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 . . .
13 thoughts on “Road Trip USA Takes You to the Real America”
Loved reading your blog entry and enjoyed looking at your pics. My mum used to live in West Virginia (I live in the UK) and whenever I went to visit I was always blown away by the beauty of the forests and mountains there. Everything is always so much bigger and better than in England!
You suggest lots of non-fiction travel books, but I wondered if there was any good travel fiction that you could suggest? I’m planning a road trip to the States soon and just fancy something a little-bit more light hearted.
Thanks for the comment Anna. Check out our inspiration page for a couple more of our favorite travel books. Scroll down there and you can also search Amazon for Travels with Charley, or On the Road, a couple classics. Happy travels!
Anna, you can also try a new book that just came out, called Roastbeef’s Promise: When Your Dad’s Dying Wish Is to Have His Ashes Sprinkled in Each State, What’s a Son to Do?. I just finished reading it and it’s hysterical! A complete review will soon follow.
Wow you are fast! Thanks Rene. I think we’ll try out the visitor’s center as it will truely just be an overnighter. I’ve followed your blog and you guys seem to have the same tastes we do when it comes to c(k)amping spots. We’ve enjoyed a few of the same ones, like the gravel bar at Lobster Creek and 3 Rivers in NM.
Hey Bill, if you’re headed out to Colorado this summer, look us up! Enjoy the road.
I googled Tucumcari Lake looking for an overnight spot heading west and saw your inquiry on the SKPs blog. Did you check it out? Would it work for an overnight spot? Thanks.
Hey Bill, we never made it out there. Wish we would’ve because it would have saved us from a LOT of driving instead of going all the way to Las Vegas looking for a free spot. We never found the lake.
I recommend staying at the Visitor’s Center parking lot in Tucumcari, adjacent to the convention center. It’s a huge parking lot and they seemed hospitable to overnighters. Good luck!
We’ve got those pictures, too. Wish I had gotten one of the golden bears on a bridge near there, though. Good memories brought up from this post. Thanks!
oh wow, stephen & i have been to that paul bunyan thingy! we have a picture of it too!
how cool to think we were all there! 🙂
I’m looking forward to reading the guest post!
I’ve been to 2 statues of Paul and Babe, but not the one you have pictured. Where is it? Great post!
That’s in our old stomping grounds of Humboldt County, California, in the town of Klamath, north of Arcata.
I have an old black and white photo that my dad took of me standing next to Paul Bunyan’s head before it was lifted into place. I was probably around eight years old. Good old Trees of Mystery, one of the last great tourist traps on 101 north.