When I was first thinking about going across the U.S. on Route 50 I came across a fascinating book, Romance of the Road: The Literature of the American Highway, written by Ronald Primeau in 1996. Primeau, who's a professor of English at Central Michigan University, analyzes American writing about the road -- or, more specifically, about adventures traveling across America.
As Primeau puts it, "In hundreds of books, movies, poems, songs, and videos, the road journey is an epic quest, a pilgrimage, a romance, a ritual that helps explain where Americans have been and where they think they might be going. ... " He delves into a broad range of books, from Mark Twain's Roughing It (on Twain's travels from Missouri to Nevada) to classics like Jack Kerouac's On the Road and William Least Heat Moon's Blue Highways -- but Primeau also considers travelers with a camera (or a TV crew), most famously Charles Kuralt.
What Primeau doesn't cover -- since his book was written a little over ten years ago -- is the amazing new surge in online travel journals about the American road made possible by the internet; especially by the explosive growth of blogging. For better or worse, my own Route 50 trip is going to be one small part of this new genre.
What will future historians of the American road make, for example, of the adventures of some of my "neighbors" here in Burlington, Vermont (two of them students graduating from Champlain College), who will be traveling cross-country by moped? Their trip will be retracing the route of Burlington native -- Horatio Nelson Jackson.
Jackson, affectionately known as the "Mad Doctor," was the first automobilist to travel cross-country, from San Francisco to New York. Jackson took 63 days to complete his epic 1903 journey. Driving his 20-horsepower Winton touring car, Jackson was accompanied by his dog Bud -- who usually rode shotgun. One photo has Bud posed behind the wheel! [the photos of Jackson and Bud are reprinted with permission of the University of Vermont Library].
A key element of this upcoming trip by Nicholas Girard, Kevin Corkrum, and Tom Sands will be their Moped Country blog. Here's what the three have to say about their plans: "What is all this about? We are three guys mopeding across the United States this summer, from San Francisco, CA to Burlington, VT, following the route of Horatio Nelson Jackson. ... Starting what is now one of America’s favorite past times, the All-American Road trip! We will be following his journey on moped to promote fuel efficiency and alternative forms of travel."
But Nicholas, Kevin, and Tom are just one example. Take a tour of the blogosphere, and you'll come across an assortment of cross-country road trips now in progress. Just two examples: Howard's Cross Country Trek and Andy's American Adventure.
Our Route 50 trip blog won't be quite as informal as most of the travel blog's you'll find out there -- but we're also part of this new age of travel "writing" where text is combined with photos, sound, and video to try to bring the reader/viewer a more vivid sense of what the traveler is seeing on the road ... almost in "real time." Stay tuned!