The Great American Road Trip: Thoughts on Driving Across the Country (+Book Giveaway)

by A Manly Guest Contributor on May 24, 2012 · 448 comments

in Travel, Travel & Leisure

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Marcus Brotherton, best-selling author or co-author of more than 25 books. Follow his blog at: www.marcusbrotherton.com

We were rumbling along highway 2 in Washington State between the two flyspeck towns of Davenport and Reardan, when Paul’s old Ford station wagon broke down.

There was no warning sputter. No parts spewed on the road behind us. The car simply stopped breathing and we coasted to the shoulder and braked.

Those were the days before cell phones.

We opened the hood and hemmed and hawed. We kicked the tires. All around us was wheat country, field after field of shushing yellow waves.

I climbed a nearby hill and searched for the closest farmhouse. From the hilltop I could see Paul under the hood making engine sounds with his lips.

It was a silent landscape when there was no traffic, which was most of the time. It was just my friend and me on the road trip together, and we were quite alone.

I climbed down the hill. Paul sighed, and we began to walk along the highway in search of help.

Hours later, back at the car, Mick the mechanic, from Mick’s Tire and Auto Repair, pulled up in his rusted blue wrecker and towed us to his garage. Perhaps the problem was a fuel pump, Mick was not sure. Whatever parts we needed were available only from a store in another town, so nothing could be done that night.

Paul and I were marooned, yet we were at peace with that mishap. The rigors of college were newly completed, and this trip across America was our graduation present to ourselves. We’d allowed ourselves four late August weeks of nothing except the open road. One of our main objectives was to see the Grand Canyon, and being stranded along the way, we concluded, was an integral part of the adventure.

Mick the mechanic let us pitch our tent in the grassy field behind his shop that evening. With the sun setting, Paul and I walked the length of town, looking for a diner. The walk took 10 minutes, and we covered the entire metropolis.

Our waitress at the Cottonwood Bar & Grill brought us a plate of biscuits along with our burgers. She was at least 75. “These are on the house,” she said, referring to the biscuits. I remember her words exactly. “I don’t like to see young fellars ever goin’ hungry.”

Supper over, Paul and I stayed at the table, stretched back and talked. There was nowhere to go. The rest of the town was long closed. We talked about girls, cars, guitars, God, politics. We talked of what we didn’t know as much as what we did.

Then we were silent. We thumbed through sections of a local newspaper. We looked at the menu again, and each ordered another slice of peach pie. Another two hours went by, and we didn’t speak at all.

I thought about how long it takes before you can be comfortably silent with a friend. When you first meet you don’t want the pressure of dead air. Paul and I had experienced more than four years of friendship by then, and silence was fine.

Mick the mechanic fixed Paul’s Ford that weekend, and Paul and I traveled on.

We saw marshy paint pits at Yellowstone and a sheet-lightening hailstorm near Mt. Rushmore.

We camped beside coyotes in South Dakota, in the wild rains of Colorado, and in the crazy-dry heat of Arizona.

We hummed across ruler-straight interstates in Nebraska, traversed through a flash flood in New Mexico, and wound along the surfy highways of the California coast.

We saw the Harley Davidsons at Sturgis, the Presidio of San Francisco, and the Navaho plains.

Then, somewhere in the middle of that trip, we drove to the rim of the Grand Canyon and looked over the side.

The Grand Canyon, for those who have never visited, is a multi-state river-ripped conduit that pulses with reds, purples, sepias, blacks and greens. All around you is sky, space, land, and water. Earth is brilliant. Words fail.

In that place, Paul and I snapped pictures; we hiked its valleys and drank its majesty. Young men at 22, silent from wonder, monumental in friendship.

That was more than twenty years ago, the first time I set out to drive across America. I confess that Paul and I didn’t reach the other side, but we were okay with that. Four weeks, we discovered, was not nearly long enough on the open road.

Today, this is what I know of taking the journey: Driving across the country you live in, or at least a large section of it, is a rite of passage all young men should be privileged to undertake as soon as life extends the possibility.

If you’re middle-aged or a senior citizen and have never taken the trip, it’s fine to go with your family, or a friend from long ago. But, very simply, the journey must find its way onto your bucket list.

Why is this journey so necessary?

1. You create a new soundtrack to your life. Part of this will come from the music you listen to along the way. But it’s more than that. It’s the music combined with the new sights in your head, the new smells and tastes, the new conversations you have with your travelling companions, and the new thoughts that emerge from the stillness of your mind. Your horizons will be broadened, and you will become a richer you.

2. You develop a new feeling of smallness. And smallness, in this context, is not a bad thing. It’s one thing to hop on a jet plane and arrive at your destination in an hour or two. It’s yet another experience to take a long road trip. Only then do you gain a ground-level sense of distance. You see how big the world is and how small you are in it. That feeling of humbleness goes a long way to creating a richer you. You know your importance fits only into the larger human experience.

3. You will want to thank someone. Particularly if you live in a country where you can drive on a highway for mile after mile, and people are able to live as they want to live, free to make something of their lives.

Shifty’s War Giveaway

The paperback edition of Marcus Brotherton’s latest book, Shifty’s War: The Authorized Biography of Sgt. Darrell “Shifty” Powers, the Legendary Sharpshooter from the Band of Brothers has just been released. It’s the perfect book to take along on your next summer road trip.

New York Times bestselling author Robyn Post had this to say about the narrative: “The wonder of this book is how good it makes you feel. Shifty Powers’ life was momentous, and Marcus Brotherton flawlessly captured every detail.”

Marcus is giving away 3 copies of his book to three lucky Art of Manliness readers. To win a copy of Shifty’s War, just leave a comment sharing your thoughts on the classic road trip. Have you ever driven across the country you live in? How old were you, what did you see and experience? How did the trip enrich your life? If you have never been, what do you hope to see when you make the trip?

Three comments will be randomly drawn as the winners. Giveaway ends May 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm CST.

