Let’s face it, roadtripping is an American summer pastime. Although it has become more of a luxury pastime in recent years with gas price hikes, the amount of cars on the road hasn’t decreased and solo travelers and families alike are still finding ways to prioritize trips across the US. We are also fans of the great American road trip and we find that we learn more about our country every time we venture out. With road trips being as popular as they are, it is important for motorists and passengers to note how important it is to support small community economies and environmental conservation efforts while they are tootling down the road. Here are seven ways to make your next road trip an epic one.
Take Back the Backroads
While sticking to the highways and main arteries of the nation during your road trip is a good way to save time and get where you’re going quickly, it isn’t always the most scenic or engaging way to see the country. By taking backroads and scenic byways across the country, you have the chance to see parts of the nation that few have seen. Roll down your window, breath in the clean air and contemplate how rare a joy it is to have a fellow motorist wave at you as you pass. Discovering memorable sites such as local parks, quirky museums, unexpected landmarks and diners that serve homemade pie is something that is guaranteed when you take backroads; and who doesn’t love stumbling across fresh baked pie?
If you aren’t on a tight schedule, you can turn your mundane road trip into something epic by stopping at random sites along the way. Are you an artwork fan? Plan to stop at art galleries and public sculptures along the way. Love stumbling across a great restaurant? The chances of this dream coming true are much higher when you take time to investigate eateries. Have a pension for finding weird and wonderful things? Take a detour to see the largest pumpkin in the states; play a round of mini golf at a Flintstones theme park in the middle of the desert; drive through the middle of a redwood tree. Amazing and memorable things can happen when you mix things up and take the time to randomize your road trip.
Steer Clear of Starbucks
We know that consistency can be very comforting when traveling away from home; however, hunting for and sampling local coffee shops is one of the best ways to start each day of your road trip. Often, coffee shops, such as our local favorite Dripp, provide freshly roasted and ground coffee that is full of rich flavor that you won’t get from Starbucks. We have also discovered these places offer delectable treats like gooey cinnamon rolls, bear claws, morning glory muffins, smoothies and other morsels that will jumpstart your road trip mornings. Coffee shops are also great places to find insider information about a town: where to visit, how to get around, where to stay, etc.
Find Your Inner Ranger
Caption: The view on the way into Yellowstone.
One of the best reasons to take a road trip across the states is the added opportunity to visit one or more of the nation’s 59 parks. Whether it’s the humbling views of the Grand Canyon or the spectacular wildlife of Yellowstone or the majestic mountains of the Grand Tetons, taking a few hours to appreciate the glory of a national park will make your road trip truly epic.
B&B it Up
Caption: The entrance to Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel in Half Moon Bay, CA
Even though commercialized hotels are easy to book, they aren’t guaranteed to be cleaner or cheaper options than local venues such as bed and breakfasts, homestays, hostels and even camping. What better way to see and experience the country than by staying in locally-owned lodges? With the robust internet of today, finding local places to stay is easier than ever. Companies like Airbnb, Couchsurfing.com, Hostelling International, Hostels.com, WWOOF, NightSwapping,and others are making it easier for travelers to find affordable local options for overnight excursions. For the outdoor enthusiast, camping might sound like the best alternative to staying in a hotel, and for those adventurers, there are sites like Reserve America, where road trippers can plan their route according to campground schedules.
Be a Culinary Explorer
Caption: A piece of heaven from Pizzaiolo in Oakland, CA
We understand that eating adventurously is not the easiest activity for many roadtrippers. Fast food restaurants and chains offer the same menu across the 50 states and we get how convenient that can be. But, road trips are inherently adventurous and trying the local cuisine is all part of the experience. Don’t let fear stop you from grabbing a burger at the alien spaceship diner on the street corner. If you’ve been eating out all week and are craving the need to cook, seek out a farmer’s market or co-op for fruits, veggies, meats and other treats that were grown or raised nearby. This is a great way to get an inside look at a town.
Caption: A batch of fresh kale gets rinsed before going to market. The Intervale Center in Burlington, VT
Green Up Your Pit Stops
Last, turn your road trip into something of true epic proportions by fueling up with biodiesel or bioethanol instead of petrol. This is a project all in itself and requires converting your car into a biofuel burning machine (talk to your mechanic about how to do this). If this doesn’t sound like an experiment you want to tackle, you can still promote conservation by visiting the growing number of biofuel stations across the country. These stations still serve regular gasoline and they are often involved in community education and conservation projects. One of our all time favorite gas stations is called SeQuential in Eugene, Oregon. Apart from sandwiches that will blow your mind, this station offers fresh baked goodies, local beer, kombucha tea and other snacks. It also sports a green roof, solar power and bioswales that protect the local waterways from petrol runoff.
Another way to support conservation efforts is to book tours with companies that use biofuel in their own operations, such as Incredible Adventures, a company dedicated to the task of bringing visitors to national parks in an eco-friendly way.