Hooniverse Asks: What’s the best road trip you’ve ever taken?

I’m itching for a good drive. I need a good car, a far off destination, and an enjoyable route to get there. Add in some oddball stops along the way and we’re talking about a proper road trip. I don’t have one planned at the moment, but I’d like to come up with something. My last road trip was probably the drive to and from a 24 Hours of LeMons race in Northern California.

That wasn’t my best road trip though, as I’ve had longer and more entertaining ones in years past. There was a drive with a good friend where we took his Jeep Wrangler from Boston to California, stayed out here for a few months, then drove back to Boston. Another time I drove a 1972 Datsun 240Z from California to Boston with my brother. Both of those were fantastic trips.

Now I think I’m due for another long drive. I don’t know how or when that might happen, but I think I can find proper inspiration from you fine people. What’s the best road trip you’ve ever taken?

26 Comments

  1. A 15 year old Pontiac Grand Ville, a blizzard that closed the Maine Turnpike, a high-school buddy and a 24 hour trip through 4 New England states. 1988.

    Or, wait… maybe it was: An out of production Italian motorcycle, a 25 year old Batshitbox, and no home to speak of between Portland, Maine and San Francisco. Three weeks in 1994. (No cell phone, no camera, no face shield, no plan.)

    It could also be: A 25 year old F-250, a British girlfriend, and a loop around the USA (S.F., Burning Man, Las Vegas, New Orleans, D.C., NYC, Portland, I-80 back). Three weeks in 1996.

    Truth is, I have a shitty memory. I’m gonna go with last week’s three day, 700 mile (feat. 30 miles of logging road) motorcycle trip. It’s the one that has the best memories (as of now) and thus most motivates me to take another road trip.

  2. It’s a pretty stereotypical one, but from OC to the Bay. Spent a couple days in SF, San Jose, and Monterey. Then, took PCH back down over the course of two days. Stopped in San Luis Obispo, Solvang, and Santa Barbara (Not to forget Peasoup Anderson’s). The biggest highlight of that was CA-130 going into San Jose. It’s an incredible road that rivals the best canyons we have in Southern California and was completely empty when I drove it.

    1. CA-130 is insane. It was a horse & buggy road built to construct the Lick Observatory atop Mt Hamilton. Essentially, they didn’t care how long it was, just that it wasn’t too steep for the mule trains (from the Borax mines around Alum Rock) hauling stone, wood, and the world’s largest telescope up to 4300 feet.

    2. I really miss that area. I lived in Lonpoc for a year or so (which you would have passed through if you stayed on the 1). The PCH between San Luis Obispo and Monterey is simply amazing. It was nice having it close enough to be able to just go explore it for the day. Its been 10 years since I’ve been there, and I’ve been itching to go back lately.

  3. From 29 Palms to Madison Wisconsin in 24 hours flat with a plain as day Buick LeSabre rental.

    Nothing glamorous about it other than the time we banged out, taking the southern route through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and up through Illinois. Leaving at 5pm central time in Cali and hitting home at 5pm central the next day. Made awesome time at night through the desert and keep the needle pegged during the day. Fuel stops were quick and fast and just swapped seats with my brother if someone needed a nap.

    We saw one cop somewhere in New Mexico at o-dark hundred who came up behind and blew our doors off and one in Missouri that never bothered with us. Pure luck is all we drove on.

  4. Having just been out west, Southern Utah is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. It’s only 6-7 hours from LA, so you may have already done it.

    If not, do it. I’ve got a pretty high bar for “wow that’s pretty” after taking 4 weeks to drive from Munich to Venice, Tuscany, Lake Como, Maranello, Monaco, Cannes, Lucerne, Zurich, and back through Germany in 2015. Since that road trip is off the table at the moment, I’d suggest something up through the mountains.

  5. As a co-op college student in Michigan, one of my assignments was a winter term in the Phoenix, Arizona area in the late 90’s. Dad and I spent a few days going through my 1976 Buick after Christmas and I hit the road on New Year’s day. Being a lowly student, my travel was ‘covered’ at about $0.25/mile and I wasn’t getting anything extra for food or lodging. Add to that I was coming off of a school term so while I wasn’t dead broke I wasn’t far from it. So the plan was to do as many miles as I could in a day with cheap food and motels as needed. I did the trip in 2 days. Called home both nights after 16 hour days on the road with “I feel fine, mom!” (ah, the energy of youth) and then woke up both the next mornings still in my clothes because I’m sure I was just going to lay down for a minute then shower and hit the sack.

