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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
    Posts
    7

    Default North American East Coast Trip

    Hi;

    Thanks for all the great advice and adventures shared here. It has been very helpful in my planning a segment of a trip this summer with friends up the East coast. This segment is from Orlando to Washington, which we hope to make by rental car from July 25th or 26th arriving in Washington around Aug 1st.

    I was captivated by the idea of going through the Smoky Mtns, and taking the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive (Shenandoah Nat Pk) as the major part of the route north. I had it planned as day 1 to north of Atlanta, day 2 Smoky Mtns to Gatlinburg, day 3 to Asheville, day 4 to Mabry Mill/Rocky Knob; day 5 to around Montebello, day 6 to Washington. I understand it is hard to make many miles on the BRP, so don't want to rush it.

    It has now been suggested that we visit Savannah and or Charleston. I've read info here on how wonderful both places are, especially Charleston. Is it worth going that much off the main route? We can probably squeeze out an extra day, but would need to speed up the rest of the trip to fit it in (I am thinking of a day and a half to two days and going from Charleston to Asheville, and then taking a day to do a loop around the Smokies.

    Would we see similar type southern towns by going the original route? We want to get a good flavor of the South as well as the mountains. We are happy to see some historic homes, but not fanatical. Quite happy with small towns, and experiencing as much of the food, culture, history as we can along the way.

    I can see how we could easily speed up where we get behind schedule by jumping off the BRP onto the 221 etc or I81. Are there areas of the BRP not to be missed in doing that? It sounds idylic but perhaps not so practical to drive the whole BRP.

    Any advice on timing, and places to see would be appreciated.

    Many thanks!
    Phil

  2. #2

    Default A few thoughts

    Hello Phil,

    Some would regard traveling the entire length of the BRP and SD to be too much of a good thing. It's 574 miles of very curvy, steep, and slow mountain driving. Some folks become motion-sick just due to the curves.

    Still, it's a great notion to take a shot at it, especially since you can readily escape to easier drives should weather close in or "enough already" strike your group.

    As to your itinerary, the only qualms I'd have are Asheville to Rocky Knob in 1 day. From Asheville to Blowing Rock the BRP is at its highest elevations and local topographic relief. Side trips which are "can't miss" include Craggy Gardens, Mount Mitchell, Grandfather Mountain, Julian Price Park, Cone Manor, and downtown Blowing Rock itself. I'd allow for a day from Asheville to Blowing Rock. From around the NC-VA line northward, the topography is less dramatic and the scenery, while pastoral and very nice, isn't such that most are driven to spend a great deal of time at turnouts and side-trips.

    Instead of Charleston or Savannah, you could enjoy some historic homes and such in and around Charlottesville, VA, where Jefferson's Monticello and the beautiful campus (er, excuse me, "The Grounds") of the Jefferson-designed University of Virginia are located.

    Have fun planning and taking your RoadTrip.

    Foy

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Well Researched

    Congratulations on your excellent planning to date. You've clearly picked out the things that appeal to you, set up a basic route, and made sure you have time to enjoy it. So on to your questions and my suggestions for some minor tweaks. Yes, Savannah and Charleston are a much better option than Atlanta. Savannah is just off the main highway (I-95) and would make a good place to stop for perhaps a late lunch and stroll around a few of its famous squares with the goal for the evening to be Charleston. If you arrive in Charleston early enough you might be able to catch one of the last ferries out to Fort Sumter from either Liberty Square or Patriots Point (probably 3:30 at the latest). The other highlight of any visit to Charleston would be to visit one of the old Plantations out along Ashley River Road.

    If you spend the first half of your second day in Charleston, then Asheville is probably just at the outer limit of what could be made comfortably in an afternoon/evening. And one thing to keep in mind in doing your loop through the Great Smokey Mountains is that I-40 is currently closed at the Tennessee/North Carolina state line due to a rock slide and will be until at least late in April. Be sure to check on its status before you assume that you can use it.

    As far as the Blue Ridge Parkway/Skyline Drive, Asheville makes a great place to start your drive northward, and as you noted you can drive as far as time allows and then just hop off. You might want to plan on taking the BRP only as far north as I-64 where Lexington is a nice town for an overnight stop and I-64 would then take you to Charlottesville which is the home of both Thomas Jefferson's magnificent home, Monticello, and the University of Virginia which he founded and designed. From there US-29 would take you into the Washington area.

    AZBuck

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
    Posts
    7

    Default

    Thanks for the very helpful input! Will go back to the drawing board (Google Maps) and rejig it. The Charlottesville option sounds great, as does the spending less time on the BRP at the northern end. I'd looked up Lexington, and it sounded interesting as well.

    Any recommendations on what to see in a loop through the Smoky Mountains from Asheville? (This will be at the end of July). I gather it can be very busy and slow going. Is it doable and worth going over to Cades Cove? I'd thought of going from Asheville on 40 then onto Cove Creek Rd, past Catalochee, Big Creek Gatlinburg Cades Cove the back through Newfound Gap, Oconaluftee and onto the BRP most of the way back to Asheville. Or is that too long?

    What about Roaring Fork Motortrail and/or Balsam Mountain instead of Cades Cove?

    Thanks for your help. It is great to get things planned ahead of time rather than finding out later you have too far to drive or could have taken a better route.

    Phil
    Last edited by flipch; 04-04-2010 at 08:32 PM.

  5. Default

    I live near enough that I've visited both Charleston and Savannah multiple times. Both are wonderful cities, but they are quite alike in atmosphere. If I were you and my time was limited, I'd choose one or the other. Both have lovely old mansions, good food, lots of boutique shopping.

