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Author Topic: My life behind the wheel - Todd's Road Trip thread . . .  (Read 116739 times)
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« on: December 04, 2011, 11:44:43 PM »

My Life Behind the Wheel  -  Todd’s Road Trip Thread

Chances are, you are a member of, or a visitor to The Auto Lounge because you are a connoisseur of all things automobile.  And chances are while browsing the site, you saw the words “Road Trip” in the title to this thread and smiled.  This is one of the fundamental elements of the enthusiast's existence  -  driving your car.  I can’t explain exactly what the mystique of being behind the wheel is, or why it produces the feelings it does.  But it's definitely there.  

I still remember the trip to the State Police barracks in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania on the day I passed my driver’s license test in 1982.  Passing the test on the first try was great.  But the memory that persists 35 years later is that my mom would not let me drive home when I was finished.  The fact that I was now legally allowed to operate a motor vehicle in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was irrelevant.  She was nice enough, however, to remove the “Student Driver, Mother is NERVOUS !” sign she had taped to the back window of her station wagon.  Thanks Mom.  She always had a unique way of showing her support.

Bases on that, you can probably understand why life behind the wheel started out slowly for me.  My biggest obstacle was convincing Mom that the Commonwealth said it was ok for me to be there.  I had the piece of plastic with my picture on it to prove it.  The sign was gone, but Mom was still really nervous.  For the first 6 months following the test, the most I could hope for was a local trip here and there.

My behind-the-wheel time took a big jump not too long after.  Life in my house was different from that of my friends due to the fact that my Dad did not drive.  A swimming accident in 1948 left him a quadriplegic, (i.e. paralyzed from the neck down).  Dad took note that there was now another licensed driver in the house and took every opportunity to get me more time on the road, whether it be picking him up from work, or taking him wherever work required.  

Short excursions evolved into some highway time, and eventually into a few long trips as my experience level grew.  When I wasn't chauffeuring Dad around, I took the opportunity to go exploring on my own, trying to get familiar with the world around me.  My driver’s logbook was starting to fill up by the time I finished high school in 1984.

I entered my 20s hanging out with a somewhat different crowd.  Many hours were spent hanging out in the Pleasant Valley Shopping Center parking lot in Altoona, Pennsylvania doing nothing but talking about cars.  The topic of the night ranged from who raced who, to who wants to do something to his/her car, to who actually did something to his/her car.  We didn’t always know names, but we could identify the face with the car.  This is precisely how I met wife # 1 in September 1986.  A friend of mine told me one evening that he wanted to introduce me to someone.  “She went to school with my girlfriend.  Her name is Julie.”  Taking note of my confused stare, he added, “Red ’76 Camaro, a little bit of rust on the bottom, Rally wheels, no spoiler.”  Oh yeah, I’ve seen her around.  

Intermingled with the daily routine was the occasional blast down the quarter-mile.  It didn't happen with any regularity.  But at least once per season, a bunch of us would head to our “local track,” which was actually 90 miles to the east in Beaver Springs, PA.  

Beaver Springs Dragway, March 27, 1988

The highlight of my summer was the Supercar Showdown, an annual drag racing event held at Quaker City Dragway in Salem, Ohio.  This two day muscle car festival combined my favorite things  -  a 3 hour road trip, and a bunch of passes down the quarter mile.  I participated in 12 Supercar Showdown events in the '80s and '90s, (and I still have all of my time slips from each event !).

Supercar Showdown, June 21, 1986

The 1990s also introduced me to the cross-country road trip.  I call it "cross-country" even though my journey from Altoona, Pennsylvania to Boca Raton, Florida was actually oriented north to south.  A customer at the travel agency where I worked had a winter residence in Boca, and had me driver her car back and forth.  I would make the 1,200 mile journey twice each year  -  from Altoona to Boca Raton in October, and from Boca Raton to Altoona in April.  This was, and still is one of the most fondly remembered times in my life.

The “Road Trip” was something completely unfamiliar to wife # 2 when she came into my life in the late ‘90s.  But like a proper enthusiast, she took to it immediately once introduced.  We would keep Sundays free to explore while she was in school at Penn State Altoona.  Some of our best adventures were spent cruising to nowhere.  But once in a while, we did actually plan a trip, which worked out just as well.  These afternoons made both of us take a break from the real world, and allowed us to “catch up” with each other after a stressful week.

In other words, the “Road Trip” has been an essential and highly-revered part of my life since a driver's license first occupied a space in my wallet more than 30 years ago.  Whether I’m trying to unwind or just killing time, I have yet to encounter a more effective form of relaxation, mood enhancement, or therapy.  The latter half of 2011 is proof of that.  As my life was heaving chunks of its former self all over the place, I, once again, found solace behind the wheel.  The fact this wheel is attached to a 31k original mile 1996 Jaguar XJS Convertible only makes things better.  

And so .  .  .

What follows are the tales of some of my more memorable experiences into the unknown parts of this world in which I live.  I’ll update this thread periodically as I retrieve more memories.  

I would also like to add that “audience participation” within is strongly encouraged.  If anyone has a memorable road trip that he/she feels like sharing, please do so.  We would all be interested in reading about your excursions as well .  .  .
« Last Edit: March 01, 2016, 12:51:08 AM by Oldcarsarecool » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2011, 11:45:35 PM »

You Drove How Far Just to do What ?
July 17, 2011

By the time summer 2011 had arrived, the complete destruction of everything that I previously referred to as “my life” was just about complete.  My Mom’s passing, my divorce, and the sale of my childhood home had all been checked off the list.  The final blow came on Friday July 15 when I dropped my ex-wife off at the airport for her one-way flight completely out of my life to the other side of the globe.  I was now truly alone in this world.

Two choices stood before me.  I could sit at home and do nothing, which is never very productive.  If anything, inactivity would allow my mind to spin further out of control.  Or, recognizing that life continues on with or without my participation, I could choose to get out and do something.

Circumstances had caused my car search to be put into a life-induced coma for a while.  I decided that the two days immediately following saying goodbye to my now ex-wife, Saturday July 16 and Sunday July 17, would be the perfect time to revive it.  This would involve a) A good road trip, and b) getting behind the wheel of something different, both of which have always brought a smile to my face and made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  If there was ever a time I really needed those things, it was now.  

The revised plan was to explore trading both my 2004 Jaguar XJ8 and my Mom’s 2007 Toyota Avalon that I inherited after she passed in April on one nice upscale car.  I figured, (incorrectly, I later found out), that between both cars, I should have about $28k in equity to use toward this purchase.  Athens Chevrolet just happened to have a 12k original mile 2005 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible on their lot.  I headed across town on Saturday afternoon, July 16, 2011 to take it for a ride, the details of which are chronicled HERE.  Turns out I liked the car, but didn’t love   the car.  Regardless, it felt really good to get out and do something I enjoy, and made my first day alone much easier to cope with.

A really nice looking 2000 Porsche 911 Cabrio caught my eye during one of my online searches.  The word "Porsche" got my attention.  The 44k original mile odometer reading made me read the ad several times.  The sub-$30k price tag made me think, “Wow, I could actually do this.”  Wait, this dealership is open on Sundays ?  Where is this car again ?  Doesn't matter !  I see a great Road Trip developing on the immediate horizon.

Gotta love technology .  .  .,, and Ebay Motors all allow the buyer to specify a specific search area according to zip code.  I usually set the “distance from zip code” parameter at 200 miles.  Driving 3 hours to test drive a car is no big deal for me.  I’ve driven further than that just to enjoy a nice lunch.  Plus, the nice thing about car shopping sites is that the distance you specify is not written in stone.  If what you are looking for is available at a location a few miles beyond your distance limit, it will still be displayed.  

The problem, however, is that in particular has yet to figure out how to correctly calculate the distance from the zip code that is entered.  I can’t tell you exactly how it arrives at the “-x-  miles from Zip Code 30605” figure that is shown above the name of the dealership.  But it’s almost always wrong.

In the case of Twin Cities Mazda in Alcoa, TN, where this Porsche is located, says it’s 136 miles from my Zip Code.  That’s about 60 miles short of the actual number.  Now add to that the fact that the shortest distance to Alcoa  -  which is almost directly north of Athens, GA  -  is right through the middle of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on US Route 441.  Normally, 60 miles translates to approximately 1 hour IF   you are on the open road.  Route 441 is about the farthest thing from an open road you can find, especially through the Great Smoky Mountains.  That additional 60 miles is going to take a lot longer than 1 hour to traverse.  Bing Maps tells me to prepare for a 200 mile journey that should take precisely 4 hours 12 minutes to complete.  

The alternative to the mountain route would take me west   on GA Route 316 from Athens to Interstate 85 outside of Atlanta.  Here, I have to travel south   toward Atlanta so I can pick up the I-285 perimeter highway that circles the city and takes me to Interstate 75, where I can finally head north.  After 180 miles   on I-75 north, (i.e. almost the same mileage I would travel for the entire trip on US 441), I will reach I-140 just outside of Knoxville, TN, about 20 miles from my destination.

