Recently, we took an impromptu road trip, which spanned three states in 14 hours. To be fair, the trio of states were in the northeast corner of Kansas. We managed to hit Kansas (of course, we live there), Nebraska and Missouri.
Below are some of my tips for taking a memorable old-school road trip.
- Get an old school state map. I’m talking about one of those annoying, huge folded maps that you’ll come to both love and hate. You can generally get them at convenience stores or places like Wal-Mart. An atlas of the United States (or wherever you live), works great, too.
- Ditch the GPS. No, really. GPS generally will take you the quickest (and most boring) route. It’ll put you on busy interstates and roads where you won’t notice all the quirky things that could be hiding. Get out that map, look for smaller county roads. Disclaimer: if you’re not used to driving on small, two-lane roads, make sure you’re extra vigilant when driving. There often is zero room for driver error.
- Take the county roads. These are the little two-laned roads I talked about in tip # 2. You will get some amazing photos along these roads (just make sure to pull over on a side road to acquire said photos).
- Don’t be afraid of some gravel. (Just make sure you have good tires and a spare tire). Gravel roads can lead to adventures, but this might be a place where you’ll want to turn on the GPS if the roads aren’t on your map.
- Look for quirky things. Now that you’ve found your route, have your passengers look out for quirky things to visit. Like the Mine Creek Battlefield or the Little Melvern Caboose. These little treasures are hidden gems.
- Visit city/county lakes. If you’ve ever driving outside a city or town, you’ve probably noticed little signs that point to a city or county lake. You’ll be surprised what you find — beautiful water, often hiking trails. Well worth the couple of miles off the highway.
- Ask the locals. Locals will know the quirky places around. I often stop into antique shops or small business and ask them for the hidden gems in their town or county. If it’s a small town, be prepared for directions that state something like this: “turn right at the red barn and then left at the tree stump.” Trust them, however. They’ll get you there.
- Visit local diners. Some of the best food you’ll ever have is local diners. Take a chance and make sure you try the local food. (Then tell all your friends).
- Take lots of photos. The best camera is the one in your pocket so take those photos of your interesting journey.
- GPS your way home. Yes, you really may use it now. After I’ve been wandering I usually always have to GPS my way back out.