Though autumn won’t officially start for another couple of weeks, Labor Day often marks the end of summer. If the kids aren’t already back in school, they will start this coming week after a final summer hoorah of barbecues, clam bakes or camping trips. While the smells of freshly polished linoleum and cleaning fluids will greet them next week, those of us on the other end of the age scale can plan our fall travel. The younger set, with or without children, have most likely already taken vacation and are back at school or work.
Even if it’s in our own backyard, we are most likely to find parks, beaches, museums and shops less crowded. For the adventurers among us, roads and airports will be less traveled and hotels and airlines offer up lower rates. Those of us not tethered to school calendars can take advantage of this season before the holidays set in.
Last week Martin and I made a trip to Michigan to see our daughter’s family before the grandkids return to school next Tuesday. To our pleasant surprise, both the drive to and from was light traffic, as many other states including South Carolina have started the school year already. Interstate highways were free-flowing with no backups or slow downs, even around major cities. The hotel in Lexington, Kentucky, where we overnight half-way, was filled with business travel types. Not one family with children crossed our path. I had the pool entirely to myself.
In Michigan the nights were cooling, prompting me to need a flannel shirt. The blue water lakes chilled along with the fading summer. Yet the days were still mildly warm — a welcome respite for a heat-ravaged southerner.
For retirees unencumbered by work schedules fall can be a great time to travel. The weather is beginning to cool, even here in the South, bringing with it seasonal color changes in the mountains and foothills. We enjoy getting to the Blue Ridge Parkway during the week before the lines of weekend leaf peepers clog the roadway. Fall wildflowers of aster, joe pye weed and wild sunflowers still flourish. This weekend the Apple Festival in Hendersonville, NC ushers fall with a new crop of crisp apples, so recently picked a bushel can last weeks.
While in Michigan, we saw an ad on TV for Myrtle Beach, SC. While we have fall color and cooler nights in our upstate mountains, the beach beckons with still warm ocean water, no crowds and lower hotel rates. The first time Martin and I visited South Carolina was at Hilton Head Island in September. With a beachfront hotel, few other sunbathers around the pool, I relaxed on a chaise lounge, putting up my little red flag to attract an attendant for a drink or a snack after strolling the near empty beach. It was paradise all to ourselves.
There are also seasonal perks to enjoy with fall travel. Fall art festivals abound along with farm stand produce, apple cider, local honey, hay rides and bonfires. Besides fall color, botanical gardens and arboretums offer serenity as you enjoy nature in solitude or close to it. The sounds of geese flying south can be heard. As Martin and I drove out of Michigan early Tuesday morning we noticed the morning mist as the cooler nights and warm days produce the fog heralding autumn.
Fall is a favorite season for travel. Fewer crowds, lower prices, cooler weather and still plenty to do from bicycling to hiking to lolling on the beaches or climbing a mountain trail, natural beauty abounds before the winds of winter blow. Museums, trendy or untrendy shops, restaurants, antique malls and galleries await. Autumn wonders beckon. Where will you go this season?
All photography credit of Martin Merlino.