We Can and WILL Force the Hand of Amazing (East Coast Road Trip-Filter)
August 1, 2013 11:22 AM   Subscribe

East Coast Road Trip-Filter: a friend is having a very rough year but is finally taking three days (Aug. 24th - 26th) for much-needed road trip. She may not get to take another one for a while, so we want to make the most of it. My question: what can you recommend within a ~400-mile radius of Philadelphia (places, activities, events, gatherings, WHATEVER) that might be mind-blowingly memorable? The kinda stuff that makes you blurt, "Holy CRAP, this is AMAZING!"... the kinda stuff she and I can enthusiastically reminisce about for years to come.

Snowflakeular Details: nothing's too outre/wild/inappropriate, short of "shooting people for fun" or "sleeping with the NY Giants starting lineup". We're both mild introverts. We're in decent physical condition. We prefer active/experiential/counterculture-y stuff over wandering museums or drinking Mai Tais on the beach. She likes: geological formations, architecture of ancient civilizations, hiking, absorbing the atmosphere of new/unusual/harsh environments. I like: medical oddities, unexplained phenomena, communal bathing (banyas, jjimjilbangs), secret/hidden/obscure places. Money isn't a huuuuge obstacle, but time is (we can't travel outside of the 24th - 26th), as is distance (we don't want to spend the entire trip behind the wheel).
posted by julthumbscrew to Travel & Transportation around Shallotte, NC (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Mount Monadnock would appear to fall within the 400mi radius. In addition to being the eponymous example of a geological formation it's also the second most-climbed mountain in the world.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 11:35 AM on August 1, 2013

Maybe check Roadside America for some ideas? Also, there is Roadside America.
posted by Rob Rockets at 11:36 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Okay, this is going to be a GORGEOUS drive!

Here's what it looks like on a map.

Start by heading over to Fallingwater in Mill Run, PA.

Then hit the Greenbriar for the Bunker Tour!

It's a fair schlep, but BOY is it going to be pretty!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:40 AM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Mind-blowingly memorable?

Just inside the 400 mile radius -- the Newark Octagon earthworks.

Couple thousand years old, in a country were nothing is that old. And crazy-accurate. And HUGE. All the more huge if your culture hadn't yet invented the shovel.

I did it once, and indeed, my mind was blown.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:51 AM on August 1, 2013

If you go to New Hampshire, there's always America's Stonehenge.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:53 AM on August 1, 2013

In Massachusetts there's Plymouth Rock's misbegotten uncle Dighton Rock who lives off in the woods and is into all sorts of wacky theories. (my theory: It's a ancient Swedish signpost directing people to the IKEA in Stoughton)
posted by RonButNotStupid at 1:45 PM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

Perhaps not mind-blowingly memorable, but...

The Wharton Esherick House.
Crystal Cave.
Hawk Mountain.
If you like unusual not-retro-but-truly-hasn't-changed-since-1963: Roadside America.
Indian Echo Caverns.
Knoebels Amusement Park. Yes, there IS a pool!
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:59 PM on August 1, 2013

What sort of countercultures do you and your friend have the most affinity for? Or are you looking for ones that you have little experience with - in which case, which ones do you have more experience with?

Here's some themes/options that spring to mind for me. It's partly my own wish list, so a little rough on details. My apologies.

1. West Virginia and mining labor history. This is the East Coast road trip tour that I haven't done yet, but would really like to. I'd visit the site of the Battle of Blair Mountain (which is no longer a registered historic site, unfortunately), and maybe some other places mentioned in the (historical fiction) novel "Storming Heaven". I'd have to poke around online some more to find additional museums and historic sites. I'd also look into current activism against mountaintop removal mining, and try to find some event to go support. I'd end up a little bit farther south in North Carolina, where I would spend some time in Asheville, do a little hiking in the Smoky Mountains, and visit Boone, which I haven't been to yet but here is a really nice little college town, in the midst of some gorgeous mountains. West Virginia, by the way, is achingly beautiful. It's the heart of Appalachia, and the mountains are very scenic. But then you come around a bend on the highway and the mountain is being stripped away. But despite all of this industry, it's so poor. By and large, the people who actually live there are not receiving the profit from their natural resources and beauty being literally stripped away. Thus the "achingly".

