September 2, 2017

"Not much on Earth can beat the American road trip in travel for a sense of freedom -- no pat-down, no passport, no airport muddle, just revving an engine and leaving at will...."

"The American road trip rekindled my interest in travel and, most of all, reminded me how lucky we are in our country's spaciousness and modernity.... So over the course of 2012-14, in four seasons, I drove tens of thousands of miles, meandering through the back roads of the deep South, listening to the blues on the radio, visiting churches and gun shows and family farms, and writing down people's stories -- of hardship and striving, raising families, struggling in adversity and remembering the past.... In my car, driving slowly, stopping often, the word that occurred to me was overlooked. Later, during the turmoil of last year's election, I began to think of them as the people no one listens to.... What made the experience a continuing pleasure was that, in my car, I never knew the finality of a flight, or the ordeal of being wrangled and ordered about at an airport, the stomach-turning gulp of liftoff or the jolt of a train, but only the hum of tires, of telephone poles or trees whipping past, the easy escape, the gradual release of the long road unrolling like a river through America. It is in many respects a Zen experience, scattered with road candy, unavailable to motorists in any other country on Earth."

From "The Romance of the American Road Trip/No other travel experience, especially today, can beat the sense of freedom it brings," by Paul Theroux — in The Wall Street Journal (behind a paywall).

85 comments:

jimbino said...

Paul Theroux is wrong as usual. Russia, China, Canada, Australia and Brazil are five countries that offer similar or even better "road trip" experiences.

And, in addition, rail (Amtrak, yuck!) and riverboat travel.

Paul Theroux is totally full of himself and unable to properly appreciate the various cultures he encounters. Though he claims to speak some six languages, he expresses himself as a racist, using improper English, notably in The Old Patagonian Express.

I've long called him out as The Travel Companion from Hell.


MPH said...

I don't like the sound of that!

J. Farmer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. Farmer said...

I grew up road tripping and have continued the practice. I love it. Something about being alone in a car for hours is very meditative. My favorite was the summer after finishing undergrad when three classmates of mine ended up living in Seattle, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. I drove down from Seattle through Portland, northern California, wine country, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and then over to Vegas, where I flew home. Great memories. And memory is all life is.

Paddy O said...

To celebrate my high school graduation, I took a road trip with three friends. We started in LA county, drove up to northern California, got on I80, went up to the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, drove through South Dakota then to Chicago for a few days, stopped at the Air Force Museum in Dayton on our way East. Went to Antietam battlefield, spent a few days in Washington DC, timing it so we were there on the 4th of July, visited a few of the Smithsonian museums, then to visit the Manassas battlefield, then to Memphis where we visited Graceland, onto Arkansas, west to the Grand Canyon and Meteor crater, then back where we started. Big three week or so loop around the country, camping and staying with distant relatives, friends of family, not having any set schedule. Rode in a Dodge Dakota with a shell on it, mattress in back, two up front-two in back, air conditioning sent in the back with a air conditioner flexible duct. Totally makeshift and now would be entirely illegal.

Grand time. Early 90s where we had to depend on paper maps and landlines. Freedom of time and energy. Amazing to see a good chunk of the country at that age, to just get in a car and drive, without knowing when we'd get back.

Beautiful place this country of ours. If you take the time to see it up close.

Paddy O said...

Road trips with young children really aren't as fun. I like giving them the experience, and they're great travelers all things considered, but it's like being at work the whole time, not nearly as relaxing and without the ability to linger, ponder, and spend time where I want to spend it. But, it's a trade off. It's amazing to see their excitement and hear their questions and be with them as they experience new things every moment.

Michael K said...

Long ago, I drove across country multiple times. In recent years I done so less but I don't mind driving at all. I commute to Phoenix twice a week and make a round trip of 220 miles. I have audio books and listen ad the time goes by quite nicely.

The big difference is that I no longer live in California.

I did take two friends from England on a road trip about ten years ago. We drove up the central valley to Yosemite, then to Berkeley and San Francisco, then to the wine country. I wanted to show them the real California, not Los Angeles.

Unfortunately, since then, the insane policies of Jerry Brown and the Democrats have killed most of the central valley farms I showed them. I wanted to show how the real California was the farms and orchards that fed so much of the country. Now, they are dead.

Los Angeles traffic is a nightmare and the highways of California that were the best in the nation when I moved there in 1956 are now neglected and deteriorated.

wild chicken said...

I drove all over the west alone in the 70s when I played in bands. No cell phone, no cb, no cruise control, no a/c, no sidearm.

I love it.

Original Mike said...

Just returned from a 4,400 mile trip out west. Adding to the sense of freedom, we spent most nights camping out in the boonies by ourselves, on BLM land, admiring the stars.

mockturtle said...

It continues to work for me. In a small RV it's even more relaxing---no motels, no public restrooms and I prefer to cook for myself most of the time.

