With summer just around the corner, our thoughts naturally turn to that vacation ritual, the road trip. Load the car, load the map, then forget the map, but don’t forget the kids, for the gleaming highway awaits you. North, south, east, or west, all directions lead to adventure, new sights, new experiences, or homecomings. Manhattan Public Library has a large travel section on the second floor that includes hundreds of titles about venturing onto the open road in search of new and exciting places.
What was perhaps the first road trip was taken by Horatio Nelson Jackson who, to win a 50 dollar bet, claimed he could cross the country by automobile in 90 days. Jackson left San Francisco on May 23, 1903 and drove into New York City 63 days later. You won’t need quite as much time to drive coast to coast, but a good guide could come in handy. “Let’s Go: Roadtripping USA: The Complete Coast-to-Coast Guide to America” features eight classic cross-country road trip routes, along with hundreds of suggestions for places to eat, drink, and sleep along the way. For more about that first road trip, read “Horatio’s Drive,” by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns.
If you want to get your kicks on Route 66, check out Tom Snyder’s “Route 66: Traveler’s Guide and Roadside Companion.” Manageable sections are highlighted for the entire 2,448 mile length of the Neon Road from Chicago to Los Angeles. The second half of the book features facts and trivia about places and people along the route.
The Interstate Highway System is the envy of the world, but sometimes those old narrow state and U.S. highways offer a truer picture of America. Try “Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America’s Two-Lane Highways” by Jamie Jensen. The guide covers 35,000 miles of blacktop through the heart and soul of America.
Feel like rambling? Then “Ramble: A Field Guide to the U.S.A.,” by Eric Peterson is the book for you. Celebrating 250 American attractions and six mythic road trips, this travelogue describes each regional chapter using maps, out-of-the-ordinary statistics, and listings of not-so-run-of-the-mill tourist destinations. Chapters are divided into sections including Big Things and Other Road Art (unique sights), R.I.P. (famous graves), Vice (something naughty going on), Sleeps (where to stay), Grub (where to eat), and Huh (the unusual).
“USA 101: A Guide to America’s Iconic Places, Events, and Festivals,” by Gary McKechnie, is a reverential yet lighthearted look at America in all its quirky diversity. From the Grand Ole Opry to Mount Rushmore, from polka festivals to monster truck rallies, this guide showcases legendary places and hometown events that identify America.
If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, “Weird U.S.: A Freaky Field Trip through the 50 States,” will take you there. Author Matthew Lake shows you where to find the world’s biggest ball of twine, among other weird, freaky, and unbelievable creatures and places.
Summer crowds can be unbearable, so a guide to uncrowded spots is just what the doctor ordered. “Off the Beaten Path: A Travel Guide to More than 1,000 Scenic and Interesting Places Still Uncrowded and Inviting,” fills the prescription for an enjoyable road trip. The guide features quick day outings as well as longer vacation trips.
For the more historically inclined, there are several excellent guides from which to choose. “Progressive Nation,” by Jerome Pohlen, for example, is a travel guide to over 400 inspiring landmarks and left turns highlighting the Progressive Movement in the U.S. “America’s Best Historic Sites,” by B.J. Welborn lists 101 places to see, spanning more than 1,000 years of history.
Civil War enthusiasts will be interested in “The Complete Civil War Road Trip Guide,” by Michael Weeks. The book outlines ten suggested itineraries for short road trips that cover every major battle of the war and contains complete information on and reviews of almost 450 historical sites across the United States related to the Civil War.
Remember to visit the library before you leave, and be careful on the road. Just in case you’re wondering: That big ball of twine could be in Cawker City, Kansas or Darwin, Minnesota or even Branson, Missouri. It all depends on who you ask.