See the USA! Why I Love Road Trips

images (1)I have always loved road trips. When I was a child, we went on 4 or 5 different trips, starting from Chicago and going all over the country. We visited states from Maine to Florida to California and everything in between. We visited Eastern Canada from New Brunswick to Ontario. We only missed the Pacific Northwest.

Along the way, I loved playing the car games; collecting license plates, the "I See Something" game, the ABC game. But mostly I just loved watching the scenery go by, hearing my dad's "tour guide" tidbits about various places we passed, and following the route on a map (yes, a paper map!).

images (3)I just got back from my first road trip in several years. Coach Tim and I went to Houston, TX for the Junior Olympic track and field championships. His track club had 6 athletes qualified to compete in this meet, so he went to coach and encourage, and carry 5 pole vault poles on the top of our car. We got a lot of strange looks.

But I'm excited to report that road trips are still thrilling to me! I was impressed that even though it has been 20 years or more since I took my last long trip to the west coast and back, the good old US of A looks as amazing and wonderful as ever. I still love just watching the scenery go by and change as the miles pass.  Here are some observations I made along the way.

  • Even though many cities have way over one million inhabitants, there are many more small towns with only 812 or 298 citizens. When you get off the interstate for gas or a bite to eat, or because the road construction has you sitting for an hour, you discover that the heart of America is still there.
  • In most places American towns seem to be prospering, although there are some, (most notably on this trip, Cairo, IL), where the towns are deeply distressing and you wonder why anyone remains.  But overall, the spirit and the determination to succeed are evident. Some towns are not succeeding as well as they would like, but they try.
  • The scenery of America is breathtaking!! Farm fields, hills and valleys, rivers, cliffs and overlooks, tall buildings in cities seen from many miles away... I love it all!
  • America is a country of diversity. From the people who live here, to the climate, to the low land and high land, the weather, the animals, the vegetation, and more, there is an astounding diversity. The customs and manners, the accents and the cuisines all add another layer to the diverse nature.
  • If a foreign visitor comes to Chicago, and sees only Chicago, he will have a completely different concept of America than someone who only visits Houston or Los Angeles or Denver. It's hard enough for Americans who haven't traveled to understand this, much less a one-time foreign visitor.

Here's what HAS changed.

sign11Fast food restaurants are sometimes driving out small cafes in small towns. And every town in the country seems to have at least a Subway or McDonalds. (Even Cairo had a Subway!)

Big cities are bigger than ever, the traffic is worse, and road construction is an epidemic. Get off the interstate and follow some back roads for a slower, but more satisfying journey.

In Texas, there are places you can drive 85 legally. And the schools don't offer driver's ed. Parents can teach their own kids....or at least certify that they have. Hmmmm.

I used a phone GPS to follow the route. However, I still needed to consult my road atlas from time to time when the GPS simply did not give me enough information, or was incorrect. Paper maps are not complete dinosaurs!

There's still some summer left. Hop in your car and drive somewhere, anywhere, at least 500 miles away, and drive slowly enough to luxuriate in the beauty of America, it's gorgeous scenery, it's diversity, and it's people. Soak in the mental photographs along the way that will last a lifetime, and pull them out when you need a vacation from your daily life!

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