Presenting our foolproof recipes for the perfect long, hot weekend: six classic road-trip itineraries, the country's best pit stops, and a lot of Willie Nelson. Just pick your route and roll.
Pacific Brewery Binge
San Francisco, CA to Portland, OR Road Trip MapOregon to California Road Trip Map
There are more than 20 worthy breweries between San Francisco and Portland. Your mission: Find a driver and hit as many as possible. Start out at the Marin Brewing Company (marinbrewing.com), in Larkspur, California, for a medium-bodied Mt. Tam Pale Ale. Thirty miles up the coast, in Petaluma, a cold Sirius Ale from the Lagunitas Brewing Company (lagunitas.com) is the ideal lubricant for canine schadenfreudethe World’s Ugliest Dog contest takes place here in late June. Three hours to the north, the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (sierranevada.com) makes one of the world’s best pale ales, and its concert stage consistently hosts alt-country A-listers such as Gillian Welch. After cutting through Mendocino National Forest’s dirt roads for chilly surf and the Lost Coast Brewery’s crisp Great White beer (lostcoast.com) in Eureka, head for Portland. Try not to get a stiff neckthe westward views of sea lions and Pacific surf are spectacular. Miles : 810 Days : 4 Theme Song: “Hands on the Wheel,” Willie Nelson
Packing: Keep your stuffbins, stoves, bags, boxesin cubes, such as Mountainsmith’s zip-top cubes (mountainsmith.com), whenever possible. Bikes and fishing rods go in last. Truck stops: Are for truckers (and those desperate times when you need a WHY RATION PASSION? I’M A LOVE MACHINE! hat). Traveling with pets: Bring valerian root. It smells terrible, but tests performed by editors show it puts a barking dog to sleep. Gas mileage: To conserve energy, keep to freeways, accelerate slowly, and limit braking by staying two car lengths behind the vehicle in front of you. On the highway, windows up with A/C on is more efficient than windows down with no A/C. Radio: Stick with your iPod radio converteror Pioneer’s new iPod-and-satellite-radio-compatible stereos (pioneerelectronics.com)until Clear Channel updates its classic-rock playlist. (Note to Clear Channel: Songs from the seventies aren’t classic anymore. They’re oldies.) Maps: Google Maps is great, if you can get Google; for back roads, don’t forget paper.
Wilmington, NC to St. Augustine, FL
Wilmington, NC to St. Augustine, FL Road Trip Map
Yes, the Southeast is obscenely hot in July. That’s why you should stick to the water. Start in Wilmington, North Carolina, and follow the coast into South Carolina on U.S. 17, which practically dunks you in the ocean near the tiny town of Pawleys Island. Stop in Tybee Island, Georgia, and before crashing at the DeSoto Beach Hotel (doubles, $160; desotobeachhotel.com), feast on blue crab. The Crab Shack (thecrabshack.com) serves it, but it tastes better when you’ve caught it yourself off the rocks at the end of the beach. (Bring a net and use raw chicken for bait.) Two hours down the road, at Jekyll Island, hop into a sea kayak to explore tidal marshesherons and egrets flock to the island’s western shore (guiding from Tidelands Nature Center; tidelands4h.org). At trip’s end, bypass the packed beaches in St. Augustine, Florida, and drive 2.5 miles south to Anastasia State Park, just past the local alligator farm. Cast some live shrimp into the surf and you should catch redfish for dinner (tackle available at Island Joe’s camp store; 904-461-9322). Miles: 500 Days: 3 Theme Song: “Uncloudy Day,” Willie Nelson
Drive that 4×4 500 miles to a national forest and it’ll run you more than $200 in gas, round-trip. My advice: Opt for an on-/off-road motorcycle. They’re comfortable on highways, thanks to their upright riding position, and are more nimble on dirt than any truck. Kawasaki’s KLR 650 ($5,200; kawasaki.com) stretches a gallon 60 miles. Besides, riding a bike is just more fun. I’ve driven a Bentley through Tuscany, and it didn’t compare to the thrill of working my $500 BMW R90/6 through ten miles of curves outside San Jose. Find a motorcycle driving school through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (msfusa.org).
