Get Your Motor Runnin’: 10 Terrific Road Trip Tales

By Emily Shetler

This article originally appeared in Tips on Life & Love from Simon & Schuster.

Low gas prices plus a strong economy means that a record number of folks will be hitting the road this summer. And why not? The road trip is the ultimate American getaway. See all that our country has to offer on your own schedule: incomparable national parks, quirky small towns, and miles of scenic history.

Get inspiration for your trip from these 10 tales of highway travel. Whether you’re already plotting a week on Route 66 or just want a good staycation read, stories from the road are always impossible to put down.

 

Life Is A Wheel

by Bruce Weber

Life Is a Wheel chronicles the cross-country bicycle trip Bruce Weber made at the age of fifty-seven, an “entertaining travel story filled with insightful thoughts about life, family, and aging” (The Associated Press).During the summer and fall of 2011, Bruce Weber, an obituary writer for The New York Times, bicycled across the country, alone, and wrote about it as it unfolded. Life Is a Wheel is the witty, inspiring, and reflective diary of his journey, in which the challenges and rewards of self-reliance and strenuous physical effort yield wry and incisive observations about cycling and America, not to mention the pleasures of a three-thousand-calorie breakfast. The story begins on the Oregon coast, with Weber wondering what he’s gotten himself into, and ends in triumph on New York City’s George Washington Bridge. From Going-to-the-Sun Road in the northern Rockies to the headwaters of the Mississippi and through the cityscapes of Chicago and Pittsburgh, his encounters with people and places provide us with an intimate, two-wheeled perspective of America. And with thousands of miles to travel, Weber considers his past, his family, and the echo that a well-lived life leaves behind. Part travelogue, part memoir, part romance, part paean to the bicycle—and part bemused and panicky account of a middle-aged man’s attempt to stave off, well, you know—Life Is a Wheel is “a book for cyclists, and for anyone who has ever dreamed of such transcontinental travels. But it also should prove enlightening, soul-stirring, even, to those who don’t care a whit about bikes but who care about the way people connect” (The Philadelphia Inquirer).

 

Roads

by Larry McMurtry

As he crisscrosses America — driving in search of the present, the past, and himself — Larry McMurtry shares his fascination with this nation’s great trails and the culture that has developed around them. Ever since he was a boy growing up in Texas only a mile from Highway 281, Larry McMurtry has felt the pull of the road. His town was thoroughly landlocked, making the highway his “river, its hidden reaches a mystery and an enticement. I began my life beside it and I want to drift down the entire length of it before I end this book.” In Roads, McMurtry embarks on a cross-country trip where his route is also his destination. As he drives, McMurtry reminisces about the places he’s seen, the people he’s met, and the books he’s read, including more than 3,000 books about travel. He explains why watching episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show might be the best way to find joie de vivre in Minnesota; the scenic differences between Route 35 and I-801; which vigilantes lived in Montana and which hailed from Idaho; and the history of Lewis and Clark, Sitting Bull, and Custer that still haunts Route 2 today. As it makes its way from South Florida to North Dakota, from eastern Long Island to Oregon, Roads is travel writing at its best.

 

The Lost Continent: Travels In Small-Town America

by Bill Bryson

An unsparing and hilarious account of one man’s rediscovery of America and his search for the perfect small town.

 

Assassination Vacation

by Sarah Vowell

New York Times bestselling author of The Wordy Shipmates and contributor to NPR’s “This American Life” Sarah Vowell embarks on a road trip to sites of political violence, from Washington DC to Alaska, to better understand our nation’s ever-evolving political system and history. Sarah Vowell exposes the glorious conundrums of American history and culture with wit, probity, and an irreverent sense of humor. With Assassination Vacation, she takes us on a road trip like no other — a journey to the pit stops of American political murder and through the myriad ways they have been used for fun and profit, for political and cultural advantage. From Buffalo to Alaska, Washington to the Dry Tortugas, Vowell visits locations immortalized and influenced by the spilling of politically important blood, reporting as she goes with her trademark blend of wisecracking humor, remarkable honesty, and thought-provoking criticism.

 

Reservation Blues

by Sherman Alexie

Coyote Springs is the only all-Indian rock band in Washington State—and the entire rest of the world. Thomas Builds-the-Fire takes vocals and bass guitar, Victor Joseph hits lead guitar, and Junior Polatkin rounds off the sound on drums. Backup vocals come from sisters Chess and Checkers Warm Water. The band sings its own brand of the blues, full of poverty, pain, and loss—but also joy and laughter.

