#1 7-27-2017 2:02 AM

nolan
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Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

Hello,

I may have about 2 weeks after Thanksgiving 2017 to go on a Western USA roadtrip. I am considering renting a car and spending an average of 1-2 nights per city along the roadtrip route. This is what I am looking at so far, but the plan is very flexible and will definitely consider alternatives. I haven't mentioned my particular interests in this roadtrip except to see nature and a bit of history. Parties and meetups are a welcome side activity.

November 27,  2017 (starting Monday after Thanksgiving weekend)

* starting point: Los Angeles
Phoenix (TravBuddy meetup)
up Arizona to
Utah (Zion NP and Arches NP), camping would be great
drive up to Salt Lake City then to
Wyoming, specifically Yellowstone National Park
*** do I have time to detour and drive to South Dakota? (Mount Rushmore)
Montana
Idaho
Washington (Seattle)
drive down to Portland
Northern California, especially San Francisco and the Bay Area
drive back to Los Angeles via Pacific Coast Highway

So is this asking too much in terms of a 2 week roadtrip? How many days would you give each destination, and which can be skipped?

The target is to be back in Los Angeles by December 8, Friday, for a possible TravBuddy meetup.

Thanks in advance to all.

Last edited by nolan (7-27-2017 2:03 AM)

 

#2 7-27-2017 3:41 AM

DaveSwede
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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

Personally, I think that itinerary is overzealous for 2 weeks.

Just cutting the list down, and only taking driving time into account, you will spend ~7 days on the road.  That is little time to enjoy each stop.  And the point of an American road trip is to enjoy the byways and scenic little places in between.

* starting point:
Los Angeles ~ Phoenix : 6hrs drive without stops - make it a day if you stop at all along the way
Phoenix ~ Zion NP : 6hrs drive without stops - make it a day if you stop at all along the way
Zion NP ~ Arches NP : 5hrs drive without stops - make it a day if you stop at all along the way
Arches NP ~ Salt Lake City : 4hrs drive without stops - make it a day if you stop at all along the way
If you ended there and drove back to LA, last day would be 10hrs drive
That would give you ~5 days in the car and about 2 days each to see destination

If you added Mount Rushmore, you'd be adding 10hr drive each way, so now you have 7 days in the car and 1 day in each location.

Likewise if you add Yellowstone NP, or any other parts of Montana, Idaho, Oregon or Northern California, you will be spending 8~9 days in the car and only a few hours or 1/2 day at each location.

Personally, I'd save those northern places for another visit since after all, it will be winter and some of them are quite cold and/inaccessible due to snow.

 

#3 7-27-2017 5:48 AM

katzgar
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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

Yellowstone is the highlite of your list and is really beautiful in winter. Use youtube for pics. winter does mean a lot of tourist trap stuff will be closed.  your list is too long for 2 weeks. should you get caught in a snow storm just duck into the next motel and wait it out.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2o5-FsEX38

 

#4 7-27-2017 8:09 AM

Dymphna
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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

Way too much for 2 weeks. You might be able to drive it, but you won't see anything. Yellowstone alone takes at least 2 days.

 

#5 7-27-2017 8:29 AM

shavy
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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

We've done that route several years ago, we have three weeks.  We fly to Denver where we start the trip, we were in Yellowstone in May and was snowing we stuck inside the park for a few hours till the road is clear. Your'e going in the winter, you maybe driving in snow in the mountains.

One of my favourite place in the US nature is awesome, but the best time to visit I think is in the summer. Two weeks is too short for that route we fly from A to B, we flying out in Seattle back home

 

#6 7-27-2017 9:08 AM

NickelP
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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

It's definitely too much. I did a 10 day road trip just in Oregon and still so much I didn't get to see.

Unfortunately as I'm rather in love with Oregon and never seem to make it past that state (as much as I want to explore Washington, right now it's just a blip on my way to Oregon haha), I can't give you any suggestions as to a better itinerary. smile 

Having read DaveSwede's US road trip blog, he's definitely a good resource.

 

#7 7-27-2017 11:54 AM

grandmar
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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

Since you have already been to Portland and Seattle, I'd skip those and also with regret, Yellowstone.  If you want to meet your Travbuddy in Phoenix, I'd just concentrate on the area from LA to Phoenix and maybe go to Carlsbad Caverns, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and back to LAX

Otherwise, just explore the area from Los Angeles up to San Francisco - including Yosemite and possibly Sequoia NP, Big Basin, Muir Woods, Monterey, Carmel by the Sea, etc (not in that order)

 

#8 7-27-2017 5:38 PM

osgoodst
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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

urrrr late November Idaho / Wyoming = nice and windy and some pretty good snow.  The point being is the driving is going to go much slower than it looks on the map.  Same with trying to get out of LA. 

