Head Out on the Highway

By Carolyn Spencer Brown
Sunday, November 19, 2000

Air travel woes: Boy, do we hear 'em. Our mailbox, e-mail and phone lines are constantly clogged with readers' tales of canceled or delayed flights, rude reservation clerks, lousy (or no) meals, lost baggage. . . Multiply that by the dreaded Holiday Factor, with masses of people trying to reach their destinations at the same time, and it's enough to make you stay home. But if you want to be with your loved ones for the holidays, you just have to suffer.

Or do you?

Jim Planck, a Travel section reader from the District, came up with a retro solution: Drive rather than fly.

Planck's vacation plans were derailed last summer when he was unable to get on a flight to Manchester, N.H. Reluctantly, he and his wife decided to drive. But a funny thing happened as he began to plan the route: He realized the journey would be as much a part of the trip as the destination.

Plus, the more he planned the trip, he wrote us, "the more relieved we were that we didn't have to fly. No long lines; no cramped seats; no being treated like a criminal by surly, minimum-wage luggage checkers with portals set so sensitive that my belt buckle causes an alarm; no ridiculously overpriced airport beers while we wait for a delayed flight; no expensive fringe airport parking; no riding on foul-smelling Dulles shuttle buses and those stupid mobile 'lounges.'‚"

Don't hold back, Jim.

Planck's drive to New England was a big success, which inspired us a few weeks ago to issue a challenge: We asked you to tell us where you're going this holiday season – somewhere you usually fly to – and let us plan a driving route for you. You responded with unexpected enthusiasm – or maybe it was desperation. Out of the numerous entries we received, we picked five that represent a range of travelers, from families with kids, to couples with dogs, to singles in a hurry, to grandmas with lots of leisure time. We hope you'll enjoy reading about their itineraries – and we also hope you'll find some use in the routes we mapped out, to make your journeys on some of those same roads enjoyable ones.

Or inspire you to create your own.


Ellen and Bill Carpenter and their 1½-year-old cockapoodle, Dottie, are heading from the Washington area to Falmouth, Mass., on Cape Cod, where they'll leave their car and take the ferry to Martha's Vineyard.

THE DRIVE: 480 miles in about eight hours, spread over two days. Day 1, the Carpenters will cover 250 miles in about 3½ hours; Day 2, about 230 miles in four hours, not including stops.

PERSONAL PREFERENCES: "We generally prefer motels over bed-and-breakfast inns," says Ellen Carpenter, "not just because we travel with our dog but because after a day on the road, sometimes we can't face the possibility of having to be polite and converse with hosts!" The Carpenters are nature lovers and would like to visit public parks and beaches en route. Dining should be deli-style – quick and easy. "Better yet," says Carpenter, "are seafood carryouts – especially places with lobster rolls."

COMPLICATIONS: Traveling with a dog – and this is Dottie's first long trip – necessitates additional "bathroom" breaks on the road and limits sightseeing to pet-friendly outings. In addition, even motels that welcome pets require that owners not leave them alone in the room.

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