Texas bound! Roadtrip from New Jersey to Texas.
March 1, 2017 7:07 AM   Subscribe

My best friend is moving to Texas near Fort Worth like the third week of March. We're driving some stuff and her cats from Central Jersey to her new place over a period of two- three days. What are some roadtrip tips you have for us, places we must eat along the way, places we can quick stop and see something neat? Suggest away.

We're two middle aged ladies traveling alone with cats, we're big nerds and foodies, and we speak almost extensively in sarcasm if that helps with the suggestions.

Mostly I need a way to not stress her out by crying for three days because my best friend is moving to Texas.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit to Travel & Transportation around Texas (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you taking 81-40-30, through the Shenandoah Valley and the long way through Tennessee?

- Shenandoah valley is pretty. There's a German restaurant in Staunton, VA which is nice, because nothing goes with road tripping like beer (or maybe not)
- East Tennessee is nice. You could visit Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, near Knoxville. There were a lot of fires in the area recently, but I think Dollywood proper got through OK.
- I live in Memphis, so I recommend with no justification whatsoever that you skip Nashville. In Memphis, we have the Pyramid, now a Bass Pro Shop, right on the riverfront. There's also some riverfront parks and Beale Street, all downtown. Rendezvous BBQ is downtown and is the de facto BBQ recommendation; any other place will let you order ribs either wet or dry.
- Visit Hot Springs in Arkansas if you get a chance. I never visited the Bill Clinton birthplace in Hope, but it's right there off of I-30.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:04 AM on March 1, 2017

I'm not sure what route you're taking, but if Hot Springs, Arkansas is along your route, I highly recommend it. We stopped there during out holiday road trip and stayed at the Arlington Hotel (super if you love slightly past-their-prime, historic, and possibly haunted hotels) and had a great breakfast at The Pancake Shop (super if you love pancakes). The National Park there is also pretty great.
posted by pantarei70 at 8:05 AM on March 1, 2017

When I moved to Austin (leaving from my Dad's house in NJ), I stopped at Cozy Corner BBQ right near the crossing of the Mississippi River and I highly recommend it. (Caveat: this was in 2012).
posted by hrj at 8:05 AM on March 1, 2017

Arlington Hotel has a spa, with water from the hot springs and all that. May be some bathhouses that are open, and you can take a tour of some of the historic ones.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:07 AM on March 1, 2017

I've taken two similarly-long road trips with my own best friend. My biggest suggestion is to plan in some time apart for every day of the trip (even best friends need to decompress occasionally).
posted by schroedingersgirl at 8:07 AM on March 1, 2017

If you're passing through Memphis, definitely go to Graceland. Even if Elvis isn't your guy, go to Graceland. It's a surprisingly moving experience, and you learn so much about America, fame, music, you name it. They just did a major reno, so everything should be sparkly new. Seriously. GO TO GRACELAND. Down the road is Reverend Al Green's church, which is worth a drive-by, at least.

If you're passing through Nashville, the Willie Nelson Museum is quite fun, and hey, who doesn't like Willie? And it's right next door to Cooter's Garage from Dukes of Hazard, which probably features the most Confederate flags per square foot than anywhere on Earth.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:13 AM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I forgot about Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum. Uh, one of those will leave you feeling better than the other.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:24 AM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

You'll need a music playlist. The playlist should include music from and about the places you are going through. A service like Spotify is excellent for this since you can download songs to your device in advance.

Also, you'll need a bunch of podcasts. You can't always talk to each other.
posted by TORunner at 8:25 AM on March 1, 2017

Where will the cats be while you are touristing? I did a drive with cats from Texas to DC a few years ago; we didn't have any trouble finding lodgings that would take pets. Most of the budget hotels do nowadays. I also bought two large dog carriers so they would have a bit of extra room, and put some of my old pillows in there for them to lay on so they'd be comfy. It wasn't totally disastrous, which is about the best one could hope for when travelling with cats. Unless these cats are unusually good at cars, you should be prepared for some drama.
posted by backwards compatible at 8:58 AM on March 1, 2017

Yay, I'm happy to see Hot Springs, Arkansas already represented! I'd recommend going to Quapaw Baths for a soak. For a dirt cheap $20 you get access to the communal thermal pools for as long as you want--it'll be a nice treat in March! Spa packages go up in price from there, too, if you want a massage or anything.