Your california / arizona / utah plan should be doable.  Don't forgot there is plenty of great sites in arizona besides phoenix.  Just so you know a lot of the highways in the area are just highways, nothing exciting about them, and not too good scenery.  Interesting truck stops though

 

#9 7-27-2017 9:43 PM

DaveSwede
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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

NickelP wrote:

Having read DaveSwede's US road trip blog, he's definitely a good resource.

Thanks!  I do enjoy my road trips!  Always drafting up the next ones.

The only person here on TB that I know who may do more road trips is BASAIC.  Sadly his VT pages were scrapped, but he literately had thousands of entries on the little towns in every corner of the US.  But he's a wealth of info on the back roads of USA.

 

#10 7-28-2017 2:04 AM

nolan
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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

Firstly, thank you to all that replied. I do realize I pushed the envelope a bit too far because if one would just count the number of states involved, that would already be at least six states already, and 2 days each state is quite hectic as Western states are double, even triple or more the size of East coast states. So driving alone would be a challenge for sure, unless there are more people to take turns at the wheel.

I didn't realize that winter would be upon the Rockies part by late November, probably because of the elevation of the mountains. From the looks of it, what Grandmar mentioned is a very likely eventuality, since coming from Seattle down to Los Angeles is almost a week at a leisurely pace, what more the going north scenario (AZ to MT).

The core places I want to go include Phoenix, maybe Tucson, and the National Parks in UT, and Yellowstone if weather is friendly enough. One option I considered is to go to the Four Corners Monument, and then move eastward to Denver at the farthest. So it could be something like below:

LA-Phoenix-Zion-Arches-Salt Lake City-Yellowstone-Denver-4 Corners, then slowly back to LA. Or

Coastal States, same route as above, but skip Denver and 4 Corners, from Yellowstone go towards NoCal by backtracking through Salt Lake City and passing by Reno.

A third option is to head to Portland, Seattle then into Canada (Vancouver) with flying in at least one direction. One of my Filipino TravBuddy friends is planning to do a route like this as well.

On another note, I wanted to take Amtrak (California Zephyr) going to Chicago. Then maybe explore the Midwest, and then fly back to LA one way.

I appreciate more comments and recommendations, probably with your favorite places and sights. And probably a likely estimate of expenses for the 2 week roadtrip. I estimated about 1200-1500, and when this amount gets compared with trips abroad, then it will start to get even more interesting (and confusing at first).

PS. Re TravBuddy meetups - that is a given, I have at least 3 of them based in the Phoenix area, plus a few more in the states along the Rockies. And probably a big meetup in Los Angeles.

 

#11 7-28-2017 5:52 AM

kvom
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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

I did a Google Map route of your "basic" route, and it shows a 54H driving time for the loop.  For a 14 day trip that's 4 hours per day.

 

#12 7-28-2017 8:46 AM

grandmar
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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

Quite a long time ago we did a trip in October from Hershey PA to Monterey California, and then flew back and did it again in December from Baltimore to Monterey. 

The trip in December, we had snow the whole way.  Because we had been living in the south, our snow tires hadn't been used much and they had dry rotted - we had two flat tires in the middle of a snowstorm in Kansas.  We went through Colorado (visited relatives in Denver,  and went to Colorado Springs to see the AFA, and Silver Cliff where my dad grew up), through Salt Lake City, and Reno on our way to Monterey.  But there was snow everywhere we went (until we got to Sacramento) and my husband was accustomed to driving in the snow.  In the Kansas snowstorm there were many many car wrecks where people had spun off the highway.

Then two years later we traveled from Monterey to Key West, and it took us about 3 weeks.  I had the trip on VT but I don't seem to have transferred it to any other website.  Anyway we were driving 2 cars and there were six of us,  my two children age 3 and 5, my husband and me and my parents.

The part of our route that is of interest for this discussion was Monterey to  Calico California where there was at that time a ghost mining town.  From there we went to Kingman, and we stopped off at the Grand Canyon for at least a day.  Then we went to Four Corners, which at that time was just a big concrete area with the four state names - there was nothing else there at that time.  Apparently now it is a cheesy tourist trap type place. Then we visited Mesa Verde, the Great Sand Dunes and went to visit family north of Denver. 

