USA Road Trip – plans change

Our US road trip plans have to be re-thought. Mrs Swade can’t get all the time off that we need in order to do the coast-to-coast trip.

What to do?

Well, we’re thinking of doing two shorter trips instead. East one year, West the other.

This means some potential changes in terms of our vehicle choices. Staying on one side of the country means that we can start and finish in the same place. We could now use a rental car without having to pay a fee for returning it on the other side of the country. Much more affordable.

Of course, we can still buy and sell. It’s just that we’d most likely be best advised to store the car and use it for both trips, a year or so apart. It’s a long time to have cash tied up in a vehicle, but it could still work out in our favour if we choose wisely.

Lots to think about.

Of course, it also means we have to select a route. We’ll be doing the East first. New England is a big drawcard, especially as we’ll be travelling in the early autumnal months. I’m anticipating we’ll travel as far west as Minnesota and as far south as Tennessee. I’m not sure there’ll be enough time to head much further south (maybe we’ll have to do a third trip!)

The Blue Ridge Parkway is another major attraction and one that’ll take us back towards DC and New York after our stop in Tennessee.

Our will be in the ‘fall’, as you folks like to call it. Unfortunately our likely dates rule out attending Swedish Car Day in Boston towards the end of August, which is a major pain. I’m sure there’ll be a Saab gathering on somewhere, however.

Any Eastern-US touring suggestions would be most welcome.

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    1. For practical reasons, we’ll probably fly into and out of either Chicago or New York. But yeah, New England is a must for us, for scenic and social reasons.

  1. Fly to Miami. Go to Key West. St Augustine, Savanah GA, Charleston SC, washington DC, New York City, Boston, and into Maine. Nice road trip.

    1. I think a third trip would be needed to go that far south, Troy. We have people and places we’re committing ourselves to see in Minnesota and Tennessee, hence we’ll be heading out west a little rather than further south. Those southern cities are certainly of interest, however.

      Ay carumba. Three trips, now.

      1. Maybe a three-part trip is the way to go if you get hooked. 1) A tour around the northeast. 2) A trip from Vancouver, down through the Rocky Mountains, and then to coast for SF-LA. 3) A “Top Gear Trip” through the southern states, maybe starting in Texas, driving through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, ending up in South Florida.

  2. Some rental companies like Enterprise will let you do a one way coastal trip without having to pay any additional fees, so you could factor that in too.

    I suggest you browse the Washington Post. They have a section (or used to) that looked at driving tours on the east coast (i.e. 3-5 day trips from DC). It might give you some ideas.

  3. Swade

    If I can help in any way let me know, in the DC Area. More then welcome to take my 9-4x for a few days assuming my FR-S is not in the shop !

  4. Steven,

    If you are thinking about going to Tennessee and also driving part of the Blue Ridge Parkway (as you perhaps head back north?)…then you might also want to swing over from Tennessee into the part of the Blue Ridge Parkway that goes by Asheville, North Carolina. Lots of nice scenic areas to see around there (the Biltmore mansion is sort of touristy…but plenty else to see, so and eat in western NC). I am more in the central part of NC, but my brother and his family live just outside of Asheville so I visit that area several times a year. Very beautiful, especially in the fall as leaves begin to turn (September/October).

    1. Yes…the Blue Ridge Parkway needs to be on the “must do” list. A really excellent drive. Asheville is, itself, quite interesting as well. Lots of breweries too, which is always welcome.

    2. It starts around Asheville, right? I’m running from memory here, but I noticed it when I was doing the coast-to-coast route and looking to head east from Tennessee. Looked absolutely un-missable. Haven’t looked too much into the townships along the way, but I thought I remembered seeing Asheville near the start.

      1. Don’t know if Gatlinburg, TN is on your agenda, but it looks like it’s on your route. I was there in 1982 and Google indicates it’s much the same. They have an aerial tramway ( that’s exciting, and if you like shopping, there is something like a mile long shopping strip full of unique items that’s very popular ( The also have trolleys (free I think) that circle the city, a very relaxed environment. We had a motel room with a mountain stream directly behind. Never slept so well.

      2. ‘Around’ is correct. The Blue Ridge Parkway originates near the Tennessee/North Carolina border in the mountains and ends north of the Shenandoah valley in Virginia. Without looking at a map, there are probably 60 miles or so from the Tennessee border over to the Pisgah Forest heading east before you pick up the northeasterly heading that the BRP is known for.

        Fortunately or unfortunately, that section is one of the best-loved sections of the parkway winding through the Smoky Mountains on the North Carolina side.

