I remember the feeling when I received my permit to drive at 15 years young — the roads I explored; the destinations I discovered; and the relationships built along the way, and since then I remain appreciative of the privilege. To have the sense of freedom and innocence when a leisure drive is by choice – the journey is pure poetry in motion.
From Italy’s Dolomite Road to New Zealand’s Milford Road, to the Ring of Kerry to Utah’s Scenic Byway 12 and the many well documented roads in between, there is no doubt the privilege of a leisure drive during your vacation can rekindle the joy from your youth and revive the spirit of amusement. Here are a few unique notable drives, a catalyst for adventure, that are best suited with the vehicle’s top off!
Safe journey and enjoy the ride. Happy Travels!
The Road to Hana at 50 miles one way. Hana is a remote region of Maui that offers an excellent glimpse into “old Hawaii”. The often-hair-raising road to Hana has something of a split personality, sharing its difficulty with an unparalleled beauty that has earned it the nickname “Highway to Heaven.” On the way, you will pass through twists and turns that encompass cliffs, rich fern valleys, rushing streams, countless magnificent waterfalls, and the freshwater pools of Ohe`o Gulch. These pools are formed by a stream cascading out of the rainforest on its way to the ocean, and make a great swimming hole.
Through Pacifica at 72 miles roundtrip. This route is my personal favorite every time I visit the Bay Area in California. This roundtrip excursion serves up a WOW factor with its panoramic vistas from both the driver and the passenger’s perspective. It passes through many purposeful stops, fantastic photo opportunities, and a chance to experience California cuisine at its finest.
It’s best to start your journey from the city of San Francisco, heading south on the Pacific Coast Highway 1 (the PCH) through the city of Pacifica. A potentially scary section of Highway 1 between Pacifica and Montera is called “Devil’s Slide”. This stretch of road is less than a mile long, similar to a mountain drive with some tight winding spots. It offers one of many fantastic photo opportunities along the route. But in heavy rain or dense fog it can be frightening and potentially dangerous, so keep your eyes focused on the road and not over the cliff. Once you pass the town of Montera you are rewarded with the famous scenic coastal drive that Highway 1 is known for. When driving through the city of Half Moon Bay, here you will begin your journey back to San Francisco, heading east onto Highway 92. On a two-lane stretch of road passing tunnels of eucalyptus trees curving up and over this mountain pass until intersecting with Interstate 280. The interstate is relatively a romantic journey, meandering through quiet picturesque hillsides leading you north to where it all started.
Highway 17 from San Jose to Santa Cruz at 33 miles one way. Another route in the state of California, Highway 17 is a freeway and expressway that carries substantial commuter and vacation traffic between the two cities. The majestic views from this mountain pass are overwhelming and unique. To appreciate Highway 17 is to understand its conditions; a combination of narrow shoulders, dense traffic, sharp turns, blind curves, wandering fauna, and sudden changes in traffic speeds; therefore, requires a more cautionary driving approach.
This journey is on Highway 85 from the inland city of San Jose and upon reaching the city of Los Gatos, Highway 17 begins, narrowing into a four-lane freeway. The drive rapidly ascends into the Santa Cruz Mountains with the occasional interchanges in between, leading to “The Summit” at an elevation of 1,800 feet (549 m). From there, it proceeds through Scotts Valley before descending several miles of the winding road, reaching its southern most point of intersecting Highway 1 in Santa Cruz. From here, you can extend your journey on this famous stretch of Highway 1, passing through the charming cities like Monterey, Carmel, and farther out to Big Sur.
It is not recommended for tourists or traveling visitors to drive this route during the winter months and to use alternate routes. The Santa Cruz Mountains is a high precipitation area where the roadway can become slippery from the rain, snow or ice, especially at The Summit itself.
There are 16 miles of road in Germany that challenges the mind, body and spirit. To car enthusiasts, like myself, with bold romantic notions – here’s to you!
Ahhhh, the Nürburgring, or The Ring known by seasoned driving enthusiasts, consists of two circuits (or courses): the Nordschleife and the Grand Prix, which driven together is nearly 26 kilometres (or 16 miles), making the Nürburgring the longest permanent racetrack in the world. Everyone has that possibility to test their skills using their own car; however, the circuits are only open for public driving during select days. A “tourist ride” ticket is required to drive which is purchased either at the box office or self-served via ticket-machine located outside the box office.
The Nürburgring has many bends and a few nasty surprises from height difference with extreme slopes and gradients to ensure a significant adrenaline rush for both drivers and spectators. So, don’t contemplate a trip onto a circuit unless you’re happy with the risks. This is a dangerous road, and serious accidents are common occurrences. To test your skill on one of the most remarkably defying roads in the world is a true achievement, especially to finish unscathed.
Advice For Those Traveling Now?
Consider renting a hybrid or electric vehicle when possible and where the destination offers plenty of accessibility to charging stations.
To make a drive a romantic and memorable one, prepare a personal playlist of music that will set the right mood. Include a theme song or with melodies that both you and you’re traveling companion adore so much. Remember, it is the relationship that is cultivated from this activity that matters the most.
Take the leisure drive when weather is permitting. Always drive responsibly and adhere to state and government laws in regard to mobile phone use.
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