See the USA

I love travelling America, especially by backroads. It’s a whole different experience from flying from city to city like most of us do, most of the time. Each village you enter is different, every farm has its own style, and you enter cities on different roads than if you were coming into town on the freeway from the airport. The look and feel of each region of America is unique.
One of the most fun ways to see this America is to follow the path of one of the great American highways of the pre-Interstate era. While Route 66 is by far the most famous and most musical, Highway 1 up and down the East Coast and US 50 across the nation’s midsection are two of my personal favorites.  US 80 travels 3,000 incredible miles across the south from San Diego to Savannah (or vice-versa). In order to follow these routes, I keep a 1940s road atlas in my car at all times – just to find those “blue highways” – named after the fact that on old maps, main thoroughfares were red and secondary roads were blue.
These days, thankfully there is an excellent single-volume guidebook to 11 of the greatest routes, Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America’s Two-Lane Highways by Jamie Jensen (Fifth edition, 2009, Avalon Travel Publishing). This wonderful fat paperback contains the history of each town along the routes, some tips on food and lodging, and color and black and white illustrations to make it all come alive. 
Whether you want to take that long-dreamed cross-country drive to show your family the USA the old-fashioned way, just take a day trip out to some historic off-the-beaten path town near your home, or enjoy the ride from your arm chair, this is the best book you can find. Road Trip USA includes the following transcontinental routes: The West Coast route (several different highways) along the Pacific Ocean from Canada to Mexico; Highway 93 through the Mountain states and past the Grand Canyon; US 83 from the North Dakota/Canada border to the Texas/Mexico border; the Great River Road down the Mississippi; “The Appalachian Trail” through some of the most stunning scenery in America; US 2 across the northern edge from Maine to Washington; US 20 across the Midwest and out the Oregon Trail; plus the 4 routes mentioned in the paragraph above. Every corner of our country is touched.   
If for any reason you don’t understand the romance of these blue highways, then read the classic (but unconventional) travelogue Blue Highways: A Journey Into America, by William Least Heat-Moon (1982). This book is one of the great classics of American nonfiction.