For many people, the act of travelling to your destination is usually the most tedious part of a journey or vacation. But since the movies began making road trips look so much fun (think Little Miss Sunshine, The Hangover, Road Trip and even Thelma and Louise for the ladies) there seems to be a certain appeal to be found in the journey itself.
There are some truly exceptional driving routes throughout the world, often adorned with the kind of scenery that can take your breath away. So get the guys onboard, wind down the window, blast out some tunes and get set to embark on a trip where the journey might just be better than the destination.
Route 62, South Africa
So you’ve heard of Route 66 but have you heard of Route 62? This highway is in South Africa and runs between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth as a more scenic option to the N2 highway. You may want to share driving duties on this particular trip – Route 62 is in the heart of the country’s wine region and passes 69 vineyards making it one of the longest wine routes in the world. If you’re not too inebriated from the wine you can also enjoy stunning mountain passes, lush valleys and spectacular colours from the 500 species of ingenious flora that fill the bordering fields.
Great Ocean Road, Australia
This 240km road on the South East Coast of Australia was built by returning soldiers and is dedicated to the fallen troops of World War I making it the world’s largest war memorial and a symbol of national heritage and pride. Being so close to the coast also means that the ocean views are spectacular and offer sightings of whales, dolphins and seals. You can also witness the ‘Twelve Apostles’ en route – these are limestone formations that stand in the Southern Ocean in Victoria, Aus. Great Ocean Road is a renowned road trip for anyone travelling across the South East Coast.
Icefields Parkway, Canada
Icefields Parkway, also known as Highway 93, is a 230km stretch of road within the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. This is already a place of supreme natural beauty but this highway also passes two national parks and the stunning Lake Louise, along with snow capped mountains and alpine forests – so you can expect the scenery to be utterly breathtaking. Just watch out for wildlife and weather. Snow can fall at any time of year and grizzly bears, moose and elk are known to stray in the area.
Amalfi Drive, Italy
This beautiful stretch of Italian coastline has been the backdrop for several romantic blockbusters including A Good Woman and The Talented Mr Ripley. Unsurprising really as the winding roads offer dazzling views of the ocean and picturesque villages embedded into the lush hillsides. With the southbound lane being precariously close to the cliff edge, adrenaline junkies will also love the thrill of driving along this twisting road, deemed by UNESCO to be an ‘outstanding example of Mediterranean landscape.’
Transfagarasan Road, Romania
This eerily winding road in the Faragas Mountains is thought to be one of the highest roads in Europe. Anyone driving along the twisting road that snakes across alpine landscape can catch a glimpse of the ruins of the castle that was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s famous Dracula novel. With barren meadows, glacial valleys and dense forests surrounding, the often deserted, highway this may be somewhere a little intimidating to be at night time. But don’t panic, a cable car service runs between Balea Lac and Balea Cascada in the event of any vampire based emergencies!
Route 66, USA
Featuring in songs, movies and books throughout history, America’s ‘mother road’ is perhaps the most famous highway in the world. Route 66 starts in Chicago,Illinois and spans 4000km and six other states before ending in Los Angeles, California. The very nature of a journey that takes you through so many different states means that there is a diverse amount of scenery on offer as well as the infamous (and sometimes bizarre) roadside attractions that characterise this legendary highway.
Atlantic Road, Norway
Atlantic Road may only be 8km long but it is a truly unique driving route. It is built on several small islands and skerries on the Norwegian sea and is linked by viaducts, causeways and eight bridges. The most prominent of these bridges is Storseisundet Bridge which has an iconic, curved shape. The dramatic views that you can witness of the, often stormy, Hustaavika Ocean seem to amaze visitors and the road is now known as a National Tourist Route. It may be a short road trip, but it’s definitely one worth taking.
Who’s Ready To Stay In The World’s First Luxury Hotel.. In Space?
Sometimes you just need to get away. Sure, you could book a trip to the Bahamas, or Hawaii, or you could choose a destination that’s a little further out there. Like outer space. Imagine being able to play astronaut for a few days, while you unplug from your job and the daily grind. You’ll get your chance soon since a new luxury hotel is launching 200 miles above the Earth. It’s called Aurora Station.
Space tourism is all the rage right now, despite the fact that we can’t go to Mars and beyond just yet. Aurora Station is a project designed to let ordinary humans live out their Astronaut dreams above the Earth for 12 days. And even though you are off-planet, you’ll have all the luxuries of home, thanks to a luxury hotel in zero gravity.
The hotel aims to welcome its first guests by 2022, and who knows? Maybe one day it will be a gathering place for humans and aliens as they travel to and from the Earth. This is basically a mini space station that consists of a modular capsule that has enough room to accommodate four guests and two crew members at a time.
