A million miles. That’s two round trips to the moon, and the beginning of another. It’s forty trips around the earth. You could go from New York to Beijing one hundred and forty-seven times. You could travel between the North and South poles eighty-three times. Regardless of how you look at the math, one million miles is an astronomically large number. According to the US Department of Transportation, the average American drives 13,000 miles a year… meaning that it would take them seventy-six years of driving to reach the million mile mark (via
On this blog, we have been chronicling the adventures of my friend Justin Kilmer, whose 2003 Honda Accord V6 coupe has been barreling toward the million mile mark. Justin works as a courier in southern Texas, delivering just-in-time medical supplies to nursing homes, hospitals, and private residences. His wife originally bought the car in 2003, and then Justin started using it for courier routes in 2015 when it had approximately 185,000 miles on the odometer. In the past seven years, he has kept up a blistering pace, racking up over 120,000 miles per year. The Accord, his trusty companion, is still running on its original engine. So when Justin said he wanted to do something special to commemorate the million mile mark, you better believe I packed up the Accord, charged my camera, filled the gas tank, and headed south to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to be there for the occasion!
So come along, then, as we make a 1,400-mile round trip to celebrate Justin becoming The Million Mile Man. We’ll also eat some great food, take in the mountain air, hang out at a dinosaur zoo, stop at a historic gas station, and have a great time.
The Million Mile Road Trip
The Journey to Tennessee
Loading up the car Thursday night after work, my wife and I began our trek to Tennessee.
On our first night of driving we made it as far as Martinsburg, West Virginia. Knowing we would need to break the drive up across two days, we made reservations at the local Hilton Garden Inn. We stumbled into the hotel around 10:30 pm and promptly fell asleep.
The next morning, we loaded up the car as flurries fell from the sky. According to the front desk clerk, schools in Martinburg were closed for the day due to snow which was supposed to be heavy in the early morning hours. This photo was taken at 8:00 am, well into the “storm.”Ahem.
As we were running ahead of schedule, we decided to take a little detour for lunch to the town of Wytheville, Virginia. Our destination? Skeeter’s, a hot dog joint that’s been in operation since 1925.
Skeeter’s was originally a general store in Wytheville that opened in 1925, before moving to its current location in the 1940s. From its inception, however, you could always get a hot dog at Skeeter’s (via Skeeters Hot Dogs).
There were so many good options on the menu, but I settled on a “West Coast” (hot dog with mustard and relish) and a Skeeterdog (hot dog with mustard, onion, and chili). My wife ordered the same, but on gluten free hotdog buns. We split a basket of fries (delicious!), and I washed my meal down with a sweetened ice tea… I usually don’t drink sweetened tea, but when in the South, it’s really the only way to go!
After lunch, as we were walking back to the car, we spotted something interesting a few doors down from Skeeter’s… the First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson Museum and Family Home.
Edith Bolling Wilson was First Lady of the United States during the administration of Woodrow Wilson. The museum is located in what was once the Bolling Family home. Despite losing their considerable fortune during the Civil War, by the early 20th century, the family had regained a level of comfort in Wytheville.
A portion of the museum’s wall was open, exposing layers of wallpaper that dated back to the 19th century, including this well-preserved image. The Bolling Family home once included the space that is now the museum, along with the coffee shop next door and Skeeter’s at the end of the building. The family rented out the spaces on the first floor to local businesses, and lived in the considerably larger space on the second floor (via Adam, our museum guide).
Fun car fact: in 1904, Edith Wilson became the first woman to obtain a license for an electric car.
Wilson was heavily involved in the Girl Scouts, as she served as National President of the organization during World War I. For such a small museum, it presented an interesting overview of Wilson’s life. Best of all… it was free!
Afterward, we made a quick stop at The Grind, a small independent coffee shop which sits between the museum and Skeeter’s. That’ll be an almond milk latte for me, and an almond milk cappuccino for my wife.
Filled up, fueled up, and educated, we were ready to get back on the road after our lunch break in Wytheville.
