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Drives

Monday, September 21, 2015

Favorite Fall Drives, Route 100, Vermont

Mid-September to mid-October, when the summer crowds are gone and the snow has yet to drop, is my favorite time of year to cruise around America. This week, I’m going to delve into some of those blessed routes. First up, a fall foliage drive on Route 100 in Vermont. 
 
Don’t believe the Vermont fall foliage hype? All it takes is one drive on Route 100 from Killington to Stowe to understand the allure. Traveling along the ridgeline of the 4,000-foot Green Mountains radiating with its verdant robe of multi-hued maples, you can’t help but sing its praises. Be sure to stop in the farming community of Rochester for the requisite “cows and meadow” photo and the historic village of Stowe to find one of the numerous freshly painted white steeples. Along the route, you’ll want to visit the Cold Hollow Cider Mill for your jug of cider, out-of-the-oven doughnuts, and genuine maple syrup. Nearby is the Ben & Jerry’s factory, where you can take a tour, sample the wares, and find out how the duo started their celebrated business. Spend the night at the Stowe Mountain Lodge, at the base of Vermont’s tallest peak, Mount Mansfield, and you’ll have the opportunity to take in the fall foliage while playing a round of golf
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/21/15 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, May 07, 2015

Drive the Sea-to-Sky Highway…in Your Own Lamborghini

The drive to Whistler from Vancouver is on one of the most breathtaking stretches of roadway in North America, the Sea-to-Sky Highway. The drive heads north away from the ocean high into old-growth forest. Just outside Squamish, you can see rock climbers scurry up the cliffs and spot the white dome atop 8,787-foot Mount Garibaldi. Then you pass two impressive waterfalls, Shannon and Brandywine, before making a final ascent to the lofty peaks of Whistler. I always love taking this route on the open-air compartment of the Rocky Mountaineer’s “Whistler Sea-to-Sky Climb.” But next time I might have to take the train down after first driving to Whistler in a Lamborghini. Scenic Rush, a Vancouver-based tour company that started in 2014, offers four exotic driving experiences ranging in price from $495 to $1,295 CAD per person. The 3.5-hour Sea to Sky Experience also includes the opportunity to take the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish or a helicopter tour above the alpine peaks of the Coast Mountain Range. Be sure to spend a night or two in Whistler to try the longest zipline in North America, take the spectacular Peak 2 Peak Gondola over a 2.5-mile span from Whistler to Blackcomb, and try the summer bobsled.  
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/07/15 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Where the Farmland Meets the Sea

Sandwiched between the far better known travel destinations of Newport and Cape Cod is a little slice of heaven reserved for New Englanders in the know. Head an hour southeast of Boston past the gritty ports of New Bedford and Fall River and you’ll reach a sylvan stretch of Massachusetts and Rhode Island where farmland rolls to the ocean and long inlets are bordered by historic towns settled as far back as 1616. This drive (or bike ride) on backcountry roads is only 38 miles, but you’ll want to give yourself a day to explore. 

 
Start in the former whaling port of Padanaram, a picturesque village in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Design stores for summer cottage owners and casual seafood restaurants have replaced the shipbuilders that once lined the harbor of the Apponagansett River. Details & Design (332 Elm Street) features driftwood planters, women’s sundresses, and “Padanaram” pillows, complete with longitude and latitude. Down the block, Flora Home (324 Elm Street) offers outdoor patio furniture and pitchers and glassware, ideally suited for serving lemonade on a porch. 
 
To read about the entire route, please check out my latest story for Yankee Magazine
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/29/14 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, March 14, 2014

Top 5 Favorite Spring Drives, Washington D.C. to Shenandoah National Park

There’s no need to be caught in summer traffic on the 105-mile-long Skyline Drive when you can have the mesmerizing Shenandoah National Park roadway to yourself in the shoulder season. After the 2-hour drive from DC, drop your bags off at the Skyland Resort, the premier Shenandoah lodge originally open in 1888. Perfectly perched at the 3,680-foot apogee of Skyline Drive, you have exquisite vistas of Shenandoah Valley. The famous Skyline Drive twists and turns atop the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains, offering numerous opportunities to stop and take pictures or go on a walk. At Mile 42.6 is one of Shenandoah’s signature trails, White Oak Canyon. The five-mile trail snakes through towering hemlocks into a deep and narrow gorge that’s home to six waterfalls. More than half of the plant species in Shenandoah are wildflowers, so be on the lookout for the bluets, pink azaleas, and the fragrant white flowers of the mountain laurel. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/14/14 at 10:00 AM
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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Top 5 Favorite Spring Drives, Austin to Texas Hill Country