During your stay, you can participate in research experiments like growing food, experience virtual reality on an actual holodeck, and live-stream with those jealous humans back home. The company behind the project, Orion Span, will only charge you $9.5 million per person for your 12-day stay. That breaks down to $791,667 per night. That price tag leaves most of us Earthbound, but if you have the money this will be the ultimate experience.
A deposit of $80,000 will secure your reservation. You better be in good shape though, because you’ll have to undergo an intensive three-month astronaut certification program to train for launch, re-entry, and contingency scenarios. Guests will also be required to do exercise during their stay aboard Aurora.
Start saving your money and get ready for your trip to the final frontier.
Photo credit: Orion Span
We Checked Out Grand Rapids’ Beer Scene.. And I’m Still Pretty Buzzed
Grand Rapids, Michigan has one of the best beer scenes in the country, with 60+ craft breweries along their Beer City Ale Trail that are putting out some amazing brews (not to mention delicious food). Voted Beer City USA in national polls and named Best Beer Town and Best Beer Scene by USA TODAY, Grand Rapids has quickly become a popular beercation destination for hops heads.
Experience Grand Rapids recently invited us to come check out their beer scene for ourselves, and when we shared this news on social media, the suggestions started flooding in. “Make sure you hit up Founders!” “Are you visiting Creston Brewing?” “Dude, you can’t leave Grand Rapids without trying the crack fries at HopCat.”
With so many breweries in town, it was impossible for us to hit them all, but we made a valiant effort, visiting 11 breweries in just two days and collecting enough stamps in my Brewsader Passport to score me a sweet Brewsader t-shirt to commemorate my visit.
So how does one choose which breweries to visit? Honestly, that’s the challenge that brewers here face, as they all produce great beer. So to differentiate themselves from one another, they’ve upped their food game, each offering their own signature dishes to go along with their beers.
Here were our 5 favorite Grand Rapids breweries:
1) Founders Brewing has been named the third best brewery in the world, and it’s a must-visit if you come to Grand Rapids. As the story goes, founders Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers quit their day jobs to get into the brewingr business, but their unremarkable beers weren’t wowing people and they were on the verge of bankruptcy. So they decided to brew the kind of beer that got them excited about brewing in the first place: complex, in-your-face ales, with huge aromatics, bigger body, and tons of flavor. Their Kentucky Bourbon Stout (KBS) was met with rave reviews, and the rest is history.
They’ve got a wide variety of beers to choose from, and one that really won me over was their Lizard of Koz, a bourbon barrel aged Imperial Stout with blueberry, chocolate, and vanilla. It was ridiculously good. Equally good were their sandwiches, which are hand crafted, just like their beers. Seeing as how it was lunchtime, I decided to order the Backwoods Bastard (bourbon barrel-smoked pulled pork, Colby Jack cheese, tangy coleslaw & Dirty Bastard BBQ sauce on toasted ciabatta roll), and it was SO FREAKING GOOD!
2) Brewery Vivant is a distinctly unique brewery in the fact that it’s housed in an old funeral home, featuring rustic farmhouse inspired beers (like their signature Big Red Coq) alongside European inspired cooking from their scratch-kitchen. Their Duck Confit Nachos is a popular menu item that pairs well with their beers, and who doesn’t love some Poutine? The food is on a whole other level, and they use locally sourced ingredients.
Furthermore, Brewery Vivant was awarded the first ever LEED certification for a production brewery in the US in 2012, designing their space to use less water and energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which not only save them money but also benefits the environment as a whole. These guys just don’t talk the talk when it comes to being environmentally friendly, but they walk the walk as well.
3) The Mitten Brewing Company (named after the shape of their home state) is a vintage baseball-themed microbrewery that also pulls double-duty as a pizzeria. That’s right, because what goes better with ice cold beer than some piping hot pizza? Taking the marriage of beer and pizza one step further, the beer isn’t the only thing you can order as a flight – They offer a flight of pizza, allowing you to sample up to six different varieties of their delicious pizza. My favorite was the chicken and waffles pizza!
Located on the West Side of Grand Rapids, The Mitten is located in a historic firehouse, and it even includes the original fireman’s pole. Despite expanding the building with the addition of a second story taproom and bi-level outdoor decks, this place can still get pretty crowded at night (especially on a weekend), so make sure you stake out a table early, or you’re bound to be waiting for awhile. But trust me, it’s totally worth it!
4) New Holland Brewing is known for their Dragon’s Milk Stout, and they’ve since introduced a number of other Dragon’s Milk varieties. So, I decided to order up the Flight of the Dragon so I could try all of them. In retrospect, that might not have been such a bright idea, given that each of them were over 11% ABV. But it was totally worth it, as Dragon’s Milk is pretty amazing and totally lived up to the hype.
We visited The Knickerbocker location (on Grand Rapids’ West Side), and the building is just incredible. It’s a massive space, and the architecture is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Add in unique fixtures (like a huge metal dragon when you first walk in) and the gorgeous flight tray you see above, and you can see why The Knickerbocker stands out from the crowd.