Luke Lea said...

Back in my twenties I must have driven back and forth across the country eight or ten times and now that I am 75 I am getting ready to do it again with an 80 year old friend. Back roads all the way. Hope we make it.

Angel-Dyne said...

Paddy O @8:22:

Wow, quite a road trip. I've done your itinerary minus Graceland and Arkansas, but over decades, not in three weeks! Oh, and not in a Dodge Dakota. We did rack up quarter of a million miles on a doughty little '78 Honda Accord, though, which for many years persevered over winter mountain passes that had treated with utter contempt the pretensions of mightier, 4WD vehicles. Good times, good times.

We're still road-trippin' from sea to shining sea (we racked up over 4,000 miles on our recent Great American Eclipse Road Trip), but we do it in rather more comfortable vehicles these days.

The Vault Dweller said...

The only road trip I've been on was going to various breweries in Wisconsin with a friend shortly after college. It was fun. And I think people that haven't been in Wisconsin don't realize that there is significant difference in the geography of Wisconsin. Northern Wisconsin is the most scenic part though.

Popville said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MayBee said...

In London I knew a young Latvian who loved going to America for vacation so he could take a road trip, drive off road, and have bonfires You can't do that in Western Europe almost at all it made me appreciate this country in a new way

Sebastian said...

Theroux claims that he "saw" failing schools and child hunger down south. I call BS.

Angel-Dyne said...

jimbino: Hahaha. I can see how Paul Theroux would trigger the hell out of you. A point in his favor, I guess, you ridiculous racist rube.

I disagree with you about Amtrak, but only in that "yuck" is far too charitable a description. A shame, really - I have memories of very pleasant journeys on, e.g., the Zephyr, but those are from a long time ago. Based on those memories, we thought on a trip out west on the Empire Builder, in the early aughties, would be a treat. It was, if by "treat", one means, "By the time we neared Portland, I had the urge to kill every staff member, and most of my fellow passengers, on this train".

Die, Amtrak, die.

Tommy Duncan said...

Steppenwolf

MathMom said...

We did a Great English Road Trip this summer. Not the same as an American road trip. Too many tiny roads, too many roundabouts, too many places you want to stop and take a picture but the road is only as wide as one car. You need a full-time navigator checking the map, or nav on your phone. It was fun, but not in the same way driving from Texas to Alaska was.

The Great Icelandic Road Trip is similar to American trips, except for the low speed limit. But you can get caught in an erupting volcano situation, so there's that.

Unknown said...

Ann, almost every feature and major article in the Journal is fully available and promoted on it's Twitter feed(@WSJ).

HERE IS THE LINK TO READ THIS ARTICLE:
https://twitter.com/WSJ/status/903958240249225216

tim in vermont said...

it does suck that we have cheap air travel and so nobody wants to take the trains and now they are gone because people chose not to ride them. Amerika is just the worst!

Bay Area Guy said...

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson

At age 16, I had a used '71 Dodge Charger. Lotta road trips listening to music, mostly up and down the 101 or the 5 in California. A few road trips East, 1 time to Memphis. Can't beat those memories.

Birches said...

@ paddy o

I agree with you that driving with kids is harder, but I still prefer it to Security Theater with kids. Flying has lost most of its appeal since September 11th. If I can drive there in a day, I'd rather drive.

Bob Matthews said...

I think "the people no one listens too" should be contrasted with the people on the coasts, man of whom can accurately be described as "the people who won't shut up".

tim in vermont said...

Not to mention an interstate highway system that makes bus travel more practical than trains anyway for long distance travel. It's kind of like the difference between a packet network, like TCP/IP and the old circuit switched networks which are pretty much gone the way of The City of New Orleans, on account of packet networks more efficiently carry the traffic.

Brent said...

Ann, Almost every major and featured article in the Wall Street Journal can be accessed beyond the paywall through the Journal's Twitter Feed (@WSJ)

"WSJ TWITTER LINK TO FULL READ OF:The Romance of the American Road Trip/No other travel experience, especially today, can beat the sense of freedom it brings,"

Kathryn51 said...

We have always been a "car" family. Our few air travel trips (when kids were younger) were to Hawaii and . . .I guess one trip to Disneyland. But future trips to the Big D were by car (we live in Seattle). Old-fashioned "car games" still worked until about age 13. After that, we gave in and installed back-seat DVD viewers - but only allowed when travelling the Interstate. Museum trips - 2 hours max, but they always learned something.

One time we were planning a trip for a family event in Oklahoma; my parents were willing to pay for the airfare, but by the time we left for the airport, processed thru security, sat in a connecting airport for 6+ hours, rented a car at arrival and drove to family event - we could be halfway to Oklahome and along the way viewed incredible scenery and visited relatives. On return drive, we stopped at three Nat'l parks. I don't believe any of their friends (we live in Microsoft LaLaLand) have experienced that sort of road trip. They simply fly to Paris or Hawaii or Disneyworld and. . . . .be tourists.