An hour west of Austin lies the Balcones Escarpment, a long geologic fault zone that divides Texas in half. Balcones is Spanish for “balconies,” an apt way to describe how the Texas Hill Country suddenly thrusts up from the gently rolling prairie to create limestone canyons. On lonely backcountry roads, you’ll be driving under tall cypress trees past large cattle ranches and fields of bluebonnets that are in bloom come April. Take US 290 west from Austin to Johnson City’s Wildflower Loop. Then be sure to tour the nearby LBJ Ranch in Stonewall, stop for bratwurst and a pint of Shiner Bock in the German settlement of Fredericksburg, go for a stroll on the pebble-strewn paths of the 5400-acre Hill Country State Natural Area, and listen to the next Willie Nelson at the legendary country music hamlet of Luckenbach. The homey Hoffman Haus B&B in Fredericksburg is a good place to rest your legs after a day of touring the region. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/13/14 at 10:00 AM
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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Top 5 Favorite Spring Drives, Avila Beach to Monterey, California

Highway 1 on the mid-Californian coast is the road you see in car ads, a stunning stretch of road that deserves to be driven in a red convertible. The climax is the route through Big Sur, where the stomach-dropping turns edge the bluffs as you gape in awe at the wide clean beaches and cliffs that drop precipitously to the frothing ocean. Spend the first night at the sleepy hamlet of Avila Beach, staying at a room overlooking the water at Avila Lighthouse Suites. The next morning, drive north to tour Hearst Castle and see the dreamy blue-tiled indoor pool, inlaid with 22-karat gold. No wonder Cary Grant visited the estate more than 40 times. Four miles north of Hearst Castle, a must-stop is the beach of Piedres Blancas to watch hundreds of large elephant seals lounging, grunting, wrestling, and diving into the Pacific. Continuing north, the mountains of Los Padres National Forest rise above the Pacific and the road becomes a mix of ups, downs, and hairpin turns. A quarter-mile walk at Pfeiffer Burns State Park leads you to the waterfalls and wildflowers of this rugged paradise. For lunch, stop at Nepenthe to dine on nachos while overlooking the stunning surroundings. Finish the drive in Monterey, to visit one of the America’s most innovative aquariums, bike along the waterfront past seals, and dine at seafood restaurants on the street John Steinbeck coined Cannery Row.  

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/12/14 at 10:00 AM
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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Top 5 Favorite Spring Drives, Clarksdale to Natchez, Mississippi

The amount of musicians that began their careers in the small Delta town of Clarksdale, population 21,000, is remarkable. Muddy Waters was raised on the Stovall Plantation outside of town. Soul man Sam Cooke was born here, along with electric blues master John Lee Hooker, W.C. Handy, and Ike Turner, whose green house still stands on Washington Street. Learn about the birthplace of the Blues at the Delta Blues Museum, and then spend the night at one of the most intriguing properties in America, the Shack Up Inn. Set on the Hopson Plantation, where the mechanical cotton picker made its debut in 1941, owner Bill Talbot has converted six former sharecropper shacks into his own version of a B&B (bed and beer). The next morning head south on Highway 61 through the rolling green farmland that makes up the heart of the Delta. Eventually you’ll reach the trenches Union and Confederate troops dug during the Civil War’s bloody Siege of Vicksburg, now a National Military Park. Another hour of driving and you’ll find that gem of a town on the Mississippi River, Natchez. During its heyday prior to the Civil War, when cotton was king, Natchez had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the country. They built palatial estates, like Monmouth Plantation, your final stop. Monmouth’s meticulously landscaped grounds, shaded by centuries-old oaks and their thick dress of Spanish moss, is bursting with colorful azaleas come spring. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/11/14 at 10:00 AM
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Monday, March 10, 2014

Top 5 Favorite Spring Drives, Asheville to Great Smoky Mountains

It actually hit 55 degrees in Boston on Saturday. After the hellish winter of arctic temperatures and far too much snow, that’s a miracle. Even better now that we have one more hour of daylight now that Daylight Savings Time is underway. Needless to say, most of America is ready to say goodbye to Polar Vortex and hello to Spring Fever. The five phenomenal drives I describe this week should get you in the mood.

 
The 80-mile stretch of roadway between Asheville and Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway is a joy anytime of year, but it’s hard to top springtime when fragrant mountain laurel and colorful rhododendrons line the route. Get into the spring spirit by roaming the magnificent grounds of the Biltmore estate in Asheville. From beginning to late spring, the gardens come to life with the tulip bloom followed by multi-colored azaleas, rhododendrons, and roses in the resplendent rose garden. Spend the night at the historic Grove Park Inn, which turns 101 in 2014. 
 
Then it’s time to hit the High Country, where the drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway reaches its highest elevation at 6,047 feet, surrounded by row after row of ridges like the flanks of Mount Pisgah and Cold Mountain, the setting for the best-selling novel. There are numerous opportunities to stretch your legs and stroll to lonely mountain streams and waterfalls. Once in the Great Smoky Mountains, realize there are more than 1,600 kinds of flowering plants within the boundaries of the park, forming the best natural greenhouse in America. A good place to stop and smell the flowers is the self-guided Harwood Cove Nature Trail that begins at the Chimneys Picnic Area.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/10/14 at 10:00 AM
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photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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