        Suggested stopping places: Cherokee or Brevard, NC, Asheville, NC, Charlottesville, VA. I’ve never been a huge fan of Roanoke, VA, but it’s centrally located.

        Highly suggest NOT taking I-81 to I-66 (or 64? whichever one goes through Front Royal) into DC, rather go through Charlottesville and over to Fredricksburg, VA and north into DC.

      3. Keep in mind Steven that the Blue Ridge Parkway has low speed limits (45 mph/72kph & slower), which are enforced. I have driven it many times, and it is beautiful, but if you think you are going to be able to move rapidly along it…you aren’t. It is a narrow two lane road with some of the best scenery anywhere. So any performance car will be wasted, if you thought you might be able to have some “fun” with one there.

        That said, it is a road that should be driven at least once in one’s life.

  5. In New England, the question will really be one of “Which New England?”

    Coastal New England (CT, RI and coastal MA, NH & ME) offers rugged shorelines, interesting towns and villages and, of course, lobster. Fall in this part of New England is the off season though, so there’s a lot that’ll be closed.

    Interior New England (VT and interior NH, ME & MA) is a little thicker with forest and introduces some interesting mountain drives in addition to interesting towns and villages. Depending on when you time it, you could either get in some skiing or benefit from being too early to ski (and snag some lodging deals).

    1. I’m up for interior New England. I don’t eat seafood. Mrs Swade, on the other hand…..

      Actually, I’m up for both. I assume the towns on the coast serve things that aren’t lobster, right?

  6. I have a seldom used 9-5 Combi in NYC that’s always up for an adventure! Just let me know…


  7. Nice to read through all the comments to this post. They scream out “friendship!” 🙂 Not enough of that no nonsense camaraderie these days. To offer advice or loan of possession without there being a twist of indebtedness isn´t all to common. Heartwarming you guys!

    As I don´t live in the US I can´t come up with advice on routes. What is in your comments do however strike a note on my personal connection to the US. Minnesota: Go Vikings!!! Oh I Have to say that as I´m a Swede. Many many of the Swedes from the part of Sweden where my family (Paternal side) stems from emigrated to Minnesota during the mid 19´th century. My family did however not stay but returned to Sweden as we came from the mid/upper class and had the means to stay put. The ones that stayed in the US did so because of the promise of wealth and fortune. There are smaller settlements in other parts of the US. Like Kingsburg in California where SunMaid raisins are from.

    Another part that is “known to me” of the US and that is mentioned above is North Carolina. My older brother did a year in High School at the Page High School in Greensboro in 1988. I have had contacts with his family of that time for the past two years now and have heard of all the beautifull sites to visit in NC.

    As for recommendations on travel? Well Swade, you could still do the round trip you first mentioned if I wear a dark wig and learn a bit of french… I doo have long legs and the time to spare :-D. But ok… I can never be pretty like your misses.


  8. The Blue Ridge Parkway looks delightful.

    Buying and selling a car in order to drive something with character is very understandable – but is it worth the paperwork and hassle next to just renting one? Surely you could rent something with a bit of class.

  9. If you pass through Ohio, it is a lovely place to be in the fall! The leaves really start to peak in the first half of October. That is when we get these crisp days with brilliant blue skies, warm sun, and fantastic tree colors. There are some pretty lovely areas to drive around here, to include the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (which is one of the largest national parks in the country, about 45 minutes south east of CLE), and the Chagrin Valley (between Chagrin Falls and Gates Mills, about a half hour east of CLE. Chagrin River Road is one of the prettiest stretches of road in northeast Ohio, I think). The drive along Route 2 (along Lake Erie) on the west side of Cleveland is pretty fantastic, too (Cleveland to Lorain).

    Finally, if you are in Cleveland, there are so many things to do… from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a sports game (Indians, Cavs, or Browns, depending), the Cleveland Orchestra (third best in the US), the Cleveland Museum of Art (one of the most comprehensive in the country- they are on the end of a $250M+ renovation), the Western Reserve Historical Society (the Crawford Auto Museum, which is part, will be open by then- it’s closed for renovations), the Horseshoe Casino (on Public Square, in the middle of downtown. If you have seen “The Christmas Story,” it used to be “Higbees”), the West Side Market (just celebrating its 100th year anniversary), West 25th (there are variety of microbrews and bars there, very fun), the Old Arcade (downtown CLE- the first enclosed mall in America- it’s stunning, post renovation)…. and all of the amazing, one of a kind restaurants we have. Cleveland dining has come a long way in the last decade, and chefs like Michael Symon and Zach Bruell have had a lot to do with that. That would be a whole other list!

