Gas prices may be headed towards record highs this summer, but the arrival of the season nevertheless means it’s time once again for one of the great American traditions: the road trip. Whether you are driving to escape the heat, explore a new locale, or simply to experience an adventure in the process, the road trip has been deeply ingrained in the American psyche ever since Jack Kerouac penned On the Road in 1951.
Taking to the road also has a more practical value: in a vast and diverse country, there are few better ways to experience the entirety of the United States than by viewing it from a train or a highway. The country’s vastness means that there are numerous roads and roadtrips that you could conceivably explore. Some are short while others are long; some are urban and others are downright desolate. No matter the route, however, a trip is bound to provide unique on-the-ground perspectives of Americana in the process.
Last summer I got a tip about the ultimate in American roadtrips: the cross-country trek along I-70 from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. If you look it up on a map you can see that I-70 crosses through some of the country’s greatest cities, regions, and attractions – and it certainly shows the diversity of America in the process. Along its way to Los Angeles, the road heads through Columbus, St. Louis, Denver, and Kansas City, among other cities. It offers views of the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains. And it can get you (almost) all the way to Las Vegas and the Pacific Coast; after leaving I-70 in Utah, you’ll need to conclude the trip on I-15.
It’s hard to break down such a massive trip into just a few highlights, but I’ll try to provide the top 5, ordered from East to West:
1. Pennsylvania Route 71. This “attraction” isn’t for everyone, but I would thoroughly enjoy the hairpin turns and beautiful views offered by this stretch of sub-standard highway.
2. The Columbus Zoo. Often billed as America’s best zoo, this attraction impressed even the non-zoo-lover in me. The manatees would definitely be a highlight.
3. Dinner at 1111 Mississippi. Tucked away just south of downtown St. Louis, this restaurant probably isn’t the best dining spot along I-70. But it offers an ambiance, quality of food, and reasonableness of price that is hard to beat.
4. Colorado ski country. While I-70 offers some great vistas in Colorado (including the pass through the Glenwood Canyon and the San Rafael Swell), I would most enjoy the brief detours offered through ski country. Vail, for example, sits just off of the highway.
5. Seeing the Phantom of the Opera in Las Vegas. After a night on the Strip at Senor Frogs and a nearby casino, I would try to snag tickets to a Broadway production of Phantom of the Opera, a show I have long admired but never seen. Getting Las Vegas show tickets would certainly be a worthwhile experience.
These are just five of the many high points from the trip. Hopefully reading these highlights has whetted your appetite to hit the road and see the country via car this summer. While gas prices may be high, the experiences and perspectives afforded by such a trip are well-worth the expense – at least in my opinion.
Lifecruiser Love Roadtrips