You are still trying to cover too much territory, too late in the year.

I'd advise you to either stay in the south - Tuscon, Phoenix and the national parks that you can visit there, or else drive north from LAX along the coast as much as possible and see the wonderful national and state parks that there are in California.  Or alternately, go south from LAX to San Diego and then go out to Tuscon.

Last edited by grandmar (7-28-2017 8:47 AM)

 

#13 7-28-2017 9:34 AM

shavy
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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

Not good Nolan big_smile you still want to covered a lot in a short time. If I plan a road trip I use google maps first to see how far we drive, the longest time we drive in a day is 6 hour. I would take Grandma's advice.

 

#14 7-29-2017 1:59 AM

nolan
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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

I reckon the minimum mileage for my plan is about 2,000 miles.

So that would mean 142 miles on average per day, or about 2.5-3 hours driving. If I move every 2 days, that would be almost 300 miles average per trip.

For gasoline that would be about 80/100 gallons at 25/20 mpg, which is between $225-280 for fuel assuming $2.80 per gallon for West Coast area including CA. Seems like the cost of an Amtrak ticket from San Francisco to Chicago on the California Zephyr. Of course, taxi and other fares are minimized greatly, especially in areas which don't have much public transport (which the Western US is known for).

Car rental would probably be $400 overall at $200 a week for compact/intermediate car. It's the insurance that scares me, not sure exactly how much it will turn out.

So probably the rental car related aspect of the trip will cost about $800-1,000?

And then toss in about $50 per night for accommodation, so that's $700 for two weeks. Food is probably another $400.

So the total trip cost would be about $2,000 on average if solo. If I have people to split expenses with, that could go down to $1,000-1,200 per person.

 

#15 7-29-2017 1:13 PM

grandmar
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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

Car rental price will depend partly on your age.  I think your gas cost estimate is fine.  I kept track of our expenses for our last 2 week trip (in May of 2017) and this is what I wrote:

Transportation expense: In order to estimate transportation cost when driving, you need the rental car rate, the number of miles, the efficiency of the car in using fuel, and the average price of the fuel.  The cheapest rental car rate would have been about $150/week.

We had our own car, so the only actual out of pocket expense was for gas.  Technically we should include the cost of insurance, licensing and depreciation, but I'm not going to get into that.  We have a hybrid car which gets very good gas mileage. Our average gas use was 45 mpg for the trip.  It was as much as 50 mpg on the freeway, and less than that in town.  The average price per gallon was $2.23.  So for a trip of 2088 miles, our total gas cost was $100.00.

I think you underestimate accommodation unless you are staying with friends or couch surfing or something.
 
Hotels:  For 8 days on this trip we stayed at Hampton Inns which have free parking, free internet and free breakfast.  The price of the room depends a good bit on how expensive the area is.  The average cost was $160/night, and we tipped about $3.00/night to the maids.  We also stayed for three nights at a Navy Lodge (only available to military families) which has a small kitchen.   The cost for this accommodations was $77.00/night.

When you are going to split the cost with someone - you can split hotel and car rental costs.  You cannot however split food costs as both of you will be eating.

Food: Most of our breakfasts were eaten at the Hampton Inn's free breakfast.  When we are driving, we mostly eat at a fast food place for lunch.  If we are going to be several days in a place, we have lunch at a regular restaurant and then take the leftovers home for supper.  Since usually our room has at least a microwave and a small fridge, we will also go to a market to buy food to eat in the room.  Also during this trip we attended a wedding, and two of the dinners (rehearsal dinner and reception) were free.  Our total cost for food was $512.06 or $36.50/day  This was for two people.

If you are going to visit the National Parks, you will also need to budget for entrance fees

 

#16 7-29-2017 1:28 PM

osgoodst
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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

Ditch Denver, and head to Yellow Stone, then head back to the coast.  SLC to Denver is about a 10 hour drive.  I had the pleasure of doing this in late November and went about 550 miles in 6 hours, then spent the last 100 miles in 4 hours because of SNOW. 

Idaho has some interesting sites, check out the Crater of the Moon park.  If you do want to cross the cascade mountains in Winter they do sometimes get closed, so beware!  And good luck

 

#17 7-30-2017 6:27 PM

nolan
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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

Thanks for the additional recommendations. I'm getting a better idea of a route but still need to fine tune it. How about this?

