Road Trip USA


Leaving from NYC Saturday and driving across the Country over a two week period  and ending in San Francisco.  Our route is mostly through the South. Major destinations include:

DC, Cape Hatteras, Charleston (South Carolina), Savannah, Asheville/Smokey Mts., Nashville, Memphis, Ozarks, NOLA, Austin, Santa Fe.

Any suggestions on must see/must do around these spots or, architectural excursions?

Jun 26, 13 2:34 am

Is this trip set in stone as to the route?

DC - all the monuments visible from the Mall plus Georgetown and "The Exorcist" house and the flight of stairs (consider Baltimore's Inner Harbor, too)

Cape Hatteras - various beach locations

Savannah - supposedly has a historic old town, Paula Deen's restaurant (I'd be curious to see it)

Asheville/Smokeys - would be stunning under peak color in fall, but visit the Vanderbilt Mansion or whatever it's called

Nashville/Memphis - don't know about anything there

Suggested reroute - from the Smokeys, forget TN and go down toward the Panhandle and visit Pensacola FL and Gulf Shores AL, since it aligns you on I-10 with NOLA in a matter of hours.  The beaches here are stunning.

NOLA - never been, but lots of stuff, especially if you like Cajun food and alcohol (no to both) but be sure everything in your car is OUT OF SIGHT.

Onto Austin - whatever is there, like UT, the hip spots, and maybe Lake Travis  (Note:  through Houston on I-10 en route to Austin, you can see Houston and the Johnson Space Center, historic Galveston on the Gulf, a neat skyline, the skyscraper at the Galleria and the Galleria, the A/C tunnels under downtown, and lots of fine cuisine)

Going up to the Ozarks would be a northward blip from Austin, if you feel like doing it - Lake of the Ozarks itself, Brandon for country music, and I don't know what else.

Santa Fe/Flagstaff/Sedona - hippy dippy stuff and perfect for Indian jewelry with turquoise and carnelian colored stones that feminists like to wear, though Santa Fe has interesting indigenous construction (not a fan of the SW, in general).  Actually, the Grand Canyon and some of the turquoise pools at Havasupai are cool.

Between the SW and SF, will you be going through LV or somewhere else?  A night on The Strip and a decadent buffet might sound good.

Are you into country music?  Because Nashville, Memphis, and the Ozarks are spots for those sorts of venues.  If not, why go through there?

Hope this helps.

Jun 26, 13 4:31 pm

If you only get to see one thing in DC it should be Maya Lin's Vietnam Memorial. Also, take a ride on the Blue Ridge Mountain Highway.

I'd take the northern route in the summer.

Jun 26, 13 6:52 pm

The trip is pretty set in stone and has been in the works for 4 years.  We have already done the northern route (Dakotas, Ohio, Chicago, Penn, etc.), and have planned to do the southern route ever since.

I've never been through the south at all, so it should all be very interesting.  I've always been curious about Nashville/Memphis mostly because of their great musical roots (not including mainstream Country though). We plan to do the Blue Ridge Highway segment southwest of Asheville.  Having Breakfast in Baltimore in the Fell's Point District. The Vietnam Memorial is going on the list! Thanks too for the NOLA/Houston/NM tips.  Will be sure to take into account the security of our belongings.

Jun 26, 13 7:05 pm

Between Santa Fe and Austin near the border of NM and TX I can recommend both Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands national monument. Both are stunning if you have never been. If you are driving by Phoenix both Taliesin West and Arcosanti are nearby. Taliesin (for me) was surprisingly interesting when you come from a contemporary architectural background that has minimized FLW in its curriculum. Much rougher, more handmade than expected.

I'm going to support do some sort of heresy here and claim that Houston is more interesting than Austin for a tourist, especially architecturally if you are focusing on that. Menil + MAFAH + University of St. Thomas and a ton of other Johnson projects. Houston also has great and weird international neighborhoods outside of the loop that you can get to in your car if you look them up first for cheap amazing food from anywhere.

Also you can swing south to Marfa on the way to NM to see the Judd foundation if you are into that kind of thing.

Jun 26, 13 10:18 pm

stop in Palm Springs.....go modern.

