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  1. Default Australian Couple need help planning an East Coast trip.

    Hi there everyone this is our first post on the forum. We are hoping to get some ideas, tips etc...anything to help us plan our trip.
    At this stage we are hoping to drive from New York to New Orleans in late November early December. We will hire a car and it has been suggested we start from somewhere like Newark. We will then go to Nazareth PA as I am a keen guitarist & the Martin factory is there. From there we hope to head south via Philadelphia,Washington, and possibly Virginia Beach.I also have an interest in the Civil War so would like to take in some of those attractions. Then we would like to get across to Nashville and down to New Orleans. I would like to see Memphis and the other music related towns along the way.
    We have about two weeks or so. Are we biting off more than we can chew?
    Any advice regarding car hire, accommodation, and places we should not miss would be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Very Chewable

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Even hitting all the places you've mentioned, and a few more, you're only looking at about four days worth of driving, leaving you ten days to spend in the various venues along the way. So, some comments. By all means, do a little checking for the best spot to rent a car. Not being forced to rent one at an airport is already a plus saving you from the 'special' fees and taxes assessed at such locations. Taxes are also slightly lower in New Jersey than in New York City, but you may also be hit with higher one way drop-off fees when you rent from some smaller locations. Also take into account how easy it would be to get all of you, and all your stuff, to the rental car site - or to get one of you there and then driving back into the city to pick up every one/thing else before setting out.

    So, some notes on some places you should look to be including on your trip. It's relatively simple to get from New York to Nazareth, and from there to Philadelphia. What I'd do next is make a wide swing west from Philadelphia through Amish country to Gettysburg (the major battle of the Civil War), and then down through Sharpsburg MD (the sight of another major battle: Antietem). Depending on whether you continue to Virginia Beach and why it's on your itinerary, you might want to consider leaving Washington to the east, visiting Annapolis, and crossing onto the Eastern Shore of Maryland. There are some pristine beaches on the Atlantic coast of the Delmarva Peninsula, including Delaware Seashore State Park and Assateague Island National Seashore, as well as wildlife refuges, most notably Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. You would then cross back to the mainland at the southern end of the peninsula using the unique Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

    For your next major leg, have a look at using US-58 across southern Virginqa joining I-81 or the Blue Ridge Parkway near the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. You can also include Great Smoky Mountains National Park on your way to Nashville. After Nashville, I'd also suggest that you take a rather non-direct route to New Orleans, leaving Nashville on the Natchez Trace Parkway to US-64 west to another major Civil War battlefield, Shiloh, just south of Crump TN. You'd then either use US-45/I-59 south to New Orleans, or head west to Memphis for some more Blues along Beale Street before heading south on US-62, the Blues Highway, to New Orleans.


  3. Default

    Thanks for that wonderful information AZBUCK.Sorry for taking so long in getting back.We have now booked our flight from Sydney to New York so now the real planning begins.
    We have many questions so I hope I can keep this thread alive and maybe someone else can chime in.
    Can anybody point me to a site that will give info re car rental in the US.I need to find out the deal re insurance etc & other costs over and above the rental.
    I believe renting from an airport location is more expensive so with that in mind can anybody point me to a location East of NY (probably around Newark) that would suit?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    You really are going to just have to shop around for the car rental. There's no one company or one locations that is going to always offer a better deal. Prices are always changing, and frankly, while renting from an airport location is often more expensive, especially because of added fees and taxes, there are times where you'll get the best deal at an airport.

    You can start to shop and price things out right here at RTA. You can use either the rental box on the right side of this page, or click the "Hotels & Cars" tab on the title bar at the top of the page.

