Where do you go?

Where do you go?

A few weeks ago, my raccoon brain listed that I might be thinking about taking a road trip. That was more than a might, because I’m plotting my biennial pilgrimage to North Carolina for Christmas this year.

Tim and I made this trip two times together. The whole thing started because my company closes between Christmas and New Years every year, leaving me with a lot of extra vacation. Since we have family & friends in North Carolina, we figured it wouldn’t be so bad to drive with the dogs and make a cheap, extended trip. Tim and I always did well together on road trips, driving from NC to New Orleans multiple times before we moved away from my home state.

Even a familiar (boring) road trip to NC would get me excited a few weeks prior. Sure it was long and tiring to drive all that way (20+ hours if you’re curious), but it’s time I really enjoyed spending with him. We talked a lot, listened to music and I have a lot of good memories sitting in the front seat with him for mile after mile.

This year I’ll be doing the drive solo. Sure, I could fly and skip the drive entirely but I’d have to shorten my trip since boarding 3 dogs over 7 days costs a small fortune. This Christmas is going to be really hard for me in a lot of different ways, and even though I will be surrounded by family and friends… my dogs are my family too. Day to day, they’re the only members of my little family unit that I have left.

So I’m taking my good travelers, Eliot & Pascale, with me to NC via the trusty Kia. People who are frowning their faces right now and thinking that’s too far for me to drive by myself can just save their breath. I’m stubborn, and I’m not going to listen to any naysayers.

That only leaves the question of how to get there. In the past, we always stopped once each way to make for about 10 hours driving time per day. Since I’m doing this solo and am trying to treat it like a little adventure, I am probably going to want to stop twice each direction. I’ve made this handy dandy map with possible stop ideas I’ve already thought of:


That random gray blob over Atlanta is a whale shark… because aquarium.

This next map is a very scientifically calculated surface area of where I might be willing to travel to outside of the direct route.


Here are the other considerations:

  • I will have the two big dogs, so will need dog friendly places or a nearby La Quinta (don’t be jealous… I’m a gold member… I’m kind of a big deal)
  • I will hopefully leave Austin around December 21st
  • My birthday is December 23rd, and I don’t want to be driving alone in the middle of a corn field as I say hello to 31
  • I have to be back in Austin on January 3rd
  • I like pretty things that I can take photographs of
  • I like critters
  • I like friends

So tell me folks… where do I go? What do I see? Who do I visit? Go!

48 thoughts on “Where do you go?

    1. I second Asheville. I am getting married outside of AVL next year, and have just fallen in love with the little town!

    1. Plus, our aquarium is great. 🙂 Not as flashy as the Atlanta aquarium, but it has all kinds of great exhibits. I love going there! And we have great food here, and it’s lovely.

  1. I’ve done similar length drives by myself with 1-2 dogs and survived. Highly recommend audio books!

    On a trip from Houston to Allentown PA, a friend convinced me to stop at Rock City just outside of Chatanooga. It was really nice to get out and explore, the view is incredible (in theory, you can see seven states at once), and my dog could come too. Since you’re going in Dec it might be hit or miss depending on weather, but worth researching. Here’s the website: http://www.seerockcity.com

    Slightly out of your purple, but would recommend is Pensacola. Stopped there for a night on another cross country trip at a friend’s suggestion. Grits a Ya Ya at the Fish House, saw a lighthouse, walked the beach, visited the Flori-Bama (two states – one bar!) – lovely little night. Puppy was on the trip with me but he had to stay at the hotel for those adventures.

    Hope that helps!

  2. If you go to the Georgia Aquarium the World of Coke is right next to it. It’s not the most exciting place, but they have all of the different coke flavors you can taste so that’s kind of cool! And, I think you can get package tickets with the aquarium. You can go eat at the Varsity too! Totally greasy food, but it’s a landmark in it’s own right. If you decide to stop in Atlanta, let me know and I can tell you some other cool places. 🙂
    The Georgia aquarium is bigger than the one in Chattanooga (they don’t have whale sharks), but Chattanooga is awesome! And they’re aquarium is still really cool.
    Like Lindsay mentioned, Atlanta traffic is a total nightmare! However, if you time it around rush hour than you’re fine (9:30-4:00 is pretty safe).

  3. I have nothing to contribute as I don’t know the area at all. But I love your maps! And I think you’re more than capable of making the drive. You won’t be alone, the short kids will be with you!
    Can’t wait to read about your adventure!

  4. Two pieces of advice:

    – get through Mississippi as quickly as possible
    – I can’t say enough good things about Tennessee; for this trip in particular, I recommend Great Smokey Mountain National Park. That whole eastern part of the state is lovely, and you could then drove right across into NC.

    1. Totally agree with you there! We used to take trips from NOLA to Cincinnati at lest 1-2x a year, and , I always found the drive through MS dreadful.

  5. I love road trips, and I don’t mind driving alone, and dogs are great company so you aren’t really alone. I think this will be good for you, lots of time to yourself think, and listen to music, and chill out, no one asking you questions you don’t want to have to answer for a few days, it could be just what you need. Just shush anyone who says otherwise. No suggestions on where to go. Unless you want to just keep driving after NC and come to NJ. Hopefully by December there will be a donkey or two in my backyard.