Duluth, MN and Michigan’s UP
Retrofit Your RideSo you want to sell your Prius and build the ultimate road-trip vehicle. Here’s how MacGyver would do it.1. Buy a pickup truck: Anything that was built after 2000 should do. 2. Get a shell: Leer’s 100XQ comes with tinted windows, a lockable interior storage box, and keyless entry (from $1,800; leer.com). 3. Build a sleep deck: A DIY steel- or wood-frame pallet divides the bed space. Your stuff goes below; you and a friend go above. 4. Store your gear: Skis, paddles, wet stuff: It all goes in a roof box like Yakima’s 16-cubic-foot SkyBox Pro 16 ($519; yakima.com). 5. Go overboard: Have a welder build a customize…
Stretched out, Lake Superior’s twisty coastline would extend from New York to Los Angeles. Lucky for you, the circumnavigational route we’ve picked is considerably shorter. Starting in Duluth, Minnesota, cruise east along Wisconsin’s coastal wetlands and into Michigan’s pine-covered Upper Peninsula.
Heading for Trouble
Jackson, WY to Las Vegas, NV
Jackson, WY to Las Vegas, NV Road Trip Map
Heading for Trouble
The best way to work off the feel-good vibes of a mountain-town eco-retreat? Gambling in Vegas. After soaking in a solar-heated hot tub at Hotel Terra (doubles, $320; hotelterrajacksonhole.com), in Jackson, Wyoming, hit the road with a fly rod in tow and mischief on your mind. The Green River is your guidefind it, follow it, and then fish it in the town of Dutch John, Utah. Stay in a cabin at the top of Flaming Gorge (doubles, $105; redcanyonlodge.com). Below, the river swirls between 2,000-foot red-rock walls, holding as many as 14,000 trout per mile (guiding from Trout Creek Flies; fishgreenriver.com). After turning south and white-knuckling it on “the Hogsback,” a narrow ridgeline on Scenic Byway 12, stop for a hike in Zion National Park. Now you should be ready for a few martinis in Vegas. Stay at Red Rock Casino (doubles, $180; redrocklasvegas.com), the only joint in town offering guided river trips on the Colorado, from Hoover Dam through the Black Canyon. After floating, gamble and listen to old rock stars on the casino circuitPeter Frampton plays July 11. Miles: 1,055 Days: 5 Theme Song: “The Troublemaker,” Willie Nelson
Mechanics are great, when they’re nearby. But when they’re many dirt miles away? Heed these tips from Bob Burns, lead instructor at the Land Rover Experience Driving School. 1. Get a tune-up before you go. 2. Learn to read a mapGPS doesn’t always work (start at map-reading.com, a free online tutorial). 3. Bring a tire kit. A patch kit can fix small holes from nails or bolts and is more reliable than self-patching goo (Stop & Go Tire Mobility Kit, $130; stopngo.com). 4. To learn how to fix a leaking gas tank with bar soap, sign up for a course with Burns (from $200; landrover.com). 5. If that’s too hardcore for you, buy a Haynes Repair Manual for your vehicle’s make and model (haynes.com).
