Monday, December 14, 2009

On the Road Again, Again -- More Road Trip Advice!

Just when you thought it would be safe to go back online -- here comes another selection of (long overdue) road trip travel advice, with suggestions of things to see and do along the Great American Highways! By the way, I don't know if it's the weather, the Internet, world finance and US economic uncertainty, or what, but the numbers of travel queries and emails I get from Americans have been shrinking while those from around the world have been increasing. Whatever it means -- hello to our far-flung international readers (from Brazil, China, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, the UK, Spain, Czech Republic, Germany and more -- even Canada. Welcome Aboard!


Hi Jamie.

My husband and I are planning to do a road trip this year to stay close to home and save some money. I was looking at the routes and wasn't quite sure how to go about our trip. We're looking to travel starting October 12th.

We're not sure whether we'll have one week or two yet at this point in time, but was wondering if you have some suggestions on how to go about this if we were to do one week vs two weeks. We live in NY/Northern NJ. We've done the drive from here to MD, DC and VA several times. Now trying to see more of the much as we can. And we love taking photos!




Dear Rita --

Thank you for writing in to Road Trip USA.

October is a great time to travel -- crisp air and "fall color" can make for fantastic photos, too. From the NJ NY area, one trip I have enjoyed is the cruise west along old US-6, stopping by Lackawaxen for Zane Grey and Brooklyn Bridge homage, then winding west past the "Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania", enjoying all the roadside scenes that seem straight out of Walker Evans / WPA-era photographs.

(Seeing as you are a photographer, you may know that one of Evans's most famous images was shot in Bethlehem PA -- an under-rated Road Trip / Industrial Heritage destination that may well appeal to you.)

The nearby PA "Dutch Country" is also lovely in October, with all the harvest festivities going on -- I cover both of these places in my Appalachian Trail route.

On the other hand, you may be thinking of a longer trip -- so please feel free write me again when your plans start taking shape. In the meantime I hope you enjoy my website, and my book.

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA


Birthday ++ Anniversary in the Ozark Mountains

Hello Jamie,

My name is Joe and I am a road trippin' fool. Nothing better than a great road trip. I am going to be on vacation from 9/25-10/1. In the middle of that is my anniversary and my b-day. I'm looking to take my wife who has barely traveled at all on a nice road trip somewhere but I am really drawing a blank. We will be driving so I was poking around on the Internet found this wonderful site and I can really use your help. Here's my conditions:

Vac is from 9/25-10/1 of 2009.

I will have $1000 bucks to spend

Looking to avoid tacky and expensive tourist traps like Gatlinburg, TN

We live in KY an hour south of Louisville and would like to head west of the Mississippi River

Naturally we would like to stay off the Interstate as much as possible

Looking for a nice scenic route

Looking for some very well maintained and clean mom and pop motels

Since this is the fall and it gets cold early up north….looking to avoid going too far north

With all that being said….any suggestions? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Joe L

Hey Joe --

Thank you for writing in to Road Trip USA -- here's to a Happy Birthday, and a Happy Anniversary, too.

The end of Sept / early October is my fave time to hit the road -- not so much traffic, lower motel and gas prices, crisp air and some "fall color" in the trees. From where you are, nr Louisville, I would suggest you consider taking a cruise down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, paying respects to Elvis in Memphis and (if you like Blues music) maybe hitting the Delta region, where towns like Oxford MS are a step back in time.

If you want to put on some more miles, west of the Mississippi you can see some very pretty countryside in northern Arkansas, which is gorgeous at that time of year -- Eureka Springs in particular is lovely, and then you can head home on that classic Road Trip road, Route 66, which winds along the northern Ozark Mountains btwn Tulsa OK and St Louis.

Those are some "off the top of my head" ideas -- if any of this appeals to you, please feel free to write me again and I'll try to come up with specific spots for your celebrations.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy my website, and have a look at my book, Road Trip USA, which has lots more ideas, maps and pictures than are "up" on the website.

