But for some wealthy Piedmont landowners, grapes are sexier than cows. In 1979 the state had 29 wineries; now there are almost 85, including those in development. Across Carter's Mountain, where Jefferson planted his own vines, is Kluge Estate Winery, Vineyard & Farm Shop, a flamboyant new enterprise. And when Patricia Kluge, a British bombshell formerly married to media billionaire John Kluge, opens a farm shop, don't expect John Deere gimme caps. The shop, designed by California architect David Easton, showcases her méthode champenoise sparkling wine and a Bordeaux-style red. In her black Range Rover, Kluge drives me around rows of neatly tied vines; on the back seat rides Basil, her mellow yellow Lab. Basil has a doggie biscuit dedicated to him in the estate's patisserie—a perfect souvenir for Diva.
Backtracking north on Route 15, we head toward James Madison's Montpelier estate and the Orange County Fair, held every summer on the estate grounds. Kids pedal miniature Kubota tractors, heritage Nankin Bantam chickens occupy musky 4-H paddocks, and blue ribbons are awarded for prize tomatoes. To big applause, a teenager leads her Jersey around the Cow Obstacle Course in record time. Slurping lemonade, Bronson and I watch two farmers in dirt-encrusted jeans walk past. One is hugging a sleeping puppy to his chest and I overhear him say, "He's the last dad-gum one they had. Only had 'im two days and I'm already 'tached to 'im."
Our final destination—a hot-weather tubing expedition on the James River—takes us along the James River Road, a scenic hilly byway once favored by colonial-era drovers herding cattle to market. Turns out I'm not the only one stirred by this rural beauty. Novelists John Grisham and Jan Karon are recent transplants. Dave Matthews just purchased a gorgeous tract in the Charlottesville area. En route to the river, I admire the musician's open fields and hope to holy hell they stay that way.
2 Kansas MILES 100. DRIVING TIME Half a day. A virgin patch of wildflower-dotted prairie survives in a part of Kansas where rocky outcrops made plowing difficult. From I-70 in Manhattan, in the northeastern part of the state, head south on 177. At first, the road swerves around and over limestone bluffs, but when you reach El Dorado and I-35, you'll be on the plains. Fans of wide-open spaces shouldn't miss the more than 10,000 acres of undisturbed land at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve (620/273-8494; www.nps.gov/tapr), two miles north of Strong City.
3 Iowa MILES 120. DRIVING TIME With twisting roads and lots of stops, give it a day. Rugged, hilly, and forested—that's why the northeastern edge of Iowa is nicknamed Little Switzerland. Start in Dubuque, where the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium (800/226-3369; www.mississippirivermuseum.com) has the world's largest steam towboat as well as five huge tanks that offer close encounters with denizens of the deep . Then head north, keeping the river on your right. Small roads take you past locks and dams, ferry landings, backwoods communities, and Pikes Peak State Park (563/873-2341; www.exploreiowaparks.com), at 500 feet one of the highest points along the entire Mississippi River.
4 Washington MILES 85. DRIVING TIME One day. Island hopping makes this short trip deliciously slow. Take the ferry (888/808-7977; www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries) from Edmonds, north of Seattle, to Kingston; then follow 104 and U.S.101 to Sequim, a lavender-growing center that's the sunniest spot in western Washington. Along the way, browse roadside farm stands for lavender products. Continue to Port Angeles, then hop the ferry to English-accented Victoria, British Columbia, for afternoon tea—or an overnight stay—at the Fairmont Empress (866/540-4429; www.fairmont.com/empress; tea from $18, doubles from $120).
5 Utah MILES 310. DRIVING TIME Two days. Allow yourself plenty of time for this ramble amid the russet gorges and spires of southern Utah. After leaving I-70 near Green River, drive southwest on 24 through Capitol Reef National Park, then south on 12. The road climbs 9,200 feet up Boulder Mountain en route to the multicolored badlands of Bryce Canyon National Park (435/834-5322; www.nps.gov/brca). Spend the night at rustic Bryce Canyon Lodge (888/297-2757; www.brycecanyonlodge.com; doubles from $115), built in the 1920's of sandstone and ponderosa pine. The next day, continue south and west on U.S. 89 to 9, through Zion National Park, to I-15.
6 Mississippi MILES 210. DRIVING TIME One day. It's less than 250 miles from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi, via U.S. 61 and U.S. 49, but plan for plenty of stops to savor the down-home cuisine of the Mississippi Delta. Unassuming eateries all along the route serve up barbecue, catfish, and the classic Southern meat-and-three supper; stop for lunch at the Blue & White Restaurant (1355 Hwy. 61 N., Tunica; 662/363-1371; lunch buffet for two $13). Stay at the sumptuous Alluvian Hotel (866/600-5201; www.thealluvian.com; doubles from $175).
7 Florida MILES 200. DRIVING TIME Two days. U.S. 98, from south of Tallahassee, west to Pensacola, is the last long stretch of Florida coast where sea views are virtually uninterrupted by high-rises. Loop onto 30A to explore the New Urbanist prototype town of Seaside—an outdoor museum of great architecture and planning. Spend the night at the WaterColor Inn (866/426-2656; www.watercolorinn.com; doubles from $265) and finish the drive in the morning.
8 North Carolina MILES 110. DRIVING TIME One day. Discover backwoods and sand hills on this trip through the North Carolina heartland. Head south from Greensboro on U.S. 220 until you reach the town of Ashgrove and scenic byway 705. It's 40 miles to Seagrove, a historic pottery-making community; there are still 80 working potteries to shop in. From there, take tiny 705, then go on 24 east to Fayetteville, past dreamy-sounding towns like Whispering Pines and Whynot.
9 Michigan MILES 125. DRIVING TIME One day. The western shore of Michigan has lighthouses and old beach towns, orchards and vineyards, dramatic bluffs with lake vistas. From Ludington (the terminus of a ferry from Wisconsin), go north on U.S. 31 to Manistee, where a logging boom left an exuberant Victorian architectural legacy. From there, follow 22 north along the shore. At Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (231/326-5134; www.nps.gov/slbe) one of the sand hills rises 460 feet above the lake; few can resist climbing the dunes for the views—and sliding down afterward.