The total distance via the interstates  -  276 miles.  Bing Maps says this 76 mile increase in distance I would be traveling will add an additional ONE MINUTE   to my estimated travel time.  In other words, I can travel 76 miles further in the same amount of time.  That should give you an idea of what US 441 is like through the mountains.

I wanted to make sure I would arrive at the dealership in a timely manner.  So I decided to travel north via the interstates, mainly because the route was extremely easy to follow.  On the way home, however, I would have nothing but time.  That trip could take all night if necessary.  In that case, there's no reason why a little sightseeing couldn't be added to the agenda .  .  .

Picking up the pieces .  .  .
I hit the road on Sunday July 17 in the late morning.  Bing Maps was quite accurate with its estimate of time and mileage.  I was shaking salesperson Hank’s hand around 2:30 PM preparing to drive a Porsche 911, (my first time behind the wheel of a 911).

A really, really nice Porsche 911.

I have always liked the 911, but have never previously given serious consideration to ownership due to the price of admission.  This particular car, for example, is 12 model years old, and still costs almost 40 percent of its original $80k MSRP.  Worn out, high mileage examples are cheaper.  But my ultimate goal is to drive and enjoy this car without spending a ton of money to repair and restore it.  In my opinion, the $30k asking price was justified by the mileage and condition of the car.

Long story short, I was extremely impressed with the car, the details of which are chronicled HERE.  After talking numbers with Hank, the business end of my trip had come to an end.  It was time for me to head back to Athens.  Two thoughts come to mind:  a) I've never been through the Great Smoky Mountains before, and b) I work 2nd shift and won’t have to get up early on Monday morning.  Never pass up a good road trip when presented with the opportunity.  Let the fun begin .  .  .

The diversion I really needed .  .  .
US Route 441 runs from Lake City, TN all the way to Miami, FL, a total of 939 miles.  Besides passing through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it also passes right through Athens, GA within 5 miles of my home.  How convenient.  From the Alcoa/Maryville area where I was, I figured I could head east on US Route 411 and pick up 441 just outside of Seymour, TN.  

In this part of the country, the Appalachian Mountains dominate the scenery.  They are huge, (up to 6,600 feet), and can be seen from everywhere in the immediate vicinity.

Once I made the right turn from Route 411 onto Route 441, there they were.

From Seymour, TN, Route 441 south takes you to Sevierville, TN.  The mountains are getting larger at this point.

I didn’t realize this at the time.  But, Sevierville is home to the Floyd Garrett Muscle Car Museum.  I’ve read about this museum before, but have never visited.

You can see on the map below where Route 441 makes a right turn onto the Forks of the River Pkwy.  At that signal light, I was, literally, around the corner from the museum, indicated by the red star.  I will save this valuable piece of information for use at a later date.

A few miles down the road is the city of Pigeon Forge, TN.  If I had to summarize the city in a sentence, I would call it a mini-me version of Branson, MO.  Nestled among the variety of restaurants, theatres, and shows are a bunch of other notable attractions, the biggest of which is Dollywood.

This is Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum.  

If this ship-run-aground looks familiar, it is because the Titanic Museum is designed to look like the famous doomed ocean liner from 100 years ago.

I’ve been through the Titanic Museum in Branson.

Awesome place, well worth the price of admission.

A whole host of arcades and shops line the main drag through the area.

The mandatory Mini-Golf courses are present and accounted for .  .  .

.  .  . as are the abundance of small motels.

This looks interesting.

Along with what resembles a Bungee Jumping platform .  .  .

.  .  . I think I’m seeing something I’ll refer to as a “Sky Coaster.”

Basically, you are seated inside a small car attached to a giant arm that spins vertically.    Now, rides that spin horizontally make me sick almost instantly.  I’m not sure if my stomach could handle this.  But, since I do fine on looping roller coasters, there may be a possibility.

Today was definitely a great day for a ride.

And, what do you know, my 2nd favorite place on earth .  .  .

Looks like now would be the time to stop for dinner.  Because once I leave Pigeon Forge, the scenery begins to pick up a bit.

Oh play me some mountain music .  .  .
Heading south on Rt 441 from Pigeon Forge takes me to Gatlinburg, TN and the official entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  This place is MASSIVE  -  814 square miles, more than half-a-million acres.  Elevations range from a few hundred feet above sea level to the 6,643 foot summit at Clingmans Dome.  There are over 800 miles of hiking trails contained within, along with lots of fishing, wildlife viewing, and camping opportunities.  And I was on my way into the middle of it.

Approaching Gatlinburg, TN, I wanted to stay on the 441 Bypass around the city.  

<a href="" target="_blank"></a>

At the 0:25 mark in the above video, I am passing by Campbell Lead Rd, which is shown below.  So far, so good.

At the 1:15 mark, I am passing by an overlook that points in the general vicinity of Piney and Brushy Mountains, the views from which are spectacular.

And all was well right up until I merged back onto Route 441 south of the city.  Somehow, I found myself heading north   on 441 back toward Gatlinburg.  I was unaware of this until I started seeing a town where I should be seeing lots of trees and mountains.  No worries.  I made a quick u-turn at a convenience store and started south again.  

Leaving the town of Gatlinburg heading south takes you into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

This time when I reached the point where 441 and the 441 Bypass intersect, I made sure I was paying attention and took the correct route.  

<a href="" target="_blank"></a>

A little further south on Route 441, I passed the park headquarters on the right.

I soon came upon a great overlook that faces east in the general direction of Bull Head Summit, Balsam Point, and Mount Le Conte.  

I stopped and took a couple of pics and a short movie.

<a href="" target="_blank"></a>

The area known as Chimney Tops is named as such because of the vertical holes in the bare rock summit that resemble a chimney flue.  

I pulled over once again to snap a few more pictures.  This particular overlook faces directly south in the general direction of Sugarland Mountain.

<a href="" target="_blank"></a>

At the end of the above video, I pass by another overlook that has a better view of the Chimney Tops area.

When you look at a map of the park, you see an area where Route 441 seems to make a “loop.”

The bridge in the screenshot above is actually the same road from which the shot was taken.  My guess is that due to the need for an elevation change combined with the geography of that area made the “loop” design a good alternative.  Road engineers weren’t kidding when they posted the ”20 mph curve” sign.

<a href="" target="_blank"></a>

From “The Loop” in the road, Route 441 heads directly north, then turns south again looking toward Mount Mingus Summit.  

<a href="" target="_blank"></a>

In the above video, I am also entering an area where a piece of straight roadway becomes harder to find.  This can be seen on the map in the screenshot below.

I stopped at the Morton Overlook to take a few pics.

Due to the previously mentioned curves in the road, I am actually facing in a northwesterly direction looking in between Mount Mingus and Anakeesta Ridge.  The view from the Morton Overlook is pretty amazing.  

<a href="" target="_blank"></a>

These amazing views continue past the Morton Overlook heading toward Newfound Gap.

At the end of the above video, I am approaching Newfound Gap, the lowest drivable point through the park.  Here, the term “Gap” is another word for a “Pass.”  The actual gap, or mountain pass, in this location is at 5,046 feet.  And with that, I have arrived at the Tennessee/North Carolina border.

From this viewing platform .  .  .

.  .  . visitors look west toward Mount Mingus.  On this day, Mother Nature didn’t feel like cooperating, and shielded the view with some low clouds.  

However, walking across the parking area to the east overlook facing Richland Mountain was a different story.

This is a huge photo, so scroll right.

Some great information about the region and native peoples within was posted here.

This is a wonderful place.  And if you ask me, I’d say that this visitor agrees.

I could spend all day up here just daydreaming, relaxing, taking in the amazing scenery.  But, the realization that I do have to return home at some point was beginning to take center stage.  It was time to get back on the road.

Winding down, literally .  .  .
The scenery on the North Carolina side of the park was just as beautiful as that in Tennessee.  A southern view in the general direction of Shot Beech and Beetree Ridges is off to my right, as shown on the map below.

A little further down the road, I stopped at the West Overlook to take a few pictures and shoot some more video, (shown at the bottom of this post).

Here, I am again looking southwest in the general area of Shot Beech and Beetree Ridges.

The spectacular views never seem to end in this part of the country.

It is at this point that I discovered I had another headlight out, this time on the left side.  This Jaguar, AND the ’98 XJ8-L I traded for it, both have a voracious appetite for low beam headlamp bulbs.  Between the two cars, I’ve probably replaced 7 or 8 of them.  In each case, I didn’t have any melted connectors or wiring issues, just a burned out bulb.  Fascinating .  .  .

