Race Fans Road Trip: Charlotte Motor Speedway and the NASCAR Hall of Fame

Aerial view of downtown Charlotte, NC.

Charlotte, NC, Source | Erick Lee Hodge/Unsplash

There’s nothing quite like a road trip to Charlotte, NC, to get immersed in the world of NASCAR and racing. Right off the line, the majority of NASCAR race teams are based in the area. Then you have the Charlotte Motor Speedway and the NASCAR Hall of Fame. For race fans, the Queen City is hard to beat. So tune up the car and drive on down (within the legal speed limit, mind you) to check out these unforgettable experiences.

Charlotte Motor Speedway

NASA Firecracker Run at Charlotte Motor Speedway

Source | James Willamor/Wikimedia Commons

May is a popular time to visit the Charlotte Motor Speedway, thanks to spring weather and big races like the Coca-Cola 600 over Memorial Day weekend and the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star. Located in Concord, just north of the big city, Charlotte Motor Speedway (formerly Lowe’s Motor Speedway) is a 1.5-mile quad-oval track. Race fans are ensured a great view from anywhere in the 89,000-seat stadium, thanks to a massive, nearly 16,000-square-foot HDTV. For a different kind of race experience, jaunt across the street to watch drivers tear it up at the four-lane zMax Dragway or get a taste of North Carolina red clay at the Dirt Track.

NASCAR Hall of Fame

Classic NASCAR car

Source | Flickr

At the NASCAR Hall of Fame, there’s more to see than famous cars like the Fabulous Hudson Hornet and Lee Petty’s Oldsmobile Super 88 (#42). You can retrace the history of NASCAR on a 64-foot-wide projection screen in the High Octane Theater. Then try out for the pit crew, and sit in the driver’s seat. With the Hall of Fame’s interactive, loud-as-life exhibits, visitors get a front-row seat to the best NASCAR has to offer.

Richard Petty Driving Experience

NASCAR Petty Driving Experience. Dodge Charger

Richard Petty Driving Experience, Source | Wikimedia Commons

Along with parachuting out of a plane and bungee jumping off a bridge, the Richard Petty Driving Experience is on the bucket list of every adrenaline junkie. Roar along the Charlotte Motor Speedway in a stock car at up to 160 mph. Just watching the in-car video is enough to make your palms sweat. Of course, this experience doesn’t come cheap. A little more than a hundred bucks will get you a shotgun ride in a stock car for three laps. If you want to take the wheel like a rookie, and race eight heart-pounding laps, it’ll cost you around $450. Bring friends and family to watch. And maybe a change of pants.

Race shops

Richard_Childress

Richard Childress, Source | Wikimedia Commons

Some of the biggest names in NASCAR call the Charlotte area home, including Richard Petty Motorsports and Dale Earnhardt Inc. The racing shops feature a variety of tours, museums, showrooms, retail stores, and fan experiences. Visitors to Richard Childress Racing, based in aptly named Welcome, NC, can visit the RCR Cup and XFINITY shops. They can also tour a 47,000-square-foot museum housing nearly 50 race vehicles.

Childress Vineyards

two wine glasses

Childress Vineyards, Source | Courtesy Childress Vineyards

If you’ve been to a race during your visit to North Carolina, chances are you’ve gorged yourself on a foot-long hotdog and cheese fries, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But if your ears are still ringing from the track and your palette needs cleansing from the grit and exhaust, then check out Childress Vineyards. Owned by NASCAR team owner Richard Childress, the 72-acre vineyard and winery is located in Lexington, 10 minutes from RCR’s shop and museum. Tour the vineyard and taste a selection of the winery’s 30 award-winning varietals. Then settle back on the covered bistro patio with lunch and a glass of Cabernet, and toast to the checkered flag at the end of your trip.

Have you visited any of these Charlotte race venues? Tell us about your experience in the comments.


Heads up: You can win a VIP trip to the Coca-Cola 600 in May! Enter now for a chance to win:

  • Air travel and hotel for each grand prize winner and their guest
  • VIP access to track, hospitality suite, and paddock over race weekend
  • VIP access to the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert and a meet & greet with the band

The Best Route 66 Attractions

Beautiful Route 66, big sky and straight road

Source | Matthias/Flickr

The Mother Road still delivers one of the best road-trip experiences. Originally a transportation lifeline, Route 66 developed into a unique culture of old-school Americana that can’t be found anywhere else. Pick a few historical sites or see all the oddities. To help you choose, we’ve broken down some of the top attractions.

A massive meteor crater

Source | Meteor Crater Enterprises

Unusual scenery

Wide-open vistas are common scenery when driving Route 66. For a change of pace, when driving near Flagstaff, Ariz., look for signs pointing to Meteor Crater. Fifty-thousand years ago, a large chunk of ultra-dense hit the desert with enough force to vaporize the meteorite and clear out a three-quarter-mile-wide crater. It’s mostly intact today, and viewpoints offer a fascinating look into the basin more than 500 feet deep. Meteor Crater recalls some of the peace and tranquility of the Grand Canyon, except for the “created by a giant explosion” bit. Sure, it’s just a hole in the ground, but the scope of it is mind blowing.

