I drove approximately 3,200 miles in a week and a half and I loved it. In two separate trips, I drove to New Brunswick, NJ and back and then to Triangle, VA and back. Both shows were incredible, but the drive to New Jersey was particularly special.
Believe it or not, it was my first completely solo cross-country drive. I had always had at least one other person in the car with me so I was a little trepidatious hitting the road. At this point, I’ve driven most of that route so many times, I know which truck-stops (or hot shops, as my Yankee mother says) are my favorite, so it was a very safe feeling journey to test out traveling on my own.
Now, I’d like to remind any male readers that there is an added level of concern traveling alone as a woman. Most of my fears were far overblown and I move through world with the privilege and security that comes from being white; but I have been cat-called, groped, harassed, and followed home by strangers who then attempted to get into my apartment. Unfortunately, the world is a more dangerous place when you present as female. But, the good news is, a girl can make conscious choices about where she stops and stays to minimize risk and I had an uneventful, safe adventure.
Traveling by myself meant more frequent stops and shorter daily drives, but it also meant I was on no one’s schedule but my own. I took this as an opportunity to take some #sidequests and share them on Instagram.
On my way up, I stopped in Woodstock, VA, which is easily one of the most picturesque towns I’ve ever been to. I was drawn there by Seven Bends State Park, which nestles into the folds of the North Fork Shenandoah River as it runs along the south side of the town. My goal was to find a scenic place to eat my packed lunch and stretch my legs and a forest next to a fork of a famously beautiful river felt like a great place.
The park did not disappoint. Even in the mist that occasionally escalated to rain, it was a gorgeous hike. I sat in my car by the river and ate then ventured past the gate and into the park, walking past rolling fields and up into the wooded hills where I found the remains of an old burnt-out cabin. Once I felt thoroughly stretched out and damp, I headed back towards the car, snapped a couple photos of the Shenandoah, and set off in search of coffee.
Woodstock itself is incredibly photogenic, full of well preserved Victorians and adorable shops. I stopped in the aptly named Woodstock Cafe for a very tasty latte and snapped a picture of the Shenandoah County Historic Society which is housed in a beautifully preserved Greek-revival building. Then it was back on the road to NJ.
On my way back to Nashville, VA once again proved to be the best place to stop. I took a quick lunch break at a gas station with a surprisingly scenic overview but didn’t spend too long enjoying it before hitting the road again. I spent more time at Natural Bridge State Park, an easy hiking spot on land previously owned by Thomas Jefferson (and a sacred site for the Monacan people of the area). It was about an hour away from my hotel and seemed like the perfect place to stop and stretch before calling it a night.
I arrived about an hour and a half before closing so there weren’t too many other people on the 2 mile trail with me. The paved hiking path takes you under the breathtaking natural bridge and past waterfalls, caves, springs, and a recreation of a Monocan village that would have been in the area prior to colonization (AKA: land theft and genocide). It’s a truly inspiring area; it’s easy to understand how so many different groups of people have felt a connection to divinity on that land. For some reason, I found the Lost River, an underground river that pours through an opening into Cedar Creek, particularly moving. I was also struck by the recreation village; it was a good reminder that as a white American, I live on stolen land. All in all, it’s definitely worth the stop.
This was a great trip. The music was the best part, but I’m so glad I made the journey special as well. If you’ve been on the fence about doing a solo road trip, I say go for it. You never know what you’ll find.