There's a long tradition in American folklore associated with hitting the road and driving across the country. The vast stretches of the interstate highway system allow Americans to drive for thousands of miles clear across the continent, passing through innumerable cities and towns along the way. Travelers can start in the wooded expanses of northeast Maine at the origin point of Interstate 95 and drive all the way down to the beaches of Miami on the same road, or take Interstate 80 from the suburbs of New York City for close to three thousand miles before arriving at its terminus in San Francisco. The open roads are a symbol of freedom and the indomitable American spirit, celebrated in everything from classic films to cheesy truck commercials.
I had the chance to travel on one such solo roadtrip for two and a half weeks in the summer of 2018. Liz was unable to join me due to her job, but she encouraged me to use some of the work leave that I'd been accumulating (and which would otherwise have gone to waste) to take a trip by myself. I sketched out a plan to visit locations across the USA that I had never seen before, eventually mapping out a path across eleven states that often wind up getting ignored by tourists. I would start in Michigan, the only state east of the Mississippi that I had never visited, and then make my way in a great loop across Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee before returning home. I would visit the capital city in all eleven of these states, driving from one destination to the next and taking in the sights along the way. All told, I would cover more than 6000 miles (about 9700 kilometers) over the course of 18 days of intense travel.
The planning for this trip was surprisingly difficult given that I would be using my own car and never leaving the country. There was little tourist information available about many of my destinations when I went to the library and attempted to search for guide books. I could find some published material on Colorado and New Mexico, but that was about it. Apparently there aren't too many people who travel to places like Iowa or Oklahoma for their vacations. When I did a search of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States, none of the places that I visited were in the top ten on any of the lists that popped up, with the city of Denver barely scratching some of the lists around spot number twenty. And, quite frankly, that's a shame. I found a fantastic array of attractions to visit at every stop of my journey, overlooked hidden gems or spots of local historic interest that rarely attract much national interest. Each state and each town along my route had its own story to tell, and I never lacked for things to see and do along the way.
This trip is a story of some of the overlooked, ignored, and forgotten parts of the country. I hope that you'll join me in reading about a few of these wonderful (and easily reachable!) locations situated off the beaten path. This is the tale of my Great American Roadtrip.