Sarah Yates says that when planning a road trip across the United States of America, there are a few things it pays to keep in mind:
So much to see
Firstly, the States are big. Really big. In fact, the States are huge. Pick an area and see it well. One of the benefits about this breathtaking country is that there is huge diversity in land and activities within a few hours of each other. You can be meandering with moose in Yellowstone National Park, with snow falling and settling lightly on the fir trees and move on to careening through the Canyonlands on mountain bikes in the desert surrounding Moab – all within a days drive.
Unless you have six months, it really is unreasonable to try and see the length and breadth. We drove 4800 miles in 4 weeks...in a loop out from San Francisco to Yellowstone National Park, down to Moab via Denver, across to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas, over to San Diego and then up Highway 1 along the Californian coast back to San Francisco. You should be wary of attempting more than that, because there is so much to see in between.
Name your camper….and measure the bed
Hiring a campervan is the most economical and (more importantly) the most enjoyable way of exploring the States. There are whole generations of people who are taking to the road. On our travels we met so many couples who had sold everything and bought a Winnebago to spend their twilight years living out the Great American Dream.
The USA is geared to the car and to really see everything on offer, you must have your home on your back…..or in this case, in your boot.
If you are over about 5ft 10in, you would be a fool not to get the measurements of the bed in the camper before you book. Trust me; spending four weeks in a campervan in a bed that is too short is not exactly fabulous. There is nowhere else to put your feet if they do not fit in the bed - except the sink - and that does not really count.
Spending lots of time in a camper, you get to know the car. It becomes personal and it becomes a part of your memories of roads, national parks, cities, deserts, sunrises and sunsets. Your camper will become your friend, so name it. We called ours George. After all, it would be rude not too.
It is about the journey, not the destination
Clichéd I know, but when it comes to the States, it is absolutely true. Far removed from the actual places you will visit, there are so many impressions that are formed from just driving. Some of the greatest memories of your road trip will come from, well, the road.
Through it all, from California to New York runs the straight, straight American highway. So straight it is as if someone has ruled a line across the land. You will take photos of the flatness, the expanse of the country with this absurdly straight road down the middle.
Your road trip is about the exploration of one of the greatest countries in the history of human civilization. You will see fields of green and gold, ready to be harvested, standing tall against the breeze. There are quintessential farmhouses dotted across the landscape, red barns with white trim, wide porches and shady trees with tire swings hanging from them.
You will see yellow school buses making the rounds, picking up children and trundling them off to learn all about life from the insulation of their classrooms. Sunshine, fruit stalls, light-drenched plains and hope abound, juxtaposed with desert, salt-plains casinos and neon lights.
You will see it all from the windows of your camper and from your table parked up at sunset with a cold beer. You will become the person everyone is envious of - the ones in the van with no place to be, no place to go and no place in particular to be coming from.
About the author: Sarah Yates is an avid traveller who has made roaming the world with her husband Adrian a lifelong passion and her “real job”. She masquerades as a Psychologist when at home in Perth.
Have you taken a roadtrip in the States? What are your tips? Leave them in the comments section below. Or head to twitter and Facebook to share your stories and images. You can even email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you're ready to hit the roads, but want to see it with a small group, take a look through all our trips to the United States.
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