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Great American Road Trips

By Paul Stephen Gettings

Posted: 11th June 2014 11:33

The great American road trip is a concept that captures the imagination of anyone who dreams of really getting an authentic taste of the United States of America.  Classic novels such as Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and his travelogue Travels with Charley capture the romance and adventure of these journeys and inspire intrepid travellers to follow in the characters’ footsteps.  Roads in the U.S. are packed with their own histories and mythology and with their own share of ghost stories too.  As a nation so diverse it can often more closely resemble a continent rather than a large country, each road trip can offer a wildly different experience of The Land of Stars and Stripes.  In fact, in a country where high-speed travel such as airflight is preferred, a road trip can be a fantastic opportunity to experience some unseen sides and half-forgotten histories of the U.S.A.

Route 66

Illinois – Missouri – Kansas – Oklahoma – Texas – New Mexico – Arizona – California

The most iconic of all American roads, Route 66 has long been one of the most desirable courses for road trips.  Starting out in the great lake state of Illinois, before heading west all the way to the pacific coast at California, this historic route connects the US’s second and third-largest cities whilst still offering road trippers the charm of secluded open country on the way.  Although the original US Route 66 has been mostly replaced or diverted over time, it’s still possible to follow the path that was once known as “The Main St. of America”.  Once a route taken by Midwestern farmers looking to find their fortune in California, there’s a whole wealth of attractions along the way that help memorialise America’s most beloved highway.

Appalachian Trail

New Hampshire – Vermont – Massachusetts – Connecticut – New York – Pennsylvania – Maryland – West Virginia – Virginia – North Carolina –Georgia

Another historic roadway in a very different part of the United States, the Appalachian Trail starts in the New England area to the north-east of the country, heading south and west along the Appalachian Mountain Range.  As the landing site of the first English colonists of the Americas, the area later became known as the Plymouth Colony and formed the basis for the modern day United States of America. States such as Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut are steeped in a rich cultural history unmatched elsewhere in the U.S.A.  Whilst the mountainous areas that populate this part of the country are slightly harder going than the open roads of the west and Midwest, an opportunity to take in the natural rugged beauty of this region is well worth the effort.

Pacific Coast

Washington – Oregon – California

Whilst the Pacific Coast trail covers relatively few states compared to those in the south or east of America, it packs in a wide variety of exciting and historic cities.  From the musical and cultural epicentre that is Seattle, to the hip streets of Portland and to the home of the stars Los Angeles, this could be one of the coolest routes in the whole country.  Your journey from north to south can also serve to chase the sun – if you need an excuse to step on the gas, feeling the cool drizzle of Seattle slowly give way to the eternal summertime of Los Angeles will be more than enough encouragement.

Blues Highway

Tennessee – Mississippi – Louisiana

This may be one of the shorter road trips the United States has to offer, but with the amount of culture crammed into these three states, you won’t want to spend a second longer behind the wheel than you need to anyway.  This journey takes you down Route 61, often dubbed “The Blues Highway” from the deltas of Tennessee to the swamps of Louisiana.  Along the route is the famous crossroads between Route 61 and Route 49 where, according to legend, bluesman Robert Johnson sold his soul for his famed songwriting skills.  Whatever the devil’s influence, these three states are a musical haven where styles of blues, soul, gospel and R&B developed and thrived.  Louisiana’s largest city New Orleans takes this regional obsession with music and runs with it, creating a city where the raucous strains of party music can be heard spilling out of every bar, club and café.

The Great Northern

Washington – Idaho – Montana – North Dakota – Minnesota – Wisconsin – Michigan – Canada – Vermont – New Hampshire – Maine

A road trip of epic proportions, this route starts in the north-western state of Washington and travels directly east to Maine via eight states – not to mention a brief jaunt across the border to Canada.  Following the trail of the legendary Great Northern Railway, its path through the Rocky Mountain Range, past the Great Lakes and though the National Capital Area of Canada. Areas not to be missed along the way include the Glacier National Park, the vast unspoiled plains once populated by Native American peoples, along with the Canadian capital city of Ottawa and the French-speaking city of Montréal.  Although this Road Trip is a massive undertaking, spanning the whole country really captures the ambition and drive of those first settlers who made America their own.

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