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Sunday, August 25, 2019

Taking It to the Road

It’s the height of road travel season, and we bring you three of our favorite trips, along with tips for planning!

You’ve been meaning to take that trip, but things keep getting in the way. The garden needs attention, your porch is crying out for some fresh paint and your list of “little” jobs to do around the house is longer than the one for groceries. And here you thought retirement meant free time to do what you wanted! Well, the doctor says you need to hit the road.

“Travel serves many purposes,” according to Gregory Jantz, Ph.D. and a mental health expert in Edmonds, Washington. “Any time we change our environment, we have the potential to change our perspective. And when you change your perspective, you may find pleasure in things that maybe you didn’t know you’d enjoy.”

So make sure the oil’s been changed recently and load up the car or RV for a road trip this summer, doctor’s orders! Now, where to go? How about one of these three classic trips to put a new spin on your perspective?

Trip 1: Pacific Coast Highway

With more than 650 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline, California State Route 1 is perhaps the premier beach route in all of North America. Jaw-dropping vistas await you from Mendocino County in the north, to the road’s southern terminus in Orange County. You’ll travel through the famous seaside town of Carmel, and wine country is only a short side trip away.

Your first stop has to be Fort Bragg Beach, which has the distinction of being made of glass. Literally. After being used as a dump and suffering years of neglect, the beach was completely cleaned up and reopened. The only reminder of its past is the sea glass sand, made from bottles and jars smashed up and pounded smooth by the waves.

Next, visit Point Reyes National Seashore. Sitting just north of San Francisco, more than 7,000 protected acres of rocky sand and seagrass hills await. Head to the lighthouse or take a dip in the waves, which may hold the region’s colony of elephant seals.

Ah, San Francisco! You’ll travel the Golden Gate Bridge by car along your route, but stop and rent a bicycle to take you back over, meandering along the ocean until you catch a ferry back. Take a trolley to Fisherman’s Wharf and gobble up some heavenly fresh sourdough bread while you watch the sea lions cavort. Or take a trip to Alcatraz, the notorious former island prison in the bay. For a fun twist, rent a three-wheeled motorcycle with audible guided tour included and hit some iconic spots that are a little less-known.

Next, you may want to plan a stop at Moss Beach Distillery. Fans of Unsolved Mysteries will be on the hunt for its Prohibition-days ghost, the Blue Lady, who is said to haunt the building. But all can appreciate its stunning location on a cliff overlooking a scenic, secluded beach — one of hundreds along your route.

You’ll know you’ve arrived in Big Sur when you spot the open-spandrel arch bridge that has been featured in a host of commercials and TV shows. The view from the Bixby Bridge is indeed stunning, and if it makes you a tad peckish, there are a bevy of seriously good eateries in town to satisfy your appetite.

You may normally turn up your nose at a group tour, but it would be a tragic mistake to miss Hearst Castle. The home of newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst, the adjoining cottages hosted dozens of starlets and other famous icons of the day who socialized at meals served in the main house, which is a fantastic museum on its own. By all means, wander down to the tile-enclosed Roman pool where Howard Hughes, Joan Crawford and Charlie Chaplin stroked the water. And guess what?! Join The Foundation at Hearst Castle for a mere $950 minimum, and you can be one of the first to enjoy one of five pool nights this summer … the first time the pool has been open to the public.

It’s not over yet! Spend your next-to-last day at historic Santa Monica Pier. Ride a carousel pony, check out the aquarium, or walk the beach while engaging in some people-watching. Tomorrow, you’ll take the last leg of the highway to Capistrano Beach. Stop by the mission in San Juan Capistrano, and get a ridiculously touristy souvenir at the Trading Post. Opened in 1947, it’s been around longer than most of us!

Apps for Travelers

Embrace technology with applications that enhance your travel experience. The Furkot road trip planner can help you find great places to go and even book your stays all across the U.S. and around the world. It can calculate driving time, plan a route and suggest overnight stops. You can also play around with the itinerary you create and make last-minute changes. But wait, there’s more! Furkot can schedule motorcycle rides, biking holidays and walking tours as well.

Roadtrippers is another service that helps map your route and find the best places to visit and stay. You can even access Roadtrippers Magazine on the homepage to get ideas for trips you’d like to take. A quick look at recent issues reveals where to find a luminescent super bloom, a look at the world’s first open-air augmented reality planetarium and where to ski on the Fourth of July.

Trip 2: The Badlands

That’s right, scenic South Dakota. If you’re raising an eyebrow at this rural Midwestern destination, you just don’t know what you’re missing. The nation’s rolling prairies have their own stark beauty as you drive twisting roads through this remote corner of the Mount Rushmore State, home to the Black Hills.

