Contrary to popular belief Americans do travel. Though not overwhelmingly visible overseas, there exists a national preoccupation the good ole’ American Road Trip. Chances are, if you’re an American, you’ve experienced this phenomena in some form or fashion, whether it’s a drive from Ohio to Indiana to visit grandma, a weekend trip from California to Las Vegas, or a true blue cross-country drive from Washington State to Maine.
My first road trips manifested themselves as treks from Rochester, New York to Southern Maryland to visit my grandparents. My first major road trip came in college, when a group of friends and I drove from Niagara Falls, New York where we went to school, to Opelika, Alabama to participate in a protest. That was an invigorating ride. A bunch of college kids crammed in a van, swapping stories, snacks, singing songs, taking pictures. I was fascinated by the culinary differences as we forged further south, food became heartier, more savory, and came in enormous portions usually drenched in sauce. One of my favorite road trips was a simple drive up the California coast in 2002, when a friend and I took the long way from San Francisco to Los Angeles. As an east coast girl, I was romanced by the landscape. The colors were so vibrant, the contrast between the ocean and the hills took my breath away. I remember falling in love with the exotic breezy Californian coast. One of the beautiful things about the vast land mass that is America, is that you don’t have to leave the county to experience different climates, geographic phenomena, cultures, food, sights and sounds. The deserts of New Mexico after all, can be a life altering exotic experience to a person from, say, Harrisburg, PA.
For the holidays, my husband and I found ourselves hitting the open road on a sojourn southwards, one that took us from Brooklyn, New York to Orlando, Florida. It was a beautiful ride. I was able to knit two scarves. I was able to throw my head back while waving my bare feet out of the window beneath the warm southern sun. I sang (much to the annoyance of everyone else in the car) at the top of my lungs to every playlist on my i-phone. There were many wonderful stops along the way, including Christmas with family at our home in Brandywine, Maryland, an idyllic afternoon in Savannah, Georgia, a sophisticated evening in Charleston, South Carolina, and ringing in New Years with Mark’s family in Orlando, Florida.
In many ways, this post could be called “A Tale of Two Americas.” That small mid-Atlantic stretch along the I-95, illustrated the cultural and regional diversity that makes America so fascinating and complex. Neighbors by proximity, the cultural, linguistic, and geographic distinctions that divide the borders between the north and the south can create the feeling at times that one is exploring a foreign and exotic new world. On the southern side, life moved slower, the sun warmed the winds as if it were spring, anything it seemed was game to be killed and barbecued, moss draped elegantly from low languid trees, regional pralines were a prized delicacy and everything seemed to be followed with a sweet drippy “y’all.”
Our journey took 72 hours each way as we took our time exploring the sites and cities that sparked our imagination. We were also totting a 16 month-old backseat driver who was just as curious as we were about our Southern neighbors and their usually refreshing brand of hospitality.
If you find yourself traveling south along I-95, you may want to check out:
George Washington’s birthplace in Westmoreland County, Virginia
Richmond, Virginia (check out Monument Avenue)
Charleston, South Carolina (enjoy a lovely meal by the water, or check out the fancy shops and boutiques near the University of Charleston)
Tuskegee Airman Monument in Walterboro, South Carolina
Koger Plantation in Dorchester County, South Carolina
Frampton Plantation House in South Carolina
The Kingdom of Oyotunji: An African Kingdom in South Carolina
Savannah, Georgia (head downtown to Historic Savannah, and check out the restaurants and shops along the water)
Daytona Beach, Florida (DOLPHINS! Romantic sunset)
For tips on how to plan your next road trip, visit www.roadtripamerica.com.