The Golden Age of the Automobile, when families explored the countryside on weekend afternoons and took long summer vacations driving on iconic highways like Route 66, is long gone. So are the classic roadsters and station wagons of the era. It is a past bathed in a romantic glow, before anxieties about global warming, traffic gridlock, and crumbling infrastructure sucked all the pleasure out of driving. Here are some books to take you on a nostalgic road trip into the past:
America on Wheels: The First 100 Years by Frank Coffey.
This companion volume to a PBS documentary includes many vintage photographs.
Car Crazy: the Battle for Supremacy Between Ford and Olds and the Dawn of the Automobile Age by G. Wayne Miller.
Covering the years 1893 to 1908, “a page-turning story of popular culture, business, and sport at the dawn of the 20th century, filled with compelling, larger-than-life characters.”
The Lincoln Highway by Michael Wallis.
A lively history of the first coast to coast highway, from Times Square to San Francisco, completed in 1913.
But is there perhaps a renaissance underway for the motoring holiday? Low gas prices, the hassles of air travel, and fear of terrorism making foreign travel less appealing may be “driving” a new enthusiasm for taking to the road. Whether you want to travel near or far in the U.S. here are some resources to get you started:
The Complete Civil War Road Trip Guide by Michael Weeks.
Covers over 400 sites divided into ten weekend trips.
Live Your Road Trip Dream by Phil and Carol White.
Aimed at retirees, this book explains how you can travel on the road for a year at the same cost as staying at home.
Facts and activities for places to visit in every state.
New York and the Mid-Atlantic’s Best Trips by Michael Grosberg.
27 road trips not too far from home.
USA’s Best Trips: 52 Amazing Road Trips Lonely Planet.
Includes two day to two week routes on scenic roads from the Rockies to New England.
This easy to use site offers classic routes like Route 66, the Pacific Coast, and the Oregon Trail, or you can map out your own custom trip.
Popular routes and helpful information from a reliable source.
Or if you’re planning a staycation this year you can always take one of these virtual road trips from the comfort of your own armchair or hammock:
A 57-year-old widow leaves the corporate world to travel 2,500 miles of the Pacific coast on a Harley.
Cross Country by Robert Sullivan.
A humorous account of “fifteen years and ninety thousand miles on the roads and interstates of America with Lewis and Clark, a lot of bad motels, a moving van, Emily Post, Jack Kerouac, my wife, my mother-in law, two kids, and enough coffee to kill an elephant.”
Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure by Matthew Algeo.
In June 1953 ex-President Harry Truman and his wife Bess went on a road trip to visit old friends. Just the two of them, no Secret Service, unimaginable today.
I Don’t Care If We Never Get Back by Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster.
“Thirty games in thirty days on the best worst baseball road trip ever.”
For more reading suggestions check out this list from Goodreads.
Whatever your plans this summer, here's wishing you Happy Adventures and Happy Reading!