I didn't go past the paywall but I agree with the author - the American Road Trip is an integral part of our sense of freedom and I pray that we don't lose it.

furious_a said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris N said...

San Diego to Pennsylvania as a child just me and my father hauling stuff for the move. Watched a soft serve ice cream cone melt in real time outside a McDonalds in Yuma in 110 heat. Gave the rest to the dog. Clovis NM watched stray storms drift over a harsh and beautiful landscape. Hanging gardens of rain on the horizon.

Pennsylvania to Seattle alone in 5 days. Played guitar for bikers in Sturgis, SD. Passed by a pack of wild-looking dogs on a farm road in Wyoming near signs that said 'Testing Area'. Two hot girls in Red Lodge Montana offered a jump in the early morning. They were from Colorado.

Seattle to D.C In six days with two friends. Got pulled over by a nice old Sherrif near the Great Salt Lake for speeding. The sound of wind and rock and geologic time of the Colorado front range. Lightning struck a few hundred feet away from the car in Missouri.

Tampa to Seattle for work. Alone. Power lines sagging over swamps. Cinder block Pentecostal churches. The enormity of Texas. The sadness of El Paso gas stations and motels at dusk. L. A light and traffic. Ashland Oregon Shakespeare festival.

furious_a said...

Took a.Christmas road trip to Lake Tahoe from Tucson. Passed through Wickenburg on,th way to Kingman,.up US95 over Hoover Dam to Vegas. North out of Vegas on US95 again th rough the Amargosa Valley to Beatty. A wonder having a two-lane highway to ourselves most of the way to Beatty.

West from Beatty into Death Valley to Stovepipe Wells. Saw top of Mt Whitney from the bottom of the valley. Had the valley all to ourselves all the way to Panamint Springs an Lone Pine on US395. Had never seen the Sierra from the east before. Stayed on 395 with the Sierra in my left all the way to Carson City, passing Mono Lake just as it got dark. Crossed over to Tahoe in a,snowstorm. We cleared passes all along the way jus before they were closed.

Would have been nice to stop and sightsee as we drove, but we were racing the storms and didn't want to get stopped overnight at a highway patrol checkpoint. Glad we opted for AWD on the Volvo

Chris N said...

Now it's local trips and work to San Francisco. NYC and D.C. by plane with the lady. Family gatherings.

furious_a said...

One of the treats of road trips through the West is being able to see freight trains from end-to-end.

mockturtle said...

Chris N mentions The enormity of Texas.

The sun is riz
The sun is set
And here I is
In Texas yet.

Bob Boyd said...

Another story of a road trip through the American south.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=952h-AJ3Bcg

furious_a said...

Recommend On the Road by Jack Kerouac as a road-trip companion. My dad helped me pilot the U-haul moving me to the Bay Area from Atlanta in 1988. Interstates all the way to Barstow (recommend the Idle Spurs Steakhouse for lunch) then NW through the Mojave to the Tehachapi Pass on US 58. As we wove down the Pass to the Central Valley I flashed to the part of the book where the travelers turned off their car's motor and coasted down the Pass in the dark in order to save gas. Can't do that in a U-haul towing a car.

pacwest said...

50K and counting in the past 2 years. Less than 1K of that has been on interstates. If you want to see America, travel the backroads and spend some time talking to the locals. They know where the really cool stuff is.

Michael K said...

"You need a full-time navigator checking the map, or nav on your phone."

The Tom Tom was invented in Europe.

I was really bummed when I could get a card for England when I went there again a few years ago. The American Tom Tom was for America only.

Michael K said...

Could not get a card for England.

furious_a said...

Dad and I once drove US281 end-to-end in Texas, Brownsville to Burkburnett (then back to San Antonio. The stretch between IH20 and San Antonio is all Hill Country. 281 runs uninterrupted to the Canadian border in N. Dakota -- that would be something.

Been wondering about travelling US67 -- Texarkana to Presidio. Whole lotta nothing/ wide-open road in between.

F said...

I expected better from Theroux. Success has not improved his writing.

dhagood said...

jimbino is right in that you can have a quintessential road trip in europe, or japan, or south america, or anywhere else. the highways in just about any first world country are as good as anywhere else, the cars are all (mostly) international now, and there is beauty and wonder everywhere if you only know how to look.

when i was a kid, every summer my parents would pack me and my two sibling in the back seat of the mom-mobile and off we would go to visit family in wyoming. my dad liked buicks, and in 64 he bought a wildcat that had air conditioning. life was thereby improved in the summer heat.

when i was 52 i i got laid off from what's now called an IT position and decided i had had enough of computer rooms and wanted to do something different. i ended up driving trucks over the road (you have to admit it was different). i drove in 48 states, in summer and winter, over freeways and secondary roads, in the wilds of the west and in city centers. i hauled everything you can think of. i knew what lanes to be in to get around atlanta and what lanes to avoid in getting through chicago. i learned to love the country and to hate truck stops. i made decent money but had to work very hard to do it.

and now i'm retired and i absolutely refuse to fly anymore so i'm still driving across the country. i've done it, in one way or another, for all of my life and i don't see any reason why that won't continue.