Cloudy and rainy skies cleared by the time we crossed into Tennessee. Once over the state line, my Accord added another first – this was the first time it had entered the Volunteer State, and would also mark the furthest south it has ever been driven.
With my car filthy from two days of driving in inclement weather, we pulled into Tidal Wave Auto Spa in Newport, Tennessee. The manager was at the entrance and tried to pitch us on a monthly subscription. When we told him that we were from New Jersey, he asked us to promise to visit a Tidal Wave if they ever expand to my home state (Tidal Wave is a regional chain of car washes), and then gave us a free top-of-the-line wash just for showing up! The Accord came out beautifully, and you can’t beat the price!
As we neared Gatlinburg, the GPS detoured us from the interstate onto Route 321, a curvy road that snakes its way along the Great Smoky Mountains. With no traffic around us, my wife was able to stretch the Accord’s legs (and suspension) a bit on the twisty roads. We had a blast!
I arrived at the Country Inn and Suites in Gatlinburg to find our friends Justin and Josh already waiting for us in the parking lot. As we’ve shared on this blog previously, Josh also works as a medical courier and were it not for an errant deer strike, his previous car, a 2015 Honda Accord sedan, would probably be nearing the million mile mark as well. Between Justin’s gallant efforts, Josh’s daily long-haul deliveries, and my love of road trips, this photo was a high mileage reunion… the three cars represent almost 1.5 million miles of driving.
My wife and I joined Justin and Josh for dinner at Smith & Son Corner Kitchen, a restaurant and sports bar recommended by the hotel’s front desk.
The recommendation was spot-on! I enjoyed the chicken fajitas, my wife dined on the Smoky Mountain Cobb Salad, while Justin and Josh each ordered the Smoky Mountain Grille – skinless chicken breast covered in barbecue sauce with pecan smoked bacon and pepper jack cheese. Pro tip: if you order the chocolate cake (as my friend Josh did), be prepared to either share it with the surrounding three tables, or get a to-go container for the leftovers. A single slice is absolutely enormous. Delicious… but enormous.
After dinner, we took a walk around town. As I did not order dessert at the restaurant, I had room for a milkshake from Kilwin’s, a chocolate, fudge, and ice cream shop in downtown Gatlinburg. Kilwin’s is a chain that is based primarily in the eastern half of the United States. How was the milkshake? Two enthusiastic thumbs up! After returning to our hotel, it was an early bedtime for us as we had a big day planned for Saturday. The Million Mile Day
I woke up early and took a stroll across town to the local Starbucks for some coffee for my wife and I. Along the way, I explored some of the shops and restaurants. As a major tourist destination, Gatlinburg has plenty of attractions… it’ll definitely be worth a return visit to further explore!
Justin’s family had come in for the event from Texas, along with our friend Ash who drove down from Maryland. We all met up in the hotel dining room for breakfast, and then my wife and I headed to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where Justin planned to cross the million mile mark in his car. We wanted to scout the route and check out the parking situation at the visitor center. We also added another stamp to our US National Parks passport!
A little while later, the gang arrived. Myself, along with Ash (in the 2010 Honda Accord sedan) and Josh (the gray 2014 Accord) would be escorting Justin’s car as it crossed the million mile threshold. Longtime readers might remember the four of us meeting up in New Jersey this past September. We queued up in the parking lot of the Sugarland Visitor Center and, after snapping a few commemorative photos, began the drive.
The drive up Great Smoky Mountain National Park was just as scenic and fun to drive as I remembered it from our visit last summer during the “Great American Road Trip.”
As we continued toward Newfound Gap, we passed under several mountain tunnels – one of my favorite parts of the drive!
We pulled into one of the scenic turnouts for some mandatory car photos, of course.
Despite a million miles on its odometer, and only running on 5-cylinders, Justin’s 2003 Accord happily scampered up the mountain roads alongside its four-wheeled friends.
The drive up the mountain took about twenty minutes, as we wound our way along scenic, curvy, and somewhat steep roads.
