Road Trip Guides: America on Wheels

Hit the road, old-school style, with these road trip guides from MTV and Jamie Jensen.

Want to show your kids America but get nauseous at the thought of airplane travel with your family? Not to mention those security lines! Why not get behind the wheel instead? Whether you’re cruising in your minivan or a rented RV, here are two books that can help your family plan a road trip to discover and uncover the best the United States has to offer, from prime stretches of two-lane highways to gems hidden in the winding backroads.

If you were envious of those friends who, instead of starting that corporate job right after college, decided to travel across the United States in their cars, it’s not too late for you. With a little preparation and a lot of gas, you too can take that long-awaited road trip to see America.

by John Vorwald, Dara Bramson, Kelsy Chauvin, Nick Honachefsky, Maya Kroth, Ashley Marinaccio, Heather McNiel & Dan Yim, Valerie Willis and Ethan Wolff.
John Wiley & Sons Publishers, May 2007; $21.99

Looking to escape the standard east-to-west, north-to-south variety of roadtrip? This book is for you. MTV Roadtrips U.S.A. takes an irreverent approach to hitting the roads through a scenic America. Ten authors, with very different styles, walk you through ten very different road trip experiences to give you the skinny on the routes they recommend. Journey from Austin to the Carolinas sampling the best barbeque (don’t miss McClard’s in Hot Springs Arkansas!), or experience all the Jersey Shore has to offer, ending in Maryland.

Right on route

If you want to show your family a different side of America, this book touches on the strange, the kitsch, even the paranormal. Instead of trying to cover every possible nook and cranny that may be of interest to the general public in search of the perfect road trip, 10 writers imagined their ideal road trip and then wrote it all down. The results are amusing, off-beat and fun.

I loved the detail on all the eateries. How in the world did they find these places? I found myself salivating over pages describing banana waffles at the Bump and Grind café in Denver, served by drag-queens, naturally.

The “Trip in a Box” snapshots let you know states covered, mileage, trip time and highlights. The “Nuts & Bolts” and “Navigating the Cities” sections were helpful. I learned that Salt Lake City is in a grid system where streets are labeled based on their position relative to Temple Square. And did you know that there are almost 50 streets in Atlanta named PeachTree? (Better get a map).


For a book coming from MTV gurus, I expected more references to music. For instance, writer Maya Kroth’s road trips were the Southern Barbeque Road Trip, where she ate her way through the south Rocking the West Coast in which she drank at rock dives from SoCal to Seattle, so hers had a music theme. Others mentioned music stores, recommended playlists, some music festivals and radio call letters, but as a music enthusiast, I was hoping for a bit more. I would have liked to have seen all of them take road trips that replicated concert tours of famous bands of the past, like The Rolling Stones or Dylan or Zepplin. Maybe an idea for their next book?

In 864 pages you’re bound to find extraneous information. The Baltimore vocabulary section where I learned that people say “tawlet” for toilet, falls into that category.

Worth buying?

Overall, an interesting read, so yes. The variety of contributing writers offers a fresh voice for each journey. The trips described may be off-center from something you had in mind, but as the book states, “these trips aren’t meant to be replicated, stop-by-stop. They are meant to inspire, to motivate, to instruct.” And they succeed. Even if the Paranormal Northeast Roadtrip is not your cup of tea, the places covered on that route may spark your interest enough to add a destination or two to your own customized road trip.

Themes: Family Travel