Saturday, March 27, 2010

SoCal to Savannah -- El Cosmico Road Trip

Hi Jamie,

I just stumbled across your blog as I was doing some research for my upcoming road trip. I have 7 days to drive from Southern CA to Savannah GA. Since I am a photography grad student, my goal is to travel more two lane highways rather then I-10 so that I can stop easily for photos (and go through more quant towns).

So far I was thinking of stopping in Tucson, Marfa TX (there is a new trailer hotel "El Cosmico" that I want to stay at), maybe Houston, New Orleans, and not sure where else. If there are any artsy/kitschy places that you think I shouldn't pass up, please let me know!!

I will be traveling alone, so safety is a concern.

Looking forward to hearing from you!



Dear Rebecca --

Thank you for writing in to Road Trip USA, and sorry it took me until now to get back to you.

Two-lane highways are definitely better for images than the faceless freeways, so you have made one very good decision!

(The photo above is a 1930s image of two-lane America by Russell Lee, part of the WPA-era collection now at the Library of Congress -- great stuff for any photo buff or grad student!)

Now, as far as safety tips, the best advice I can offer is that you decide on your overnight stops before the sun goes down, so you can get a good sense of the place before you are too tired to go any further.

Travel-wise, your proposed route is a good one -- I cover it almost your whole way in the "Southern Pacific" chapter of my book and website.

Tucson is very cool, too (with a lot of crusty art gallery spaces in the funky old downtown area, plus one of the country's best photography collections is housed at the Univ of Arizona: URL --

East of Tucson you're likely to love the look of Bisbee AZ, a great old mining town / art colony along US80 (and home to the "original" Airstream Trailerpark Motel, the Shady Dell!) And the drive along US80 takes you thru some very photogenic scenes (the Guadalupe Mountains Nat'l Park in NW TX is fantastic if you like the Great Outdoors, and across southern New Mexico there are many oddball towns with great old neon signs, murals, and so on...)

Marfa TX, home of El Cosmico, is pretty neat (a bit "discovered," but with good coffee!) -- and it definitely very visual. The drive north thru Fort Davis is pretty spectacular, too. Texas is huge though -- 1000 miles across, so be prepared for some tedium...

Houston is an eccentric city for sure -- and if you like kitschy art, you must stop by the Orange Show, -- URL -- which is a world center for outsider art and "art car" creativity.

Heading east, another intriguing and visual piece of roadside art, the Bible-inscribed concrete gardens of Margaret's Grocery, stand outside Vicksburg MS, along the Mississippi River (I have a picture of it in my book Road Trip USA, on page 778-779... So long as you can turn a blind eye to the predominant WalMart/Waffle House highway sprawl, the whole Deep South can be quite visually compelling.

And your endpoint, Savannah, is totally gorgeous -- and full of lots of creative types, thanks to the presence of the SCAD art school, which has brought a lively vibe to the town's fine old buildings and some classic diners, too.

Hope some of this helps you have a great drive -- Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA


Hey Jamie --

Thanks for all the great road trip tips -- your reply reached me as I was setting off, and I had a great trip (without your suggestion I would have missed that great museum in Tucson!)

I'll write again with more details as soon as I can -- but for now -- THANX!

all best,



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