 

Abandoned building in Glenrio, Texas

An abandoned building in Glenrio, Texas, Source | El-Toro/Flickr

A real ghost town

Nothing says “Old West” like an abandoned ghost town. Glenrio, Texas, sits on the border between New Mexico and Texas. Living memories from a past era, the gas station, hotel, post office, and two-dozen other buildings survive in surprisingly solid condition. Entirely abandoned, cars sit rusting in driveways and tall grass grows in massive cracks in the cement. Glenrio is quiet and empty, and an interesting, creepy experience for the type of people who love post-apocalyptic zombie movies.

For automotive geeks

If you are looking to entertain the kids (and your inner kid), head to the Lewis Antique Auto & Toy Museum in Moriarty, NM. This is Archie Lewis’ private collection, and since he’s been collecting for six decades, it’s huge. Inside this warehouse-like museum, there are 30 cars in original condition. If that’s not enough, you can wander through the yard, which is filled with more than 600 vehicles dating back over 100 years. There are fire trucks, T-Birds, Model Ts, Rancheros, and even a rarer selection rounded out by Nash, Packard, and Crosley. If the vintage iron doesn’t interest you, check out the giant selection of old-timey toys.

Vintage Indian motorcycle

Vintage Iron Motorcycle Museum, Source | Rex Brown/Flickr

A motorcycle museum

Motorcycles more your thing? The Vintage Iron Motorcycle Museum in Miami, Okla., will get your motor runnin’. You might not be feeling the modern vibe of the building since it was built in 2006, but the allure here is what’s on display. Stunning classic and antique motorcycles fill the floors in flawless condition. WWII-era US Army Harley-Davidson WLAs, world-record jump bikes, and café racers share floor space with classic race bikes, cruisers, and sidecars. You’ll also set eyes on an unreal amount of equipment and accessories. It has the best gift shop on this list, as you can get real biker stuff, besides the usual Route 66 kitsch.

Source | scott1246/Flickr

Tourist trap

When talking must-see Route 66 attractions, no list is complete without Cadillac Ranch. Although it’s not actually a ranch, there are several Cadillacs here. Sunk into the ground nose-first are 10 Cadys from the late ’40s to early ’60s, which neatly covers the entire span of the tailfin era. This isn’t a museum, though—they encourage visitors to bring spray paint and leave their own graffiti. It’s the best hands-on exhibit on the road. The Ranch is a perennial work in progress, and you can supposedly smell the fresh spray paint from hundreds of feet away. Bring a camera, as your art won’t last long.

An underground cavern

The Meramec Caverns, Source | Tydence Davis/Flickr

Recreation

Need to cool off? Head underground to “Missouri’s buried treasure.” The Meramec Caverns outside Stanton, MO, were originally a saltpeter mine, until being partially blown up in the Civil War. Afterwards it was a Victorian-era party locale, Jesse James’ hideout, and, finally, a tourist destination known for the incredible natural formations. Huge rooms with 70-foot-high ceilings, impressive stalactites, still naturally under construction, and mysterious underground lakes await the visitor with a good flashlight. Tours are currently on hold for renovations but should resume by summer.

A former service station

Cars on the Route, Source | Tony Hisgett/Flickr

Good eats

When it’s time to stop for some grub, there’s no better Route 66 destination than an old fashioned diner. Cars on the Route is a former Kan-O-Tex service station-turned-restaurant and retail shop in Galena, Kan. The gas station retains the cool old-style gas pumps and décor, but the service bays have been cleaned out and remodeled as a ’50s-style burger joint. There’s no gas in those pumps so you can’t fill your tank, but you can fill up on “Cars”themed souvenirs. Speaking of, don’t miss the lifesize movie characters sitting out front.

Metal sculptures with glass bottles connected to them

Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch near Oro Grande, Calif., Source | Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr

One of a kind…

While you could take the kids to see the World’s Biggest Ketchup Bottle in Collinsville, Ill., there are larger oddities further west. Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch, just outside Oro Grande, Calif., is an incredible upcycled industrial-art forest. Like the Cadillac Ranch, this is also not a ranch but a cool interactive artwork. More than 200 handmade steel and glass “trees” rise from the desert in a surreal display, topped by everything from typewriters to old rifles. Like the best art, and the rest of Route 66, the quiet ranch leaves an impression.

No matter what you’re looking for on Route 66, you are likely to find it. Have a favorite destination on the Mother Road? Share it in the comments below.

5 Incredible ATV Road Trip Destinations

View from a quad bike with woman driving an ATV in front on a sunny day.

You’ve de-winterized your favorite ATV, the weather is getting better and better, and you’ve got a serious case of the itch to get out and ride. But what if your local trails feel a bit hum-drum? Where should you go to have a great time in the dirt? Fear not, adventurer. We have you covered with this list of some of the best ATV destinations in the country.

Whether you’re looking for a great set of trails in your region or a cross-country trek, whether you’re a beginner or an expert, this guide has something for you. All you have to do is gear up and get there.

