Hope everyone had a Thanksgiving to be thankful for. I couldn’t complain, as I sat one out this extended weekend for some catchup cleaning, watching sports and playing video games around the apartment. Road tripping was the last thing on my mind.

That said, I’ve been planning the next big excursion in light of my upcoming 30th birthday next year (which is hard enough to wrap my head around – as most of the time I still feel all of 21, or younger).

There have been a lot of ideas since I came up with the idea of a big retreat in early March. One was to fly to Hawaii, in turn grabbing a tough state in the quest towards 50  (yes, a trip to paradise in itself is not enough for the state collector in me). I even tossed around the idea of a side trip to American Samoa (since the only way to reach the American protectorate from the U.S. is from Hawaii), but ultimately cost temporarily derailed that idea for now.

Another thought was to couple a short road trip south with a cruise – but while I one day want to experience the cruise vacation, I’m not all that enamored with the pre-packaged, limited (and sometimes pricey) options available to you once you make landing. It’s no secret that prices in shops and restaurants double or triple when the cruise tourists arrive en masse with money to blow.

Yet another idea (and still might be possible) is a flight down to the U.S. Virgin Islands – to mark another territory (and national park) off my checklist. The scenery there is unmatched in terms U.S. Atlantic ocean property, so a visit is well worth it on all counts in my book.

In the end, though, the clear leader is a southern road trip. We’re a Montana-Minnesota couple and the fact is, we’ve never had a reason to visit the likes of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana (not to mention nearby Oklahoma, Arkansas and airport-only visits to Texas). Funny enough – my Facebook friends (of whom are mostly from Montana or nearby) on Tripadvisor have combined for zero visits to most of  the aforementioned states (save for Oklahoma and Texas). So yes, Montana, and say, Mississippi, might as well be worlds apart in that regard.

Now comes the planning. I haven’t yet taken on a road trip of this length (I’m looking at 10 days to two full weeks) and plotting out a course while trying to stay as flexible (and sane) as possible will not be the easiest task. Our roadtrip to Prince Edward Island back in July was all of five days – but two of them were extreme driving days (and all five consisted of multiple hours of driving). Best case scenario would be to visit as many natural sites as possible (including Hot Springs Natural Park and Mammoth Cave National Park, and possibly those in Texas or New Mexico if we get really ambitious). This will be a tour de force of sorts to be sure.

I’m open to suggestions and recommendations. I know the best advice is always to “take it slow”, but I’ve yet to have any negative experiences with the “trying to do too much” approach. My main worry is, well, logistics and planning. Nothing is set in stone yet and the agenda can change, but let’s just say that, for now, I’m completely in love with it.


  1. Okay, Phil – I’ve been to every state in the South and both of those National Parks. Ask me anything! My first recommendation – go to Hot Springs and go to the baths. The Victorian bathing experience is weird but wonderful.

  2. I stand corrected on the Montana-Mississippi connection then! Who couldn’t use a Victorian bath (as weird as the idea sounds)? They have similar Roman bathhouses at the aptly named Bath, W.V. (more commonly known as Berkeley Springs State Park), but we skated through town real quick just to see the Apple Butter Festival a couple months back.

    How about Mississippi and Alabama as far as some good natural scenery. I’ve heard good things about DeSoto State Park in Alabama.

  3. In Mississippi, I really liked the gulf coast, which was largely unspoiled when I was there, except around Biloxi, but that was pre-Katrina. I also liked the Delta area and loved ambling through the Natchez Trace parkway en route to see the battlefields around Vicksburg.

    In Alabama, I stayed in Tuscaloosa for a month, and really liked poking around back roads in the northwest corner area where Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee come together. I drove through the area near DeSoto State Park, but didn’t go there, though I’ve also heard good things about it.

    I’ve got some pictures of my trip to Hot Springs NP and other parts of Arkansas, from when I was there 2.5 yrs ago on Flickr:

    • Your plan for Mississippi would seem to echo mine Dee Ann, both the gulf coast and Natchez parkway have my attention. Alabama seems the tougher of the two for me, though the plenty of beautiful waterfalls I’ve come across in my research seem to be worth hitting up.

      I love the pictures by the way. I can’t get over the uniqueness of Hot Springs as a National Park – it’s just so quirky in comparison to some others.

  4. Hot Springs is a unique little city, and the bath houses are worth a visit, but my recomemdation if you get there (and it’s worth a trip for it’s self) is McClards BarBQ. Tamales covered in cheese, fritos and smoked meat – great stuff.
    The Clinton Presidential Library up the road in Little Rock is one of the best, if you are inclined to visit historical attractions. Eureka Springs and Fayetteville are fun towns with beautiful scenery if you go further NW.
    I’m planning a spring weekend trip to the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville and taking in some local minor league baseball; either The NW Ark Naturals or the Springfield MO Cardinals.

    • Oh we wouldn’t miss a good BBQ for the world if it was nearby – sounds like a definite jot-down for the trip.

      I’m really not sure on how far NW we would go into Arkansas, depends really on how far south this trip pulls us. I’d love to visit any Presidential Library (heck, being a librarian myself) and the Clinton Library looks top notch.

      I love discovering new ballparks as well – I didn’t even know Myrtle Beach had a team in the Rangers system until I drove past the park a couple weeks ago. I spent nine years with the Billings Mustangs organization so I appreciate some good minor league ball.

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