Trip Observations – The Roads

I hope that all of you continue to take both joy and solace in the simple act of driving. There is nothing quite like firing up your own car and traveling on your own terms. We will miss it when it is gone. Let’s hope that day never comes.” ~ Jack Baruth – Avoidable Contact

The Roads

Out of more than 11,500 miles of roads traveled on this adventure, some stood out as memorable while others just blurred into oblivion. These are the ones that stuck in my conscious mind as worth a rerun some time if I am nearby, or so bad they must be avoided. If you are near some of the good ones, you may find it worth a visit to one or more, and for the bad ones, take any alternative you can find.

Two. Put US 62 from Gateway to Eureka Springs, AR on your “Best Roads” list. It sure is on mine. Not just the curves and dips, but the surface was some of the smoothest asphalt I have ever driven. Wonderful!!

Three. Arkansas route 7 should be a national treasure.

Ten. [North Carolina] was the best day of driving since northern Arkansas with roads that wended through hill and dale swinging and swaying all the while. In other words it was the combination of vertical and horizontal curves that made it so fun. Lovely scenery with lakes and meadows and woods all bisected by a smoothly twisting rising and dipping ribbon of asphalt called the Zachery Taylor highway and numbered 522. That’s five grins, two whoops and two “Wow’s” per mile.

Fifteen. I have noticed some remarkable differences in the way different states handle things like speed limits, basic road maintenance, and signage. Road maintenance in PA was pretty good, with a few notable exceptions; NY was pretty bad, with a few notable exceptions, VT was awful, NH was terrific and ME was a mixed bag. [There] I travelled the worst stretch of road since I left home, and I hope ever. Highway 11 is a logging truck route and the trucks have pummeled it into ruin. There are patches on the patches that the original patch needed, and the ruts are troughs filled with rain water.

Sixteen. I made up a lot of ground today and had a really nice little shortcut just before I reached New Hampshire that wound through the woods and avoided the traffic on highway 2. A sweet little morsel for a tired driver.

Seventeen. Route 17 from Irasville to Bristol, past the Mad River Glen ski area, may be one of the best roads in the country (Good) someday if it ever gets repaved. It was still really fun but too stressful (Bad) from constantly watching to see where the rough patches were (Ugly).

West One. One of my favorite passes in the state is 10,857 ft. Wolf Creek Pass and today it was prime. If you ever get the chance to drive this route, [US 160 from South Fork to Pagosa Springs] take it!

West Two. Utah 14 is a state highway that crosses the Dixie National Forest just south of Cedar Breaks National Monument over whatever range runs along the east side of Interstate 15. Put [it] on your “Must Drive” list if you ever have the occasion to be near here.

West Four. Permit me a comment on California [and its] drivers: They are aggressive, change lanes often and have little patience with the supposed speed limit. I was driving right at the 65 limit which is plenty fast for my little car and was strafed continuously by people going 20-25 miles an hour faster. And when a big Dodge Ram or Ford Raptor is bearing down from behind it is truly terrifying!  I don’t like much of California that I saw today. The coast from here north is nice and the more mountainous parts north of I-80 too, but the southeastern and LA areas are not.

West Five. All the way north [on highway 1, the PCH] we were road dancing on the most perfect day you might imagine, The photos don’t do it justice because there are too many colors, shades and textures that the camera misses.

West Six. After our photo stop we grabbed lunch and then rode the E ticket ride that goes up and down Mt Tamalpais (it’s called the Panoramic Highway) to highway 1 on the coast. Then we rode THAT thrill ride past Point Reyes north to Tomales before we turned inland and made our way to the shop. With the road, the sun, and the wind it was exhilarating, exquisite, and exhausting in equal measure. 

West Seven. I have driven the Tail of the Dragon which is supposed to have 318 curves in 11 miles. But CA 128 is five times as long and has five times as many turns. I would call it the Intestines of the Beast!

West Eight. On the map, [Highway 101] looks pretty straight because the scale removes all the wiggles and the vertical doesn’t show at all on a map or on the computer with Google maps. It was the little sharp curves that got my attention today, not because they were difficult for me, but they apparently were difficult for cars and trucks with Oregon plates as well as for the expected RV’s.

 West Ten. The three of us carried on over some spectacular roads [WA Highway 20] and magnificent vistas as upward we climbed. At the summit the snow on both sides of the road presented a vertical wall taller than the Elan windshield.

West Eleven.  When US 2 joined with I-90 I [near Spokane] had a choice to leave the interstate after about five miles and follow 2 or stay on 90 and make some time. I chose the latter. Added comment – After returning home: I WILL come back to this part of the country to take some of the roads I bypassed this time, especially the Going to the Sun road in Glacier National Park.

West Thirteen. Spearfish Canyon [ALT US 14] was the impetus for the opening comment about the delight of this day. This was a leisurely drive rather than a sprint at about 45 miles an hour in the sun just taking in the beauty as the road wound upward next to the creek.

West Fifteen. After suitable hors d’ oeuvres of the famous Frito and Easy Cheese family we proceeded to the Tarryall road [from Jefferson on US 285 to Lake George on US 24] for a delightful run to highway 24. That is a road that never disappoints and it satisfied yet again today.

2 thoughts on “Trip Observations – The Roads

  1. Ross, This is a incredible guide to great drives. Good friend John Herman wrote a book “Motorcycle Journeys through the Alps”. He has often said, don’t bother with unpleasant roads/places, and don’t put off your journey. Per your suggestion I will drive Ca 128 this August on my way to Monterey. In fact, I need to make a plan to drive all the little routes from the coast to 101, and coast to I 5. And soon. I’ve lived in slow Curry county three years, drove to San Diego and back last week, and California drivers have two persistent behaviors that should be cause for license suspension. One, failure to look left when merging from on ramps. I’ve observed minor road rage from drivers who expect through traffic to get out of the way as the merge. Second, as a good friend fro UK terms it, freeway undertaking. Drivers who sprint down the far right lane (85-95mph), apex clip a semi trailer, and cut back into left lane traffic that was doing 75+. Then the fast lane freight train slams on brakes to make room. Enough of that, I’m so glad your drive passed my home, and we got to drive and chat. If your were within a few hours, it would happen monthly. Remind me again, who was the Colorado behavioral scientist who did the documentary correlating life long values and behavior, to first seven year experiences? I watched it thirty years ago, would live to again. Cheers, Brad

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  2. Finally getting a minute to get caught up – I loved following your daily blogs throughout the trip, but haven’t had a minute to comment since you finished. Thanks for all of the observations and details – it was like riding along with you, and I feel like I saw a lot!

    To clarify for anyone road seeking – the 522/Zachary Taylor Hwy you were so fond of is in Virginia, and is indeed a beautiful part of the country! I haven’t driven that road end-to-end in VA, but now have an excuse. Did you stay on 15 from Durham all the way to Farmville, VA? I don’t recall that being a particularly fun road, but for any headed that way from the RDU area, I seem to remember 501 being slightly more interesting – and there are any number of small state highways if you really want to meander.

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