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February 26, 2010 4:21 PM   Subscribe

Road Trip question. Jon-o's mom must know...

Posting on behalf of my dear, old mother:
I'm going to take a road trip this summer from here (Philadelphia) down to Old Fort, NC. I'm interested in finding a route that takes in some back roads/non-highways, and I don't really trust what Google says to do in that situation. Could you go on MetaFilter and ask if anyone has an interesting way to go south? I don't mind doing highways down to Baltimore, but after that, it would be more of an adventure to get off the interstate. And road food is always good to know about, too.

Thanks everyone!
posted by Jon-o to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You'll be going through the Shenandoah, there's a lot to see all along this area. I recently moved back to Roanoke Virginia which is (probably) on your way to NC. I have enjoyed following this twitter for local sites: @goShenandoah.

There's lots of small towns in Virginia and North Carolina, really, just set a GPS to no interstate highways and you can hit plenty of them. :-)

As far as smaller drives, I always liked the drive down the 29 out of DC to Charlottesville, though I expect that's busier than it was when I lived there 15 years ago.

I think you should seriously consider taking the Blue Ridge Parkway. It pretty well maps your route and will be very beautiful. There are a few lodges along the way, and it's what America's roads would look like if there were no billboards and McDonald's alongside it. Check the wikipedia article.

Now, there's plenty of history all along these routes: Civil War, colonial, you're within striking distance of James Madison, Thomas Jefferson's and George Washington's old houses. Charlottesville is a favorite of mine (I lived there for a time).

Hope that gives you some ideas.

Here's an old Ask MeFi thread on it: 5 Day Honeymoon On the Blue Ridge Parkway, and another.
posted by artlung at 5:45 PM on February 26, 2010

On preview, artlung has it.

Old Fort, NC, lying on the southeastern edge of the Pisgah National Forest, and this being a summer road trip, it would be a shame not to take 2 or 3 days along the Blue Ridge Parkway, on her way down or back. 45 mph (35 mph in the northmost 60 miles of the Parkway, through the Shenandoah National Forest, otherwise referred to as the Skyline Drive) speed limit, and one of the most scenic roads in America, along the top of the Blue Ridge, through Virginia and North Carolina.

If her trip is in early or late summer, and includes weekdays, she'll be a "through traveler" on the Blue Ridge, and likely to have tens of miles of that beautiful, winding road all to herself, many times, on the southern portion of the Parkway, although summer traffic on the Skyline Drive is nearly always pretty heavy. I recommend she plan a stop at Peaks of Otter Lodge in Southern Virginia, and visit their dining room for a memorable breakfast, or dinner.
posted by paulsc at 5:50 PM on February 26, 2010

I always liked the drive down the 29 out of DC to Charlottesville

If she goes through Charlottesville, tell her to stop at a Bodo's Bagels, Take It Away Sandwich Shop (the house dressing is a must), and/or Belair Market (delicious gourmet deli in a gas station) for awesome road food.
posted by sallybrown at 5:54 PM on February 26, 2010

Peaks of Otter? Bodo's? Oh, memories. Thanks paulsc & sallybrown.

Outside Roanoke consider The Home Place outside Roanoke. Sounds like it's still very good. When the Spring hits I'm going.
posted by artlung at 5:59 PM on February 26, 2010

If she takes the Blue Ridge Parkway in one direction, she might consider following the Robert E. Lee Highway, through southern Virginia, in the other direction, if time is of no great importance. The Lee Highway (roughly, these days, US Route 11 in southern Virginia, and US 29/211 in northern Virginia to Washington, D.C.), is, in many respects, the Shenandoah Valley and Tidewater counterpoint to the Blue Ridge. What you see to the east of the Blue Ridge, from the mountain tops of the Blue Ridge Parkway, you experience down below, on the Lee Highway.

But the countryside is the workaday Valley and Tidewater sensibility, and the speed limit is 60 or 65, with a fair amount of commercial truck and inter-city/town traffic. The curves are flatter, and more sweeping, there are some 4 lane and some 2 lane sections of the road, and some divided highway, and the Lee Highway goes right through many small towns and larger cities. The Lee Highway is still working commercial highway, in contrast to the Blue Ridge Parkway, where commercial traffic is banned. But, the Lee Highway still has it's own rhythm and history, and is worth an interested driver's time, where, with a little bit of imagination, you can still see the tire ruts, here and there, of intrepid motorists from the 1920's, making their way through America, just as you are doing now.
posted by paulsc at 6:23 PM on February 26, 2010

I'm a big fan of avoiding DC traffic by taking Rt. 1 or Rt. 13 south down the DelMarVa Peninsula (one is a recently completed expressway, the other is a business route taking you through small-town USA. Someone once told me the expressway bypassed more than 400 traffic lights). It is a long enough trip to get boring if you're headed all the way down to Tidewater Virginia, but it sounds like she'd want to be swinging west anyway, which suggests Route 301 to me: Last I drove it, it was a lovely trip through sparsely inhabited forestland. It cuts from Delaware to Virginia, eventually running into I-95 a bit north of Richmond.

Speaking of I-95 North of Richmond, I once followed a tiny brown highway sign to the Jackson Memorial Shrine. If she likes peaceful, little-known places it's a lovely site. Only about 15 minutes off the interstate:

I-64 cuts westward across the state and can be picked up in Richmond, where it intersects with I-95. Another thoroughly enjoyable drive for people who like "scenic." The strict westward cut of this interstate runs from the coastal plain to the mountain plateaus, giving a strong sense of the panorama of the changing country side as you rise from sea-level to the to the foothills & then watch the mountain rise and spread before you. Get your timing right & you'll see the seasons change in the course of a day as you move through the altitude levels.

Richmond, by the way, is a fantastic city for wandering around and looking at old southern-style architecture.

And nthing the Blue Ridge Parkway if steep inclines and river valleys rock her world.
posted by Ys at 10:11 PM on February 26, 2010

There are a fair amount of quaint and bucolic things to do near Winchester, VA (my hometown). Skyline Drive passes right nearby, George Washington's Office (and many other colonial and Civil War things) are in town, plus Harper's Ferry WV isn't far.

If she's going as early as April/May she might enjoy the Apple Blossom Festival.

Further southwest to Lexington, VA you can do the colonial thing in town, or take a short drive to Goshen.
posted by a halcyon day at 7:27 AM on February 27, 2010

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