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Archive for road travel

Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters

By Linda Tancs

This year marks Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters. There’s so much to see, loch to loch and everything in between. If you’d like to experience the most in one touring route, then consider the North Coast 500, an epic, 516-mile scenic route around the north coast of Scotland. Starting and ending at Inverness Castle, it’s the nation’s version of U.S. Route 66. Pursue the trek counterclockwise, traveling the east coast and then venturing into the northwest to Applecross, followed by Torridon and Ullapool. From there you’ll see some of the most northerly points, like Caithness and its village, John o’Groats. But don’t stop there. The northernmost point of the mainland is Dunnet Head, a few miles further west.

The Jersey Coast Trail

By Linda Tancs

New Jersey’s Coastal Heritage Trail is a vehicular route stretching nearly 300 miles along the state’s shore and bays. It’s divided into five regions: Sandy Hook, Barnegat Bay, Absecon, Cape May and Delsea. Of equal interest to hikers and bicyclists, the trail passes national wildlife refuges, lighthouses, a Civil War fort, migratory bird settlements and several other places including, of course, the Jersey Shore.

America’s National Road

By Linda Tancs

Authorized by Congress in 1806, the National Road was the first highway built entirely with federal funds. It linked the eastern and western states in the first half of the 19th century, running from Cumberland, Maryland, to Vandalia, Illinois. Known in many places as Route 40, its charm lies in the many historic stone bridges along its path and the quaint, untouched towns and villages that called the road “Main Street.” In fact, the road earned the nickname “the Main Street of America.” Of the many inns dotting the route, Mount Washington Tavern (adjoining Fort Necessity Battlefield) in Pennsylvania is an example of a typical stagecoach stop for early travelers on the National Road. Unlike those early settlers, if you drive straight through without stopping, you should be able to complete the route in about 13 hours.

A Cliffhanger in China

By Linda Tancs

Nestled in the cliffs of the Taihang Mountains, the Chinese village of Guo Liang Cun would be cut off from the rest of the world were it not for Guoliang Tunnel. One of the world’s steepest and most dangerous roads, it was chiseled into the side of the mountain by local villagers without aid of electric equipment or large machinery. Needless to say, it took years to complete back in the 70s. Enjoy the thrill ride in Henan Province, with more than 30 “windows” providing spectacular vistas.

The Great North Road

By Linda Tancs

You might think of the U.K.’s Great North Road as the nation’s version of iconic Route 66 in the United States—only with a lot more history attached. It was the only way of traveling the 409 miles between London and Edinburgh for centuries until it was subsumed into the A1 (the longest numbered road in Britain) and other motorways of today. In prehistoric times it comprised part of the network of Roman roads: Ermine Street led from London to York, and Dere Street from York to Edinburgh. The ancient route is lined today with rusting mile markers; its cultural significance is marked by literary giants like Charles Dickens, a frequent traveler who gave it a nod in The Pickwick Papers. There’s even an old street sign inside the rock at Gibraltar where a vehicle tunnel was dug.

America’s Best Bike Tour

By Linda Tancs

Ernest Hemingway said, “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” So what could be better than a nearly level bike path along 150 scenic miles? That’s what you get on the Great Allegheny Passage (the GAP), a holy grail for bicyclists. Winding its way between Cumberland, Maryland, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the trail comprises a series of retired rail corridors—the longest rail trail east of the Mississippi. Aided by interpretive signage, the path crosses the Cumberland Narrows, the Mason-Dixon Line and the Eastern Continental Divide and is dotted with a chain of cyclist-friendly trail towns.

Rainbows in the Valley

By Linda Tancs

Washington State’s Skagit Valley is prized for its mountain and river views, but at this special time of year it’s the rainbow-colored pastures brimming with tulips that draw crowds from every state and almost 100 countries. The perennial, bulbous plant is celebrated month-long in April at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. You will need a map of the tulip field area to help you navigate as the fields’ locations change every year due to crop rotation. Designed as a driving tour, the tulips are generally grown in a 15-mile triangle bordered by Highway 20, the Skagit River and the Swinomish Channel.

A MINI Tour of Jamaica

By Linda Tancs

There’s nothing miniature about the new MINI tour routes being offered in Jamaica. Led by a tour guide, you can drive yourself around in an island-inspired MINI on a six-hour tour from Montego Bay to either Ocho Rios or Negril. Along the way you’ll see, touch and taste the best of the island, eating local grub and taking in the ecological wonders and famous landmarks. You’ll be given a short driving orientation to keep you on track.

A Glacial Feast

By Linda Tancs

The largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, protects 4,200 square miles of glaciers, geothermal springs and lakes representing mostly untouched alpine wilderness. The park’s tiny hamlet of Jasper is connected to Lake Louise in nearby Banff National Park by the Icefields Parkway, a 140-mile-long stretch that parallels the Continental Divide. Considered one of the most scenic roads in the world, the parkway includes along its route the Athabasca Glacier (part of the Columbia Icefield), the most visited glacier on the North American continent. Its ice is in continuous motion, spilling from the icefield (a surviving remnant of the thick ice mass that once covered most of western Canada’s mountains) over three giant bedrock steps. The Discovery Centre (a visitor’s center opposite the icefield) is open seasonally between May and October.

Racing in New York

By Linda Tancs

The history of automobile racing in New York State goes back to 1896 when six cars competed in the state’s first auto race, covering the distance round-trip between New York City and Irvington-on-Hudson. The sport’s vast history in the state (and elsewhere) is recalled at Saratoga Automobile Museum in the heart of historic Saratoga Springs, New York. The facility is equally as interesting as the exhibition of automobiles and automotive artifacts—it occupies the restored and renovated Saratoga Bottling Plant, a beautiful neo-classic structure built in 1934. The museum is prized for its public programs designed for both car enthusiasts and lifelong learners, including children’s programming featuring hands-on restoration projects.

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