Not too far past the West Outlook, Route 441 does an about face.  The need to cross a peak dictates a giant “S” curve design for the road.  Within the space of a couple miles, Route 441 goes from heading southeast, through a 180 degree curve that points you northwest.  After a couple of miles in this direction, the road does another 180 and points you southeast again.  

I am now heading toward the southern end of the park, where the road is much less intense.  The curves become less sharp, and less frequent.  The changes in elevation become less dramatic.

And before I knew it, I was passing by the Oconaluftee Visitor’s Center.  

My scenic journey through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is complete.

<a href="" target="_blank"></a>

Once past the Visitor’s Center, I got one last incredible view, this time of nearby Rattlesnake Mountain.  If I would have kept the camera rolling past the last corner in the above video, I would have captured the southern entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway, (hopefully, that will be a future road trip feature in this thread).  The town of Cherokee, NC follows shortly after.  If it wouldn’t have been so late, I would have stopped at Harrah’s for the buffet.  But on this day, it was not meant to be.  The rest of the trip back to Athens proceeded without incident.  

Epilogue .  .  .
Compared to the many wonderful road trips I have experienced in the past, this trip was equally as nice.  Driving my first Porsche 911 was a great experience, (I often wonder if I should have bought that car).  The drive through the Great Smoky Mountains was a peaceful trip, quite relaxing.  At a time in my life where I needed a diversion from everything that had happened, this trip delivered.

I plan on posting in this thread as conditions warrant.  I have a lot of memories from great road trips past stored away.  As I can retrieve and compose, you’ll see the results here.  And like I said in the introduction, everyone is welcome to share his/her favorite road trip as well.

Thanks for reading .  .  .
« Last Edit: March 01, 2016, 12:52:47 AM by Oldcarsarecool » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2011, 11:27:55 AM »

Another enjoyable read! Smiley
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« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2011, 12:57:20 PM »

I cant wait to read more. Thank you for sharing. 

I need to visit Branson again sometime. I haven't been in years, your post reminded me of how much I miss it. Smiley

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« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2012, 02:00:05 AM »

Breaking in the new Boxster .  .  .
April 25, 2012

Some of you may be familiar with the show/swap meet/car corral gatherings known simply as “Carlisle.”  Automobile related events at the fairgrounds in Carlisle Pennsylvania have occurred regularly since 1974.  Going to Carlisle was a given when I lived in Pennsylvania.  I haven’t been back since 2003 mainly due to the distance involved.  

This year, I had amassed enough Annual Leave time to make a trip to Carlisle possible.  I decided to take a few days off and head home for a visit.  Wednesday April 25 would be spent in the northbound lanes of Interstates 85, 77, and 81.  This would give me Thursday and Friday in Altoona to visit with my brother, as well as catch up with old friends and relatives whom I have not seen since my mom’s passing one year ago, (yes, it’s been a full year already !).  Saturday would be reserved for Carlisle and saying hello to PMDman, who I have not seen in more than 10 years.  Sunday April 29 would be spent driving back to the warmer climate of Athens.  This 1,800 mile road trip would also be the perfect way to get up close and personal with my new ride. 

I can’t really explain why.  But in years past, if bad weather was ever going to show itself, the week of Carlisle is usually when it happened.  Whether it be a “winter’s-not-quite-over” reminder in April for the Spring event, bad thunderstorms for the Corvette event in August, or an early cold snap in October for the Fall event, Pennsylvania weather has this unique ability of not being very cooperative or predictable.  This year would be no different. 

With my trip just two days away, I happened to take note of the “Central Appalachian Snowstorm” news headlines that were appearing everywhere.  And sure enough, on April 23, Laurel Summit, PA had 18 inches of snow on the ground.  My brother had to travel into the Laurel Highlands for work where he encountered 6 – 10 inches of snow in near white-out conditions at times.  JKRPA woke up that morning without power and also had several inches of snow in her back yard.  I figured going into this trip that it would be too cold for topless driving.  But I had not counted on the fact that I may have to deal with actual snow.  Thankfully, only the higher elevations were affected, (Laurel Summit, PA is around 2,700 feet above sea level).  Altoona, Carlisle and all points in between were ok.  

Wednesday morning April 25 arrived with the sun shining in Athens, but with the temperature a little too chilly for top-down fun, (upper 40s).  The high for today was forecast to approach 80 degrees, but wouldn't get there until I was long gone.  The roof would stay up for now.

I've taken pictures of this garage along I-85 near mile 87 in South Carolina previously.  

The Jaguar Mark VII and ‘40s Packard limo look like they haven’t moved since I last saw them.  However, the 1959 Edsel wagon has moved, (previously it sat next to the Jaguar).  A decent looking Porsche 911 now joins the group.

The ’64 Impala is still there, and shares the front yard with a Porsche Boxster.  The Fiat GT is still under the cover in front of the garage.

I took those pictures around 11:30 AM.  By then, the temperature had climbed to a more reasonable mid-60s.  I'm travelling northward, meaning I better take advantage of any top-down weather when the opportunity presents itself.  One light jacket later, I was enjoying what sunshine and warmth there was.

Driving with the roof down has other advantages.  The Charlotte, North Carolina airport (CLT), sits just south of the western I-85/I-485 beltway interchange that encircles the city.  There is always an abundance of air traffic in the area.  With the roof down, I pointed the camera in that general direction and started shooting.  And what do you know.  Even a blind squirrel manages to get a nut once in a while.

The I-485 beltway takes me to I-77, which takes me to I-81 in southwestern Virginia.  I would spend the next 230 miles on this road heading north through the Appalachian Mountains.  This is a beautiful drive with some spectacular scenery.  Purgatory Mountain sits near mile 160 on the western side of the interstate.

Purgatory Mountain got more impressive as I got closer.

In this same location on the eastern side of the interstate sits the 3,730 foot summit of Headforemost Mountain.

With the roof down and the incredible scenery all around, you can imagine how I was feeling.

The southern end of Short Mountain is located near mile 270.

This area is known as “The Knob.”

Short Mountain extends northward for a while on the eastern side of the interstate.

For being called “Short,” it’s actually pretty impressive in its size.

At the northern end of Short Mountain sits Waonaze Peak measuring 2,710 feet above sea level.

On the western side of the interstate, Threemile Mountain and surrounding peaks are located in this area.

Interstate 81 takes me all the way to Winchester, Virginia where I pick up the Route 37 Bypass around the city.  I’m not sure exactly what this field of yellow is.  

All I know is that there was a lot of it !

This HUGE field sits across the bypass from the Winchester Medical Center complex, and was quite fragrant.

From Route 37, I head north on US Route 522.  I've always loved that 35 mile stretch of road between Berkeley Springs, West Virginia and Winchester, Virginia.  The mountain scenery is just as beautiful as that along Interstate 81, but a more intimate version of it.

Instead of traveling along the mountains on the interstate, 522 takes you into the mountains.  I really enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

US 522 from Winchester to the West Virginia state line is a 4 lane road packed with great scenery.

Cacapon Mountain .  .  .

Warm Springs Ridge and Piney Ridge .  .  .

Once in West Virginia, 522 reverts back to a 2 lane secondary road.

If I read the topographic map correctly, the three features seen here consist of Warm Springs Ridge, Piney Ridge, and Cacapon Mountain.

I spotted a couple of familiar landmarks as I approached the town of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.  The 1955 Chevy, 1966 Lincoln, and old van that sit beside a trailer along Route 522 are still there, just like they have been for decades.  They can all be seen with reasonable clearly during the winter when the excessive vegetation is dormant.  

However, as spring approaches and the weeds begin to grow, they disappear.

A mile or so up the road, the white Lincoln Mark V is still there.

Heading into town, I see the 1966 Pontiac Grand Prix is still sitting in the same front yard.  My comments regarding the ’55 Chevy and ’66 Lincoln from earlier apply here also.  In the winter, the lack of leaves allows the car to be seen through the shrubs.

Today, if you don’t know the car is there, you would never see it.

I make my way through the center of town past Berkeley Springs State Park.

The Rag Shop is a 2nd hand store I have visited many times.  The principle is the same as a Goodwill or Salvation Army thrift store.  Donated items are resold with the proceeds going to local charities.  You can find a lot of great stuff in a place like this.

US 522 north continues out of Berkeley Springs crossing the Potomac River into Maryland, and the town of Hancock.  Interstate 70 arrives immediately after that.  I am in the state of Maryland for, literally, around 5 minutes.  I-70 West takes me into Pennsylvania.  

Once in Pennsylvania, the normally east-west I-70 actually runs north-south for 23 miles, and takes me in between the Town Hill (west) and Sideling Hill (east) mountain ranges.  

Interstate 70 climbs the eastern side of Town Hill a few miles south of Breezewood, Pennsylvania.  Some great sights can be seen from here.

Off to the east is the Sideling Hill range.

Interstate 70 crosses the Town Hill range and intersects with PA Route 643.

A couple of familiar buildings dot the top of the mountain at this interchange.

