Monday, September 13, 2010

Nov / Dec Road Trip?

Hi Jamie,

I have a few questions for you. I am planning a month long road trip beginning November 21st through December 22nd. I am departing from Boston, MA and driving to San Francisco, CA with stops in Denver PA, Hardy VA, Asheville NC, Nashville TN on my way to Memphis TN, Witchita KS, Denver and Boulder CO, Moab UT, Grand Canyon AZ, Death Valley CA, and Big Sur, CA. These stops are mostly planned for state parks and national forests as well as other attractions and where friends live. I have planned to stay in some places up to four days to really explore. Once I reach San Fran I will be taking the California Zephyr to Chicago where I will rent a car and drive to Dayton OH, Cleveland OH and on to Niagara Falls before taking a train back to Boston. Do you have any advice as to routes I could take to get off the beaten path, or attractions I should see? I'm specifically looking for a place between Witchita and Denver to pitch my tent - is Dodge City a good place to stay over night? I am a young female traveler and will be on my own. Let me know what you think!

And thanks so much.



Hi Bea --

Many thanks for your message, and I hope I can help you plan a great trip. You seem to know where you want to go, and if the weather cooperates I am sure you will have a memorable adventure. Though the days are short and the nights are getting cold, early winter can be an exhilarating time to travel -- and there's generally no one around to block the views.


For the first part of your trip, I definitely recommend you have a look at my "Appalachian Trail" route, where there are some very interesting offbeat stops -- especially west of DC, where scenic and historic Harpers Ferry, and funky Dinosaur Land, both await your inspection. Asheville NC is a very cool small city, and the surrounding Blue Ridge countryside is lovely. For the rest of your trip, in Road Trip USA I cover drives around Memphis (in the Great River Road); Moab (in my "Loneliest Road" chapters); the Grand Canyon (in Route 66); Niagara Falls (in my US20 "Oregon Trail" route); and of course Big Sur (along the Pacific Coast Highway), so in all of these I think you find enough off-the-beaten path places to keep you occupied.

However, to answer your specific question, between Wichita and Denver, I can't really recommend Dodge City -- it is not scenic, and is actually a semi-industrial city best known for its slaughterhouses (a lot of hamburgers come out of its meat-packing factories.) There is a small "Wild West" town attraction, and the Santa Fe Trail history etc is intriguing, but it's not a great place to pitch a tent, imho.

Instead, I suggest you look for somewhere to stay around the very interesting small Kansas town of Lucas, which is home to the fascinating + macabre "Garden of Eden" (which I cover in my book, and online at >

Having looked at your blog, I see you are an artist, so I think you will really enjoy another Lucas Kansas attraction: the Grassroots Arts Center on Main Street, which is a meeting place for all sorts of midwestern "outsider" artists who live and work out here in the great American "Middle of Nowhere". They have a website to whet your appetite:

Hope this helps!

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen


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