5) City Built Brewing Company is another spot you should definitely check out. One of the newer breweries in the area (opened in 2017), City Built offers 4 tiers of beer, from the mild to the wild, along with something you don’t see nearly enough.. Mead! I fell in love with their Beyoncé Blackberry Mead, and I would have been happy staying here all afternoon drinking them (and eating some of the delicious looking Puerto Rican food that they serve up), but sadly our limited time didn’t allow for it.
We had a chance to meet up with the owners (Dave Petroelje and Edwin Collazo), and they took us behind-the-scenes, giving us some background on them and where they see the business going. Definitely keep an eye on them, as these guys are going places!
Overall, we had an amazing time in exploring the Grand Rapids beer scene with our #MenWhoBlog buddies. It is crazy to think that we barely scratched the surface, only visiting 11 of the 60+ breweries that GR has to offer. They’ve definitely earned the title of Beer City USA, and I highly recommend it to any beer aficionado looking to satisfy their thirst for foam and hops.
Want more? Then make sure you check out Men Who Blog, as they’ve compiled a list of posts from all of the other guys who took part in the Grand Rapids beercation weekend with us.
Looking For Some Fun In The Sun? Then Head Down To Bradenton Florida
If you’re looking to escape the cold and spend a few days soaking up some much-needed rays, we’ve got just the place for you.. Bradenton, Florida! Located on the Gulf Coast of Florida just north of Sarasota, this quiet little beach community has lots to offer, something I got to experience firsthand during a recent guys weekend with a few of my #MenWhoBlog buddies, courtesy of Bradenton Gulf Islands.
The folks at Island Real Estate found us a sweet rental house (“Beachy Villa Vista”) that was just a few steps away from the beach, complete with a heated pool, spa, swim up tiki bar, and a propane grill in the backyard. The house itself was super spacious, with all the amentities you could ask for. So whether you’re planning on coming down here for a weekend with your buds or for a week-long vacation with the entire family, a vacation rental house like this is most definitely the way to go.
Now you might ask yourself, what exactly is there to do down in Bradenton and Anna Maria Island other than kick back, relax, and enjoy their beaches with miles and miles of sugar-white sand and gentle waves?
Plenty! On our first day there, we went fishing with Egmont Key Adventures, and let me tell you, the fish were biting that day! We caught a ton of fish, including mullet, redfish, snook, snapper, and grouper. And if you’re a first time fisher (like me), not to worry, as our trusty captain was only too happy to bait my lures and help me cast them into the water. It was really a lot of fun, and it also made for a nice dinner later that night.
Thrill-seekers looking for something a bit more extreme need to check out Top Gun Flyboards. This amazing new water sport is like nothing that I’ve ever done before, and it was seriously awesome! While there is a bit of a learning curve involved, within 5-10 minutes I had gotten the hang of it, and I was able to soar a good 6 feet above the water. Due to some technical difficulties with our GoPro, I wasn’t able to capture any footage of me doing this, but these photos give you an idea of what you can expect.
We were lucky enough to be visiting Brandenton during the Bradenton Blues Fest, where we got to jam out to a diverse lineup of talented blues musicians on the big stage. The music was amazing, and everyone had a blast. The whole lineup was top notch, but my favorite group had to be Chubby Carrier and the Delta Swamp Band, a zydeco band who brought the house down with their New Orleans-style music. If you can’t make it during this event, not to worry, as there’s plenty of live music happening here year-round.
Foodies will be delighted by Anna Maria Island’s impressive restaurant and bar scene, which honestly caught me by surprise. I was expecting a variety of seafood shacks and beach bars (of which there are plenty), not a ZAGAT “Top Restaurant in America”. Beach Bistro has been wowing guests for more than 27 years with truly exceptional meals, and this was easily one of the best meals I ever had. So much food was had, but some of the standouts include the Colorado lamb, butter-poached Nova Scotia lobster and Hudson Valley foie gras, along with the Short Rib Bourguignon entrée, which was just out of this world.
After dinner, we made our way to The Doctor’s Office, a former doctor’s office that’s now a craft cocktail bar. The drinks here are phenomenal, the bartending staff is top-notch, and it’s a great way to cap off the night.
Bradenton also has some great breakfast spots that are worth checking out. Ginny’s and Jane E’s is a quirky bakery café that has some seriously insane (and huge) cinnamon buns. The Anna Maria Oyster Bar has just what you need after a night of drinking, the aptly named Hangover Sandwich (pepper fried chicken, fried egg, cheese & topped with sausage gravy). And the Gulf Drive Cafe offers breakfast on the beach, complete with a guitar player serenading you as you dine.
Seriously, what more could you ask for? Bradenton and Anna Maria Island have great food, tons of activities, amazing music, and pristine beaches with beautiful turquoise waters. It’s a little slice of heaven, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a taste of Old Florida.