Moab, Utah

Source | Mitch Nielsen/Unsplash

Moab, Utah

At the top of just about every list of places to go off-roading in the U.S., Moab rightly earns a place on our short list of ATV road trip destinations. Why? Because the whole community is centered around the activity of off-roading, and there are trails that will suit every level of rider imaginable, from absolute greenhorn to the gnarliest of pros. If you go during the right time of year, there are even off-road, 4×4, and ATV events that can add another layer to your adventure.

Moab’s rocky, desert landscape is some of the most beautifully austere country in America, offering a range of sand and rock trails. Some of the key trails to check out in and around Moab include Flat Iron Mesa, Cliff Hanger, Crystal Geyser, Copper Ridge, and, of course, Hell’s Revenge. For more details on the trails and the destination, check out Utah’s tourism site.

Dirt bikes on a sand dune

Source | blmcalifornia/Flickr

Glamis, California

The Imperial Sand Dunes near Brawley, California—world-famous simply as Glamis—is the most popular off-roading destination in Southern California and one of the most epic ATV destinations on earth. The towering dunes and shreddable bowls offer fun and challenge to riders of all skill levels.

Glamis is deep in Southern California (near both the Arizona and Mexico borders), and a trip there will take you through some of California’s most remote and least-known territory. The recreational area is part of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s domain and offers RV and tent camping, as well as riding fun. Check out the official page for more information.

snowy road at the foot of a mountain

Source | Andy/Flickr

Katahdin Lodge, Maine

The trails in the Mount Katahdin area offer plenty of reason to visit this remote corner of the country, with hundreds of miles of trails for riders of all levels, from the Aroostook County trails to the Maine Interconnected Trail System. The Katahdin Lodge offers easy access to both of these northern Maine trail systems, as well as to Baxter State Park. For those who include snowmobiles in their ATV repertoire, this is a great year-round choice, as well as a great summer stop for other ATV and UTV fans. Check out the Katahdin Lodge for more information on the trails and where to stay.

man riding dirt bike up a hill

Source | Hot Springs ORV Park

Hot Springs Off-Road Vehicle Park, Arkansas

Located near Hot Springs, Arkansas, this tucked-away gem offers some of the most rigorous climbs in the country, as well as miles of trails for the whole family to enjoy. Its central location and easy access to Interstate 30 also make it a great road trip destination. Hotels and other family attractions in the Hot Springs area, including Hot Springs National Park, offer a broader itinerary. Get a taste of true Southern hospitality while enjoying the warm spring, summer, and fall weather. For all of the details, including trails, fees, and other information, visit the official Hot Springs website.

Black Hills National Forest

Source | Wagon16/Flickr

Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota/Wyoming

With more than 600 miles of designated trails on tap inside this 1.2-million-acre preserve, the Black Hills National Forest is a treasure for the off-road adventurer. Terrain varies from open prairie to deep woods and mountainous sections, with trail difficulties ranging from beginner to expert. Campgrounds are available near the trails, and a range of other family activities can be found within the park. Check out full details on this gem of the upper-western U.S. at the official Black Hills National Forest website.

Do you have a favorite spot to hit with your ATV? Tell us about it.

How to Prepare for Your Motorcycle Road Trip

By Stephanie McDonald

Open road, highway

Source | Hogarth de la Plante/Unsplash

Hi, everyone! Stephanie here, aka the Blonde Bandit. Spring is coming soon, and that means it’s time for some long and exciting road trips. But before you set off, make sure you’re prepared. If you’ve been on a long trip before, you know the importance of having an emergency kit.

Recently, I took a four-hour ride through the mountains of Little Switzerland, NC. That’s not the longest trip I’ve ever taken solo, but I still packed some key items. During the journey a funny noise started coming from the chain of my motorcycle, a 2003 Suzuki Bandit 600 (get the nickname now?). I sprayed it with my emergency chain cleaner, and after inspecting my motorcycle, I noticed I was a little low on oil. So I topped that off too. Being prepared with the right essentials really saved me on that ride.

You may get into, or have already been in, a similar situation. There’s limited storage space on motorcycles, especially since your saddlebags are already loaded with personal items. So here’s the absolute essentials packing list.

Stephanie McDonald Motorcycle

Essential Motorcycle Packing List

Tire-repair kit & gauge

The gauge is a must to make sure you have the proper amount of air in your tires. The tire-repair kit comes in handy if you get a flat and need to get to the closest shop.

Emergency roadside kit

These kits are great to have on-hand in case you end up with a dead battery and need a quick jump to get going. Plus these roadside kits usually have first-aid items and flashlights, too.

Zip ties

When bolts rattle loose, minor accidents happen, and your fairing is flapping around, zip ties are a great quick fix. I also use them to secure my USB cable to the frame.

Bungee cords

You can never have enough bungee cords. I use them for extra support in holding my saddlebags, since I have the soft detachable kind.

Towels

It’s always great to have a few towels on hand in case you need to clean your visor or wipe down your bike before you enter it into a show.

You can also pick up:

Whether it’s a three-hour or 30-day road trip, it pays to be prepared.

Have any extra tips or motorcycle-trip stories to share? Leave a comment below!


