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  1. #1

    Default Southeastern Road Trip

    Hey everybody, my name is Austin, I am new to the forum here. First of all I can't believe I did not find this place sooner, it's great to have a forum with other road trip enthusiasts. I am a road trip rookie I guess you could say (even though I have made lots of trips to and from specific locations, sporting events. and nascar races) but I have never just done a flat out road trip. By comparison to most of you all, the road trip I am doing is fairly short and meager, but for me I am very excited about it.

    Originally I was going to do a 2 week southern road trip, starting in Orlando (where I live) and then traveling up the coast to Southport, NC and then head up through the Shenandoah Valley and into West Virginia (where I grew up) and then finally over to Nashville and Memphis, down through Mississippi and New Orleans, and then back over through Mobile and the Florida panhandle. I did not have quite the time or money to make that happen so here is the road trip that I have come up with:

    Southern Road Trip
    Starting in Orlando and traveling up I-4 to Daytona Beach, meeting up with US - 1 and taking US - 1/A1A up through St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra Beach, and Fernandina Beach. At that point I am going to take a combination of I-95 and US 17 up through the Georgia coast and into Savannah. After visiting Savannah I planned on getting back on I-16, hit I-95 going into South Carolina, and then taking US 17 again going into Charleston. At that point I plan on taking US 17 up the South Carolina coast thourgh Myrtle Beach and into Southport and Wilmington, NC. In Wilmington I was going to take US 74 through the eastern piedmont and through Rockington heading towards Charlotte. After making a stop in Charlotte, Concord, and Mooresville (being the nascar fan that I am), get on I-85 and then hit US 74 until I-26 and then hit US 64 and take that through the Appalachians into Tennessee. I then plan on stopping in Madisonville to visit a friend and then take US 64 or US 27 into Chattanooga. In Chattanooga join up to US 27 and take US 27 down through Columbus and most of Georgia, hitting US 82 and then taking US 19 from Albany. Finally, I am going to take US 19 back into Florida through Marianna and Perry and then take State Road 50 back into Orlando to finish off the trip.

    I am really looking forward to seeing the true south outside of the major cities and what you see off the interstates. I absolutely love old historic southern cities and I have always wanted to see Charleston and Savannah. Most of the time is just going to be spent traveling and just trying to take in the local sights and getting some good local food along the way. Here is kind of how I have planned the days:

    Day 1 - Stop in St. Augustine or Ponte Vedra Beach
    Day 2 - Stop in Savannah
    Day 3 - Savannah
    Day 4 - Stop in Charleston
    Day 5 - Charleston
    Day 6 - Stop in Wilmington(being from Florida Myrtle Beach doesn't entice me)
    Day 7 - Stop somewhere in NC Piedmont
    Day 8 - Stop in Charlotte
    Day 9 - Stop in Madisonville
    Day 10 - Stop somewhere in Georgia
    Day 11 - Stop somewhere in south Georgia/north Florida
    Day 12 - Arrive back in Florida

    Obviously I have tried to leave some leeway in here, especially near the end of the trip (I could easily make it from Madisonville back to Orlando in 1 day but what's the fun in that). I am obviously going to stay with my friend in Madisonville and am looking at a combination of spending half the nights sleeping in my car and the other in low budget hotels (just so I can get a good shower). I am going to try to pack a cooler with most of my food but I also want a taste of some great southern food.

    Here is what I have budgeted for this trip:
    Gas: $250 (outside of cities I usually get about 35 miles/gallon)
    Lodging: $300 (5 nights in hotels averaging $50 plus tax)
    Food: $275 ($25 a day, not really intending on anything major last day)
    Other/Souvenirs: $175
    Total: $1000

    I have a couple questions that hopefully some of you all can answer. First of all how does that budget and my schedule look? Am I kidding myself trying to cover that much ground (I don't intend on seeing absolutely everything) and do you think that money looks sufficient? I will have a credit and debit card so if I had to I do have emergency money, but the $1000 is what I am trying to budget.

    The other questions I have are more about the trip itself. Are there any close by areas that I am missing that I must see? For the cities I am visiting what are some of the must see areas? I have never been to Savannah or Charleston so I really have no clue what to see. Obviously I do not have much money to visit so I am favoring the free or cheap sites and I won't be eating at any of the really famous restaurants, but I want to get a flavor and truly experience the cities, even if it just sitting at a park in some historic area. I am going in January because with it should be the off-season and hotels/attractions should have some discounts. So really any advice or must-see sites on my road trip in general would be a great help! I absolutely can not wait for it!


