Keystone Passport 2018
Keystone Passport 2018
Dover is the capital city of Delaware, and the second-largest city in the state. Located roughly in the middle of the state, Dover is home to the Dover Air Force Base which is one of the major employers in the area.
The downtown area has many historical areas that are great for shopping, dining and touring. As one of the older cities in the region, there are a number of older buildings displaying early American architecture. The Dover Green Historic District is an excellent example of this. Here you'll find roughly 80 buildings dating back to the 18th century. The area is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.
The Dover International Speedway is a major draw for several events held during the warmer months. Two major NASCAR races are held here annually, the Gander RV 400 is held in the spring (May/June) and the Drydene 400 is held in August. Both events bring huge crowds to the raceway and city for their respective weekends.
The other major event here is the Firefly Music Festival which is held annually in late July. This event brings in some of the top music talent from around the world for three days of amazing entertainment. The event also includes the Great Campout, which happens in the speedway's camping areas. Here, RVs and tent campers set up a music lover's community for the weekend's events. Camping here gives you direct access to the festival as well as other activities like late-night silent disco, yoga and more.
If you prefer to camp outside the city, consider staying at the excellent Killens Pond State Park. This provides an excellent rural environment just a few miles south of the city.
The trip to Chattanooga, TN is fairly straight forward with only a couple of caveats. The route starts by heading west on US-301, which crosses the Chesapeake Bay via a bridge. On the other side, it becomes US-50 which takes you into Washington, DC. Here, you'll travel around the city on I-495. Traffic here can be a headache. If you can, plan on passing through this area during non-peak times. The normal business rush hours, and Fridays after about 1 PM are particularly congested as people try to get home from work, or into and out of the city for the weekend. On the west side of town, you take I-66 west to Middleton, VA. From there, take I-81 south. A few miles east of Knoxville, TN you'll switch to I-40 west. Knoxville can also be pretty congested during peak times too so plan accordingly. Once past Knoxville, you'll pick up I-75 south to Chattanooga. On the outskirts of town transfer to I-24 which will take you downtown.
Washington, D.C. is one of the most significant cities along this trip and perhaps even in the entire country. Being the nation's capital it is ripe with historically and culturally significant attractions. If you have limited time here, then you have a couple of options to make the most of your visit. One option is to focus only on a few very specific things like visiting the excellent Zoo, or hitting the amazing District Wharf fish market. The other option is to do a general tour. There are several good ones which will take you to a broad variety of sites within the city on a single trip. These are generally hosted by a tour guide who can fill you in on the interesting historical details for each site.
If you decide to wing it yourself, be aware that traffic here is among the worst in the country. Trying to get anywhere quickly by car can be an exercise in futility. Fortunately, they have a very clean and well-run subway system that will shuttle you quickly and efficiently among most of the major sites. Park the car and use the subway of you can.
To stay in the area, Cherry Hill Park is a well-rated RV Park just off of I-495 on the northeast side of the city. This park provides excellent access to the city and is convenient to our route to Chattanooga.
The Mill Mountain Star and Park located in Roanoke, VA is a great place for a family outing. Mill Mountain is the mountain that overlooks Roanoke and this park covers 568 acres of land along the mountainside. Within the park, you'll find 10 miles of gorgeous multi-use trails for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and trail running. The park also includes a wildflower garden, a Discovery Center and the Mill Mountain Zoo.
Also located in the park is the Roanoke Star. This giant lighting fixture was originally lit over the city in 1949 as a Christmas decoration. It features over 2,000 feet of neon tube and stands 1,045 feet above the city below. Today, the neon tubes are red, white and blue and they are lit up to celebrate major events in the area.
A great place to camp in the area is Roanoke's Explore Park. This 1,100 acre county park not only offers excellent camping close to town, but it also provides enough activities like hiking, mountain biking, and zip lining to qualify as its own destination.
While in Roanoke, a trip to the Virginia Museum of Transportation is a great way to spend a day with the family leaning the history of transportation in this area. The theme of the museum is “from mud to modern” and the exhibits here walk you through the development of transportation over time. This includes outstanding exhibits and examples from automotive, rail and aeronautical transport. The rail section of this museum is considered one of the best railroad museums in the US. Rail played a big role in the economy here. Included in the museum is a 1918 rail freight station that is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Also on display are several steam, electric and diesel locomotives including one of 14 Class J locomotive ever built and the only remaining Class A locomotive in existence. Seeing these massive machines first hand is quite an experience.
Just down the road from Roanoke is Blacksburg, VA which is home to Virginia Tech. It is also home to the Smithfield Plantation, which is worth a stop on this trip. This home was originally built around 1770 by Col. William Preston. The home remained in the family until 1959 when it was donated to the preservation society which maintains it today. Col. William Preston and many of his descendants played key roles in shaping the future of Virginia and the south in general. He is credited with saving George Washington's life from a native American attack and he spent many years surveying land for the westward expansion of early colonial America. The home has numerous artifacts that he collected during those times as well many from his descendants. A tour of this home paints a great picture of what life was like in the late 1700's and beyond.
