American Nomad Blog
About this blog
American Nomad covers the best of U.S. travel—from vacation deals to festivals, weekend getaways, travel tips, and more. A seasoned traveler and Moon author, Laura is the perfect guide to help discover new gems when traveling domestically.
- A Southern Girl's Wintertime Adventure in Yellowstone
- One Novelist's Odyssey Across America
- Gearing up for a Family Camping Trip
- Mint Juleps and More at Oak Alley Plantation
- Avoiding Identity Theft While on Vacation
- Money-Saving Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt
- Fashion, Fun, and Convenience for the Modern Traveler
- In Search of Irish Museums Across America
- The Inspiring Journey of a Solo Kayaker
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 2
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 1
- Experiencing Yosemite with YExplore
- Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning
- A Word About the TSA's No-No List
- A Reader's Advice About Airport Security
Interview with Road-Tripping Expert Jamie Jensen, Part 2
As I've mentioned on various occasions, I'm a huge fan of road-tripping across the United States. I suppose that, as Moon's American Nomad, that's not a big surprise. What might also not be surprising is how much I appreciate Jamie Jensen's Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America's Two-Lane Highways ($29.99), the sixth edition of which is being released this month. Yesterday evening, to celebrate the release, I posted the first part of an interview with the author himself.
Here, now, is the second part of that enlightening conversation:
American Nomad: What do you love most about road-tripping?
Jamie Jensen: I love just about everything – the sense of freedom and adventure. The food. Though I have to confess I don’t sleep well in strange places – which gets me up early so I can see more.
And, besides taking great trips and seeing new places, as I’ve gotten older, I find that after a trip I have more appreciation for home – a bit like Dorothy and the Land of OZ. Travel is a great adventure, but there’s no place like home – especially when you need a shower!
AN: Well, what's the craziest thing that's ever happened to you while road-tripping?
JJ: I’ve had lots of amazingly fun experiences – swimming in abandoned quarries in the sweltering heat of the Midwestern summer, climbing up into the spire of the Chrysler Building after a workman saw me staring up at it for hours on end, sharing scrumptious berry pies at sundry state fairs, it’s hard to say. But the single craziest moment probably happened at a very unlikely spot. I'd taken a midnight flight into New York City, rented a car, and driven around Manhattan at 3 a.m. (the one time there are no traffic jams!), then bombed down the New Jersey Turnpike, hoping to watch the sun rise over Cape May. I got tired, pulled into a rest area to take a nap, and fell soundly asleep. When I woke up hours later, I realized that I'd slept through the sunrise, and to make matters worse, my car was surrounded by orange cones, as a work crew was busy repainting all the white lines in the parking lot.
They all laughed when I honked my horn and shouted to get their attention, but fortunately, they cleared a path and let me drive away. Otherwise, I might still be there, painted into a corner.
AN: That's hilarious! So, given all the wonderfully crazy things you've experienced on the road, I'm sure it's hard to pick your favorite memories, but still, I have to ask... What's your favorite route?
JJ: I have lots of favorite drives – from the Million Dollar Highway and Going-to-the-Sun Road in the Rocky Mountains, to the Overseas Highway down in the Florida Keys. But if I have to name a single favorite route, it would have to be the stretch of Highway 1 between San Luis Obispo and Carmel on the central California coast. It’s fantastic fun to drive (or ride!), and has amazing scenery, as this narrow ribbon of black tarmac carries you high above the Pacific Ocean, past redwood forests, broad rivers, and great beaches. And, at either end, there are intriguing sights, from the architectural excess of Hearst Castle to the bohemian history of Big Sur and Carmel.
AN: So, given all the miles you've logged as an American road-tripper, what are some of your favorite roadside attractions, annual events, and other oddities across the United States?
JJ: Seeing a place at the right time can be crucial to understanding it. Being in New Orleans during Mardi Gras is a very different experience from being in the same place the following week, when everyone’s in sackcloth and ashes (or hung over...!)
I have to say that everything I’ve recommended in Road Trip USA – from BBQ stands in Georgia to lobster pounds up in Maine – are all “favorite” places. That’s why they’re in the book! But, of these, I do have a few spots I always look forward to visiting.
Up in New England, I really like the Franconia Notch area of New Hampshire, where the Old Man in the Mountain used to stand. In fall or anytime, the scenery along the Kancamagus Highway is lovely, the hiking possibilities just about endless, and there is one classic old “roadside attraction” everyone should experience at least once in their lives: Clark’s Trading Post, where you can “See Live Bears,” ride a wood-fired steam train through the forests, or buy some snow domes or other deliciously tacky souvenirs that make road-tripping such an obsession. There’s also a great diner, the Sunny Day, just a quarter-mile down US-3.
Out in the Rocky Mountains, on the way to Yellowstone, I love the town of Cody, Wyoming, which has a Smithsonian-worthy museum of western Americana, some great old Wild West saloons, and a wonderful rodeo – every night, every summer.
Down south, I love spending time in Memphis, for its hospitality, its great baseball park and excellent BBQ ribs, for all things Elvis, and for access to great live blues festivals in the nearby Mississippi Delta region.
Winter is a tough time for road trips, but come spring, I try to take a trip down to Arizona, for the desert wildflowers, the Spring Training baseball, and a chance to defrost. Route 66 is a great tour to make in Arizona – sleep in a teepee in Holbrook, tour the Hopi and Navajo lands like the unforgettable cliff dwellings of Canyon de Chelley, then end up at the only-in-America sight: London Bridge, spanning the Colorado River at Lake Havasu.
If you'd like to learn more about Jamie's road-tripping experiences and travel advice, stay tuned for his upcoming guest posts on The Moon Water Cooler blog. In the meantime, don't forget to enter Moon's current road trip giveaway – after all, you might just win one of three helpful gift cards and soon be planning your own cross-country adventure. For a few trip ideas, consider the 10 road trip routes that I suggested last spring, and don't forget to bring along some road trip essentials. Of course, no matter where you're headed next, I hope the trip is safe, happy, and memorable!
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Photo of bridge fishing alongside Florida's Overseas Highway © 2012 Daniel Martone / Text © 2012 Laura Martone