Awaken Your Wanderlust With These Three American Road Trips

Route 61

Route 61

by Jerry Lawlor,

The highways of America sew this country together, an asphalt symbol of our freedom. With a functional car, a good set of wheels and some gasoline, Americans can travel just about anywhere. To awaken the wanderlust in you, travel across this trio of routes and stir your soul.

Sante Fe Trail

If you yearn to visit the Old West as you know it in the movies, head out to Taos, N.M., on your piston-powered horse and embark on a classic Western ride. Barren deserts, ghost towns and lonely tumbleweeds hark back to 19th century frontier. Once you depart Taos, drive along NM 64 and down into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. To traverse the yawning chasms of these mountains you will want tires that can handle bad roads and the occasional snowy patch. Nitto tires, like the Terra Grappler give you proper traction along the craggy range. You’ll then roll into Raton, a former railroad boomtown that’s changed relatively little over the century. North of Raton, head to Sugarite Canyon State Park, a coal-mining community from 1912 that’s now a ghost town. The Capulin Volcano National Monument awaits on NM 325, one of the country’s best preserved cinder cone volcanoes. Back up 325 and to NM 456 east, you’ll find fossilized dinosaur tracks at Clayton Lake State Park. Make Fort Union your final stop. It served as a garrison for soldiers fending off Native American attacks on the Santa Fe Trail.

The Blues Highway

Route 61 between Memphis, Tenn., and Vicksburg, Miss., is where Delta blues was born. Begin at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis, then fill up in one of the city’s hundred barbecue joints. Travel the same route John Lee Hooker, B.B. King and Elvis Presley did before you. Further down 61, you’ll hit Tunica, Tenn. The chicken and peach cobbler at the Blue and White diner is “Southern cooking at its best,” according to When you arrive in Clarksdale, slip over to the Hopson Plantation Commissary for deep south Delta blues nostalgia and Mississippi hospitality. Before leaving this bluesy city, catch a music act at Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero Blues Club. Yes, that Morgan Freeman. Moving on past Rosedale and finally to Vicksburg, birthplace of blues musician Willie Dixon.

Hawaii’s Big Island

As its name suggests, the Big Island is indeed the biggest island of Hawaii and the only one still volcanically active. Because Hawaii isn’t located in the continental U.S., you can only experience this tropical journey if you already live on the Big Island or rent a car upon arriving. Start your Hawaiian excursion in Kailua-Kona to examine Princess Ruth’s gargantuan koa wood chair at the Hulihee Palace museum. Continue south to Kona Coffee Living History Farm to receive an education in local coffee growing. You’ll know you’re close when you see fields of coffee berry bushes. Drivers will soon happen upon the charred black fields of dried lava as well as multi-hued tropical forests of monkeypod and hibiscus. Next stop is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where they’ll advise you on how to safely view rivers of molten lava.

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