“Man, whither goest thou?” asks one of the lead characters in Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road. “Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?” The elusive search for the quintessential American road trip, like the Great American Novel, is a national pastime. It was prefigured in an interesting way in the novel Huckleberry Finn (1872), in which Huck Finn and a runaway slave go rafting down the Mississippi, but with the advent of the automobile and the Interstate highway system in the early to mid-twentieth century, writers and travelers directed their attention to the open road. Novels like The Grapes of Wrath and Lolita wove stories around the complexities of highway traveling.
The most famous of American highways is, of course, Highway 66, but there are hundreds of other less well-known highways, many of which can be covered in less than a day and offer remarkable views of canyons, rivers, forests, bayous, and oceans to remind us, in case we needed reminding, just how extraordinarily beautiful America still is.
10. Columbia River Scenic Highway
Winding for about 400 miles along the coast of Oregon, this stretch of Highway 101 begins at the mouth of the Columbia River and runs through a number of small towns, including Newport, Tillamook, and Port Orford (home of the ever-hikable Humburg Mountain) before coming to an end in Brookings near the Oregon-California border. Be sure to stop in Cape Perpetua, which provides some of the best trails for hiking on the West Coast, and Seaside, a popular resort town with a large privately owned aquarium.