Our Events in March:

12 Hours of Sebring

Want a free lunch? Speed Perks members attending the 12 Hours of Sebring on Saturday, March 10 will get one. Just bring a receipt from Advance Auto Parts showing a Mobil oil purchase to the Mobil tent at lunch time.

Daytona Bike Week

The Blonde Bandit herself will be at Destination Daytona to kick off our 2017 Restoration Tour with our friends at Mobil. Join us


Road Trip: Super Bowl LI in Houston

undefined

Source | Augustinedelosdolores2002/commons.wikimedia.org

Super Bowl LI takes place on February 5th in Houston, Texas. The last time Space City hosted the Super Bowl was 2004 (do the words “wardrobe malfunction” ring a bell?), and a lot has changed in the past 13 years. The growing metropolis has poured money into updating its public spaces and developed a reputation as a culinary capital. It also has a plethora of Super Bowl–related activities planned for the days leading up to the big game.

So even if you can’t get your hands on tickets, a road trip to Houston during Super Bowl week is a stellar way to absorb all that energy. Here are a few of the can’t-miss attractions and events.

Pre-game events

The city is planning a Texas-size “Super Bowl LIVE” celebration with 10 days of free concerts, culinary experiences, and fan events. Discovery Green, a 12-acre park that was just a parking lot during the 2004 Super Bowl, will serve as the event’s headquarters, and activities will span the surrounding 35 blocks. Event planners are expecting 1 million visitors to the area over the 10-day period. As you can imagine, parking will be an issue. So plan ahead.

undefined

Source | AndyH54889/commons.wikimedia.org

Top sights to see before Super Bowl LI

Space Center Houston

If the crowds at Discovery Green are taking the jelly out of your doughnut, drive 25 miles south on I-45 and pay homage to the source of Houston’s official nickname, Space City. Space Center Houston is the official visitor center of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Visitors can view Apollo 17, touch a real-life moon rock, and then tour the Johnson Space Center. Plan ahead and you can even lunch with an astronaut. That way you can ask pressing science questions, like, “Can you see the NRG Stadium from space?”

Museum District

Relax. Visiting Houston’s Museum District doesn’t mean staring at swirls of paint for an entire day—unless you want to, of course! The Museum District is home to 19 cultural attractions that appeal to a variety of interests. Did we mention that many of them are free?

Hermann Park

After checking out Museum District art, take a break from driving to stretch your legs in the adjacent Hermann Park, a 445-acre park that’s seen $46 million in renovations and additions since 2004. Enjoy shady walkways lined by 80-year-old live oaks, manicured gardens, an outdoor theater, a zoo, and scenic McGovern Lake. Oh, and a municipal golf course if you’re so inclined.

Waugh Bridge Bat Colony

OK, this one’s fairly weird, so we recommend checking it out—from a distance. Each evening at sunset, 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats erupt from beneath the bridge on Waugh Drive. The colony is large enough to be seen by weather radars when they emerge to feed on insects (hey, a bat’s gotta eat). The bats are less active when the weather is especially cold, so pick a warmer night. The bridge is about a 10-minute drive west of Discovery Green.

undefinedSource | eflon/flickr

Fueling up for the big game

Food trucks

Sightseeing is hungry work. No matter where you spend your days before the Super Bowl, keep an eye out for some of Houston’s best meals on wheels. Dozens of food trucks roam the streets, dispensing everything from cupcakes to banh mi. Curious about what goes into engineering a mobile kitchen? We were, too.

Restaurants/Pubs

H-Town is a food lover’s dream. In fact, it was named one of the Top 10 food cities in the country by the Washington Post in 2015. High-profile chefs and unexpected culinary experiences are as abundant here as brisket and BBQ plates. If the Super Bowl has you in the mood for big screens, bar food, and craft brews, you’re in luck. But call ahead if you plan to watch the big game at a pub, as normal hours of operation and admission may vary.

So there you have it—a short list of cool stuff to do in a city that’s long on options.

Taking a road trip to Houston for Super Bowl LI? Tell us about it!

Road Trip: Hot Spring Havens

undefined

Source | Flickr

When it comes to winter road trips, you could go one of two ways. Either embrace the snow and head to mountain slopes or flee to warmer waters. But why not combine the two with a soak in a natural hot spring?

These gems boast steamy, mineral-enriched waters to soothe your muscles and snowy views to feed your soul. Best of all, you don’t need an expensive membership with an exclusive spa to enjoy them. The only choice you need to make now? Which to choose.*

undefined

Mammoth Lakes, California; Source | Robson Hatsukami Morgan/Unsplash

Mammoth Lakes, California

Mammoth Lakes owes its network of natural hot springs to its volcanic past. Once upon nearly 800,000 years ago, a volcanic explosion laid the foundation for the network of hot springs that stretches from Bridgeport to Mammoth Lakes. Today, several commercial hot springs in the area are open to the public, including Benton and Keough. Plenty of undeveloped hot springs exist as well, like Travertine and Buckeye, but finding them will take a little legwork. Some of these sites are threatened with overuse, and not all of them are safe for dipping. So talk to locals and stop in at the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center

for the full skinny.