After reaching the Newfound Gap overlook, I jumped into Justin’s Accord for the final few miles. We set off down the mountain road for two miles, before turning around and rolling the magic million in Newfound Gap.
Success! This is technically 1,000,000.2 miles. The car’s odometer locks up at 999,999 miles, so Justin tracked the last mile with his trip meter.
Our friends Josh and Ash had laid out a red carpet for Justin to cross as he rolled the million mile mark. Aside from a slightly rough idle due to the misfiring #1 cylinder, Justin’s Accord neither drives nor looks like it has a million miles. His careful maintenance and attention to detail has kept his car on the road long past the point when most people would think a vehicle is still usable. For the past several years, Justin has been chronicling the upkeep he has done on his vehicle on his YouTube channel, so feel free to click here and take a look!
“Highest mileage V6 Accord in the world,” reads the window sticker. Absolutely 100% accurate.
Because the odometer was frozen at all 9s, Justin could either have it reprogrammed or install a new one. He opted to keep his record-breaking odometer as a souvenir and swap it out for a brand new unit that he purchased from Honda. He made the replacement in the Newfound Gap parking lot – probably the first odometer swap to ever occur in a national park!
The swap complete, Justin is all set for the next million miles!
I recently started a new job, and so needed to be back to work on Monday morning. The rest of the group would be remaining in Gatlinburg for the weekend, but my wife and I said our goodbyes and got the Accord back on the road, heading home.
Or we would have, had we not run into a wall of traffic in Gatlinburg. Mix nice weather with hordes of tourists during spring break season, and add in some road construction, and the ten miles back to the interstate took us over 90 minutes. Yuck.
Once we reached the interstate, however, it was clear sailing on our trip northward.
With a snowstorm expected to blanket southern Virginia with winter weather on Sunday, our goal was to reach northern Virginia before stopping for the night. A few hours from our hotel, my wife picked out a local restaurant for dinner: Foot of the Mountain Cafe in Buchanan, Virginia. Despite its modest appearance, Foot of the Mountain would give us the best meal of the trip!
We were seated promptly, and our server was attentive and friendly. We began perusing the menu – always a challenge when everything looks so good!
My wife ordered the lobster fried rice, which was absolutely delicious.
Foot of the Mountain bills itself as specializing in burgers… but I opted instead for the homemade crab cakes (divine!), a side of southern green beans (cooked in butter and smoked bacon – decadent!), and another side of homemade macaroni and cheese (the best restaurant mac and cheese I’ve ever had!). Only good manners kept me from picking the plate up and licking it clean when I was done. Our tummies happy, we headed to our hotel for the night.
The final overnight of our trip would be at a Holiday Inn Express in Woodstock, Virginia. A Sunday Morning Adventure
After a less than restful night’s sleep (we lost a hour to the time change), we headed down to the lobby for our complimentary hotel breakfast. The instant pancake maker caught my eye – I had to take it for a test drive!
What can I say? I’m easily amused. I gave the QuickCakes pancake maker a try… and the results weren’t too bad! Uncle Bill’s Pancake House in Cape May doesn’t have anything to fear, but the machine was easy to use, it was cool to watch the pancakes being made in real time, and the flavor was passable!
My wife had planned a small adventure for our way home. We left the interstate for the aptly-named town of White Post, Virginia. This road sign post was installed at this location in 1750 by a young man by the name of George Washington. The White Post is on the National Register of Historic Places, so it cannot be moved or modified. Given it’s location in the middle of an intersection, it’s been knocked over several times, and each time the Virginia Department of Transportation repairs it to look exactly as it did in 1750 (via Atlas Obscura).
Across the street is this historic Sinclair Gas Station, which has been painstakingly restored by White Post to look as it did in the 1920s… an ideal backdrop for an Accord glamour shot!
A few miles down the road, my wife said, “Turn here!” I guided the car into a parking lot and was transported millions of years into the past…
We had arrived at Dinosaur Land! Established in the 1960s (after the owner was inspired by a dinosaur-themed miniature golf course he saw on vacation), Dinosaur Land has over 50 sculptures of dinosaurs in a wooded expanse behind the gift shop (via Atlas Obscura).
