Tag Archives: drive

4 Scenic Drives You Can Take This Very Same Weekend

Summer is soon coming to an end and I am busy thinking of ways to enjoy these long days. Okay, perhaps the middle of August is too early for summer nostalgia, but it’s still good to plan ahead and make the most of this season. Road trips across America have always been a dream of mine and one day I will fulfill it, but for now I am at the planning stage and I want to share my favorite picks with you. Here are 4 scenic roads that I would travel in a heartbeat.

Maine’s coastline

Maine’s rocky coastline is just 228 miles, which could easily be traveled in a day or two. Yet if you have a few days on your hands and you wish to fully appreciate this state’s beauty, I would suggest paying a visit to some of its picturesque towns. If you are flying from out of state, the best place to start will be Portland. Portland is Maine’s largest city, but it counts less than 70,000 citizens and it summarizes what I love about the whole state – small towns full of history. Its most popular destination is the Old Port district which takes you back to the 19th century with its brick buildings, fishing docks and cobblestone streets. Other popular towns include Brunswick with its numerous historic districts, combining different architectural styles and Ben Harbor, which albeit small, once attracted affluent people such as John D. Rockefeller, Jr., J. P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt and President William Taft. If you have time to go south of Portland, don’t forget to pay a visit to the beautiful Portland Head Light, Maine’s first lighthouse, dating back to 1791.

metimbers2000 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Historic Route 66

Route 66 played a very important part in U.S. History. Often called the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, Route 66 was originally a highway when it was finalized in November 1926. Back in the 1930s with the Great Depression looming high, it was the most popular route for migrating west, helping the economic recovery of the place it ran through. It spanned over 8 states or a total of 2,448 miles. Its decline started 30 years later when the Insterstate Highway Act was signed and the route officially lost its highway status in 1985. It is now off most major maps, but that shouldn’t stop you from exploring its beauty. In fact, its charm was preserved precisely for the reason that it became a secondary road. With its numerous side-road cafes, gas stations and motels, all reminiscent of a long-gone era, Route 66 is perfect for the nostalgic traveler, wishing to get a taste of a truly authentic American experience.

vladeb / Foter / CC BY-ND

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is another iconic American drive that’s not only picturesque, but perfect for outdoorsy people who can do frequent stops and enjoy its numerous hiking trails, picnic spots and breathtaking mountaintop views. Connecting Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway runs for 469 miles, mostly along the Appalachian Blue Ridge mountain chain from which it gets its name. Even though it’s a popular destination, the road is never crowded and it doesn’t intersect major roads or interstate highways, so you can enjoy the view undisturbed. Yet Blue Ridge Parkway is hardly an isolated road. Numerous side roads spin off the main road and lead to local communities with unique history, such as those of Little Switzerland and Blowing Rock. If you need an escape from the summer heat, now is the best time to go. In fact, due to its mountainous terrain, portions of the road are closed in the wintertime.

Photomatt28 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Historic Columbia River Highway

Perhaps I should have just named this post 5 Historical Scenic Drives to Enjoy This Summer, as this one has a lot of historical value as well. Historic Columbia River Highway was not only the first planned scenic highway in the States, but also the Northwest’s first paved road. It spans 75 miles along Columbia River Gorge, making it a perfect location for a day trip or a family picnic. The initial idea behind the construction of the road was to mimic European scenic roads and to boost America’s growing automotive industry. And to top it off, it’s the last stretch of Lewis & Clark’s expedition. So much history in just 75 miles. But don’t be fooled by how short the road is – you could spend days here if you wanted to as the place offers wonderful opportunities for cycling, hiking, sailing, photography and other outdoors adventures.

gmeador / Foter / CC BY-NC

If you are wondering which one of these four routes to pick for your next trip – don’t. You will not regret any of them. So hit the road and drive safely!

Ghost towns from a dream machine

Summer is slipping through our fingers but this is a trip that you can embark on at any time of the year – explore the wild American West. It breathes the air of old times drenched in whiskey, lust for gold and money, bloody violence and awesome ill repute. And much of it IS haunted.

Dennis Larson / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Many ghost towns stand as silent witnesses to that era when America was trying to get rich quickly.

Catapult yourself back to the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, and get immersed in a long lost spirit. Fly in to Arizona; it is a good starting point. Then rent a car and cruise to some of the neighboring states. Indulge. Get the wheels you have always wanted to test – a luxurious SUV, or something more elegant; or better yet – a convertible BMW hooligan.

Make your first stop at Vulture Mine City, Arizona. This settlement sprang to life when a prospector named Henry Wickenburg arrived in New York from Prussia in 1847. He went to San Francisco but one time, during his travels to the “interior,” he noticed a quartz ledge not too far from the camp where he was staying in Arizona. Later he returned alone, and gradually began to work the mine.

Vulture Mine turned into the most important gold mine in Arizona, and would eventually spark the development of the city of Phoenix. But back then it wasn’t all golden nuggets and heavenly bliss, for the city did manage to live up to its eerie name. Today, a testament to the brutal violence there is an ironwood tree. It is said that, over time, 18 men were hanged on it for murder and rape or even stealing high-grade ore. The names of the men and their crimes are hardly remembered today because nobody kept a record. Yet witnesses have reported ghost sightings and strange knockings as proof that nothing is ever lost or forgotten.