Option 1: Los Angeles-Phoenix-Tucson-Roswell, NM-Colorado Springs/Denver-Arches and Zion NP-Las Vegas-Los Angeles (this could be less than 14 days)

Option 2: same as Option 1 until Colorado but going up to Yellowstone and coming down via Idaho (Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve) and Reno, then southwest to San Francisco and down to LA. This will skip Las Vegas and Zion and Arches NPs, definitely minimum of 2 weeks

Option 3: same as option 1 but avoiding most of Colorado, so from NM head to Durango, skirting the mountains and then ending up at Arches NP, then skip everything north of SLC, head back to CA via Las Vegas

Option 2 will definitely be over 2,000 miles, so need to see how the weather conditions are in the areas where I may have to pass by mountain ranges as an only resort (preference of course is to avoid them whenver possible)

At this stage it seems the upper northern states are out of the picture, unless I just decide for a Los Angeles all the way to Vancouver trip, although I've already been to most of the major cities in that route (Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, etc.)

 

#18 7-30-2017 6:45 PM

nolan
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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

Thank you for your advice, Rosalie. I've responded to different sections individually.

grandmar wrote:

Car rental price will depend partly on your age.  I think your gas cost estimate is fine.  I kept track of our expenses for our last 2 week trip (in May of 2017) and this is what I wrote:

Transportation expense: In order to estimate transportation cost when driving, you need the rental car rate, the number of miles, the efficiency of the car in using fuel, and the average price of the fuel.  The cheapest rental car rate would have been about $150/week.

We had our own car, so the only actual out of pocket expense was for gas.  Technically we should include the cost of insurance, licensing and depreciation, but I'm not going to get into that.  We have a hybrid car which gets very good gas mileage. Our average gas use was 45 mpg for the trip.  It was as much as 50 mpg on the freeway, and less than that in town.  The average price per gallon was $2.23.  So for a trip of 2088 miles, our total gas cost was $100.00.

Wow, that is really low for fuel costs! However it is way more expensive to rent a hybrid vehicle or an SUV (my preferred drive) than a regular compact or intermediate car. There is an option to borrow from relatives, but I don't want to burden any of them with one less car assuming all are used regularly.

My uncle regularly does long roadtrips from coast to coast, but he usually rents instead of driving his own vehicle. I will ask him more about his driving and roadtrip style in detail when I visit in November.

I'm way above 25 so I won't get the more expensive rate or the discounted rate for seniors or military. I am using a foreign driver's license so I am worried of the more likely costlier insurance premiums and add-ons, although I think one go-around is to have either of my parents (who are US citizens) rent on my behalf and I will be added as an alternate driver. Of course, if there are others who will join and are allowed to drive, then they can be added as alternates although beyond a certain number it will cost more.

grandmar wrote:

I think you underestimate accommodation unless you are staying with friends or couch surfing or something.
 
Hotels:  For 8 days on this trip we stayed at Hampton Inns which have free parking, free internet and free breakfast.  The price of the room depends a good bit on how expensive the area is.  The average cost was $160/night, and we tipped about $3.00/night to the maids.  We also stayed for three nights at a Navy Lodge (only available to military families) which has a small kitchen.   The cost for this accommodations was $77.00/night.

When you are going to split the cost with someone - you can split hotel and car rental costs.  You cannot however split food costs as both of you will be eating.

I intend to stay with friends/relatives in CA, NV and AZ but further north I don't have any other options right now except for hotels, hostels or camping. The $50/night is an average but I normally don't spend over $100 a night in most parts of the world except Europe.

grandmar wrote:

Food: Most of our breakfasts were eaten at the Hampton Inn's free breakfast.  When we are driving, we mostly eat at a fast food place for lunch.  If we are going to be several days in a place, we have lunch at a regular restaurant and then take the leftovers home for supper.  Since usually our room has at least a microwave and a small fridge, we will also go to a market to buy food to eat in the room.  Also during this trip we attended a wedding, and two of the dinners (rehearsal dinner and reception) were free.  Our total cost for food was $512.06 or $36.50/day  This was for two people.

If you are going to visit the National Parks, you will also need to budget for entrance fees

I can survive on fastfood, which average about $10 or less a meal, so $30 a day, probably less if free breakfast is included. I'm not into restaurants especially if traveling alone, so that lessens the cost including whatever tips. Ditto with traveling light, so I don't need the bellhop to bring my luggage to the room. These usually stick with me for security reasons unless they can be stored properly.

