The great American road trip has been celebrated by iconic figures from Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac with his book ‘On the Road’ to music legends Simon & Garfunkel with their song ‘America’. The automobile, the mobile home and the Greyhound bus are the usual suspects, but to ring the changes, other modes of transport, most involving considerably more effort, have been attempted.
Follow the Trail
While the major adventure of crossing the Arabian Desert on a camel or the rather more tame one of hiking, staff in hand, along the pilgrim route in northern Spain leading to Santiago de Compostela both have their well-established traditions, the convention of hitting Highway 66, the interstate route that links the US’s two coasts, on one’s own four wheels, holds a special place in the heart of many travellers. There are enthusiasts meanwhile promoting the alternative Highway 55, first opened up by early settlers, and stretching from Maryland coastal town Ocean City to Sacramento in California.
Two Wheel Triumphs
Race Across America is an annual Cycle event that gives cyclists a serious workout. And rather more leisurely, but strenuous just the same, is the trip made in 2011 by a young couple on Tandem. Their fascinating website The Touring Tandem (www.touringtandem.com) charts a journey planned to follow a very non-traditional, interestingly circuitous route. It began on the Atlantic shore at Tybee Island, Georgia with a scheduled finish at Rialto Beach, in the state of Washington. A valiant effort was made, but when they got as far as Chicago, the crippling effects of tendonitis put an end to the cycling phase and the journey was completed by car. The couple report that favorite sights along the way included the home of writer Mark Twain in Hannibal, Missouri and Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
It is fitting that in a country that was largely ‘won’ with the indispensable help of equines, another stirringly impressive 2011 undertaking is a trip coast to coast on horseback being done by wounded forces veterans who are raising money for the organization Wounded Warrior. Among the participants are several non-riders who have had a rapid initiation into the art. The six-month long 3,300-mile trek began in Virginia, finishing up in California. With extremes of weather affecting the US during 2011’s record summer, many days involved completing just 10 miles rather than the target 20. After each night under canvas, the small party (just 5 in number), headed out early to get ahead of the advancing heat.
Celebs Get in on the Act
Route 66 attracts many road-lovers, not least bikers. Among them are celebrities who record the journey, such as Britain’s long-haired veteran comedian, Billy Connolly. Known for riding an eye-catching motor trike, the star kept UK audiences abreast of his trip. But this was not the full coast to coast experience, just the section from Chicago to Santa Monica, taking in St Louis, Oklahoma, Texas, as well as the Pacific Coast. Even then, it might have been called off, the motor tricycle suffering a nasty accident early on, which hospitalized its flamboyant rider.
It is surely time that a competition was devised for the most unusual means of getting across from coast to coast. Golfers could try to pitch and putt their way. A gliding club could consider it. Mule train would be a good nostalgic way to do it. Ahhh, to be on the open road!