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  1. Default Nashville, TN to Austin, TX during Dec-11

    Hi all,
    complete newbie here so excuse some of the basic questions!

    We're a couple from the UK and are planning to do a road trip from Nashville to Austin during Dec 2011. We've never been to the States so you can imagine how daunting this can be. I would really appreciate some advice from the gurus and seasoned travellers to help us make the most of this trip. Our objective is to steer away from major highways as much as possible and rather stick to scenic backroads.

    My initial questions are:

    1. Google calculates the trip to be around 1,100 miles. Would 4 to 5 days be OK considering we would like to take in as many sights as possible?

    2. What are the "must see" sights? We love nature (especially keen on the national forests) and cultural stuff.

    3. Would you rent an RV or a smaller car?

    4. Will there be dangerours driving conditions during mid winter?

    5. This one is quite detailed but any pointers will be appreciated; will the following route be a good choice:

    Highway 40 -> Route 61 -> Route 8 -> Route 371 -> Highway 20 -> Route 171 -> then through Sabine and David Crockett forests on our way to Austin

    Thanks in advance for any tips and advice.

    Next year is SoCal to SanFran....but that is a whole different post!


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    1. Considering it's a very easy 2 day drive via Interstates, 4 to 5 days is plenty for a very leisurely trip.

    2. We don't do "must sees" here - everyone has different likes and tastes.

    3. I would rent a car and stay in motels/hotels. A RV is nowhere near cost-effective for such a short trip, and it's going to be cold at night.

    4. It's possible, but not terribly likely.

    5. Do you mean 82, not 8?

  3. Default

    Thanks for the reply and tips. Yep, I made a typo: should be 82.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default A start.

    Hello and welcome to RTA !

    Although a 'must see' is a matter of personal taste, you will find Lot's of info throughout the forums and road trip planning pages above to help you decide what appeals to you.

    I quickly created this map that shows 51 top attrractions within 100 miles of the most direct route selected by RTA contributors

    You can zoom in and out and click on the flags for more info. You can create your own routes and look for attractions further away by using the Map centre, just place your cursor over the 'Maps' link in the green tool bar above and select 'Map centre.

    Once you have got a little further on with the planning and other questions crop up, just ask away !

  5. #5

    Default National Forests in the Southeast/Deep South

    Hello EugeneB,

    While I personally love our National Forests (NFs), I think their presence and purpose is sometimes misunderstood, sometimes with some disappointing results to travelers with a set of expectations.

    NFs are designated as "multiple use" areas. They are not, by and large, undisturbed or pristine tracts. Among a myriad of NF uses are logging, oil and gas production, mining (both underground and open-pit), quarrying, hunting, fishing, hiking, boating, cycling, and scenic driving.

    In the Rocky Mountain states, a good general rule of thumb is any forested mountain range which is NOT a National Park (NP) or National Monument (NM) is within a NF unit. These can be very scenic and can include designated wilderness areas which are much like NPs to recreational visitors. By contrast, NFs within the Southeastern states of VA, TN, NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, MS, LA, and TX are often assemblages of worn out farmlands well outside of hills or mountain ranges, and are normally NOT extensive tracts of NF lands, but are instead patchworks of public (NF) and private lands, with boundaries rather difficult to detect. Yes, the maps show large areas of NF, but on the ground, the patchwork becomes evident.

    Given the rapid growth rate of loblolly pine trees, many Southern NFs are actively logged and it may be unlikely to traverse a segment of NF and not come upon logging operations and clear-cut tracts. In December, particularly in LA and TX, I imagine deer hunting season will be in full swing, and given that NFs are public lands, often we find the roads and campgrounds full of hunting parties. I happen to enjoy that activity and being around it, but I understand some do not, so just be aware of the fact you're likely to see some hunters.

    For further analysis, I suggest looking at the Sabine National Forest website (the official US Department of Agriculture/National Forest Service site), and look at the generalized free online maps in PDF format. The Sabine NF forms the west bank of Toledo Bend Reservoir (formed by damming the Sabine River along the LA-TX border) and the map shows the high degree of inclusions of private lands within the NF perimeter. Also noted are "2011-2012 hunting camps", so one can see there is anticipated to be lots of hunter use.

    What you may be interested in, given your preference for back roads and scenic drives, and with the amount of time you have, is driving down the Natchez Trace Parkway (NT) from Nashville towards or all the way to Jackson, MS. The NTP is a unit of the NP system, so while it is a narrow corridor with a two-lane low-speed highway within it, no commercial traffic (trucks, for example) is allowed, and no logging, etc is allowed within the corridor. You may also seek out National Wildlife Refuge tracts,where no logging, mining, or hunting is allowed. There are a number of large lakes (actually reservoirs) across the South, and they can be very scenic and enjoyable to visit and drive by.

    If your trip to Austin is the outbound leg of a round trip, returning to Nashville, you might consider venturing up into Arkansas to see Hot Springs National Park, the Crater of Diamonds State Park, or a drive through the Ozark Mountains within the Ozark NF (which includes the Buffalo River, a National Scenic River). There are a couple of slightly mountainous parkway scenic drives from westernmost Arkansas into Oklahoma, too. If you're one-way to Austin, and if I've scared you away from the Sabine or Crockett NFs, you can loop west from Nashville to Arkansas and do that on the way down to Austin.

    Have a ball planning and taking your Deep South RoadTrip. You do like grits and redeye gravy, don't you?


  6. Default

    Hi SW Dave and Foy,
    thank you for the incredibly helpful responses.

    The NTP route is a great tip and seems the best way to make the most of the trip. Your comment about the National Forest is much appreciated. We were going to go out of our way to see as many as we could and may well have been a bit dissapointed if they were overrun by logging trucks and hunting parties.

    I am now going to digest the wealth of info you supplied and plan accordingly.

    Thanks again.

  7. #7

    Default National Parks, they're not

    You're welcome, EugeneB,

    The bottom line for National Forests is they're not National Parks, and this is particularly true for the Southeast and the Deep South. Yes, there are small patches of true designated wilderness and entirely pristine sections of some Southern NFs, but that's the exception rather than the rule. While I wouldn't expect to be overrun by logging trucks and hunting parties, the heavily-populated Southeast embraces the "multiple use working forest" concept thoroughly, making visiting NFs here a rather different experience than visits to NFs in the Rocky Mountain states.


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