  5. Default Washington to New Orleans- December

    We are an Australian couple trying to plan the above road trip.We have two weeks to complete this trip and would like to see as much historical and music related sites as possible. We would like to travel some of the backroads as well if possible.
    We would really appreciate some advice and ideas of possible routes. At this stage I was going to head to Richmond then east to Charlottesville onto the I-81. However it has been suggested we could head east from Washington (66?) to meet the 81 further north. This way we would see the Shenandoah National Park and a Parkway was mentioned.Sorry I cannot recall the name.
    Any ideas as to which route would be the most interesting?
    We would love to hear some ideas for routes to Nashville as well. From Nashville south is well documented, however we know of little from Washington to Nashville.

    Mod Note: Merged your two threads, as this looks like the same, albeit changed, trip.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 09-27-2012 at 06:45 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Western/Central Massachusetts


    You are likely thinking of Skyline Drive. I think you have your directions backwards - Charlottesville is West of Richmond. Heading East out of Washington, DC would put you in the Atlantic Ocean.

    What you want to do here is make a decision. You could head from Washington to Richmond and then to Charlottesville. Alternatively, you could head west from Washington to Front Royal and get on Skyline Drive there. It is roughly a 4 hour drive from there to Charlottesville on the Skyline Drive, taking into consideration stopping for scenery and the slower speed limit (35mph).

  7. #7

    Default Some geography and climatology of VA and TN

    Hello Phil,

    Sounds as though you'll have a fine trip and you certainly have lots of time to take in some sights and sites. Perhaps we should start with some geography and related climate information, each of which should help your planning process.

    Traveling south from Washington (regionally referred to as "DC", largely because every Eastern state has a Washington County and/or town or city named Washington), one reaches Richmond on I-95 (note the absence of "the" in I-95--referring to any highway as "the" is a California thing which will have we Easterners looking at you as though you have two heads), then one turns WEST to reach I-81. It is indeed possible/practical to take I-66 directly west from the DC area to reach I-81. In fact, if your airport of entry is Dulles International, and assuming you don't care to spend time in the Capital city, I-66 from Dulles to I-81 is much-preferred. I-95 south from Reagan National is a quagmire of traffic most of the time (and I-66 surely is, too, during weekday afternoon-evening hours, as commuters head home for the suburbs).

    An hour to 90 minutes west of Dulles along I-66, one passes through a gap in a small mountain range, Cactoctin Mountain, at Manassas Gap, and there one enters the Shenandoah Valley (The Valley). The Valley is some 120 miles north to south and some 15-25 miles wide. South from Manassas Gap, Cactoctin Mountain widens out and is referred to as the Blue Ridge, or Blue Ridge Mountains. The Blue Ridge is essentially a wall of forested mountains separating The Valley from the Piedmont on the eastern side. From Front Royal on south, Shenandoah National Park occupys the crest of the Blue Ridge for around 110 miles, to where I-64 from Richmond has passed through Charlottesville and crests the Blue Ridge at Rockfish Gap. Through the SNP, the Skyline Drive (SD) bisects the long, narrow length of SNP, frequently offering long views down to the Piedmont on the east and the Valley on the west, each being some 2,500' to 3,000' lower in elevation. Rockfish Gap is also "Mile 0" of the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP), a linear park running along the crest of the Blue Ridge for some 470 miles south from Rockfish Gap to Cherokee, NC, near where NC, Tennessee, and Georgia meet, and at the doorstep of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On the eastern side, US 29 runs parallel to the BRP through the foothill ranges, while I-81 runs through the Shenandoah Valley and the smaller but no less pastoral Great Valley on into east Tennessee, at Bristol, TN.

    So, that's the setting, now here's the challenge: In December, any portion of the SD or the BRP is liable to be closed with no advanced notice due to snow. There is little to no effort to plow or otherwise remove snow from either highway, so an episode of snow and ice must melt away before the roads are re-opened. Closures are particularly likely from about the VA-NC border on south to Cherokee, as the BRP holds elevations of between 4,500 to nearly 7,000' for its lowermost 150-175 miles. The good news is that a multitude of state and US highways cross the SD and BRP, so encountering a closure only requires you to drive down the mountain to either US 29 or I-81. When open, travel along the SD and BRP is slow, with posted speed limits not in excess of 45 mph, and the parkways are curvy. It's a wonderful drive, but it's not a way to make great headway on a trip.

