The Mythic Roots Of The American Highway Road Trip

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There’s just something almost spiritual of the loading of your car, climbing into your truck, or jumping on your motorcycle and heading out on the open road – especially if you’re going to be tearing down a decent stretch of American highways.

 

Movies, best-selling books, songs, poems, and campfire stories have all been delivery systems for legends related to the American highway. Somewhere along the line, these road systems turned into something critical to the American ethos and the American spirit – which is particularly interesting, since people in so many other nations with plenty of highways look at these kinds of trips and excursions as nothing more than an annoyance filled with plenty of boredom.

 

Books like On the Road from Jack Kerouac, songs like Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan, and the legendary movie Easy Rider with Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson are just some of the examples of American media that celebrate this vast system of highways and byways.

 

Sweeping throughout the American landscape, from coast to coast and clear across from the southernmost borders the northernmost borders (with plenty of stretches of highway in between), the American highway finds its way through small town and big cities and takes American motorists through some of the most beautiful stretches of land this great nation has to offer – with plenty of potential for adventure along the way!

American Highway Road Trip
American Highway Road Trip

 

There’s just nothing else quite like climbing into your car (especially if it’s a convertible and the weather is nice) with a full tank of gas and nowhere in particular in mind, jumping on the highway and just kind of letting it take you wherever it is your soul feels like heading.

 

The coastline of California looks a little bit more spectacular from the side of the highway the same way that the sun of Florida feels a little bit warmer when you’re sitting in a classic car with the top down Montana, Colorado, and Wyoming all open up in a way that pictures could never even attempt to do justice.

 

Amazingly enough, the American highway system is relatively “brand-new” – especially when compared to similar endeavors undertaken by other nations around the world. The Lincoln Highway was created in 1913, running just under 3400 miles from New York City to San Francisco while weaving its way from coast-to-coast.

 

1926 saw a rapid expansion of the US highway system, with the American government numbering the highways and byways of this great land to make navigating her open roads a little bit easier.

 

In the 1950s, things really started to take off under the direction of President Eisenhower. He saw exactly how important an efficient highway system could be when waging war in Europe, and wanted to make sure that the US was set up with just as efficient – if not more efficient – plans for her own roads.

 

Today, parts of the American highway system could use a little bit of updating, but for the most part you find getting from one corner of the country to another via the highway isn’t anywhere near as monumental a task as some people make it out to be.

 

If you’ve been dreaming about heading out on an American highway road trip of your own, here are just a couple of favorite trips that you’ll want to seriously consider!


California State Route 1

 

It may not be possible to find a more beautiful stretch of American highway if you love having the Pacific Ocean on one side and gorgeous Californian landscapes on the other, making California State Route 1 one of the popular highway road trips you can make in America.

 

You’ll start just north of San Diego and push northward towards Leggett, smack dab in the middle of “redwood country”. Along the way you’ll have plenty of opportunity to jump off the highway into some great American West Coast cities, and the opportunity for adventure is going to be at an all-time high.

 

Check Out Route 66

 

Far and away the most iconic of all the American highways, the “Old 66” may not exist in its entirety the way that it did before, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to be to travel as much of this historic route as you are interested in – particularly if you’re willing to go a bit off of the beaten path as you get closer to the termination of Route 66 in California.

 

If you want to stay as true to the authentic Route 66 as possible, check out the websites at www.historic66.com or 66in2weeks.com to plan your route – complete with easy to download and follow GPS coordinates even blood right into your phone or navigational system.

 

Route 20 Is Perfect for Coast-To-Coast Adventures

 

If you have plenty of time on your hands, and are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime type of adventure, you really can’t go wrong taking US Route 20 – the longest stretch of highway in the United States – from one coast to the other (or just about).

 

US Route 20 starts in Boston, Massachusetts and heads west for 3365 miles before it starts to “fall apart” in Yellowstone National Park. It’ll take about two or three weeks if you aren’t put yourself or your vehicle too hard, and the opportunities for real roadside adventures and lifelong memories are about as good on this stretch of highway as you’ll find them anywhere in the country.

 

At the end of the day, there are a bunch of other American highway road trips you should consider – including taking US Route 30, heading along Coastal Route one in Maine (sometimes called the Lobster Trail), shooting along the Monument Valley stretch of highway, driving US 1 all the way south to Key West, or having to look at everything that the Blue Ridge Parkway has to offer.

 

You’ll never want for new American highways to explore, that’s for sure. This great country has so much to see, so much to do, and so much to experience. And best of all, almost all of it is accessible with nothing more than your car, a steady supply of gasoline, and just a bit of the old-fashioned American adventurer confidence.

2 Responses

  1. Lauren Hovde
    | Reply

    Being an American myself, I often forget how often the American highway system works itself into popular culture. I love the beginning of the post because it made me feel like I was learning of the highway system from an external perspective from pop culture references to the ways to navigate the most prominent highways.

  2. Lauren Hovde
    | Reply

    I’m also wondering if you might do a post about how you document your trips and the best (and most travel-friendly) ways to do so. Like for this post in particular, how did you create the timelapse, and what are the best tricks for making sure that it turns out right? Also, do you ever have to edit the timelapse if you take a break, if so, how?

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