The Question: My boyfriend and I are two budget-conscious grad students and we'd like to book a week-long vacation. We've thought about all-inclusive vacations to Cuba, but are leaning more toward a road trip, perhaps to the States. Any recommended routes or destinations?
What's more memorable than a classic USA road trip? And what better time than while the loonie is strong and your patience is not weak, worn thin by children demanding constant stops to stretch their short legs. But I get ahead of you.
"The key to great U.S. road trips is not getting sucked into the Interstates," says Robert Reid, U.S. Travel Editor for Lonely Planet. "You'll find more fun if you go slow on the two-lane highways, the 'blue highways,' as [travel writer]William Least Heat-Moon called them."
There are endless choices, the veteran guidebook author says. It all depends where you cross the border and what you want to see out the window. Some suggestions:
Count 60 lighthouses in 60 hours across Maine. Follow the northern shoreline of the Mississippi River from Chicago toward the huge Paul Bunyan statue near Bemidji, Minn. Head for the West Coast's rugged and spectacular coastlines. Crisscross New Jersey in search of Fifties-era roadside diners.
Or if you find more time, drive a piece of Americana. "I think the real Route 66, at least in the sense of a little road taking big landscapes in its ride west, is actually Highway 50, which connects DC with San Francisco in 3,200 miles, more or less," says Reid, who also produces the online 76-Second Travel Show ( reidontravel.blogspot.com).
The western portion of the route packs a lot of scenery. "In a week, you could drive out of San Francisco, past Tahoe, to Great Basin National Park, into Utah and cut back south through Arches National Park - a landscape that looks like red fudge, and to the colourful Bryce Canyon National Park, via Vegas to Joshua Tree National Park … and back north to San Francisco. It's a national park wonderland out there."
As for the price of gas, consider rerouting latte money to the fuel pump fund now.
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