    But the best part of it that I realized later on during what was basically the same drive coming home, was the freedom and simplicity of the whole trip. I left for 3 months with only a paper atlas, some hand written directions on how to get to the house I’d be sharing, a grocery bag full of snacks, a shoebox of music to listen to, and my stuff for 3 months of living (i.e. a week and a half worth of clothes and some dishes) under the glass of the hatchback. No cell phone, no GPS, just a new adventure and the first real big trip I’d ever done on my own. Plus once I got into New Mexico and Arizona, I had some beautiful scenery and weather that was a lot nicer than the single digit temps and snow I left behind in Michigan.

  6. A 15 year old Pontiac Grand Ville, a blizzard that closed the Maine Turnpike, a high-school buddy and a 24 hour trip through 4 New England states. 1988.

    Or, wait… maybe it was: An out of production Italian motorcycle, a 25 year old Batshitbox, and no home to speak of between Portland, Maine and San Francisco. Three weeks in 1994. (No cell phone, no camera, no face shield, no plan.)

    It could also be: A 25 year old F-250, a British girlfriend, and a loop around the USA (S.F., Burning Man, Las Vegas, New Orleans, D.C., NYC, Portland, I-80 back). Three weeks in 1996.

    Truth is, I have a shitty memory. I’m gonna go with last week’s three day, 700 mile (feat. 30 miles of logging road) motorcycle trip. It’s the one that has the best memories (as of now) and thus most motivates me to take another road trip.

  7. Pre-GPS, my friend and I once rolled down the window at a red light to ask a cop in the next lane for directions. He started to explain, then just said “follow me”. Impromptu police escort for about 13 miles @ 80 mph, where the fastest speed limit along the journey was 65.

    1. Which vehicle did you take, and what sort of average speed, factoring time for any roadside repairs?

        1. You said “her vehicle” instead of “one of her vehicles”. Clearly she married up.

    1. Before the internet the only MB5 I ever saw was in Hal Hartley’s road trip movie, Simple Men. Here it is in a scene that contains one of my most valuable life lessons. If you watch the whole film I have to give you a trigger warning, the bike literally gets its lights punched out (perhaps because Ned did not listen to what Bill told him about adventure and romance) in a scene that may or may not be cathartic for an MB5 owner.

    2. Before the internet the only MB5 I ever saw was in Hal Hartley’s road trip movie, Simple Men. Here it is in a scene that contains one of my most valuable life lessons. If you watch the whole film I have to give you a trigger warning, the bike literally gets its lights punched out (perhaps because Ned did not listen to what Bill told him about adventure and romance) in a scene that may or may not be cathartic for an MB5 owner.

  8. Did a few drives by myself from Albuquerque to Durango, Co in rental cars. Those were pretty drives and some of the best meditation I never meant to do.

  9. The best? Flint to Fayetteville, West Virginia. Because it was me and my pals together, driving like idiots at extralegal speeds through spectacular scenery.

    The coolest? The 2904 demonstration of speed and endurance, where I was the onboard mechanic and blogger for Top Gear magazine.

  10. It’s probably the base state of the enthusiast you’re in, Jeff, the unquenchable thirst after a good drive. But this is the first year I can remember that a lot of people feel like that – because a driving vacation is the thing on the menue this year, and it turns out to be fun. I have small hopes for a revival of long drive romantics – recent years, at least in Europe, have chipped away at how desirable that is.

    Anyway, it’s hard to find “the best” of anything, but I’d go for my first self-driving long distance trip ever. I had just bought my first car, a 1977 Volvo 242 a couple of months earlier, but I hadn’t told my family. Christmas was approaching fast. After a 13 hour stretch of work at the mountain lodge I was at, I was supposed to sleep, then drive the 1200 kms to Germany – on studded tires, prohibited in Deutschland. Then a friend in Oslo called, I had to sign some papers, but he would leave to see his family in Trondheim the next day. So I just threw myself into the car, drove through the night at -20°C, a particularly cold winter that year. Arrived in Oslo at six in the morning, signed the papers, intended to sleep. But I couldn’t.

