I’m embarrassed to say that like most Americans, Jim and I have done relatively little foreign travel. We’ve been to Spain, Canada and Mexico, and that’s it. But while we do aspire to be globe hoppers, until we feel like we’ve uncovered enough of the best places in this gigantic country of ours, we’ll stick to the highways and byways of America.
Even after two years of living on the road, Jamie Jensen’s book Road Trip USA: Cross Country Adventures on America’s Two Lane Highways has been helping us uncover countless hidden gems along the way. With our limited bookshelf space in the rig, this is one book that we’ll never let go of.
See What’s Really Out There
The newest edition of Road Trip USA has just been released, along with two pocket guides – Road Trip USA Pacific Coast Highway Guide and Road Trip USA Route 66 Guide. If you’re like us, and drive the blue highways instead interstates, while seeking local Mom and Pop cafes and sticking it to Starbucks, you need these books.
Jamie Jensen’s books suggest 11 distinct road trips bisecting the U.S. From north to south, or east to west, the classic routes include The Pacific Coast Highway, Route 66, the Great River Road, and the Appalachian Trail. Detailed maps and clear directions to plenty of points of interest provide for unlimited day trips and side excursions. You’ll also find accurate contact information for lodging, car rental companies, state tourism boards, and road condition numbers.
The best part of Jamie’s books are their emphasis on finding the quirkier, offbeat attractions and towns across America. While there’s enough useful information about major cities and attractions to give you a head start on your research, Road Trip Nation will help you plan more unusual itineraries.
Plan Your Next Offbeat Adventure
The Atomic Tourist, for instance, might select a route from the Trinity Test Site in New Mexico, to the Titan Missile Museum in San Xavier, AZ, to Arco, Idaho, home of the remains of the Experimental Breeder Reactor Number One.
Music lovers will enjoy discovering blues festivals in the south, and cowboy gatherings in the West.
Teetotalling travelers can find their way from the wineries of Westfield, NY to Napa, CA, to the world’s biggest six pack in Lacrosse, WI. They’ll also learn to steer clear of Shamrock Texas on St. Patrick’s Day, even though they could kiss an actual piece of the Blarney Stone in that town’s Elmore Park. Why stay away? Because Shamrock is a dry town.
Road Trip USA identifies attractions one might easily otherwise miss, like the birthplace (and burial site) of On the Road author Jack Kerouac, just 20 miles off highway 2 in Lowell, MA. And how else would you know where the geographical center of North America is? (the answer: Rugby, ND). You’ll discover things like just how many places in the U.S. claim to be the home of Paul Bunyan. Statues of the Lumberjack giant can be found from Maine to Minnesota to our old stomping grounds of Northern California.
It’s also a useful tool that teaches you how to properly pronounce town names before you arrive and look like a tourist. Learn how Sequim, WA is really annunciated (“Skwim”), or Cairo, IL (Ki-Ro).
The only problem with Road Trip USA is that there is so much information, if you forget to consult it before planning your itinerary, you could miss important landmarks like we have. For instance, we passed by the World Largest Frying Pan in Long Beach, WA, and in that same trip, drove right through Curt Cobain’s hometown of Abereen, WA (may he rest in peace!) without even knowing it until later when flipping through the book.
Try Jamie’s Handy Pocket Guides for Short Trips
Road Trip USA’s Pacific Coast Highway Guide and the Road Trip USA Route 66 Guide are a neat addition to Jamie’s encyclopedia of quirky attractions. They’re jam packed with useful information, and you won’t have to lug around the biblical-sized Road Trip USA book if you’re just traveling within those geographic areas.
As West Coast natives, we’ve frequented a lot of his selections in the Pacific Coast Highway Guide, and have to say that his descriptions are accurate, truthful and unbiased.
We wish we had these books when we lived on the West Coast, as Jamie reveals stuff about places we’ve been to but were oblivious to some local finds, like the Olympic Game Farm in Washington. We thought it was a repulsive canned hunt farm, but it turns out to be a home to retired Hollywood animal actors!
The Route 66 Guide is also handy for anyone traveling near that famous route. You don’t have to follow it exactly, as Jamie offers lots of tips and ideas for attractions that are within a reasonable distance of the original highway. We especially enjoyed how he lists local indie radio stations for drivers to listen to, which can give you a taste of local flavor far better than any syndicated radio station can.
So turn off that satellite radio, drive off the interstates and onto the blue highways, and go find the real spirit of America, because believe it or not, it is alive and well. You just have to look harder these days to find it. But first, pick up your copy of Road Trip USA today.
Stay tuned for a guest post from Jamie, about ways you can save money on the road while traveling . . .