Jun 26, 13 10:29 pm


Yeah, I just don't get the whole Austin thing.  It's taking its turn being trendy.  It has over 50,000 UT students, Rick Perry governs from there, you'll see all these government types walking around, and the skyline is kind of bland.  As for the Hill Country, it's just eh.

Houston has a lot going on.  BTW, that skyscraper out by The Loop, previously called the Transco Tower, is the tallest outside a CBD.  It has a "water wall" out front that will cool you off.

And there are lots of funky neighborhoods with good eats.  Galveston has some fascinating old mansions, too.  Before a big hurricane, Galveston itself was a mecca for immigrants and is very important in Texas's history.  Plus, while not a great beach, you can dip your toes in the Gulf.

Jun 26, 13 10:33 pm

If you're near Four Corners, go to Canyon De Chelly. Magnificent pueblos built into the canyon walls. Plan ahead, access is limited.

Jun 26, 13 11:06 pm


Looks cool.  It would be a drag if some of those pueblo dwellers scampered onto a ledge and found a rattlesnake or, worse yet, a mountain lion squatting in their digs.

Jun 26, 13 11:24 pm

In Asheville, be sure to check out some of the local breweries as well as the selection at the Thirsty Monk, if you have even the slightest interest in craft beers. Asheville has quite a brewing scene. Biltmore Estate and the Blue Ridge Parkway are must-see places, but the Parkway ends in Cherokee, NC which is unfortunately a gaudy tourist trap.

Charleston and Savannah are both worth a visit, but skip Hilton Head Island on the way between them. Another tourist trap, albeit a high-rent one.

Out west, Sedona, Arizona (roughly halfway between Phoenix and Flagstaff) is spectacular, and don't miss some of the old Route 66 sights along present-day I-40. Once you hit California, Joshua Tree National Park is worth a visit, and further north, Big Sur and Yosemite are must-see destinations. Be sure to hit Nepenthe in Big Sur for dinner.

Jun 27, 13 12:49 pm

Canyon De Chelly looks great! Our route through NM/AZ is still up in the air, with Carlsbad Caverns being the only spot set in stone.  We also were looking into Vermillion Cliffs (the wave), but they limit occupancy there as well.

Austin pro's from someone who's never been to Texas: music scene and the fact that its a "liberal" culture in a very un-liberal state.  Sort of like a San Francisco culture, but in Texas.  Am I mistaken?  I come from an urban planning background and it seemed that Houston was often the example of a poorly planned, sprawling metropolitan city, with giant parking lots and spread out skyscrapers.  Maybe that's left a bad taste in my mouth?  But its on our route.

Jun 27, 13 12:55 pm

Yes, Biltmore estate and not Vanderbilt, in Asheville NC.  Maybe I was thinking Vanderbilt money and Vanderbilt University in TN.

Some buildings and churches in Charleston SC take their cues from Sir Christopher Wren, if I recall from history.

Since you appear to be doing I-40, are you going into L.A. and up, or are you cutting off early and heading into SF from a different route like Nevada US 95 to I-80, or some other way up?  What is your route past the desert Southwest?

Jun 27, 13 12:56 pm

My trip ends in Las Vegas, where I'll be getting on a plane and flying into San Francisco (home is Monterey). 

Jun 27, 13 1:32 pm

Got it.  So all the LV and LA comments are moot.  And any Big Sur or Hearst Castle comments would REALLY be moot.

Jun 27, 13 1:37 pm

Moot indeed.  I shoulda pointed that out earlier.

Jun 27, 13 1:49 pm

Thanks all for the great suggestions.  Headed to NYC tonight!

Of course we are blogging the trip because that's what you do in 2013.  Find the blog here if you fancy:

Jun 28, 13 7:21 pm
If you had a little time to spend I'd say a 2hr detour to Louisville would be well worth it. A quick fly-by, though, wouldn't give you much of an experience. Next time!

(Forecastle Festival, mid-month, might yet make it worth it. Good roster.)
Jun 29, 13 7:16 am

Chaco Canyon is worth the visit but if your limited on time  it will set you back by at least a day.  Long Drive from town and  most of it on a dusty old dirt road (note not gravel). 

If you don't hit that place up then do drive thru monument valley in Northern Arizona.

Jun 29, 13 2:42 pm

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