 

{ 448 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Giles May 25, 2012 at 6:35 am

1987. I’d just finished High school in the UK and travelled to the USA to spend the year working and travelling before heading off to college. I spent the winter working in Wisconsin, before heading off in the early spring in a clapped out AMC Hornet. I travelled East to Cleveland where I spent a month clearing houses then South via Chicago, Nashvilled and Atlanta all the way down to the Keys befor heading West through Mobile New Orleans, Dallas, Tucson. A stop over to walk to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, crossed over the Hoover Dam, and then a nightime drive into Vegas where I spent several days being thrown out of casinos.

Vegas to LA where our poor Hornet finally gave up the ghost, having given faithful service despite our harsh treatment and youthful neglect.

The road trip however was not over yet. I subsequently took a Grey Hound all the way back to New York via Salt Lake and Kansas City.

I’m not sure the trip made a man of me, I reckon the British Army did that, but I certainly wasn’t a child when I finished.

Twenty-five years later, taking the wife and kids on an American road trip and showing them some of the sights I saw, remains one of my all time dream holidays.

102 PuterPrsn May 25, 2012 at 6:50 am

1974 was when my sister, mother, and I set out due west from Baton Rouge. We had 4 weeks – 2 weeks out, 2 weeks back. However far we got. We got to the Grand Canyon following the southerly route across Texas et al, stopping at every snake farm & state entry/exit sign for silly photos, and every monument and national park. Took the more northerly route back, again stopping everywhere. It was brilliant & fun, and I’d do it again if I ever get the time.

103 Robert Noles May 25, 2012 at 6:55 am

I’ve never been fully cross country on a road trip. I’ve been half way (Atlanta, GA to Tulsa, OK) several times. I’d like to go further west and see mountains and deserts…everything I read and see tells me the mountains of Colorado and Wyoming (and other points) are very different indeed from the mountains I grew up around in North Georgia. The desert fascinates me because I’m from a (mostly) green and lush area and yet there is a savage beauty to be found without the trees.

104 Kit May 25, 2012 at 6:57 am

I have traveled across the whole country a few times. Each time is an expereince. It would take too much space to detail in this short blog. But currenty I drive a 69 beetle. And I would love to travel across again. Work, family, chores, etc.. make it seem far-fetched to even plan for one. But the short day, weekend, and extended trips are a joy and adventure (especially in an old VW).

105 Cap May 25, 2012 at 7:00 am

Unfortunately I have travelled outside of the USA more than I have in it. I have plans to make this trip one day, looking forward to that day.

106 GardenStater May 25, 2012 at 7:08 am

I was fortunate enough to be hired on for the national tour of a musical when I was 46, about five years ago. Our bus took us all over this great country for almost five months, and I got to see beautiful vistas, visit quaint small towns, meet some wonderful people (just about everybody), and dine at unique diners, bars, and taverns.

That trip only served to whet my appetite for a real road trip one day. Then I’ll be able to stop when and where I choose, stay for as long as I please, and avoid the interstates whenever possible.

Based on my experience, I’d recommend a trip to anyone. But do yourself a favor: If you have a choice between McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, and Mom’s Diner, by all means go to Mom’s. Chances are, it will be one of the highlights of your experience. You can always get McD’s, but Mom’s pot roast might be the stuff of memories.

107 Dave D May 25, 2012 at 7:08 am

My wife has done it driving my sister from CT to WA. We’re (us and 2 kids) planning it for when the kids get a bit older – maybe 3 years from now.

108 Bill May 25, 2012 at 7:20 am

Mom and Dad took 7 of the 11 kids from PA to CA to see our sister and her family. We were in a tation wagon pulling a pop-up camper. On the roof of the car was a custom-made wooden box Dad had built to hold our luggage. Somehow, the latches holding the box lid down gave way and shoes for 9 people flew all over the road. It was a hoot watching my brothers pick up shoes while dodging traffic.

109 Al May 25, 2012 at 7:21 am

Darrell “Shifty” Powers of Easy Co. 506th Parachute Inf. 101st Airbourne Inf. passed away on 17 June 2009…RIP to a real American hero

110 Jared May 25, 2012 at 7:28 am

At 21, I drove across the country with a friend in 48 hours straight. Since then, I’ve been longing to repeat that, except make it 48 days instead of hours.

111 JoshuaMosher May 25, 2012 at 7:30 am

The most “cross country” I’ve done is Louisville to Tampa many times to visit family. As a child, we would load up in the Chevy conversion van with our bags full of books and games to play along the way. I’d eventually learn to drive with that Chevy. Of course, my kids are spoiled/distracted with the DVDs and video games they take on trips now. What my oldest doesn’t know is that I’m planning a cross country trip to the Grand Canyon for his 13th coming-of-age birthday celebration with my brother and father. No video games allowed.

112 MatthewT May 25, 2012 at 7:32 am

I remember taking a 9 day roadtrip from Massachusetts to Washington state when I was 6 years old. 15 years later I still vividly remember Niagra Falls, the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, feeding prairie dogs in the Dakotas, & a host of other memories we made. The best part of it was being together as a family (I had 5 siblings :), & experiencing a new thing each day.
I’m definitely doing the same thing when I have a family…

113 Anthony K. May 25, 2012 at 7:32 am

I have never had the pleasure of making this trip. I’ve wanted to do so for a long time, but life and lack of money have always gotten in the way.

However, there is the possibility I will be making that trip soon (From PA to WA). I have applied for 3 or 4 jobs in Western Washington and am really praying one comes through.

If I get the opportunity to make this trip it will be with my wife and 2 year old son, having a young child makes it less than ideal but I’ll take it any way I can get it.

I plan on taking the Northern route from I-80 to I-90. I am dying to see Chicago (actually I am dying to eat in Chicago) and the wheat and corn fields of the Midwest and the plains. I look forward to crossing the muddy Mississippi River. I look forward to the Buttes and rough scrub hills of North Dakota and Montana, and then climbing over the continental divide. I am eager to see the Palouse and high desert of Washington before I wind my way up over the Cascades and into the rainy and lush greenness of the northwest.

