RoadTrip America

Routes, Planning, & Inspiration for Your North American Road Trip


RoadTrip Report
July, 2004
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TEN YEARS BEHIND THE WHEEL

NEW THIS MONTH

Are We There Yet?
On the Road with cultural historian Chris Epting, author of James Dean Died Here: The Locations of Ameria's Pop Culture Landmarks.

Take Safety Along for the Ride
Getting Out There with RoadTrip America editor & founder Mark Sedenquist.

Book Reviews:
Movie Star Homes: The Famous to the Forgotten, by Judy Artunian & Mike Oldham

Route 66 Lost & Found: Ruins & Relics Revisited, by Russell A. Olsen

And of course, MORE FUNNY SIGNS!

It's hard for us to believe it, but it's been a decade since we first hit the road on the journey that evolved into RoadTrip America. On this tenth anniversary, we've decided to look back and trace the route that led us here, and to share a few pieces of wisdom that have stuck to our tire treads along the way.

Ashes

As many of you know, the RoadTrip America story began with the enormous wildfires that swept through Southern California in October, 1993. They destroyed hundreds of homes, and ours was one of the first to go. While some might say that the fire burned up our common sense along with all our worldly possessions, it also provided the perfect catalyst for hitting the road. We had no stuff to put in storage, and we had a small nest egg. When we set out in March, 1994, we thought we were embarking on a trip that might last six months -- a year at the outside. Nearly seven years later, we were still out there, still exploring. A big part of the reason was the Internet.

RoadTripAmerica was born on Valentine's Day, 1996. After launching the site, we proudly plastered the URL on the side of our motorhome. Nowadays, such decoration is hardly worth a mention, but back then in the Jurassic Age of the Web, handles beginning with "http://" were often observed with great suspicion. At worst, we were dangerous subversives, and at best, it was clear evidence we were kooks. In early 1996 in a public library in Arizona, the librarian threatened to call the police when we asked if we might leave pamphlets about RoadTrip America on the library's "free information" table. But things changed fast. By Thanksgiving of that same year, RoadTrip America had been profiled in People Magazine, and libraries across the continent were beginning to provide free Internet access.

The RoadTrip America Story
Roads from the Ashes
Roads from the Ashes: An Odyssey in Real Life on the Virtual Frontier
, by Megan Edwards

Click here to read the first chapter.

 

As we struggled to update RoadTrip America while traveling, it seemed like everyone except us was an expert on sending email from distant and remote locations and logging onto the Web from mountaintops. Whenever we described our difficulties in sending email using a cell or pay phone, people would regale us with stories about "some kayaker" who was updating a Web site from an inaccessible river somewhere in Alaska. If that were true, we wondered, why were we still having so much trouble while parked on the edge of a modern highway? The search for an answer resulted in dashboarding, a word we coined to describe the concept of working on a roll using wireless Web access. While many wireless applications work far better in 2004 than they did in 1994, an inexpensive, efficient, easy-to-use, two-way mobile communication system remains the unattained holy grail of those who live and work on the road.

Thanks to the cleansing fire, it was a fairly easy decision for us to hit the road in 1994. Staying on the road and making the commitment to keep going no matter what were a bit more challenging. We might well have ground to a halt long ago if it weren't for all the excellent people we met along the path. Literally thousands of friends and supporters have contributed to the evolution of RoadTrip America as it has grown from the traveling tales of two nomads and their dog into a worldwide roadtripping community that inspires, educates, and challenges all those who feel the urge to discover what lies beyond that next horizon.

Lessons learned during the last decade of roadtripping:

  • Some of the most magnificent scenery in America can be seen from Interstate highways. (Not all two lane roads are worth the effort.)
  • No on-the-road problem is so bad that a well-honed sense of humor can't help solve it.
  • Sometimes it's better to do the impossible than to be responsible.
  • Any trip to anywhere can be a roadtrip. It's simply a matter of noticing that it is a roadtrip.
  • Scenic beauty is wonderful, but it's always the people you remember most.
  • Courtesy and kindness are always returned at least ten-fold.
  • It's impossible to run out of money. (We know. We've tried. We've always failed.)
  • When you need a guardian angel, one will always show up, even if you can't recognize him, her, or it at the time.
  • There is no substitute for -- just doing it.

Today, RoadTrip America is the joint effort of editors, book reviewers, contributing writers, forum moderators, information technologists, Web designers, photographers, and hundreds of knowledgeable road trippers who share their discoveries, concerns, and dreams about roadtripping in North America. In the months ahead, we'll be adding new planning tools and articles about getting out there. In the meantime, go have an adventure -- today!

Mark Sedenquist & Megan Edwards

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