Why You Should Cross America By Land
“Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’d all come to look for America” – Simon & Garfunkel
For a traveller there are few notions as romantic as the great American road-trip. I for one got my first taste of wanderlust from films like Easy Rider and from great American writers such as Steinbeck and Kerouac who travelled through their vast country one highway and one town at a time searching for their own vision of America. Ever since then, I always dreamed of one day driving across the US.
These days, flights are plentiful and affordable and travellers to the United States may be tempted to take domestic flights between the cities and states that make up their itinerary. However, in our view there is still a place for the great American road trip and we will tell you exactly why as we set out our list of why you should cross America by land.
• Classic Vehicles
Let’s face it, airports and airplanes are all pretty much the same. Flying is a monotonous, sometimes stressful and wholly homogenous experience.
If you cross by land you get the chance to travel by a whole range of mediums. You can rent out a Cadillac (an opened top one preferably) to drive along the Pacific Coast, you can get yourself a Harley Davidson to take on Route 66 and even jump freight trains like the down on their luck but plucky heroes from the novels of Jack London. If jumping trains aren’t your thing, then I suppose you can always buy a ticket; classic American rail routes include the California Zephyr which spans 2,438 miles through seven states.
The Greyhound Bus service is also something of an American institution providing a modern, reliable and comfortable service at an affordable.
You can find out any number of these options by doing an online search or by custom building your own itinerary via a reputable United States Travel Planner.
• See The Real America
Let’s be honest, if you fly for example from New York to San Francisco then the chances are you see nothing but the tourist hot-spots in these respective cities with the only intermission being the Starbucks and McDonald’s outlets in the respective airports. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re short on time, New York makes for an incredible whirlwind of a weekend – there is simply so many things to do in NYC that you could happily visit just this city but this is an adventure blog, not a city blog and here, we’re all about the real adventures…
To see the real America, you really need to stay on the ground, to pass through the little mid-western towns which hardly even appear on the map and by travelling alongside the everyday people rather than the monied jet-set.
• Watch The Landscape Change
Whether watching it over the bars of a motorbike, from the passenger seat of a Caddy or the reclining sleeper of a train, Kansas City to Denver is a route that I recommend, you will see the incredible scenery from the train window. Travelling by land is the only way to really understand the dramatic and stunning landscapes of this bountiful country.
• Pick up, Hitchhikers!
Hitchhiking does have something of a tarnished reputation these days, this is a real shame and in our opinion, it is totally unjustified. Hitchhiking is in reality as much of a part of the American culture as hamburgers and blues rock and by making your own road trip you get to help keep this tradition alive.
Hitchhikers are also travellers just like you and they may be able to show you a side and offer you a perspective on the country you would otherwise totally miss. They may even become your very own personal United State Trip Planner!
• It’s Green!
OK, so Cadillac’s, Harley’s and trains are all thirsty for diesel but they are still more environmentally friendly than air travel especially if you look into carpooling.
Whilst the States does have a long-standing love affair with petroleum, there is an ever growing environmental movement and innovative states such as California and Portland are showing the world how we can protect the environment. Show your support for these green pioneers by eschewing all but essential air travel!
• Why You Should Cross America By Land
If that still hasn’t convinced you then I can only suggest you go rent yourself a DVD copy of Easy Rider and see if your library has a dusty old copy of On The Road you can finger. Afterwards, I have no doubt that you will surely agree that you most definitely should cross America by land!
Ideal Road Trips for Driving across the US!
It would probably take several lifetimes and countless gallons of gasoline (petrol) to cross each and every American highway and byway so if you are considering a great American road trip but short on either time or money here are some classic routes to consider!
Seriously, how could we not include this? Whilst the classic “Mother Road” may be a bit cliched, there are reasons for its enduring popularity. The route crosses right from East to West starting at Chicago, crossing the expansive dustbowl and ending right on the Pier at Santa Monica, California. It does not get any more American than this, the definitive experience for driving across the US.
This route follows the Pacific ocean from Monterey down to San Luis Obispo in Northern California and has been immortalized in literature and song. I actually cycled down Big Sur last autumn (2017). Big Sur is a state of mind. You may already have it.
For the full low down on Big Sur, check out my backpacking Big Sur guide.
Monumental Monument Valley is monumentally awesome and was used as the epic backdrop in numerous classic western films; it is truly and utterly cinematic. The route commences on 17 out of Phoenix, goes through the Grand Canyon and then head up the 160 to the cowboy film-scape of buttes and tabletops on the Arizona/Utah border. If you have an abundance of both gas and energy then why not keep going through Nevada’s Death Valley and all the way to Reno?
See you on the road guys.