There are some great roads out there – across the country and so forth. Each one is deserving of a drive – or many.
I call Minnesota home. But, my experiences have been from coast to coast. That includes some of the finest roads I've ever driven.
There are some great roads out there – across the country and so forth. Each one is deserving of a drive – or many. They range from nice twisty mountain roads to smooth pieces of country tarmac.
I wanted to go down the list of roads I had the pleasure of traversing in my driving life. Without delay…here we go!
U.S. HIGHWAY 52: Usually, this is my way to Rochester, Minnesota. However, if you continue past the Mayo Clinic and Interstate 90, it gets real interesting. U.S. Highway 52 is simply a rural two-lane that gets very entertaining the further southeast you go. It includes some surprising elevations the closer one gets to the Iowa border. Once you reach Decorah, the landscape changes. . If you continue down towards Dubuque, you can cover many miles of rolling landscape that are worth every minute behind the wheel. In all, U.S. Highway 52 is a beautiful drive that rewards the driver handsomely
MINNESOTA HIGHWAY 16: Once you cross into Minnesota from La Crosse, you make a left turn along the bluffs. This highway is a hidden gem to those outside of Southeastern Minnesota, as it gives you gentle twisties through the bluffs until you reach the farmlands of Houston County (pronounced How-ston here in Minnesota). While you think you might just go through a gentle flat road through the farmland, Highway 16 keeps on throwing turns and gentle elevations at you. This does not stop until you reach U.S. Highway 52 and the Iowa state line. If you like that kind of road, there’s another one that connects to it closer to La Crosse…
MINNESOTA HIGHWAY 44: A few miles down from La Crescent, Minnesota is a junction. Instead of turning to the right towards Houston, you head southwesterly towards Caledonia on Highway 44. That way, you get more bluff twisties and elevations. Unlike Highway 16, Highway 44 does flatten out. Not without some superb farmland to enjoy. Then, it gets a bit twisty again. The further southwest you go towards Spring Grove, the gentle rolling rural lands become inviting and celebratory. You decide how you want to reach U.S. Highway 52. Me? I’ll take either way, but Highway 44 is just as entertaining for the driver to run.
GOODHUE COUNTY HIGHWAY 7: Roads like this should not exist in Minnesota. However, the Mississippi River created bluffs on either side to provide a backdrop for vehicular challenges within this hilly terrain. Also known as Welch Mill Road, it is a short run that offers the type of roads found on mountain ranges worldwide. Twisty curves that challenge the driver to find the limit and ride it through without finding an apex. Once you exit southbound into the small town of Vasa, you can relax now. It is one of the most challenging roads in the state of Minnesota.
CARVER COUNTY HIGHWAY 40/SIBLEY COUNTY HIGHWAY 6/MINNESOTA HIGHWAY 93: As part of a cruise group, I discovered a road that reminded me of places I have been back in California and Virginia. It is a winding road that ties rural landscapes and the bed of the Minnesota River. In all, it is a stretch where some of the better vehicles get a workout. Going south from Carver, Minnesota, the road bends and twists with some stretches of straights to get in the miles. One is rewarded with riverside curves and elevations. If one gets a sports car to drive, they should take this road head on.
WISCONSIN HIGHWAY 35: Along the mighty Mississippi River are elevations that are breathtaking and exhilarating. Along these bluffs are roads that separate drivers from everyone else. The starting point for these roads are on the Wisconsin side of the river. Highway 35 is best enjoyed from across the Saint Croix River north of Hudson down through and along Lake Pepin. It feels like a mini-California Highway 1 at spots. Of course, there are more adventurous roads to be had, including Pepin County Highway SS, mockingly called "Highway Super Slow." If you dare, add that to your Western Wisconsin excursion.
TEXAS HILL COUNTRY, WEST OF AUSTIN: How could I forget all of the road names and numbers from this area? These roads were part of my first media drive event as the 2013 Dodge Dart was introduced to us. Our starting point was downtown Austin and we headed west into the Hill Country. Looking on the map, we were somewhere framed by Austin, Bee Cave, Johnson City and US-290. Inside of this quadrant was some amazing pieces of tarmac. Just absolutely splendid!
NORTH CAROLINA HIGHWAY 751: Somewhere south of Durham…and west of Apex…is a classic country road that eventually straddles Jordan Lake. Just minutes from the Duke and University of North Carolina campuses and of the state capitol in Raleigh is a road that is smooth, relaxing and gentle on the mind. This road was part of a media drive last year with the 2016 Lexus RX. One would think that it would require something sportier, but the RX 350 F Sport AWD driven on this route seemed just perfect for a wet drive just outside the city.
U.S. HIGHWAY 276: When you want a way down off of (or up) the Blue Ridge Mountains from Asheville, North Carolina, this is a thrill ride. No, it is a wonderful road full of sweet switchbacks, superb vistas, and everything you expect in taking another way between Greenville-Spartanburg and Asheville. You meet the Blue Ridge Parkway eventually, but you have to carve your way up (or down) from the town of Brevard. Of course, the section south of Brevard is just as majestic and beautiful as you muster through the Upcountry of South Carolina towards the Spartanburg area. This is truly one lovely road to find and enjoy.
SKYLINE DRIVE/BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY: It is the property of the U.S. National Parks Service. Therefore, it is enforced by the Park Rangers. Speed limits are kept low not only to keep the speeders down. It is leisurely road meant to be enjoyed by everyone. The vistas from either side of the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains – in my case, in Virginia and North Carolina – are for scenic meandering. However, one can get caught up with the road itself and its excellent surface and lovely twisties. It takes restraint to enable a great car to want to pulverize the 30-45 MPH speed limits along this stretch of ridgeline roadway. For anyone who wants a breathless drive – this is one you should put on your list.
U.S. HIGHWAY 44: On a recent trip to Connecticut, I found myself meandering westbound from Storrs – the home of the University of Connecticut back towards Hartford. It would be easier for me to simply get back on the Interstate. Nope. Instead, I found myself rolling through a stretch of two-lane highway that was bucolic and inviting, This was rural eastern Connecticut in full glory. Dotted with small towns full of Southern New England architecture, you followed the tree line highway and its subtle turns and elevations. It was a breath of fresh air with a gentle rain challenging you to manage every mile. It was indeed a highlight of my Connecticut trip.
CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY 49: You know that thing about the following of history. This is the description of Highway 49 in the heart of Gold Country. You are in the foothills of the Sierras, but not high enough to see snow in the wintertime. Yet, you are following the path of many miners and others on a highway that connects the dots. Places like Placerville, Sutter Creek, Auburn, and Angels Camp come alive along this twisty, vista-filled road. It serves up some challenges, without a lot of elevation changes. You can either chill out or attack the more challenging parts of Highway 49. Nonetheless, you will be breathless after a solid chunk of driving it.
MULHOLLAND DRIVE: It should be a rite of passage for anyone growing up (or grew up) in the Los Angeles Basin to drive this mountain road. It was designed to mark the divide between the San Fernando Valley and the rest of Los Angeles, but somehow it had to go on another side of ridgeline of the Santa Monica Mountains to accomplish that. This is not a road for the meek. But, it requires a lot of care to manage through the curves and cliffside turns. Mulholland is unforgiving, but it is long enough for adventures within the city limits of Los Angeles. You better have a great handling car to do this road justice.
All photos by Randy Stern