114 Rocky May 25, 2012 at 7:39 am

Always wanted to travel from east to west. Grew up in san diego and now living in virginia beach, i feel like i have the perfect 2 destinations to travel to. I made it from ohio to new orleans for a wedding once, 14 hours. You sure do get to know your passengers…. it was with 3 women… and they cant just sit and listen to music, they were scrapbooking, singing backstreet boys and…. the point is: i would love to experience a good manly roadtrip

115 Paul May 25, 2012 at 7:41 am

I’ve never driven across country before, but the “bug” has hit me and my wife to do so. We live in the midwest, but are moving south this summer. Our goal is to make a road trip out west to see the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and the Pacific Northwest. We have three daughters (ages 9, 5 and 2) so we may have to wait a couple years until our youngest gets old enough to not require a stroller, and all the other wonderful essentials a toddler requires :)

116 Erin Garlock May 25, 2012 at 7:45 am

The first weekend of November 2005, the first day after getting divorced, I boarded a plane leaving Cleveland Ohio and flew out to Denver to begin a new journey. I left early in the morning at elevation 693 ft, and a few hours later I was driving through Loveland Pass and finally up to the top of the ski-lift at A-Basin, elevation 13,050. The elevation difference made my head spin. I could barely stand, let alone ski. I sat in the snow at the top of the world acclimating to the elevation and to the recent events of divorce.

I hadn’t come all this way to become a fixture overlooking the slopes. Thirty minutes later I pried myself from the ground and half skied, half tumbled down the mountain. Life was fresh once more, and I was sore as hell.

The trip continued on through the deserts of Arizona and up the coast and ended at Mt. St. Helens. Each event or site along the journey held significance to me and paralleled the process of getting lost in divorce and starting life over again. Along the way I unloaded a ton of emotional baggage and came home fresh. I can’t imagine a better way of healing and finding hope.

117 Paul May 25, 2012 at 7:46 am

Driving from south Texas to North Texas is a long haul but a great trip. Do this once a year to visit Parents.

118 Brent May 25, 2012 at 7:57 am

At 24, my cousin and I took a motorcycle trip around the south east. 10 days, 11 states, 3,000+miles. Two lane roads the whole way. One of the best memories of my life.

119 Brent May 25, 2012 at 7:58 am

At 24, my cousin and I took a motorcycle trip around the south east. Ten days, eleven states, 3,000+miles. Two lane roads the whole way. One of the best memories of my life.

120 Bill G. May 25, 2012 at 8:06 am

In 2003 I traveled from Sacramento to Houston with my family upon my “retirement” from the USAF. We took two weeks to stop by and see old friends as well as the Grand Canyon. In 2009, I took the family up to Wisconsin (Lambeau Field, Door County) and back down through Ohio (Football Hall of Fame) and Tennessee (Grand Ole Opry, Sun Studios). In 2010, me and two buddies from work took a motorcycle trip from Houston to South Dakota (Sturgis, Mt. Rushmore), Wyoming (Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone), Colorado (Garden of the Gods) and back. There’s NOTHING like a road trip.

121 Lee S. May 25, 2012 at 8:08 am

I have never had the opportunity to drive across the country, but doing so would be a momentous occasion. The memories that would be created would stick with you for life. I would be excited to see and meet new people. I would want to hear their stories. I have had family drive across the country and they will never forget it.

122 David May 25, 2012 at 8:21 am

Solitude, the ability to be comfortable with your own self, is an under valued skill.

When I retire, I plan on spending two to three years traversing the lower forty-eight states, following the sun north to south and stopping every 4-500 miles to set up camp, to explore the country and be at peace with the world.

123 Bob May 25, 2012 at 8:24 am

When I was young, we would always take road trips up to my aunt’s house, usually once a month or so. Six kids in the car for an hour drive was always an adventure.

124 Chris May 25, 2012 at 8:28 am

The Dad and I drove from LA to Maryland in 42 hours. Final destination was my parents home for three days before I left for the US Marine Corps and the War on Terror. Wish we could’ve stopped, but we had a destination to reach in a short amount time. Amazing what we saw in only those 42 hours… And what I’ve seen in the years that have followed. I hope to get back on the road again and make up for that lost time…

125 Bruce Williamson May 25, 2012 at 8:29 am

Haven’t done it yet.

126 Chris May 25, 2012 at 8:36 am

I drove from Pensacola Florida to San Diego Calif. to report to my first Navy squadron. My lasting memories were, first getting roused by a park ranger in New Mexico while sleeping with my tire for a pillow and a jean jacket for a blanket. I then found a real, authentic bunk house where I spent $2 to sleep next to 15 or so men. After a couple of hours of shuteye, my imagination took over, and all I could think of is what kind of cut-throat criminals would stay in a bunk house. I was back on the road by abou 4 AM.
Ah youth!

127 Darren May 25, 2012 at 8:37 am

My parents were both teachers so the whole family had summers off when my sister and I were kids. We did short trips here and there to visit family. Southeastern Oklahoma to Minneapolis or Phoenix were the two largest trips for visits with family. We finally managed to cross the country in two trips, however. One in ’84 from Oklahoma to California. The whole trip hearing stories we weren’t sure we cared about how my dad’s family resembled the Jobe family in Grapes of Wrath. I was more interested in the historical trip down Rt. 66. In ’86 we went the opposite way and ended up in Cocoa Beach, Florida. I made another trip to California by myself in college. I discovered that experiencing 66 is something that must be shared with someone in the passengers seat.

128 Hartmann May 25, 2012 at 8:38 am

There’s nothing quite like wanderlust. Thanks for making it even harder to sit still at my desk on the Friday before a holiday weekend.

129 Joe May 25, 2012 at 8:41 am

After driving the same circles through our small midwest town on yet another Friday night, four high schools buddies ended up on the interstate heading south. Talking, laughing and just loving life, we soon noticed that we were almost through the next state. The suggestion was then made to make it to the next state. And the next and the next. By sunup we had long left the midwest winter behind and were approaching the gulf coast. More hours and more driver swaps brought us to south Florida. So there sat four friends on the beach, winter coats in the car and long pants rolled up as high as possible just glad to be sharing this together. For the drive back, we decided to take our time and drive back roads up the eastern seaboard. Memories and miles and more memories and more miles.