undefined

Glenwood Springs, Colorado; Source | iStock

Glenwood Springs, Colorado

The Glenwood Hot Springs Pool is fed by the Yampah spring—one of the hottest natural hot springs in the world. The water from the spring is so hot (122° F to be exact) that it has to be cooled down for bathers. The 1-million-gallon main pool is kept at a balmy 90° F, and is perfect for the entire family. Adults looking for peace and quiet may want to retreat to the “smaller” 100-ft by 400-ft hot tub, which is cooled to a pleasant 104° F. Book an overnight stay at the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort or purchase admission to splash around for the day.
undefined

Bagby Hot Springs, Oregon; Source | Indigo Fairy/commons.wikimedia.org

Bagby Hot Springs, Oregon

Nestled in Oregon’s Late Successional Reserve Forest, Bagby Hot Springs is a rustic escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Pay a small fee to park and then hike a 1.5-mile trail over river footbridges and beneath old-growth forest to the primitive cabins. Inside you’ll find a number of whiskey-barrel style tubs and 8-ft-long, hollowed out cedar logs. The water is hot; the soak is free; the view is…primordial.

undefined

Hot Springs State Park, Wyoming; Source | Jonathan Green/ commons.wikimedia.org

Hot Springs State Park, Wyoming

Tour Hot Springs State Park and take in the steam- and snow-drenched landscape. Wonder at the majestic, free-roaming herd of buffalo. Traverse the swinging bridge across the Bighorn River. Then (thanks to a treaty signed with the Shoshone and Arapaho in 1896), you can also partake in the park’s namesake. The hot springs’ bath house is free and open five days a week, barring winter holidays. The soaking pool is maintained at an optimal 104° F.

undefined

Jefferson Pools, Virginia; Source |iStock

Jefferson Pools, Virginia

If you’re looking to soak in hot water and more than two centuries of American history, then few hot springs can best the Jefferson Pools. Owned and operated by the nearby Omni Homestead Resort, the pools were named after Thomas Jefferson, who raved about the springs during his visit in 1818. The octagonal Gentlemen’s Pool House was built in 1761 and looks it. But the 40,000-gallon pool features crystal-clear, untreated spring water so rich in mineral content that bathers nearly float. The Ladies’ Pool House was added later and allows for separate bathing. Combined family soaks are also available during scheduled times.

undefined

Chena Hot Springs, Alaska; Source |Punk Toad/Flickr

Chena Hot Springs, Alaska

Imagine soaking in three-thousand-year-old, geothermal waters while gazing up at the northern lights. That’s what you’ll find at Chena Hot Springs in Fairbanks, Alaska. For a daily fee, the outdoor Rock Lake features unadulterated hot spring waters at a consistent 106° F. Visitors also have access to indoor hot tubs and a heated pool. Having too much fun to leave? Book a yurt (or a room if you’re more inclined) at the Chena Hot Springs Resort, which includes unlimited swim passes during your stay.

* For all locations, call ahead to confirm availability and access with winter conditions.

Have you visited a natural hot spring we didn’t mention? Share your experience with us.

Enjoy a Happier, Safer Road Trip With Your Pet

undefined

Source | Andrew Pons/Unsplash

The holidays are a time for visiting with family and friends. When those friends live far away, many motorists choose to take their pets along for the ride. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), more than 15 million Americans travel with pets each year. And since January 2 is National Pet Travel Safety Day, here are a few road-worthy tips for safe holiday travel.

undefined

Source | Kate/Unsplash

Visit Your Vet

Before you go, make an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian. Discuss any travel concerns you have, including how to calm your pet if he or she becomes too anxious. Make sure your pet’s vaccinations and ID tags are up-to-date, and be certain that he or she is in good physical health. Ask for a copy of rabies vaccination papers, in case they’re required while you’re traveling.

Take a Practice Run

Does the thought of travel leave you feeling both excited and anxious? Your pet feels the same way. If car trips are a foreign concept, take your pet on practice runs. Gradually increase the length of the trips to help your pet grow accustomed to your vehicle and the sensations involved with travel.

undefined

Source | Matthew Henry/Unsplash

Pack a Pet-Pleasing Travel Kit

Include familiar comfort items like a special blanket, as well as grooming tools, portable food dishes, and water from home to avoid stomach issues. Don’t forget a leash or harness for those leg-stretchers and a scoop or plastic baggies for bathroom breaks. If you’re traveling with a cat, a plastic container with a locking lid and a few inches of litter can serve as a litter box. And, of course, pack plenty of treats!

Use a Vehicle Restraint or Carrier

As happy as a dog looks hanging its head out the window, chops flapping in the breeze (we couldn’t resist including a photo), it isn’t the safest way for your pet to ride. The ASPCA recommends using a proper restraint or well-ventilated carrier to safely transport your pet. A pet partition can also create a safe barrier between your pet and the driver. Also helpful: seat protectors help you care for your pet and your upholstery at the same time.

