Monday, January 4, 2016

New Year...Road Trip!

Planes are great, and I love them.  They fly high and give you that one of a kind view of the world.  They get you where you're going fast.  It's the way of the modern era to get there fast, see what you went to see, do what you went to do, and get out.  Adrenaline junkies are climbing Everest, the luxury crowd is in the Maldives, the gamblers still flock to Monte Carlo, and everyone loves to take a cruise.  Seriously people, do you wanna get away?  Don't call Southwest.  Get behind the wheel and drive.

I hadn't taken a road trip in a while, and I have to say that for all the traffic at the borders, and all the strange things we saw along the way; it was so worth it.  My road trip went from my home in Connecticut to Niagara Falls, across southern Ontario to Michigan, through Frankenmuth and Ann Arbor and Hell and Saugatuck, across northern Indiana and Ohio to Cleveland, through the Poconos and back home.  Great trip.  It was a convenient route for me and we saw many amazing places and things along the way.  I love road trips because of the scenery.  I love the view from a plane, but it's all the same.  If you've seen one sky view, you've seen most of them.  So, in this time of get there fast and rush, rush, rush; I urge you to take a walk on the scenic side and take a road trip.  Here's a few roads well worth traveling.  They come in no particular order.  I just like the idea of all of them.

1.  Route 66 is one of the most famous roads in America.  It's a nostalgia trip for a lot of folks and this shot of the road as it travels the southwest is one of the most common photos of the road.  Route 66 goes from Chicago to California across the southwestern states, and is disconnected in some areas.  You can find a map of the actual Route 66 pretty much anywhere on the web or from your AAA local office.

Along Route 66 you will find a lot of 1950's style stops.  It gives a real old time feel to your travels.  It's so easy to take I-40 across the area.  It's a wonderful change to take the time to embrace the ways of old and take the time to enjoy the amazing scenery and lifestyle that exists along Route 66 and if you work your imagination a little, you can visualize some of the movie "Cars" as well.

2.  Route 50 is the old time nostalgia road that you probably don't know about.  Route 66 has been romanticized and immortalized a thousand times over, but it's Route 50 that actually runs from coast to coast across America.  It starts in Ocean City Maryland and ends on the Pacific coast close to the Redwood National Forest.  It's over 3,000 miles long and runs right across the midsection of the country so you get to see the great plains of Kansas and the Rocky Mountains of Colorado on your way.

Route 50 is known as the loneliest road in America, but that just means less traffic.  The scenery is stunning and the variety of sights to see is amazing.  You get to cross the Mississippi at St. Louis just like Route 66, but you also get that scenic trip through Utah and Nevada that the other road is missing.  Let me tell you, there's a lot to see along this road, and it's so worth the trip.  It's the only road that completely crosses the country and goes through three of the major mountain ranges on it's way.

3.  The Great Ocean Road might give you good reason to take a plane since it's in Australia's Victoria Province.  This road is for you ocean loving peoples.  It runs from Geelong to Portland along 250 miles of coastline.  It winds and climbs up and down cliffs and has a ton of things to see and do along the way.  Southern Australia is a gorgeous place to spend some time with the top down and the wind blowing your hair.

The twelve apostles are one of the more famous attractions along the road, but it is also home to some of the best surfing in the world.  You can visit Otway National park and take a walk through the trees or to view their amazing waterfalls.  You can take a trip out to watch whales or go ziplining along the way.  As with all great roads, take the time to take pictures.  If you love photography, there is nothing like a really great road.

4.  The Amalfi Coast Road is a little more dramatic than even the Great Coast Road.  If you like a little height and cliffs full of hairpin turns, then this is the coast road for you.  This road runs from Sorrento to Salerno along the coast of Italy.  The coast of the Mediterranean Sea is one of the best drives in the world by any stretch of the imagination and the rich and famous would agree, because they tend to hang out there.  But, it's the stretch of road that runs from Sorrento City to Amalfi Village that is the most dramatic.  It's only 30 miles of road, but the hairpin turns and the fact that the road hangs right off the edge of enormous cliffs the entire way that makes it amazing.

There are little to no guardrails along the way, so that the view is not impeded, so be careful.  And do take your time.  There are a bunch of great places to stop along the way.  The villages hang right off the cliffs and it's a lot of fun to stop and get something to eat or spend a night.  It's a great culture trip as well as an amazing drive.

