Travel Read: Road Trip USA

Avalon Travel writer Jamie Jensen traversed the nation several times, testing various two-lane highways in the process, to bring road trippers the best (really, it’s the BEST) road trip guidebook for the U.S. to date. Road Trip USA, released this month, features eleven unique cross-country road trips. I would not only recommend this guidebook, I would insist that you buy it if you’re embarking on a U.S. road trip of any sort — or if you’re one of those information junkies needing a good fill of fun facts and historical tidbits.

North to south, east to west, Jensen really covers it all, and he includes helpful information about nearly every interesting town along the way as well as detours or side trips that are worthy of some extra time. The great American byways have never sounded so enticing and intriguing. There is one mega-book that includes all 11 trips (retail $29.95) and two smaller books (each $9.95) for the countries two most charted journeys: the Pacific Coast and Route 66.
Here’s a brief overview of Jensen’s 11 road trips:

  1. Pacific Coast: Route 1, otherwise known as the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway), spans the whole western coastline from Washington’s Olympic National Park through California’s rugged Lost Coast to San Diego. Forks, Washington, of Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” fame, sits firmly along the PCH, so you can search high and low for vampires (or loggers) if you so please.
  2. Border to Border: Start way up north in Canada’s Jasper National Park and make your way through Banff, Sun Valley, and the Extraterrestrial Highway down to the Arizona-Mexico border. Little known fact: Hemingway wrote part of his famous For Whom the Bell Tolls in the Sun Valley Lodge.
  3. The Road to Nowhere: Follow the US-83 straight through the middle of the country from North Dakota to Texas. It’s all about the open road on this journey. Don’t know where the Chalk Pyramids or Monument Rocks are? Well, go and find them for yourself. Drinking is legal on the beach of one of the destinations on this route, too.
  4. The Great River Road: Follow the mighty Mississippi River to the deep south, and learn about some of America’s most iconic figures (Mark Twain or Elvis ring a bell?) You can find the world’s largest six-pack too, and I’m not talking about a hot guy, I’m talking about beer — a lot of it.
  5. Appalachian Trail: I considered maybe for a brief minute of hiking the whole Appalachian Trail, and while that would be an amazing feat, I think I’ll stick to pavement. Those who’ve accomplished the AT by foot talk about how grateful they were when they found “trail magic,” so you shouldn’t be surprised to find your own form of “road magic” — maybe in the form of food (diners aplenty), but more likely in the visual form (mountains beyond mountains).
  6. Atlantic Coast: Start at the Statue of Liberty and head along the the coast through eerie Savannah to the lively Florida Keys. Make sure you walk Jersey’s piers and try a night or two in one of the state’s many “Doo Wop”motels.
  7. The Great Northern: Something awfully mystical awaits you up north in places like Maine’s Acadia National Park and Montana’s Glacier National Park. If those don’t strike your fancy, there’s always the stunning Great Lakes in summer.
  8. The Oregon Trail: Niagara Falls, Yellowstone, the quintessential American cities of Boston and Chicago, Mt. Rushmore, the Great Plains, the Finger Lakes, Cape Cod. Yes, please.
  9. Loneliest Road: America’s backbone runs across such famed stretches as the Santa Fe Trail, Million Dollar Highway, and Pony Express Trail. You’ll be charting your own map, but journeying through some of the countries most gorgeous landscapes all by your lonesome. Don’t forget to bring your camara and don’t be afraid to get lost in the beauty of it all.
  10. Southern Pacific: This is the American south in all its glory. Deserts, swamps, spicy Tex-Mex food, and good old southern hospitality, where everything is biggest, sweeter, and just plain hot. You might want to brush up on your line dancing and donn that hat and those boots for some wild nights on the town.
  11. Route 66: John Steinbeck called it the “Mother Road.” Songs immortalized it as a place where you can “get your kicks.” Diners, roadside attractions, and motels are all just part of what gives it its character. From giant statues and Cadillac farms to barns and billboards, this most famous Route must be traveled at some point in your life. Why not let it be now?

If you’re traveling anywhere in the U.S. by car, rest assured Jensen’s got your destination covered. In many senses, you can bypass expensive single-State guidebook purchases and just invest in in this one comprehensive national guidebook. Check it out, really.

Gadling’s hosting a Road Trip USA giveaway in the next few days, so stay tuned for that as well as a “Talking Travel” Q&A with the series’ intrepid writer, Jamie Jensen himself.