The coolest roadtrip ever?
January 4, 2007 2:24 PM   Subscribe

Travel advice for a couple of Guys looking to make a drive to northern Florida a little more interesting? My 26 year old brother and I are planning to drive from Toronto to Destin, FLA in February. We have a few days to make the 20 hour trip and so would like to make it more interesting.

We already figure on stopping in Memphis, to check out Stax, Sun and possibly the nearby Gibson guitar factory. Oh, and maybe Graceland...Other ideas we had come up with included starting with a detour up to Woodstock to see if Levon Helm would mind if we knocked on his door and said hello.

Hopefully that gives you an idea of the kind of detours we are interested in. Can anyone suggest other cool points of interest that are roughly along the way? We don't mind going out of our way, but not like, Arizona-out-of-our-way...

Also, it's been a long time since I've driven in the states...Are there any other tips that could come in handy? Best way to keep Smokey off our back? Chain restaurants to avoid like the plague? Chain restaurants that are actually worth stopping at?

I will try to pay attention and answer any follow-up questions.
posted by Richat to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I remember the Bob Evans chain of restaurants being extremely tasty. They're located all over the eastern U.S., as far as I know.
posted by DMan at 2:35 PM on January 4, 2007

This Hare Krishna temple is easly the coolest thing in Moundsville, WV.
posted by Sheppagus at 2:39 PM on January 4, 2007

If you happen to be in that area any day but Monday (IIRC), go to Dothan, Alabama and eat at Hunt's. They have the best chili dog anywhere. They also have excellent steak, but I go for the chili dogs, which make a wonderful appetizer. :p

They have good oysters, too, if that's your thing.

Sadly, it's not exactly on the way, especially if you're planning to detour through Memphis.
posted by wierdo at 2:44 PM on January 4, 2007

If you go by the Gibson in Memphis (which is only worth it if you are really into guitars and guitar construction and guitar accessories) resist the urge to go by the Rock and Soul Museum. It is overpriced and completely worthless. Don't plan to spend too long in Memphis, those other two attractions will probably take 3-4 hours combined. Throw in lunch at Gus's fried chicken on Main street, and you will have a pleasant stopover in Memphis.
posted by jmgorman at 3:19 PM on January 4, 2007

Oh, and definately go by Stax. It is often overlooked, but it is the best music experience in Mempis.
posted by jmgorman at 3:22 PM on January 4, 2007

As far as avoiding Smokey. I know of only one way. Keep the speed close to the limit. I was on I-81 today and I saw 4 State Smokey's in Pennsylvania, 2 in Maryland and 3 in Virginia. Especially note Virginia when you enter the state. They seem to be looking for out of state drivers close to the state border. You will see it more when you drive back north. Really, southern Virginia on the Interstates are almost crowded with smokey's. They love out of state drivers that make a driving error because they rarely contest a ticket. Really!
posted by JayRwv at 3:24 PM on January 4, 2007

I have no idea if this is any good, and it was last published in 2004, but I did run across The I-75 and the 401: A Travelers Guide Between Toronto and Miami the other day, and it sounds like a decent starting point.
posted by SemiSophos at 4:54 PM on January 4, 2007

Response by poster: Excellent...We had almost planned a night in Memphis. It sounds like there's not much point! Apparently the hotel from Mystery Train is gone, so why bother really?

A krishna temple sounds interesting though. That's for sure!
posted by Richat at 4:59 PM on January 4, 2007

There are a lot of previous threads on here about Memphis. Graceland's worth stopping by, but if you plan on taking the tour(s) give yourself a lot of time. Don't miss Graceland II in Holly Springs, MS (about 45 min. SE of Memphis on Hwy. 78). Maybe a stop at Lambert's Cafe in Sikeston, MO or Foley, AL. It's like Cracker Barrel on steroids.
posted by Frank Grimes at 7:04 PM on January 4, 2007

Best answer: I would hit the rural highways of Ohio and Kentucky for the old Tobacco Barns and assorted rural ruins and definitely hit Memphis

The BBQ in Memphis is to die for, plus every music lover should go to Graceland and Sun Studios (as well as Stax) at least once in their life. Jarmusch didn't shoot MYSTERY TRAIN there because of the hotel (Carl Perkins!). You should stay or visit the Peabody Hotel and witness the duck parade.

For a last leg of your journey I would suggest:

From Memphis you can take backroads down to Rosedale, Mississippi where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil.

From Rosedale head to Muscle Shoals, Alabama and tour the storied "Original Muscle Shoals Sound Studios."

From Muscle Shoals hit Decatur, AL where you must eat at Gibson's BBQ joint -- they have an internationally famous White BBQ sauce.

Visit the world's largest cast iron statue in Birmingham:Vulcan. Take 20th Street from downtown Birmingham all the way up to Vulcan Park.

Hank William's gravesite (in Montgomery) is very popular with tourists from around the world - lots of Japanese folks will be snapping away with their cameras.

You should definitely ride the Lost Highway (I -65 south from Montgomery, AL to Georgiana/ Exit 114) and visit Hank Williams' Boyhood Home & Museum. From June 1-3, 2007 the Hank Williams Music festival will be in Georgiana (Hank III is not scheduled for this year).

If you take Highway 84 from Georgiana to Highway 331 in Florala and then follow Highway 331 all the way to Highway 90 then head east to Destin; the drive from Montgomery, AL to Destin, FL will be about 3 - 3.5 hours not including any stops.

If you choose to take any of this route - be cautious in your lodging choices in Memphis or Birmingham or Montgomery. The soundtrack to this leg of your trip should be obvious...

Have a great trip no matter how you get there!
posted by cinemafiend at 7:35 PM on January 4, 2007 [2 favorites]

I'd recommend Graceland too. Tupelo isn't too far out of the way either and is a bit less touristy but worth seeing as well if you like music-related attractions.

If you're going to Memphis, you should be able to hit Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry on your route too.

A friend raves about Fat Matt's ribs in Atlanta.
posted by Jaybo at 7:36 PM on January 4, 2007

I meant take Highway 90 West to Destin...
posted by cinemafiend at 7:38 PM on January 4, 2007

Themes are good. Looks like you have one. Sports also is good, checking out stadiums, seeing a game in each city even if it is only college or minor league.

History also cool. Civil war. Both read the same civil war history book at the same time.

Strip clubs. No explanation needed.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:55 PM on January 4, 2007

Another theme that's emerging from the suggestions is BBQ. It's real americana, and I'd go to the boards at chowhound (South, etc.) and find some *great* BBQ places throughout ohio, kentucky, tenn, alabama. And then I'd come back via a different route and pick up Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Yum Yum Yum.

If you plan for this, I can help with suggestions in Atlanta, GA.
posted by zpousman at 12:28 PM on January 5, 2007

And if you are interested in BBQ and the route through Birmingham, AL I would definitely recommend eating some Dreamland. Some great ribs there -- the original restaurant/dive in Tuscaloosa (Jerusalem Heights neighborhood) is one Holy Sites of BBQ (the entire food menu consists of ribs and slices of whitebread to mop up the sauce. The BIrmingham franchise restaurant has the same ribs as the original, but an expanded menu.

This would be a good place to buy a T-Shirt...
posted by cinemafiend at 8:34 PM on January 5, 2007

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