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Highway Travel Across America – New York to St.Louis

You don’t see too much driving down the interstate highways of America. I traveled through two nights across the north eastern expanse of this very large country by car — I saw the highway in my head lights and only the dark night a little farther beyond. There is little to report beyond that. I [...]

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You don’t see too much driving down the interstate highways of America. I traveled through two nights across the north eastern expanse of this very large country by car — I saw the highway in my head lights and only the dark night a little farther beyond. There is little to report beyond that. I left Bangor, Maine at 5 PM local time and drove through the night. I arrived in Albion, New York at 10 AM the following morning at my family’s home. 7 hours later I was back on the Road. I arrived in St.Louis the following morning.

Dark night, headlights, roaring trucks, rest stops, disposable cups of coffee, gas pumps, dashboard lights, classic rock on the radio.

Traveling highway America by car has the effect of taking a ride in a sluggish sort of teleportation device — you travel through time and space, but you obtain few impressions of the physical makeup of the journey. Few impressions besides your own dark, private thoughts. Car travel in America has the effect of a long, cross country meditation. It is almost akin to air travel in this regard.

I know that I drove through two nights — it took a long time, I am sure — but the journey leaves no impressions other than what was rigged together from the batten down hatches of imagination. I watched the clock on my car’s dashboard tick away the hours, I watched the mile markers on the highway tick away the journey, though I have no mental bookmarks to show for this move through time and space.

Travel in a car across highway America is like floating across a big, sun parched fallow field inside of a tumbleweed. Well, until you steer off the highway for gas in the middle of Indiana:

Then, like playing peakaboo, you remove your hands from over your eyes and see America.

“Peakaboo, America, I see you!”

Then, to keep the game going, you return to hiding behind the hands of the interstate highway.

Hello America

Hello America

The interstates are the arteries of America, they are what gives this country its blood, but the meat, brains, and heart of the country can only been observed away from the highway. I must say that I anticipate being shot out the end of this highway tube in Arizona: I am excited to see my country again.

Traveling through interstate America

Traveling through interstate America

As a young traveler I picked up my first Kerouac novel in Buenos Aires. Even though I was already well established in my traveling life, the book still had its intended effect. How exciting it is it is when the romance that you are living can be mixed with the romance of fiction. It was much like consulting a map after staring out into a range of unprovenienced mountains.

My Roads of summer time travel usually connected archaeology project to archaeology project or, in more recreational times, road trip destination to road trip destination. From where this journey began in Albion NY the Road has gone through the  UP of Michigan, from New York to Miami, Ft. Lauderdale to Connecticut, Buffalo to Louisiana, Louisiana to Ohio, Ohio to Wyoming, Montana, and back east again — only to return west to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and residual travels to Delaware, Boston, the whole Midwest, east, southeast, New York City, Maine:

From the east to the west, north to south, I have criss crossed this land like the laces that run across the tops of my old boots.

I addition to traveling to 45 foreign countries I have also had the opportunity to get a rough impression of my homeland. I laugh as I recollect how I once crossed the state of Ohio 20 times in a single summer chasing work from one side of the USA to the other. After traveling through 42 of 50 US States I sometimes feel as if I have come to know a little of America. Though I know that this country is a black hole in a bucket: I will never be able to touch its bottom, no matter how deep I reach.

I love big, deep, black hole countries — and I find the United States of America no less exotic and bewildering than any other country on the planet.

Travel from New York to St.Louis

Travel from New York to St.Louis

Though I have seldom written about these travels.

I am now Singing the Song of America.

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Filed under: Road Trip, USA

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3691 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Trenton, Maine

5 comments… add one

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  • david September 15, 2009, 3:01 am

    Interested to read a LOT more. How does the ‘feeling’ change between states? Can you cross it all the way back using smaller back roads, or is the interstate the only option, given the distances involved? I wonder if backcountry America feels anything like say, backcountry South Africa or Australia in terms of the people you’ll meet?

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 20, 2009, 6:22 pm


      The USA is a very regional country. Sometimes the feel between states is not too different, but from region to region, this difference is really huge. The southeast of the USA is totally different from the Southwest, the North east is very different from the west. This is a really awesome country.

      I will try to write more about these differences.



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  • Bob L September 16, 2009, 10:46 am

    David, there are plenty of ways of crossing the country without doing much superslab. But they all take longer. Ther are a few that are fine though, such as if you are going towards Denver, you can take SR 36 across Kansas, it is fast enough and much more interesting than 70 – Route 34 is the parallel twin sister of U.S. 36 and is similar, the scenery is almost identical. I have not taken rt 34 so can’t vouch wether it is better or worse. There are also plenty of fairly quick roads in Pennsylvania, and others, but they all add numerous hours over the superslab.

    There are, unfortunately, no real quick alternatives to the superslab on the route Wade is going. But if one can afford a bit more time, then any of the *Blue Highways*, as William Least Heat Moon called them in his book of the same name, can add a great perspective on *real* America. That is one of the great things about doing some of the long distance rallies that I do is that they send you on many of these Blue Highways, that you would never ride otherwise. Unfortunately, there is not much time to savor the culture in these areas.

    Bob L

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  • Scott McArthur September 18, 2009, 10:55 am

    I have traveled what I would have to say is “some” (comparatively) through the US on both highway and back roads. My favorite way to go from one place to another is to use a ruler and draw a straight line to where I am going and then take the back roads that lead me there in the most direct route. I have done this several times and while it does take a little longer (depending on the distance), many of the roads have speed limits between 55 and 70 mph between towns, but then drop to about 35 mph in said towns.

    The truth is though, that if you are traveling in the central US on back roads you really just pass miles of farm land between little towns, most of which seem pretty run down, but every once and a while you pass one that is really neat looking. I stress the “looking”. Unless you take the time to stop and get out of the car, you will likely miss it all any way and just take longer to get where you are going.

    Another bad deal is that you pay more for gas off of the highway (by like 20% sometimes). Good deal: more interesting restaurants than the same fast food joints you pass every couple of exits Bad deal: more cops, so you really need to watch your speed. Good deal: hotels are cheaper if you need to stay the night.

    With all of that taken into consideration though, I still prefer back roads because at least it gives me something to look at other than billboards. Of course, if you get a CB radio, you can pass the time talking to the truckers!

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 20, 2009, 6:15 pm


      You just about completely summed up car travel in the USA here:

      Sometimes it is worth it to tick your way across the country on those “Blue Highways” that Motorcycle Bob speaks of, and sometimes it is best to transfer across this land on the interstate. It all depends on circumstance and location.

      I would like to go out and search for some Blue Highways and take my time across this country the next time I cross it.



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