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.

Skip the Beach: Our Top 5 Mountain Road Trips

Labor Day Weekend is often seen as the last goodbye to summer beach trips. Which means beachgoers encounter sweltering traffic jams, crowded beaches, and higher hotel rates. But there’s another way to enjoy the late summer holiday: head to the mountains.

The air is crisper, the temperatures are cooler—a nice break from the heat. Mountains are naturally isolated, so you’re sure to find peace and relaxation, even along the busier routes. Our favorite mountain road trips include some popular spots, while others are hidden gems on the map. They represent many regions of the country, so pack up the family vehicle and hit the alpine roads to enjoy the scenery and fresh air.

5. Porcupine Mountains, MI

Top Five Mountain Road Trips

Tucked away on the southern banks of Lake Superior lie the Porcupine Mountains. The Porkies are home to more than 90 austere waterfalls. You may recognize two of the Porkies’ most notable waterfalls, Bond Falls and Agate Falls, from a national ad campaign for certain sport-utility vehicles. Find the falls just off Highways 28 and 45. Continue on Highway 45 at dusk for a chance to view the mysterious Paulding Light in the distance. Local legend claims the light is the ghost of an old railroad brakeman waving his lantern in warning. The Midwest’s Porkies rank at number five on our list.

4. Great Smoky Mountains, NC and TN

Top Five Mountain Road Trips

The Great Smoky Mountains, often shrouded in mist, straddle the North Carolina and Tennessee border and offer some of the most awesome views in the southeast, as well as some of the most technical roads we’ve driven. Visitors to the observation tower at Clingmans Dome (follow Clingmans Dome Road) are rewarded with a 100-mile view. Motorists embarking on the meandering 11-mile drive through Cades Cove may think they’ve stepped back in time. Enjoy the cove’s numerous historic sites, pristine environment, and abundant wildlife. The Great Smoky Mountains come in at number four.

3. Adirondack State Park, NY

Top Five Mountain Road Trips

Drive north on New York’s I-87 until you hit Lake George and go west from there to find Adirondack State Park, nestled between Schroon Lake and Lake Placid, the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics. The Adirondacks host the state’s highest peak, Mount Marcy at 5,343 ft., and offer plenty of scenic driving on Route 73 through timber forests, alpine meadows, and quaint towns (think Adirondack chairs). This northeast Appalachian drive comes in at number three.

2. Lake Tahoe, CA/NV

Top Five Mountain Road Trips

Drive west, between the peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and you will find the sparkling turquoise waters of Lake Tahoe. Also home to the 1960 Winter Olympics, Lake Tahoe sits at 6,255 ft. elevation and is so large that the California-Nevada border runs through its center. If you’re coming from California, I-80 to a curvy Rt. 89 will get you the north end of the lake. Then follow 89 to South Lake Tahoe and take a moment to stop at the breathtaking Emerald Bay viewpoint. From Nevada, you can start from Carson City and follow the steep and spiraled climb up Rt. 50. You’re in for an inspiring drive no matter which state you’re coming from. Tahoe ranks at number two on our list.

1. Going to the Sun Road, Montana

Top Five Mountain Road Trips

In the heart of Glacier National Park, this 33-mile stretch of alpine road carves through the peaks and gorges of the northern Rocky Mountains. Stunning views of 10,000 ft. mountains, pristine lakes, misty water falls, and lush forest make up the scenery. The Sun Road is aptly named as you gain elevation driving through mountain tunnels and along stone bridges with steep valleys hugging the road’s edge. This breathtaking drive ranks as our number one alpine road in the U.S.

Do you have any favorite mountain road trips you’ve taken? Share in the comments.

Featured Road Trip: Grand Canyon National Park

SunsetThere’s nothing like a summer road trip. The warm sea breeze flying through your hair as you cruise down the coast. The fresh, piney air as you trek up mountain roads. The glint of sunlight and vast expanses as you drive through desert highways. This is why you wake up early in the morning to beat the traffic.

Grand Canyon Road Trip

Our featured road trip for this summer is making the trek up to Grand Canyon National Park. The beauty of this natural wonder needs to be appreciated up close, where the immense cliffs and ravines will leave you awestruck. The surrounding amenities of campgrounds, hotels, general stores, and restaurants gives you plenty of creature comforts so you’re not totally lost in the wild.