I’ve stopped at this used car lot before, although that was many years ago.

Looking the other direction at this location, I can see the sunset over the Rays Hill mountain range off to the west.

Once in Breezewood, I pick up the recently reconstructed US Route 30, The Lincoln Highway, and make my way to Bedford, Pennsylvania.

From Bedford, I head north on Interstate 99 toward my home town of Altoona, PA.  I traveled this road daily from 2001 – 2003 when I worked at Bedford Ford Lincoln Mercury.  The best thing about I-99 is that it’s normally never crowded.  I usually had the whole road to myself most of the time with today being no exception.

The rather large Dunning Mountain sits off to the east.

The various peaks seen off to the west are near the 6,128 acre Blue Knob State Park.  

Sunset in Central Pennsylvania .  .  .

The Blue Knob ski area sits on the mountain's northern side.  This was a regular wintertime destination for me when I was a kid.  On a clear day  -  like today  -  it’s possible to see the ski area from I-99.  I pointed my camera and started shooting .  .  .

And with that, I was “home.”  I am happy to report that the Porsche never missed a beat over the entire 700 miles.  Several observations come to mind from this experience.

~  In a review of a 2000 Porsche Boxster S, Car & Driver Magazine testers were “mystified” by the much better than expected ride quality they experienced with their test car.  After 700 miles, I whole-heartedly agree.  I was expecting this lightweight car with a short wheelbase and limited suspension travel to have iffy ride quality at best.  I was extremely surprised at how livable this car was, (dare I say “pleasant ?”).

~  The seating is not as comfortable as what I have been used to with both of my XJ8s in terms of softness.  However, the supportive nature, especially for my lower back, made itself known almost immediately.  My back had absolutely no complaints after 700 miles of driving.  If I had to nitpick, I would like the seat backrest to be a little less curved, which would allow for a more upright driving position.

~  The “must-rev-it-to-make-it-go” nature of the 2.7L H-6 cylinder engine is reflected in the car’s gearing.  The tachometer is turning north of 3,000 rpm at 75 mph.  Engine noise was more pronounced, but not objectionable.  

~  The benefit to the higher cruising rpm shows itself during passing and climbing a mountain.  With the tach in the middle of its range, the cruise control had no trouble maintaining the car’s speed while climbing any hill I encountered.  When a downshift was necessary, the Tiptronic automatic transmission did its thing and off I went.

~  I averaged 27 – 29 mpg over the 700 miles, which I am satisfied with.  Although, this does make me appreciate the 30 – 31 mpg my XJ8 used to average, (translation:  the 3,900 pound luxury car with a 300 hp V-8 got better fuel mileage than the 2,700 pound sports car with smaller 6-cylinder).

~  Having said that, the small-by-comparison 16.9 gallon fuel tank makes for more stops for fuel during the trip.  The Jag’s 22.5 gallon fuel tank and 30 mpg allowed for traveling 600 miles on a tank of fuel.  The Porsche will go around 400 miles comfortably.  This isn't a bad thing at all, just unfamiliar.

I’ll spend the next couple of days sightseeing around my home town and visiting friends and relatives as time permits.  And then it’s off to Carlisle.  To continue the story, CLICK HERE or scroll down.  The journey continues below .  .  .
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« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2012, 09:25:02 AM »

Jeez. How did I miss this write up?

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« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2012, 02:30:07 PM »

Welcome to Altoona, Pennsylvania .  .  .
April 27, 2012

My hometown of Altoona, Pennsylvania is situated in the Allegheny Mountains in the south-central part of the Commonwealth.  If you are looking at a map of PA and draw a straight line from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg, Altoona sits just north of the midpoint of that line.  This was my "home" for the first 37 years of my life. 

My house would be located toward the center of the photo below.  The large red brick building in that area is the former Lakemont School, which sits on Spruce Street.  My house sat 3 blocks up the hill from that school.

Altoona has a rich railroad history dating back to the mid-1800s.  Altoona, itself, was founded by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1849.

Altoona had the largest railroad shops in the world for a period of time.  This history is commemorated with the Altoona Railroader’s Memorial Museum.

Altoona is also home to Sheetz, one of the finest convenience store chains in the nation. 

Sheetz has taken the idea of a convenience store to a whole new level.  In my travels throughout this country, I have yet to see anything that comes close.

Altoona is home to the Curve baseball team, a minor league Class AA affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  When Altoona was awarded an Eastern League team in 1999, a new baseball stadium was constructed about a mile from my house in Lakemont.

The team has been well received by the area.  Curve games are a fun experience, and have become a great way to spend an afternoon.

I moved to Missouri in 2003, then to Georgia in 2009.  Extraordinary events aside, my visits to Pennsylvania were limited to one per year, usually occurring when I had amassed enough vacation time.  After a couple of days visiting my Mom, my brother, and other friends, I would return to wherever I happened to be living. 

As the years progressed, I found myself beginning to appreciate the process of “looking around” while I was home.  Driving around your home town may not qualify as a “sightseeing” trip.  But as you are gradually removed from it, in my case for almost a decade now, seeing all the old familiar sights brings back a lot of good memories.  It allows me to relax, and I enjoy it.

And that’s exactly what I was doing today, despite the cold late-April weather keeping me from dropping the top.  I was on my way to meet a friend for lunch and decided to take the long way to get there. 

Sitting at the signal light at Pleasant Valley Blvd and 17th Street, Brush Mountain dominates the landscape.

I am heading toward the recently completed Logan Town Center, a shopping complex that, from day one, has been a source of controversy in the area.  It all started with the site location.

Behind Lowe's in the above picture sits Interstate 99.  The Logan Town Center was proposed for a large tract of land sitting between the base of Brush Mountain and Interstate 99, (Best Buy toward the top of the photo is part of the Logan Town Center).  The site would sit in between the 17th Street, (on the left), and Frankstown Road, (out of view to the right), interchanges with each offering access.

Very few people seemed to be happy about the proposed location when it was initially announced.  Construction began sometime after the millennium, but progressed at a snail’s pace due to all the legal challenges that almost immediately began to appear.  Sure, the site was being cleared, as seen in these photos from 2004.

May 30, 2004

May 30, 2004

But very little else was happening.  The typical comment I would hear from people was something along the lines of, “There’s nothing being built up there, all they’re doing is moving dirt !“

May 30, 2004

The Logan Town Center was eventually completed in 2006.  From what I have seen on my visits home, it appears to be quite successful to this point.  Entering from the previously mentioned 17th Street interchange offers a great view of the mountains to the west as seen in this winter panorama taken from Best Buy’s parking lot.

February 22, 2011

The Appalachian Mountains dominate the landscape in Altoona. 

On this day, I was meeting an old friend for lunch at Panera Bread, which is just out of view to the left in the photo below. 

I also got to say hi to some of my mom’s neighbors, all of whom served as my eyes and ears during her illness and subsequent passing.  I had a nice visit with my aunt and uncle, (my mom’s brother).  They didn't know I was coming !  That kind of surprise is always nice. 

This evening’s dinner would be held at my brother’s house.  Getting to his house in neighboring Duncansville, Pennsylvania takes me from Altoona through the Borough of Hollidaysburg past Chimney Rocks Park.

This former Indian lookout turned recreation area sits atop a hill at the southern end of the Borough off of PA Route 36.

A couple of miles down the road, the gap between Loop Mountain and Short Mountain can be seen.

I’m headed west toward the Borough of Newry, population:  270.  I was able to get some great shots of Short Mountain from this location.

The turbines of the Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm can be seen off in the distance.  Here, you are looking west at the Appalachian Plateau toward Blue Knob State Park.

And with that, I have arrived at my brother’s house.  It’s time to enjoy a nice dinner before heading to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, the story of which immediately follows below .  .  .
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« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2012, 05:39:31 PM »

Getting there is half the fun .  .  .
April 27, 2012

I am normally allowed to have a small space on the couch to sit when I visit my brother's home.  However, the three Golden Retrievers, two Bernese Mountain Dogs, and the Newfoundland have to agree to this arrangement ahead of time.  

Couch space comes at a premium in his house.  My brother and his wife are lucky to have seating for themselves, actually.  The upside to this is that there are a number household items that my brother will probably never need.  Things like a doorbell, a garbage disposal, and a security system would all end up collecting dust in his house.

Cooking steaks on the grill is always a good thing.  My brother pulled a couple of nice fillets out of the freezer and fired up the grill.  Soon we were enjoying a nice evening meal and spending some more time “catching up.”  This is an activity that I have lost track of in recent years due to the great distances involved.  It’s good to rediscover it again, especially when the entourage of lap dogs wants to sit with you on the couch.  And if you were in any danger, Lexi (the Newfoundland), is right there to gently grab onto your arm and drag you to safety, like a good Newfie is supposed to do.  

“I know we’re not in the water.  But, you look like you need to be saved from something !  I've got you covered !”  

