The Vine: September 17, 2010
I will be spending a month in the States shortly, flying into New York on the third of October and out of San Francisco third November. Those flights are pretty much my only parameters. I need to start formulating a plan. I have a vague idea of the places I definitely want to go (as well as the cities I am coming in and out of; that list looks something like: Miami, New Orleans, "the south"…and yes, am aware how hugely broad that is!, Palm Springs, Vegas).
Beyond this…well, understatement time — it's a pretty big country, that one you've got there! I would love some advice or recommendations, not just on where I should go but also best way to get there. Ye Olde Great American Road Trip is hugely appealing and I definitely want to drive for at least part of the time. However, I'd also love to not spend an entire month in the car, and truly get to spend some time in A and B rather than just on the road getting between them.
I thought maybe I should give you a little about me just in that it might make it easier for you or readers to make suggestions. I will be travelling with my boyfriend, who is a very practical and useful creature and can look after directions, changing tires and things where I tend to just flap and be all hopeless, we are both in our early 20s and both from Australia.
Also things we are most interested in doing/seeing on a dream list would be: getting to see or be a part of crazy or distinctly American things, be that getting a photo with the world's biggest ball of yarn, doing something special for Halloween (we totally don't celebrate this in Australia so I am quite excited to be there for it!), and of course "just" meeting interesting people, plus experiencing all different types of food and music.
I'd also add doing Into the Wild from a safe distance, if that makes any sense — I'm not hugely outdoorsy and don't mean to insult that fellow's experiences by comparison but, well, with some of your national parks and animals and things…how could we come to the U.S. and miss that?
As a general plan for the trip, I have vaguely been thinking we could fly to NYC, fly to Miami, pick up a car there and do a sort of (rose-coloured glasses firmly in place) BBQ/bourbon/jazz/blues-soaked trundle across the south, maybe through Nashville, Memphis and so on, over and up to the West Coast, if that's any help, too.
Okay, well, as most of the people who write in seem to say, that was longer than I thought it would be! I am just trying to get across how excited we both are about this trip, how open we are to ideas and ultimately how much I would value the input from a like-minded community of people as well as the lovely Sars herself, who has certainly road-tripped it in her time (!).
Thank you Sars and all your readers –
From The Probably Green and Overly Idealistic Girl Who Still Thinks "A Month In A Car? Sure, I Want Fried Green Tomatoes, Waffles and Awesome Memories — Let's Do It"
I will let the readers fill in the blanks here, mostly, because I've lived in the States my whole life and driven around a good portion of it, and I have still only seen and experienced a small fraction of it.
Some general advice: 1) The independent bookstore wherever you are is a great place to get inspired. Head for the local-history section and see what the area obsessions are — a nearby prison, a long-ago battle, whatever. Then let yourself be overheard speaking in a faraway accent. This doesn't tend to work in a metropolis like New York City, which is where all the faraway accents come to hang out, but Mississippi can spot a Yankee in about six words, and the next thing you know, you've got reading material for a month and two maps to the best po-boy sandwiches in the state.
1b) While you're in there, try to grab a copy of Roadside America and/or Weird U.S. Lots of hilarious ideas, and even if you don't see any of the things covered therein, it makes great reading-aloud material for those long stretches of interstate.
2) Get off the interstate. Set your GPS to "no expressways" and take the long way; get lost a few times. In my experience, the interstates go over the country while the smaller state roads and so-called blue highways go through it, and if you plan to spend that much time on the road anyway, you should get a real sense of the place.
3) Have a plan for each day, but one that's broad and general. In each city I went to on BCLC Tour, I had, like, one thing I definitely wanted to see, so I would see that thing in a leisurely way, and then I would let other things suggest themselves — or let the locals suggest them.
4) It's your trip. If there's super-famous Must-See stuff that you just don't care about, don't go. If you'd rather see a ball of twine than a battlefield, do that. All touristy stuff, no touristy stuff — it's your money.
5) If you get out to Brooklyn, we can meet here for a pint.
Readers, hit it — but please cap your recs at three per comment. Thanks!
Tags: Ask The Readers Big Country Little Car Tour city living travel