Getting Off the Beaten Path
Road trips can be a memorable and fun way to see different parts of the country. Driving to your destination allows you a glimpse into the little-recognized attractions and charm of smaller towns and byways, which you would never have occasion to see if you flew directly to the big city.
When planning a road trip, many people plot out their route with help from online sources (like MapQuest) or traditional road atlases (like the Rand McNally Road Atlas). Even some diehard road-trippers prefer the most direct route from Point A to Point B, and tend to stick with the large interstate highways that crisscross the nation.
Some travelers, however, prefer to get off the beaten path and experience a different view of America. Staying away from major interstates is one way to do this, as is taking a less-direct route to your destination.
Getting Off the Beaten Path: A Primer
Short of talking to someone who has done a similar road trip before you, it might seem difficult at first blush to find information about the lesser-known back roads and tiny towns across the country. You might be surprised at the wealth of resources, however, once you start to look around.
Read a Book
The following travel guides are a great place to start when planning your off-beat road adventure:
- Insight Guide United States: On the Road - 334 pages packed with travel tips, beautiful photographs, and itinerary suggestions for back-roads wanderings. You'll also find maps and contact information for attractions.
- Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America's Two-Lane Highways - focusing primarily on smaller highways and thoroughfares, this book will truly give you a behind-the-scenes view of this great country of ours. Offers 11 pre-planned road trips. 964 pages.
- Road Trip America: A State-by-State Tour Guide to Offbeat Destinations - while not meant to be a comprehensive guide by any means, this little book will serve as an ideal starting point for any road-tripper who wants to see the wacky attractions that few know about. 112 pages.
The Internet has long been a wonderful resource for up-to-the-minute travel information and opinions from average people who've "been there and done that." Check out the following websites for some ideas for your own back-country road trip:
- Roadside America, billed as "your online guide to offbeat tourist attractions" offers a plethora of kitschy, kooky, and just plain unexplainable attractions throughout the United States. (The biggest pit in the world? Try Copperton, Utah. Love fossilized timber? Check out the Petrified Wood Park in Lemmon, South Dakota.) The site also offers online maps of major cities, and the little-known but unique attractions that surround them. Search for attractions by state, or read strange news articles you probably haven't read anywhere else.
- Offbeat Travel calls itself "your travel portal to offbeat places and unusual destinations, with a fresh look at old favorites." It features regularly-updated articles on various places, not only in the United States, but also in Canada and abroad. You'll find information on upcoming festivals and events, as well as lesser-known museums and other attractions. Become a subscriber and receive regular newsletters in your email Inbox.
- Two Lane Roads is a website dedicated to the RV traveler who likes traveling on back roads. You'll find maps and itineraries for a wide variety of routes from the West Coast to the East, and none of them include interstates or even franchise restaurants for lunch breaks. The emphasis here is on RV parks and campgrounds.
You can also find a lot of information online about the destination you're heading toward, and chances are you'll find some interesting tidbits about little-known attractions and locales you'll want to see.
As long as you plan your way, and have a good idea of where you're headed, you can enjoy the call of the asphalt byways of the nation, and embark on an adventure like no one else.Other Topics in This Section
- Tent or RV Camping
- How To Pull A Trailer
- Pre-trip Maintenance
- How To Map Your Route
- Planning Your Getaway
- RV Handling & Driving Tips
- Finding a Place to Park Your RV
- Getting Off the Beaten Path
- Roadside Attractions: Stopping Along the Way
- How To Reach Your Destination Safely
- How To Buy a Sailboat
- How To Buy a Power Boat
- Vintage Cars and Rallies
- Should You Join a Car Club?
- Fun with ATVs
- Saving Money on the Road
- How to Plan a Road Trip
- Stocking Your RV
- Top Ten Seasonal Scenic Drives
- Traveling With Your Pet
- National Parks
- Hitting the Slopes
- Preparing An Emergency Kit
- Preparing A First-aid Kit
- Crossing the Border
- Gambling Getaways
- Paper Maps and Online Guides
- Guide to GPS
- Wireless Maps on Cell Phones
- Beach Excursion
- Avoiding Road Construction
- Sample Trip Itineraries