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Looks Good to Me

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    You seem to have done quite a bit of planning already and clearly have a custom-tailored RoadTrip ahead of you, so I'll just offer a few comments and suggestions. Your budget appears adequate but not overly so. You will have to watch what you're spending, particularly on meals, but here are some tips on not only eating cheaply, but well. As far as some specific places that I've either enjoyed in the past or intend to get to the next time I'm in that area. In Charleston, stop by the visitor's center and get a map of a walking tour of downtown and the harbor front. It's free and gives you a good feel for the city. Also be sure to take the ferry ride from Patriot's Point to Fort Sumter. That's not free, but it does give you a great tour of the harbor on the way out to the island and Patriot's point is home to an aircraft carrier and a WWII submarine. I suspect that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is already on your itinerary, but also look in to the Civil War battlefield parks around Chattanooga, and, of course, the prison/memorial in Andersonville, GA. One of my favorite venues in southwest Georgia was FDR's Little White House in Warm Springs. Be sure to 'inquire locally' for the best local cuisine. In this part of the South, some of the best food is in out-of-the-way and little known restaurants that may only be open a couple of days a week. Ask where the best pulled pork barbecue is - and I hope you like sweet tea.


  3. Default Charlotte ideas

    I know Charlotte well, so I thought I'd offer a few local suggestions. A great southern breakfast place that is cheap is the Original House of Pancakes (used to be on South Blvd. but is now on Charlottetown). A great southern bbq place is the Penguin on Central Ave. Charlotteans are very proud of both and they're both inexpensive. I know you want to go to up to Mooresville, but another cool place near Charlotte is the US National Whitewater Center if you like to climb, kayak, mountain bike or do an easy hike. for details.

    it looks like you're going through asheville- an AWESOME little artsy, hippy-ish town. my favorite coffee shop there is the Dripalator. Has a lot of local art and vegan desserts. but you can just walk around downtown and see a lot of cool little artsy shops. It doesn't look like your route is allowing for you to go to Boone, NC but let me tell you it is awesome and beautiful if you can fit it in.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Always love those local's ideas!

    Quote Originally Posted by denisha3000 View Post
    I know Charlotte well, so I thought I'd offer a few local suggestions.
    Thanks for these ideas and welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum!


  5. #5

    Default NASCAR sights

    Hello Austin,

    I realize and agree that driving up US 17 from Charleston is the most direct way to Southport and Wilmington, NC, but you also say you've no great love for Myrtle Beach (nor do I). Alas, US 17--even the bypass--runs right "up the gut" of the Grand Strand. Unless you can drive with your eyes shut, there's no way to miss it. Perhaps if you just close your eyes as you pass every "Wings" bric-a-brac store. On second thought, that won't work, as there's one every block.

    I suppose you meant Rockingham, NC along US 74 enroute from Wilmington to the Mooresville area where so many of the NASCAR shops are. You are probably aware of the fact that the North Carolina Motor Speedway, "The Rock", is right outside of Rockingham. The oval track and the dragstrip next door are dead on the highway about 8 miles north of Hamlet and Rockingham, so are perhaps worth a look-see, if for nothing more than a glimpse of where NASCAR came from. Ditto a drive-by to Darlington, SC. It's near Dillon, SC and not too far out of your way out of Wilmington headed up towards Rockingham and Charlotte.

    North of the cluster of NASCAR shops around Mooresville is Welcome, NC, home of Richard Childress Racing. The shops there are like most others, but at RCR you get the chance to walk through his museum which houses much Dale Earnhardt memorabilia. I went by there in the summer of 2004 and ran in to Danny "Chocolate" Myers, famed gas man for Earnhardt. He's left the pit crew and works there at the museum now. The museum is a must for any Earnhardt fan.

    As long as you're north of your intended path, you might as well jump in I-77 and go north to US 421. A short drive west (oddly enough designated US 421 North) lies Ingle Hollow, birthplace of Junior Johnson's racing empire. The cluster of shop buildings is still there, as is the residence still occupied by his former spouse Flossie Johnson. About 10 miles further west, right on US 421, is North Wilkesboro Speedway, the real heart of NASCAR, in my opinion. It's a real throwback to, say, the late 1960s or so.

