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5 Quarantine-Friendly Summer Road Trips You Can Take While On Lockdown

We forget that there are hidden gems right in our own backyard.

Travel

For many of us, this year has thrown a serious curveball in our plans for vacations. With lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, and not much travel outside of the US, moving around has become a strategic game of, "Where is it safe to visit today?" Honestly, no matter where you travel, you can't really outrun what is going on, so you must continue to be vigilant about your safety and health no matter where you go. So the question now is, is all hope lost to get out, change your scenery, and explore somewhere new? I don't believe so.

In an article by Travel Agent Central, "A survey conducted by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) found that only 44 percent of Americans are planning overnight vacation or leisure travel in 2020, with high interest in road trips, family events and long weekends over the summer months."

Now is the time to get creative with your trips. The beautiful thing about traveling is that you can turn any trip into an adventure. We often like to go big and place heavy emphasis on traveling abroad. We literally forget that there are hidden gems right in our own backyard.

One way to get creative is with road trips. Yes, road trips are a thing, and if you are itching to get out during lockdown there is no better way to travel right now than hitting the open road. Domestic travel doesn't have to always be by airplane; it can be by car or even a camper if you are feeling really in the spirit.

Road tripping has so much to offer that a plane ride cannot: up-close views of landscapes and scenery, unplanned pit stops in small towns for quirky adventures, and hours of conversations with road partners that include singing off-key to a dope curated playlist. The bonding time with friends or a significant other alone is enough to push road trips to the tops of your list this summer. The most important key to planning any trip is the route.

The Overseas Highway: Miami to Key West

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Distance: 168 miles/3 hours and 20 minutes

Route: The Overseas Highway (US1)

Considered one of the greatest American road adventures, the route between Miami and Key West boasts over 100 miles of road that stretches over 42 bridges and connects 34 islands. So essentially this is island-hopping road trip-style. The views are as tropical as they can get, with miles and miles of blue turquoise water as far as the eye can see.

A major tip about this route is that most of the attractions on a Miami to Key West road trip are easily found by knowing what mile marker they are located near. For example, at Mile Marker 118 you are officially in the Florida Keys. It's here that you are just over 100 miles from Key West with lots of quirky pit stops and experiences that lie ahead.

As you make your way to Key West, you will pass through hundreds of small islands that make up the Florida Keys. The islands you'll pass are all connected by Highway 1 which is also known as the "The Overseas Highway". This route can best be described as "A visit to the Florida Keys is a road trip in the grand American tradition: it's not just about where you are headed, it's also about what happens along the way."

Suggested Stops: Cruise on the African Queen (Mile Marker 100), Islamorada Sandbar Island Party (near Mile Marker 84), Seven Mile Bridge (Mile Marker 47-40), Duval Street at Night, Hemingway House, and Mile Marker Zero.

Pacific Coast Highway: San Francisco to Los Angeles

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Distance: 460 miles/9 hours

Route: Pacific Coast Highway and Highway 101

In all honesty, this is probably one of my favorite road trips and routes. In 2013, I took an extended vacation that included a road trip through California for my first visit to the Golden State. It was the best decision I could have made to see a lot of California and Nevada. Our route went from Reno, NV to San Francisco, CA, to Los Angeles, CA, and ended 10 days later in Las Vegas, NV.

For a portion of that trip we took Highway 101 after a brief stay in Solvang, CA. Highway 101 is basically the same thing as Pacific Coast Highway except for part of it goes inland for a few miles between Salinas and San Luis Obispo. The scenery on this route is unmatched, around every corner there are enormous mountainscapes with the Pacific Ocean pushed right up against each edge.

Driving the Pacific Coast Highway is the equivalent of driving along a thin divider that separates two vast and picturesque worlds. The coastal route is about 150 miles and will take about 3 hours, as it's a slower route. The winding roads and beautiful beaches give you plenty of places to stop along with California's stretches of coastline for off the beaten path adventures as well as many places to get a lobster roll or any other food of your choice.

One quick note, if you can keep your eyes on the ocean, it is not uncommon to see whales and dolphins pop up every now and again. Tip: the best way to travel this one is with the top down.

Suggested Stops: Half Moon Bay, Big Sur, Point Bonita Lighthouse, Monterey Aquarium, Morro Rock, Madonna Inn, Hearst Castle, Solvang, and Santa Monica Pier. This trip is long so take your time with this one.