After paying our modest entrance fee ($8 for anyone older than 11, $6 for children ages 2-10), we set off to enter an ancient land of mystery!
Watching this herd of Triceratops fighting with a Tyrannosaurus Rex, my inner 8-year old was in his glory. ALL his glory!
Each of the paths through the park are labeled… we took a right on Mammoth Ave as we continued our adventure.
The museum doesn’t skimp on the gore, such as this diorama of a Megalosaurus feasting on an Apatosaurus.
After the tour, I ended up chatting with the granddaughter of the man who established Dinosaur Land. Older sculptures were made from fiberglass, and the elements have taken their toll on those creations. Newer ones, such as this V elociraptor, are made from rubber and plastic, allowing them to better weather the passing seasons.
After purchasing an armful of souvenirs, it was time for another quick glamour shot of the Accord with some new friends before we got back on the road!
My wife picked out a cool spot for lunch, and offered me the option of two different routes. One way involved the interstate, and the other involved a series of back roads through the southern Maryland hillsides. We opted for the fun route and explored MD 77, one of the most engaging public roads I’ve driven in quite a while!
After crossing into Pennsylvania, we stopped for lunch in the town of Dillsburg, not far from Gettysburg. The family owned and operated Tucker & Co. Bakery and Cafe offers breakfast and lunch options, almost all of which can be made gluten-free.
After placing our order, we explored the restaurant a bit, and learned that it was once the home of Jane Alexander, a lawyer who became the first woman member of the Dillsburg Borough Council, and also served two terms in the Pennsylvania State House as a representative (via Wikipedia).
I thoroughly enjoyed the chicken salad sandwich (on gluten-free brioche) while my wife dined on the spring panini (chicken, spring greens, and roasted mushrooms on gluten free brioche). We may have also bought a gluten free coffee cake for an on-the-road snack. Tucker & Co Bakery is well worth the visit if you’re in the area!
After several hours of driving, we were back home. Along the way, my Accord made its own small high mileage achievement, crossing the 212,000 mile mark. Compared to Justin’s Accord, I think my coupe is just getting broken in. Onward! Wrapping Up
States visited: NJ, PA, MD, WV, VA, TN
Value of the weekend: Priceless
It was a whirlwind weekend, but filled with amazing memories. From visiting a beautiful national park, to being part of a friend’s achievement, to strolling through a forest of dinosaurs, to seeing good friends, to eating fantastic food, we couldn’t have packed more into those three days if we tried.
If you’d like to read more about Justin’s journey with his high mileage car, a number of automotive news sites have picked up the story, including
The Drive and Road and Track. Definitely check it out!
And thanks, as always, for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!
‘Til next time.
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13 thoughts on “The Million Mile Man, The Million Mile Accord.”
Yipes, what a trip!!!!! See you Friday! Hugs —
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Thanks for reading, Muffin! See you in a few days.
My 2005 Accord only has 100K, but it’s going strong.
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The 2003-2007 Accord is such a great model!! Thanks for reading!!
This post made my day Skeeterlicious! But can we talk about that instant pancake maker? Wow. I didn’t realize Justin swapped clusters right there at the park – how cool is that. HUGE CONGRATS to him! Incredible!
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It was a Skeeterlicious trip, and certainly a Skeeterlicious lunch! 😆
That pancake maker was absolutely incredible, but so was the entire adventure! Thanks for reading!!
Wow-it looks like it was a fun weekend! It is so cool that you were able to be there when they hit that big milestone! Also, it looks like you had some delicious eats along the way.
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So much good food!! Glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks for reading!!
Looks like a great weekend I’ve nenes been to Tennessee. But I hear it’s really nice. Thanks for sharing your trip.
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You’d LOVE Gatlinburg! I even thought that as I was walking around the town. Thanks for reading!
Now I know where those hot dogs came from! They sound delicious 🤤
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Those hot dogs were SKEETERLICIOUS – definitely worth a return trip!!