    So I just pushed on. The feeling of freedom was bottomless. This was pre-GPS and I just followed road signs, having planned almost nothing beforehand. In Göteborg, the birthplace of Volvo, smoke appeared from under the hood. I had driven the car dry for oil, the warning light cable was broken. Purchased 20 litres of 20W50 tractor oil, the thickest stuff I could find, and went on. I was unstoppable, and so was the Volvo.

    At home, my surprise – the car – turned to dust as I learned that my mother had pancreatic cancer. She would live for almost another year after that, but that is the moment I had to grow up. So I always thought of that endless ride, a 42 hour day, as a shift from one life to another. Life did go on, but differently, probably less carefree. But the drive – excited, full of expectations for a Christmas reunion, untroubled by anything in the world – was good.

    https://i.ibb.co/42SB2P6/001.jpg

    1. Same countries involved, by large, and also a coming-of age thing for me:
      I’ve officially owned the 944 for less than 24hrs, and we drove 1000mls from Germany to our home in Norway in three or four days. The weather was great, my wife in month #4, and we stopped by friends in Denmark and southern Norway. We enjoyed the (rather civilized) adventure, the nothing-planned-aside-from-getting-home attitude, and even waiting at customs for paying VAT on the imported car was a positive thing.
      Now, with little nanoop-oids in the back row, eating miles is not possible like that anymore, even with heavily applied ipads, which I don’t want: the thing with travel is that it is NOT immediate, but a continuous progression, and needs to be endured in order to praise the arrival – and the intermediate experiences. You do more breaks, and spending two hours on a random spot with a decent playground is nice, too. Different, yes, though.

    2. Same countries involved, by large, and also a coming-of age thing for me:
      I’ve officially owned the 944 for less than 24hrs, and we drove 1000mls from Germany to our home in Norway in three or four days. The weather was great, my wife in month #4, and we stopped by friends in Denmark and southern Norway. We enjoyed the (rather civilized) adventure, the nothing-planned-aside-from-getting-home attitude, and even waiting at customs for paying VAT on the imported car was a positive thing.
      Now, with little nanoop-oids in the back row, eating miles is not possible like that anymore, even with heavily applied ipads, which I don’t want: the thing with travel is that it is NOT immediate, but a continuous progression, and needs to be endured in order to praise the arrival – and the intermediate experiences. You do more breaks, and spending two hours on a random spot with a decent playground is nice, too. Different, yes, though.

  11. A lap of England, Wales and southern Scotland over 3,000 miles in a month, basically avoiding big cities. Have quite a few honourable mentions/alternatives but nothing that big.

    Not sure what the next one will be, I’ve had the idea of driving the length of the Murray River as far as you can at least, it disappears into the mountains where there aren’t any roads.

    Just talked to my aunt the other day, who has probably-terminal cancer; a few years ago she and my uncle drove a 1980s Suzuki 800 hatch from Rockhampton Queensland to a family event in Victoria (a 3,000 mile round trip). They had a CB radio to talk to the truckers which made the trip a lot of fun apparently. Took the Suzuki because it used less than 1/3 the fuel of their Jeep Grand Wagoneer.

  12. I guess the one that sticks out was my first long motorcycle trip, heading up the Taconic Parkway to Lake George on my old BMW.

  13. The best? Flint to Fayetteville, West Virginia. Because it was me and my pals together, driving like idiots at extralegal speeds through spectacular scenery.

    The coolest? The 2904 demonstration of speed and endurance, where I was the onboard mechanic and blogger for Top Gear magazine.

  14. I spent an afternoon a couple of years ago in my RSX Type S chasing Michael Karesh (from Truedelta.com) in his Straman CRX convertible around hocking hills in southeastern Ohio. That was a lot of fun.

    Last year, working for the furniture company, when I had to go to our factory in north east Ohio I’d try to take the out of the way route with a lot more turns. Ohio 60 south of Killbuck is a lot of fun in my E46.

    Nowadays any excuse to take the Thunderbird to nowhere in particular is a good thing.

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