Valdosta Daily Times


December 29, 2013

American Road Trips for a New Year

- — A road trip is the ultimate getaway. Head for parts unknown with a friend, maps, and a cooler, but without much of a plan, and see what develops. It’s about the journey, not the destination, so don’t hurry in order to have adequate time to absorb the scenery, visit unusual attractions, eat in roadside diners, knock back a few cold ones in local taverns, and strike up conversations with strangers. Paper maps are preferable because it is easier to stumble upon unexplored roads and unusual sites that might otherwise be missed. The unexpected is part of any memorable road trip.

For many travelers, especially our European friends, the ultimate U.S.A. road trip is Route 66 that “winds from Chicago to L.A.” Referred to as the “Mother Road,” Route 66 achieved iconic road-trip status through books, movies, song, and TV. Who can forget Tod and Buz (yes, one “d” and one “z”) enjoying the freedom of traveling U.S. highways and byways in a series of new Corvettes, although we were unsure how these were paid for.   

In truth, much of Route 66 is history, having been ripped up or paved over with boring interstates. Some excellent stretches survive — for example, the drive from Kingman, Ariz., to near Needles, Calif. However, intermittent sections of a once-famous highway don’t necessarily make for a great road trip.   

During four-and-a-half decades the two of us have driven several hundred thousand miles throughout the U.S. in a variety of vehicles including four VW campers. We have motored up and down both coasts, back and forth between coasts, and diagonally from the Southeast to the Northwest as we traveled through all 50 states (we flew to Hawaii).

All the trips were enjoyable and educational, but five stand out. The first would be on anyone’s list of great road trips, while the second two are likely on most lists. The last two may be surprising, but only for folks who haven’t driven them.

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