But soon after, the time had come for me to say goodbye to Altoona, Pennsylvania.  Like my previous visits, this one was short in duration, but stuffed with good times.  I’m not sure if I’m going to get back to Altoona again this year.  I’m also not sure if my brother will be able to visit me in Georgia over the Christmas holiday like he did this past season.  So, this may be the last time I see him for a while.  

My plan for this Friday evening was to head from Altoona to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania where I would stay overnight.  Saturday morning, I had arranged to meet an old friend for breakfast.  Rob and I went to school at Penn State Harrisburg back in the day.  I would see him at Carlisle events periodically after we graduated.  I've been gone from Pennsylvania since 2003, meaning I haven’t seen him in probably 10 years.  

I chose Chambersburg, Pennsylvania as my overnight stop because of its location along Interstate 81.  Not only is this convenient to Carlisle, it is also convenient for my drive back to Georgia on Sunday.  I’ll shave more than one hour off my travel time.  But today, I get to revisit yet another wonderful memory from my past  -  getting to Chambersburg .  .  .  

We all have a list of our “favorite roads” .  .  .
Whether it be for the scenery or the chance to let your car stretch its legs, (or a combination of both as is usually the case), the concept of The Road Trip occupies a special place within the mind of the automobile enthusiast.  The actual destination takes a back seat to journey, itself.  I had chosen one of my favorite roads on this evening for my journey to Chambersburg  -  US Route 30, the Lincoln Highway.  

Route 30 in central Pennsylvania takes you across the Allegheny Mountains.  While not that big in the grand scheme of things  -  the highest peak in the Commonwealth is Mount Davis at 3,213 ft  -  these mountains make Route 30 "not truck friendly” in every sense of the term.  “Trucks Avoid US Route 30” signs are scattered all over the primary roadways in the center part of Pennsylvania.  But in a Porsche Boxster, Route 30 can be a wonderful experience.  And the view from the mountains is always awesome !

With a little bit of daylight left for some picture-taking, I said goodbye to my brother and Altoona and headed south on old US Route 220.  

At the next signal light, (out of view in front of me in the above photo), I’ll turn left onto PA Route 36, a 2-lane secondary road that takes me to Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania and Morrison's Cove, a 39 mile long valley known for its farms and extremely fertile soil.  “The Cove” is surrounded by mountains, and accessible through a series of Gaps.  Here, I am passing through McKee Gap.

McKee Gap passes in between Short Mountain on my left (shown in the above photo), and Dunning Mountain on my right, as seen in this photo.  

Passing through McKee Gap takes me past the Borough of Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania and into “The Cove.”

Tussey Mountain, the eastern border of Morrisons Cove, dominates the landscape ahead of me.

Some of the most fertile soil in the nation is contained herein.

A large portion of the valley floor is level, making it ideal for farming.  I really like the perspective given by this photo of Tussey Mountain !

I remember the first small white building at the extreme right hand side of the photo below when it operated as a convenience store.  I used to stop there on my way home from Penn State in the late 1980s.

A private airfield sits toward the end of the straightaway above, where the red buildings are on the left.  This makes sense with so much level ground nearby.  This particular airfield has been here for many years.  Just out of view in the photo below is a small hanger for the aircraft.  There used to be an old Plymouth Sport Fury Convertible sitting there as well.

The Borough of Woodbury, Pennsylvania, population 284, sits a few miles into Morrisons Cove.  With a population like that, it’s understandable that passing through Woodbury doesn't take very long, (if you blink too many times, you’ll miss it).  The Borough sneaks up on you as you travel south on PA Route 36.  Transitioning from the farmland of the photo below occurs gradually.

You know you are “in town” when a few houses and buildings beginning to appear.

Woodbury, Pennsylvania is home to the former Miller Brothers Chrysler, a fixture in the community for a century or so.  A Chrysler product dealership since the 1940s, Miller Brothers fell victim to Chrysler’s restructuring in 2008.  Miller Brothers still exists, still in the center of town right up against the road, but as a used car dealership and repair facility.


And just like that, the transition through the Borough of Woodbury, Pennsylvania is complete.  Once through, I am treated to some more great views of Tussey Mountain.

You may have noticed that Tussey Mountain seems to be getting closer.

In this part of the state, PA Route 36 travels almost directly north-south.  However, Tussey Mountain sits on a northeast-southwest angle.  The two eventually meet in an area known as the Loysburg Gap.

Approaching the Loysburg Gap takes me past Northern Bedford High School and down the hill toward the town of Loysburg, Pennsylvania, population – 303.  I’ve always loved this giant stone house that sits across from the high school.

The home may not look all that giant heading down the hill.  It’s the view looking back up the hill that shows how large this home really is.

The Loysburg Bypass intersection sits at the bottom of the hill.

The town can be seen off to the right from the bypass.

Some of you may be thinking:  Why was it necessary to build a bypass around a town with a population of 303 people ?  Surely there can’t be that much traffic congestion.

Before the bypass was built, all traffic on Route 36 had to pass through town eventually ending up at the intersection of Woodbury Pike and Town Hill Road, as seen in the photo below.  Southbound traffic enters the intersection from the left and must make the sharp and narrow left hand turn to continue south on Route 36.  Automobile traffic had no problems with this task.  However, residents living at that corner would often emerge from their houses to find an 18-wheeler on the front porch, hence the bypass.

As I continue south on the bypass, the Loysburg Gap gets real big real fast.

Off to my right beyond Loysburg is Evitts Mountain.

The Loysburg Gap cuts through Tussey Mountain and takes me out of Morrisons Cove.

Once through the Loysburg Gap, I now have a view of Warrior Ridge off to the east.

I’m approaching the intersection of PA Routes 36 and 26, otherwise known as Cottle’s Corner.  This is where PA Route 36 ends, (or begins if you’re traveling north).  

I've admired this giant old home and barn that sit near this intersection for decades.  

I have no idea how long the property has been vacant.  But, I remember it looking vacant when I would drive past on my way to Penn State Harrisburg in the late 1980s.

There are several buildings on the property.  Besides the house and large barn, I also see a smaller outbuilding toward the center of the photo below.

I would love to take a walk around and through this place.

I’ll have to put that on the agenda for my next visit.

I make the right hand turn at Cottle’s Corner onto PA Route 26 heading south.  

For the next 10 miles, I’ll be traveling along the base of Tussey Mountain.  On a clear day like today, this is a beautiful drive.

Route 26 leads me to US Route 30, The Lincoln Highway, and the town of Breezewood, Pennsylvania.

Years ago, more than one billboard along the Pennsylvania Turnpike proclaimed Breezewood as The Town of Motels, and for good reason.  The Turnpike (I-76), Interstate 70, and US Route 30 all intersect here.  In the photo above, if I was traveling to Washington, DC, the right turn entrance to I-70 East is directly in front of me.  If I was heading toward Wheeling, West Virginia on I-70 West, or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the Turnpike eastbound, that right turn entrance is further up the road.

However, you may have noticed that all this intersecting takes place in town.    This is because all Interstate 70 traffic passes right through Breezewood, PA.  Eastbound traffic must exit the PA Turnpike (which shares the same stretch of pavement with I-70 in this area), and pass through town in order to get back on another limited access highway to continue on.  Westbound I-70 traffic from Washington DC encounters several "Expressway Ends" signs approaching Breezewood.  Traffic actually winds through town before returning to the PA Turnpike/I-70 West limited access highway.  This remains one of the most bizarre traffic arrangements I have ever seen.  

With an enormous amount of interstate traffic passing through town, Breezewood has become more of a town of convenience stores today.  It is also known as the town of immense traffic congestion, especially during holidays for the reason described above.  Thankfully, today is not a holiday.

In the photo above, I am sitting at the signal light for the right turn entrance to I-70 east.  The 2nd green sign (about ¼ mile ahead), signals the entrance to the highway for westbound I-70 and both directions of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76).  Heading west, I-70 and the Turnpike share the same real estate from Breezewood to New Stanton, Pennsylvania 90 miles away.

However this evening, I will be staying on US Route 30 all the way to Chambersburg.  This means no turns for me as I pass through town and begin the long climb up the side of Rays Hill.  The sky was beautiful on this night.

I tried to point the camera behind me toward the west.  I couldn't get a sunset picture, but you get the idea.  

I have a spectacular view of the whole area at the top of Rays Hill.  In the next series of photos, I am looking in a northeasterly direction toward the 75,000 acre Buchanan State Forest.  Route 30 actually crosses over the Turnpike in this area, which can be seen off to the left in the photo below.

The evening colors in the sky were quite beautiful over some of the peaks on Rays Hill.

All the significant elements of the area can be seen from this vantage point.  I am traveling on US Route 30.  The highway in the distance is the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which passes through the Buchanan State Forest.  On the far left is the northward continuation of Rays Hill.  And finally, in between Rays Hill and the Turnpike sits Clear Valley.