5.  The Atlantic Coast Road is only 5 miles long, but what a 5 mile stretch of road.  Running from Molde to Kristiansund in Norway, it is one of the most dramatic drives in the world.  I'm not joking.  Look around.  It makes everybody's top 10 list.  You can traverse the entire coast of Norway by driving and taking ferries, but this section is truly amazing from the scenery to the idea that it was even built.

The road crosses several islands of an archipelago with 8 bridges and a bunch of landfill areas.  It connects to some very interesting little islands where you can visit the locals and learn about their culture.  The road was basically built to encourage tourism in 1989, but one thing is for sure; if you like a view of the ocean, you won't be disappointed.  On this road you pass some of the highest cliffs in Europe and the area is the mouth of one of the biggest fjords in the world.

6.  Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road is one of those things that you just have to see.  Unlike the coastal scenic roads, this baby runs right up a mountain in the middle of the desert in the United Arab Emirates.  The only real goal is to drive the road and see the view from the top, because the only thing up there is a palace belonging to one of the locals and a parking lot.  Once again, the road is not long at 7.3 miles, but it does have 60 sharp turns on it and climbs in elevation some 4,000 feet during the ascent.  There are parts of the road that have an %8 grade climb as well.

This is one of those things that you just need to do.  It belongs in the category of we did it because we could, and sometimes that makes for the perfect reasone to take part.  The UAE is one of those amazing places in the world that's a haven against all the terrorism around it, and it's got more billionaires than anywhere else in the world.  While you're visiting you can ski inside and visit the world's tallest building.  You can stay on man made islands and play on giant Jeeps.  This drive is just one more amazing thing about visiting the United Arab Emirates.

7. The Oberlap Pass of Switzerland is only one of the many Alpine Passes that the country is famous for.  In Switzerland you can always take a train if you don't wish to do the driving.  They go absolutely everywhere, even over the high mountain passes.  The road through the Oberlap Pass goes about 20 miles through hairpin turns, tunnels, and over many bridges from Disentis to Andermatt.  It's not for the feint of heart at about 6,000 feet up, but then again, I can tell you that driving in Switzerland is not for the feint of heart.  There are little to no guardrails and the belief is that you should be paying attention.

One thing that I can say is that there is no more beautiful scenery than in Switzerland.  The Alps are something that are not only amazing in size but they have a certain romance about them.  This is just one of many great drives in Switzerland.

8.  Selvio Pass, Italy is also an Alpine wonder and is one of the highest of all mountain passes in the Alps.  It runs from Selvio to Bormio right along the Swiss border by St. Moritz.  It's 26 miles long and runs an elevation over 9,000 feet.  It is one of the more famous pass roads in the Alps and you may have seen it on Top Gear or in the James Bond movie "Goldfinger."

This is one of those roads that you don't want to take without a little practice.  There are many mountain pass roads in the Alps that you can practice on.  This one, like most is closed some of the year.  But, for the skiing enthusiasts the summer is good.  There are many places in the area that have skiing all year round.  Also, St. Moritz is one of the places that claims to have created Alpine Skiing in the first place, so it's a great stop along the way.

9. The Transfagarasan Highway of Romania is known commonly as Ceausescu's Folly.  It runs 55 miles through the Carpathian Mountains between the regions of Transylvania and Wallachia.  It has an interesting history.  It was built by Nicolae Ceausescu to thwart what he believed was an impending invasion by the Soviet Union shortly after they invaded Czechoslovakia.  We all came to realize that Ceausescu was a little nuts and that eventually led to his demise when his own people overthrew and killed him, but the road lives on and is one of the most amazing roads in the world.

This road also was featured on Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson called it the greatest road in the world.  Was it necessary?  No, but it's a great drive in a fascinating country.  Sometimes history is all you need to make it a great trip.

But, what makes great road trip?  The scenery does it for me.  I love the open road, and I love to take a good road trip.  So, as much as I would love to take some of those roads, they just don't seem long enough for me.  What's the solution to that you ask?

10.  Route 40 in South America.  This road runs over 3,000 miles along the Andes running the length of Argentina.  It's not all paved even though the government thought that it would be done by now.  You may have to take Jerican or two to use along the way, but it will not disappoint.  There are amazing little villages and high mountain passes.  It's the kind of adventure that you can only have in South America.

Route 40 will take two to three weeks to drive.  Take the time, slow down, and enjoy the scenery.  Meet some people, learn about a culture, and do some ziplining.  There are so many things to see and do along this road that you will be surprised.  There are several national parks along the way.  There are glaciers to see in Patagonia.  It's one amazing adventure, and after all this is Adventures for Anyone.

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