Laslo Spatula said...

When I was in Modesto, California some years back, I decided I needed to see the Texas Schoolbook Depository. Now.

Left a party on Sunday night, hit the road. Drove as far as Amarillo before pulling over to sleep for a few hours on the side of the road. At first I was too road-wired to sleep, so I drank some Bushmills from a bottle I had liberated from the party and had in the back seat...

When I woke I headed south to Dallas. A LOT of Dairy Queens. You'd pass by a Dairy Queen and immediately see a billboard advertising the next Dairy Queen...

Texas had the nicest highway police. I got pulled over for doing eighty, thought I was screwed. California plates, California hair, open bottle on the back, road-glazed. The Officer asked me where I was going.

"Dallas, sir."

"And what brings you to Dallas from California?" he asked, eyes looking over the inside of the car. Fucked. I'm fucked.

"I'm going to the Texas Schoolbook Depository." I replied. More fucked, I assumed.

He left me off with a warning, asked if I could keep it to the speed limit for the rest of the way, and welcomed me to Texas. Which I more or less did...

The Texas Schoolbook Depository: first I drove down the road in front of the building from which Kennedy was (allegedly) shot. Regular city traffic: struck me as weird, like nothing ever had happened there. Wished I was driving in a convertible...

Parked somewhere, went to the the building, looked out the window next to the Actual Window, which was glassed off in a recreation of the sniper site. Saw what I needed to see.

Returned to my car, began the journey back: sleep deprivation was scraping me, but I figured I only had twenty-four hours to go. I can do this...

Was pulled over in the night near Witchita Falls. I don't know if there were actually any 'Falls' there, I was on the highway and it was dark...

The Officer asked me where I was heading.

"Back to California." You would have thought I hid the Bushmills bottle by now, but I was sleep-deprived and INVINCIBLE...

He let me know I had a headlight out, then let me go.

The rest of the drive was a psychotic blur. New Mexico cop was an ASSHOLE. Drove through the Mojave with the windows down, the radio purposefully blasting between-station static, and pounding my thigh repeatedly to stay awake stay awake stay awake...

Made it back to Modesto, close to a full detachment from reality. Got into my apartment but couldn't sleep -- my body was mildly convulsing...

Anyway: the Texas Schoolbook Depository.

Dealy Plaza is a lot smaller than I had envisioned.

Oh yeah: Oswald did it.

I am Laslo.

LordSomber said...

First real road trip: ATL to Snowmass, CO just days after high school graduation. Encountered the Cadillac Ranch (Amarillo TX), a boulder-strewn Continental Divide mountain pass with no guardrails, summertime ski snobs, Carlsbad Caverns, Dealey Plaza.
Not counting the years of touring later with Music Bands.
People claim American culture is bland, but anyone who’s traveled widely within the U.S. knows this is bunk.

Bay Area Guy said...

I did take one nice Fall road trip from Upstate New York to Brookline, Mass. About 25 years ago. Lovely, easy, peaceful trip. Went solo to visit my best friend and his family. He was matriculating at Hahvahd.

The Cracker Emcee Activist said...

I love the SW road trip. That long moment at dusk after a blazing day when that strong warm breeze comes up and even the chain gas stations seem like gentle oases of authentic American character.

LYNNDH said...

Nice comments about a wonderful country.
When I was about 7 my Dad was transferred from Memphis to Hawaii. We drove old US 40 from Illinois to San Fran, in a Desoto, pulling a trailer. Don't really remember much but we hit Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, Death Valley and Yosemite. We were the last car through before it was closed because of heavy snows. Three years later my Mom and I took the train from San Fran to Chicago, had the Vista Dome cars. Great Salt Lake at Sunrise.

In the last 6 or so years have taken Amtrak from Denver to Lafayette, IN. I enjoyed it. Big seats, leisurely trip. Better than fighting airports.

My wife and I (well really me) enjoy England. Have driven all over the place. Try to stay on the B roads. Like the roundabouts.

Several years ago we were in France, staying in Bayeux(sorry for the spelling). One day we drove into the center of France. Very nice. When we told the hotel owner what we had done that day, she was amazed that we drove so far!

Michael Fitzgerald said...

I don't know what roads this guy's taking, but I've been driving across this country for thirty years, every interstate from the 5 to the 95, and it is like going to war, hours of tedium broken up by moments of intense fear and terror.