130 Peter May 25, 2012 at 8:42 am

My fondest memory of a family roadtrip was our jaunt to Niagra Falls when i was a small child. It wasn’t really a true family vacation since my oldest brother had to stay back and work at our family’s gas station. All in all, it was simply a mildier version of the classic VACATION movie – minus Christie (although I was too young to know anyway). Food…fights…fun…more fights…and then the Falls! Aaah, I how miss it so!

131 Tony May 25, 2012 at 8:43 am

A friend and I drove from Ohio to Los Angeles. Our trip was more about time than really seeing anything. We made the trip in around 43 hours. I would love to do it again but take it slow this time.

132 Parker C May 25, 2012 at 8:45 am

I plan on going out west with three of my friends later on this summer.

133 jimmm May 25, 2012 at 8:48 am

Seeing the National Parks is a must. So is seeing how diverse the population and “local cultures” are, and seeing _wild_ natural beauty.

134 Jeremy May 25, 2012 at 8:49 am

My best friend and I once drove straight west along I-70 from Columbus to Colorado in his brand new pickup truck. He was going back to the Air Force Academy for his Junior year, and I had time to kill before classes started up for me a few weeks later than his. We:
* took turns sleeping our way through the infinite flat cornfields of Kansas;
* nearly wrecked his new truck on a steep, winding road in Colorado;
* snuck me (a non-cadet) into the AFA dorms and around the AFA campus (this was pre-9/11);
* and were welcomed in to dinner and beds by a Colorado relative of mine and his family that I had never met.

And yes, that was probably one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

135 Eric Johnson May 25, 2012 at 8:55 am

I love taking road trips, though none have been from coast to coast. That is going to be my reward to myself when I graduate law school in a few years. Just me, my car, and the open road.
I enjoy traveling by myself. Gives you time to think, and you are able to stop when you want and go where you want. But it is fun to share the memories with friends and family via blogging and Facebook.

136 Cocktailsfor2 May 25, 2012 at 8:56 am

One summer – 1979 if I recall – rode a Greyhound bus from San Jose, California to Mercer, PA (about an hour NNW of Pittsburgh) to visit my parents. After about 3 weeks, I planned my return trip, only to be told by my folks that they didn’t have the money to spend on a return bus ticket for me.

My dad dropped me off at top of the highway onramp with a couple of sandwiches my Mom made and a loaf of homemade bread in my duffel bag, and $20 in my pocket.

I hitch-hiked across the country, and made it door-to-door in 4 days, and in those 4 days, I saw and did some wonderful things.

The best highlight was being dropped off outside the city limits of Salt Lake City, and walking along the road for a few miles as the BIGGEST MOON I’VE EVER SEEN rose up and illuminated the desert, bright enough to read road signs nearly a quarter mile away. The use of the word “awesome” in this case is truly fitting, and not hyperbole.

(There’s plenty more to the trip, but this is not the place for that tale – I think I’ll hafta write it up some day for my own blog.)

137 Keith May 25, 2012 at 8:59 am

I’ve never taken a cross-country road trip. I’m from Florida and I’ve only been as far as North Carolina, Tennessee, and Louisiana in a single trip. My dream road trip would probably be up the east coast to see the historical sights like Williamsburg, Jamestown, Plymouth. I’d also love to drive out west, but that would probably be purely for the journey rather than any particular destination. My dream trip, though, would probably be to motorcycle up the Appalachians from Georgia to Pennsylvania! That would be amazing!

138 shane Richardson May 25, 2012 at 9:01 am

every car trip I take with my family I try to turn into a road trip. If we can we take the old highways, not the interstate, stop at the little diners and enjoy seeing the country

139 William LaRue May 25, 2012 at 9:01 am

Spring break my senior year of college. 4 friends, 9 states, 2 tents, and enough gas to fill a small pond made my best college memory. From Texas to New Orleans, Atlanta, Charleston, Knoxville, Memphis, and Hot Springs.

140 Adrien May 25, 2012 at 9:03 am

I never done any but I would love to in order to reflect upon where my life is leading and try to understand how to declutter my life and live a more genuine one when I will get back to my ordinary environment

141 Joe May 25, 2012 at 9:05 am

I drove with a friend from Chicago to Vancouver in 2005. It was more of a trip to get to Vancouver, but we did stop to see Mt. Rushmore.

I’d love to spend the time to actually see the country. Maybe take Rt. 66 out west, just to see what it’s like. Just me, my wife, our car, and the road.

142 Jake May 25, 2012 at 9:11 am

I’ve driven coast to coast straight through several times, and every time I am awed at the beauty widely varying landscapes our country has to offer. What a great place to live!

143 Anthony May 25, 2012 at 9:12 am

Starting in second grade my family and I would travel across country each summer in an RV. Not the college road trip to be sure, but nonetheless an invaluable experience as a kid and teen. How many people can say they’ve been to 46/50 states by the time they started college?

144 Fox May 25, 2012 at 9:14 am

My wife and I took a road trip to the Great Smokey Mountains to go camping. I was a long but fun drive through some beautiful country. Most of the fun was looking for random little dives to eat at and the small towns to absorb. We try to take a trip together with just the two of us at least once a year.

I’ve got another road trip coming up with a group of old friends that should be pretty awesome.

145 Darryl May 25, 2012 at 9:14 am

In the summer of 1989, while most recent high school grads were heading to the beach, me and my buddies decided to take I-65 from it’s start in Mobile Alabama until it’s end just south of Chicago. This was in a 1970′s Ford Galaxie station wagon with less than $500 between the 4 of us. We continued up to Detorit, thru Windsor Ontario and continued on the north side of lake Erie Until we got to Niagara Falls and crossed back into the United States and went back home to Alabama. We had to make a few repairs along the way, but those 3 guys are still my best friends today.

146 Stephen May 25, 2012 at 9:18 am

I’ve never been on a road trip across the country but Paul’s story had me already planning a trip. I would love to see both the east and west coasts.

147 Mike May 25, 2012 at 9:30 am

I drove from Utah to New York in September 2005 to move a relative home. I did not know him well at the beginning of the journey but felt very close to him by the end. He passed away 2 years later.

