Sunday, July 04, 2010

Take a Roadtrip.

The 4th of July is so perfectly timed-- a celebration of America right when the country is looking its best. We've got blue skies, full green forests, warm weather, and open highways just waiting to be traversed. So why not celebrate the country by getting out and admiring it on a road trip?

We celebrated my homeland just a little early, on our way out of the country late last month. Taking off from Albuquerque, NM, we headed to Los Angeles via Utah. With the detour, we treated ourselves to unbelievable landscapes, some glimpses of offbeat rural towns, and some very restful nights in the great outdoors. And along the way, I put together a few tips for letting go and enjoying the road.

1. Stop to photograph any cool signs you see. Who knows when you'll be taking this route again, so it's always worth taking a moment to stop and memorialize it. I made Bordeaux pull over in Cuba, NM to snap up this one.

2. Splurge on one good bottle of alcohol. Just make sure to enjoy it at the campsite, not while you're driving. To me, campfires and quiet desert nights just seem to set the perfect atmosphere for relaxing with a stiff drink. For a touch of Alcoholic Americana, we picked up a bottle of Knob Creek bourbon-- which, interestingly enough, tastes just like vanilla coke when splashed with a can of Blue Sky Cola.

3. Stop for a slice of pie. Support local cafes, where you'll usually get much better meals than at the chain diners or drive-thrus. We had a fantastic plate of green chile huevos rancheros at Cafe Eklectica in Moab (despite the unfortunate name).

4. Check messages. Zipping through small towns, you rarely get much of a chance to gain an in-depth look into local social life. But paying attention to small details, like general store message boards, can give you an instant glimpse into the lives of locals.

5. Have a bad meal every now and then. While there is some very good food to be enjoyed across the country, some trashy diner food can be a fun indulgence every now and then. Bad burgers and bad mexican are especially tasty.

6. For that matter, take some bad photos. The West seems to have been sculpted for photography, with it's dramatic forms, intense contrasts in light and shadow, and rich natural colors. But taking pictures too carefully in effort to conjure Ansel Adams can leave you with a very tame album. So point the camera wildly, snap away, and maybe you'll get some fun surprises.

7. Make sure to stop somewhere spectacular. We have a pretty unbelievable country, and it's a shame how many of us don't make the effort of really seeking out its best angles. Being from the Southwest, I'm pretty spoiled with unbelievable landscapes-- The Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Arches, and the pictured above Canyonlands are all within half a days drive from my parents doorstep-- but I hadn't seen any of them until the last few years.

8. Try out some facial hair. Or a new hairstyle, or some odd new clothes. You're going to be spending your days either alone or with total strangers, so it's the perfect time to try a new look.

9. Treat yourself to a pool at least once. I'm a fan of quiet isolation of tent camping in gorgeous national parks, but a big bright swimming pool can be a different way of celebrating the US of A. We swung by Las Vegas, where in the heat of summer a hotel room at a decent spot can cost you less than 3 ten dollar bills. Just remember that the Las Vegas shock takes an hour or so by the pool to wear off.

So that's all I came up with! Anyone else have some tips? Or suggestions of where to go? Or what to toast on the camp fire?

In the meantime, Happy 4th of July and enjoy the country while I'm gone!


Postcards and Coasters said...

Great post!

Tee, Passports and Postcards said...

What a fun list! I'm doing a semi-road trip next week so I'll be sure to follow these tips.

Jennifer said...

I love your post, it is amazing. I love to hear stories about a wonderful trip. Why? It is maybe because reading it makes me part of the trip. I am also a traveler and Utah is one of my favorite. Thanks for sharing your tips and maybe I can use some on my next road trip.

Sofia Britts said...

There are a lot of things you could do every summer, and it is a fine way to reward yourself for a job well done for that year. In our case, we go for a road trip with my family and friends to take view the various scenic places around the country, and usually, I prepare for it by taking a bit of cash every payday, but when the funds are short, I take up a loan to lessen the burden temporarily.