    Well, durn it, now we're way out of our intended path, so might as well go on by Bristol Motor Speedway on the way to I-81 in Tennessee. Resist all urges, thoughts, contemplations, musings, and absurd Mapquest or other software-driven suggestions to take US 421 or US 321 from Boone, NC through the mountains to the Bristol area. Trust me on this one. You should take NC 105 down to Linville, thence on to Newland and Elk Park. From there, US 19E will take you to US 11--The Volunteer Parkway, and the track and dragstrip are right on that highway. There you'll see what NASCAR has become today. Lotta glitz and lotta bling bling--not that there's anything wrong with that.

    Leaving Bristol, you're only about 15 minutes to I-81 and about 75 minutes from Knoxville.

    Finally, if you can stomach a near miss to Atlanta, the Dixie Speedway is at Woodstock, GA, about 25 miles NW of downtown Atlanta. It's about the coolest dirt track I've ever seen. A gigantic deep red clay mixing bowl. Now THAT's some real roots-of-racing stuff, right there.

    Have a fun trip.


  6. #6

    Default Southeastern Road Trip

    AZBuck, Denisha3000, and Foy, thank you for all the suggestions, they have really helped. I know I will have to head straight through Myrtle Beach on US 17 to get to North Carolina. I really do not mind heading through Myrtle Beach, I just don't plan on stopping there at all. The nice thing about this trip is that I have visited many areas of the south, so I don't have to worry about seeing everything and just focusing on really what I want to see (which is the scenic aspect off the interstates and some of the older historic southern towns).

    Foy I actually have been lucky enough to attend races at Rockingham and Darlington. I attended a Cup race at Rockingham in Nov. 2002, one of the last races at the track. I attended the last Southern 500 at Darlington in 2003 which was an incredible experience. I do plan on visiting Rockingham while I am traveling through and then visiting the shops in Mooresville and Concord. Last time we were in the area was 2004 for the fall Charlotte race and we went to RCR in Welcome, DEI in Mooresville, and then many of the other shops (I am a Stewart fan so of course JGR). I also had to chance to stop by North Wilkesboro to see what is left of the old track.

    I will probably end up going by LMS and then the shops in Concord, Mooresville, and Huntersville. I would love to make it up by Hickory and Welcome but there might not really be the time. I do say I might have to check out the Dixie Speedway since it's not too far out of the way, I had forgotten about the track.

    Denisha I was not originally going to go through Asheville but now that you have me thinking about it I think I am going to go there as well since it is not far out of the way. I might even try to go see the Biltmore Estate, something I have always wanted to do. Boone is a little too far out of my way but I can only imagine how beautiful of an area that it is.

    AZBuck thank you for the link you provided and your suggestions for Charleston and Georgia. You said my budget is adequate but not by much, I am going to try to keep it at $1000 but how much should I maybe expect to have in reserve?

    Thank you again for all the suggestions and definately feel free to keep them coming!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Soft and Slow

    There are no hard and fast rules for budgeting for a RoadTrip. Most of the choices about the length, duration, and style rest with you. But when I see people planning a minimalist kind of trip on a shoestring budget, I get a little apprehensive. I used to do those kinds of trips when I was much younger, and while I always managed to enjoy them, I look back now and realize how close to the edge I was on some of those trips, relying way too much on my wits and the kindness of strangers. Shoestring budgets are fine right up to the point where they're not, but then what so you do?

    Similarly, there is no hard and fast rule as to what constitutes an adequate safety margin. You may need an extra $50 for that last tank of gas to get home or you may need a few hundred to pay speeding fines and/or a few hundred more for a new set of tires (plus the towing charge). You want to budget enough that you're not constantly worrying about scrimping on everything you do, and ultimately you want to be prepared to handle the same kinds of emergencies that could happen to you anywhere, anytime. If you set yourself a reasonable budget and gauge how you're doing every few days, you should be fine. Likewise, if you have a credit card with a reasonable limit, just hold it for any unexpected emergencies. The idea is to eliminate worries, not add to them.


  8. #8

    Default You've been "to the mountain", eh?


    Yeah, you're a fan, alright.

    In recent years, with NC tracks losing dates to California, Chicago, and (ahem) Las Vegas, I've become sort of a "specialist" in seeing final races at certain venues. I went to the last North Wilkesboro race in October 1996. I went to the last Rockingham race in February 2004. It wasn't billed as the last Rockingham, but the handwriting was on the wall in 3' high letters, so off we went to yet another 40 degree blustery February day for the Rockingham "Spring Race". I didn't see the final Southern 500 at Labor Day, but I saw the final Southern 500 at Darlington in November 2004. But, save your Dixie Cups, as the South may rise again. With all the renovations/upgrades to Darlington, there are rumors about bringing the Southern 500 back to Darlington at Labor Day in the future. Sorry about that, California.

