ROAD ROYALTY #33

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You can approach North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras National Seashore from several directions. You can come from the West, following Highway 64, traversing one bridge that takes you to charming Roanoke Island and then another from the island to the Outer Banks. Or you can travel from the North, Highway 158 becoming Highway 12, the stretch of pavement that bisects the sliver of land that constitutes North Carolina’s easternmost outback..

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THESE CITIES ARE THE PERFECT PLACES TO RIDE OUT THE WINTER

Though the holidays have come to an end, winter hasn’t. There’s a brand-new year with plenty of roadside adventure in store. So whether you’re looking to head south to escape the cold with some beachside R&R or you’re ready to strap on the snowshoes and hit the powder head-on, these RV-friendly destinations are perfect places to enjoy the rest of your winter.

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LOCAL NEWS

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I knew I was going to like the Newseum, Washington’s D.C.’s massive museum celebrating the First Amendment, the moment I approached it. Before I even walked in, I encountered a daily feature of the place—a collection, under glass along the sidewalk outside the entrance, of front pages from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The front pages are switched out every morning (in other words, that’s someone’s job), and it can be a rather mesmerizing stroll through myriad points of view.

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WHAT MATTERS

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Editors Note: We’re the Newschool Nomads, a full-time RVing family enjoying life on the road. Our partners at Go RVing found us during our first RV tour of the U.S. and asked us to share our next leg of the journey with you. In the coming months, we’ll share stories of what it’s like to be on the road in an RV with young children, how to stay healthy on the go and even give you our best tips on taking your home on wheels into urban areas. Thanks for joining us.

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THE DRIVE

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In my previous post, I wrote about how you can use any contrived theme to turn a drive into a cohesive and entertaining experience, often involving a possible sporting experience. But now I want to be even more sportily specific, and I want to discuss “The Drive.”

It happened on this date 28 years ago. Longtime Denver residents remember it fondly. Folks in Cleveland? Not so much.

In the fourth quarter of the 1986 AFC Championship game between the Denver Broncos and the Cleveland Browns, Denver’s still-young quarterback John Elway took his team 98 yards over the course of five minutes in the fourth quarter, tossed a game-tying touchdown pass with 31 seconds remaining. The Broncos won in overtime, and Elway cemented his reputation as a clutch quarterback. The virtuoso performance has since been known simply as “The Drive” ever since.

But this, after all, is a blog about road trips, about packing up an RV and hitting the highways, about the joys and wonders of seeing where the pavement leads you. So here, The Drive means something else entirely. It means dogwood trees ushering you along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It means sunlight filtering through the redwoods along the Avenue of Giants. It means picture postcard vistas along Vermont’s Highway 100.

I’ve written, geez, nearly two-dozen books about sports. But my three American travel memoirs are my true loves. So let’s take a trip through seven classic sporting moments—and we’ll turn them into road-trip must-sees:

THE SHOT HEARD ‘ROUND THE WORLD: October 3, 1951. Bottom of the ninth inning. Bobby Thomson hits a three-run home run off of Brooklyn’s Ralph Branca to win the game 5-4 and send New York to the World Series. As announcer Russ Hodges screamed it, “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” But the phrase comes from a Ralph Waldo Emerson poem about the first clash of the American Revolutionary War, and it brings to mind a visit we made to Charleston Bay during last summer’s RV trip. Fort Sumter was where the Civil War began, and the first Union soldier to fire a shot in defense of the fort was supposedly a general by the name of Abner Doubleday.

THE MUSIC CITY MIRACLE: On January 8, 2000, the Tennessee Titans beat the Buffalo Bills in a playoff game by executing a wild 75-yard kickoff return—including a handoff and a lateral pass across the field—with almost no time left on the clock in Nashville. But the miracle of sorts that gave the Music City its nickname in the first place was the process that saw a tiny radio show (“WSM Barn Dance”) transform over a half-century into an iconic staging ground for country music (the Grand Ole Opry). The Opry House has, well, kicked off many a career.

THE PLAY: The end of the 85th match-up between college football rivals Cal and Stanford may rank as the greatest sequence of events in sports history. A one-point game, a kickoff with four seconds remaining, five laterals by the receiving team with no time left on the clock, an unknowing Stanford band pouring onto the field… and finally, a game-winning leap into the end zone, during which a trombone player is unceremoniously plowed over. Great stuff. But a couple of hours south, in Carmel, California, you can sit outside and watch a different play entirely. The 103-year-old, 540-seat Outdoor Forest Theater is framed by tall pines and roaring fireplaces. The Pacific Repertory Theater has produced everything from Shakespeare to “Spamalot.”

THE CATCH: This could mean many sporting accomplishments (see: Mays, Willie), but most famously “The Catch” describes San Francisco 49ers receiver Dwight Clark’s leaping grab of a Joe Montana pass during the 1982 NFC Championship Game against the Dallas Cowboys. The touchdown with under a minute remaining sent San Francisco to its first Super Bowl. But is there a more impressive catch than that found at the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin? It’s a 143-foot-long, hand-sculpted likeness of a leaping muskellunge.

THE SHRUG: I was a 23-year-old Chicago Bulls fan when this one happened during Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals. Michael Jordan deflated the Portland Trail Blazers by connecting on six three-point shots (and 35 total points) in the first half. After the last one, he turned to face the TV announcers and shrugged, as if to say, “I can’t explain it either.” But I’m partial to the players on the Second City main stage, that comedy troupe that has spawned everyone from John Belushi and Bill Murray to Mike Myers and Chris Farley to Steve Carell and Tina Fey. In the City of Big Shoulders, their tongue-in-cheek brand of laughs amounts to an always hilarious, collective shrug.

THE HAIL MARY: The term has entered the football lexicon as a last-second, throw-it-deep, hope-someone-catches it attempt. But the term gained popularity following a Roger Staubach-to-Drew Pearson game-winning touchdown pass at the end of a 1975 playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings. “I closed my eyes,” the quarterback later explained about the pass, “and said a Hail Mary.” But you can also visit a hamlet called Maryhill and a lonely bluff there, just south of the Washington town of Goldendale. There, a fellow named Sam Hill constructed a full-size, astronomically-aligned replica of Stonehenge and dedicate it to World War I soldiers who gave their lives in defense of their country.

THE IMMACULATE RECEPTION: NFL Films chose it as the greatest play of all time. In the 1972 AFC division playoffs, after a Pittsburgh Steelers halfback and Oakland Raiders safety collided and sent the football sailing backwards, Pittsburgh’s Franco Harris scooped it up just before it hit the ground and ran in for a game-winning touchdown. But if we’re talking near-perfect receptions, I like the drive into St. Louis along I-70 with the Gateway Arch rising like an architectural icon and announcing, “The West begins here.” Or maybe the drive along Lake Shore Drive, with the Chicago skyline rising triumphantly. Or the beds of petunias on either side of the road that welcome you into Charlevoix, Michigan.

Anyone have any more examples for these? There’s some sport in this game, right?