    Historical sights and sites: Virginia abounds with Colonial and Civil War historical sites. In the most general sense, Colonial history is represented east of the Blue Ridge and Civil War history west of the mountain.

    Music: Southwest Virginia is the birthplace of country music and bluegrass music. A string of venues known and promoted as "The Crooked Road" generally follows US 58 through the southwestern portion of Virginia. My fear is many of the performing artists and venues will be closed up by December. Checking in at The Crooked Road.Org will be the best way to see if that's correct. Even if many are closed, surely the Carter Family museum, etc, near Gate City, VA (outside of Bristol) will be open for visitors.

    As to back roads, if I were wandering the Valley along I-81, I'd look to the west to VA highway 42, running from at least Dayton/Harrisonburg along the foot of the mountains forming the western wall of the Valley all the way down past Blacksburg to and beyond I-77. If open, the BRP will intersect US 58 at Meadows of Dan, and taking US 58 west through Hillsville to Galax brings you to traditional country music territory, while staying on US 58 to Abingdon instructs you of the provenance of the term "The Crooked Road".

    From Bristol, I-81 runs southwest to I-40, and I-40 runs west through Knoxville, across the Cumberland Plateau, and descends into the Nashville basin. There are simply, and perhaps obviously, too many venues and sights and sounds in Music City to begin to name. The main entertainment district is "Lower Broad", being at the foot of Broadway where it meets the Cumberland River in downtown Nashville.

    Last month, the wife and I stopped through Nashville for a great evening of Texas Swing at Robert's Western World on Lower Broad. We were having too much fun there to as much as try any other place.

    You note the trip to N.O. from Nashville is well-documented, but allow me to encourage a trip to Memphis for some Beale Street blues and Elvis' Graceland, and by all means you must visit Clarksdale, Mississippi for some Delta blues and an overnight or two at the Shack Up Inn.

    I hope you find this helpful and best wishes for a safe and enjoyable trip!


  8. Default

    Mark ... thank you for that.Yes just one trip.
    Mass Tim ... yep got my directions totally round the wrong way. Only excuse I can offer is I'm from "down under".
    Foy ... Wow! Thank you for such a comprehensive and informative reply. So good that I have printed it out and will have it with us.
    I'll try to remember to drop the "the" when talking about highways. don't want people thinking I've got two heads.Although when I open my mouth they're going to think something is different.
    I've decided to skip the high altitude areas as quite frankly driving in snow scares the s%*t out of me. Driving on the "wrong" side of the road will be challenge enough.
    I have decided to go east from Washington to Annapolis (as suggested by AZBuck) then down the Peninsular to Jamestown. We will then take I-58 across to I-81.Google maps indicates that it will take almost 6 hours for this drive from Washington to Jamestown. Do you agree? They probably take into account traffic conditions. I have no concept of the traffic or road conditions we will encounter.
    Thanks again for your wonderful reply I'm sure I'll have more questions as I get into the more detailed plans.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    If you go from DC to Jamestown via Annapolis and the Eastern Shore, yes, that's going to take you 6 hours. However, you can make it in less than 3 hours going via a direct route.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default ... and maps.

    Quote Originally Posted by graffitisurf View Post
    . So good that I have printed it out and will have it with us.
    What you also need with you, Phil, are good maps. Don't be tempted to rely on a satnav.

    You don't say where in Oz you are, but if you are a member of your local automobile club - RACV, NRMA, etc. - make sure you take your membership card with you. This will give you access to free maps and tourist information from AAA. Go see the nearest office in NYC or Newark, and get maps of all the States through which you will be travelling. It is also a good idea to get detailed maps of the major urban centres you will be visiting, or passing through.


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