Southern Tier Road Trip

I saw in their eyes something I was to see over and over in every part of the nation- a burning desire to go, to move, to get under way, anyplace, away from any Here. They spoke quietly of how they wanted to go someday, to move about, free and unanchored, not toward something but away from something. I saw this look and heard this yearning everywhere in every states I visited. Nearly every American hungers to move.
― John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

Back in December 2011, I visited my then fiancee’s family and friends in Germany.

The historian in me loved seeing the Cologne Cathedral, the many Roman ruins, the historic medieval quarter of Xanten, the birthplace of Engels, and many other places I’ve only read about previously. I may have enjoyed a German beer or two as well. 😉

I also met the best friend and that friend’s husband.

Sacha and I got along extremely well. As kinda, sorta brother-in-laws, this was a good thing!

When Sacha heard I drove a small (by American standards!) pick-up his eyes lit up. I told him that when he visited America, we’d drive that pickup to Yellowstone, listen to Johnny Cash, and see the sites.

He wanted to do The Great American Road Trip.   And listening to Johhny Cash while in a pick-up seemed the perfect way to experience this seemingly quintessential American experience.

And the road trip IS the American experience people all over the world seem to know about. And dream about.

As I wrote earlier

There is something compelling about the journey letting us breaking free of the day to day confines we have put ourselves in.

Thoughts that seem to percolate often in other bedrocks of American literature:

I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before.


Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.


People don’t take trips, trips take people. 


We want to make good time, but for us now this is measured with the emphasis on “good” rather than on “time”…

Getting in a vehicle, traveling on our highway system, seeing the sites, and experiencing the freedom of traveling for days, weeks, or months at a time is part of the American culture.

We celebrate and often romanticize the nomadic lifestyle (even if most Americans also work way too much to enjoy what is romanticized!) in not only our literature, but in our movies, songs, television shows, and other forms of popular media.

And now I want to go on an extended road trip myself.

I thoroughly enjoyed my small versions of this type of trip along the Oregon Trail and more recently in New Mexico.

I want to see outdoor places not easily connected on foot.  And explore some cultural areas along the way. And switch to car camping as both inexpensive lodging and a way to enjoy the longer nights outdoors that is difficult to do when exclusively backpacking.

What I am calling the Southern Tier Road Trip will start this Wednesday when I see my friends in the Grand Canyon and spending Thanksgiving with them. After that? I may backpack while there, or spend some time camping before I see other friends in the Phoenix area, or maybe I’ll see something else. I’ll be mainly in the southwest and points from California to Florida.

As I also wrote earlier, I have places I want to see such as Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Big Bend, the Everglades, and many others. But I do not plan on having a set schedule. What looks good on the road atlas and appeals to me along the way is where I’ll be headed. I have places I want to see. I have no set schedule for getting there.

My 2005 Kia Sorento will be my home. Built on a truck fame, with 4L and 4H 4WD and 8.25″ ground clearance, it is a vehicle that received good marks as a simple, rugged, reliable vehicle that can handle rougher jeep roads in more obscure places. Not overly large by SUV standards so a reasonably tight turn radius, too. The vehicle has served me well since 2011.

My car camping kit has been dialed-in pretty well over the years. An addition is a duffel of “nice clothes” (as Mom would put it) that are easily washed and some toiletries. I also have some backpacking gear when I want to explore an area this way.  The other major addition is my laptop. I plan on checking in and writing along the way every few days. RV campgrounds will be my friend for showering, laundry and perhaps WiFi access. A $1 coffee at Mickey D’s also gives me some WiFi, too. 🙂

I am looking forward to the next stage of my sabbatical.

We’ll see where the open road takes me.

All future entries may be found here…

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Todd Anderson
Todd Anderson
6 years ago

Sounds like fun Paul 🙂 If you are headed toward Big Bend, you might check out Guadalupe Mountains National Park along the way. It is in Texas but right at the southeast corner of New Mexico. I’ve backpacked both and enjoyed them both equally. And if you want a tase of the Texas Hill Country camping, Lost Maples SNA and Hill Country SNA are two of my favorites. You can car camp or backpack at both.

6 years ago

Possible stops between Phoenix and Big Bend: AZ: Chiricahua National Monument is a somewhat secret gem on the AZ/NM/Mex border. Some great hikes on both sides (north and south) of the range, hoodoos on the north, aspens on the south, Sky Island Traverse crosses through here. Camping is available. Lots of migratory birds stop there as well this time of year. Rodeo/Portal are small towns nearby with food, drink, and a cool artsy/rancher vibe. NM: Gila Wilderness. I believe you already stopped here on your CDT hike. The hike to the hot springs is about 11 miles, camping available. Silver… Read more »

Dale Matson
Dale Matson
6 years ago

“There is something compelling about the journey letting us breaking free of the day to day confines we have put ourselves in.” A friend and I did a road trip from the Detroit area to San Francisco the summer of 1964. As we approached Loveland CO, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Were we actually going to cross those massive Rockies? That view of beautiful mountains left an indelible image in my mind. I was forever changed. I moved to California in 1992 and spend much of my summers in the Sierra Nevada. On a clear day, they are quite dramatic… Read more »