But what cannot be seen is even more fascinating.  Beginning in October 1940, motorists needing to travel across the southern part of the Commonwealth were able to do so on a new modern 4-lane super-highway, the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  In order to get through the mountainous terrain, 7 tunnels were incorporated into the new roadway, all of which could only accommodate 1 lane of traffic in each direction.  Massive bottlenecks soon appeared.  

In an effort to ease the congestion, plans were put into motion in the 1960s to “twin” 4 of the tunnels, (i.e. add a lane to each direction).  The remaining 3 tunnels would be bypassed altogether.  Rather than go through the mountains, the bypass would go over top of them.  The above photos of the Turnpike from Rays Hill show the post-1968 bypass.

Part of the Rays Hill/Sideling Hill bypassed section of the original Turnpike sits in this valley area known as Clear Valley.   This area is accessible, and plans are in the works, (have been for years, actually), for most of the bypassed sections to be converted into a bike trail.  

More information regarding the “Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike” can be found at THIS LINK.  Fascinating stuff .  .  .

Now I’m traveling on top of the mountains.  For the next 3 or so miles, this is what the scenery will look like.

The Sideling Hill Summit sits 2,195 feet above sea level, and marks the beginning of my trip down the mountain.  I tried to get a shot of the marker to no avail.

A while back, I mentioned how “not truck friendly” Route 30 was in Pennsylvania.  The warning posted at the start of the descent from the Sideling Hill Summit provides a good illustration of what I mean.

The scenery, however, is amazing !  (even if my photography skills are not).

The sign isn't kidding when it mentions “sharp curves” .  .  .

.  .  . or the “Runaway Truck Ramps.”

After the 3 ½ mile descent, I am now making my way to the small village of Saluvia, Pennsylvania, population 1,249.  The terrain is a bit more level in this area.

Now consider the following:  The distance from Breezewood to Saluvia is roughly 8 miles.  I still have more than 30 miles to go before I reach Chambersburg.  On US Route 30, this translates to a few more climbs and descents, a few more mountain summits, and a bunch more “sharp curves.”  

Contained within the website is a bunch of great Lincoln Highway information including postcards and maps from the pre-war days.  This postcard from 1939 will give you an idea of what the road will be like for the rest of my journey.  Pay special attention to the depiction of the changes in elevation below the picture.

I love the ”Not as bad as they look”   caption !

The conventional map below shows the various ups and downs, twists and turns, climbs and descents that will highlight the rest of my trip.  I have circled Saluvia, where the last photo was taken, and underlined the markers for US Route 30 to give you an idea of what is ahead of me.  I have also tried to label some of the key mountains.  Unfortunately, the one thing I don’t have at this point is daylight.  So sadly, my picture-taking adventure has come to an end for today.

I’ll spend a total of two nights in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and drive back to Georgia on Sunday.  On the agenda for tomorrow, (Saturday April 28, 2012)  -  Spring Carlisle, and the reviving of some more great memories from my past.

For those not familiar with the Carlisle automobile events, I encourage you to check out the photos from my trip that are posted HERE in the Regional Events Lounge.  There will be a link at the end of those photos to return you to this location to ride along on the road trip back to Georgia.  If 180 pictures of cars, parts, and other memorabilia aren't for you, CLICK HERE to tag along for the ride home to Georgia .  .  .
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« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2012, 11:25:06 PM »

Breezewood?!? What a throwback! That's an absolute staple of my childhood trips from VA to Wisconsin!

(I say childhood in the sense of "pre-high school," clarifying so you old-timers don't get mad at me Cheesy)

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« Reply #9 on: July 02, 2012, 09:42:07 AM »

Wow. I loved that turnpike history page. Got lost there for about an hour. That stuff just facinates me.

It has been so long since I motored through Pennsylvania, lat 80's I believe was the last time. Beautiful county, especially the western part on the way up to State College.

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« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2012, 12:28:13 AM »

Breezewood?!? What a throwback! That's an absolute staple of my childhood trips from VA to Wisconsin!

(I say childhood in the sense of "pre-high school," clarifying so you old-timers don't get mad at me Cheesy)

Depending on where you were coming from in Virginia, you could have been on the same stretch of roads I mentioned earlier when I posted the pics from Athens to Altoona.  From the Winchester/Roanoke/Blacksburg area, you would have followed my route exactly  -  I-81 North to Winchester, then probably US 522 North to I-70 East to Breezewood.  If you were coming from the Fairfax/Arlington/Alexandria area, you probably would have been on the DC Beltway to I-270 to I-70 to Breezewood.  Even if you headed West on US 50 or I-66, you still would have picked up I-81 near Winchester.

So, "pre-high school" was .  .  . like, 4 or 5 years ago, right .  .  .


Wow. I loved that turnpike history page. Got lost there for about an hour. That stuff just facinates me.

It has been so long since I motored through Pennsylvania, lat 80's I believe was the last time. Beautiful county, especially the western part on the way up to State College.

Those history pages are great !  What were you doing in State College ?  If you were coming from the west, I bet you were on Interstate 80 ?

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« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2012, 09:23:07 AM »

Those history pages are great !  What were you doing in State College ?  If you were coming from the west, I bet you were on Interstate 80 ?

I do not recall what road it was. I remember it was very hilly (mountainous) and sharp turns.

Between 1986 and 1989 I worked for a eyewear company that sold high end, as in carrera, Ray-Ban, and low end stuff, the crap you find at gas stations, including lenses. I would travel a lot to service customers and I had a single customer in State College. I went there every six weeks or so. I had to fly into Toledo, then rent a car to get there. A pain in the ass especially in the winter time. But, a customer is a customer.

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« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2012, 04:28:01 PM »

Depending on where you were coming from in Virginia, you could have been on the same stretch of roads I mentioned earlier when I posted the pics from Athens to Altoona.  From the Winchester/Roanoke/Blacksburg area, you would have followed my route exactly  -  I-81 North to Winchester, then probably US 522 North to I-70 East to Breezewood.  If you were coming from the Fairfax/Arlington/Alexandria area, you probably would have been on the DC Beltway to I-270 to I-70 to Breezewood.  Even if you headed West on US 50 or I-66, you still would have picked up I-81 near Winchester.

So, "pre-high school" was .  .  . like, 4 or 5 years ago, right .  .  .

I'm in summer session right now and start college in August, so just about 5 years since I moved out to South Bend. And I was coming from Vienna (in Fairfax County), so Beltway/270/70 sounds very familiar.

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« Reply #13 on: August 03, 2012, 02:06:53 AM »

All good things must come to an end .  .  .
April 29, 2012

Nine years have passed since I last attended a Carlisle event.  More than that have passed since I’ve seen my college friend Rob.  This trip turned out to be a wonderful way revisit a bunch of great memories from my past.  The weather, while not what I would call great convertible weather, was perfect for a 6 hour stroll through 82 acres of cars, parts, and memorabilia known as Spring Carlisle.  And I got to catch up with an old friend whom I haven’t seen in more than a decade.

But as with all good things, this too must come to an end.  I do, eventually, have to return to the real world of work, paying bills, cutting the grass, and all those other grownup things.  Monday will be here before I know it.  After a nice meal, I said goodbye to Rob and headed back to my hotel in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania for the second of my 2 scheduled nights.  

This trip back to Georgia will be different from my other excursions.  Normally, I have a 680 mile journey from my mom’s driveway to my driveway that takes around 10 ½ - 11 hours.  Today, the location of my hotel along Interstate 81 means I will shave 115 miles off of the total distance, and, since a bunch of those miles normally occur on secondary roads, more than 2 hours off the travel time.

As an added benefit, my southbound journey means I’ll be traveling into more ragtop friendly weather.  The past few mornings have arrived in typical April-in-Pennsylvania fashion, (temperatures in the mid to upper-40s), with afternoon temps hitting the 60 degree mark if I was lucky.  But the overall lack of sunshine has managed to keep the roof up during my stay.  Good times lay ahead.  Not only was the sun was forecast to be visible for the entire trip, I would be arriving home in Athens with temperatures in the low 90s.  

And with that, I said goodbye to Pennsylvania.  I’m not sure when I’ll be back.  Chances are that it probably won’t be during this year.  However, I haven’t been to the AACA Fall Meet in Hershey, Pennsylvania in a while.  So, we’ll see what happens when October arrives .  .  .  

Time to hit the road .  .  .
This Sunday morning, April 29, 2012, arrived like I mentioned above.  My instrument cluster thermometer is telling me that it’s a rather chilly 45 degrees Fahrenheit at 8 AM.  I admit that I’m a little insane when it comes to the “must-put-the-top-down” mentality.  However this is too cold even for my comfort level, regardless of how well the heat works in the Porsche, (quite well, by the way).  So for now, the roof will stay up.

