Great road trips for summer fun
Power down the car windows and power up the music . . . don’t always let your GPS be your boss . . . summer road trips are all about resting your mind and restoring your spirit. They are about driving down a narrow country lane just because it looks interesting, or pulling into a local flea market to discover a must-have treasure, or sampling some great regional cuisine in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. This is your chance to do things you don’t have time to do in your real life. Follow the yellow line to summer fun.
Florida: The Overseas Highway
Speed above the glistening blue waters that surround the Florida Keys, the chain of varied islands connected by U.S. Highway 1, on The Overseas Highway, which starts just beyond chic Miami and winds up in funky Key West. You could do the whole 113 miles in 3 1/2 hours, but why would you? Stop in Key Largo to snorkel in the John Pennekkamp Coral Reef State Park. Roll across the iconic Seven-Mile Bridge at Marathon. Catch tarpon in pretty Bahia Honda State Park. Wind up in party-hearty Key West to toast the sunset at Mallory Square Dock and catch some culture at Ernest Hemingway’s home.
Virginia and North Carolina: The Blue Ridge Parkway
Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, an official “All-American Byway,” will take you from the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. It is like meandering along a 469-mile-long panorama of calendar scenery shots, each bend in the road leading to another babbling brook or interesting rock formation, through a deep mountain gap or to spectacular spots to gaze down at the world below. The Peaks of Otter is one such place, and offers good lodging and good fishing. Catch the fiddling and banjo-picking at the Blue Ridge Music Center.
Maine: The Maine Coast
Believe it or not, Maine’s coastline is far longer than California’s—3,478 miles versus a mere 840 miles. That means some twisty, two-lane roads “Down East.” Visit the oldest jail in America (kids love it) in York, then drive out to Cape Neddick to snap photos of what many say is the most beautiful lighthouse in America. Walk the three-mile beach in Ogunquit before indulging in just-caught Maine lobster. In tony Kennebunkport, in summer, you may well see George H.W. Bush out and about. Go on to Acadia National Park if time permits. Visit the good museums and restaurants in Portland before driving home.
Tennessee and Mississippi: The Blues Highway
Think Bessie Smith. Think Muddy Waters. Think about some of America’s best indigenous music, and then drive Route 61, the old Blues Highway from Memphis to the Mississippi Delta, and see that the blues scene is still very much alive there. Start with a tour of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, where Isaac Hayes and Otis Redding recorded mega-hits. Check out Beale Street. Visit the Delta Blues Museum (Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero Blues Club is next door). In September, catch the Mississippi Delta Blues & Heritage Festival in Greenville. Highway markers honor Best of the Blues musicians.
Texas: The Hill Country
Drive north from San Antonio to travel back in time in the Texas Hill Country, rich in wildflowers, crystal clear rivers, and an unchanged rural lifestyle. Kids will love to explore a cave or two, and older folks will enjoy the old-fashioned farm and ranching lifestyle (and the local wineries). Visit the funky Frontier Times Museum in Bandera, and the superb National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, followed by German food at Der Lindenbaum. Go tubing down crystal clear rivers. Visit tiny Johnson City, where Lyndon Johnson spent his boyhood, and tour the LBJ Ranch, with his amazing car collection.