Saturday, October 19, 2013

Guest Post: Discover America by Road

It wasn't long after the invention of Carl Benz' motorized automobile in 1886 that the concept of the 'road trip' was born. The earliest voyages across America were epic, two-month journeys, such as the one taken in 1903 by H. Nelson Jackson, his co-driver Sewall K. Crocker, and a dog named Bud; or by Alice Ramsey and her three female passengers in 1909, who took 59 days to reach San Francisco from Manhattan.

Jack Kerouac's On the Road, which was first published in 1957, became an instant classic and has remained one of the great books of the 20th century. Using the voyage west across the United States as a backdrop, it is considered the defining work of the beat generation. 

The vast landscape of the US boasts a great tradition of road trips. Books and even rock and roll songs have been written about America's most loved highways, which is almost a rite of passage for young Americans. In fact, when considering travel in the US, it's almost impossible not to picture the road as an integral part.

Classic routes

The US is a vast country, so you can choose whether to take in a dozen states and thousands of miles or explore a smaller area: Either way, you're sure to expand what you know about America, experiencing national treasures as well as small town landmarks.

Going coast to coast, the epic 3,200 mile stretch from America's Eastern Seaboard to California can be reached via a number of ways: US-20 takes drivers from Massachusetts to the Oregon Coast via Boston, Chicago, and the Yellowstone National Park; while US-50 takes drivers through 'the backbone of America', from Chesapeake Bay to San Francisco, via the Appalachian and Rocky Mountain ranges, the vast, empty landscape of the Great Plains and the Utah and Nevada deserts, following in the footsteps of the pioneers who crossed the frontier into the Wild West back in the 1800s.

The Pacific Coast, from The Canadian border to San Diego, spans 1500 miles of astonishingly beautiful country, from the green forests of Washington State to the desert landscape and white beaches of southern California.

Route 66, a legendary route spanning two thousand miles between Los Angeles and Chicago, encapsulates US history in one road trip: before it became a paved road in 1926 this corridor was the National Old Trails Highway, later being dubbed "the Main Street of America" and "The Mother Road" in Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

Shorter routes take drivers through the four corners of the American Southwest - Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah - on a 525-mile route starting in Flagstaff, Arizona; on the 'Overseas Highway' US-1 through the fascinating, everglades landscape of the Florida Keys; and on a tour of Louisiana's Creole Country on the 70-mile Cane River Road, a circular route around old plantations and riverfront communities.

Attractions discovered by road

A US road trip ought to include at least one of America's natural wonders, such as Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon, as well as taking its travelers into mythical landscapes such as Utah's red rock country and California's towering redwoods. America's highways guide drivers into national parks, including California’s Yosemite and Yellowstone, which straddles three states, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

America is littered with national monuments that include The White House (Washington DC), Mount Rushmore (South Dakota), the Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco), and the Liberty Bell (Philadelphia); but it's also full of lesser-known roadside attractions that are scattered all across the United States, from the massive 'Randy's Donuts' sign in Inglewood, California and the art installation Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo Texas to the massive scrap metal sculptures placed along the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota.

Planning a road trip

Before setting off on your road trip, it's vital that you consider road safety and car maintenance. Give your car a check-up at the garage, change the oil, inflate the tires - and of course, fill up the gas tank.

Alternatively, you could rent a car - one way car rental has become more widespread in America thanks to the evergreen popularity of road trips. Consider getting a GPS system, and invest in a good cooler and zip lock bags.

Bring maps! Research distances between the places you want to see and plan a daily driving schedule - but be prepared for unforeseen weather and other circumstances that may lead to a change in plans. Don't force yourself to drive all day, every day - a road trip should be nothing if not fun.

Book hotels or campgrounds in advance as places can fill up in high season, and pack to be prepared: Remember that there's no luggage restrictions in a car, so take extra water, emergency provisions, a well-stocked first aid kit, and raingear.

If a road trip stays within the US border, US residents will not need passports or visas, although carrying some form of ID at all times is wise. Remember that should you cross into Canada or Mexico (unwittingly or intentionally), you will be subject to border control requirements.

For travelers who want to know more about online visa application, you may visit US Visa Waiver for more information.

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