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  1. Default First Trip: Florida, Georgia, Tennessee.

    Hello all,

    First post here although I have been reading for a while! Just looking for some advice regarding my first road trip please.

    I'd like to spend 4-6 weeks leisurely travelling round the south, after recovering from years of illness I need a nice long break (I live in the UK - have not been to US before). Basic plan is to fly to Orlando, have a good couple of weeks in Florida and travel down to the Keys. Then up to Atlanta for few days, then Nashville and back to Orlando - with visits to towns, local attractions and lots of national parks along the way. A quick look on Google maps gave me an estimated 2500 mile round trip. My main question is, is 6 weeks going to be too long for this route? Should I plan more miles? (Or less time) - Perhaps I could include Carolina.

    My job here involves driving around the UK so long distances don't phase me. I regularly drive 1000-2000 miles a week and am no stranger to 10+ hours driving in a day. Whilst I don't need such extremes on holiday I can't help but wonder if my route is a bit short for the time I will have?

    At the moment I'm planning on arriving in early Sept. I will be camping as much as possible with some hotel-shaped treats in between.

    Thanks in advance,
    Steph

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Relax - It's Part of What the South is About

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Four to six weeks is a ton of time to wander the South. You could easily tour all eleven states of the old Confederacy. Distances may not be as great as you fear. For example, you could drive all the way from Orlando to anywhere in the 'South' except west Texas in two relatively easy ten hour days. Also note that 2500 miles over five weeks requires less than a hundred miles a day.

    The one thing I strongly encourage you to do is to look into spending most of your time in small to moderate sized towns where the pace of life is still 'genteel' rather than in the hustle and bustle of the big cities, which aren't all that different in lifestyle from London or Birmingham or Sheffield.

    AZBuck

  3. Default

    Thanks for the advice AZBuck. I'll start thinking of other places I'd like to include. I want it to be fairly relaxed - ie stay in one place for a couple of days, explore, trot on to the next place - but I still want it to be a road trip and have some days 'on the road'.

    Yes I definately wanted to avoid bigger cities, they don't really interest me (apart from Nashville, and a bit of Atlanta) when there are national parks to expore!

    I know it's a 'how long is a piece of string' question but on average, how many miles would you guys expect/ aim to cover in 6 weeks?

    Best,
    Steph

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Western/Central Massachusetts
    Posts
    1,703

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Tikki18 View Post
    I want it to be fairly relaxed...
    I know it's a 'how long is a piece of string' question but on average, how many miles would you guys expect/ aim to cover in 6 weeks?
    If it were me, I'd aim for an average of about 200 miles per day on a trip like this. This gives you the option to either cover a lot of ground, or to stick in one place for an extended time. Chances are you'll find a few places that just "feel right" and you'll want to spend as much time there as possible.

  5. #5

    Default The South in September/October

    Hello Tikki18,

    In the South, my homeland, September and October is the time of year for college football (American football), stock car racing, and hunting. You'll want to make yourself aware of the venues for the first two (motels and campgrounds and restaurants filling up for a full weekend), and of the effects of the latter on campgrounds within the millions of acres of National Forest (NF) lands. The NF lands represent the primary public hunting lands, so come deer season in particular, the woods see an influx of hunters. They're by and large fine folks, mind you, but if you're expecting a great deal of tranquility in some NF areas in Autumn, you might be unpleasantly surprised.

    Even if you don't care for American football or NASCAR, taking in a show of one or the other, or both, represents seeing a slice of Americana which you just can't find anywhere else. I don't give a flip for the racing any more, but the pure spectacle of a race at, for example, Talladega, Alabama is indescribable. For that matter, it's rare to find a 50 mile radius without a local racetrack, many of them dirt (hardpacked clay, actually), and the local tracks can be a scream to see a race at, too.

    As to quiet camping spots, you might want to look at the Georgia coast, where barrier islands w/out automobiles or other conveyances and primitive camping can be found, and I've always been intrigued with Cedar Key, FL, right up in the "curve" of the Gulf coast of FL, which has a reputation of being a quiet, out-of-the-way fishing village.

    If your physical mobility allows and desires might include some gentle to wild bicycling or gentle to wild whitewater paddling, say so and I'll give you some locations and ideas as to those activities, too.

    Foy in NC

  6. Default

    Thanks for the tips - I didn't realise October was a peak season! For that section of the trip I think I will pre book as much as possible and have it a bit more structured. I've been doing some more research today and I get the feeling I'll want to stay in and around the Smoky Mountains/ east NC for a while so it would be a shame if I couldn't find anywhere to stay.

    I'd love some info on best places for a gentle cycle please Foy (I think rafting is just asking for broken bones as I am ridiculously accident prone). Do you know anywhere good for horse treks too? I will definately take up your suggestion of Nascar and American football. Like you say, when in Rome...