 

#19 7-31-2017 2:05 AM

DaveSwede
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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

Regarding your comment about not having places to stay when you go further north except for hotels, hostels or camping.  Personally, unless you have experience in cold weather camping, I would recommend you maybe wait for that until your next visit.  If you happen to make camp, and it snows over night, breaking camp and making breakfast in temperatures below freezing is part of the adventure, but not always the best way to spend your vacation.  Road side motels can often be inexpensive - ~$40.

Last edited by DaveSwede (7-31-2017 2:13 AM)

 

#20 7-31-2017 2:12 AM

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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

I think I've done all the road trips you listed in both post #10 & #17.  Personally, I'd vote on option #1 or #3.   Not because I don't think those other places are worth the visit, but to avoid too much driving time, to much winter cold, etc. I would save those destinations for the next trip.  And if you do either of these and you find yourself in the triangle of Durango, Arches NP or 4-Corners,  you should consider adding a stop at Mesa Verde - it is quite beautiful in the winter.

Winter comes early in the North American mountains.  It is not uncommon to have snow in early October.  By the time November and December come, the snow could be several feet deep.  It just depends on the year and cannot be forecasted a long time in advance.   And also, just understand that combining winter and the mountains, the days will be shorter (the sun sets earlier and the mountains also cause big shadows).  Please consider that you will not have long summer days, but short winter days.  This is another reason I'm suggesting you stay further south - to enjoy more daylight.

 

#21 7-31-2017 7:18 AM

Dymphna
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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

I am not sure that Yellowstone will even be open at that time.

 

#22 7-31-2017 7:32 AM

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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

Dymphna wrote:

I am not sure that Yellowstone will even be open at that time.

perhaps do your homework before you post.  While many things are closed the park is indeed open.  supermarket deli sections are a great source for cheap meals.  nothing prettier than yellowstone in winter.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQDs9pJXBqA


https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Last edited by katzgar (7-31-2017 7:38 AM)

 

#23 7-31-2017 8:14 AM

grandmar
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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

DaveSwede wrote:

I think I've done all the road trips you listed in both post #10 & #17.  Personally, I'd vote on option #1 or #3.   Not because I don't think those other places are worth the visit, but to avoid too much driving time, to much winter cold, etc. I would save those destinations for the next trip.  And if you do either of these and you find yourself in the triangle of Durango, Arches NP or 4-Corners,  you should consider adding a stop at Mesa Verde - it is quite beautiful in the winter.

Winter comes early in the North American mountains.  It is not uncommon to have snow in early October.  By the time November and December come, the snow could be several feet deep.  It just depends on the year and cannot be forecasted a long time in advance.   And also, just understand that combining winter and the mountains, the days will be shorter (the sun sets earlier and the mountains also cause big shadows).  Please consider that you will not have long summer days, but short winter days.  This is another reason I'm suggesting you stay further south - to enjoy more daylight.

It isn't uncommon in the northern US that is not even in the mountains to have some snow in October.  My family (parents, me and my sister) were camping through the US in July (1948) near Yellowstone and we stopped after dark and when we woke up, we found we were next to a snow bank.

And I agree that the days will be shorter - when we are going south on our boat in October, we stop by about 2:00 because later than that the setting sun is in our eyes.

Yes we do have a very fuel efficient car - we bought it for that reason, and I would not expect a rental car to be as easy on gas as our car.

 

#24 7-31-2017 11:52 PM

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Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

grandmar wrote:

It isn't uncommon in the northern US that is not even in the mountains to have some snow in October.  My family (parents, me and my sister) were camping through the US in July (1948) near Yellowstone and we stopped after dark and when we woke up, we found we were next to a snow bank.

Growing up in Lake Tahoe, I've seen snow in every month of the year.  I remember vividly when our 4th of July fireworks were postponed for a week on account of snow.

 

#25 8-1-2017 8:57 AM

planxty
Fergy
London, England
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Tourist
Posts: 145

Re: Western USA roadtrip after Thanksgiving

I do not know that region at all but hopefully I have a tip which will be of use to you. 

There is a TravBuddy here who I have known for many years from Virtual Tourist days who is and absolute expert on the subject.  I suggest you contact TravBuddy member basaic (Jim) and pick his brains.  I know him to be a really easy-going bloke and he will not at all mind you contacting him.  I'll guarantee he will be able to give you some great information.

Hope this assists,

Fergy.

 

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