Home » Coast to coast: 5 unexpected fringe benefits of road-tripping across America

Coast to coast: 5 unexpected fringe benefits of road-tripping across America

written by Jo Stewart November 29, 2017
An open road stretches through the desert

The Golden Age of motor travel may have ended with the advent of air travel but the Great American Road Trip is still alive and kicking.

Driving across America will reveal cinematic landscapes, bizarre roadside oddities and laugh-out-loud town names, but the wins don’t end there. Here are five unexpected benefits of road-tripping across the U S of A.

1. Seeing Small Town America

An old hand-painted sign in Arizona.

Silver Nugget sandwiches. Photo by Jo Stewart.

Sure, you could just tick off New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and the other well-known heavyweights but how many of your friends have been to Ely, Nevada? Or Sandusky, Ohio? What about Cody, Wyoming? Or Stowe, Vermont? Road-tripping across the country gives you the opportunity to spend time in places you may have never heard of before. America’s smaller, satellite cities and teeny tiny towns are dream destinations for travellers keen on avoiding tourist crowds, meeting down-to-earth folk and buying truly terrible souvenirs like gaudy fridge magnets and kitsch snow globes.

2. Visiting weird museums

Two creepy sculptures in Death Valley, USA

Goldwell Open Air Museum, Death Valley. Photo by Emily Kratzmann.

Los Angeles has the Getty. New York has the Guggenheim. Florida has the Kennedy Space Center. While America’s big cities can hang their hats on world-class cultural institutions that are visited by thousands each day, lesser-visited cities and towns have something different altogether. On a road trip across the country, you’ll get to experience the salty, canned glory of the SPAM Museum in Minnesota. Or an in-depth look at the planet’s most influential soft drink at the World of Coca Cola in Atlanta. Perhaps the Asheville Pinball Museum in North Carolina is more your thing? Regardless of your interests, inland America is choc-full of quirky museums dedicated to all manner of random, strange things… even canned goods.

READ MORE: WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE A WINTER BREAK ON AMERICA’S WEST COAST

3. Spending less time at airports

Vintage petrol pumps on Route 66.

Petrol pumps on Route 66. Photo by Cassandra Wallace.

Airports are a necessary part of life. Whether you’re the type of person who arrives four hours early for a flight or have to hear your name paged through the whole airport three times before boarding, there’s a case for spending less time in airports. Flying domestically in the USA is mostly convenient but when considering flight delays, long queues, zealous security offers, exorbitant airport snack costs and annoying inflight armrest hogs (worst!), driving across America becomes much more attractive. On a long drive you are king of the road. You can stop to take photos frequently, stretch your legs when you like and make a pit stop for some roadside snacks that catch your eye (hello there, tater tots).

4. Enjoying hype-free dining

A glass of juice and bowl of potatoes at a US diner.

Simple diner fare. Photo by Helio Ha on Unsplash

From ‘mom and pop’ style eateries to greasy diners filled with truckers, and quiet, neighbourhood restaurants pumping out honest-to-goodness fare, a road trip across America will reveal many quietly incredible people making delicious food, without any fanfare. While the crowds are lining up to nab a table at the latest must-visit pizza joint in Brooklyn, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of other pizza joints doing great things with gluten and mozzarella. They’re usually way cheaper too.

READ MORE: WHAT TO SEE ON A WALKING TOUR OF SAVANNAH, USA

5. Stitching together the patchwork of America, one mile at a time

The Intrepid van in a US national parkAnyone who watches the news will see how incredibly complicated America is. Driving coast to coast offers you the opportunity to truly immerse in all things USA. From talking to local hikers while camping in the Great Smoky Mountains to trading stories with strangers at a Cubs game in Chicago, and watching people weep at Elvis Presley’s grave at Graceland, every gas station, bar, diner, convenience store, camp ground, stadium and motel will reveal the very fabric of the state you’re travelling through. By the end of the journey you will have cobbled together a patchwork quilt of stories that could never come from zipping across the country in a plane. You just might also have a wicked souvenir from the SPAM Museum too.

Want to experience the great American road trip yourself? Check out our range of small group adventures across the US of A now. 

Feature image by Stefan Machler via Unsplash. 

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5 comments

Tony Hill July 22, 2018 - 6:28 pm

Did Route 66 solo the other year – during the latter stages of the Trump v Clinton Presidential Race with Halloween transformed houses, which was weird, morbid and strange too Jo Stewart. Chicago to L.A., taking in much of what this article describes, a mash up of classic American road-trip movies and creating my own with a great soundtrack. 20th century ghost towns, remnants of the 50’s and 60’s American dream, vast landscapes and forgotten people, offbeat roadside attractions. My book is called Route 66 Kicks

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Vanessa Perumal June 24, 2018 - 9:05 pm

Hi I am already loving this chat. We are from South Africa and our biggest challenge is the high cost for us to travel to the USA. we are finally taking the plunge and we are a family of four. Is road trips are train or flights the best. We would like to ideally in a 35 period if all goes well do four big places New York, Cuba, New Orleans and Mexico. Is this crazy pie in the sky or is it possible. looking forward to your help. How can we get in touch with you

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Chantelle Marshall April 2, 2018 - 12:35 am

My top tips for road tripping across the USA:
1. Where possible, travel east to west! The time zone changes will help you, not add time onto your journey if you go the other way
2. Whatever time the GPS says it takes to get to your destination, add 25% more for traffic (there are ALWAYS crashes on US roads), and another hour or so for stops (fuel, Restroom and Dairyqueen blizzards ofcourse!)
3. Don’t use the hotel valet or parking as it’s extraordinarily expensive. Use Parking apps like Parkwhiz to get fantastic rates at garages close to where you’re staying
4. Podcasts are your new best friend on long drives, they are the most awesome way to pass the time!

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Emily Kratzmann April 3, 2018 - 8:47 am

Thanks for the tips, Chantelle – these are awesome!!

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Florence Annison March 27, 2018 - 8:01 am

THANKS… I do enjoy getting your emails…stimulates my urge to wander ……………..again ………….

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