    Also, my mum's getting worried at the prospect of me camping on my own (I'm 25) - as long as I stay in reputable campsites, I should be ok right? I imagine they're fairly safe as long as you're sensible about things?

    Steph

    Ps Is $50 a day a sensible budget for accomodation?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Camp Site Basics

    There aren't that many national parks in the south that include camping, but there are many commercial campgrounds and state parks. The former will tend to have more perks (convenience stores, laundries, pools, and the like, while the later will tend to be in more natural settings, often with some campsites that are specifically designated for tent camping only - away from the RV crowd. Both are generally as safe as anywhere else. They are typically used by families on a budget and there develops a camaraderie among the campers. Make a point of at least saying hello to your immediate neighbors so that they know that you 'belong'. A couple of the larger commercial chains are KOA and Jellystone Park. Good Sam Club is something of the AAA of camping and lists many of the independent commercial campgrounds. A night at a commercial site might run $20-30 or so, depending on location, day of the week and amenities offered. State parks are generally listed on each state's web page, just search on {statename state parks}.State park camping runs $10-25 for tent camping.

    AZBuck

  8. #8

    Default Not to worry

    I made note of the fact that it's football season just so you don't arrive in, say, Auburn, AL on a Friday and wonder what the heck the other 100,000 people are in town for. Similarly, Eastaboga, AL will be a bit crowded on its October NASCAR Talladega weekend.

    You mention the Smokies in October. That's the 4th "peak season" in these parts--Autumn leaf season. Depending upon elevation, the peak of the autumn colors will be around mid-October, and the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be full of "leaf-peepers", particularly on weekends. Just be aware of that and you'll be fine.

    A rapidly-growing movement in the US is conversion of abandoned railroads into trails. Simply googling "rail trails" will bring up literally dozens of trails in the South. A rail-trail is by definition a very gently sloped ride as opposed to knarly "single track" mountain bike trails. Probably the best known ride, and my personal favorite, is the Virginia Creeper Trail, located at the point on the map where VA, NC, and TN meet, at Damascus, VA. The VCT features a 17 mile all downhill segment and rental of a nice, comfy cruiser bike and a shuttle ride to the top of the grade runs you about $26 this season. It gets crowded on autumn weekends, so I suggest trying to do this half-day ride on a weekday. Damascus is on the edge of the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, a subdivision of the George Washington National Forest (and you should study the National Forest system carefully as you plan your trip), so there are a number of campgrounds in the vicinity of Damascus.

    I wouldn't be concerned with injury from paddling the rivers. Go with a reputable outfitter (Nantahala Outdoor Center is one) and you'll quickly realize guest safety is their top priority. A river such as the Nantahala River is fast and fun, but wholly mild, with only Class I and II rapids until you reach the take-out, where Nantahala Falls is a Class III which many choose to portage. The French Broad near Asheville is a nice, easy raft or canoe ride, as is much of the New River in northwestern NC and southwest VA.

    At Blowing Rock, NC, the Blue Ridge Parkway (a unit of the National Park system) features Moses Cone Memorial Park, some 2,800 acres assembled 100 years ago as a vacation retreat for the textile magnate from Greensboro. Mr. Cone had about 25 miles of gently-graded carriage trails built on his estate and they're now perfectly wonderful hiking, horseback, and cross-country skiing trails (no bicycles allowed). There is a large stable adjacent to the park and I assume trail rides are available there. Nearby in western NC, the town of Love Valley is a reproduction of a Western US town which caters solely to riders, right down to the dirt streets and hitching posts in front of the businesses.

    Foy

  9. Default

    Foy,

    Wow, that post is fantastic. So much information! I love all your suggestions, particularly the Virginia Creeper Trail. Any downhill ride with a bus back up to the top is fine by me :D

    AZBuck, thank you. Mum's mind has been put to rest a little.

    I haven't worked out my budget yet so I still don't know how long I'm going for - I'm hoping for a full 6 weeks. Continuing to plan my route at the moment, once it's done I'll post it up here in case anyone can suggest improvements.

    Steph

  10. #10

    Default All downhill doesn't mean "no pedaling"

    Steph,

    The long downhill segment of the VCT from Whitetop Station to Damascus is, as billed, all downhill. One needn't pedal for, say, the first 4-5 miles, one must pedal mildly for the 5-6 miles after that, and the last 6 miles is essentially flat. The entire 17 mile segment follows a stream, so it's downhill, but that doesn't equate to effortless. That said, one can ride the entire segment on a cool day without breaking a sweat.

    Oh, and Damascus is at the midpoint, so it's a shuttle ride UP first, then the bike ride back down to town.

    Enjoy!

    Foy

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