148 Marcus Brotherton May 25, 2012 at 9:30 am

Stephen … I love reading comments like yours. Thanks so much, –MB

149 Seth May 25, 2012 at 9:31 am

Having just completed my Air Force technical training, I drove from San Angelo, TX to Baltimore, MD. Along the way I stopped to visit family and friends, but I drove the entire distance alone. It took three and a half days of actual driving to complete the trip. Thirty-six hours alone on the highway with the miles whizzing by. A lot of thinking happened during that trip. I was driving to Baltimore to catch a plane to Germany, my first duty station. I was getting ready to start a career, working in a foreign country, 3000 miles from my beloved country, family, and friends. That roadtrip was, in a way, my fairwell. It offered a chance to be alone with my thoughts, my doubts, and, as a religious man, my God. After 19 months of organized chaos of military training, it was wonderful to have all that time by myself.
Not only did it give me time to myself, but the opportunity to see more of my favorite part of the US: The Deep South.
I am not sure which I love better, the gorgeous countryside, or the fantastic southern cooking. What I do know is that I intend, one day, to take a month off, and just drive. Nowhere in particular, just to see where the road takes me, while I am lost in thought.

150 Avi Sinkin May 25, 2012 at 9:35 am

Though it probably won’t fall under the category of “Great”, I will be heading out on a road trip from Pennsylvania to Colorado this summer. I hope to take a few detours and explore along the way, camping out and taking my time. After that, who knows, maybe I’ll get the bug to go further.

151 Ray May 25, 2012 at 9:37 am

1978 – I’m 24 years old with my girlfriend (now wife) from MD to SF, down to the Grand Canyon and back.
Driving through the Badlands at 5 AM (girlfriend asleep), with its quiet, stark beauty is a memory I often go back to.

152 Kevin May 25, 2012 at 9:38 am

Over the years, my wife and I have lived in almost every region of the country. We decided one day that before our 10th anniversary we were going to touch ground in every state, but in the process, avoid any interstates to really “see America”. We wanted to experience small town USA and really get a feel for where we had gone along the way to our various destinations. Our first trip was from our then home in Indiana to New Mexico, with a stopover in Austin, TX. The trip really opened our eyes as to how specific culture is to a very small region (just a group of cities, or even one town) as opposed to the idea of “the South” or “the Midwest” being somehow linked. We are still working on our goal and hope to experience the same on the east coast and far west coast.

153 Chad Smith May 25, 2012 at 9:39 am

I have driven across Canada a few times in my life. It wasn’t until my honey moon that I actually got to enjoy it. After my wife and I got married in Newfoundland in July 2009, we honeymooned back to Alberta. We took 3 weeks and stopped whenever and where ever we wanted to. Just having the two of us in the car together for that long directly after our wedding really helped to solidify our relationship. We just had our first baby 5 weeks ago, and I already am getting anxious to bring him on his first road trip!

154 Jon May 25, 2012 at 9:41 am

I have done much traveling, but would like to take my wife and daughters on a cross-country trip. Hit all of the national parks and landmarks. As much extra time as it may take, maybe run old Route 66. Now that’s classic!

155 Jay May 25, 2012 at 9:42 am

I have never travelled across country but I have toured the southeast extensively. When I was growing up, my Dad was a travelling salesman. He sold imprinted sportswear to colleges in the SEC. His area ran from Louisana to Florida with Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. When my parents divorced in 1977, we would spend a few weeks with him. We took to the road as he called and customers. It was a grand time. The last road trip I took was just the two of us in the summer of 1983. It was the summer before I started highschool. We took a three week road trip through Florida. He worked the bookstore and I checked out college chicks on campus.

I made the realization that his job sucked making a living out of a suitcase but he did what he had to do to make sure me and my brother had clothes to wear and food to eat. I was bitter about his always being gone but as a father myself, I realized he did the best he could and made sacrifices that I didn’t understand. Now, looking back, I know he made our time count together. Even though his job sucked, we always had a good time and I would not trade it for anything.

If I won this book, I would give it to him to read. After all, it’s all I can do to for someone who gave me a love for the road for adventure and the thrill of driving 500 miles without stopping. It’s funny because one thing he always said was he was not stopping until we got there, so pee before we leave. I tell my kids the same thing before we hit the road.

156 Jake May 25, 2012 at 9:43 am

When I was 14, my family drove out to Maine. We had always headed west, but this year was different. A long time in the car proved to be well worth it. We spent a week at Acadia Nat’l Park and I just loved driving up and down that north eastern coast.

157 Kacen May 25, 2012 at 9:43 am

Well, I haven’t had the opportunity to take an extended road trip yet though I hope to some day. The story had a nice way of presenting just how good it would be. I like also how the trip was referred to as a rite of passage. I look forward to an experience like this. Hopefully after college graduation as in the story.

158 Jon May 25, 2012 at 9:44 am

I did help a buddy move from Phoenix a few years ago. I flew out, landed, ate lunch, loaded up his moving truck and started back east. Three days of truck stop food and no sleep, but we had a blast. The sun coming up in Albuquerque painting the desert all sorts of colors was enough to just about make you want to cry. Gorgeous!

159 Chris May 25, 2012 at 9:44 am

I traveled some but not on the long road trip that you describe. My friends and I always dreamed about this adventure but the furthest we ever made it was the next state over. One day, I hope to accomplish this dream because I completely agree that the movement through our country is a humbling experience when you realize how different yet how alike we all really are.

160 Andrew May 25, 2012 at 9:46 am

We live in Toronto, and are making the drive east to visit the Maritimes this summer. Going to be my wife, 2 kids and myself in the car. Really looking forward to the open road and watching the landscape change from big cities of Toronto and Montreal into the small villages and seaside towns.

161 Jim May 25, 2012 at 9:49 am

I drove across the US from MA to OR when I was 22 years old. When my 1989 SAAB broke down on the highway in the middle of Illinois, I was treated to some of the warmth and hospitality that The MIddle has to offer. This was 2001, and Friday at 330 on a holiday weekend. The folks at the SAAB dealership talked about my vehicle as if it were a rare antique. They were able to find a pump in the back hall closet, and stayed late to get it installed.

