Elevate Difference

Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America's Two-Lane Highways

The fifth edition of Road Trip USA comes at an opportune time. Gas per gallon is down more than a dollar from last year, and in looking at a line graph projecting the U.S. unemployment rate, if it doesn’t trigger a desire to go on an uphill hike in the Colorado mountains, it exposes that there are plenty of people out there with newly found time on their hands. Time, I say, for a road trip.

What Jamie Jensen does with his colored photographs and charming details is provoke us to stop considering transit as a means to an end. What a concept! Go to an airport and try telling that to someone who is delayed, paying $13 for a tuna sandwich, or trying to sleep curled up in a chair. Leisure travel, as Jack Kerouac knew it, has long been replaced with super-fast and super-boring travel. But as Jensen’s book illustrates, a paper trail remains, and that trail is the two-lane blacktop, the highway, the old way.

If you are contemplating this book it’s likely you are also contemplating a trip of some kind. Unfortunately, time and budget tend to be inversely related (as the aforementioned unemployed can attest). But whatever your distance, Road Trip USA is a helpful tool for every adventurer. The book features eleven routes traversing North-South or East-West, with cross-references, 125 maps, a helpful index, essential tips for food and lodging, and entertaining write-ups on local gossip, lore, and legend. It’s perfect if you are traveling from your armchair too; just consider it a quirky history book.

I tested the book by reading about areas I’ve lived in or traveled through frequently. To my surprise, Jensen highlighted many of the local favorites in addition to must-see novelty. In fact ,I learned about places I had never heard of before. This proved to me that this guy is not only a good writer, but a good talker too. How else would he know about Chope’s in La Mesa, New Mexico?

Road Trip USA hunts down unobtrusive treasures from the past that are often overshadowed by what is bright, clean, and predictable. After reading this book you will never eat fast food again without wondering what you might be missing just down the street. Jensen shows that with a little creativity and an open mind, monotonous transport can easily become a memorable journey.

Written by: Katy Pine, September 18th 2009