3rdGradePB_GoodPerson said...

Sure, he's sorta right....for normal folks.

OTOH, if he had a jet, he'd know what he doesn't know.

Jim Howard said...

I just drove my car solo from Austin Texas to Glendo Wyoming to see The Eclipse. A bit over 1100 mile each way.

It was a terrific trip. Going up I drove up through Oklahoma and Kansas, driving through amber waves of grain. Going back I drove Wyoming down I25 to New Mexico and thence into Texas.

I listen mostly to audio books and podcasts, with occasional musical interruptions.

I've always been a bit of an introvert, and a l just loved four days just zoned out to the road.

3rdGradePB_GoodPerson said...

"I don't know what roads this guy's taking, but I've been driving across this country for thirty years, every interstate from the 5 to the 95, and it is like going to war, hours of tedium broken up by moments of intense fear and terror."

Trying to write contemporarily Tocqueville-ily is known to be a safe bet re dough makin'.

Dude gots ta put food on the table. Hard to pass up the low hanging fruit, as we know from another best seller.

3rdGradePB_GoodPerson said...

"I listen mostly to....podcasts"

What are your top three?


David Begley said...

Sirius satellite radio makes long trips through Nebraska tolerable.

Clark said...

We just did a 3200 mile drive out to Montana and Idaho through ND and back to the Midwest via SD. We were hosting 2 friends from Germany. I was worried we would wear them out, but they thoroughly enjoyed the whole trip. You have to do the drive now and then to remind yourself of the vastness of the USA.

jimbino said...

I twice outfitted a VW van for a road trip. The first, a '57 model, I bought in Munich where I was living. With two companions, in 1975, I traveled from the Black Sea to Lisbon, passing through Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Germany, France, Spain, and Portugal, camping out and roughing it all the way. In Romania, we picked up hitchhikers who insisted on paying us, though we never accepted payment. It was during the height of the regime of Ceausescu.

We each paid only $250 to return by freighter to the USSA from the port of Lisbon, a trip of 10 days, where we were so well fed, with super fresh bread, by the Yugoslavian crew. The trip was almost as good as the $135, 10-day freighter trip, including 3 meals and high tea, from NYC to Antwerp that had brought me to Europe 5 years earlier.

The second time, I bought an 80's-model, Brazilian-made VW van in Rio de Janeiro and drove it throughout Brazil from Salvador, BA to Porto Alegre, RS, and throughout Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, and Argentina, camping out and roughing it all the way, sometimes with 1-3 companions. I have 5 times crossed the Amazon basin to/from Venezuela, which is an enjoyable and disappearing road trip of a different kind.

I know road trips in numerous cultures and languages and was everywhere extremely well treated, even by Spain's ubiquitous Guardia Civil, which is one reason I can't put up with the travel nonsense of Paul Theroux. A young Amerikan has no excuse for working to subsidize the Obamacare crap when he could be on a round-the-world sail or a road trip through Latin America, though of course the gummint will fine him nowadays for not having participated in the Obamacare insurance scheme that provides him NO healthcare coverage ANYWHERE in his travels.

Roy Lofquist said...

Road trip to Hawaii.

John the Biker Man was an itinerant preacher who drove the roads from San Diego to Vancouver on his Harley spreading The Word. One day as he took his lunch in a grove of redwoods near Monterey The Lord appeared to him and said "John, you have pleased me. Is there anything I can do for you?".

John said as how he had always dreamed of preaching in Hawaii and maybe The Lord could build him a bridge. Well, said The Lord, that's a biggie even for me. I mean do you realize how much cement and steel that would take? Is there anything else?

Well, I've been having some trouble with the IRS. Maybe you could explain the tax code to me.

About that bridge, two lanes or four?

tim in vermont said...

I have a first-rate GPs built in. Big screen, tells me where tie-ups are, plans routes with lots of options, heads up display with recommended lanes for turns, zooms out to a satellite map. I like my dead tree atlas of the 50 states better.

lgv said...

Ah, the road trip. Not so much these days, but I remember them from the late 70's, early 80's. Some by car, some by motorcycle. Many of us who grew up poor didn't do much travel. Our world revolved around a small circle in a flyover state and the television set. I moved to SC from NY and entered a part of the world I had never seen before. Traveling the rural south was quite fascinating and in many ways can no longer be the same.

What still remains in those memories is how nice people were to me along the way, just a guy on a motorcycle. The other was the raw beauty of the land dotted with remnants of buildings and houses from the past with a history that no one will ever know about.

David said...

