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  1. Default beginning to plan for retirement trip 2011 - as many southern states as we can manage

    I have been enjoying this site for a while now but now want to take the plunge and start asking for some advice!

    We have been saving for a retirement trip for years now but it always seemed in the distant future. My husband has now decided that he's had enough (he's a policeman) and that trip is looking like a reality for next year. I am so excited!

    I have so many specific place-related questions but thought I'd begin with asking for advice about when we should go and also whether our travel plans/dreams are unrealistic!

    We have up to 4 weeks and would like to fly in and out of Atlanta (from UK), hire a car and then
    Atlanta (1 night)
    Charleston (2 nights)
    Savannah (3 nights)
    Night somewhere en route to New Orleans
    NO (5 nights)
    Drive up to Memphis (5 nights)
    Memphis (3 nights)
    Nashville (2 nights)
    Rest of time somewhere in Smokies or similar

    Is that a silly over ambitious plan. My husband says he's happy to do a lot of driving!

    If it is too much I would appreciate some thoughts about tweaking it a bit. Our interests are music, history, culture.....nothing too highbrow!

    Many many thanks

    Night somewhere between

  2. Default

    OOOPS forgot to say we would be travelling around September time!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default The Good, the Bad and the(re is no) Ugly

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    September is a fine time to be traveling through the southeast. Temperatures will have started to drop off from their summer highs and most of the summer tourists will have gone home, leaving the roads and attractions a bit less crowded. I wouldn't quite call it the best time, though. If you could wait a month or so until mid-October, you would get the added benefits of traveling outside the height of hurricane season and the leaves will just be starting to change colors in the mountains.

    With 4 weeks, you can easily tour many parts of the area with sufficient time to really enjoy spots that appeal to you without feeling rushed at all. There will be plenty of opportunities for music (jazz, bluegrass, country/western, blues), history (early settlement, Revolutionary and Civil Wars), and culture (museums, symphonies, restored plantations and mansions).


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Western/Central Massachusetts

    Default Four weeks!

    The amount of time you have is wonderful and will really help you to explore the area. I agree with Buck about waiting until October. September can be "funny" in this part of the country, with varying high humidity being pushed inland by the previously mentioned hurricanes - that is, if the storms themselves don't make an arrival.

    Either month will tend to have many festivals, such as the Harvest Balloon festival or the Taste of Atlanta.

  5. #5


    If music be the food of love......... there will be no shortage of good music on your trip.

    Which reminds me - on your way from Atlanta to Savannah you will pass through Macon, Georgia. Can’t resist making a mention of one of my favourite tracks from Jeff Healey - an acoustic guitar solo. An amazing musician - he was blind, very gifted and is sadly no longer with us.

    Savannah with its picturesque squares; Charleston with its old charm – still have a mental picture of sitting on the pier, looking out to sea, and enjoying the moment.

    History. If you pass near Montgomery, Alabama, worth a stop. Martin Luther King lived and preached there – see his house and church where he attended. Also the first White House of the Confederacy is located in Montgomery.

    It is obvious from your plan you have being doing some diligent research and you have plenty of time to further research and make refinements. All part of the fun.

  6. #6

    Default More music and Southern Appalachian culture

    Hello Alison,

    I should add Macon, GA is also the hometown of the late Duane Allman and his brother Greg. I believe there are sights to see commemorating the Allman Brothers Band there in Macon.

    Due to proximity to Atlanta, the Smokies would make a great stop on the return side of the trip. For something more music-oriented and somewhat more subdued than the tourist-choked Gatlinburg area, you might want to consider the northeastern corner of TN/SW corner of VA, the Bristol TN/VA area (where, interestingly, the state line runs down the middle of Main Street, named State Street there, which separates Bristol, TN from Bristol, VA). There is a country and bluegrass music tour with venues including the hometown of the Carter Family, bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe, and others, more or less centered in the Bristol/Abingdon, VA area. Search for references to "The Crooked Road" tour if you're interested.