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA


Doggy Road Trips

Hi Jamie -- I'm thinking about taking a road trip from San Diego to the east coast and back, with my small dog. I'd stay with friends across the country whenever possible. What are your tips for a (young, healthy 60-year-old) woman traveling alone? how about finding dog-friendly motels?

Thank you -- Cindy

Dear Cindy --

Thank you for writing in to Road Trip USA. Your trip sounds very interesting, and very adventurous -- I hope it goes well for you. The most helpful tips I can offer would be

1 -- don't be in a rush, enjoy the drive, and stop as often as you feel like. Though the inertia of hurtling down the highway at 70 mph is powerful, if you stop every 90 mins or so it is easy to get going again, and your body and soul will be grateful for these breaks along the way.

2 -- start as early as you can manage, and find a place to sleep _before_ the sun goes down. Again, keeping driving is tempting, but after dark you won't see anything (except headlamps).

To help with pet-friendly accommodations, I would suggest contacting a favorite chain motel -- most have nationwide policies about accepting dogs as guests. Also, here is a website I came across, which has listings across the USA: (I'm sure Mr Google can help you find others!)

Please feel free to write me again as your plans start taking shape -- and in the meantime I hope you enjoy my website, and my book Road Trip USA, which has lots more info and ideas and images than we've managed to post on the website.

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen


Brazilian Road Trip

Hello Jamie!

I´ll get married here in Brazil next year, and me and my fiancee are planning a road trip on our honeymoon at the US. Basically, my future wife dreams to visit NYC and I would love to meet Mickey Mouse at home personally at Orlando, so can you help us put it together to do a Atlantic Coast Road Trip?

Ok, the idea is great, but we have a lot of questions, tons of them... And searching at the internet I found your site that seems to be the best of this kind. So please help meeee!! :-)

My first considerations are:
2 people
Period: 20 days
Departs from: NYC, NY
Arriving at: Key West, FL
Desired stops (so far...): Atlantic City, NJ; Washington DC; Wilmington, NC; Orlando, FL; Cape Canaveral, FL; Miami, FL, Key West, FL.

1) Please give us another indications of must-see cities/places along this route. (Tip: I´m an enthusiast of military history, and I heard that there´s a lot of Civil War places to visit in this area)

2) The one way charge for a car rental is extremely high! I found it from 300 to 500 USD, do you know some other way to minimize it?

3) Is the weather going to be a problem? We´re thinking on going on late november. Which I assume that it´s the end of the hurricane season. Am I right?

4) How much cost a budget hotel at the highways? Is there some kind of an average price of it?

Sorry for so many questions, but for a Brazilian is even more difficult to find the appropriate support. Look at the bright side, if want to come to Brazil one day I´ll be more than happy to give some tips for you.

Thanks and best regards.



Hello Rodrigo --

Thank you for writing in to Road Trip USA -- and congratulations!

The Atlantic Coast route is great, though you are right to think November may present some weather issues. I personally like a little stormy weather, which is more exciting than day after day of sultry sunshine. Hurricanes, which can occur that time of year, are another thing altogether, though these big storms come with plenty of warning to head inland, to higher ground etc.

The easy part of your questions is about car rental -- car rental prices are quite high these days, but by November, prices should have dropped considerably, and you may be able to take advantage of seasonal "one-way" deals, where you get a very low rate to drive a car from the northern USA (where there is little demand for them) to southern winter vacation spots like Miami. Avis used to run offers for these sorts of deals -- keep checking when you get closer to your trip.

And about motels -- in November, which is low season, rates at highway motels should run around $50 a night, a little more in cities and considerably more in Key West (though the economic downturn has made US travel more affordable than it has been for a long time)

Along the way, there is a ton of stuff to see -- especially if you like military history. I love the old coastal forts -- Fort Fisher on Cape Fear, east of Wiilmington NC, is very atmospheric, as are Fort Macon (near Morehead City) and of course Fort Sumter (in Charleston harbor).

The Richmond Virginia area is also packed with historic sites, though I don't have room to cover them in Road Trip USA...

