.

I have never used a bus to get to a starting point, but I've been told that it can sometimes be difficult to get a bike on a bus. Again, it usually has to be boxed, and the driver has the final say whether or not you can take it on the bus. The one time I attempted to use a bus to get to my starting point, the route was so complex that it was going to take nearly all day to get me somewhere that I could drive to in a mere fraction of the time, so I drove instead so as not to waste my very valuable and limited vacation time.
I agree. We are a very car-centric nation, Al. So much so that we have done a damned fine job of dismantling our train and bus systems. For example, to travel by Amtrak from Denver to St. Louis would require a bus trip to Pueblo and then a 18+ hour train trip (more likely a 28 to 32 hour trip since passenger trains don't have priority) to St. Louis. And I'd have to pack my bike for the trip out and back. Finding a box for the trip back would be problematic if I didn't come back from the start point.
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Old 07-19-10, 01:47 PM
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I like the idea of one-way car rental. This way you don't have to return to the same place and you won't need to worry about your car. Your route may not always be a loop.
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Old 07-19-10, 04:10 PM
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I'll never park again at a trailhead! One look at the ground around the parking spaces at trailheads, and the piles of broken glass will tell you what the local thugs do for entertainment. My truck was broken into in mid-day in a parking area next to a trail when I left it for only an hour in the Columbia Gorge- lots of traffic nearby. After returning from my walk, I saw my new pile of broken glass adding to the dozens nearby, and did a head-smack!
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Old 07-19-10, 04:57 PM
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The one way car rental is a good idea that I haven't thought of. There have been some other great ideas in this thread also. I'm kind of weary about just parking on a residential street and hoping for the best. I recently got a ticket because the city was doing some street cleaning. I have since found out that Cincinnati has a law saying cars are abandoned if left in one place for more than 13 hours. So, they only give one day notice that the car cannot be parked. I don't park on my street, so I did not see the notice. My car was there for about 20 hours. Oh, the joys of owning a car again

The idea of parking at the airport is good also. I wouldn't mind paying for parking. I hadn't thought about going to a bigger city to start the tour, but that would make it easier. I was kind of thinking about starting in a smaller town.

Warmshowers is also a great idea. Though, no one has ever contacted me about staying at my place Of course, I better update my profile since I've moved back to Cincy.
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Old 07-19-10, 09:49 PM
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Originally Posted by SweetLou
Warmshowers is also a great idea. Though, no one has ever contacted me about staying at my place Of course, I better update my profile since I've moved back to Cincy.
Maybe next year. I might be in your area in September.
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Old 07-20-10, 04:21 AM
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Originally Posted by AdamDZ
I like the idea of one-way car rental. This way you don't have to return to the same place and you won't need to worry about your car. Your route may not always be a loop.
I've done the 1 way rental on a number of occasions. It's good, but usually nearly twice as much as a round-trip rental.
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Old 07-20-10, 05:52 AM
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Just be careful with airports, some don't allow bicycle riding on the roads so you would have to walk your bike some miles or take a taxi to the parking ramp.
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Old 07-20-10, 06:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka
I've done the 1 way rental on a number of occasions. It's good, but usually nearly twice as much as a round-trip rental.
That can vary a good bit depending both on the location and the rental company. It pays to check several to minimize the extra charge for one way. At the beginning of our TA the range of prices quoted for one way was really large (something like 4 to 1), but we managed to find a reasonable deal.

I have parked cars for longer times on non cycling trips (kayaking, backpacking, etc.). I have never had a hard time finding an acceptable place to park for a week or more. I usually ask at a local business and am either offered a place to park or some suggestions. Alternately I have asked the police.

Small towns are usually more friendly in this regard and since you are driving there it probably makes sense to start somewhere other than a big city any way.

