Road Trips are an American Tradition

Most people who grew up in the United States have memories of strapping themselves into the backseat of the car and taking a road trip to someplace for vacation. Unlike Europe, there aren’t convenient transportation options, so the only affordable way to get anywhere is to drive. We certainly took our kids on many different road trips, whether to Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, Carlsbad Caverns, or Disneyland. We used to tease the kids that it was survival of the fittest, whoever survived the trip in the back of the car would get to enjoy the vacation, that we would leave with three and arrive with two. We used all sorts of tricks to keep them entertained on the long drives, like the license plate game, count the number of different animals that they could see, or handheld games (this was before the world of smart phones, DVD players, and true gaming systems). If we had the time, we would stop at some of the odd places that you find along the way, the aligator farms, bug museums, and other tourist traps that are just there to take your money, but provide a diversion on a long drive.

Driving South on I-25
New Mexico Rock Formation
Arizona Mountains

With that in mind, we decided to drive to Scottsdale, Arizona, this weekend to spend a week discovering what the city has to offer. Oddly enough, we have not been to Arizona, other than to drive through a portion of it, so we were looking forward to seeing something different. Unfortunately, it was a twelve hour drive without stops and we decided to power through and make it with limited breaks for food and bio-breaks. So, hop in the car with us and join us for a road trip from Colorado to Arizona through the American Southwest.

View from the Car
Driving Through New Mexico
Arizona Border

We drove south through southern Colorado, which was very scenic as most drives down along the front range are. There are parts of Colorado that are not particularly interesting to see, but driving down I-25 towards the New Mexico border is actually a fairly pretty drive, but there are few towns along the way. Once you reach Trinidad, you are almost out of Colorado and you are leaving the majority of the mountains behind you. At this point we have been on the road for about two hours and it is an hour to our first driver change.

Heading to Southern Colorado
Bear Crossing – Only in Colorado
Last of the Colorado Mountains

Once you enter New Mexico, you head down to lower elevations and the scenery becomes more stark in general. The drive takes you all the way from the northern border of New Mexico to the southern border, so you will get to see a wide variety of the natural beauty that the state has to offer. Instead of the large mountains of Colorado, there are colorful plateaus along side desert scenery. Instead of passenger trains, you will see freight trains carrying cargo, coal, and livestock across the country. Once you reach the southern border, you enter Arizona and we are now only four hours to our destination having driven an exhausting eight hours since getting on the road.

First View of New Mexico
Just Desert and Highway
Freight Train

The drive through Arizona is fairly boring as you leave New Mexico and there isn’t anything but prairie desert land until you get near Flagstaff. From there you have some mountains once again, although nothing like those that you find in Colorado and Utah. As we near the Phoenix area, the sky turns dark with a combination of smoke and clouds. There is a wildfire burning in the area and we spend part of the drive covered in smoke. Then the famous Saguaro cactus made their appearance, which are so big that it is hard to explain what they actually look like in-person versus just seeing photos of them. Finally, we reach Scottsdale after twelve and a half hours and we were definitely tired of sitting in the car. It certainly didn’t take us long to fall asleep once we reached our room.

Arizona Desert
Mountains, Clouds, and Smoke
Saguaro Cactus

Road trips might be a badge of honor, something to brag about having survived, but they can also be times for families to bond. Given our time in Europe, we prefer the ease of travel there and wish that we had the same conveniences here, but it is what it is. Since we don’t, in order to truly see this wonderful country, road trips will continue to be a necessity, whether you view them as a blessing or a curse.

New Mexico Plateaus
Smoke Rising Above the Desert

21 thoughts on “Road Trips are an American Tradition

  1. We enjoy road trips. We love the ability to wander through an area, stopping for the unusual or unexpected sights or “tourist traps”. We generally do not make reservations and try to arrive at major destinations during the week for lighter crowds. For us, lack of structure is a relaxing vacation. Hope you enjoyed Scottsdale.

  2. Too bad you had to pass so many interesting sites along the way, without having (or taking) the time to stop. But otherwise you might never have arrived. Enjoy your week in Scottsdale. I look forward to your report, have never been there myself.

  3. Thanks for posting this, fascinating photos. To the British, your road trips are legendary, as much spiritual as travel and have given the world some great books and films!

  4. Reminds me of too many trips south on I-95. South Carolina is nothing but sand and pine trees, sand and pine trees, aside from a few seconds crossing a lake in the middle of the state.

    I did take the train across the US a few years back – New York to Chicago, Chicago to San Francisco, SF to Portland, Portland to Seattle, ferry to Victoria and back on Via Rail across Canada. Recommended.

  5. I love road trips. My parents took me to all 50 states, the majority of them by road trips, by the time I turned 13. Obviously Alaska and Hawaii were not road trips, but most of the others were! I loved reading about yours 🙂 And I love doing Spanish road trips too.

  6. I LOVE a good road trip and will take one any chance I get. This summer, I will drive about 3500 miles with my old dog, and we will cover at least 13 states in there. It’s a little harder to stop and do fun stuff with her along, but I still look forward to the time just cruising though all the different landscapes. Your trip sounds fun!

    1. Roads trips are fun. That will be a great trip. We enjoy seeing the variety of landscapes. It is amazing how states can be so different. Sometimes we find ourselves getting tired of driving and not always stopping to see things and just wanting to get to our destination, a bad habit we need to change.

  7. Pingback: Its Time for a Colorado Road Trip – Living The Q Life

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