    While I agree October would be a more ideal time to visit the High Country of NC, VA, or GA, that's not a unique idea, and given that the autumn leaf-peeping season peaks in the first or second week of October, the Smokies and the Blue Ridge Parkway get mighty crowded then. We did have a freakishly hot September this year, but on average, the temps in September are quite nice at elevations above 3,000' or so--sweaters and jackets in the early morning and evenings. In September, you'd miss the peak of color season, but you'd miss the crowds, too.

    Listen in carefully to the speech patterns of any NC or VA mountain locals you manage to meet. Their heritage is almost pure Scots-Irish and those who know such things can pick up phrases and vocabulary from the Isles when the older folk speak.

    Have fun planning and taking your RoadTrip!


  7. #7


    Hope you don’t mind the side track Alison.

    Macon has a musical heritage far above its weight. To mention a few from the town, Little Richard, Otis Redding, James Brown and Johnny Jenkins who strongly influenced Jimi Hendrix. And the Allman Brothers already mentioned by Foy.

    Georgia Music Hall of Fame, Macon, is one place to find out more.

  8. Default

    Thank you all so much for your speedy response!

    Buck and Tim (is that how you refer to people on forums or do you use their entire user name, I'm a bit inexperienced!!) - thank you for the reassurance that it is possible to cover all that ground in the time we have! I'm very relieved, as there wasn't anything in the list that I was happy about giving up!!
    We probably could come in October instead of September.....we Brits are a bit obsessive about catching some sun when we go on holiday and can underestimate the problems of it being too hot and exhaustingly humid, not to mention the perils of hurricanes ('m remembering a very hot and humid and stormy Disney World trip in August when the kids were small and how tired and crabby we all got!) I guess the weather would still be warm in October? But on the other hand I take Foy's point about crowds!
    Anyway, good to know either would be OK - maybe flight prices will be the deciding factor.

    Eris - thank you for the Jeff Healey clip. I don't know him or his music but found a few more clips and really like him. If I wanted to get one of his CD's which would you recommend?
    I think Macon might be a 'must do' on our drive from Savannah to New many musical connections. And Montgomery too with its civil rights history (I didn't realise it would be right in our path!) If you were us, where would you stay overnight (rather than just stopping off for an hour or two) on that journey from Savannah to NO?

    Foy - would you say the part of the mountains you mention around Bristol (which, by the way, is where we live in the UK!) are as lovely as the Smokies? We just want somewhere with spectacular views, some easy walks, drives, low key music venues, log cabin to stay in etc.....we definitely don't want miles of touristy stuff, IHOP's on every corner.....

    Am I right in thinking that Charleston and Savannah are very different? I originally thought we would just visit Savannah but after a bit of investigating I became drawn to Charleston too. Any recommendations for places to stay in either place? There seem to be so many lovely B&B's but are they worth the extra if we'll be out all day sight seeing? Are they an important part of the whole experience?

    Perhaps I'll stop all the questions there .... have loads more about the other parts of the trip but they can wait!


  9. #9


    And this is only one part of your trip.

    Charleston. A couple of nights can well be justified at Charleston - as AZBuck mentions above, there is the option of visiting a plantation. In your full day you could visit the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens – found it a thoroughly enjoyable experience. And you would also have time to look around the old city with its cobbled streets.

    Savannah. The downtown area is one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the US – lots of interest and a good way to learn about the place is to take a walking tour. A good guide is an excellent way to learn about its history.

    The journey from Savannah via Macon, Columbus and Montgomery to New Orleans is about 650 miles. From Montgomery to New Orleans is about 300 miles which is a steady day trip on good roads. Makes Montgomery a good stop over before New Orleans but that leaves choices of what to do prior to Montgomery.

    Columbus. Here on the site under road trips Columbus is mentioned – looks a good place to visit. Has a rich southern history and is a Georgia city with a 'things to do' list that would easily enhance any traveller’s itinerary. Step back into the past with a visit to the National Civil War Museum.

    Accommodation. Always a problem knowing where to stay because we all have different needs. Try Yahoo Travel and Tripadvisor as they can sometimes help.