The Interstate Overnight Park just off I-81 provides a solid place to stay the night. While not luxurious, it is safe and convenient to town for a short layover.
Pigeon Forge, TN is located just southeast of Knoxville on the northern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This town is located in the middle of a three town tourist hotspot which includes Sevierville to the north and Gatlinburg to the south. These three towns are the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and they host a lot of activities unto themselves. Pigeon Forge is literally in the middle of it all. The options for activities here are almost unlimited. From the Dollywood Theme Parks to wax museums, put-put golf, go-kart tracks, live entertainment shows and even Pink Jeep Adventure Tours of the national park, there is something here for everyone.
With the popularity of the area comes a broad range of choices in RV parks to stay at. There are a lot of them here, but one of the best is Camp Riverslanding. This high-end resort has it all. Convenience, great amenities, and an overall first-rate camping environment.
What is the most visited National Park in the system? Yellowstone? Glacier? Yosemite? Nope, it's the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This outstanding park is located within a day's drive of 60% of the US population and its natural beauty and wilderness feel make it the most visited national park in the country.
Your first thought may be “great, another crowded park” and if this were a park like Yellowstone or Yosemite where the visitors are funneled into very small sections of the park then you'd be right. Fortunately, the activities here are spread out all over the park and even into the surrounding areas, so overcrowding is much less of an issue than in other parks.
One of greatest drives in America is located along the southwestern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “The Tail of the Dragon” is considered the number one sports car and motorcycle road. Over the course of 11 miles, it snakes around 318 curves while carving the mountains between North Carolina and Tennessee. The route number is US-129 running from Deal's Gap to Tabcat Creek Bridge 11 miles to the north in Tennessee. There are a couple of scenic views along the way including the Tail of the Dragon Scenic Overlook.
This is a driver's road; there are no crossroads to interrupt the thrills here and people come to drive. Many drive it hard with motorcycle deaths occurring several times per season on average. This is not a sightseeing road. If you want to take in the overlook, make sure you pull off the road and admire to your heart's content. Otherwise, focus on the road and the joy of driving one of the most unique stretches of asphalt in the US.
Knoxville is home to the excellent McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture. This museum pays homage to the history and culture of the state of Tennessee. Exhibits cover a broad range of areas including natural history, archeology, art, and local history. The exhibits encompass a healthy mix of permanent and rotating displays of local, national and international interest. Here you can learn about dinosaurs which roamed Tennessee, civil war events that transpired in Knoxville, ancient Egypt, Native American history in the area, and much more.
Knoxville can be a day trip from Pigeon Forge if you stop and stay there. If not, the Dumplin Valley Farm RV Park is a great place to stay. It is located just off I-40 a few miles east of downtown. Located on a farm, this park provides an excellent quiet rural camping experience.
Chattanooga is a great Tennessee destination. Located on the Tennessee River along the Tennessee-Georgia border, this city offers great city activities as well as some amazing historical and natural activities in the surrounding mountains and rural areas.
In the city, make sure you check out the Tennessee Aquarium. Located adjacent to the tourist riverfront area, this first-rate facility is comprised of two large buildings. One building takes you through the many ecosystems within the Tennessee River Valley. From the upper mountain wetlands to the depths of the river and lakes along it, you can see many examples of the critters that inhabit these regions. The second building houses temporary exhibits and aquatic displays from around the world. If you're a saltwater fish nut, this is the building to visit. Combined, these make up a first-rate aquatic experience and you should plan several hours to take it all in.
In the surrounding countryside, there are several great sites to see. Rock City is a rock garden located on Lookout Mountain just over the border in Georgia. This is an amazing place. There are trails that lead you through massive boulders interspersed among beautiful gardens. There are many places where you have to suck in the gut to squeeze between the rocks. The site is handicapped accessible, so if you can't squeeze through some of these areas there are alternate routes around. One of the highlights of the park is the lookout rock where it is said you can see seven states on a clear day. The view is truly stunning.
Other great things to see are the caves tours of Ruby Falls and Raccoon Mountain Caverns. Ruby Falls is the tallest publicly accessible underground waterfall in the world. It is truly a stunning sight. Raccoon Mountain is a more traditional cave tour that has some exceptionally rare cave formations.
For history buffs, the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway is the steepest railway in the world. The motor house at the top allows you to see how the system works, which is pretty neat. You can take the railway up to visit the nearby Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Park site on Lookout Mountain. This park is a civil war battlefield with great historical significance to the region.
The best place to stay in the area is the Lookout Mountain / Chattanooga West KOA Holiday located just over the border in Trenton, GA. The park is well run, quiet, easy to access and convenient to the many activities in the area.