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Aussie driving west coast USA first time in November

Brisbane, Australia
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Aussie driving west coast USA first time in November

We arrive in LA from Australia on Nov 19th for a 3 week driving trip up the West Coast. I've heard it can be problematic due to snow falls and the fact I've never driven on the opposite side of the road before. What is the best way for my daughter 18 yrs and myself, a female, to do this trip, rental car or trains or combination. This trip is to prepare for relocating to somewhere on West Coast in 2015 so my daughter can study Law at a good law college there. Possibly Washington or Oregon or Seattle or surrounding areas as neither of us like the heat and LA, I'm told, is too expensive. I think I'm am liking Oregon to live. The trip is not really a "touristy" sightseeing trip, it's more checking out places. We leave LAX on 11th Dec. Have never been to USA before.Would appreciate any help/advice including tips on what to do and what not to do. Thank you

Renton, WA
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1. Re: Aussie driving west coast USA first time in November

You propose a three-week round trip, LAX-SEA-LAX?

If you hug the coast, snow will not be a problem. Go to www.weatherbase.com, click on United States, and then select Oregon and Washington and select coastal cities (an atlas will help with names). You will see historical weather data for each month of the year. Be aware that this route is almost entirely two-lane roads; on the plus side, you will be on the land side of the road, across from the water. However, I think that it will be tough to drive the round trip and have time to do much sightseeing/evaluating. The interstate freeway would be much faster, but the Siskiyou Pass at 4300 feet might have snow (although the highway engineers do a great job of keeping it clear).

Taking the train would solve the left-hand-drive problem.

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2. Re: Aussie driving west coast USA first time in November


Your daughter is 18. That means she should be looking for a university with the very best pre-law program she can get into. In your daughter's best interest, that is where you should live.

You should not let geographic preference come into play at all!

Edited: 6:05 pm, July 25, 2014
Seattle, Washington
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3. Re: Aussie driving west coast USA first time in November

Bob has some good tips. That having been said....

The weather from LA northward to the middle of California will be fine. Since you're just getting used to the US and driving on the "wrong" side of the road, you might be well advised to stick to interstates on the NORTHBOUND leg and then try the more adventurous routes headed southbound. Unfortunately, for the first couple of days of your drive (northbound on Interstate 5), you'll be bored to death with farmland. Since you'll have plenty of time, you'll want to make side trips to the Sequoia National Forest, to Lake Tahoe, and perhaps to San Francisco (some adventurous driving, for sure, but worth seeing).

About 3/4 the way up California, north of Redding, you'll get into hilly country, but nothing insurmountable. The scenery, in my humble opinion, is quite nice north of Redding all the way to Seattle and on to the Canadian border, if you care to go that far.

On the southbound leg, "hugging the coast" isn't as direct as it sounds, but it is quite beautiful. Plan on a very slow trip "hugging the coast".

Now, as for law schools -- there are quite a few excellent ones on the west coast, but sadly they're all in pretty expensive places. Seattle has two -- University of Washington and Seattle University. Both are highly regarded, but tend to have more of a local/regional focus (in my humble opinion). Seattle is not the cheapest place to live in the US, but is much more livable than Los Angeles. In California, there is Boalt Hall (at Berkeley) and Stanford, in Silicon Valley. Both are excellent, internationally regarded law schools, and are in somewhat more livable places than Los Angeles.

Oregon Coast
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for Crescent City, Oregon Coast, Oregon, Redwood National Park
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4. Re: Aussie driving west coast USA first time in November

Post #3 is correct -- any snow problems will be in the north. Far northern Calif, Oregon and Washington all get snow in many areas. However, as long as you stay out of the mountains, you should not have very many, if any, problems. That's a little early for snow in most areas.

The Oregon coast gets snow every year, usually 2-5 snowfalls. We don't get a lot, but we do get it!

Now, what you will experience is rain. A LOT of rain, depending upon where you are in the Northwest. Inland areas such as Seattle and Portland don't get that much, but they have many grey cloudy days in winter. The Oregon coast gets about *twice* what the inland areas get, so if you plan to drive either north or south along the coast, just know you will have rain. You may also experience one of our frequent wind storms.

You'll be okay in a rental car -- public transportation won't work for your overall trip -- but know that getting out of LA will be a *nightmare* if you are not used to very fast moving freeway traffic. Make sure you get rested before you drive, use GPS if you're used to it, and concentrate on keeping right.

Thousands of people from left driving countries visit every year and are just fine, but it will take some concentration until you get used to it. Outside the huge cities people are less frantically in a hurry :-)

5. Re: Aussie driving west coast USA first time in November

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