Q&As with 22 Accessible Road Trips Author, Candy Harrington

Q: What makes this book different from all the other road trip books out there?
Harrington: It’s the first inclusive road trip book on the market – one that everyone can enjoy. It’s a great road trip book in it’s own right; however it also has access information for wheelchair-users and slow walkers. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not just for disabled travelers, as the road trips included are great for everyone – seniors, families and even young couples.
Q: How did you decide what to include and how to organize it?
Harrington: That was a huge job, and to be honest finding the best framework took a long time. In the end I opted for something that allows for maximum flexibility; a format that gives folks alternate gateways, fly-drive options and even shorter 2-3 day side trips. I also included information about seasonal road closures, festivals and events, cool restaurants, quirky roadside attractions and of course unique lodging options. And the maps and illustrations give readers a good overview of what the routes look like, before they even read the first word about them.
Q: How long did it take you to research the book? How many miles did you travel? And tell us more about your traveling companion.
Harrington: Over the coarse of 3-4 years I’d say I logged over 80,000 miles. Of course I didn’t travel exactly as the book is laid out, and it took several trips to some destinations just to get things right. And there were a few fly-drive trips too. It was definitely a research intensive title. My traveling companion was my husband, best friend and all around good guy, travel photographer Charles Pannell.
Q: That’s a lot of driving. What did you guys do to fight off boredom.
Harrington: Well, some of the drives were gorgeous, so we just enjoyed the scenery along the way, but we also took along our favorite tunes and totally enjoyed the comedy shows on Sirius XM radio. And since I had to keep up with my deadlines, I even took out the laptop and worked now and again. Of course, Charles and I talk a lot, so that always keeps things interesting. There’s never any dead air with us around.
Q: You mentioned music. Do you have a favorite road trip song?
Harrington: You bet – Born to be Wild, by Steppenwolf. It’s the ultimate road trip song!
Q: Tell us about your ride. What did you drive on all of these road trips.
Harrington: Well although we did some fly-drive trips in rental cars, the majority were completed in my 2006 Monte Carlo. I bought it specifically for road trips, as it’s very roomy, has a fold-down back seat and a huge trunk. And of course the requisite sun roof and satellite radio.
Q: You mentioned a large trunk. What is the most unusual souvenir that you picked up along the way, one that you couldn’t have brought home if you flew?
Harrington: Probably the cattle skull that I picked up in Tombstone, Arizona. It now adorns the wall of my mountain home and it looks great. It was way too fragile to ship, and I can’t even imagine carrying it on an airplane. Come to think of it, the TSA would probably confiscate it, as the horns could be considered a weapon.
Q: Were there any hiccups along the way? What did you do or how did you work around them?
Harrington: Sure, we had some, but you just kind of shrug them off and move on. Like the time we woke up to no water at a rural Indiana hotel. They only had 5-6 units and there was no manager on site. We called the emergency number but only got a recording. I had some water in my water bottle so we were able to make coffee. We went without showers that day, but at long as we had our morning coffee we were good to go!
Q: Your sense of humor shows through in your writing, so you must have had some funny incidents along the way. Can you share one of your ”outtakes”?
Harrington: Well it wasn’t funny at the time, but there is one incident at a Texas toll gate that we do laugh about now. We were driving through Houston and trying to make sure we got on the right highway and in the right lane to pay our toll with cash. Well, the line said “cash” but it was one of those correct change toss-in bins. By the time we realized we were in the wrong lane it was too late and there was a driver behind us honking his fool head off. We had plenty of cash but no coins, so Charles just pushed up as far as he could against the guard arm, so the guy behind us could reach the toss-in bin and pay his toll. When the guard arm lifted we both went through. I do believe the driver also gestured to us as he sped by, and it wasn’t a friendly wave either.
Q: How did you work around Mother Nature. Did you ever get stuck in really bad weather?
Harrington: When you travel, you pretty much have to take what you get weather wise. Sure we had rain and wind, but we were able to plan inside activities on really bad weather days. We did hit a freak snowstorm in late April in Bryce, which was interesting. I was wearing shorts in the morning and trudging across a snow filled parking lot that afternoon. But the snow was absolutely beautiful on the Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon. Another time we just missed a tornado in Northern Arkansas. I now know that a green sky is a sign of imminent danger. I do check the weather every morning when we’re on the road, just to see what’s in store for us that day. Once we had to alter our itinerary due to some flooding on the lower Mississippi; but that’s the beauty of a road trip – you can be flexible.
Q: You mentioned unique lodging options. Can you tell me what you mean by that and give me an example or two?
Harrington: Basically I’m talking about properties that have a unique personality or offer some unique features, well beyond those found in your typical cookie-cutter chain hotels. For example the Seventy Four Ranch B&B offers a cool ranch-stay experience in rural Jasper, Georgia; while the new cabins at Lassen Volcanic National Park let folks get the feeling of camping without pitching a tent. And both choices are wheelchair-accessible.
Q: What’s the one thing that you just won’t leave home without on a road trip?
Harrington: I never leave home without my sense of humor – it’s essential when traveling. I also make sure I have emergency road service, because no matter how much you laugh, it still won’t get your car towed or your tire fixed!
Q: You must have met a lot of interesting people along the way. Can you share one of your most unforgettable characters with us?
Harrington: Well there were many, but I just can’t forget a gentleman I met at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. He took his grandson there to try and educate him about the civil rights movement, but his grandson was having a hard time wrapping his mind around it all. That was until he saw his grandfather in one of the pictures on display. I felt like I was standing next to a little bit of living history.
Q: Did you include any national parks in the book? Do you have a favorite one?
Harrington: Oh yes, I included over 20 national parks, not to mention a number of national monuments and state parks. I’m a real national park person, so I enjoyed they all, but if I had to pick a favorite it would be Big Bend National Park in Texas. It’s named for the big bend in the Rio Grande and there’s some awesome scenery there. Plus it’s pretty remote so you don’t get the crowds like you do in some of the more popular national parks.
Q: It seems you’ve been just about everywhere. Is there some place that you’ve missed or something that is on your road trip bucket list?
Harrington: Well I would like to return to Warm Springs, Georgia and enjoy the therapeutic pools that were built for FDR. I’ve visited the pools before, but they only fill them up on Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends. Some day the stars will line up right and I’ll be in the area when they are open.
Q: Out of all the places you’ve visited, can you name one that stood out in your mind as the quintessential road trip stop?
Harrington: There is this one stretch of historic Route 66 in Arizona that’s very nostalgic. It runs from Seligman to Kingman and is dotted with vintage Burma Shave signs, but the highlight is a stop at the Hackberry General Store, which features a vintage gas station, a soda fountain, a collection on vintage pin-up posters in the men’s room and a 1957 Corvette. It just screams road trip!
Q: If you could give someone just one piece of advice about their first road trip, what would that be?
Harrington: Be prepared, but allow for a little flexibility so you can really enjoy the the road trip. After all, some of the coolest road trip experiences are a result of those little detours you encounter along the way.
Q: Are you done with road trips now that the book is completed?
Harrington: Absolutely not – I love road trips. We have a short two-week one scheduled for June to attend the Utah Shakespeare Festival, and two-month fall one planned. The latter one will take us all the way to the east coast, with plenty of stops along the way. Road trips are an excellent way for me to research my books and articles, as they allow me to get an in depth look some very off-the-beaten-track treasures. Plus, like I said, I just love them!