Road tripping

Road Trips — By on October 27, 2006 at 7:30 am

The American road trip has long been a rite of passage for travelers, though for many people this journey may not strike the same romantic chord that it once did. World Hum, though, recently suggested that we may actually be in the midst of a new golden age of the cross-country road trip.

The 1940s and 1950s are generally considered the Golden Age of the American road trip, immortalized in Bobby Troup’s song and Jack Kerouac’s book and the actions and memories of adventurous souls like my dad, who roamed the country in his 1951 Ford and chronicled his trips by tracing his routes in blue felt pen on a U.S. map. …

Then came the rise of the interstate system and the chain-store, fast-food culture that sprung up around its edges. Conventional wisdom said these developments sucked a lot of the romance out of the road. And with the rise in cheap airfares and gas prices, the news just kept getting worse for the long-distance road trip. Sure, people still drove from the Pacific to the Atlantic, but they couldn’t help thinking that maybe they’d missed out on a special era.

At least that’s what I thought until not too long ago. Now I think we’re in the midst of the new Golden Age of the American cross-country road trip. …

What solidifies this era as a new Golden Age, though, is that the reemergence of the road has happily coincided with the ability to tell dynamic stories on the Web. Now instead of writing a book like Kerouac or marking those lines in felt-tip on a map, travelers can use video and flash and Google Maps and blogs and audio to interpret what they’ve seen on the road and bring it to life in unexpected ways. In the age of the Web, the road trip has arrived as an artistic statement.

They go on to list several websites dedicated to cross-country trips.  These include: Matt Frondorf’s drive, in which he recorded a time lapse video of 3,304 photos, or one per mile; Amanda Congdon’s adventure in a hybrid vehicle, in a trip sponsored by an environmental group; and Michael Hess’ unique blog, which plots Jack Kerouac’s journey in On the Road by using Google Maps.

For more insight into cross-country travel, you can also check out this interview that Rolf Potts did a few months ago with Jamie Jensen, author of Road Trip USA.

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