Chapter 16
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How to Plan A Road Trip that Won’t Trip You Out

This is My South blogger Caroline Eubanks has written a handbook for hitting the road

Reading crowd-sourced restaurant reviews while on the road can be a deep dive into a black hole of comma splices, people who call themselves “super foodies,” and phrases like “prefabbed, deep-fried, freezer-burned slop.” The internet has improved modern life in many ways, but providing helpful travel advice isn’t necessarily one of them. Luckily, Caroline Eubanks, creator of the blog This is My South—now a travel book of the same name—has made the open highway a better place for us all.

The Southern states, as defined by this book, are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Each state is divided into regions, and each region is divided into sections: Can’t Miss Landmarks, Off the Beaten Path, Tours for Every Interest, and Five Unique Sleeps. This self-explanatory classification system makes it easy to tailor-make a journey that best suits your own plans.

Travelers tend to fall into one of two categories: those who don’t mind sweating and those who do. Outdoorsy people will find opportunities to explore nature highlighted in the Tours for Every Interest section. Have you ever thought about a moonlit paddle-board trip in Virginia Beach? Do you know how to find a fishing guide in Biloxi? If sleeping under the stars is a trip goal, try camping at Carolina Beach State Park in North Carolina or snuggling up under cypress trees in Chicot State Park in Louisiana.

If your idea of a successful vacation involves more climate control, try a traditional museum like the High Museum of Art in Atlanta or planning a visit to less conventional sites such as the New Orleans National Historic Voodoo Museum. Have the time of your life at the Dirty Dancing Festival at the Lake Lure Inn and Spa in North Carolina, where the famous movie was filmed.

Locals-only-style locations are grouped by category: Best Small Towns, National Parks, Scenic Drives, and Most Unique Events—the kind of intel that doesn’t pop up in an initial Google search. The World Grits Festival in St. George, South Carolina, is a place, writes Eubanks, “that consumes more of the hominy dish than anywhere else in the world.” The Vidalia Onion Festival in Georgia offers a “beauty pageant, live music, fun run, and cook off” in honor of the beloved vegetable. Top it all off with a cat-head biscuit from the International Biscuit Festival in Knoxville, and you’ll have ample opportunity to restock your souvenir collection and revamp your vacation slideshow.

My favorite feature in This is My South is Can’t Miss Day Trips. For families, just getting everyone (not to mention their luggage) into the car can be a feat. The day-trip section gives readers the option of travelling to lesser-known small towns near high-volume destinations. Eubanks recommends travelers to Memphis, for example, to spend a day visiting Square Books and Rowan Oak in Oxford, Mississippi, and she suggests a quick jaunt to Sewanee as a break from honky-tonkin’ in Nashville.

And once you’ve chosen your main destination, you can focus on what really matters: food. At the beginning of each section is a list called “15 Things to Taste” that cites the most-famous eateries in each state. Biscuits from Loveless Café, hot chicken from Prince’s, and clusters from the Goo Goo Shop all made Tennessee’s list. It’s clear that Eubanks has done her homework.

Every road trip needs a great playlist, and Eubanks recommends Louis Armstrong, Dolly Parton, Shovels and Rope, The Alabama Shakes, and OutKast—a playlist as diverse as each state’s history. In case you’re not doing the driving yourself, she also includes a list of must-read Southern books, citing everything from classics like As I Lay Dying and To Kill a Mockingbird to contemporary favorites like The Color Purple and Forrest Gump.

The best trips of my life had enough of a plan to be safe, a vision about how I wanted to spend my time, and room for spontaneity. This is My South offers a guide for accomplishing all three in an engaging, easy-to-read way.

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