From Rapid City, it’s an hour over to Wall, home to Wall Drug. If souvenirs aren’t your thing, check out the giant animated T-Rex. Then hit the Western Art Gallery restaurant for some homemade doughnuts, a hot bison burger and a five-cent cup of Joe to fuel your next leg. Admission is free, and so is ice water, which is an irresistible draw in mid-August.

Stay on Highway 240 south to Badlands National Park and the Badlands Loop Scenic Byway. You’ll see some of the most gorgeous canyon lands in the country, and they’re far from empty. Keep an eye out for bison, pronghorn antelope, deer, prairie dogs, hawks and eagles as you motor through. Spots marked “scenic overlook” are not to be missed in this uncrowded jewel of a park. Catch the evening program at 9 p.m., when grandkids can meet Smokey the Bear, gaze at stars and learn how the park was formed.

Take a turn down I-90 to Highway 79 and you’ll hit Sturgis, famed for the annual gathering of motorcyclists (some behaving badly). Then move on to Bear Butte State Park, perhaps for some hiking on ground sacred to Native Americans — it’s like going to church outdoors.

Only half an hour in the other direction you’ll hit Deadwood, a total time warp. The town is a trip 200 years back to the Old West. Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane called the town home, and both are buried in the Mt. Moriah Cemetery there.

Next, travel down Highway 385, turn onto Highway 16, and follow the signs to Mount Rushmore National Memorial. You’ll see presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln painstakingly carved into the side of the mountain. Boardwalk trails lead to the base of the mountain for a closer look at these bigger-than-life heroes in American history. You can even taste Thomas Jefferson’s ice cream recipe at local Carver’s Cafe.

Take Iron Mountain Road as you leave, a winding, scenic route with one-lane tunnels and gorgeous mountains views. You’re headed to Custer State Park, and on the way you may see bison roaming freely in the prairies. Stay at State Game Lodge, just like Calvin Coolidge did in 1927. Sign up for a Buffalo Safari Jeep Tour for an off-road adventure into the native lands.

Trip 3: Blue Ridge Parkway, Plateau Region

This four-day trip covers a long weekend, or stretch your journey by covering more of the Parkway if you have the time. Use the Interactive Parkway Map to plan your trip. It not only shows you the route, but can identify lodging, food, local art galleries, breweries and more. Your usual navigation apps (Waze, Google Maps) won’t reliably guide you on this federally-maintained scenic byway because it isn’t fully mapped in those systems, and cell coverage is iffy. So write down your route, and bring along a print copy of the Blue Ridge Parkway Directory and Travel Planner.

Let’s get started! We begin in Asheville, North Carolina, home of the Biltmore Hotel. From there, we travel to a charming overnight destination in Virginia, the Grassy Creek Cabooses. Traveling through the plateau region offers vista after vista of stunning mountains and valleys on a paved ribbon of road where you’ll average about 40 mph. Shaded rhododendron and mountain laurel hug the ground under a canopy of deciduous trees, interspersed with clearings. This area of the country is still largely rural and unspoiled.

At the Grassy Creek Cabooses, historic cabooses from old trains are sprinkled about an enormous meadow, offering seclusion and comfort. You can hop in the Jacuzzi tub in your private bathroom or grill up dinner while taking in one of the renowned sunsets over the mountains as the bird chatter dies down for the night.

The next morning on your way to Floyd, be sure to stop off at the historic Mabry Mill, made for photographs. Nearby, Puckett Cabin and the Blue Ridge Music Center are also worthy of a stop. You’ll find stunning overlooks in between. In the town of Floyd, you’ll return to Wi-Fi service, but don’t waste a lot of time on email. Instead, check out the exhibit at the local Floyd Center for the Arts, a boon for the local crafting community. The town itself is highly walkable and boasts delicious craft beer, galleries with handcrafted furniture, the Cocoa Mia homemade chocolate emporium and a huge vintage store with floors full of antiques and goods to bring cheer to the heart of upcyclers. Check in at the Hotel Floyd before setting out to Villa Appalaccia, where you’ll find a winery and excellent dining options.

Head back south along the Parkway toward the last stop of your trip at Primland Resort in Dan, Virginia. This 11,000 acre luxury retreat grows food for the restaurant at its onsite garden. Choose a vegan dinner, or plan to track your own game entree with a guided hunting trip earlier in the day. Quaff a moonshine cocktail, or choose a locally produced wine or beer. The sustainable resort has its own observatory where you can view the moons of Jupiter, or take a plunge in the chlorine-free pool after a long hike about the grounds. Enjoy, because tomorrow you are headed back to civilization!


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

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