    Yessir, have yourself a look at the Dixie Speedway if you can spare the time. Great venue. I was within 5 miles of the place about 3 years ago, bound for a "Vintage Car" race featuring the 1940s style cars, and also featuring one driven by David Pearson, when the skies opened up a torrent and it was rained out. The year before, again on the Talladega weekend, we'd gone to a Saturday night race there and it was more fun than Talladega the next day. We paid extra for a spot along the fence, pulled the 3rd seat out of the rental minivan, and had a large time. I don't think that minivan will ever be the same, however.

    Have a great trip,


  9. #9


    Interesting topic. Despite being 4,000 miles away it is a subject that is close to my own heart. In recent years I've done more Nascar races than I have European races and I'm doing Daytona again next year and, for something a little different, Infineon too.

    I am really tempted to do something a little later in the year as well as a friend of mine in Sarasota is expecting a little person in July and thought it might be fun to pop over and see how they're getting on. Maybe fly into Orlando and do a loop to include Mooresville (our last attempt to visit there was a washout!), check out some of the old historic venues mentioned already, then head back down to Sarasota for a few days before flying back out of Orlando.

    Any suggestions on a good track to catch a race ar on that route? Have done Daytona (x2), Talladega (x2), Bristol and Homestead in that area so it'd be fun to see something elsewhere. Lowes??? Martinsville???

  10. #10

    Default Schedule-driven

    Hello Craig-
    As you're aware, what's available to see depends purely upon the NASCAR schedule and exactly when you'd appear. Then, it depends upon your particular preference as to style of racing.

    For me, it's short track racing, followed by 1 mile (or so) tracks like Phoenix, then to larger tracks (although the cookie-cutter 1.5 mile tracks like Texas, Chicago, and Kansas don't do ANYTHING for me). My least favorite is the restrictor plate tracks. YAWN! Sure, Talladega and Daytona are must-sees for a diehard fan, but after a time or two, it's BTDT for me.

    Bristol must really be seen to be believed. With your friend's spawn arriving in July, the late August Bristol date (always the Saturday night preceding Labor Day) is perfect. It's within a half-to two thirds of a day's drive from Mooresville. The track is like a football stadium on steroids (whether your brand of football or ours). The August Saturday night is pure electricity--hot, sweaty, exhaust fumes and tire smoke filling the air, and loud beyond description. I've had Bristol tickets for 10 years now and it's about the only race I care to go to anymore.

    After Bristol, Richmond's Saturday night September race is my second favorite. It's much like Bristol, and for the first two years of the "Chase" playoff system, Richmond has been the final "regular season" run, so that can add to the adrenaline factor. I like the tradition and shortness/flatness of Martinsville but have yet to go there. The Martinsville race within the "Chase" should be in October, and the "Chase" race at Lowes Charlotte track is in October, as well, plus that's a Saturday night race at the one 1.5 mile track I like--Charlotte Motor Speedway (oh, excuse me, Lowes).

    I'd say you owe it to yourself to include some local track Friday or Saturday night racing within one planned trip or another. The local tracks are the spawning grounds for future drivers (albeit to a lesser degree than in the past) and they're definitely more akin to what I regard as NASCAR's glory days in the 1960s and 1970s. The website offers a state-by-state summary of tracks. Links to the specific track websites are included as are descriptions of the track length, surface (paved vs. clay), the racing divisions which run there, alcohol policies, and the like. That website is how I "found" Dixie Speedway, where I saw a memorable Saturday night race before a Springtime Sunday over at Talladega. For that matter, Talladega is home to the Talladega Short Track, a maroon red clay short track that's been the venue for several memorable races including present and past NASCAR stars on the Friday night before the Sunday races. One can essentially contemplate the big race one wants to see, then shop around for some short-track action close by for the nights or days before the big race.

    As it now stands, the wife and I are going to Daytona in February. I know I said it's a BTDT thing, but it's also the 50th running of the 500 and there's a totally kitschy beachfront motel (The Coral Sands) with little 1950s-style cottages right on the beach at Ormond Beach that we've got reservations for, so off we'll go! If you think about it, get some reservations for dinner at Billy's in Ormond Beach. It's right by where Ormond and Daytona come together, and lots of drivers' families, crew guys, and sponsors/vendors hang out. We shared a table with the North American rep for Robert Bosch Corp the last time we were there, and he pointed out lots of folks we had no idea were connected with the sport. Pretty cool! Great eats, too, of course.


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