    Jeff Healey. The album “Get Me Some” is a good start and contains “Macon Georgia” and there is also a very touching song to his daughter Rachel. Do you remember the film Roadhouse – Patrick Swayze – it was Jeff Healey and his band who featured with their music.

    Happy planning.

  10. #10

    Default Eye of the beholder

    Quote Originally Posted by AlisonN View Post
    Thank you all so much for your speedy response!

    Foy - would you say the part of the mountains you mention around Bristol (which, by the way, is where we live in the UK!) are as lovely as the Smokies? We just want somewhere with spectacular views, some easy walks, drives, low key music venues, log cabin to stay in etc.....we definitely don't want miles of touristy stuff, IHOP's on every corner.....

    Perhaps I'll stop all the questions there .... have loads more about the other parts of the trip but they can wait!

    Good afternoon/evening Alison,

    I tend to avoid qualitative statements indicating one place or piece of scenery is superior to or inferior to another. I can emphatically say the Great Valley, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Cumberland Plateau of Southwest VA, northwestern NC, and northeasternmost TN is rather DIFFERENT than the Smokies.

    And, oddly enough, I can say that without ever having spend much time in the Smokies. The mountain travel of my childhood was to the Blue Ridge of northwestern NC, and there I attended university (Appalachian State in Boone, NC), and it is there where I spend what holiday and weekend time I can. My experience in the southwestern parts of NC are but a few. That said, it is often published that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSNP) is the most-visited National Park in the US. Gatlinburg, TN, the western gateway to GSNP has a rich reputation for being a very congested and touristy place (and an IHOP on every corner is quite possibly a fair generalization), and there are a large handful of motorcycle destinations (Tail of the Dragon, for one) in the vicinity, so large groups of riders are commonplace. The Smokies have the mountains, no doubt, with the highest elevations east of the Mississippi River and the greatest topographic relief (some 4,000' from ridge tops to valley floors in some places). I have never been there during autumn leaf season, peaking more or less as I type this on 10 October, but I can only assume the crowds are peaking, also.

    By contrast, the area surrounding Bristol TN/VA is pastoral, lying within the Great Valley, also known as the Valley and Ridge province. To the east and south, about 30 miles off, lies Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, Virginia's highest and second highest at +5,700 and +5,500', respectively. They lie in the Blue Ridge Mountains within a handful of miles of where VA, TN, and NC join. Topographic relief does exceed 4,000' from the summit of Mt Rogers down to Bristol, but elsewhere in the region, relief is more on the order of 1,500' to 2,500'. To the west and north of Bristol lies the Cumberland Plateau/Allegheney Mountains, the coal-mining portion of VA hard by the WV and KY borders. There are 3 sizable reservoirs in the area: South Holston Lake, Watauga Lake, and Claytor Lake. Each has vacation rentals. Vacation rentals abound throughout the region, with many being of the log cabin variety. Ditto the North Carolina side of the mountains, especially around Boone and Blowing Rock. The town of Abingdon, VA is home to the Barter Theater and a number of B&Bs and other accomodations, and it is the western end of the Virginia Creeper Trail, a 35 mile rails-to-trails linear park centered at Damascus, VA. Hiking or cycling the gentle grades is a most popular activity and bicycle rental and shuttle services are found in abundance in Damascus. The eastern end of the trail is a 17 mile all-downhill grade from the crest of the Blue Ridge at Whitetop Gap back down to Damascus, and it makes for a gentle, smooth, and easy half-day ride for even the least experienced cyclers.

    The music connection is referred to as The Crooked Road: Virginia's Heritage Music Trail. Ample information is found at Many of the venues are along or close by US 58, which features few straight sections of > 1/2 mile in length, hence the moniker "The Crooked Road".

    So, again, lovely is truly in the eyes of the beholder. For my own tastes, which always value "out of the way" and "offbeat" over high-volume popular appeal, I'd spend my September/October time within sight of where VA, TN, and NC meet.


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