Another Short List of My Favorite Roads

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All Photos by Randy Stern

For the Fifth Anniversary of V&R, I I re-posted an My Favorites on the roads I enjoyed over the years. I only came up with five.

Yep, just five.

Perhaps it is time for another round of My Favorite Roads of All Time – or, something like that.

Since spring is supposedly upon us (remember, I live in Minnesota. We get snow in April), we have this itch to get back out there and drive. There are some great roads out there – across the country and so forth. Each one is deserving of a drive – or many.

I wanted to go down the list of roads I did not mention the first time around. Without delay…here we go!

U.S. HIGHWAY 276: When you want a way down off of (or up) the Blue Ridge Mountains from Asheville, North Carolina, this is a thrill ride. No, it is a wonderful road full of sweet switchbacks, superb vistas, and everything you expect in taking another way between Greenville-Spartanburg and Asheville. You meet the Blue Ridge Parkway eventually, but you have to carve your way up (or down) from the town of Brevard. Of course, the section south of Brevard is just as majestic and beautiful as you muster through the Upcountry of South Carolina towards the Spartanburg area. This is truly one lovely road to find and enjoy.

MINNESOTA HIGHWAY 16: Once you cross into Minnesota from La Crosse, you make a left turn along the bluffs. This highway is a hidden gem to those outside of Southeastern Minnesota, as it gives you gentle twisties through the bluffs until you reach the farmlands of Houston County (pronounced How-ston here in Minnesota). While you think you might just go through a gentle flat road through the farmland, Highway 16 keeps on throwing turns and gentle elevations at you. This does not stop until you reach U.S. Highway 52 and the Iowa state line. If you like that kind of road, there’s another one that connects to it closer to La Crosse…

MINNESOTA HIGHWAY 44: A few miles down from La Crescent, Minnesota is a junction. Instead of turning to the right towards Houston, you head southwesterly towards Caledonia on Highway 44. That way, you get more bluff twisties and elevations. Unlike Highway 16, Highway 44 does flatten out. Not without some superb farmland to enjoy. Then, it gets a bit twisty again. The further southwest you go towards Spring Grove, the gentle rolling rural lands become inviting and celebratory. You decide how you want to reach U.S. Highway 52. Me? I’ll take either way, but Highway 44 is just as entertaining for the driver to run.

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SKYLINE DRIVE/BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY: It is the property of the U.S. National Parks Service. Therefore, it is enforced by the Park Rangers. Speed limits are kept low not only to keep the speeders down. It is leisurely road meant to be enjoyed by everyone. The vistas from either side of the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains – in my case, in Virginia and North Carolina – are for scenic meandering. However, one can get caught up with the road itself and its excellent surface and lovely twisties. It takes restraint to enable a great car to want to pulverize the 30-45 MPH speed limits along this stretch of ridgeline roadway. For anyone who wants a breathless drive – this is one you should put on your list.

CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY 49: You know that thing about the following of history. This is the description of Highway 49 in the heart of Gold Country. You are in the foothills of the Sierras, but not high enough to see snow in the wintertime. Yet, you are following the path of many miners and others on a highway that connects the dots. Places like Placerville, Sutter Creek, Auburn, and Angels Camp come alive along this twisty, vista-filled road. It serves up some challenges, without a lot of elevation changes. You can either chill out or attack the more challenging parts of Highway 49. Nonetheless, you will be breathless after a solid chunk of driving it.

MULHOLLAND DRIVE: It should be a rite of passage for anyone growing up (or grew up) in the Los Angeles Basin to drive this mountain road. It was designed to mark the divide between the San Fernando Valley and the rest of Los Angeles, but somehow it had to go on another side of ridgeline of the Santa Monica Mountains to accomplish that. This is not a road for the meek. But, it requires a lot of care to manage through the curves and cliffside turns. Mulholland is unforgiving, but it is long enough for adventures within the city limits of Los Angeles. You better have a great handling car to do this road justice.

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