From the web site of the Eisenhower Presidential Library:

In the summer of 1919, a young Lieutenant Colonel named Dwight D. Eisenhower participated in the first Army transcontinental motor convoy. The expedition consisted of eighty-one motorized Army vehicles that crossed the United States from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco, a venture covering a distance of 3,251 miles in 62 days. The expedition was manned by 24 officers and 258 enlisted men. The convoy was to test the mobility of the military during wartime conditions. As an observer for the War Department, Lt. Col. Eisenhower learned first-hand of the difficulties faced in travelling great distances on roads that were impassable, and that resulted in frequent breakdowns of the military vehicles. These early experiences influenced his later decisions concerning the building of the interstate highway system during his presidential administration.

Not exactly Scott and Zelda but a mighty adventure nevertheless. The web site includes links to the official daily diary of the trip and all of the official reports. https://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/research/online_documents/1919_convoy.html

Humperdink said...

Spouse and I took a trip from NW Pa to Bend, Oregon and back a few years ago. Best vacation ever. Covered the northern states going out and Wyoming, SD and Iowa, Il coming back.

A couple of amusing anecdotes. Spouse had to use the restroom in Montana. At we approached each exit, there was nothing. A whole lotta nothin'. Finally come to an exit for Montana state hospital. We exited and it was the only facility for miles around. We walked in the front door, she uses the restroom, we leave. Didn't see a soul in the building.

Another time, we approach the small town of Emblem in Wyoming. The sign says Emblem, population 10. The next sign says Emblem post office, with a left arrow. Spouse and I got a good laugh out of that. We figured half the town worked for the post office (I kid). They would not have to leave the post to deliver the mail.

Ann Althouse said...

"Paywall free...."

I saw that, but it's just somebody cutting and pasting the whole thing on their own website, not access to the WSJ. I could have done that too, but it's really unfair to the author and the WSJ. I chose not to link to that and don't think people should do that. If someone pasted something like that in the comments here, I would delete it.

Lost My Cookies said...

I thought Eisenhower was a major on the truck trip. He was a major for something like 15 years.

rhhardin said...

If you cross the Delaware on a bicycle, they don't charge toll but always insist that you walk across on the sidewalk. If you ride on the sidewalk they shout at you but by that time it's too late.

rehajm said...

Yah. The romance is gone for the most part. Driving is drudgery and panic. People suck and the roads do too...

I've managed every mile of 1-90. Boston to George, WA in one trip in a UHaul towing a car. Made the light in Wallace, Idaho! The western end is better...Highway 12 from Lewiston to Missoula is overrated. So is the Highway to the Sun...good trips: 38 from Hamilton over towards Phillipsburg. Kancamagus Highway in the Fall. The Sun Valley Road Rally. Carmel to past Big Sur.

Angel-Dyne said...

Laslo: Texas had the nicest highway police. I got pulled over for doing eighty, thought I was screwed. California plates, California hair, open bottle on the back, road-glazed.

Open bottle, Texas? In Fort Davis once, we stopped at a convenience store to pick up some beer to enjoy back in our room at the Davis Mountains State Park lodge that evening. (Nice place, btw.) As we were leaving, the clerk, bottle-opener at hand, asked if we'd like a couple of those bottles opened, for the road. Don't know if it's still so free-and-easy out there, but that cracked us up.

People complain about getting across Texas but I always liked the long I-10 cruise westbound from San Antonio. The Louisiana to San Antonio stretch, on the other hand...

(Enjoying reading all the road trip stories - thanks everybody!)

David said...

"I thought Eisenhower was a major on the truck trip."

I don't know the answer. There are many references to his rank being Lt. Col. One of these refers to him as Brevet (temporary) Lt. Col. WWI had just ended so he may have had temporary rank arising out of that, or perhaps he was granted temporary rank for purpose of the trip.

David said...

National Reconciliation Angle:

Ike took his trip on the Lincoln Highway. There was a Lincoln Highway Association that promoted the trip. There was also a Lee Highway and a Lee Highway Association. They promoted a similar trip at about the same time.

These trips were well publicized at the time, mostly by the highway associations. They were also extensively photographed. The photos are available on Google Images. Quite interesting, and Ike was a handsome dog, very photogenic.

David said...

"Oh yeah: Oswald did it."

Indeed. But in a few more decades no one will believe that.

Todd Galle said...

We did a family road trip around 10 years ago, when the kids were 16 and 12, figuring that these ages were the last where they would put up with each other for several weeks in the back of a jeep. Left south central PA to Niagara Falls, then out west to Washington state, down the pacific coast to LA, then headed east through Arizona to Tennessee, then North through VA to home. Great trip and better memories. NO itinerary, nothing pre-planned except for our 3 day stay in LA, where my Aunt in Santa Monica got us reservations at a nice hotel. Amazing contrasts, the kids having a snowball fight in late June at the Continental Divide, and baking in the sun when the jeep broke down in the Painted Desert / Petrified Forest NPR. A nice fellow with Hawaii licence plates tried to help. The garage we went to was on Rt. 66 so we were able to take that off the bucket list.