Stick to a Normal Routine

The same advice that works for humans applies to animals: We do best when we stick to a familiar routine. So take breaks at your pet’s normal meal times for food and water. Let your pet get some exercise while on a leash and sniff out the new locale. If you’re traveling with a cat, this is a good time to get out the litter box. When your cat is finished, scoop the box clean, replace the lid, and store it away in the trunk for the next rest stop.

undefined

Source | Erik-Jan Leusink/Unsplash

Plan Ahead for Pet-Friendly Hotels

Whether you’re staying at a hotel at your destination or along the way, don’t leave finding a pet-friendly nest to chance. Do your research ahead of time with a site like petswelcome.com. If you’re traveling with a cat, ask if the beds sit flush against the wall and floor. Your back will thank you when you don’t have to crawl under the bed to retrieve your furry recluse. Also, secure your pet in a crate in the hotel when you have to leave for non-animal-friendly meals and excursions. They may not like it, but it prevents them from launching a prison break when housekeeping comes.

undefined

Source | Vladimir Kudinov/Unsplash

Go Beyond Fetch

Lastly but perhaps most importantly, leave time in your itinerary for activities that your pet will enjoy. Search sites like dogfriendly.com and gopetfriendly.com for adventures, attractions, beaches, dog parks, and restaurants that welcome pets. Call ahead to confirm with management to ensure the best experience for everyone.

Roadtrips with pets can be twice as fun and half the hassle with some careful planning and consideration. So go for it! And leave a comment to tell us your pet-travel road trip stories.

Road Trip: The 5 Biggest Holiday Light Displays in America

‘Tis the season for holiday light tours, where you can view thousands of twinkling lights and giant, animated reindeer from the comfort of your automobile. Whether you find these roadside displays beautiful or as tacky as a plastic leg lamp, they’ve become a much-loved tradition. Here’s a look at five of the biggest, most festive, holiday light events from across the country.

lights-photo

1. Oglebay Festival of Lights – Wheeling, WV

Hosted by the Oglebay Resort, the Festival of Lights is one of the biggest holiday lights displays in the country. The six-mile drive boasts more than a million LED lights across 300 acres. Cruise beneath the 300-foot Rainbow Tunnel, view a Peanuts display donated by the family of Charles Schulz, and wonder at the 60-foot-tall candles set in a poinsettia wreath.

2. Bright Nights at Forest Park – Springfield, MA

The number of cars that have visited Bright Nights at Forest Park since its inception in 1995 could stretch from Springfield, Massachusetts to California. But don’t let that discourage you from visiting! Enjoy three miles of lights, featuring a Victorian village, Jurassic Park, and Seussland, along with displays for Kwanzaa and Hanukkah.

3. East Peoria Festival of Lights – East Peoria, IL

The East Peoria Festival of Lights kicks off with a parade of eye-popping floats in late November. The lighted floats are then on drive-through display, along with other animated scenes, in nearby Folepi’s Winter Wonderland. The largest float is a 160-foot steam engine featuring 65,000 lights. Other favorites include a steam-breathing Chinese dragon, the Star Trek “Enterprise,” and a larger-than life team of clydesdale horses pulling a wagon.

4. Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park – Spanaway, WA

Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park is a cooperative effort between local schools and the county’s parks and recreation department. The annual display is in its 22nd year and is one of the largest displays of its kind in the northwest. Visitors will “ooh” and “aah” at nearly 300 light displays as they wind their way along the two-mile drive. Scenes with a giant dog and a ship sailed by a crew of elves will delight all ages.

5. Christmas in the Smokies – Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN

(Update: Some of this area is currently suffering from damage from wildfires. Please hope the best for the people who are rebuilding there and make sure to visit their website for updates on recovery efforts.)

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are well-known for their bright lights and attractions, not to mention stellar views of the Great Smoky Mountains. They also spend November through February, draped in mile-after-mile of twinkling holiday lights. Gatlinburg recently spent more than $1.6 million to enhance their holiday displays and convert to LED lights. (The city now powers the full 120-day celebration with what it previously cost for three days.) Expect displays evoking winter romance and nature with Gatlinburg’s Winter Magic, and don’t miss the centerpiece of Pigeon Forge’s Winterfest, the aptly named Patriot Park.

What to know

  • Take a moment to review each festival’s posted guidelines, which may include requests to dim your headlights so visitors can fully appreciate the displays.
  • If you want to linger at a display, pull to the side to allow others to pass.
  • To avoid the long lines, visit during weeknights and earlier or later in the evening.
  • Watch for discounted tickets and special events associated with each festival.

Does your area host a drive-through, holiday lights festival that would make Clark Griswold salivate? Leave us a comment with all the details.

 

 

Calling All Road Warriors: National Motorcycle Ride Day

national motorcycle ride day

October 8th is National Motorcycle Ride Day, so we hit Facebook and asked about your favorite routes (and for some photos of your rides). Many of you agreed with one poster, who said, “My favorite road is wherever that front tire leads me!” Other suggestions included lesser-known local routes—including the ones that you lucky few take every day to work. But your favorite U.S. rides were the ones with mountain views, technical roads, or backwoods peace and quiet.

Here are your top five, plus suggestions for how to spend the second Saturday of October. You may not be able to tackle many of them in a day, but is that really a bad thing?