The parking thing is kind of moot for me with touring though since I am not inclined to start and finish from the same place. Also at least one end of the trip is likely to be farther than I care to drive so there is usually air travel involved. I like to just ride out of the airport. That said I have used a rental car to get from the airport to an alternate starting point. I have also used the train to get from the end point back to the start.
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Old 07-20-10, 06:09 AM
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Originally Posted by KLW2
Just be careful with airports, some don't allow bicycle riding on the roads so you would have to walk your bike some miles or take a taxi to the parking ramp.
Just curious. What airports would you have to walk miles to get out of. Thus far I have been able to just ride out of the airport on my tours. I don't have experience with riding out of all that many airports though.
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Old 07-20-10, 06:26 AM
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We were able to park in the police station parking lot in Sedalia, MO when we did the Katy Trail.

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Old 07-20-10, 07:48 AM
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I like the airport Idea, sounds like the most practical and secure solution.
If you were in my part of the world I could offer you secure off road parking.
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Old 07-20-10, 10:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka
I've done the 1 way rental on a number of occasions. It's good, but usually nearly twice as much as a round-trip rental.

I think the cheapest should be from one airport to another airport. Is that whet you've done?

A.
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Old 07-20-10, 11:42 AM
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I just got back from a tour. I ended in Missoula, Montana and needed to rent a car to drive to Portland, where I boarded the train for home. I have a couple of thoughts:

Lots of car rental companies weren't into one-way rentals. I called a few. I thought I was stranded in Missoula (not really, but it was unsettling.) Finally Alamo came through. I have a 62cm LHT (XXL.) I asked for a midsize car with fold-down rear seats. The guy on the phone (their 800 number) thought that would happen. It didn't. I got a Buick Lucerne. The bike wouldn't fit in the trunk and it didn't have fold-down rear seats. I thought I was stuck. Finally, after I took off the rear rack, rear fender, and both wheels, I got it in behind the front seats.

Amtrak bike boxes are great! They cost $15 plus a $5 shipping charge, so it's a $20 fee. My 62cm bike with a high-rise stem fit fine. I had to take of the pedals, unfasten the handlebars and turn them sideways, and leave the top clamp of the stem off (I left in on coming north and it made my bike not quite fit. ) If I ever need a bike box for shipping some other way (UPS?) I think I'll go buy an AMTRAK box. It's not a problem for people who are more normally sized, but my big bike doesn't fit most boxes - I tried getting one from my local bike shop once and it was too small.)

I think next time I'll try and arrange everything in advance, before I leave on my trip. It may be nice to leave things open-ended, but it's also nice to have everything sorted out and not have to worry (I can be a worry-wart.) I'd like to specify a vehicle for which I wouldn't have to disassemble my bike, if possible.

* * * * * *

As far as where to leave your car: I went on a bike trip out of St. George, Utah this spring. I left my truck in the long-term parking at the airport. It was free! Even if I had to pay, I'd like to know that my truck wasn't going to get towed or ticketed while I'm off riding.

A guy I met on an Oregon coast tour said he left his car in a police station parking lot. (He was from British Columbia, so he called it "the cop shop.") That could be great or not so good. If the police were okay with it, it sounds pretty safe. If they weren't, they're probably pretty likely to notice it and ticket or tow it.

I've also heard of people leaving cars at auto mechanic's. They often have cars left overnight that they're working on, so they usually have a fairly secure place to park them. It might be worth making some calls.
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Old 07-20-10, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
Just curious. What airports would you have to walk miles to get out of. Thus far I have been able to just ride out of the airport on my tours. I don't have experience with riding out of all that many airports though.
Minneapolis/St Paul is one, only real terminal access either is a high speed highway with little/no shoulder or a freeway and the airport does not allow bicycling on the property.....one rider had a big issue that was reported on in the local press trying to ride on airport roads...

read here...

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Old 07-20-10, 04:02 PM
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Originally Posted by AdamDZ
I think the cheapest should be from one airport to another airport. Is that whet you've done?

A.
Renting a car from an airport, whether it is round trip or one-way, is usually way more expensive than renting it from the company's branch way out in the boonies. At least, that's what I've found, and I've rented quite a few cars, especially during my car-ownership-free years. They can charge more at the airport because they've got a captive audience ... people who get off the plane want to get into a car right there, they don't want to have to take a bus or whatever to some suburb on the other side of the city in order to rent a car ... so the car rental places can get away with charging more at the airport.
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