Travelogue: What's Your Next Spring Road Trip?
Spring is a relative concept, isn’t it? At least here in Minnesota, it seems to be a bit bipolar.
However, one can be optimistic. The temperatures are up. The ice is melting. If abated, it has not caused major flooding at your home or street. Some communities had not been lucky – ranging from major floods in Nebraska to the mass of potholes across the northern part of our country.
But, spring is a cause for us to celebrate a bit. Baseball's Spring Training will soon transition to the regular season. March has become a time when brackets matter more than productivity at work. We are also wearing less layers of clothes.
And, the arrival of spring means travel plans. It serves as a time to plan that road trip you have been hankering to go on. But, where? Where, oh where will you go?
This year, I figured I do a different kind of list. Instead of a “my favorites” column, I will focus on suggestions that I would make – from my own perspective, of course. Instead of taking the approach of “this is what I would do,” let me try the “here’s a few ideas for you” angle.
So, here’s a few ideas on some spring road trips. Let me shuffle the deck a bit and pick from random starting points, while I’m at it. I will also add mileage for reference sake.
Ready to drive somewhere? Let’s go!
CHASING THE TAIL OF THE DRAGON: This is where the enthusiasts really cut their teeth. A stretch of road in the Great Smoky Mountains made for maximum driving effort. The destination is a souvenir shop in the middle of the Cherokee National Forest. However, you have 11 miles of road with 318 curves to navigate in order to fulfill the pleasure of mastering the road that meets at Deals Gap. Here’s your plan: Fly into Nashville, secure sports car (if you can), meet in Knoxville, head towards the North Carolina border the next day, and accept the challenge. Then, reward yourself with a celebration in Knoxville. Mileage from Knoxville to the Tail of The Dragon: 55.7 miles. Total Driving: approx. 123 miles.
OR, HOW ABOUT A LEISURELY DRIVE THROUGH THE BLUE RIDGES? A couple of years ago, Chevrolet sent me and several other journalists to "find new roads" through the Upcountry section of South Carolina over to Asheville, North Carolina. That was a beautiful drive! One of the best of any media drives in this career! How can you do it? Simple, start from Charlotte, North Carolina and follow Interstate 85 towards Atlanta. Then, make your own way to Asheville – without climbing up and down Interstate 26. That’s the trick! In Asheville, chill out in downtown where it is hip and cool, then grab breakfast at Biscuit Head before climbing up and down the Blue Ridge Parkway and downhill from the mountains. While you’re at it, stop by the BMW Zentrum in Spartanburg to celebrate the Roundel's place in America. Roundtrip mileage from Charlotte: 348 miles.
SKIP THE WAFFLE HOUSE AND THE KRISPY KREME: In all due respect to the organizers of last year’s run to Kansas City that I tagged along, but I need to reiterate that there is more to that city that I really wanted to visit. So, let’s take some time in Kansas City, enjoy the sights, visit some history – Negro League Baseball Museum and the National Airline History Museum, for example – take in a Royals or Chiefs game, and relax! You might even want to stay a couple of nights! Of course, this trip is made easy from V&R HQ by a direct shot on Interstate 35. Because they represent my geekery, doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy yours! Roundtrip mileage from Minneapolis: 884 miles.
IN SEARCH OF A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY: When I lived in the Washington, DC area in the late 1990s, I enjoyed the fact that I was minutes away from history. I’m talking the kind of history that engaged me in elementary and secondary school. The Civil War and the Revolutionary War were right there within reach by car. The loop I recommend will cover both eras. You can stop in Manassas to walk through the place where the battles of the Civil War began, then plod along to Charlottesville to see where Thomas Jefferson called home at Monticello. You will be zig-zagging through the northern part of Virginia chasing battlefields and key points of the Civil War in Orange, Spotsylvania Courthouse, and Fredericksburg, before heading up to George Washington’s estate in Mount Vernon. That’s just Day One. Day two is a side excursion to Gettysburg – the apex of the Civil War. Day three is a run down the other direction to Appomattox where General Robert E. Lee surrendered. Now, you have three days to handle this country’s history
THE V&R TRAIL: If you’re a real fan of this website, take this drive! The V&R Trail is the route that I took when I was a child between my home in Reseda to my father’s side of the family in San Rafael. It is easier to do this via Interstate 5, but we never took that route, Instead, we went on US Highway 101. First, you have to start in Los Angeles, then make your way to Reseda. There may not be much there, but I know that some fan will want to stop by my old house (not giving the address away – sorry), Reseda High School, and the Reseda Theater. Then, you jump on US-101 towards Ventura, go past Santa Barbara, stop in Solvang (like my mom always does), eat at Andersen’s for pea soup (not a fan of the soup, but worth stopping anyway), head through San Luis Obispo, into the Salinas Valley (side trip to Laguna Seca, anyone?), through the Silicon Valley into San Francisco (side trip to The Castro and SoMa for my LGBT readers!), cross the Golden Gate Bridge and end up in Central San Rafael. A simple trip that takes a very long time – almost eight hours! Is it worth it? Try the drive and tell us later how it went. Mileage from Los Angeles: 447 miles.
All photos by Randy Stern