Michael K said...

you can have a quintessential road trip in europe, or japan, or south america, or anywhere else. the highways in just about any first world country are as good as anywhere else,

I've driven across France and Italy. Italy is kind of scary on the autostrada. I had a small Mercedes rental car because the autobahn is speed zone 1. On the autostrada, we would come upon a Fiat with a "60" sticker in the back window. The Minimum speed on the Autostrada is 100 km/hr but the little Fiats can't go faster than 60 and are allowed to do so. I would look in the rearview mirror and pass the Fiat. By the time I got past, a Ferrari would be on my back bumper with horn going. Scary.

We drove up to San Marino one time to see the city and it was on strike. The whole city was picketing the city hall.

Jimbino, in London, parked along the Embankment, are VW vans listed for sale by Australians. They come over to see Europe and buy a van from another Aussie who has done just that. They drive around for a few months and go back to London, park it on the Embankment and sell it to another Australian.

Laslo is right. I've stood at the window in what was the School Book Depository and it's an easy shot. Dealey Plaza is small or was when I was there.

MadisonMan said...

Some awesome roads to drive on: Colorado 14 from Ft. Collins east to I-76. Wow, that's a whole lot of nothing except for the beautiful scenery. I also like US 90 along the Gulf Coast -- so much nicer than the Interstate, if you're not in a hurry.

We took one long road trip with the kids -- visited all the Great Lakes. I can't in good conscience recommend the Ferry ride north out of Tobermory, but the rest of the trip was awesome, and of course that's the trip we discovered Tim Hortons.

Most of my driving lately has involved getting someplace rather quickly, and that means boring Interstate Highways. I look forward to more relaxed paced driving in the future.

BTW, Don't think the trip from N. Wisconsin to Marquette MI is a short hop. Boy that was unexpectedly long when we did it. Hours of pine forests.

Simon Kenton said...

US 93 and US 191 are worth driving, AZ as far north as you can get (and it's far).

Angel-Dyne: "I disagree with you about Amtrak, but only in that "yuck" is far too charitable a description. A shame, really - I have memories of very pleasant journeys on, e.g., the Zephyr, but those are from a long time ago. Based on those memories, we thought on a trip out west on the Empire Builder, in the early aughties, would be a treat."

I thought passenger rail service was dying, and I had enjoyed trips on the Zephyr as a little boy. It was how one got from Lamy, NM, to MA. So I decided to take the kids on a trip, Denver to Grand Junction. The train was 12 hours late, and they had taken a leaf from the airline book - "It'll be here in half an hour. Wait." "It'll be here in an hour." We finally got a real estimate and went home. I had to wake them up in the middle of the night; we got aboard, and slept through all the real scenery (Glenwood Canyon). The return trip, in the daytime, I learned that our fellow passengers were all old ladies who loved my little daughter (she was 3) and politely asked if they could give her a cookie. Amtrak's like a lot of modern america: the institutions and their staff are a combination of insolence and incompetence, and the people you meet there are nice.

mockturtle said...

Angel-Dyne comments: People complain about getting across Texas but I always liked the long I-10 cruise westbound from San Antonio.

I have traveled extensively in Texas and have found it to be varied in culture and in terrain. Big Bend National Park is my favorite Texas destination, with excellent birding, breathtaking scenery and great hiking. The hill country and cities of Austin and San Antonio are well worth exploring as well as the German towns like Fredericksburg and New Braunfels. The people are friendly and hospitable and the roads in superior condition. The weather can be a little iffy....

Bay Area Guy said...

Not to venture into politics, but road trips give you a sense of how big America is, and how many different interesting subcultures there are.

I would highly recommend a few, short road trips to our elite,cloistered, bi-coastal friends in San Francisco and the upper West Side of Manhattan. Napa Valley wine-tasting and Martha's Vineyards don't count.

Bruce Hayden said...

"Some awesome roads to drive on: Colorado 14 from Ft. Collins east to I-76. Wow,."

Eight years working right at CO 14 and I25, east of FC, but never went east. Next door neighbor growing up died on it, with her infant daughter in the car (thereafter raised by her namesake grandmother). Took it west on occasion, which was nice. Up the Poudre canyon into North Park, swing down to Grandby, and you could return over Trail Ridge to Estes Park. Best in the fall when RM Nat Park wasn't such a zoo. Then back roads back to FC.

I miss road trips. Did a lot of them from CO to either PHX or LAS. Pretty much any route you can envision, I took. But the last 5 years, my partner has insisted on being along, and that takes the fun out of it. She claims to worry about my fallen no asleep behind the wheel. I think that the reality is that she doesn't want to be away from me. (Not me personally, but rather her SO - she is a little young, but I suspect Old Woman's Syndrome). Maybe when we take the 2nd vehicle down from MT to AZ this fall. The logistics of getting around are far easier if she isn't involved.