Grand Canyon National Park

There are plenty of roads that will take you there, but our favorite route is starting from Phoenix, AZ. This three-and-a-half hour trip has shifting landscapes and breathtaking views throughout, even before you get to the canyon. As you drive out of the city on I-17, you find yourself in the desert, surrounded by tall cacti as far as the eye can see. You climb elevation and next you’re cruising by the red cliffs and hills of Sedona, where the desert meets ponderosa pine trees.

Further, you climb to Flagstaff, where you’re in the thick of alpine forest and near the base of Humphrey’s Peak, the highest mountain in Arizona at over 12,000 ft. Drive through more forests and then a stretch of plateau grasslands before a final climb in elevation, where the Grand Canyon awaits you.

Summer Road Trip Tip: If your A/C is blowing warm air and the A/C condenser is working properly, then your problem is most likely low refrigerant. Make a stop at Advance for canned refrigerant with a gauge and hose—ask for one with leak-sealers if you suspect a leak. You can quickly recharge your A/C and get cold air back instantly, making your road trip comfortable again. Get the full A/C recharge details.

Detours and the Scenic Routes

Grand Canyon National Park

You may want to stop at the famous vineyards in Sedona and the Native American pueblo sites at Wupatki National Monument by Flagstaff. If you like mountain roads with a view, take the scenic drive on Rte. 180 instead of Highway 40 as you’re approaching Grand Canyon National Park. Once you get to the Grand Canyon Village, check out the sights from nearby Mather Point. Make sure you leave time to drive east on Desert View Dr. over to Desert View Watchtower. This road is right along the edge of the canyon with great sightseeing at Grandview Point and Lipan Point.

Share Your Road Trip

This road trip is an American classic that we hope you and your family will get to experience. If you’ve made this trip or are planning to hit the road, share a photo and your story on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear about the vehicle that got you there and the fun detours you took along the way!

Winter Vision – See Better, Drive Safer

Winter products for your vehicle can help you see better, drive safer.

winter visibility shutterstock_671748786519129117As you drive along a road covered with snow, slush and ice-melting chemicals, the wipers swiping intermittently across the windshield to clear the mess and your field of vision, say a quick “thank you” to Mary Anderson and Robert Kearns. Because of these two inventors, today’s drivers can see clearly during rain and snow, but only if they’re showing their wipers, windshield, and lights some love periodically.

If it weren’t for Anderson, an Alabama woman who invented and patented the first windshield wipers, drivers might still be sliding open a portion of the windshield just to have a clear view, much the same way electric street car drivers did in the late 1800s. That scenario inspired Anderson, as she rode in a street car one winter day, to design the first wiper arms. Crafted from rubber and wood, she patented the invention and tried unsuccessfully to sell the design. Her patent expired before she could profit from it however, even though wipers became standard on most vehicles by 1913.

Kearns invented and patented the intermittent wiper system in 1964 and later successfully sued Ford and Chrysler for using his technology after they declined his offer of a licensing agreement. Kearns, his protracted legal battles with the auto manufacturing industry, and the toll it took on his personal life, were chronicled in the movie Flash of Genius. His intermittent wipers first appeared in vehicles in 1969.

This winter, wipers, windshield chemicals, and lights are the key to clear vision and safe driving. Here are some tips that help deliver maximum visibility.

Wiper blades – if the wipers are more than six months old, consider replacing them. Rubber wears out with time and exposure to the environment and can become hard and cracked. Colder temperatures and ice or snow buildup on windows can also hasten the demise of old wiper blades. The trend in wiper blades now is toward the newer “beam” style blades. They’re a better choice for winter because the spring mechanism is concealed and protected from ice and snow, eliminating the chances of a buildup that stops the wiper from working properly.  Beam blades also make more contact with the windshield, reducing wiper chatter and delivering a much clearer wipe in any temperature. While you’re at it, don’t forget the rear window wiper and headlight wipers, if your vehicle is equipped with them.

Windshield chemicals and tools – a quick and efficient way to remove frost and light ice and get your morning commute off to a faster start is to fill your windshield washer reservoir with a de-icing washer fluid. Not only do these types of windshield chemicals melt frozen precipitation, they also help repel dirt and salt from road spray. Treating the windshield’s exterior with a Rain-X glass treatment product also helps repel water, snow, ice and dirt.