    Personally, I like Savannah a little better. If you choose it, be sure to eat at Paula Dean's The Lady & Sons Restaurant, visit a couple old mansions, take a ghost tour. If you have more time, visit nearby Tybee Island's lighthouse and/or the Marine Science Center.

    If you choose Charleston, there are also old mansions and ghost tours -- but I think Savannah's are better. Charleston has a great aquarium, and it has the USS Yorktown.

    You can't go wrong with either place.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Few Options for a Loop

    Unfortunately, I-40 around the north side of the Great Smokies is closed due to a rock slide but the aptly named Cades Cove Loop Road through the park will reopen in late April and that would offer a great chance to see more of the park than just the main transit via US-441. Another option is to take US-19 southwest out of Asheville to Red Marble Gap and then US-129 through Robbinsville and across the mountains. But beware, this route is known as the "Tail of the Dragon" for its many curves and is a favorite with motorcyclists who don't always pay close attention to either speed limits or solid yellow lines. On the other side of the mountains the Foothills Parkway would bring you back up to US-321 and US-441 through the National Park to close the loop back to US-19.

    Either of the routes you mention would also work, and how much is too much is entirely up to you. All of these routes could be driven in a relatively easy day while taking time for some light hiking and to enjoy the views.

    AZBuck

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
    Posts
    7

    Default

    Thanks for all the helpful advice. Will probably make up our minds when we are in Asheville on which route to take to the Smoky Mtn etc depending on the I-40 situation.

    Any recommendations for short stops on the way from Savannah to Asheville (I-26). I saw someone recommended Hendersonville. It will be an afternoon trip.

    Many thanks again,

    Phil

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
    Posts
    7

    Default Maine, Maritimes and drive to Ontario

    Hi;
    I am from Australia and am taking a Nth American trip in August, with just two weeks from NYC to see the coast of Maine, Nova Scotia and PEI, and get to Toronto.

    I am looking at day 1 to Rhode Island Amtrak pickup rental car.
    2. RI via Plymouth, Portland, Wiscasset, Boothbay Hbr
    4 Port CLyde Monhegan Is, to Bar Harbor
    5. Acadian Nat Pk, Saint John, NB
    6. Nova Scotia, Halifax, Peggy's Cove
    7-8 Cape Breton, Cabot Trail
    9-10 PEI
    11-12 Fastest route to Kitchener, Ontario

    I realise it is a big rush, but it is my only opportunity to see these areas. We are two adults in our 50's, I am used to driving long distances. We prefer seascapes, scenery, islands, over cities and shopping etc. My friend is from Ontario, and I fly out from there.

    I have two main questions,

    1. I figure much of this area will be similar. Any suggestions what could be dropped and what is best kept? Should we forget Boothbay? I am happy just to focus on the Acadian Nat Park and not spend more than an evening in Bar Harbor, or is it better to forget that as well and put more time into Cape Breton etc. in Nova Scotia? Perhaps we could just pass through PEI, (ferry from NS, drive across PEI to Confederation Bridge) in just one day?

    2. It is a long drive back to Ontario. Google maps shows there is no real difference time wise between taking the route through New Brunswick and Quebec, compared to going south through Maine, NH, Vermont, NY etc. I have been to Quebec City and Montreal, Trois Riviere etc. years ago, though not the Nthn part of the route or New Brunswick. Any suggestions? It would cost over $300 each to fly.

    Many thanks in advance for any suggestions you can provide!

    Phil
    Last edited by AZBuck; 05-03-2010 at 08:53 AM. Reason: Merged with previous thread and retitled. Please do not start multiple threads for the same trip.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default The Big Picture

    First, there is your biggest hurdle, and why it makes no sense to present us your trip in 'segments'. Going just by what you said in your last post your trip is impossible because you cannot rent a car in the United States and leave it in Canada. You must either continue this trip back into the U.S. or wait until you arrive in Canada to rent a car. Assuming you have some way around that rather significant roadblock....

    1) You can save yourselves a good bit of driving by taking the ferry from Bar Harbor to Yarmouth. This might also be a way to exchange cars while crossing the border, leaving your American car in Bar Harbor and picking up a Canadian car in Yarmouth. This option will be a bit expensive, but is worth looking into. If you catch an early morning ferry onto PEI, then yes, I think you can hit most of its high spots in a day and take the bridge off island whenever you finish up.

    2) Google probably does not factor in the two border crossings involved in trying to get from New Brunswick to Ontario via the U.S. nor the probability of getting stuck behind a logging truck on two lane US-2, I'd opt for the all Canada route and the Autoroutes which start in Québec. If you get off PEI the previous night and make it even a short way down the road, then you should be able to make Kitchner in two fairly long, but still manageable, days of driving.

    AZBuck

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
    Posts
    7

    Default

    Thanks for the input AZBuck.

    Sorry, I am finsihing up in Ontario but plan to drop the car off in NY, Buffalo or Rochester NY as it saves a huge amount. Had considered bussing from Bangor to Saint John, but too complicated and time consuming.

    There is, sadly, no ferry from Bar Harbor to Yarmouth anymore. There is the St John-Digby NS one, but it is quite expensive and doesn't save anywhere near as much driving. But I am still considering it as it would save half a day or more if I took the evening one.

    Thanks for the PEI info. Also very helpful to know about the US-2 and crossings. I am sure Google isn't that aware :)

    With all that sorted, anything I should drop out?
    Regards,
    Phil

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