It all started one day when legendary bluesman Robert Johnson showed up on the Spokane Indian Reservation with a magical guitar, leaving it on the floor of Thomas Builds-the-Fire’s van after setting off to climb Wellpinit Mountain in search of Big Mom.

In Reservation Blues, National Book Award winner Alexie vaults with ease from comedy to tragedy and back in a tour-de-force outing powered by a collision of cultures: Delta blues and Indian rock.

 

Blue Highways: A Journey Into America

by William Least Heat-Moon

Hailed as a masterpiece of American travel writing, Blue Highways is an unforgettable journey along our nation’s backroads. William Least Heat-Moon set out with little more than the need to put home behind him and a sense of curiosity about “those little towns that get on the map-if they get on at all-only because some cartographer has a blank space to fill: Remote, Oregon; Simplicity, Virginia; New Freedom, Pennsylvania; New Hope, Tennessee; Why, Arizona; Whynot, Mississippi.” His adventures, his discoveries, and his recollections of the extraordinary people he encountered along the way amount to a revelation of the true American experience.

 

The Longest Way Home

by Andrew McCarthy

With absorbing honesty and an irrepressible taste for adventure, award-winning travel writer and actor Andrew McCarthy takes us on a deeply personal journey played out amid some of the world’s most evocative locales. Unable to commit to his fiancée of nearly four years—and with no clear understanding of what’s holding him back— McCarthy finds himself at a crossroads, plagued by doubts that have clung to him for a lifetime.

 

The Book Of Wanderings: A Mother-Daughter Pilgrimage

by Kimberly Meyer

When Kimberly Meyer gave birth to her first daughter, Ellie, during her senior year of college, the bohemian life of exploration she had once imagined for herself was lost in the responsibilities of single motherhood. For years, both mother and daughter were haunted by how Ellie came into being-Kimberly through a restless ache for the world beyond, Ellie through a fear of abandonment.

Longing to bond with Ellie, now a college student, and longing, too, to rediscover herself, Kimberly sets off with her daughter on a quest for meaning across the globe. Leaving behind the rhythms of ordinary life in Houston, Texas, they dedicate a summer to retracing the footsteps of Felix Fabri, a medieval Dominican friar whose written account of his travels resonates with Kimberly. Their mother-daughter pilgrimage takes them to exotic destinations infused with mystery, spirituality, and rich history-from Venice to the Mediterranean through Greece and partitioned Cyprus, to Israel and across the Sinai Desert with Bedouin guides, to the Palestinian territories and to Cairo and Alexandria in Egypt.

 

Long Way Down

by Ewan McGregor

Eighteen countries. Five shock absorbers. Two bikers. One amazing adventure… After their fantastic trip round the world in 2004, fellow actors and bike fanatics Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman couldn’t shake the travel bug. Inspired by their UNICEF visits to Africa, they knew they had to go back and experience this extraordinary continent in more depth. And so they set off on their 15,000-mile journey with two new BMWs loaded up for the trip. Their route took them from John O’Groats at the northernmost tip of Scotland to Cape Agulhas on the southernmost tip of South Africa. Along the way they rode some of the toughest terrain in the world — and met some of the friendliest people. They rode their bikes right up to the pyramids in Egypt and visited Luke Skywalker’s house in Tunisia. They met people who had triumphed over terrifying experiences — former childhood soldiers in Uganda and children living amidst the minefields of Ethiopia. They had a close encounter with a family of gorillas in Rwanda and were nearly trampled by a herd of elephants in Botswana. Riding through spectacular scenery, often in extreme temperatures, Ewan and Charley faced their hardest challenges yet. With their trademark humor and honesty they tell their story — the drama, the dangers and sheer exhilaration of riding together again, through a continent filled with magic and wonder.

 

Driver’s Education

by Grant Ginder

Finn McPhee edits a reality TV show. His father, Colin, is a screenwriter. Both are adept at spinning fictions, a skill passed down to them by McPhee patriarch Alistair, whose wild yarns never failed to capture Finn’s youthful imagination;even as they cast a fragile veil over a past marked by devastating loss, unbearable love, and an incessant longing for a life whose heroic proportions could measure up to the breathtakingly vivid color of Alistair’s dreams. As Finn embarks on a road trip across America with his best friend, Randal, and a three-legged cat named Mrs. Dalloway in a last-chance bid to make his grandfather’s dreams come true, he will finally learn that the truth, though not always stranger than fiction, can sometimes make the best story of all.

 

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