Roads Less Traveled 1989 – 2003; T-minus 24 to 10 years and counting

Continuing the prequel posts.  We move 15 years closer to the September 2013 cross-US road trip to recall traveling with small children on small roads.   Earlier pre-history posts cover how the dream began, a 70’s VW van trip, and the links above give more background and the 9/2013 trip plan.

Does anyone really like the interstate?  They are a tolerable utility, useful when you simply need to get there.  And as such they may provide some charm.  I have a romantic attachment to a memory of I-15 from Barstow to Las Vegas at 2 am with Procol Harum on the radio.  But mostly these asphalt tributes to Ike are like the dues you must pay to get to the good stuff.  The I-70’s that provide places like Vail right at the offramp are rare.  More often we abuse the practical fourlanes and then leave them to see Tahoe or Glacier or Zion or the smaller roads of the Eastern Sierra.


1989 hotel stay at Circus Circus, Las Vegas. This trip mixed hotels, camping and staying with friends/family.

In 1989 we took our first big road trip with 3 kids along.  At the same time I started to enjoy planning trips that minimize Interstates.  I mean, why drive to Northern California from Phoenix using I-10 and I-5?  Yeesh.  With a little more time and imagination you can drive on top of Hoover Dam, see the Vegas Strip, look for aliens in the Nevada desert, and enter California over the White Mountains with practically no one in sight.  The Sierras loom across the Owens Valley as you drop to US395, visit Mammoth, and starve your carburetor  over Tioga to Yosemite.

The interstates would have saved me two days and given me wonderful lunches at Denny’s Restaurants (*earp*), but would have cost us seeing Hot Creek, Twin Lakes, Devil’s Postpile and all the rest.  State highways and the old US routes rule in 1989, all the way to Napa, Patrick’s Point, Shasta, and across the west (US 50, the “loneliest road”) to Aspen, and south again to Phoenix.


2000 in DC, a faux cross-country road-trip, cheating by airplane to Baltimore and a rental car for 16 days.

Other trips gave us wandering Summers.  Some faux cross-country driving trips were included, and by that I mean we flew to a destination, rented a car and cut a path from there.  2000 was such a year, with a loop to DC, Williamsburg, Monticello, Gettysburg, Cooperstown, Boston, Martha’s Vineyard and New York City.  Airplanes and hotels might partially disqualify the trip as a cross-country prelude, but it was still a fun route.

Amy at South Rim, 2003.

Another such trip involved an airplane to Spokane and a rental car up to Banff.  In 2003 we cut a route from Sacramento to Bridgeport to Las Vegas to South Rim to Santa Fe to Monument Valley to North Rim to Bryce to Great Basin National Park and back home to Sactown.  I’ll admit to a little bit of I-40 and I-25 on that trip, which are not bad, but the smaller roads hold the best joys.

In all these years, on all these trips, our great kids have been wonderful travelers, and now they independently enjoy some measure of wanderlust.  If we had any part in their appreciation for travel, it might be that we saw something more than onramps and truck stops.  Maybe it’s the idea that the journey is not a means to an end, but is a joy in its own right.

Patrick’s Point, in 1989 our furthest stop from our then-home Phoenix, is remembered well by our kids, and each wants to return, or has already.  I wonder if the happiness of Patrick’s Point isn’t amplified because we took a long time to get there, and went on plenty of wonderfully convoluted route choices along the way.

2003; Road Trip destination Santa Fe for some family time, brothers Cal, Greg, Jeff

Some pictures capture the kids on their way somewhere, which is as it should be (as long as we could keep an eye on them, of course). 1989 on the walkway to the tidepools at Patrick’s Point

Colorado with John and Tessa

South Rim, Grand Canyon, 2003


About Cal Stevens

Learning professional, a training manager, speaker, writer; two careers in helping others succeed. Travel writer for the common road trip.
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