The Easy Rider Tour

national motorcycle ride day

Some of you referenced the 1969 classic road-trip film Easy Rider. Why not watch the movie (but maybe skip the ending) and then retrace a portion of the iconic 2,500-mile journey of Billy and Wyatt, played by Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda? The trip from Los Angeles to New Orleans encompasses five states and enough shorter rides to fill a lifetime. Or at least a couple of weeks. Depending on your location, you can take in the Martian-like landscape on the 161-mile Death Valley Run, loop around Monument Valley, cruise Route 66, or spend some time in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Along the way, you can pay homage to Billy and Wyatt at any number of recognizable locations from the movie. To get the full experience, trip on music from the soundtrack by artists like Steppenwolf, Jimi Hendrix, and the Byrds.

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, Black Hills, South Dakota

national motorcycle ride day

Named one of the most outstanding byways in America, the Peter Norbeck Scenic byway is 70 miles of scenic tunnels, hairpin turns, and pigtail bridges. Favorite sections like the Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road will take you through some of the prettiest country west of the Missouri River. Smell the ponderosa pines, gape at two-billion-year-old monoliths and spires, and view Mount Rushmore from inside a rock tunnel roadway.

Million Dollar Highway, Colorado

national motorcycle ride day

People can’t agree on whether the Million Dollar Highway got its name from nearby gold and silver deposits or from how much it cost to build. But visitors will be excused for thinking the name comes from its million-dollar views. A portion of the San Juan Skyway, the Million Dollar Highway is where U.S. 550 stretches from Ouray to Silverton. The road reaches an elevation of over 11,000 feet at the summit of Red Mountain Pass, with plenty of hairpins and switchbacks along the way. What the Million Dollar Highway lacks, however, are guardrails, so take advantage of the many scenic turnouts.

Tail of the Dragon, Moonshiner 28, Cherohala Skyway, Great Smoky Mountains

national motorcycle ride day

The Smokies boast arguably some of the most treasured roadways for motorcyclists in the country. Bucket-list-worthy U.S. 129 at Deals Gap, N.C., also known as the Tail of the Dragon, offers 318 challenging curves in 11 miles. Want more? Extend your trip another 103 miles with the Moonshiner 28. Named for the bootleggers who once used it, N.C. 28 boasts abundant twisties and wide sweepers, mountain views, iconic spots like Bridal Veil Falls, and plenty of moonshine history. All with less traffic than you’ll find on the Tail. Or you can loop over to the 41-mile Cherohala Skyway. Drive from Robbinsville, N.C., through the unspoiled Cherokee and Nantahala forests, over 5,400-foot Santeetlah Gap, and into Tellico Plains, Tenn.

Natchez Trace Parkway, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi

national motorcycle ride day

It’s easy to see why so many of you love the Natchez Trace Parkway, a road that stretches 444 miles, from Natchez, Miss., to Nashville, Tenn. The parkway roughly follows the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, a footpath that’s been in use for centuries. Sixty miles of the trails are maintained and open to visitors today. Commercial vehicles are prohibited on the Trace, which means no dump trucks or tractor trailers and less road debris. It also means that the asphalt is smooth as a baby’s… well, you know. The parkway avoids the congestion of most major cities, so you can relax while you soak up the scenery and the history.

For even more great rides (including more northeastern roads and the popular Blue Ridge Parkway), check out our recent posts Skip the Beach: Our Top 5 Mountain Road Trips and The Appalachian Trail: Road Trip Version. Or read the hundreds of Facebook comments from our road trip thread.

Getting your bike road-worthy? Stop by our Motorcycle Maintenance Center for advice, parts and more.

The Appalachian Trail: Road Trip Version

The Appalachian Trail Road Trip

The Appalachian Trail, or AT as it’s often called, is a “bucket-list” adventure for hiking enthusiasts. Hikers prepare months for the 2,100-mile journey that takes six months or more to complete. But thru-hikers aren’t the only ones who can enjoy the trail’s fall foliage, small-town charm, and country air. The trail crosses a road an average of every four miles. So we’ve compiled a handful of road trips that allow you to enjoy portions of the Appalachian Trail’s fall colors. Must-see hikes and sights along the route will give you a taste of the AT, without the blisters.

So what are you waiting for? Pour yourself a thermos of hot apple cider, don your cold-weather jacket, and head for them (color-drenched) hills.

Delaware Water Gap panorama in Autumn with colorful foliage with forest and mountain over river.

Before You Go

Here are a few tips to getting the most out of your Appalachian Trail road trip experience:

  • Gas stations are limited, so fill up your tank ahead of time and pack plenty of food and water, especially if you plan to hike.
  • You won’t be the only leaf-peeper on the road. To avoid crowds, visit on weekdays and early mornings. If you stop to enjoy the view, pull off to the side and allow other cars to pass.
  • Visit a ranger station if your route passes through a park. Grab a map to navigate in areas where cell service is spotty. Park rangers can also provide up-to-date information on which trails and roads may be closed or congested as well as sightseeing suggestions tailored to your interests.
  • To avoid crowds, visit on weekdays and early mornings.
  • Make sure your brakes are in good condition; they’ll get a workout on these mountain roads! To minimize wear and tear, consider downshifting into a lower gear before a steep descent.
  • Steep climbs can overheat your engine, so take precautions. Top off your coolant before heading out, and carry extra with you. While you drive, keep an eye on your temperature gauges. If you notice your engine is heating up, turn off the AC, and roll down your windows instead. In an extreme case, cool down your engine by running the heat on ‘high.’ When you can pull over, let your engine idle a few minutes before turning it off. Douse the radiator core in cold water if you need to, but never remove your radiator cap until the engine is cooled.