2. Route 1 from Asbury Park, NJ south to wherever you get. With a detour along the Jersey Shore. Kitsch, boardwalks, skee-ball, and diners with real chrome. Just avoid Atlantic City, unless you either like gambling, or like depressing wastelands (both literally, in terms of the northern tip of the peninsula that it sits on, or figuratively, in terms of the human spirit). (Actually, the area just north of the casinos in Atlantic City might qualify as an extreme environment.) South Jersey is... interesting. Do some cultural research first. There's the sand barrens, which are not particularly beautiful, but, well, John McPhee makes them sound much more interesting in his book "The Sand Barrens". He also has a nice essay about playing Monopoly, which is of course based on streets in Atlantic City. I'd listen to Bruce Springsteen a lot in the car for this road trip, and the cover of his song "Atlantic City" sung by The Band.

3. Weekend in New York (I'm thinking of this sung to the tune of The Toasters' "Weekend in LA" for some reason; likely because The Toasters were from NYC) - City, that is. Pick a counterculture, then google and make more ask metafilter posts to get info about places to explore. (You could do the same with Boston.)

4. The White Mountains, in NH, are gorgeous. Don't waste you time with Monadnock though. Drive the scenic route across through the national park. Hike, take the cog railway, or drive up Mt. Washington (I'd suggest the latter two options if at least one of you or your friend don't have extensive hiking experience - the weather on Mt. Washington changes rapidly, even in August, and it's a long, strenuous hike to start with). Get a hiking guide to the White Mountains and pick one of the easy to medium but not too busy trails up closer to the Presidentials. Mt. Tripyramid is neat, for example. Have lunch or dinner in Hanover or North Conway. Also stop by Portsmouth for food, shopping, and Strawberry Banke (historical recreation village). While in the Seacoast New Hampshire area, you can take a little cruise from Portsmouth out to see the Isles of Shoals, which are cool.

5. Have either of you been to Niagara Falls? It seems to be within your radius, and is super touristy, but worth a visit once in your life.

6. Are either of you into food at all? The best restaurant. ever. in existence. is in Providence, RI. It's this tiny hole in the wall tapas place called Flan y Ajo. (I may be biased by my happy experiences of them making me some vegetarian food for lunch.) If you're passing through that area, it's worth a little detour. For example, if you drive out to the end of Cape Cod, stopping to look at beaches along the way of course, possibly taking the ferry to Martha's Vineyard or similar, if you like rich people's summer homes and/or maritime whaling/fishing history.
posted by eviemath at 5:11 PM on August 1, 2013

Here's one day:

She likes: geological formations ... hiking

Go to Shenandoah National Park, enjoy the view along Skyline Drive, and hike Old Rag (there's a fair amount of scrambling up and down through boulders wedged together--it looks daunting but I've seen people of all fitness levels get through it)...

I like: ... communal bathing (banyas, jjimjilbangs)

...then go relax and soak at Spa World, which is an hour (+/-) from the park, open 24 hours, and has a kickass Korean cafe.
posted by psoas at 6:11 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Shenandoah as stated by psoas, then Luray Caverns.
posted by SuzySmith at 5:19 AM on August 2, 2013

Go on a whitewater rafting trip on the Youghiogheny River in PA or the Cheat River in WV. Personally I would go for the Cheat; it would leave you well set up to do a day hike in the Monongahela National Forest on Day 2--there are some popular hikes/spots that are on the memorable side because they are spectacular (Seneca Rocks area, e.g.) but there are also some great hikes in less-visited areas that lead to nice features and views and are extremely memorable because you will actually start to feel like you're alone in the middle of nowhere. Pick up a copy of the Monongahela National Forest Hiking Guide and pick one that appeals most to your collection of interests. And just driving around on the back roads of WV is memorable in and of itself if you've only ever driven through the mountains on interstates.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 5:52 AM on August 2, 2013

Medical oddities, you say?
posted by TomSophieIvy at 1:03 PM on August 2, 2013

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