The plan for this morning is pretty straight forward  -  leave the hotel, get on Interstate 81 southbound, and stay there for around 5 hours.  The first hour will be spent state-hopping on my way to Winchester, Virginia.  From the hotel parking lot, I’ll cross the Mason-Dixon Line in about 15 minutes.  The 12 minute trek through Maryland consists of bypassing the city of Hagerstown and HGR Airport.  The speed limit goes up to 70 mph in West Virginia, (hooray !), making the 30 miles I’ll spend in that state pass by in about 25 minutes.  Crossing the Virginia state line means I should see Winchester in about 5 minutes, along with more familiar territory.  Coming from Altoona, this is where I would normally pick up I-81.  

I’ve traveled this route many times in the past, but rarely on the interstate.  US Route 11, the proverbial “back road” that parallels I-81, was always preferred.  I would be on Route 11 today as well if I had unlimited time.  So in that sense, this rather nondescript stretch of interstate highway will actually be something “different,” which is good.

“Nondescript” becomes quite pleasant and relaxing once past Winchester when I enter the George Washington National Forest.  The George Washington and adjacent Jefferson National Forests were administratively combined into a HUGE tract of public land in 1995, as in 1.8-million-acres huge.  These forests sit in an area known as the Ridge and Valley Appalachians.  Stretching from southeastern New York all the way to Alabama, the area is exactly what the name implies  -  a bunch of ridges and a bunch of valleys.  Interstate 81 in Virginia travels right through the center of it.  The scenery is incredible, especially on a clear day like today.  I've posted pictures from my travels through this area in the past.  Trying to identify the various landmarks has been quite a challenge for me.  But with each trip, I am getting more familiar with the ins and outs of a Topographic map, and have managed to put a name to some of the pictures.

Speaking of which .  .  .

I have labeled my direction of travel in the graphics below.  Traveling southbound, the first major landmark I encounter past Winchester and the interchange for Interstate 66 sits near mile marker 296  -  Massanutten Mountain.

Massanutten Mountain is actually a large mountain range made up of several individual mountains and peaks.  

And by “large,” I mean that it stretches more than 50 miles, and will dominate the landscape off to my left for the next hour or so.  Wikipedia’s Massanutten Mountain page shows a great aerial photograph of most of the mountain range, (only without the cool Porsche Boxster).

The northern-most end of Massanutten Mountain sits near mile marker 296.  Some of the smaller mountains and peaks in this area include Three Top Mountain, Signal Knob, and Meneca Peak.

Three Top Mountain remains next to me on my left for a few miles.

Powell Mountain becomes visible when Three Top Mountain ends.

At the end of Powell Mountain sits the 2,710 foot Waonaze Peak.  

Powell Mountain ends and Short Mountain begins in this area just east of the town of Edinburg, Virginia.

This area is known as the Edinburg Gap.

A gap is just what it says  -  the space in between two mountains.  Edinburg Gap, which is formed by the end of Powell Mountain and the beginning of Short Mountain, can be seen in the photo below.

Short Mountain extends for about 7 miles from the Edinburg Gap (north end) to the town of Mt. Jackson, Virginia (south end).  Despite being named “Short,” it actually is pretty impressive in its size.

The low clouds over Short Mountain made for a few great pictures.

At the southern end of Short Mountain sits “The Knob.”

There is a distinct rock formation at The Knob, which can be seen quite well when traveling northbound on I-81.  I’ve photographed it before.  

Unfortunately, the low clouds have it covered today.

I appear to have some company as I travel along the mountain range .  .  .

Going back to the aerial picture, you can see where I am in relation to the various mountains that make up the Massanutten Range.  I have just driven past Short Mountain and “The Knob,” both of which are labeled on the aerial photo below.    

Passing “The Knob” and the southern end of Short Mountain near the town of New Market, Virginia allows Kerns Mountain to be visible, the end of which forms the northern side of the New Market Gap.

The New Market Gap divides the Massanutten Range into northern and southern halves, and is bisected by US Route 211.

The low clouds previously seen hovering around the tops of the ridges are still present, and make for some really great pictures.

Once past the New Market Gap, I am now in the southern section of the Massanutten Range.  The individual mountains have names like Big Mountain and Short Horse Mountain.  But somewhere along the line, creativity began to dwindle, which resulted in the cleverly named First Mountain, Second Mountain, Third Mountain, and Forth Mountain.

These ridges run parallel with each other, and are separated by small valleys.  The mountain names are assigned from eastern ridges to western ridges.  Second Mountain is the longest of the four, and the last mountain you see as you reach the southern end of the Massanutten Range.

The scenery relaxes a bit for the next hour or so.  Shenandoah National Park sits off in the distance to the east.  I could feel that it had been steadily getting warmer.  By the time I reached the eastbound Interstate 64 split outside of Staunton, Virginia, my instrument cluster thermometer was telling me upper 60s.  I can work with this !  After fueling up at Sheetz at mile marker 222, the top came down, and stayed there for the duration of my trip.  

I started seeing large mountains again as I approached mile marker 205 near the small town of Raphine, Virginia.  

Notable features of this area include Groahs Ridge, McClung Mountain, Adams Peak, and South Mountain.  I’m not sure which peak is which.  But if I had to guess, I would say the taller summit in the center of the photo below is Adam’s Peak at 2,976 feet.

The smaller peak on the left could possibly be McClung Mountain at 2,798 feet.

McClung Mountain and Adams Peak are in the 3,000 feet range.  Behind them sit a few 4,000 footers  -  Elk Pond, Rocky, and Cole Mountains.  It’s hard to get an idea of size from photos taken from the interstate, which sits a good distance away.

Zooming in on something I can relate to, like the cows standing next to the fence, provides a better perspective of size.  These peaks, even those that may be only   2,500 – 3,000 feet in elevation, are huge.

Just past Adams Peak is South Mountain which extends for a few miles toward the town of Buena Vista, Virginia and the split with westbound Interstate 64.  If I turn right here, I would be in St. Louis, Missouri in about 12 hours.

I am getting close to the point where the George Washington National Forest ends and the Jefferson National Forest begins, with the dividing line being the James River.  Pine Ridge and Cove Mountain near the town of Buchanan, Virginia sit off to the east.  

Lots of travelers on the road this weekend .  .  .

Approaching the city of Roanoke, Virginia, Tinker Mountain stands out on my right.

Even though I-81 runs north-south, at this particular location near mile marker 148, I am pointed almost directly west.  In front of me are Green Ridge, (smaller peak in the foreground), and Brushy Mountain in the background.

Rounding the next corner near mile marker 147 gives me a better view.

Interstate 81 serves as a bypass around the northwest side of the city of Roanoke.  At this point, I can see the 3,928 foot Poor Mountain on my left.

Rounding a slight corner that was free of trees gives me a great shot of Poor Mountain.  

If I look to my right, I see the 3,290 foot Fort Lewis Mountain.

These two giants sit across Interstate 81 from one another.  Physically, Fort Lewis Mountain on the right is closer to the roadway.

However, Poor Mountain is definitely the larger of the two, and looks huge despite being a further off in the distance.

Continuing south on Interstate 81 as I approach the town of Lafayette, Virginia near mile marker 129, I notice that I appear to be traveling through another group of mountains.  I am seeing a lot of smaller peaks clustered together on both sides of the roadway.

This valley area is known as Pedlar Hollow, with the surrounding peaks known as Pedlar Hills.    

I-81 actually cuts through Pedlar Hills, which is why there are multiple peaks on both sides of the road.  The 646 acre Pedlar Hills Natural Area Preserve sits off to the left near mile marker 128.

If I read the topographic map correctly, most of the peaks near the roadway seem to be in the 1,900 – 2,100 foot range, and make nice spots for cell phone towers.

Passing by Exit 128 takes me further through Pedlar Hills, past the previously mentioned Nature Preserve.

A few miles down the road just outside of Radford, Virginia sits one of the many rest areas scattered along the interstate.  I pulled in for a brief break and happened upon a really nice looking 1961 Cadillac and a Porsche 911 Carrera on a trailer.

Both cars looked either beautifully restored and/or really well taken care of.  Based on the front fender emblem, I’m going to call the Caddy a Series 62 6-Window Sedan.  The Porsche looks to be a mid-1980s 3.2L Carrera Series.

I hit the road again after a quick rest stop, still smiling of course.

I can see the 3,390 foot Draper Mountain off in the distance as I pass the Radford exit at mile marker 105.

At mile marker 98 outside of the town of Pulaski, Virginia, Draper Mountain’s size can be appreciated.

Turning right at this exit would take me to the Pulaski Wayside Picnic Area park and scenic overlook just off Route 11 at the top of Draper Mountain.  

I-81 parallels Draper Mountain and Draper Valley for a few miles.

Even in my rear view mirror, Draper Mountain is quite impressive.  I think the peak seen in the mirror is called Peak Knob.