162 Jerome Patrick Shannon May 25, 2012 at 9:50 am

Never gone coast to coast. The most epic of road trips I have under gone has been my Boston, MA. to Manchester, TN. for Bonnaroo.

I have done that trip three times and there is something to be said for driving such a distance. You disconnect from the real world and enter this fantastic voyage sort of mindset.

Granted the ride there is far better due to the fact that you are entering a dream world of music festivals and lowered inhibitions, but both trips are quite exciting in their own special kinds of ways.

Boom.

163 Sam K May 25, 2012 at 9:50 am

In 2004 my mom had the idea to drive from Vermont to Montana to visit my dad’s sister. My dad had passed away in 1997, and though we lived in VT since 1972, Montana was always his home. At first the idea of spending two weeks in a Subaru with my mother lacked any sort of appeal… but when I realized what the trip would really mean to her, I knew I had to do it. It wasn’t until later that I realized the incredible effect this trip would have on me… meaning, impact, and ultimately closure. On the way out we relived many of the earlier road trips our family had taken back in the 70′s. But as we got closer to Montana, so many memories of my father were brought back to life. After our stay of several days and we prepared to return east, I had a second chance to say goodbye to my father. This time with no surprises, with no hospitals, with no cancer. I did it on my time, in my own way, and in a place my father loved. Me and Old Montan’… I haven’t been back since that trip. Of course I’m married now to a fantastic girl. Her dad lives in Colorado and we talk about someday driving, instead of flying, out to see him up in the Rockies. When we do, I think we just might need to take a little detour north, up to Montana. It’d be awfully nice to finally introduce my wife to my dad.

164 Carl May 25, 2012 at 9:51 am

I have traveled across the Atlantic to places like Germany and Morocco for extended stays but have not even set my eyes upon the Mississippi. After my first bout of military training this summer, I will be driving out West, starting from VA then heading South, and then West thru Texas. I will be taking my closest friend and can’t wait to share the experience with him. We both love traveling and exploring.

165 Rob May 25, 2012 at 9:52 am

Ah, the road trip. Being Active Duty in the Air Force, many a road trip has been conducted, either with buddies or with family, moving from station to station. The longest – and greatest – was the incredible drive from Anchorage, Alaska to San Antonio, Texas. We’d shipped the car and famiily up to Alaska, but in the decision to be daring and great, decided to make the drive down to Texas in a minivan. Despite the long, long hours of driving with 5 children, we all learned something about ourselves and each other. I watched my youngest daughter, just barely over one year old, toddle through the grasses of the Great Plains, amazed and delighted because the worl was their playground. I learned my tough-as-nails wife was deathly afraid of spiders – five children, three deployments and eight duty stations in, and she *still* calls for someone to kill the creepy-crawly the size of the end of your little fingernail. I watched in delight as my twins, both 6 at the time, spoke to each other in disjointed, half-finished sentences – and discovered they were so close that they just *knew* what the other was saying. I made a vow to understand and love my wife and children in the same way. Despite the car breakdowns, the horrid hotels, the wet camping and the destruction of said minivan in Dallas, Texas – twelve years later, and all seven of us are better people. And we all agree – we wouldn’t trade that experience and the lessons that came with it for anything else in the world.

166 Brad May 25, 2012 at 9:53 am

As an adult with my wife and 3 kids, a few years ago we took a driving trip from Chicago to Jackson Hole, Wy, with stops in some of the most beautiful and historic parts of the country/world: Cody, Wy; Black Hills;Yellowstone Park; Grand Tetons. Unless you’ve been sitting on the front porch of a US Parks lodge in a rocking chair, looking at the moose and bison roaming in the nearby woods…you haven’t experienced nature. Our family has memories from this that will last a lifetime. I would love to go back. And I’d love to take our next drive to the Pacific, on historic Rt. 65…

167 JG May 25, 2012 at 9:58 am

I’ve never had the pleasure of going on a cross country road trip. Every summer I always tell myself that I should go on one as soon as I get the chance. The chance has yet to come up, though. When I was young I always had to work during the summers and work and go to school during the other seasons. Now that I am out of school, I still have to work the summers but all of my vacation time is taken up with visiting my family and my wife’s family. I still crave the freedom of a cross country road trip and I hope some day to take one. If I ever have a son I will encourage him to take one while he is still young, and I pray that I’ll be young and spry enough to, perhaps, join him and finally mark that particular desire off of my bucket list.

168 Chris Barden May 25, 2012 at 10:00 am

Great read. Gas up the wagon!

169 Darrel May 25, 2012 at 10:13 am

I drove with my family the summer after I graduated high school through a good bit of the southwest from Dallas/Fort Worth to Las Vegas. Along the way we went to Carlsbad and saw the wonder that is the Grand Canyon.

The author of this post is right. If you have never seen the Grand Canyon words cannot do justice to it.

I’ve always longed for a much longer road trip. But as I’ve gotten older the time never seems right. College gets in the way, or a promotion at work scraps any vacation plans I had. It’s on my bucket list, it really is, and one day I’ll do but for now I’ll be envious of those that have done so before me.

170 Valjean May 25, 2012 at 10:20 am

My first memorable road trip was from California to Wyoming as a kid. The Mojave desert in the middle of the day during the summer in a station wagon without A/C sticks with you. Later, with my wife and growing number of children, flying became too costly and we started making the drive BACK to Wyoming to visit my family (Mom and siblings). At first, it was all about getting to the destination (1200 miles in 20 hours was not unheard of). Even though we made the drive only every couple of years, that quickly became monotonous (and impossible with 5 girls and potty stops). So, even though there aren’t THAT many ways to vary the route from southern California to central Wyoming, we now make sure to include some kind of detour, and take time to enjoy the changing scenery and seasons. Certain landmarks have become familiar milestones: the pass where the I-15 cuts through the NW corner of Arizona is always one of our favorites, whether by daylight or moonlight; the Eisenhower tunnel on the I-70 in Colorado; crossing the Wyoming border from west or south; the rest stop near Baker, CA on the way home — almost there! There are so many benefits to learning to appreciate and accommodate each individual while ‘stuck’ together in the requisite mini-van for days on end. Many of our best memories as a family are from these regular road trips: stories, songs, car-sickness, quirky restaurants. No family should be without them.