    While we have our rust belt roots, there are quite a few gems here. We owe much of that from the old industrialists at the beginning of the last century, and a whole lot of philanthropy since.

    Anyway, if you are coming from the north, it may be a nice stopping place before heading south. If you are going to drive through Ohio on I-71, it becomes a pretty boring and flat drive after Cleveland. Think, lots and lots of farmland.

    If you and Mrs. Swade are passing through the Cleveland area, my fiancee and I would be happy to take you around. Of course, that would involve driving around in a certain 9-3 convertible :).

    Jen West

    1. Sensational stuff, Jen. The Rock n Roll Hall of Fame just joined the list.

      I think I’m gonna have to start pinning stuff to a Google map.

      1. I guess it depends on the individual (and I am a fan of music from the 50’s through the present, as well as play guitar and keyboard)…but when I went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a couple of summers ago (as the Saab Owners Convention was nearby)….I thought it was a bit of let down for the price of a ticket. Maybe my expectations were too high, but for a $22 ticket, I was expecting more.

        1. Actually, just looked at the web site again and the Exhibits page does a good job of covering what there is to see at the R&R HOF.

  10. Swade: In the Autumn/Fall, Route 81 (New York, Pennsylvania, etc.) is beautiful. And I might be biased, but Virginia’s Skyline Drive is sceneic—-and wonderful driving.

  11. If you’re going to rent a vehicle – try ‘name your own price’ on Priceline. I got a almost new Chrysler Mini-Van (I know, but I had a vehicle full of people) for 11 days for about $550 last summer. Actually pretty comfortable, great for making miles on the highway.. just not what I want in my driveway on a regular basis!

  12. Hey Swade,
    You’ve been to Boston, but all of New England is great. Spend a day or two in the Boston area and walk through Harvard Yard and around MIT and the Charles River. Maine north of Portland is wonderful including Mt. Desert Island and you can loop through lower Maine into New Hampshire and Vermont. The Vermont of Route 100, Waitsfield, Middlebury, beautiful country inns and amazing fall foliage in Early October (although the inns fill up for Fall Foliage Season). Then a swing onto Cape Cod with a run up to Provincetown and the dunes at Truro, and perhaps a trip over on the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard where you always have an invitation to stay at our house in Chilmark. And yes, plenty of lobster and other seafood, but plenty of steaks, organic restaurants, pizza, ice cream, farmer’s markets, flea markets, etc. And although there will be places closed in late September and October, the crowds are gone too — you won;t go swimming in the Atlantic, but you will walk gorgeous windy beaches and moors.

  13. Being something of a museum rat myself I’d like to chime in on your itinerary with some must-sees: If you are going to the Corvette museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky (and do go and take in a factory tour on the other side of the highway while you are there – tours should resume once the C7 is up and running), then you have to include the Lane Museum in Nashville, Tennessee just south of there. The Lane is the place for all kinds of funky little European cars and often unseen Eastern European makes. Nashville is also home to several country music related venues that might be of interest.

    On a mid-western swing you should also take in the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg museum in Auburn, Indiana and the Studebaker museum in South Bend. In south western Michigan there is the fabulous Gilmore museum complex. A bit out of the way, but certainly worth it. There are a lot of museums in the Detroit area of course, with the Henry Ford and its neighboring Greenfield Village in Dearborn being the top draws. My second favorite there is the Chrysler museum in Auburn Hills just north of Detroit.

    Heading from Detroit to New England might take you through central New York State where there is a fine old car museum in the town of Norwich that houses one of the few comprehensive collections dedicated to the air-cooled Franklin make (the Gilmore has one, too).

    Do also check the schedules for the Carlisle car show and flea market events (south of Harrisburg, PA) which run throughout the summer and early autumn and for classic road course tracks such as Watkins Glen in NY state and Lime Rock Park in northwest Connecticut.

    If you can make it to Washington D.C. you ought not miss the Lincoln memorial, the Vietnam War memorial and, of course, the Air & Space museum.

    You almost can’t go wrong planning a vacation route in the northeastern U.S. , which is not to say the rest of the country isn’t worth visiting, too (just be sure to plan on long distances to travel when going by car). Stay away from the New Jersey Turnpike and you’ll be fine.

  14. Fantastic documentary about roadside diners in America on BBC4 in the UK tonight. Watch it online if you can.