The world is an incredibly diverse collection of flora, fauna, and landscapes. I have been fortunate enough to visit two other continents so far and have at least three more in my sights. But in all honesty, traveling by car around the United States has given me some of the most amazing experiences in my life. I will always recommend a road trip around the good old U.S.A. to anyone looking for fun and adventure.
I did my first road trip when I was sixteen. My friend learned to drive in January of our junior year of high school, and her father gave her the use of a 1971 Dodge Dart. When he got wind of our plan to drive it across the US in July, he hid the car in Brooklyn. She found it, picked me up, and off we went-no spare tire and no idea about how to take care of a car, but there we were heading to California. Neither of us had ever been west of New Jersey before, and our geography studies did little to help us. Thank goodness for Rand McNally and KOA (that would be “Kampgrounds Of America”. Really. They actually still exist.). We spent six weeks on the road, doing stupid and incredible things. I must have angels watching over me who enjoy a good laugh. We crossed an active train bridge across two mountains in the middle of the night in Eagle, Colorado; stood on the corner of four states in the incredible Navajo Nation near Monument Valley, Utah; bought guitars in Phoenix and later strummed out tunes under the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco; and crashed at the house of a senator in California whose son I had met in New York. We covered over a dozen states, delighting in pulling over to explore any place that caught our attention. Ah, youth…
My husband and I took a road trip in 1983, in a 1968 Toyota. That car had already done lots of traveling around the Southwest, but now it was time to really put it through its paces. We traveled through Texas (which is torture: 21 hours from the southwest corner to the northeast corner), across the southern states, stopping at places like Hot Springs, Arkansas, and up through the breathtaking Blue Ridge mountains. We spent time in New York before heading west to visit family in Iowa. Finally, after five weeks on the road, it was time to go back to the desert and pick up our real lives again. Another journey took us to the White Mountains on the Mogollon rim of Arizona for skiing, followed by a night in Las Vegas, ending at the Rose Bowl parade and Disney in L.A.
I tortured my mother with road trips when she came out to visit me in Tucson as well. On one memorable trip, we drove deep into Mexico with my younger brother with the plan to pitch a tent on one of the beaches of Puerto Peñasco. Only one or two little problems- we discovered when we got there that we not only forgot the tent, we also forgot to exchange dollars for pesos. That far south in Mexico, they don’t deal in dollars… On another trip with mom, we drove to Flagstaff, and then wound down the frightening s-curves and switchbacks of Oak Creek canyon, only to park in Sedona and have the steering wheel fall off in my hands. Not sure why mom ever trusted me enough to join in these adventures…
My two brothers and I did a relatively quick road trip from Tucson up to the Grand Canyon, where we hiked nearly to the bottom with no food or water (Oh, that big sign warning of imminent death if you hike with no food or water? Pooh!). That was one story we almost didn’t live to tell. Once back at the rim, we jumped in my two-seater Ford EXP, one of the boys crammed on the back ledge, and drove on to Las Vegas for a night of revelry.
Most recently, two summers ago, I flew out to Los Angeles to drive back to New York with a friend who had helped her son relocate on the West coast. We took a northern route and I got to see Yellowstone Park, Lake Tahoe and Mount Rushmore, and nibble on Wisconsin cheddar on the way to Chicago.
Our country is a vast, varied land. The only way to really know it is to spend time on the ground, checking out as much of it as you can. Once I started to do so, I found that I never want to stop. I am very happy that my kids are following in our nomadic tradition as well; all three have done their share of wandering the country. I have been to thirty-nine states- only eleven more to go and then I can start all over again. America the Beautiful, indeed!