171 Don F May 25, 2012 at 10:21 am

The farthest I’ve ever driven is about 1000 miles. once west, once south. Both times were to experience the destination, not the parts in between. Lately I’ve been itching to do it, but the constrictions of a job with a limited amount of vacation time and a family to support mean its unlikely to happen. Beautiful read though.

172 Andy May 25, 2012 at 10:23 am

When I was around 6 years old, my parents took my brother and I across the southern states, through Mississippi and Louisiana.
And in Louisiana, the only major thing I could remember was a runaway car almost running my parents over at a doughnut shop.

Just shows you that you can never be sure of what could happen on the road.

173 JK May 25, 2012 at 10:27 am

I drove cross country helping a friend of mine move from PA to Hollywood, CA. I have very fond memories of driving a 3 cylinder Geo Metro through the mountains in New Mexico and through Joshua Tree national park.

174 dc May 25, 2012 at 10:28 am

My favorite trip was taken last fall, when we drove and camped all the way from Washington State to Ohio and back with 5 kids under age 9 and a pregnant wife. No in-car movies were allowed, just good conversation, reading out loud and the window.

175 Thad May 25, 2012 at 10:28 am

I’ve never done a trip across the entire country. The longest I’ve ever gone is from Michigan to Colorado. I’ve visited the West Coast, and East Coast and many places in between. I’d love to visit the Pacific Northwest sometime, and Texas. I always encourage college age students to go after their dreams right now, because once you get into life and having a family, it does get more complicated. Right after graduation is the PERFECT time for a trip like that! Thanks for sharing this piece of your history!

176 Matthew Arant May 25, 2012 at 10:33 am

Working on commercial fishing boats in the Bering Sea really put the perspective of smallness in me Travelled across the country a couple of times as well. Once with my dad from Tn to Oregon. We got pushed to make it in a couple of days but the time together is irreplaceable. Cross Texas at nite and the state is twice as wide. Las Vegas seemed to have more curves in the interstate than necessary as I remember for a desert town. Arizona had a cell signal that went forever compared to Tn. The northwest was full of old growth forest like I’d never seen. My wife and I took a more northerly trip coming home months later and hit every nat’l park we could. The best was Glacier because we saw the exit sign and made the choice in about 3 seconds to go before we missed the the exit.

177 dogg May 25, 2012 at 10:34 am

I drove 3-4 thousand miles from Oklahoma to Edmonton in Canada to visit a girlfriend one summer back in the 70s. I went on some of these same roads. Even had a rash of mechanical problems that left me overnight in unexpected places, with unexpected memories. I miss those carefree feelings.

178 Richard Podhajsky May 25, 2012 at 10:34 am

In my relatively short time on this Earth, I’ve driven from Iowa to the Atlantic Ocean in one trip…multiple times. I’ve taken several days to get to the Gulf of Mexico. And I’ve wound my way through the Rocky Mountains to get to L.A. The best thing about the road trip is for every new trip taken, there is always something unseen or never before experienced.

179 Kurt May 25, 2012 at 10:37 am

We haven’t driven across the continent, and we never will, but in instalments over twenty years my wife and I have driven through 33 states. That’s more than most American’s have seen. (We’re Swedish.)

We’ve been all across the South several times. Up and down the Eastern Seabord. Around New England in the foliage season. Around the Southwest on a 3,000 mile trip from San Francisco to Dallas via Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon (North and South Rim), Taos and El Paso. We usually allow three weeks and change for a trip, booking hotels at the point of arrival and departure, and ad libbing in between. If we meet strangers who tell us about something worth seeing, we go there. If it’s worth staying for a couple of days, we stay.

A week from today, we’ll start on the last of our American Grand Tours remaining. We’ll drive west from Chicago to Montana, turn south through Wyoming to Denver, leave the car there and take the train across the Rockies. In Salt Lake City we’ll rent a new car and drive on to San Francisco — where we’ll celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary.

But the trip is the real celebration.

180 dave May 25, 2012 at 10:38 am

OK, I didn’t read all the comments. I HOPE I’m repeating somebody. If you do the trip, PLEASE PLEASE stay off the interstates. As a Nebraska resident, I get really sick of people assuming all of Nebraska looks like the I-80 corridor.

181 Luke May 25, 2012 at 10:39 am

We once traveled to Canada from our native Kentucky home. Let me tell you, with 3 kids and enough luggage to last the average family a month, we were worn out by the time we got there.

182 Matt Weber May 25, 2012 at 10:42 am

Living my entire life in the state of Kansas it makes a cross country road trip a bit more difficult. We have made trips down to Florida and down to New Orleans but never out west. I hope to take that journey here in the next few years before I lose the time.

183 Kevin Keegan May 25, 2012 at 10:45 am

I’d love to do an American Road Trip (If only I was on the Gumball Rally starting today!).
I’ve driven east to west in the UK and the full length of England in a night, but it’s no more than a week long adventure really.

184 Tim V May 25, 2012 at 10:46 am

1973 after graduation and party’s, Tim, Doug and I loaded up Doug’s Chevy. We had a borrowed tent, 3 sleeping bags and a fry pan. We headed from Iowa to the west. Our goal was to go to the Coors brewery and Yellowstone; eat hotdogs and beens over camp fires and steaks in restaurants – mission accomplished! We drove across Nebraska as fast as possible and camped in a small Colorado City park while the sky exploded with lightening. Who ever was driving could go anywhere they wanted as long as they were behind the wheel. We went through the Loveland Pass, Camped in the Grand Teutons, still owe a ticket for illegal parking, spent days in Yellowstone, made it to Mt Rushmore. Shortly there after we were all in the Navy. Best vacation ever!

185 Mills Snell May 25, 2012 at 10:47 am

I have taken a few cross country trips all leaving from Columbia, Sc and making their way to the West Coast.

I agree that I was struck with a sense of awe in the reality of so many lives being lived free. Free to operate and function as they see fit. In reflection, it helped me to be more purposed with my time, wherever it may be. Most of all, it helped me to appreciate home.

