Driving Across America On A Budget
Driving across America without spending all your money is possible. How to get in your car and see America from LA to New York.
Most of us can't afford to go to Europe for the summer. In fact, most of us don't have to. We have a beautiful country here; a country with more sites than Europe, a country with a culture and a charm ready to be explored. If we want to, we can get in our cars and see America. Here's how.
The first requirement is a car that can handle 6000 plus miles of interstate (provided you're making a two-way trip, of course). Depending on the speed you drive, and on how much rest time you're willing to give your engine, your car can probably handle it. Have a regular maintenance check done before you leave and be sure to put four vital items in your trunk. A gas can, a large bottle of water, a good spare with a jack, and booster cables. Motels are mostly cheap, but your best bet is to bring along a tent and camping supplies. Most campgrounds have shower facilities, or you can plan to stop at truck stops or even motels every few days (you'll appreciate the occasional bed). As for food, you can rent a small Coleman stove and a refrigerator that plugs in to your car lighter. Other than that, bring comfortable clothes and a good little camera (and maybe one nice, non-wrinkle outfit for Vegas).
You're ready to go. From West to East, here are some of the places you'll see.
If you begin in Los Angeles, you'll get a taste for some of the most beautiful weather in the country. Venice Beach is the root of all our culture, and Hollywood's Star Maps are worth a good afternoon of ogling. If you're sleeping in your car, be sure to stay far out of the city, though.
Leaving LA, you can head to Las Vegas. If you arrive at night, you can see the Nevada border from miles away - it glows with the neon light of promise. In Vegas, you can get cheap boarding and even cheaper food. Remember that you're in the desert, though, and that the cleanest places may have critters waiting to welcome you.
The Grand Canyon is a two-hour detour and has a park entry fee of ten dollars per person. It's unbelievable to see the scope of it, but check your budget first!
From Vegas or the Grand Canyon you can drive to Santa Fe, an orange city made of the sand it's built on. A beautiful, warm place with friendly locals and art that will blow your mind. Stay for lunch or the day, and feel safe sleeping outside at night under the stars.
Next comes Amarillo, Texas. Those TV shows you see where you get a 72-ounce steak for free if you can eat it all are too true. Right along the highway are all the good eats. But be sure, very sure, before ordering this monster. And wear a hat. And wear a bib. God, but I do love Texas!
The next few states are the pride lands. Beautiful, open country with beautiful, open people. Pay no attention to traffic warning signs in Oklahoma City, though - everyone seems to take the by-pass.
Memphis, Tennessee is definitely the Home of the King. But you'll pay big to get into Graceland. You can catch glimpses of it from the road, or show up before 7a.m. for the privilege of walking up to the house. On the up side, you can add to the graffiti on the outside walls and sidewalk. Reading it all is free.
Even if you don't love Country Music, see Nashville. Drinks are cheap, everyone's allowed to dance. Going to Nashville is like going home - or at least like going to the good parts of home.
Why see Bowling Green, Kentucky? They make Vette's there. 'Nuff said.
If you've never felt awe when visiting a place (if you skipped the Grand Canyon, for instance), you'll feel it here. Everything changes, but Washington DC will last. Visiting it, you'll finally understand the word monument. Museums at every corner on every theme will entertain you. The Vietnam Wall and Arlington Cemetery will move you. Before leaving, don't forget to stop and wave at the White House.
Three words on New Jersey: Bring Toll Change.
And finally the prize, New York City. If you're staying the night, your best bet is a hotel in Long Island and some change for the train. Thanks to Juliani, the city is a safe place to visit and, if your legs can handle it, spend the day walking down from Central Park (don't detour to the Met, it costs a fortune) to the tunnel that is Wall Street. On Battery Park, don't miss the secret headquarters of the Men in Black. Then, finally, walk to the waterside (no, there aren't dead bodies floating in it) and see Lady Liberty. Maybe your grandparents saw her from the other side, a long time ago. Now you get to see her with the weight of this beautiful country behind you - and ahead of you.