I am unsure if there is a better country in the world for road tripping than the USA. It is as though this country was made for it. The network of interstate highways makes for travelling the vast distances efficiently. But it is away from these highways, on the backroads crisscrossing the “lower 48” states, where you’ll find a diversity of exceptional landscapes, charming small towns, quirky sights and interesting folk.
My husband, and fellow Travel Team host Peter, and I have done several extended road trips through the USA. Each has been a wonderful experience, each with their own highlights. Some of our best road trips have been theme based: we have explored the iconic Route 66 (unfortunately, not in an open topped muscle car) in the company of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath; we have sought out covered wooden bridges, inspired by the Clint Eastwood movie Bridges of Madison County; we leaf peeped our way through New England in autumn and feasted on Maine lobster; we even experienced the Amish way of life in Lancaster County (like Harrison Ford in The Witness) and relived Abe Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address; but for seriously awesome landscapes and natural beauty, it’s hard to beat what I refer to as our “Rocks and Holes” trips – visiting the likes of The Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks, Zion and Bryce Canyons, Monument Valley, the Badlands, Mesa Verde and the Valley of the Gods, to name just a few.
Dr Google can be invaluable in finding that little known quirky place that blows you away. For example, the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, where the entire exterior of the building, as a tribute to the region’s agriculture heritage, is covered in murals made from corn, maize or wheat and new murals created every year! Another is the Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo Texas, an art installation of 10 Cadillac cars buried nose first in a wheat field. Or the strange tribute to Britain’s Stonehenge, an exact scaled replica constructed entirely out of 1950s and 60s Fords (Carhenge) and found in a paddock outside Alliance Nebraska.
Having a great navigator makes for a far more harmonious adventure. We first started touring the USA long before GPS and the like were commonplace. Even with today’s technology it is still good to have a travelling companion who is great with directions, one who knows their east from west, their lefts from rights – I have one, thank you Peter.
Make sure you have just the right playlist with you – picking ‘Take it Easy’ by the Eagles as you are standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona; or playing John Denver’s ‘Take me Home, Country Roads’ as you drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah River; or deviating off Interstate 40 near Memphis onto highway number nineteen to Tina Turner’s ‘Nutbush City Limits’; and of course, Chuck Berry’s ‘Get Your Kicks on Route 66’ while cruising you know where!
Sometimes distances are vast and we have found some fun things to do to pass the time One I call the licence plate game: take a prepared list of every state with you and mark off all the state licence plates (number plates) you see. Alaska and Hawaii are rare but we have seen them.
Road tripping isn’t the only style of travel we do in the USA but is by far the best way to see the most of this vast country. Like Australia, it is difficult to comprehend the size of the USA until you start driving across it.
And finally, road tripping is the quintessentially American way of travel that quickly gets you in touch with the character of people and places across the USA.
Travel Team, Travel Host