After spending the last three summers in the Chicago area, this year we were ready to make an appearance, do what we could to help Catherine, then MOVE ON. Glen Ellyn, Illinois to Winter Garden, Florida was a short 1160 miles (17 hours) away along interstates 65 and 75. Most people would click on their google map, fastest route, and head south. Two or three days later end at their destination. Interstates were designed to move traffic and commerce thousands of miles~FAST!
Not us! Believe it or not, we still venture into our local AAA and get the paper maps. Walk out with a handful of maps which we later burn ceremoniously at the campfire after passing through. Then, the homework begins.
We are firm believers of slow and steady. By that, I mean that we pull out the map and connect-the-dots from departure to destination. Reminding ourselves, It’s not the destination, It’s the journey. What makes this leg of this journey extraordinary is that somewhere along the route, Thor will be turning over 200,000 miles. Milestone!
After five days camping the state parks route through Indiana and Ohio, it was time to wash the smoke from our well worn and damp camp clothes. We picked up this cozy Airbnb for three nights in what has been a very walkable Cleveland.
Not sure if Cleveland has ever been on our destination list but who doesn’t like Rock & Roll? And since Cleveland is the heartbeat of Rock & Roll, this stop has always been a headliner on our museum wish list.
As Ohio’s second largest city it is impossible to describe Cleveland as a hidden gem. I like to say that we discovered a couple of rocks in Cleveland.
AND for an encore performance, CLEVELAND ROCKS!!
While looking at the map, I had googled “cute main streets, Virginia”, hoping one would pop up along our route. I came up with Staunton, which we later learned is pronounced Stanton.
Between the Shenandoah skyline and the Blue Ridge Parkway, tucked in the valley below is the quintessential Main Street American town of Staunton.
We picked an Airbnb for a couple nights. Abby’s place was centrally located, walking distance to everything and she allowed us to wash our clothes. (She may have actually begged us to wash our clothes… not certain.) After doing our laundry, we took a historical tour around town which led us to President Woodrow Wilson’s house, several farm-to-table eateries, a couple of breweries, and drama.
Later that evening, we enjoyed a contemporary play at the world’s only craftsmen built replica of Shakespeare’s Blackfriar’s Playhouse in London. The pearl of Staunton is this playhouse.
While everyone else is lining up for tickets to see Hamilton, we waltzed right up to this State Park in South Carolina and purchased a 3-day campsite for $90. We have never been in a campground where there was not a bad site. Every site here ay Hamilton Branch was lakefront, large, private, quiet and primitive. By primitive, I mean basic: picnic table, fire ring, flush toilets 300 feet away. Wifi and power were just 2 miles away. Did I mention hiking right out of our back porch? Hidden Gem?? On the map this lake is a spot of sapphire in the Sumpter National Forest.
Sure, we could have plugged in our destination, drove 1160 miles on interstates in three days, and arrived in Winter Garden, BUT we are off the beaten path people. We took 900 miles and 36 extra days off the interstates to find these gems.
Just like these dots on our map, our 1985 VW van may not be a head turner, but rather a diamond in the rough. This year’s winner of our Road Trip Golden Globe ~ It’s unanimous, THOR!
Roll the tape~~~>