186 Ben Cave May 25, 2012 at 10:48 am

What an awesome trip. I have been thinking about legging a road-trip with a few buddies. The furthest I have been was to Columbus, OH (by way of Washington, DC). Unfortunately that was simply an A to B trip for my cousin’s wedding. Would love to plan, and possibly even improvise an A to Z trip, and get to see everything.

Thanks for the great read.

187 Nolan May 25, 2012 at 10:48 am

The best road trip I went on was about 6 months after I came home from Iraq. My wife, best friend (fellow solider), and I drove to Boise from SLC. Sure it wasn’t a long trip, but we went there to pay memorial to 3 of our fallen comrades. We were able to see old friends and remember the fallen friends.

188 Brandon May 25, 2012 at 10:49 am

When I was five my family and I made a road trip from Vancouver, Britsh Columbia to Disneyland in California. Thirty years later and I still remember the feeling of awe looking upon the Redwoods.

We also went on a trip via train from Toronto to Winnepeg which was a lot of fun and definitely a form of travel that all should try. There’s nothing like sleeping in a bed on a train and what a way to see some of the more remote areas.

My kids will be 5 and 4 next spring and we figure we’ll make the trip down to Disney in Florida. Take 3 or 4 days to drive down and see some sights along the way, stay for a couple of days, and then work out a different route home to see some more sights.

189 Brad May 25, 2012 at 10:53 am

The wife and I made a road trip from our home in Oklahoma to the east coast, specifically Virginia Beach, VA. We saw a part of the country that we had never seen before and it was an amazing trip! We saw the beautiful mountains of West Virginia, the Atlantic Ocean and beaches of Virginia, and traveled the scenic and amazing Blue Ridge Parkway. Also took in some of the history of our country by visiting some Civil War sites and Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. Next time, we plan on taking a road trip out west!

190 F S May 25, 2012 at 10:54 am

I’ve traveled across a couple states at a time, camping as I went. I think another great way to see large swaths of America is to hike some of the extended trail systems like Pacific Crest Trail.

191 Donato May 25, 2012 at 10:57 am

I have never been on a cross country road trip in my home country (States) but after moving to Italy, I took one through southern Italy, stopping at sites associated with Padre Pio and St. Nicholas, eventually making it to the southern most point on the heel of the boot of Italy, where the parish church is called “St. Mary’s At the End of the Earth.”

192 Coast Ranger May 25, 2012 at 10:57 am

The first evening out in the summer of 1979, I pulled into a barren campsite on the eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, literally in the shadow of Mt. Whitney.

I had left Redwood City in my new Honda Civic CVCC with a cooler and Coleman stove behind the back seat.

I drove the back roads over the amazingly wild and deserted Contra Costa Hills into the San Joaquin Valley. I made my way through the cotton fields, orchards, and vineyard in a zig-zagging generally southeastward direction until reaching the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I crossed their southern-most pass to the 395 and then headed north.

It was cold that night but the stars were brilliant as I curled up in my war surplus mummy bag.

The next morning I boiled water for coffee made with a Melitta filter (state of the art in those days), then in my black cast iron frying pan fried up bacon, and then in the grease fried eggs and cooked beans.

That afternoon would end in Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park.

193 Neil May 25, 2012 at 10:58 am

I had planned to take a cross country motorcycle trip when I returned home from a deployment. But life got busy, I am now married, two children, and one on the way. My wife and I talke about when the kids are old enough we will take an old fashioned road trip. Grand Canyon, Mt Rushmore, and the Pacific coast. Cant wait.

194 John G May 25, 2012 at 10:59 am

After I finished a shift as a bouncer, my brother and I drove to New Jersey from Ohio to look at a Camero. It was a long drive. On the way back we got caught in a blizzard, a real one. Only one hotel room available in the small Pennsylvania town. So for the price of a regular room we spent the night in a suite with a in room hot tub. The conversation and time I spent with my brother, also my best friend, was worth more than anything you could give me. Oh and we didn’t get the Camero….but glad it had been listed for sale.

195 Lenny May 25, 2012 at 11:11 am

I want to take my four kids across the country sometime. This country is too beautiful and too diverse to live in without experiencing all of it. My older kids (3 and 8) are getting used to time in the car, but our new twins will have to go through that hard period when they don’t like to look out the windows and see the world going by.

We have a camper and we pull it with a conversion van, so the kids can watch the world out of the huge windows, and can truly experience the Americana from a campsite. Hotel staying tends to dilute the flavor of each venue, since they all try to make you feel “at home.” By immersing them in the local culture, they can truly learn what America is about, and how diverse our cultures are.

196 Joseph R May 25, 2012 at 11:16 am

Steinbeck did it right

197 Gordon Gant May 25, 2012 at 11:20 am

My best friend and I started our Road trip by driving from SW Ohio to Cleveland to see the Rolling Stones. We gave a couple of friends rides and drove most of the night. The next day while we were still sleeping they took off with our tickets and in the sea of humanity were unable to find them.We decided to head West as they were going to be playing in Chicago the next weekend. Somewhere in Indiana his 67 Barracuda broke down and we left the car and went on hitch hiking meeting some very interesting people and arrived in the windy city carrying army bags and little money.We did get to see the Stones with Journey but where exhausted and broke. I decided to call my old man and he drove up and picked us up and took us back for the car. Our adventure was cut short but we did plan a little better and drove down to Miami in my car a Month later.So my quest is still on my Bucket List since 1979.

198 Eian May 25, 2012 at 11:23 am

I’ve wanted for years to take a road trip from NY to California. The problem has always been finding someone I think I can tolerate for the extended period of time.

199 Larry May 25, 2012 at 11:23 am

I didn’t drive across the country, but last year, I took my 5 year old daughter on a 500 mile road trip to my childhood home in Nashville, TN. Of all the traveling that I have done by car, that was my favorite!!

200 Kyle May 25, 2012 at 11:24 am

I want to take my children to the Colorado Rockies during the summer, and do the things I did there that I haven’t done since I was a kid: fish, hike, raft.

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