For heavier ice and snow, make sure you keep an ice scraper and snow brush in the vehicle to make clearing the windows easier. For SUV’s and trucks, consider purchasing a long-handled snow brush or broom. It enables you to clear the entire windshield without having to switch sides or stand too close to the vehicle and get covered in snow while clearing it. And, before the first frost, check the front and rear window defrosters to ensure they’re working properly.

Lights – shorter days and inclement weather mean more time driving in the dark. Walk around your vehicle to confirm that all its lights, including turn signals and brake lights, are working. Even if your headlights aren’t burned out, you might want to replace them. Headlights dim over time, sometimes by as much as 20 percent. Additionally, old headlights don’t include the recent advances in lighting technology, such as halogen lights, that shine more light on the road and roadsides and enable drivers to see further and with a wider field of vision.

Editor’s note: Lights, chemicals, wipers – Advance Auto Parts has exactly what your vehicle needs. Buy online, pick up in store, get back to the garage, and get through winter.

 

 

Top 5 American Roads to Drive in Summer

North, south, east, west—no matter where you live in the U.S., there’s a scenic roadway beckoning nearby. Here are five of our favorites that include spectacular scenery or unique driving challenges. And just for fun, we tell you which dream vehicle we’d take along for the ride.

California coastline

Source | Medhat Ibrahim

1. State Route 1, California coast

Also known as the Pacific Coast Highway and designated as an All-American Road, some of this journey’s most spectacular scenery unfolds between Monterey, Calif., and Morro Bay, Calif., 123 miles south, even though Route 1 stretches further north and south beyond these two towns. Along the way, you’ll pass through redwood groves and quaint, historic towns, including Carmel-by-the-Sea, while easily accessed beaches contrast with granite cliffs and spectacular waves crashing into unforgiving rock formations. The single-span arched concrete structure known as Bixby Bridge will either terrify or excite drivers when they stop before crossing at turnouts on either end to admire this engineering marvel.

Dream Ride: No matter what type of vehicle you’re driving, this road will be remembered. If we were making the drive, however, we’d opt for an Audi Q7. It has plenty of room for friends and golf clubs, and with this level of style, we’ll have no trouble fitting right in with California’s car-conscious elite.

Skyline Drive2. Skyline Drive, Virginia Mountains.

Located within Shenandoah National Park, part of the U.S. National Park System, Skyline Drive offers panoramic mountain views, cascading waterfalls, and observation of wildlife in their natural habitat via 75 overlooks spread throughout the Drive’s 105 miles. With a 35 mph speed limit that’s strictly enforced, don’t be in a rush or expecting high-performance thrills on this adventure. Rather, plan other activities to coincide with the drive, and save some money by visiting on days when the entrance fees are waived.

Dream Ride: Weather in the mountains can be unpredictable and we might be tempted to explore an unpaved road or two. That’s why we’d pick a Subaru Outback for this trip, mainly for its all-wheel drive, comfort, and gas mileage.

Two bicyclists cycling along White Rim Road 3. White Rim Road, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

This road’s strictly for 4×4’s with high ground clearance, and some experience off-roading. So if you’re looking for a scenic yet moderately challenging place to put your $60,000 Land Rover LR4 through its paces and prove that, at 12.2 inches it really does offer the highest ground clearance of any 4×4 on the market today, this might be your destination, or not. In addition to astounding canyon views on this 100 mile loop, drivers may also encounter rapidly changing road conditions, as well as debris, impassable rivers, and even quicksand. The National Park Service recommends traveling in pairs of vehicles equipped with winches to aid in self-rescue as commercial towing services cost from $1,000 to over $2,000. Plan on spending two to three days to complete this drive, or as many as four days if you’re making the journey via mountain bike, which is another popular option.

Dream Ride: Our choice on this demanding drive is the Ford F150 Raptor. It’s designed specifically to deliver the goods off-road, and looks tough doing it.

Seven Mile Bridge, Florida Keys4. Seven Mile Bridge, Florida Keys

If you’re not a fan of driving over bridges and open water for long stretches, you might want to avoid this road. But if you’re looking for tranquil ocean views on one of the nation’s longest bridges, then this drive down US 1 is what memories are made of. While the whole journey from Miami to Key West can be completed in less than four hours, why would you want to? Drop the top, fire up the Harley, or simply roll down the windows to smell the salt air and take in stunning sunsets. The Seven Mile Bridge is one of many bridges on what is also known as The Overseas Highway, first completed in 1938. Today it offers 113 miles of pavement and 42 bridges waiting for exploration.