Santa Fe, NM to Texas
Santa Fe, NM to Texas Road Trip Map
You’ll want two things as you drive through the stark, beautiful desert of West Texas and southern New Mexico: Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy and air-conditioning. After steaking it up in El Pasothe $14 filet mignon at Billy Crews (billycrews.com) is arguably the best deal in Texasmake a beeline to Big Bend National Park. July’s 100-degree temperatures make a flatwater float down the Rio Grande your best option (guides available from the Far Flung Outdoor Center; farflungoutdoorcenter.com). Next stop, Marfa, the country’s funkiest artists’ enclave. Tour the Chinati Foundation’s land-art installations, which loom surreally over vast parched fields (chinati.org). Thirty miles south of town, stay at Cibolo Creek Ranch, a group of luxurious yet rugged Civil Warera adobe forts equipped with private Jacuzzis (doubles, $475; cibolocreekranch.com). Then cruise north through the yucca-studded Chihuahuan Desert and the dusty Guadalupe MountainsU.S. 62 tops out at 5,534-foot, see-forever Guadalupe Pass. After crossing into southern New Mexico, hit Roswell’s International UFO Museum, and if it happens to be July 4 weekend, sign up for the Alien Chase 10K (ufofestivalroswell.com), where chances are good you’ll get passed by an alarmingly fit dude in a chartreuse unitard. Miles: 750 Days: 4 Theme Song: “Across the Borderline,” Willie Nelson
Driving a sedan doesn’t mean you can’t navigate the occasional dirt road. Here’s a thinking man’s primer to light off-roading.1. Get the right tires: For all-wheel-drive wagons, like Subarus and Volvos, go with the slim, sturdy All-Terrain T/A (from $150; bfgoodrich.com). 2. Don’t straddle obstacles: Place your tires on rocks, not around them. 3. On sand: Slightly deflate your tires. 4. Bring a jack: A five-foot Hi-Lift jack and tow chain can help you change a tire and can jerk most cars out of a ditch ($68; amazon.com). 5. Don’t drive straight up hills: If you ascend diagonally, you won’t drag your bumper. 6. Listen up: If you hear a funny sound, get out and checkor risk spooning with your travel buddy all night, the way executive editor Michael Roberts and senior editor John Bradley swear they didn’t after puncturing an oil pan just outside New Mexico’s Pecos Wilderness last summer.
Appalachian Trail Cheat
Hanover, NH to Rockland, ME
Dont Let Doritos WinIf you’re going to munch while you driveand you arethen ditch the fatty chips for this homemade highway mix. Full of nutrients like iron, zinc, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids, it’s good brain fuel and will keep you focused on the road.
Mix 1 cup peanuts, ½ cup pumpkin seeds, ¼ cup sunflower seeds, ½ cup walnuts, 2 tbsp canola oil, 1 tbsp honey. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool. Mix in ¾ cup dried cranberries, ½ cup chopped dried apricots, and ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips.
Hanover, NH to Rockland, ME Road Trip Map
Appalachian Trail Cheat
Be honest with yourself: You’re not taking the summer off to hike the Appalachian Trail. The next best thing? Drive it. Start in Hanover, New Hampshire, where the AT begins to trace the White Mountains, drive to Lincoln, and follow the 37-mile Kancamagus Highway through scenery that’s more Rockies than New England. In Jackson, avoid the line of cars ascending Mount Washington. Instead, take a real climbing lesson with North Facesponsored guide Mark Synnott, who leads multi-pitch climbs up 700-foot Cathedral Ledge (newhampshireclimbing.com). Crash at the Wildcat Inn and Tavern
In a world of corn palaces, two roadside clichés stand out. Both are so awesomely awful that they must be seen. And both, bizarrely, involve big rocks.
The House on the Rock
Legend has it that the House on the Rock, in Spring Green, Wisconsin, started as an F-You to Frank Lloyd Wright, who once slandered builder Alex Jordan, saying he wasn’t fit to design a chicken coop. In retaliation, Jordan’s son built a Wright parody atop a rock six miles south of Wright’s home. Today, a half-century of construction has morphed the original 14-room house into a 17-building, 2.5-mile-long test of mental health. The HOTR’s path winds through shag-carpeted halls crammed with immense collections of beer steins, cogs, firearms, armor, and model angels; a building crammed with ailing dolls; and a hall dedicated to tarnished pipe organs. Push on and you’ll find the world’s largest carousel, a 14-foot cannon, and a school-bus-size sea monster fighting a giant squid (thehouseontherock.com).
The Hole ‘n the Rock
This 14-room, 50,000-cubic-foot cave home in Moab, Utah, was blasted by ex–con artist and taxidermist Albert Christensen as a Sisyphean labor of sorrow after his Mount Rushmore–scale carving of FDR was dynamited by government agents in 1941. The place remains intact 50 years after Christensen died (he was laid to rest out front, by the parking lot). On display are his stuffed donkey, sundry oil portraits of Jesus, and a bathtub purportedly chiseled from sandstone by his wife, Gladys. I go to jelly when the teenage tour guide says, “On your left is Albert’s Sermon on the Mount, his most famous work.” Albert never made it into the Louvre, but his monument endures, a Watts Tower of the canyons, one man’s lonely trudge toward immortality. Admission is five bucks, and that includes the emu petting zoo (theholeintherock.com).