Road Trip Season

Memorial Day is approaching fast, so now’s the time to start planning some fun summer escapes. If the Kentucky Derby or Indy 500 qualifying didn’t inspire you to pull out the road atlas and start sketching your route, don’t worry: I’ll be posting here for the next few weeks, offering timely ideas and suggestions for road trips you can take, all over the USA. Whether you dream of scenic drives down two-lane country roads, family camping in national parks, or visits to state fairs and BBQ stands, Road Trip USA has got you covered. America is a vast and varied land, so I’ll highlight special places all over the country, choosing locations that are at their very best, from New England to the desert Southwest, from Florida to the Pacific Northwest.

Memorial Day traditionally marks the start of road trip season, and because summer is mostly about fun, it’s all too easy to forget the somber significance of Memorial Day itself, which was established as a national holiday to remember those we lost during the Civil War. Civil War battlefields make an obvious destination for a history-minded road trip, particularly ones preserved as national parks like Gettysburg in Pennsylvania’s Dutch Country, or Chickamauga near Chattanooga, Tennessee. Some of the most moving Memorial Day events take place in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC, final resting place for more than 300,000 soldiers, sailors, nurses and presidents.

Meanwhile, way out in the Wild West, Memorial Day marks the time of year when winter snows are finally melting from the highest mountain passes, allowing families and friends to hit the road to visit our greatest national parks. After spending much of the last six months in virtual hibernation, by the end of May, these incredibly scenic roads welcome drivers and riders once again. From now until the first snows start to fall sometime in November, you can explore unforgettable drives like Tioga Pass Road at the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park, the Beartooth Highway to Yellowstone National Park, and the Going-to-the-Sun Road across Glacier National Park.

Though not as famous as Yosemite or Yellowstone, Glacier National Park is perhaps the wildest of all the parklands in the lower 48 states. The sole driving route across Glacier is a doozy: the winding Going-to-the-Sun Road is a narrow, 50-mile path carved out of the mountain cliffs in 1932, and the task of opening it to travelers each summer is so monumental that the snow plows have their own web page.

Finally, if your idea of a perfect summer day has more to do with soft sands than icy glaciers and towering peaks, you can hit the road to summer resorts like Ocean City Maryland, at the east end of the great cross-country highway, US-50. I myself prefer the peace and quiet of more “natural” coastlines, such as Cape Hatteras or Big Sur on the legendary Pacific Coast Highway, but that’s the great thing about road trips: on the road, there’s always something for everyone.