Dream Ride: We’d explore that pavement when most of the country is cursing winter and in need of some Florida heat and sunshine in a BMW 4 Series convertible. The removable hard top offers a roof when you need it and sunshine when you don’t.

Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire5. Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

The beauty and serenity associated with taking in New England’s spectacular fall foliage can be livened up by navigating New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Highway. Stretching more than 30 miles along northern New Hampshire’s Route 112, “The Kanc” as it’s called by locals, is designated an American Scenic Byway. Passing through the White Mountains, it challenges drivers with its sweeping turns and switchbacks, but the drive is well worth the effort because of the long-range views regardless of what you’re driving.

Dream Ride: Personally though, we like unobstructed views of the fall foliage and to feel close to nature. That’s why we’d tour The Kanc perched on a Honda Gold Wing. It’s big, comfortable and powerful, and the first bike to offer an airbag. You know, just in case.

What’s your favorite driving experience and the best vehicle to experience it with? Share a comment. 

Top Tailgating Essentials

Tailgate Party PhotosWhen it’s time to tailgate at the big game, I know as well as anyone that you’ve got to have the right gear. We’re huge sports fans in my house, and nothing will take the wind out of your sails like showing up without the proper tailgating accessories.

Now, you might think that you’ve already got all the gear you need, but let me tell you, times have changed. I remember when a tailgate party just meant some cans of your favorite beverage, but these days, folks have taken tailgating to a whole new level. My family always wants to have the coolest tailgate party in the parking lot, and that means keeping up with the latest innovations. If you do it right, trust me, you’ll end up having more fun at the party than ever before.

What I want to do today is share with you what I’ve learned over the years, because I think our household has figured out all the vital pieces of the modern tailgate-party puzzle. Here are my top tailgating essentials that make every game a win for your crew.

Cooler

Need I say more? Cold beverages are the foundation of any great tailgate party, and you’ve got to keep them cold for the whole game. Plus, you need to bring more than enough for everyone involved. So get a big old cooler, fill it with ice, and keep it stocked with your favorite libations. That’s Job No. 1.

Grill

Arguably just as important as the cooler — well, let’s go with “almost” — is the portable grill. You can get all sorts of newfangled grills nowdays, but if you ask me, why mess with success? Just pick up a standard portable grill and a bag of charcoal, and you’ll get great taste and reliable performance, time after time.

Generator

This one’s for when you’re ready to take your tailgating game to the highest level. Anyone can bring a cooler and a grill, but it takes true dedication to bring your own portable generator, too. With a generator, you can power all sorts of handy appliances (including the final two items on this list), and some of the newer ones even have USB connectivity for recharging electronics. You’re in the tailgating big leagues when you show up with one of these.

Inverter

If you don’t want to go with a full-blown generator, consider an inverter, which (if you haven’t heard) is a nifty device that uses your car’s battery power to provide auxiliary power with household-style three-prong outlets. The downside is that if you don’t turn your engine on, you’ll drain your battery after a while — and if you do turn your engine on, the tailgaters might take a bit too much exhaust smoke to the face. But if you think you’ll only need electrical current occasionally at your tailgate parties, an inverter could be a perfect solution. It’s tiny relative to a generator, and it’s just the thing if partiers may need to plug in for short periods.

Blender

The bottles and cans in your cooler are all well and good, but imagine the possibilities if you had a blender, too. You’ve already got ice in the cooler, after all; how about some margaritas for the adults and smoothies for the kids? Plug it into your generator/inverter and you’re good to go. Warning: you might get some unwanted attention from neighboring parties wishing they had a blender of their own.

Wi-Fi Hotspot

Can you imagine a tailgate party without the Internet? I can, of course, because that’s the only kind we used to have! But I know we’re all spoiled today with our phones and iPads and what-have-you, and the best way to ensure that everyone can connect is to bring along a portable wi-fi hotspot. You can find a nice selection at Best Buy, for example, and they’re more or less giving them away if you sign up for a monthly plan. Of course, if you’re lucky enough to have a smartphone that doubles as a hotspot (check with your provider), you’ve already got a solution in your pocket.

