A friend of ours used to take his wife and kids on long road trips and, no matter the distance, insisted on driving straight through without even stopping for rest rooms. Don’t ask. I’m the opposite. Every road trip I plan has side trips: take a hike, visit a sight, stop and shop, scope out an artist or discover a local restaurant. Often they’re the best part.
Bookmark the website Roadside America and meet the country’s characters. Thousands of odd sights include an alien welcome center, topiary sculptures and a button museum just in
attracted us off the highway to its
small downtown chock full of artists’ studios.
Ken Gastineau created a pewter julep cup on his lathe while he told us
“instead of the idea that the town should support the arts, the arts should
support us.” Founded as an integrated community by an abolitionist minister,
the town has thrived by making the arts its foundation. Berea, Kentucky
On an Appalachian adventure we used the free directory and travel planner from the Blue Ridge Parkway Association. If you’re driving near any of the Parkway’s 469 miles from
Carolina to West
Virginia, you can get milepost by milepost ideas for
nearby fishing, bicycling, camping, hiking, attractions and
accommodations. In Virginia, the guidebook led us to Peaceful
Heart Alpaca Farm near mile marker 204 where the field was full of the cavorting
furry animals. In her workshop lined
with blue ribbons, Sharla Willis told us how she and her parents had reinvented
themselves from Ohioans to farmers by following Sharla’s love of knitting and
the glimpse of an alpaca’s sweet face on television. We also stopped at Mabry
Mill, one of the most picturesque spots on the parkway to learn about
Appalachian history and farm life and to buy some souvenir grits. With a little Google’ing we discovered that
Grayson Highlands was on our route. A short hike led us to a beautiful herd of
wild ponies that grazed peacefully while we took photos.
My most go-to travel resource is Tripadvisor where you’ll find reviews by real people about every destination. Enliven a trip across the state by picking a small town on your route and putting it into their search engine. You’ll get great advice on restaurants or attractions. Going west? How about world-class BBQ at Sweatman’s in Eutawville? Or take a walk in the astonishing biodiversity of
. It’s only five miles off the interstate. Or tour
the Newberry Opera House. Driving south? Share our favorite picnic spot under the
Spanish moss-draped oaks at the Frampton Plantation House located right where
you need a break before getting onto I-95 from Hwy. 17. Heading north? Take a breather at Congaree National Park
where the gorgeous flowers and sculpture will rejuvenate you. Surprise yourself
with an exotic lunch at Redi-et Ethiopian Restaurant in Brookgreen Gardens Myrtle Beach.
The trip starts when you pull out of the driveway, not at your destination. You know the adage “the journey is the destination”? That’s about side trips.
If You Go
Roadside America for odd attractions
More photos are here: Side Trips