In front of me, however, I am approaching the I-77 southbound split, with the 3,391 foot Lick Mountain Range in the background.  The first 5 hours of my journey that I mentioned earlier had come to an end, right on schedule I might add.  

I will now pick up Interstate 77 southbound and enjoy 120 more miles of mountain scenery, the first 33 of which take me through an area known as the Blue Ridge Plateau.  A plateau is a relatively level tract of elevated land.  Just south of Roanoke, Virginia, the Blue Ridge Mountain Range widens to form the Blue Ridge Plateau.  It’s pretty narrow near Roanoke, but is more than 50 miles wide by the time you get to the North Carolina Border.  Interstate 81 sits north of the plateau.  However, Interstate 77 take you right through it.

In the photos above and below beyond the bug splatter on my windshield, I think I am looking at Foster Falls Mountain, Chestnut Ridge, and Hermatite Mountain.  Although, I’m not exactly sure.

A couple miles down the road sits Poplar Camp Mountain.

I-77 crosses Poplar Camp Mountain and divides it into Poplar Camp Mountain East, (2,996 feet), and Poplar Camp Mountain West, (3,090 feet).  Both are quite impressive.

I-77 travels down the eastern side of Sugarloaf Mountain from Fancy Gap, Virginia to the North Carolina border and the end of the Blue Ridge Plateau.  Travelers get an amazing view of all points to the east from this vantage point.

The view is absolutely spectacular, especially with clear skies.  

Landmarks such as Elkspur Mountain (3,066 feet), Harris Mountain (2,923 feet), Wheeler Knob, (2,034 feet), the Devil’s Den Nature Preserve, Pilot Mountain (2,421 feet), and the city of Mount Airy, North Carolina all sit somewhere off in this direction.

The steep descent dissipates gradually, and the peaks get shorter thus signaling the end of my trek through the Blue Ridge Plateau, and arrival of the North Carolina border.  The terrain will be a little more consistent in appearance from this point, making the last 5 hours of my trip the complete opposite of the first 5.

Southbound Interstate 77 will take me all the way to Charlotte, North Carolina 90 miles south of the border.  This 1 ½ hour drive becomes a little more subdued as the mountains get smaller.  Outside of Hamptonville, North Carolina, I cross the northernmost end of the Brushy Mountain Range where the tallest peaks are in the 1,755 foot range.  The terrain becomes flat by comparison after that.  

Water becomes the dominant feature just south of Statesville, North Carolina.  

Lake Norman in Iredell County is the largest man-made body of water in North Carolina, and includes the 1,328 acre Lake Norman State Park.  Like most state parks, a wide variety of hiking, fishing, swimming, and other recreational activities are plentiful.  Homes and individual docks can also be seen on the shoreline, which would be an awesome place to live.

Today, however, hanging out on the lake appears to be the predominate activity.

The lake was dotted with a decent amount of traffic.

And with temperatures now in the low to mid 80s, I can understand why.

I love the water, despite the fact that I have no real desire to buy a boat and get out on it.  

But I could definitely see myself living on the waterfront.  That would be awesome !

From the spot where the last few pictures were taken, my next transition to the I-485 Bypass around Charlotte, North Carolina is about 10 miles in front of me.  I glanced at my instrument cluster to see something interesting about to happen.

Sure enough, as I exited I-77 to pick up I-485 westbound, the odometer turned.

I purchased the Boxster on April 7, 2012, at which time the odometer showed 58,106 original miles.  The change to 60k means I have logged 1,894 miles behind the wheel in just 3 weeks time.  I've enjoyed all of them so far.  Thinking about this brings a smile to my face.  Life is, indeed, wonderful.

All this feeling really good about myself was interrupted by the sound of jet engines overhead.  I’m only on the I-485 Bypass for 11 minutes.  But those minutes are spent right under the approach to Charlotte/Douglas International Airport (CLT).  Charlotte/Douglas isn't some short and narrow stretch of asphalt accompanied by a building or two.  On average, 676 flights fly into and out of this place daily.  It is also US Airway’s largest hub.  

This means air traffic is plentiful throughout the day.  My current position in relation to the direction of incoming traffic means everyone, basically, passes right over top of me.  Keep the camera handy .  .  .

And, it didn't take long for this traffic to make its presence known.

I pointed the camera and started shooting.

Incoming !

The great thing about this camera is that it takes 12 megapixel photos in great detail.  So, I can crop a distance shot, like the above photo, to get a zoomed-in shot of my target.

In other words, point the camera in the general direction, hold the button down, and hope for some luck.

Cropping the above photo produces a pretty decent shot.

This strategy worked quite well.

The level of excitement diminished somewhat once past the airport.  Right after the above shots were taken, I exited the I-485 Charlotte Bypass and picked up Interstate 85 westbound.  The next 135 miles will be spent passing through a mixture of significantly less crowded areas interspersed with bits of moderate population density here and there to make sure I stay awake.  The areas of Gastonia and Kings Mountain, North Carolina sit just west of the Charlotte metro area, and are populated like you would expect.  Then all is quiet until about 15 minutes past the South Carolina border where the giant outlet mall at Gaffney can’t be missed.  After another brief period of quiet, activity begins to increase again as I pass through Spartanburg, South Carolina highlighted by the BMW Assembly Plant.  Next comes Greenville-Spartanburg airport (GSP) and the City of Greenville.  Seeing signs for Anderson, South Carolina also signals the impending arrival of the Georgia border at Lake Hartwell.

I’m not real far from home at this point.  Since I still have lots of daylight, I decided to get off of the interstate and take the “back way” home, in this case, Georgia Route 106.  The exit for Route 106 is about 13 miles past the border.  Once off the interstate, the scenery changes a bit.

And, it will remain very similar to this for the next hour or so.  Some woods .  .  .

.  .  . followed by some farms .  .  .

.  .  . followed by a combination of the two.

The photos above and below are of a large property outside of Fort Lamar, Georgia.

Fort Lamar, Georgia was, apparently, a settlers’ fort from the 1790s.

All I know is that the fence shown in the photos stretched for several miles along Route 106.

And that’s how the scenery would look during my drive on this road.

There is a lot of beautiful countryside in Georgia, especially when you travel off the beaten path.

I’ll pass through the thriving metropolis of Ila, Georgia, population 337, shortly.  After that, I’m a mere 31 minutes from my driveway, and the end of my Pennsylvania trip.

Epilogue .  .  .
I pulled into my garage to see the odometer displaying 60,201 miles.  I have driven my new 2000 Porsche Boxster 2,095 miles in 22 days time.  Along with the comments I posted after my trip to   Pennsylvania, I can add to that list the following observations based on my journey from   Pennsylvania .  .  .

~  I’m happy to report that the Boxster does appear to be very watertight.  I encountered some decent rain in Altoona, after which, I found no signs of water intrusion anywhere.  All-weather capability is always a good thing.

~  The Porsche climate control works exceptionally well.  There is, however, one odd design feature to this system that I am not familiar with.  There is no way to turn the system “off.”  Yes, you can press the “ – “ button to turn the fan speed down.  Once you reach the lowest fan speed, pressing the button again turns the system off.  However, the next time you start the car, the system automatically comes on with the blower fan at its lowest speed.  This is not bad, just unusual.

~  I’ll give Porsche a lot of credit for its headlamp design.  Even without the optional Xenon headlamps, the standard lamps do a great job of illuminating the road at night.  The fog lamps are incorporated into the headlamp housing, and also work quite well.  I mention this because my Mark VIII had the worst headlamps of any car I have owned, and both Jag XJ8s had a tendency to go through headlamp bulbs at an alarming rate.  Being able to see really well at night is always a plus.

~  This particular car has the base-level audio system with CD player.  The four speakers are located in the dash and in the door panels, (this car doesn't have the optional rear speaker package).  Despite the perceived lack of oomph, the system performs quite well.  The radio antenna is incorporated into the windshield, and does a decent job of picking up stations.  The controls for the audio system are different than what I am used to, but easy to decipher.

So, what have I learned over the last 2,095 miles ?  In summary, I love this car !  It’s beautiful, fun, and very capable.  When the sun is shining, I can put the top down and enjoy life.  When the weather gets bad, I can put the top up and still drive the car.  My 6 foot frame has plenty of room, and the driver’s seat fits me in all the right places.  I can take it to work, to the grocery store, or travel the highway.  When I do travel, I have enough room for an appropriate amount of stuff thanks to the two luggage compartments.  And if something does happen that requires a repair, I don’t have to stress because I have the Cirrus to drive to work.  Life is good.

Now, having said all that, I appear to have spoken too soon.  CLICK HERE to read the story of the curve I encountered in this otherwise straight path .  .  .
« Last Edit: December 19, 2014, 12:24:44 AM by Oldcarsarecool » Logged

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« Reply #14 on: August 03, 2012, 07:23:25 AM »

I will contribute.

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