Previous Next
A series on NPR helps Hal Amen analyze his road trip philosophy.

Van Buren Elm
Plainfield, IL

A rock commemorates the spot where, in 1842, former President Martin Van Buren was tipped into the mud by a carriage driver…

* From NPR’s Honey, Stop The Car: Monuments That Move You summer road trip series

I don’t typically think of road trip destinations in terms of “tiers,” but there was a definite hierarchical structure that came to mind when I heard my first installment of “Honey, Stop The Car.”

On tier #1, you’ve got those iconic American places people have been driving to see since probably before the idea of “road trip” existed: Niagara Falls, the Washington Mall, the Mississippi, Old Faithful, the Vegas strip, Yosemite.

On tier #2, I’d put the roadside attraction, a kind of manufactured “destination” that seems to have been created specifically with the road tripper in mind: Carhenge, Wall Drug, any number of “Mystery Spots” (often found on old county roads just off of but completely hidden from modern state highway bypasses, thus permanently locked in an eerie 1950s decrepitude).

I’d have to put NPR’s picks on a tier #3 — with a title something like, “Historical half-oddities no one’s heard of or would want to drive to.”

I’d argue that there’s something “worth” seeing everywhere. What do you think?

But that’s needlessly harsh. My wife and I have done a lot of US driving in the past five years, sweating through the lower 48 in our A/C-less black ’98 Mazda Protege. If I had to distill those tens of thousands of miles of experience into a single takeaway, it’d be: There’s something “worth” seeing everywhere. I remember being just as engaged in contemplating the granite-block fenceposts of Nebraska’s Sand Hills (lack of lumber, I’m guessing?) as I was in staring at rock strata in the cliffs of Zion.

So I might not be into checking out the country’s largest Lifesavers roll in Gouverneur, NY, as highlighted on NPR, but I bet there’s a cool little coffeeshop with wifi down the street, or a city green for tossing some disc, or a sweet state park not too far up the highway that’s good for pitching a tent.

I guess my road trip philosophy would be: It’s all good.

Road Trip Guides


About The Author

Hal Amen

Hal Amen is a managing editor at Matador. His personal travel blog is WayWorded.

  • Kathleen Amen

    “There’s something worth seeing anywhere” is a philosophy I have rarely found to be disproved. Rather a good way of looking at the world in general, too, imho. :-)

  • Jay Chappie

    I made it a point to take the kids to see the worlds largest ketchup bottle in Collinsville, IL, when we took them to St Louis for the weekend. Every now and then you need to see something whacky. In your entire life, on conversations of travel and road trips, you will probably be the only one in the group who saw the largest frying pan or ball of string. But there will be someone else who saw the albino alligator or largest hamburger.

  • Writingjulie

    That’s my road trip philosophy, too (and travel philosophy in general). Loved this. 

  • Carlo Alcos

    What we see and don’t see is more a reflection on ourselves than it is in what’s actually out there. This is a nice reminder!

I had underestimated just how tropical “tropical Queensland” would be.
It's possible to base an entire summer road trip on the Beartooth Scenic Highway.
Few places lend themselves as well to a surf road trip as the Queensland coast.
Scotland is one of THE best countries in the world to take a road trip.
A nine-day road trip that follows in the Missouri River footsteps of Lewis & Clark.
It's about the energy in between, the odd stops along the way, and the thoughts spurred...
These images are the visual diary of my road trip.
A cinematic, black and white experience of the open road.
Road-tripping from New Mexico to Washington.
Restaurants, farmer's markets, and even wild edibles you can stop and pick along the way.
Josh and his Grandpa visit Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks, break down in the desert...
Carlo Alcos takes on Peggy's Cove, Guysborough, and the Cabot Trail.