Further inland, if you go to Dc as planned, I strongly suggest visits to some very evocative Civil War battlefileds -- Manassas, on my US50 route, and Gettysburg and Antietam, which I cover in the Appalachian Trail route. You may even catch teh last of the autumnal "fall color", which is especially nice in Harpers Ferry WV and the Shenandoah National Park, an hour west of DC.

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA


Great Western Road Trip


I am reading you book again now(more likely in 2010). Looking into doing a second "road trip" to the states (I live in Norway), did the first one in 2008 and really liked it!

Last year we started out in LV and drove a circle and ended in LV. This time I been thinking about starting in Minneapolis and head west for a while before I need to go back(in a circle).
The trip is about 10-14 days, so not sure how far I can make it before we need to turn around.
Any good ideas what to do and see (I am already set on rushmore,yellowstone,badlands maybe glacier)? Like to get to see some small towns/old towns,lonely roads and also have some fun (atv,jet skies, exploring).
Last year we rented ATVs in the rockey mountains in a small town called Silverton and it was a blast. Not into big cities, fancy hotells or fancy food, but it would have been fun to catch a football/baseball game and maybe try a drive in movie if they still exist :) ..

So any good advice or ideas are welcome...



Hi Lars --

Thank you for writing in to Road Trip USA -- and sorry it took me so long to reply.

Your trip sounds very interesting -- Mt Rushmore, Yellowstone, Glacier are all amazing places! I would suggest looking at the rest of the Rockies, too, up in Canada where the landscape is (perhaps...) even more spectacular.

Just make sure you get the right visas for multiple entry into the USA.

And yes, there are still a few drive-in movie theaters open for business, though nothing like as many as there were back in the "good old days". I can only think of one in the area you are planning to visit -- in Columbia Falls MT, where US2 and US93 cross -- though websites like
should be able to point you toward some more.

Please write me again when your plans start taking shape -- and in the meantime I hope you enjoy my website, and my book.

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA


First American Road Trip


Thanks for sparing the time to read this.

My husband and I live in the UK. We’ve visited American on 3 occasions over the years - once to Florida when we were with our first partners, our second trip was to New York for New Years Eve 2006. The last time was to get married in Las Vegas in April last year.

We really fancy having a self-drive, 3-week holiday in May next year and would be delighted to have your suggestions for a route.

Places we thought about that we’d like to see (which we realise may necessitate an internal flight) include:

· San Francisco
· San Diego
· Grand Canyon
· New York
· Atlanta
· Boston

We know the above locations may not be viable to fit in on one trip. We thought it would be good if we could fly in to the west coast and head back home from the east coast so we’ve got a shorter trip back to the UK.

We’d love to hear any suggestions you can offer.

Kindest regards,

Karon & Mervyn


Dear Karon & Mervyn --

Thank you for writing in to Road Trip USA -- and I hope I can help you plan a fun "2nd Honeymoon" road trip.

The month of May can be a great time to travel in the western US -- before schools let out and all the RV-ing families hit the highways! As a native Californian, I strongly recommend having SF and the central California coast on your itinerary: Big Sur, Monterey, Santa Barbara and so many more places are all lovely places to spend your time. The Grand Canyon is also fantastic -- and the nearby national parks of southern Utah are if anything even more overwhelming (and a lot less "touristed")

You could have a great week to 10 days, traveling on a loop down the coast from SF, cutting across from LA to the Grand Canyon on old Route 66 (?!), meandering north thru Zion and Canyonlands then winding back to SF via US50, the "Loneliest Road" also the route of the old Pony Express, which comes back into California at lovely Lake Tahoe . (Detour south via Yosemite National Park, if time permits...)

The other leg of your trip sounds more "up in the air" -- an internal flight makes a lot of sense, and in May (when southern gardens are at their peak) I personally would opt for a Deep South road trip tour rather than New England (or NYC again).

From Atlanta, you can easily visit old American cities like New Orleans, Charleston and Savannah, as well as historic small towns like Natchez and Oxford Mississippi, places whose charms and "Olde Worlde" character often come as very pleasant surprises to overseas visitors. (And to my fellow Americans as well !)