Coffeemaker

You’re potentially solving two problems with this generator/inverter-powered machine. First, the games aren’t always exciting from start to finish, so napping partygoers can be a common sight. A cup of joe could be just the thing to help them stay alert. Second, tailgating season stretches through the winter months, and not everyone comes prepared with their subzero jackets and gloves. If you’re not already the most popular tailgater in town, you’re going to be when your friends find out you’re serving piping hot coffee on demand.

Your Turn

I know I’m not the only seasoned tailgater around these parts. What are your top tailgating essentials that I didn’t mention? Let’s hear about them in the comments.

Editor’s note: Visit Advance Auto Parts for a top selection of generators and inverters, plus the essential parts to help get you to the game.

Pet Transportation – Top Tips for a Safe Trip

Booster seat for dogs

Our DIY Mom covers the basics of transporting your pets.

As a working mom, I’m always on the go, and that means I don’t have much time to spend at home with Bootsie, my beloved miniature labradoodle. But I spend plenty of time behind the wheel, so that got me to thinking:

Why can’t Bootsie come along for the ride?

The answer is, she can — and believe you me, she does. Now that she’s used to it, her little curly-wurly tail starts wagging whenever she hears the jingle of car keys. But there was a learning curve for me, because I had to figure out on my own how to keep us safe and sound at speed. Here are the three most important lessons I picked up along the way.

Secure Your Pet

My top concern when I’m traveling with my pet is to make sure she’s secured for the duration of the ride. I know folks have these romantic ideas about pickup trucks with dogs roaming freely in the back, but the truth is, that’s pretty dangerous — not only for the dog, but also for cars and people in the vicinity if the dog (poor thing) happens to be thrown out by a sudden stop. Responsible pet owners know that you’ve got to have some sort of special seat or harness that keeps your little munchkin in one place (and out of your way). For dogs under 30 pounds like my Bootsie, a booster seat is a great solution, and it keeps your upholstery clean, too. If you want to give your pet a little more room to groove while still maintaining your personal space, a pet partition will do the trick, though it’s less protective from the pet’s point of view.

Save Your Seats

As much as we love our furry friends, we know they can do a number on automotive upholstery if they’re left to their own devices. Especially for larger dogs that won’t fit in a booster seat, it makes sense to invest in some kind of a seat protector. I like the kind that covers the whole rear bench, seatbacks and all. You can get a quilted cover, too, for enhanced comfort. Both are claw- and bite-resistant, and you can even hose off the quilted one as required.

Keep Fido Fed

On longer car trips, you know you’re going to get hungry, right? Well, don’t forget that your pet gets hungry, too, and there aren’t many Doggie Drive-Thrus next to the highway. That means you have to be prepared, and it starts with a portable food container. I like this 8-cup model because it’s compact and easy to stow, and it also includes two dishes so you don’t have to bring them separately. If your pup’s got a bigger appetite, there’s a 36-cup container that features built-in food and water dishes. Now, if you’re like me, the idea of bringing a water dish in the car conjures up images of catastrophic spills. That’s why I’m a big fan of this 3-quart water carrier — it’s got a nifty reservoir that only makes a little water available at a time, and because the bowl’s part of the structure, it can’t be flipped over. That’s a win for both you and your pet.

Your Turn

Those are the best tips I’ve got, but I’m still learning. Do you have any suggestions for safe and successful pet travel? Let us know in the comments!

Editor’s note: Keep those cuties safe and secure on the road. Advance Auto Parts can help, with great savings and selection. Got a big trip coming up? Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

 

Road Trip: Dearborn, Detroit, and the Henry Ford Museum

Model TFor lovers of American cars and history, a road trip to Detroit, Michigan is akin to a pilgrimage to Mecca. And June is a great time to make the journey, when Michigan snow and slush have melted away. So roll down your windows and be sure to leave time for all of these must-see events and sights.

Motor Muster at Greenfield Village

Every Father’s Day weekend, historic Greenfield Village in Dearborn trades in its horse-drawn wagons for horse-powered classics as the Motor Muster rolls into town. This event draws auto aficionados from around the world with promises of summer sun glinting off polished chrome, the scent of tire polish, and the purr of finely tuned engines. Hundreds of vehicles are on display, featuring classics from 1933 to 1977. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, and even bicycles parade the antiquated streets for three glorious days.