  6. I would dodge driving into Atlanta for the aquarium because I’m a chicken about traffic…plus what will the dogs do while you’re at the aquarium? I guess you’ll leave them in the hotel? I don’t trust my dogs enough hahaha. You could always just make a beeline for NC and come see me if you get bored. VA is a short drive and I have donkeys. 😉

    Savannah and Charleston are both nice around Christmas as well.

  7. ooh lots of fun options! the aquarium in atlanta is admittedly pretty cool, tho it seems like lots of others have good ideas too. whatever you decide i hope you have a blast!!! (and definitely lmk if you end up in MD haha)

  8. I’ve been to the aquarium in Atlanta, it’s AMAZING! I also second going the Coca Cola museum (or whatever it’s called), the different flavors are really interesting to taste.

    Other than being on an AFB in Montgomery and traveling to Atlanta from there, I’ve never been in the south. Super excited to read about your adventures!

  9. you are more than capable of driving long distances, just for peace of mind I do recommend purchasing Triple A or Good Sam, great for flat tires, lock outs and other annoying little things. Also Triple A will give out maps and booklets on the areas you are traveling thru. I think they were called Trip Tic Travel Planner.

    I always get excited about road trips, long or short. Nice to have something to look forward to!

    Best wishes

  10. Peruse the Diners Drive-Ins and Dives archives and find some delicious stops. I haven’t been to the states on the first part of your drive (yet), but my big goal when I do go through them is to find yummy things.

  11. I was really proud of myself for driving all the way from Savannah to Atlanta.. and the hubs was awake in the seat next to me. I remember long trips between Augusta and Houston – I can’t say I miss the marathon road trips.

    I’m pleased that Savannah is in the purple, though we don’t have much – good food, good booze, and my crippled pony. I’ve been to both the Georgia Aquarium and the Coca Cola Factory and loved them. We went when the aquarium first opened and I had to shove over little children to better see the exhibits. Not sure if a school holiday would make this worse. And I loved the 4D experience at Coke.

    I think if you do go through Atlanta, it’s worthwhile to swing by Athens or Helen, depending on your route. Athens has a cute little downtown with good food and nice shops. And Helen has a little seemingly transplanted German village, with a nearby waterfall.

  12. Purple zone is like, my jam.
    Atlanta aquarium is AWESOME. Whale sharks = COOLEST EVER.
    Coke museum is pretty cool.
    I’m dying to go to the College Football Hall of Fame, but no idea if that’s your thing.
    Oxford, MS is super cute and cool – Rowan Oak is great, the Grove is beautiful, and Ole Miss is one of the most gorgeous campuses I’ve ever seen.
    Obviously I think you should go through Auburn, but I’m a little biased. (It is an adorable college town though!)
    Athens is also really cool – lots of music, another fun Southern college town.
    I would skip Baton Rogue and Columbia, of the SEC college towns.
    (You realize you could hit almost all of them in this trip? Or that’s just me…)
    Unclaimed Luggage is a super cool, super random attraction in north Alabama.
    Nashville is a really fun, young city.
    Annnnnd I love Sav & Charleston.
    Also love Greenville, SC, which is growing like mad and has a really cute downtown.
    If you’re going through SC already, it’s worth going through Camden just to go to The Tack Room… Just saying. Simon told me.

  13. There are some really pretty caves in and around Huntsville + their Space and Rocket museum and botanical gardens if that kind of sight seeing is your thing.

  14. If you go to ATL you would be passing through Greenville SC/Tryon NC area on your way to Raleigh 🙂 Though sadly all the fancy ponies will be in Florida so TIEC will probably quiet…

    I second visiting Oxford MS- it’s probably the only charming place in MS- my cousin went to Ole Miss and we went to her graduation and had a great time (AKA SO MUCH DELICIOUS FOOD) Memphis TN is just barely out of your purple zone and the brief moment I stopped there (on a road trip to San Diego!) I really enjoyed the area. We hopped on a Trolly and rode it all the way around the city (it was a nasty cold/rainy day) and the driver gave us the best tour of the city!

    Chattanooga is beautiful, especially Sewanee- the college campus/town is quirky, remote, and has beautiful buildings.

    As always you are invited to stay here if you end up going through Tryon! Though I think you said before you have family nearby? But either way would love to catch up if you drive this way on your road trip 🙂

  15. If you pass through Monroe, LA (on 20 after Shreveport) around dinner time, I’d highly recommend checking out Cotton, Nonna or Waterfront Grill for dinner. If you’re there near lunch, go find Big Momma’s Fine Foods. It’s in a sketchy part of town, but not too bad during the day, and they have amazing southern cooking.

  16. Might want to stay as south as possible to avoid snow?

    Having made a solo trip (with two cats and dog +/- a few guinea pigs) from Florida to Chicago several times now (18 hr trip) I say that is NOT too far and you do what you want to do!

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