One of the gems that I lived right next to, but never took until almost the time I moved away, was US 95 south of Reno/Carson City. (Ok - south of Minden/Gardnerville). Really spectacular mountain country, once you cross into CA. Followed that down one time into CA farm country, then swung around, and followed I-10 into PHX.

Younger, I really enjoyed the trips I took a couple times a year from Denver to D.C. Or back, when I was working back there. I-70 most of the way, except that I took to bypassing PA, because they actually charged a toll on the worst section of the road in the country. The flip side was that the best section, in KS, was the other toll road. The free US highways down through MD and VA that let you bypass PA were far better roads - and were free. Best trip was one time when I saw a hitchhiker in eastern Ohio in shorts, no shirt, and hiking boots. Sure enough, he was heading to Breckenridge, 20 miles from where I was headed.

Michael K said...

I drove from Chicago to Hayden Lake Idaho in 1959 to go to basic training with my college roommate.

I 90 was great except when it got to the Montana state line on the west where it was still under construction. All of Northern Idaho was a mess of construction.

When I got to Hayden, I stayed with my roommate and we went to the golf club to meet some girls and some other guys. It was right before school began. We were all drinking in the club bar and some one asked me how the trip was.

I told them and then mentioned how bad to highways was between Hayden and the Montana line. Nobody said anything and the conversation went on to other topics.

About midnight the girls went home and we were having a nightcap. One of the guys informed me that I had committed to worst social faux pas in northern Idaho.

I had mentioned the state of the highway east of Hayden and Cour d'Alene.

The only thing east of Cour d'Alene on I 90, short of Minneapolis, was the legal whore houses in Wallace and Kellog Idaho.

I had had no idea that prostitution was legal. They told me that they all knew about the highway but no one mentioned it in front of girls.

Different times.

mockturtle said...

I have traveled in thirty US States, including Alaska, and part of Canada in my RV and have found beauty and interesting people in every state. I tend to avoid the interstates and take the scenic routes when possible. There is simply no substitute for seeing the country firsthand.

Popville said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Popville said...

Re: Paywall Free

Comment deleted. Didn't realize it was a copy-&-paste job. My complaint with WSJ is the constant tease of stories via Google News & other news aggregators (not blogs), which you can't read at will. Just another form of click porn. Glad to find out about the twitter method.

(* argh, typo forced delete & repost *)

sodal ye said...

Done many. Possibly my favourite was a couple of years ago, six months in mostly west, central and northern Australia, then cross at Darwin to East Timor, then Island hop for a couple of months through Flores, Sumbawa, Lombok, Bali, Java and Sumatra, then a boat to Malaysia.

But an American road trip is as fine as anywhere.

sodal ye said...

And starting six weeks from now Yangon, Myanmar through India, taking the Karakoram from Pakistan through China (for the second time) and the 'Stans, then down around the Caspian through Iran and up to Turkey, finish in Istanbul.

sodal ye said...

And the best Route 66, though short is actually form Jujuy to Salta in Argentina.

Lots of bragging, sorry, just mean to point out that road trips can be anywhere you want them to be. Shipping a motorbike or car nearly anywhere in the world and back is as easy as knowing how to use shipping logistics companies.

ALP said...

I drove, solo, from NY state to Seattle way back in 1989. I think everyone that lives in the US should experience the east to west drive at least once. I remember seeing mountains in the distance for days and realizing "No wonder our species thought the god lived there".

Is it the same experience, now that we have cell phones? I think being isolated among the vastness is part of the experience that is now lost with all our connectivity. I was driving through the plains - not a car in front nor in my rear view mirror - wondering if this is where people get abducted by aliens. Nobody around and with no cell phone to call and say "help some strange creatures are dragging me into their spaceship".

mockturtle said...

Shipping a motorbike or car nearly anywhere in the world and back is as easy as knowing how to use shipping logistics companies.

Or even an RV. I met a couple who have a small Tiger 4X4 motorhome like mine and have traveled extensively on every continent and almost every country. They are still doing it today.

mockturtle said...

Here is their website: Travelin' Tortuga

Gospace said...

ALP said...
I drove, solo, from NY state to Seattle way back in 1989. I think everyone that lives in the US should experience the east to west drive at least once. I remember seeing mountains in the distance for days and realizing "No wonder our species thought the god lived there".


I think a round the country bus trip from DC up I-95 to Boston then I-90 to I-94 back to I-90, to I-5 to I-8 to I-10 back to I-95 then DC ought be mandatory for all newly elected congresscritters and senators. I truly suspect that most of the city congresscritters think most of the United States looks like their cities. A bus trip around the country ought cue them in that that isn't the case, and that perhaps universal proclamations out of DC won't work everywhere.