Goldfield, Nevada

Dubbed “one of the seven portals to the Other side,” Goldfield was founded in 1902. In only six short years, its population exploded to 20 000 people and produced $11 million in gold. “Money was flowing like wine,” wrote one of the notorious Earp brothers who lived there briefly. So was blood.

Today, two of the early buildings are well preserved – the local high school and the Goldfield Hotel at Crook Avenue. It is said that the hotel is filled with ghosts. Legend has it that its owner, George Wingfield, frequented a prostitute called Elizabeth. She became pregnant and claimed that the child was his. When her pregnancy began to show, Wingfield worried that a possible scandal could affect his business affairs. Allegedly, he tied Elizabeth to a radiator in room 109; after she gave birth, Wingfield murdered her and threw the baby in a mine shaft.

On the brighter side, the Goldfield had the longest bar in the history of American mining towns for whatever that’s worth.

odonata98 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

 

Frisco, Utah

And here you have it – the Wild Wild West at its finest. The story of Frisco started in 1875 with lots of silver. Yet somehow, the town’s fabulous past is widely associated with ramblers, gamblers, gunners and tramps. Records show that at some point the dusty streets were so littered with corpses that city officials had a wagon collect them in the morning. The solution came in the face of a tough marshal who had no intention of building a jail or making any arrests for that matter. He just gave the outlaws two options – either flee or die. He reportedly killed six people on his first night in town. After that shooting spree, things in Frisco seemed to cool down.

Tony Frates / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

 

Bodie, California

People say this old mining town is cursed. Its history began in 1859 with a great promise of abundant gold supplies. Its development was so rapid that in no time the town boasted a Wells Fargo Bank, four fire brigades, several daily newspapers, a railroad and even a jail. About 65 bars along Main Street encouraged midnight brawls and shootouts. Bodie even had its own Chinatown. However, by 1880, most of its inhabitants were lured by other prospects and many began to leave. The population declined.

By 1915, Bodie was already labeled a “ghost town.” Homes, churches and other once important buildings were deserted. Most of the furniture was left exactly where townspeople had left it more than a century ago. Rumor has it that if a visitor is ever tempted to take something from Bodie, he or she quickly return it once they find that the object is cursed. Stuff such as old bottles, rusty nails and parts of a clock have found their way back. They belong to the past.

How to Stay Safe When Driving This Summer

Whether you are planning to drive your own vehicle or rent a car for your summer vacation, you shouldn’t underestimate the dangers of driving in high temperatures, especially with the latest heat wave that hit much of the US.  While there might not be icy roads, or batteries refusing to start due to low temperatures, summer offers its own risks. Read on to avoid ruining a perfectly planned summer road trip.

likeaduck / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Before you leave

I know much of the excitement about road trips comes from a certain lack of planning, taking spontaneous detours and all that. While I am not arguing against that, it’s good to have at least an approximate idea of the duration of your trip and how much you can spend. It goes without saying that children need a whole new level of planning – games and toys, food and frequent breaks, among others.

Now for the technical part – there’s hardly a part of your car that isn’t affected by high temperatures. Get plenty of water to keep you and your car well hydrated. Except your car needs other fluids as well – fuel, oil, engine coolant, brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, windshield washer – and all of them should be at appropriate levels.

We all know from 6th grade physics that matter expands when heated. The same is true for your car tires, so checking the pressure each time you set out on the road is a must. I am not even going to talk about the importance of a spare tire – a real one, and not one of these “donut” spare tires (beware, cars often come packed with them), which will generally not last for more than 70 miles. Same goes for all kinds of belts and hoses – there should be no visible signs of wear and tear. Even small cuts can be aggravated more than usual due to the heat.

Finally, check the performance of your AC, especially if you are riding with people who are sensitive to heat or have medical conditions. But it’s about more than that. On most new cars, the serpentine belt that gives power to your AC gives power to other important parts like the water pump. If the belt goes down, you might start sweating from more than just the heat.

Ryan Stone / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

On the road

Unsurprisingly, the months from July through October are statistically the most dangerous to be driving. Other people want to enjoy a good drive just like you, so expect less of those it’s-only-me-and-the-road-ahead situations and prepare for some traffic congestion. That includes people on motorcycles and bicycles, which don’t exactly have a reputation for safe driving. School is out, so be prepared for the riskiest of them all – teenagers and college students. So drive carefully, don’t “overheat” and get yourself into a road rage situation.

Speaking of overheating, checking coolant levels is not enough. You should monitor the engine’s temperature while driving and pull over and let the fan cool it down a little bit. If the problem persists, look for signs of leakage, usually in the form of wet or white stains on coolant hoses. Don’t underestimate the issue – damage due to overheating will not only leave you stranded by the side of the road, but can cause permanent damage that is expensive to fix.

Nothing is as romantic as driving at dawn or dusk. But that time also happens to be most dangerous for sun glare. Always keep a pair of sunglasses close to you, better yet if they are polarized. As for lenses that darken when exposed to the sun, count those out, as your windshield will filter almost all of the UV light. Clean up all smears on your window-shield as they will help increase the glare.

ashley.adcox / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

 

Finally, summer-grade fuels are a bit more expensive than winter-grade ones, so here’s a few tips on fuel efficiency in the summer. Don’t use open windows to keep yourself cool because they increase the drag. For the same reason, put all roof luggage in a roof box. Your AC is also fuel thirsty, so you can turn it off once it reaches a comfortable level and turn it back on when it starts getting hot again. Now all you need is good company and a destination and you are ready to go!