RoadTrip America

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

The Phoenix One Journals      Stories from the dawn of RoadTrip America

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The Al-Can, the Pan-American, the Great River Road, Route 66. The Blue Ridge Parkway, Alligator Alley, Rim of the World. From unpaved tracks to multi-lane mega-highways, North America's thoroughfares sing a siren song to those of us infected with roadtrip fever. At any given moment, half a million of us can't resist. We get out there on motorcycles and bikes, in cars, buses, and RVs. A few of us even travel on foot or in wheelchairs.

You can't help learning a few things along the way, and here we offer ten lessons the road has brought us. You can read the story behind each one, or select any that sound interesting. Either way, we wish you pleasant travels!




We thought boring places abounded, places that were unavoidable tediousness "on the way" to somewhere interesting. We'd labeled Gila Bend, Arizona, such a place until we found ourselves having to stay overnight there. One night led to three, and before we left, we'd met a man who was building a truck completely out of free parts he'd scavenged, we'd eaten ostrich burritos, and we'd taken a ride in a combine as it reaped wheat on a ranch once owned by John Wayne. We've never been to a boring place since, and if a feeling of tedium begins to crawl over us, we know it's our own fault, not a deficiency in our surroundings.

If it seems boring, look again.


Roadtrips have beginnings and ends, but it's what's in between that counts. We were stuck in "Are we there yet?" thinking until one day in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains above Angel Fire, New Mexico. An eagle flew by our heads as we looked out over a wild panorama, and somehow, as it flew away, it took all our thoughts of "getting somewhere" with it. Now, we are wherever we are, and getting there is all the fun.

Enjoy the trip.


Yes, you have itineraries and reservations and deadlines, but you can still mosey. We were on a beeline across north Texas with an appointment to keep in Lubbock, when we saw a sign for a town called Earth. "Catchy name," said Mark. "They must have some terrific signs." "Wouldn't you like to get a picture of Earth Police Station or Earth High School?" I asked, and suddenly, we were on our way. In addition to Earth, we discovered Mule Shoe and Sudan, and I was right. The photo opportunities were delightful, and we were still on time in Lubbock.

You're not on a track. You've got the wheel.


We needed gas in Oklahoma City, and we left the highway to find some. The station where we stopped had a convenience store, and while we were pumping gas, a carload of armed men arrived. It looked like they were going to rob the place, and that we were in the wrong place at a most unfortunate moment. But when the would-be robbers saw our unusual vehicle, it disconcerted them. Instead of pulling their weapons, they fled. Unwittingly, we'd helped avert disaster, and we made four new friends, the convenience store manager and three other gas station patrons.

Bad? Good? You don't know until you know.


Roadtrips don't have to be measured in miles, and they don't even have to cover new territory. Every time you go somewhere, it's different, you're different, and it's a different day. You can sit in one spot for a year, and you're still on a journey. The key is remembering that fact.

The road's always rolling under you. All you have to do is notice.


Mark and Marvin took a walk in a grizzly bear habitat in Montana. Suddenly, although no sound broke the silence, both of them stopped. "I knew a bear was watching us, and Marvin knew it, too," says Mark. "We waited a few interminable seconds and then walked back to the Phoenix. We kept moving. The bear, or whatever it was, stayed with us. We didn't relax until we were inside and driving away."

Two thousand miles and several moths later, we were in New York City's South Bronx, one of the most notorious neighborhoods in America. We had just visited an elementary school, and the community had opened its arms to us with a welcome we'll never forget.. Now it was time to leave, and we crossed the street to the Phoenix. Suddenly our eyes were drawn to a group of young men. They were walking towards us. We looked at each other, and walked faster. We reached the Phoenix, jumped inside and pulled away before the group reached us. Perhaps their intentions were benign. The hair on the backs of our necks told us otherwise.

Your body tells you things. Pay attention.


We stopped in Mountain View, Arkansas. We found a campground, and we were ready for an uninspired evening of dinner, television, and early bedtime. But the campground manager said, "You might want to mosey into town tonight. They'll be pickin' and singin' around the town square." We went, and we enjoyed one of the most delightful evenings of our lives. If we'd insisted on watching network news, we never would have discovered why Mountain View is known as the "Folk Music Capital of America." We'd be the worst kind of traveler, the kind who's been there, and still doesn't know.

Forget satellite dishes and USA Today when you're on a roadtrip. Buy a local paper, or get your hair cut. Have a beer in the local dive, or breakfast at the place where the policemen eat.

Be where you are.


We caught on fire in Virginia and narrowly escaped a tornado in Michigan. A sand storm caught us in Death Valley, and we blew a tire on the loneliest road in America. More than once, we've run out of money, water, food, and gas. We've been hosted like royalty and treated like criminals.

You're in charge, but only up to a point. When your map's gone, and you reach a fork in the road—it may scare you, but it's where itineraries end and adventure begins.


We didn't start out knowing that you shouldn't go anywhere without a gift, but it wasn't long before we found out. We went to Jacumba, California, to visit a man whom we'd been told was a prospector. He had boundless knowledge of the hills between San Diego and the Mexican border. He was also a Delaware Indian chief, and before we left, he gave us a peace pipe, a rare gift indeed. After that, we realized we needed gifts, and we've never been without something to share when we make a new friend or want to express our thanks. Souvenir pins work well, but so would a card or a poem or a flower.

Don't leave home without something to give away.


As Mark always says, "People are remembering-type creatures." That's what has made cameras ubiquitous, but don't forget the power and value of words. We have a simple journal, recording where we've stayed and where we've been each day. If you already keep a diary, you know the singular pleasure you feel when you look back through the pages of your experience. If you have never known the delight of journal-keeping, give it a try on your road trip. Every night, before you go to sleep, jot down what you remember about the day. Even a few words can be enough to preserve your experiences for later reminiscing.

Photographs record moments.
Words can recall the journey.

Above all, keep enjoying the journey that is life. Whenever possible,

Yours from the road,
Mark, Megan & Marvin

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