Hope these quick suggestions help you plan a great trip -- and again, sorry for my delay, and please feel free to write me again when your plans start taking shape. In the meantime I hope you enjoy my website, and my book.

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA

Singapore to USA

Hi Jamie

My friends and I are planning our first USA road trip next year around aug/september. the four of us are from Singapore and we would like your advice on which route would be a good start for us. We will plan to be away for 14 days and would fly into the US from Singapore to start the trip. None of us have driven any of the 11 road trips listed in your book and any advice from you would be greatly appreciated.



Hi Jennifer --

Thank you for writing in to Road Trip USA -- and sorry it took me until now to reply.

Your trip (first time to the US? or first time doing a US road trip?) sounds very exciting -- I hope I can help you have a good time.

To be honest, deciding which trips are "best" is something only you and your friends can do -- all of the trips and places in the book (and on the website) are fascinating and fun in different ways, and it really depends on what you enjoy.

History? Culture? Scenery? Food? Each trip has something special, so it's up to you to decide what sounds like the most suitable adventure.

Fortunately you have lots of time to plan your trip -- so please write me again as your plans start taking shape.

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA

Baseball playing-Jazz pianist-turned-economics major-turned campaign field organizer-turned health care policy reformer Road Trip along RT66

Hi Jamie,

I've been living in DC for the past two years, but my car has been stuck out in Arizona with the folks. I'm finally in a situation where having a car in DC is doable and am going to drive my car (2000 Honda Accord) from my parent's house in Phoenix, AZ to Washington, DC.

Unfortunately I really only have about 3-4 days for the trip so it's going to be some serious driving between myself and my roommate. We're both young (24) so can handle long days and long nights, but I was wondering if you might have any "MUST STOPS" that we should try to check out on our route. I would love to eventually take the time to really explore, but I still didn't want to completely miss out on the opportunity for such a trip - even if it has to be short.

Thanks for any and all help you might be able to provide!!

(Baseball playing-Jazz pianist-turned-economics major-turned campaign field organizer-turned health care policy reformer currently working in DC...)


Dear Justin --

(You Baseball playing-Jazz pianist-turned-economics major-turned campaign field organizer-turned health care policy reformer, you!...)

Thank you for writing in to Road Trip USA -- and sorry it took me so long to reply.

Your trip sounds great -- I hope you haven't left. (If you did -- hope you had a blast!)

Phoenix to DC, in 3 days?! Here are some suggested stops / photo ops / places to stretch your legs and re-awaken your brain so you don't crash. You probably know Arizona pretty well, but the Painted Desert area along Route 66 is fabulous at sunrise / sunset. Ditto for western New Mexico -- Inscription Rock & Acoma Pueblo are two unforgettable scenes.

Into Texas: for a quick taste of highway humanity stop for food (and a slice of "ugly crust pie" at Fran H. 's Midpoint Cafe (so-named because it is halfway between LA and Chicago.) Neat sign outside. Next up, for kitsch value: Cadillac Ranch, just west of Amarillo.

Day Two?: Oklahoma. As you sound a bit thoughtful and political, make a stop at the very poignant memorial to the Oklahoma City bombing -- I have stopped here every time I'm passing thru, and it never fails to have an effect on me. Also good, AAA-baseball in the Bricktown Ballpark (Rangers farm club -- )

Or maybe race along I-40 / I-44 to St Louis, for better baseball, an homage to ragtime/jazz pioneer Scott Joplin, and an ice cream at Ted Drewe's (the one on RT66 - Chippewa )

From St Louis -- east along I-64, via Louisville (where there's an annual "Big Lebowski Festival"), easing yourself back into DC via the Shenandoah Valley and Skyline Drive.

That should be enough for a crazy few days...


Please feel free to write me again as your plans start taking shape -- or if you write up a blog detailing your adventures. (Hint, hint...)

And when you find the time for future travels, I hope you'll check back with my website, and my book.

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA


OK -- enough for now!


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