Thursday, April 01, 2010

US50 -- Roadside Americana in a Classic British Sports Car



Dear Road Trip,

I live in a Denver CO suburb and am a collector of old cars. For a number of years I have entertained the notion of a cross country trip on primarily two lane roads in one of my 40+ year old Lotus cars. Call it a bit of a nostalgic recapturing of the simpler times of the past. As I get older, I realize that doing is better than having, and memories are the best things we create. I thought that using a Lotus as the tool would add some uncertainty to the process, though it would also add the feel of what our parents and grandparents would have experienced in their travels and, I’m sure will provide stories for future winter nights. I selected US 50 as the perfect combination of a reasonably direct route and predominately a two-lane road where possible.

The start point would be Point Lobos, at the west end of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco where the road is close enough to the ocean that one could dip a toe into it and walk to the car still wet. The ending point; Ocean City, Maryland, a town whose name says all it needs to say. If I carried that shoe dipped into the Pacific in a sealed bag, I could don it and repeat the feat, symbolically mixing the water of the two oceans. Then from Ocean City, MD it is but a short hop to the planned gathering of Lotus owners at Gettysburg in October. Perfect…

Then got a call from some Lotus friends who wanted to join me, so now we have two old Lotus cars to go across the country!

I have planned the route stops pretty well for 250 -300 miles a day and have some great Americana stops planned (Bent's Fort in CO, the Tallgrass Prairie in Kansas, Gateway Arch) but I am wondering what stops would show these two Brits the diversity of the American landscape between St. Louis and Washington, DC. Can you suggest some must see sights along the way?

Thanks,

Ross

PS. Next year (2011) the Great River Road and in 2012 Border to Border. What a great book for daydreaming and planning.


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Hello Ross --

Thank you for writing in to Road Trip USA, and I hope I can help you make this a great trip.

You've made a good start by choosing US50 -- that is my favorite cross-country route

(I live near the west end, almost within sight of Pt Lobos / Lands End -- which is a fantastic spot to kick off a trip! For a photo opportunity, drive over near the Palace of the Legion of Honor -- the original west end of the legendary Lincoln Highway -- and pose with the car along El Camino del Mar, in front of the Golden Gate Bridge).

The rest of the route across California is not US50's best stretch, but the run around Lake Tahoe more than makes up for all the urban/suburban/exurban sprawl.

Are you doing the "Loneliest Road" across Nevada? That is a great run (but not for the mechanically fearful -- it's a good 100 miles between services.). Driving a vintage British automobile is an act of bravery, and will certainly give you increased respect for pioneers and Pony Express riders who went here before you.

:-)

OK, onto your question: good stops between StL and Wash DC. One place you'll simply _have_ to take your visiting Brits is the Vincennes Monument in the eponymous Indiana town, along the Wabash River. The town is all-American (small, quaint and dusty...), but the Revolutionary War history, and the huge memorial itself, is significant.

I have a neat old postcard image, and a little of the story, in my Road Trip USA book -- on page 710.

For a change of pace, and yet more historic interest, think about staying the night in the magnificent and nearby West Baden Springs hotel -- a grand old palace where Al Capone used to hold court. It has been well restored, and is part of a small casino. (If you are a basketball fan, Larry Bird's hometown, French Lick, is next door.)

Here's a URL -- and if you stay, let me know what you think!

Heading east, if any of your travel partners are fans of whiskey (bourbon actually) , I'd recommend a detour off US50 south into Kentucky (Louisville is a very pleasant mid-sized city).

Cincinnati has some interesting places (and there may be some "Oktoberfest action, thinking of all the German heritage hereabouts), and across Ohio are yet more intriguing stops -- I like the many ancient and enigmatic Native American mounds, as preserved at Mound City / Hopewell Culture National Park, near the blue-collar town of Chillicothe.

Coming in toward DC, you have one last great stop: the quaint town of Winchester VA, the "preserved in amber" small town where Patsy Cline grew up. And on the outskirts of DC are Manassas battlefield and the somber green of Arlington cemetery -- both of them moving, beautiful and thought-provoking spots.

Hope these ideas help you make the trip a memorable one -- please send me some pictures of your adventure.

Happy Trails,


Jamie Jensen
--
Road Trip USA

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1 Comments:

Blogger Chung Gin said...

Thank you so much for this entry!

This is exactly what I need! I am also a single 20something girl that is eager to try a big road trip on my own but is holding back due to family concerns.

I already own a copy of Road Trip USA, and am eager to see them all with my own eyes(too ambitious, i know..lol). Definitely lots of food for thoughts. :)

Thanks to Sally for writing the letter and thank you for responding!

1:03 PM  

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