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  1. Default Road Trip around South Eastern States


    We are a retired British couple, and we are starting to think about a road trip around some of the South Eastern States, probably April / May 2019. We drove Route 66 last year, in reverse from Santa Monica to Chicago, and although there is a mass of information online for planning a trip along the Mother Road, and we spent a lot of time doing it, we still learnt a few things en-route. In particular, we should have researched weather more as we had fun out running tornadoes and some pretty violent rain/hail storms, plus some of the best small towns to visit hardly received a mention in the many guides.

    Our current thinking is that we will probably fly into, and out of, Atlanta GA, then take in Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, although we may just cut through the edges of some States depending on how much time we have. We have no particular preference about going clockwise, or anti-clockwise, around that loop. Other than New Orleans, we intend avoiding big cities, and will only drive along Interstates if there is no realistic alternative, and we plan on spending about a month on the road. Our aim is to travel in a medium size SUV, through smaller and more interesting towns and communities, staying in decent quality motels.

    Before we get down to some detailed planning, we have some questions you may be able to help with:

    a. Is a trip of that length viable in a month?
    b. Are April / May good months to make the trip? We don't mind a bit of bad weather, but not day after day of it!
    c. Are there any "must see" places that we should take in?
    d. Are there any areas that we must avoid e.g. places where it is not safe to be?
    e. Is there anything else you think we need to know about?

    Many thanks

    Dave & Pauline
    Last edited by DWDG; 06-13-2018 at 11:18 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Starting Early I See

    Welcome aboard RoadTrip America!

    I applaud your willingness and desire to plan in advance so as to be able to make the most of your trip. I'll just start by answering your specific (generalized) questions, and then we'll get down to more specific topics as your planning progresses....

    a) I would think that a month would let you see quite a bit of the southeast, not everything but certainly the top couple of dozen sites that the two of you decide on.

    b) Unfortunately, March through May is the height of tornado season in the American Southeast, but they do occur in summer months as well. So you'll just have to keep checking with local and NWS weather reports. Keep in mind that a tornado watch means that conditions are right for the formation of tornadoes, but a tornado warning means that an active tornado has actually been observed, either visually or by radar. Note that the 'right' conditions for tornadoes are heat and humidity, so plan to dress in light-weight, light-colored clothes for most of your trip. The Appalachians will of course be cooler.

    c) We don't really like the phrase "must see" here at RTA because by their very nature RoadTrips are personal experiences and there simply is no generic, one-size-fits-all, list of places everyone should see.

    d) By the same token as (c) we don't like to write off anywhere that might interest you. Your best bet on staying safe is to use the same personal warning system you've developed over your lifetime and use at home. If a place fees or looks dodgy and you're uncomfortable, move on. There will be plenty of other, better places on such an extended trip as the one you're planning, so there's no need to take chances.

    e) Well sure there is. I'm just not sure what. You haven't really told us what interests you other than exploring a fairly large segment of the US and wanting to take non-motorways and see small towns, both of which are in abundance on the southeast. If you could give us a bit more info on where your tastes lie, we could try to offer some specific venues that we've enjoyed or know about, but so far my list of places I could recommend would run to several pages. Our history is not nearly as ancient as your own, but the history of European settlement of the southeast did get started in the mid-1600s or so, and the area was heavily involved in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. There was also considerable WWII activity with regards to ship building (particularly landing craft used on D-Day and Liberty Ships used in convoys) and I'm pretty sure there's a major WWII museum somewhere on the Gulf Coast because of this.

    More generally, you should plan on buying a national parks annual pass at the first park or monument you come to that charges a fee. This will get you into all the parks in the system and pays for itself on about the third or fourth visit. The biggest national park on your route would be Great Smoky Mountains (highly recommended) but there will also be a number of parks at major battlefields and national seashores. The clock on the 'annual' pass starts ticking when you buy the pass, so there's no point in getting it early. I did something a little bit similar a number of years back and you can read the relevant portions of my Trip Report to get a flavor for what's available and places that I found interesting, but again - your interests may be different!