In between gaping at Tin Lizzies and Firebirds, visitors get to stroll the beautiful grounds of Greenfield Village, taking in historic sights and maybe even riding in a Model T or steam locomotive. Or you can stop by Thomas Edison’s laboratory or the bicycle shop where the Wright Brothers invented the airplane. Both of these buildings were taken apart and brought to Greenfield Village where they were reconstructed.

Henry Ford Museum

Adjacent to Greenfield Village is the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, the home of Driving America: the World’s Premier Automotive Exhibition. Historic vehicles in this exhibition range from the oldest surviving American car, an 1865 Roper, to the limousine that President John F. Kennedy rode in when he was assassinated. The museum contains touchscreens throughout so you can discover more about the vehicles and take a fun test that determines the best car for your personality. The museum is also the departure point for the Ford Rouge Factory tour, where you can get a close-up look at the making of iconic F-150 trucks in a multi-sensory theatre.

Automotive Hall of Fame

The Automotive Hall of Fame is located next door to the Henry Ford Museum, where people who have contributed to the industry are honored. You’ll see a 65-foot-long mural of historic auto-related personalities and moments, a full-sized replica of the first gasoline-powered car, and more.

The original Ford assembly plant

Drive down the road to Detroit and visit the original Ford assembly plant, now known as the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant National Historic Landmark. You can tour this 1904 factory where Henry Ford designed the Model T and built the first 12,000 of the Tin Lizzies before the advent of Ford’s moving assembly line. You can see early Ford vehicles, as well.

When this plant first opened, it took workers 12 hours to build one car, which sold for $850. By the time this plant closed (replaced by the much larger and more well-known Highland Park Model T plant, where 12 million Tin Lizzies were built), assembly time plunged to 12 minutes and the cost to $260. Work days dropped at Ford from ten hours to eight hours and wages skyrocketed from 30 cents an hour to $5 a day.

If you find yourself on I-94 while in Detroit, near the Metro Airport, you’ll probably notice the Uniroyal Giant Tire. The tire was originally created as a Ferris wheel attraction for the World Fair, held in New York in 1964 and 1965. Ninety-six people could ride the wheel at the fair and it needed a 100-horsepower motor to operate. Altogether, more than one million people rode in this tire before it became a stationary landmark. In 1994, neon lighting was added to the tire, along with a new hubcap. In 2003, Uniroyal invested an incredible $1 million to renovate its well-known landmark. It’s definitely a sight to see and worth the drive.

What would you recommend for a Dearborn/Detroit road trip? Leave your recommendations in the comments below.

We Have It Pretty Good: Road Trips, Then and Now

Winding dirt road

Source | Unsplash

When people think of a summer road trip, they often imagine beautiful sunshine, pristine beaches, a cool drink in the shade. Stuff like that. The first-ever coast-to-coast road trip, though, (kicked off on May 23, 1903) was anything but relaxing.

First coast-to-coast American road trip

According to the National Museum of American History and National Geographic, two travelers–H. Nelson Jackson, a doctor and businessman, and mechanic Sewall K. Crocke–needed to deal with plenty of challenges and car troubles during their 63-day trip (from San Francisco to New York) in a 1903 Winton.

First was the lack of roads. On their trip, fewer than 150 miles of roadway had been constructed–and that was out of a nearly 3,000-mile journey–and bridges didn’t always exist over the waterways. Plus, there were no gas stations, so the pair needed to find general stores along the way to buy fuel. And they also needed lots of patience, as their average rate of speed was only four miles per hour.

Horatio Jackson Nelson driving a 1903 Winton

Horatio Jackson Nelson in his 1903 Winton, Source | Wikimedia

Then, there was the mud. Lots and lots of mud. In fact, some areas were so bad that Jackson and Crocker needed to use a block and tackle system to get their vehicle out of the sludge. On the flip side, there was also dust, which got to be so overwhelming that the dog that accompanied them, Bud the bulldog, needed to wear goggles. (The reason the dust was so bad: the men needed to remove the cloth roof of the car to make room for their luggage! That couldn’t have been comfortable on rainy days.)

Their car would break down and, when it did, there were no convenient auto repair shops nearby. Instead, the duo needed to contact the car factory by telegraph and have the factory ship them parts by train. Seriously.

Plus there was the cost, which was a staggering $8,000 for the vehicle, gasoline, hotel rooms, food and the like. According to a calculator provided by a governmental site, $8,000 in the year 1913 would equal $188,238.38 today.