Blue Ridge Parkway: Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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Distance: 468 miles

Route: Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Let's switch up the scenery just a bit and take a trip through the Blue Ridge Parkway. This route winds through the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountain Range, starting at its most southern point Shenandoah National Park and going all the way to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Blue Ridge Parkway is considered one of the country's greatest scenic drives.

"Spanning the southern and central Appalachians, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers an exceptional glimpse of the regional flora and fauna. It is world-renowned for its biodiversity. The Parkway covers a wide range of habitats along the Appalachian Mountains, and some of these habitats are exceptionally rare. Visitors encounter unsurpassed diversity of climate, vegetation, wildlife, and geological features," says Blue Ridge Parkway website.

When planning your trip, it is suggested to plane it over the four districts of the parkway: the Ridge Region, the Plateau Region, the Highlands Region, and the Pisgah Region. This road trip can be taken at any time of the year but the most spectacular time is during autumn when all the leaves are changing for miles on end.

Suggested Stops: On this trip, the suggested stops are more about what is out in the natural setting of the mountain range. For instance, the many hiking trails, swing bridges, overlooks, and waterfalls. There are many small cities that you can stop in to grab some souvenirs and also many wineries, such as the Biltmore Estates, where you can pick up the local flavors. However, your focus will be on the vast landscape of the mountain ranges.

The Blues Highway: Memphis, TN to New Orleans, LA

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Distance: 400 miles

Route: US 61/US 278/US49/US 61

Everyone knows the key component to a dope road trip is the music. Amazing track after track to get you down the road is the best way to pass time. But what if you made the road trip about the music? This route is the perfect route to make this happen. Memphis TN, to New Orleans, LA, also known as The Blues Highway, and is laced with culture, music, and great southern food. It is recommended to start in Memphis and make your way south to New Orleans but be warned in the summer the heat can be intense.

"Separated by about 400 miles of road, Memphis, Tennessee, and New Orleans, Louisiana, are both hubs for music, food, and Southern culture. The six-hour drive between them can be expanded to an epic, 10-hour road trip through the Mississippi Delta, featuring notable music clubs and venues, Civil War landmarks, and more along the way," according to Trip Savvy.

(Recommendation from the writer: Skip all Civil War landmarks as they do not represent an accurate depiction of our history or they no longer exist. #BLM). This route is packed full of places to see and visit so it is best to plan ahead so you can see everything, get some delicious food along the way, and maybe do a little gambling if you are feeling lucky.

Suggested Stops: Blues Hall of Fame, Beale Street, Ground Zero Blues Club, The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, and The Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture to name a few.

BONUS ROUTE: Road to Hana: Kahului to Hana, Hawaii

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Distance: 64.4. Miles

Route: Hawaii Routes 36 and 360

Since we are in the pandemic, this one might be a stretch but this will be a bonus route for when things find some balance and we can feel safer about traveling. However, this list would not be a truly complete road trip list without the Road to Hana. This scenic drive is located on the northeast coastline of Maui and is officially named the Hana Highway on maps. It will also be listed as Hwy. 36 and Hwy. 360.

A lot of people consider the Hana Highway to continue beyond Hana to the Oheo Gulch, and even further to the Upcountry Maui via Hwy. 31. Hawaii.com says, "With its 600-plus turns, 50 (or so) one-lane bridges and breathtaking views that alternate between mountain streams and soaring sea cliffs, the Hana Highway is less a roadway than an event in itself."

It is recommended to get out early to avoid traffic on this route. Also, there is a lot to see on the drive so you want to keep your eyes on the road. If you want to take in the full experience, definitely consider getting a driver to get you from start to finish. It is impossible to see all the sights along the route in one trip, so you may want to plan out two to three days to travel and hit the highlights.

Suggested Stops: Ho'Okipa Beach Park, Twin Falls, Huelo Lookout, Maui Garden of Eden, Keanae Pennisula, Pua'a Ka'a Falls, Hanawi Falls, Nahiku Marketplace, Wai'anapanapa State Park, Hana Town, Hamoa Beach, Wailua Falls, 'Ohe'o Gulch aka "Seven Sacred Pools", and Kings Garden Maui.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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