The Great American Road Trip #1

It is the size of America that astounds the European, for whom a mere twenty miles (say Holland to Germany) entails meeting a new country, a new people, a new language.

The Great American Road Trip is the shangri-la of many European travellers. It’s a dream as old as Tocqueville (one recently revived with grating pomposity by Bernard Henri-Levy). My battered Rough Guide to the USA lists “hitting the open road” in its things everyone should do in America (next to #35, Pike Place Market, Seattle, Wa.–been there, done that). One imagines Big Sky Country, an empty road, utterly straight, jetting through the desert like a UFO on its way to Roswell.

My Great American Road Trip was of the East Coast variety, where the towns are more interesting, and the scenery a great deal more gemütlich. Think Great Smokey Mountains rather than cacti and dust.

We had been holidaying in Orlando. Most Brits in Florida have a week in Disneyville then head off to the coast for some R&R, but we had to get home to Baltimore. Rather than take the bland I-95 route that rockets from New York to Miami, we took the scenic route through the mountains. On the map it doesn’t look that big, but, for example, a drive up I-81 through Virginia–the freeway that follows the spine of the Appalachian mountains–is about 320 miles. That is the equivalent of Birmingham to Edinburgh. In other words, a pretty long way. Add to it Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Maryland and you have one hell of a road trip: 1200 miles, one car, three days. Stories of the Great American Road Trip and a few photographs will follow.



  1. that sounds great. i have also always loved road trips — whether in America or a kid we did that a lot. in fact, when i lived in connecticut, we drove from there to san francisco to visit my grandparents — and we did it the “long way” by driving down the east coast, then turning “right” at florida, heading through texas to dallas to visit friends there, then through the southwest on a circuitous route to sf.Arizona and New Mexico make for great roadtrips too, my friend. don’t be dissin the open road in the desert, the sangre de cristo mountains and santa fe, or the high passes around fact, i have noticed that among my german and dutch friends, the ideal american roadtrip has seemed to be precisely in the expanses of the american desert, experiencing the scorching heat of the wonders of the grand canyon, southern utah with all its national parks, the sierra nevadas and into yosemite. for me and allison, we get into that but have also enjoyed the roadtrips we have taken through germany and holland, and the interrail trips covering much wider times.


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