There is something very special about the road trip. It brings an intimacy to travel that can be missing in other methods. Road trips come in many different forms and can be taken at any time - all one needs is a car and a few days off work. They can last weeks or even months.
Sometimes, an excursion comes out of endless planning, but the urge to travel can also arise spontaneously. One can camp, sleep in an RV, or go to the nicest hotels. Most important, it's possible to wander by car into the nooks of the world not accessible by bus, train, or plane. While other types of travel have parameters, the road trip is open to the desires of the participants.
I took my first long road trip a year ago with my boyfriend. We were moving from Boston to Colorado and had the time to spend a few weeks on the road. The trip began with a detour to Maine, where we spent time with each of our families in their summer homes. When it was time to begin the true journey, we headed south from my childhood home in Philadelphia. The first stop was the New River Gorge in West Virginia. The adjacent town, Fayetteville, is a strange mix of rural Appalachia and dirtbag climbers and rafters. We camped and climbed there for almost a week, before rain drove us on. Our first stop was my favorite, as the excellence of the climbing and the community there was unbounded.
The next stop was Tennessee. One night and a day of great climbing later, we continued to New Orleans. The city almost proved to be too much, and we were both relieved to be back in open spaces.
We never drove more than nine hours a day and barely stopped in Texas or New Mexico. Finally, in Flagstaff, Ariz., we settled in again. We climbed more vertical walls and hiked the tallest peak in the state. When we were ready to move on, only Utah stood between us and our new home.
We sailed past the Grand Canyon on our way out of Arizona, and were greeted by the Utah desert. The orange arches and pillars of stone that sprang from the desert felt like being on another planet. We camped two nights there, near a lake where we caught more fish than we had during the entire trip. On the third day, we began the final drive. Five hours later, we were surrounded by mountains stretching as high as 14,000 feet in the heart of the Colorado Rockies. More than three we weeks since leaving Philadelphia, we were home. We had driven 3,000 miles, passed through 12 states, and slept in our tent every night but three. It had been exactly the trip we wanted to begin our new lives out West.
Hannah Gartner, who grew up in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia, now lives in Frisco, Colo.