Scenic Spring Drives

Spring has sprung; daylight savings time is upon us; and in most areas the weather is taking a definite turn for the better. Given all this positive news, isn't it time to dust off that chariot of yours and hop in for a scenic drive? After all, the commute to and from work can be a serious drag, but a good pleasure drive reminds us why Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz invented the car in the first place. So if you want our advice, pack a picnic lunch, buckle in the kids (if you don't have any of your own, rent some) and motor out into this great big wonderful country of ours.

Herewith for your approbation are East Coast and West Coast drives worthy of the term "scenic."

Apalachee Savannahs Scenic Byway

If you like nature, and who among us doesn't really, the Apalachee Savannahs Scenic Byway will more than give you your fill, and it's also fun to say aloud. It kicks off about nine miles south of Bristol, Florida, near the Apalachicola National Forest, on State Road 12. Then, turning onto SR 379, the byway winds through savannahs, which, of course, are grassy open spaces that play host to a wide variety of wild flowers, including orchids, sundews and the ever-popular pitcher plants.

Interspersed among the savannahs are gently rolling terrain and wooded areas. The trees you'll spot are sturdy oaks, cypress and longleaf pine. Spring is also the best time of the year to soak in the beauty of the magnolias. The Byway is said to meander through one of the largest remaining blocks of natural longleaf pine and wiregrass in existence.

Flora not your thing? There's plenty of fauna, too, including the endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers, black bears, bobcats, fox squirrels, wild turkeys, alligators and even sabre-toothed tigers. (Okay, I'm kidding about the tigers, but the wildlife is still cool.)

If you're more attuned to history than flowers and animals, then have a look at the Fort Gadsden historical site where nothing much happened more than 100 years ago. Visitors to the fort may view an outdoor museum on the site that depicts historical events that took place on the shores of the Apalachicola River, or they may choose to look away. In either case, the scenic byway ends when the National Forest begins on SR 65.

Bandon Beach Loop

Many refer to Bandon, Oregon, as "the Carmel of Oregon," and you can see why when you visit this lovely, throwback town just off Highway 101. The whole of the Bandon Beach Loop is less than 10 miles long, but you're cheating yourself if you don't take at least half a day to explore it.

Start by tromping around Old Town Bandon, hard on the shores of the Coquille River where it empties in the vast Pacific. Old Town is a perfect place for a stroll because it's filled with art galleries, shops and restaurants, many of which feature fresh-caught seafood landed locally. The town's marina is a colorful place to spend a leisurely hour or so, and it's within an easy walk of downtown.

Back in your car, cruise down the Beach Loop that extends south of town. First stop is the Coquille River Museum located in the historic Coast Guard building. The museum is filled with artifacts from the town's colorful history. Next along the route is South Jetty County Park, an excellent spot for picnicking that also offers many easy access points to the beach. Visible from the park is one of Oregon's famous lighthouses -- Coquille River Light.

The High Victorian Italiante structure was the last lighthouse of its type built on the Oregon coast, completed in 1896. It went out of service in 1939, but in 1976 a restoration began and, 25 years later, the lighthouse continues to be a prime tourist attraction. The light can also be visited up close in Bullard's Beach State Park.

Continuing south on the Beach Loop the scenery is nothing short of spectacular with "sea stacks" jutting up from the sand in a wide variety of formations. Some of them are so distinctive they've been named by the locals, so look for "Garden of the Gods," "Table Rock," "Cat and Kitten Rocks," and "Elephant Rock." "Face Rock" is said to be the countenance of an Indian maiden frozen in stone by evil spirits.

Finally, at Face Rock Viewpoint State Park, you can swing west to rejoin Highway 101, and, though your home might lie to the south, it's hard to resist the temptation to return to Old Town Bandon for one more look.

Elmer Hempstead, a longtime contributor to many periodicals, frequently looks out the window while he drives.