(I grew up nearby)
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:01 AM on March 1, 2017

Ummm.... you are aware that that's around a 1600 mile drive, right? Or about 24 solid hours of driving time? I hate to be Debbie Downer, but unless you make that at least a four/five day trip, you won't have the time or energy for sightseeing. Sorry.
posted by easily confused at 9:47 AM on March 1, 2017

Apologies if this is super obvious, but it can get pretty warm as you go south in March. So I wouldn't plan anything that doesn't involve first checking into a motel, getting the cats situated in the room somehow and then going back out again. So this means planning where to stay the night, not just what's on the way. It is not by any means a given that the temperatures will allow you to leave the cats in the car even for a daytime restaurant meal.
posted by flourpot at 10:30 AM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Roadfood is your friend.
posted by brujita at 11:53 AM on March 1, 2017

If we're recommending musician-themed Nashville museums, I recommend the Johnny Cash museum, having not been to the Willie Nelson museum. (Although the Johnny Cash museum is in downtown Nashville with no on-site parking and therefore less roadtrip-friendly than the Willie Nelson one.) If you like spicy food and/or fried chicken, get some hot chicken in Nashville - I'm not going to touch the "where's the right place to get hot chicken" debate. (I don't actually know anything about this debate, but I know human beings and therefore know it must exist.)

Hot Springs can be a good place to stop, as has already been mentioned. (Although frankly it kind of reminds me of Atlantic City without the gambling or the beach.)

I-40 between Memphis and Little Rock is really boring - be forewarned.

And as people have said, 1600 miles in three days doesn't leave you much time for stopping.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:54 AM on March 1, 2017

Another Memphian chiming in! If you're just passing through and don't have time to do all the touristy stuff, you should stop for a quick walkabout break and walk across the Mississippi River on the Big River Crossing. It's easily accessible right off the south side I-55 bypass. (Yes, I know you'll be on I-40 but you HAVE to bypass and one is just as close as the other.) it would be a great way to get out of the car for a little while, is easy to get to, and is worth the time. You can memail me if you want more info on any of the Memphis stuff.
posted by raisingsand at 1:18 PM on March 1, 2017

Well heck, you've got to see Rock City! It's retro-kitschy, beautiful and all-around wonderful.

Tennessee is worth some extra time because there is really a lot to do. Seconding Dollywood.
posted by Miko at 3:00 PM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Stop at a Whataburger and get an A1 Thick and Hearty Burger, or if it's breakfast time, a Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit.
posted by slagheap at 10:02 PM on March 1, 2017

Interesting drive... but the cats come first. And they may be very unhappy and not at all shy about letting everyone know about it. Bring earplugs.
Check with the vet about diet pre-trip and during the ride, medications to relax them or even knock them out, and making sure that they are chipped and you have vaccination records and a couple of photos, just in case they get away from you.
Cat collars come off easily; what about cat harnesses with vaccination and I.D. tags? They may not like them, but their comfort is second to their safety in transit.

Under no circumstances let them out of carriers unless in a secure room like a bathroom. This is no time to try and lure them out from under a bolted-down piece of furniture in a hotel room. God forbid they get out of the car.
It may be unpleasant or nasty to leave them inside a carrier for the entire trip with water and some kind of litter box, but no one wants to leave a lost cat behind.

The kitties may be chill, or the may be stressed out by the time they get to their new home. A transition area for a few days (bathroom, unused bedroom) will help them adjust without worrying that one of them will dart out the door into the new neighborhood.

I hate to say it, but it will be spring in Tornado Alley -- keep the radio on and heed any weather reports (watches -- weather can get severe in the next few hours; warnings -- take cover immediately in that area). Watch the local weather forecasts and have a plan for taking the carriers into businesses.
If the weather turns foul you may be better off on the first floor of a motel rather than on the road, since interstate off-ramps can be tens of miles apart. The smallest room on the lowest floor is your safe spot; bathrooms and closets protect you from flying debris.
Cars are not safe in high winds.
And never drive into flood water over a road. It takes very little to float a car into the ditch.

I know you came here for doom and gloom -- sigh -- that said, I enjoy the I-40 route from OKC to Memphis and Nashville. And Dallas / Ft. Worth is lovely. Bring a mug with a good lid for coffee, a child's sunshade for the window, and a neck pillow for naps. Take plenty of pictures and videos, rock some good music and a sense of humor, and have fun on the road trip!
posted by TrishaU at 3:55 AM on March 3, 2017

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