Oh, and do you want to know why they took this trip? Because someone bet them $50 that a car couldn’t complete a coast-to-coast journey. But, on August 1, 1903, Jackson and Crocker won that bet, making the net cost of the trip in today’s dollars only $187,061.89.

More about the Winton

According to Cleveland Historical, the Winton Motor Carriage Company was formed on March 15, 1897 with each individual vehicle made by hand. These were luxury vehicles, with elaborately painted sides, gas lamps, cushy padded seats and more. In a May 1897 test drive, their 40-horsepower vehicle got up to an astonishing 33.64 miles per hour.

In 1898, these cars were in great demand and more than 100 of them sold in that year alone. In fact, this company kept selling cars until 1924, when it simply couldn’t compete with the prices offered by Henry Ford.

Modern road tripping

Road tripping today may not be as challenging as back then. We have gas stations, for one thing, and bridges. And roads. But it can still be an adventure, and not always the good kind. To ensure your journey is more hurrah and less hassle, use our car maintenance checklist. To make sure your vehicle is in the best shape possible before you head out for your vacation, check out this helpful infographic for more tips.

Heading out for a trip soon? Tell us about it in the comment section.

Top Tips for a Better, Safer Road Trip

Four friends consulting map on the side of the road

You might want to pull over before consulting the map!

Experts estimate that over 34 million people travel 50 miles or more by car over the July 4 weekend. That’s on top of 30 million Americans who hit the road on Memorial Day weekend! So, it seems as though we like to road trip around America. Before we can start enjoying that fun in the sun though, we have to actually make it there. So here are four tips to ensure a successful road trip.

1. Don’t rely on GPS exclusively

Whether on your phone, dash, or built-in display, GPS is great for directing us exactly where we want to be. When it works. GPS can and does make mistakes. It can direct us to a “road” that’s more suited for a four-wheel drive vehicle (or goat) or even closed due to snow. The GPS signals also can fail in areas without cell phone coverage, if satellites malfunction or their signal is blocked, or if your device’s battery dies. So check your route ahead of time, carry a portable charger, and take along an old-school map if you’re heading somewhere remote.

You can also download areas in Google Maps on your phone before you leave. It’s a handy trick that’s saved us in rural areas or when traveling in different countries.

2. Keep tabs on vehicle maintenance

You know how to take care of your vehicle, and you know what needs to be done to ensure it’s always in top running condition. But, do you remember exactly what you did, were supposed to do or meant to do, and when? Say you meant to change the timing belt around the 100,000-mile mark. But the weather was still bone-chilling cold so you put off the job for a couple months. You’re only human, which is why you can’t trust your memory exclusively.

Instead, keep a detailed vehicle maintenance log. Record the type of maintenance performed, when it was done, and when future maintenance is due. Follow your vehicle manufacturer’s suggested maintenance intervals.

3. Prepare for the unexpected

Stuff happens, even with the best laid plans. You’re almost on empty, but there’s a cheaper gas station just over the border. You know you always have a can of Fix-A-Flat in your emergency kit, so why bother checking the spare tire air pressure? What could possibly go wrong? Just enough to turn your fun road trip into a migraine. The gas station could be out of gas, or out of business. You could experience two flat tires at the same time and only have one can of emergency tire inflator. No matter what your plan is, or how good it seems, always have a reliable backup plan.

4. Trust your intuition

That “gut feeling” is more than just a hunch. Research shows that intuition is actually our subconscious mind’s way of storing, retrieving, and processing information. This helps us avoid potentially harmful or dangerous situations. Maybe you don’t like the look of the single lane road ahead or the neighborhood you’re driving through or even the threatening sky. Perhaps something (other than your GPS or co-pilot) is telling you you’re traveling in the wrong direction. Trust your intuition, but listen to the other passengers in your vehicle too. They might see something you don’t because you’re focused on driving conditions.

By knowing what to trust, and what not to trust, you can enjoy your spring break destination and the journey there, instead of sitting at home, cursing Old Man Winter, or on the side of the road, cursing your flat tires.

 

If you’re one of those determined drivers hitting the road this summer, check out our infographic below for more helpful tips.

Advance Auto Parts

Download your own copy of Rules for Road Trips. Feel free to share with friends and family.

How do you prepare yourself and your vehicle for a road trip? Tell us all about it.