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    The biggest national park on your route would be Great Smoky Mountains
    This particular park does not charge an admission fee.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Quite a few of the battlefields don't charge admission fees any more either. Gettysburg, for instance (though it's not in the "southeast") only has a visitor center charge plus a movie fee. Vicksburg MS Battlefield DOES charge, but Shiloh TN Battlefield, and its sister park Corinth, does not. So at best, it's hit and miss.


  5. Default

    Thank you for some really comprehensive answers everyone. I probably need to expand a little on my original post. Basically, we are history buffs and, although British history is much older, a lot of US history is more recent and in some ways easier to relate to as so much of it has appeared in films etc,and being able to go to places that we feel that we already "know" is a real bonus. For example, when we visited the Alamo a few years ago we knew the story before we got there, and everything just fell into place.

    I appreciate the comment about "must see" but to put that into perspective, if a visitor from the US came to England, to Yorkshire where we live, all the guide books would say that you must visit York and Harrogate, but would probably not particularly mention, if mention at all, places like Pontefract Castle, the Peace Hall in Halifax or Saltaire in Bradford, but anyone with local knowledge would encourage you to go to all of these iconic places from different periods in our history. When we get to Virginia, as an example, we know about Williamsburg and Yorktown etc, but are there gems, that don't get much of a mention in the guide books for whatever reason, that we will pass by on the road because we don't know they are there? I hope that makes sense!

    Regarding the security aspect, you are right in what you say, and we will just keep moving if we feel unsafe anywhere. However, when we travelled Route 66 we were advised about two areas, albeit it in cities, where we really should not stop, plus two of the "attractions" where we would run into unpleasant people. It is specifics like those that someone may be able to advise us about.

    National Parks and Battlefields - great advice. Thank You. We have a small book about Battlefield Road Trips, with details of lots of short trips to some of the major battlefields, and we will be incorporating some of those small trips into our long one. We had not thought about getting a pass at the first place, so that's a great tip.

    We really appreciate all this good advice, so thank you all again. Apologies for the delay in replying but we are in Cyprus at the moment, which is even further away from the US than the UK, so we have more than a few Time Zones between us!

    Dave & Pauline

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default A Skeleton of a Plan

    I had a friend in grad school who 'collected' Civil War battlefields. On one RoadTrip we took together through this area he knew about more little out-of-the-way sites than you could shake a stick at and I found it fascinating. Similarly, on a trip my wife and I took last year, we hit a number of smaller sites that I was interested in because my great-great-grandfather had participated in the battles. The common thread to both trips was knowledge of the overall campaign(s) that the individual battles/skirmishes were a part of. So that would be my first bit of advice: Read up on the major campaigns of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars so that you can put the individual sites in context.

    For the Revolutionary War, that would mean the efforts by American General Morgan against British forces under Sir Banastre Tarleton to push the British out of the Carolinas and back north towards the main American (Colonial) forces under George Washington. Major battles of this campaign include King's Mountain and Cowpens but there are others. Yorktown is where everything finally came together for the Americans and was the conclusion of the fighting.

    There was also our other war with you blokes, the War of 1812. A major battle of this conflict actually took place outside New Orleans after the peace treaty had been signed.

    For the Civil War, look into two major thrusts: 1) The efforts by U. S. Grant and others to capture the Mississippi River. Major battles include the sieges of Forts Henry and Donaldson as well as Vicksburg and Memphis. 2) the march by the Armies of the Cumberland and Ohio, mostly under General Sherman, down through Kentucky and Tennessee to Atlanta, the sea, and then north through the Carolinas and Virginia.

    On another note, while you're in the Williamsburg/Yorktown area be sure to visit the third location that makes up Virginia's 'Historic Triangle', Jamestown. This is the site of the first successful English settlement in America and is as close to a 'must see' for our UK visitors as there can be.


  7. Default

    Thanks very much AZBuck. Looks like we have some reading to do!


    PS If any of you Moderators know how to take the extra "around" out of the title of the thread, please do. I think my one finger typing got a bit of a speed wobble going when I first started!
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 06-15-2018 at 12:24 AM. Reason: 'Speed wobble' sorted.

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