Car Culture & Entertainment / News & Car Culture

Road Trip U.S.A.: Our 7 Bucket List Road Trips for Summer Driving

We talk a lot about working on vehicles around here.

We love it, and we even get paid for it! But what happens when the work is done and the restoration is complete? Or the engine swap is finished? Or the five-year hot rod build is finally done?

Two words: Road. Trip.

The time-honored road trip is about as classic Americana as hot rodding itself, and there is no shortage of great options — both short and long. While researching vacation plans earlier this summer, we stumbled upon a few road trip routes that piqued our interest as potential bucket list drives.

Here’s the list so far (feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section below):

Route 66

We start with the Mother Road.

Before the advent of Interstate highways, Route 66 was nicknamed “The Main Street of America.” Cutting diagonally across the country from Chicago to Los Angeles, Route 66 passed through small towns, offered interesting roadside attractions, and was dotted with mom and pop diners. Today, the road has been decommissioned and is now a series of discontinuous byways, although some major stretches of the road remain open. You can still enjoy the bustle of cities like Chicago and St. Louis as well as the vintage feel of small-town America by following the basic route.

Check out this site to plan your route and learn more.

Think of it as a trip back in time.

Route 1 (Pacific Coast Highway)

Also known as Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway travels along the California coast. Great stops along the way include Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Malibu, Monterey, Big Sur, and San Francisco. The gorgeous route takes you through wine country and near the famed California redwoods. At many points on this scenic ride, there’s the Pacific Ocean on one side of you, mountains on the other — and your vehicle hugging the cliffs in between!

Learn more about this legendary highway here.

U.S. 50 and the Loneliest Road

We’ve always wanted to drive across the country, and there are several ways to do so.

U.S. Route 50, for example, is a 3,200-mile stretch from the Chesapeake Bay to San Francisco. In between, you’ll cross the Appalachians, Rockies, and the Sierra Nevadas. You’ll travel through America’s heartland and see desert vistas. And you’ll have ample time to think and soul search as you drive in the solitude of U.S. 50 in Nevada — a stretch nicknamed America’s “Loneliest Road.”

If you don’t like being alone, you can also make a quick jaunt north off the highway and visit Reno, NV for Hot August Nights. It’s only one of the biggest events in hot rodding, and it’s only a few weeks away.

Just sayin’.

Overseas Highway

As Ohians, we often dream of warm places.

It doesn’t get much warmer than the Florida Keys. This stretch of islands at the southern tip of Florida is inter-connected by the Overseas Highway, a 113-mile stretch of bridges and causeways. This unique roadway starts in Miami and launches you out over the ocean for long periods of time. You’ll travel over 40 bridges as you hop from island to island.

Word is you can cross the entire highway in four hours, but there are plenty of roadside stops to enjoy along the way. You can learn more about the Overseas Highway experience here.

Skyline Drive/Blue Ridge Parkway

Get lost in the mountains.

Not literally — we mean take your time and enjoy spectacular views of Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smokey Mountains in Virginia and North Carolina. We’ve been through this part of the country on previous trips, but we’ve never followed the 500-mile drive that is Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway. On this road trip, drivers are treated to spectacular views as the roads wind around mountain crests.

Learn more here and here.

Tail of the Dragon

We’ve written about the Tail of the Dragon before, but we’ve never driven it. Yet.

While some roads are meant for cruising, Tail of the Dragon is meant to be conquered. This 11-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 129 includes 318 turns and is considered by many to be America’s #1 motorcycle and sports car road. Navigating Tail of the Dragon isn’t just an experience; it’s an accomplishment.

Read more about Tail of the Dragon here.

Blues Highway (Memphis to New Orleans)

The Blues Highway combines three of our favorite things: driving, music, and eating.

Officially named U.S. Highway 61, the Blues Highway is 1,407-mile stretch of road running from the St. Paul, MN area south to New Orleans, LA. It was given its nickname because it takes drivers along the Mississippi River and into “blues and barbecue” country. Throughout the summer and early fall, you can stop at a variety of blues and gospel festivals in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

We’d begin our Blues Highway road trip in Memphis, look for Elvis a little while, and then head south toward the Gulf of Mexico until we start hearing jazz.

Learn more about this music-inspired journey here.

What’s on your road trip bucket list?

Put your list together (and share it in the comments section below), grab your must-have road trip essentials, and enjoy the open road.

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2 Comments

  1. I totally agree we did the route 66 from chicago,we made NO reservations what so ever,we fallowed the paper maps.Each day we stopped were we stopped all the way to Hollywood California.WE returned the upper route (90) first stopping at the national parks then lake Tahoe.and all things we fell in love with Idaho. then sturgus SD and then back home to chicago

  2. Route 66 is at least once in a lifetime trip. Recommended to start Chicago and stay there at least 3 days because there is lot of to see and so on. After Chicago recommended to visit St. Louis and Dallas. On the road there is lot of things to see. You can drive old road but there is usually new higway beside old route 66. Recommended to rent big family car and the route 66 all the stop getting drive through about 14 to 16 days, whit motorcycle driving get about 21 days. We drive to Santa Monica and stay 3 days on LA where is lot of see.

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