The reasons for taking a trip across the country may have changed since the days of covered wagons and Horace Greeley’s directive to “Go West”, but the promise of adventure is the same. Whether traveling the interstate or following the two lane highways that make up parts of the old Route 66, a cross-country trip provides great opportunities to explore areas of history and natural beauty, experience the cultural offerings of a new city or region, and see places of kitschy amusement. Once you’ve packed your bags, filled the tank, and purchased some single trip travel insurance – it’s time to hit the road!
The first travelers to make cross-country trips went by horses and covered wagons. Their trails, homes, and the artifacts they left behind can still be found along the various trails to the West. For the history buff, the stopping points along the Oregon Trail are just a few of the historical locations that can still be visited. Civil War battle sites and ante-bellum homes dot the South and many stations on the Underground Railroad can still be seen in the North. Native American dwellings and drawings are still preserved or replicated to show what life was like before the pioneers’ arrival. Forts, mansions, and battlefields are evidence of human history across the country, but caves and fossil hunting opportunities are also available for those with an interest in natural history.
The United States has different regions – farmlands, forests, mountains, rivers, deserts, and swamps can all be seen. The National and State Parks should not be ignored. The National Park System offers a National Parks Pass that allows unlimited visits to any parks in the United States. This makes it a must for a cross-country trip. The Grand Canyon in Arizona is considered one of the major natural wonders of the world and Old Faithful, at Yellowstone National Park, in Wyoming amazes thousands of visitors each year. That (travel insurance) may come in handy when going down Pike’s Peak tests your car’s breaks, but the view at the top is well worth the trouble. Each state also has its own state park system, which is often extremely impressive and little visited. For example, Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park has red rock canyons full of 3,000-year-old Native American petroglyphs, yet most people don’t realize it’s only a 40-minute drive from Las Vegas.
While nature and scenic vistas will be an enjoyable part of the trip, the cities along the way have plenty of attractions, too. An easy Internet search or a sign by the side of the road will point you to a city’s chamber of commerce or a tourism bureau. These offices provide information about museums, dining, shopping, places to stay, and activities in the area. Places like Chicago’s Art Institute and Bourbon Street in New Orleans are world famous and should not be missed, but a tourist information office can suggest that great steak place in Kansas City, Missouri, or the unique Dinosaur Museum in Blanding, Utah.
The quirky and unusual can easily be found in the roadside attractions that sprang up on the legendary Route 66, but any cross-country route chosen will offer some memorable oddities. The Stonehenge of cars, Carhenge in Nebraska vies with the Cadillac Ranch of Texas for visitors’ interests. A fishing museum housed in a giant fiberglass Muskellunge can be found in Hayward, Wisconsin. Tourists can marvel at the gravity defying feats taking place in the Mystery House of Gold Hill, Oregon. Road signs and billboards will often lead the way to these treasures and places like Mitchell’s Corn Palace in North Dakota.
No matter the direction or the route, a cross-country trip has something for everyone. With a wealth of history, beauty, culture, and kitschy draws to choose from, such a trip is guaranteed to create a host of memories.