New England

Snowcapped mountains in the White Mountains National Forest in New Hampshire during the autumn foliage season. Photo taken during the peak fall foliage season. New Hampshire is one of New England's most popular fall foliage destinations bringing out some of the best foliage in the United States

The Kancamagus Highway, Conway to Lincoln, NH

Nicknamed “the Kanc” by locals, this American Scenic Byway stretches 34.5 miles along Rt. 112 in Northern New Hampshire. Drivers will enjoy some of the same scenes AT thru-hikers treasure: the White Mountains in their autumn brilliance, wildlife such as moose, and a number of accessible waterfalls. Highlights include the 45-foot Sabbaday falls, scenic vistas, and the drivable Albany covered bridge, which spans the Swift River.

Mt. Washington Auto Road, Gorham, NH

The 7.6-mile Auto Road is America’s oldest man-made attraction. More than 45,000 cars chug up the Auto Road’s steep, twisting route each year. The main attraction: jaw-dropping views of the autumn colors from the 6,288-foot summit. And a “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington” bumper sticker for your efforts. (fee includes bumper sticker and audio tour)

Old Mine is said to be one of the oldest continuously used roads in America, with ties to Dutch colonists from the 17th century.

Mid-Atlantic

The Old Mine Road Route, NY/NJ

The mid-Atlantic portion of the AT skirts more populated areas, but that doesn’t mean solitude and scenery aren’t available. Old Mine Road follows the Delaware River for 104 miles, from Kingston, New York through the heart of Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area’s 70,000 acres of protected land. Old Mine is said to be one of the oldest continuously used roads in America, with ties to Dutch colonists from the 17th century. A number of historic sites are dedicated to maintaining the road’s rural charm. Drivers will enjoy serene views of the Delaware River, waterfalls, and undisturbed hardwood forests.

Scenic road in the Adirondacks region of New York during the autumn foliage season

Southeast

Skyline Drive, VA

Skyline Drive winds for 105 miles atop the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park. More than 75 scenic overlooks punctuate the relaxed drive along I-66 and I-64. The speed limit is 35 mph, and the drive takes around three hours. Enjoy sweeping views of the fall colors and watch for wildlife, including black bears, deer, and wild turkeys. Access Skyline Drive in Front Royal, Thornton Gap or Swift Run Gap. Don’t miss the 670-foot driving tunnel through Mary’s Rock, the 4000-foot summit view from Hawksbill Mountain, or 67-foot Rose River Falls. (entrance fee)

Pro Tip: If you plan to drive the entire parkway, give yourself several days. There are countless hikes, overlooks and cultural sights to take in along the way.

Blue Ridge Parkway, VA and NC

What Skyline Drive starts, the Blue Ridge Parkway finishes, with an additional 469-miles of scenic mountain roads. Enjoy views of the hazy Blue Ridge and mist-shrouded Great Smoky mountain ranges. If you plan to drive the entire parkway, give yourself several days. There are countless hikes, overlooks and cultural sights to take in along the way. Drive the Linn Cove Viaduct, an iconic 1200-foot bridge snaking along the side of craggy Grandfather Mountain. Immerse yourself in local culture at the Blue Ridge Music and the Folk Art centers. Then stop to enjoy the 85-mile view from Mount Mitchell’s 6,684-foot summit. (no fee)

Raven Cliff Falls is a 420 foot cascade on Matthews Creek. The name comes from the Ravens that nest in the cliffs. The falls are located in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness of Greenville County South Carolina. Raven Cliff Falls Trail is an easy to moderate 2 mile hike to the observation deck. You can also take the Gum Gap Trail to Naturaland Trust trail and cross the upper section of falls on a Suspension Bridge. You can continue on this very strenuous trail into the gorge and make a 7.9 mile loop. It is a very steep and rugged trail with a crossing of Mathew Creek that can’t be crossed safely in high water. At the intersection of the Dismal trail take it back to the Raven Cliff Falls Trail to parking lot.

Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway, GA

Drivers on this scenic, 40-mile loop will be impressed with the beauty of the southernmost Appalachian Mountains. You’ll drive through the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, which boasts 4,784-foot Brasstown Bald. A short but steep climb from the Bald’s visitor’s center will reward visitors with 360-degree views from an observation tower. (Parking fee required.) Save time to hike to Raven Cliff Falls as well. The trail winds through mossy forest to a unique, double-cascade falls that splits a 40-foot granite cliff in two. Another popular trail is nearby 150-foot Dukes Creek Falls, which also offers views of Yonah Mountain.

Have you ever driven these routes in the fall? What memorable sights would you add to the list? Are there other scenic driving routes along the Appalachian Trail you’d recommend? Leave us a comment below.