Adventures on the Road

Sometimes a good road trip means taking the road less traveled. Not to take anything away from major destination or big event road trips, but a greater sense of discovery can sometimes be gleaned by veering off the super highway and into the heart of Americana. And while there is reflective merit in simply gazing out the window at unfamiliar landscapes, straying off-the-beaten-path is more meaningful when you actually get out of your car and do something. To jumpstart your next road trip, here are 5 memorable pit stops.

Best Bungee Jump

Melinda Nagy
California offers the coolest bungee jumping experience in the US, given the Golden State’s rep as a vanguard of radical stunts. Bungee America is off Highway 39 in 1,000-square-mile Angeles National Forest outside of Azusa, CA. You can appreciate the scenery on the 2-hour hike into the jump spot, known as the Bridge to Nowhere. Once you leap, you will be intensely focused on the San Gabriel River, 100 feet below you and getting closer every microsecond. Stress not: Bungee America is the oldest bungee-jumping operator in the US, and has an excellent safety record. Jumps are regularly scheduled on weekends; for a weekday slot, call at least 7 days ahead.

Best Roadside Fishing

Hatteras Island, NC, is so thin in many spots there is barely enough room for the one road -- Highway 12 -- that runs the 72-mile length of the island. At times that road, along with just a few dozen yards of Cape Hatteras National Seashore dunes and marsh, is all that separates the Atlantic Ocean from 30-mile-wide Pamlico Sound. That’s great news for anglers. Fall is prime time for bluefish and giant drum in the surf. Spring beckons schools of speckled trout in the sound. Summer brings tarpon. And flounder. And cobia. Other roadside fishing gems include the Deschutes River, off Highway 26, a couple hours’ north of Bend, OR, where steelhead season kicks up in early fall; and Jackson Point in Valdez, AK, 7 miles off Highway 4, where the salmon run strong all summer long.

Best Tandem Hang Glide

Brand X Pictures
If you want to float 2,000 feet above the earth strapped to a giant wing with no motor, you don’t just go out and hang glide. No, you pay an expert to take you up in a glider so that someone can fly the thing while you gape in wonder at the fact that terra firma is way down there. For sheer scenery (and, yes, competence) I recommend the San Francisco Hang Gliding Center, which takes flight from Mt. Tamalpais, off Highway 1, 10 miles north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

Best Tubing

It’s not the biggest or most famous river in the US, but the Chattooga River, along the northern reaches of the Georgia-South Carolina border, holds a special place in the American psyche as the location for the 1972 film Deliverance. Stay calm: This is not a reenactment trip! But you can exorcise your cinematic demons by tubing down the Chattooga. The tube routes avoid the 50-foot waterfall at Dick’s Creek. Chattooga Whitewater Shop will handle all of your needs. Other top tubing rivers include Utah’s Provo River, through Provo Canyon, and the Delaware River outside of Frenchtown, NJ.

Best Diners

Richie Diesterheft
Rare is the diner that can earn and maintain iconic status without sacrificing character or quality. Mickey’s Dining Car, in St. Paul, MN, has been winning such accolades since 1939, when Mickey Crimmons opened the diner in an official Mahoney diner car that he bought at the National Restaurant Convention. The malts are world famous -- the diner has appeared in numerous movies, including The Mighty Ducks and A Prairie Home Companion -- and helped earn Mickey’s a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Where the Locals Eat has its own 10-best diner list.

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