Scenic View Drives
Updated: Mar 2
I love how a road can be its own adventure in between destinations. Some of my favorite memories of natural beauty are simply the views from the passenger seat of an automobile. I have visual daydreams of times spent along the roads in the United States of America, Australia, Taiwan, Japan, Italy, and France.
The United States of America is enormous in size and to travel every noteworthy road would be a feat of time, distance, and patience. Narrowing it down is nearly impossible.
In southern California during the spring of 2015, we took a memorable day of driving in Los Angeles county which included the Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu Canyon Road, Mulholland Drive, Topanga Canyon Road, and Sunset Boulevard. We had spent the first part admiring what little was still viewable in Bel Air and Beverly Hills of the massive mansions in yards hidden behind their protective walls and hedges. There were a variety of immaculate tree species lining the roads and all the polished, manicured vegetation expected from an area with year round mild climates. However, my favorite part of this excursion was just north of the Pacific Coast Highway in the massive and breathtaking ravines of the land of giants found on Malibu Canyon and Topanga Canyon roads. I had an excessive bout of car sickness from the endless turns and blind curves of Mulholland Drive with its mostly sun burned landscapes. Then, the Pacific Coast Highway with its fresh ocean breeze and the calming symphony of waves bowing the edges of the highway finished off the overwhelming amount of visual stimuli we witnessed that day.
A road I have traveled at a few milestones in my lifetime is the historical monument of our Blue Ridge Parkway. Nearly 470 miles at play for the avid roadside tourist that covers pastures, mountains, cliff sides, waterways, and glimpses of our past along the way. I can remember praying for my life as a child in the early 1990s as we made our way around the treacherous cliffs on the Tennessee side. My wild imagination feeding my fears with countless ways to die. Then there was the shortened jaunt in 2012 to see an endless horizon from the Virginia ridge tops. Making it to the very last trip in 2015 during those very foggy, rainy days of autumn as we procrastinated our way south with the deciduous trees beginning their yellows, oranges, and reds. Our 2 year old daughter loved the various cabins we booked and all the stops for historical information or bluegrass music gatherings found along the route.
In Australia, I was able to take a lovely car ride from Sydney to Dubbo which is “out in the bush”, and since I was traveling with locals it meant I got to hear all kinds of wonderful town names that sounded like jokes for some reason. We stopped to see the Three Sisters of the Blue Mountains where the forests surrounding the stone sculptures were viewable with the accompanying melodic sounds of a didgeridoo. As we ventured farther into the continent, the unobstructed roadsides provided me with chances to gaze out at the lovely hills with their sheep grazing in pastures for kilometers on end. I was not able to distinguish the dull looking rocks as actual kangaroos during those Southern Hemisphere winter months of 2007. Either I missed them as we passed oby or possibly was being messed with by the pranksters in the car, who also told me at some point that eating a koala can get you drunk because of the fermentation that takes place from their diet of eucalyptus leaves. Anyway, the bush (also known as the countryside most everywhere else) on that trip out to Dubbo and back is a lovely memory I still find time to cherish.
After my time in Australia, I visited my mother’s family and friends in Taiwan for a month. One family took me along for a hike up to see a happy buddha on a mountain top. The drive bringing us through the green dragon back ridges before the closest parking area to the summit from which we could begin. I remember we stopped at a roadside stand that sold a drink made only from young green pine needles and water in a blender. It was incredibly fresh and tasty! Had I not seen them blend it before my eyes, I may have imagined it was a fruit juice of some sort. Taiwan truly does have unique produce like the trees filled with unforgettably crisp and delicious pale pink bell shaped fruits that I devoured as a child. I have yet to find it anywhere besides on that island, and still have no idea what the actual name is of that tree.
Traveling with my cousins in Japan, we took many road trips to a garden or park. Keiko san would pack us a lunch filled with fried rice balls, tiny hot dogs, soft bread rolls, fresh fruits, mochi treats, and leftover vegetable dishes from the night before. Kamoshida san would choose the itinerary of a winding path to our destination with several sites to stop along the way. Plus, they always made sure to have folding seats for a truly enjoyable road side picnic. The many destinations we went to are definitely worth mentioning but they deserve their own posts, so for now I want to focus solely on the drives.
In Nagano prefecture, there is one place that “plays” a tune as you drive this strip. Harmony Road has tread lines spaced out in a way that when the car passes over the bumps the sounds from the tires make a song. To find this musical wonder, I think, we took the Venus Road. The Venus Road is in itself an entire itinerary full of delights such as the multiple waterfalls, a nature walk in the moss filled old growth forest, hiking on hilltops of daylilies and unexpectedly hearing the Sound of Music from who knows where, and vistas of a distant lake town below.
Then there was the cold winter day they surprised me with a drive to see the five lakes of Mt. Fuji, Fujigoko. There was snow still perched on the branches of trees which were supported by the ropes of a yukitsuri. Another time, we drove along the outskirts of Lake Tanuki where there was at least a hundred cameras with enormous lenses set to photograph Mt. Fuji seemingly abandoned by their owners. The phenomena that was to occur is known as diamond fuji. When the sun sets, it perfectly enters the tip of the mountain and this image reflects itself in the lake beneath.
Another road trip was down the Izu peninsular to see the summer festivals of fireworks. The drive was juxtaposed between lush green mountains and the rugged rocks and active surf of the Sagami Bay. It was so picturesque a scene as if we were watching a nature documentary of coastal landscapes instead of careening along a busy highway with its tiny pitstop beaches scattered sparingly throughout the trip.
Into our lives in Italy, where the first scenic views of Tuscany were between the historic cities of Sienna, Volterra, and San Gimignano to eventually find ourselves in awe of Andrea Bocelli at his hometown amphitheater of rolling hills at sunset. There were endless vineyards wrapping along the topography like a rumpled patchwork quilt. The approaching ancient walled castle cities perched and domineering over the farmlands surrounding its ascent. The dream of Italy perfectly portraying itself “under the Tuscan sun.”
We made a 3250 kilometer roundtrip drive over six days from our home in southern Italy to just shy of Paris. The fact that we stayed on the autostradas for almost the entire time did not devalue all the moments of regal farmlands, distant castles on peaks of land, and especially entering the dolomites. I have never before been in mountains so tall that the tops appeared to disappear high above the atmosphere. I hope to never forget seeing the brightly colored paragliders floating in twirling circles at all levels of heights as if they were maple seeds in springtime gently finding spots to land.
The last but certainly not least impressive road trip adventure on this list is in the magical lands surrounding Lake Como. I have always heard references made to the beauty of Lake Como but was caught completely unprepared for the longing I felt when we entered this arena of competing grandness. There were tall mountains glittered with the appearance of lives of luxury, wisteria covered pergolas leisurely wrapping the sidewalks along the waterfront, and numerous pleasure boats, fishing vessels, and car transports passing each other on the water. Parking at the front of the ferry transporting us between gardens, we simply watched the lake and lands reveal the grandeur of the Bellagio peninsula. A world that beckoned something deep inside me to stay like an unrequited love. I still hear whispers of what might be and feel a need to return.
The secrets and hidden treasures found along the long routes of traveling make the ride less of a burden and more of a blessing. I am grateful for all the roads I have had opportunities to travel and look forward to the ones I have yet to traverse. These moving landscape parks passing by our windows entrancing us to slow down, find time to stop, and then also to venture farther.
Much love and kind regards, Shainna 🌼