The Great American Road Trip #1

It is the size of America that astounds the European, for whom a mere twenty miles (say Holland to Germany) entails meeting a new country, a new people, a new language.

The Great American Road Trip is the shangri-la of many European travellers. It's a dream as old as Tocqueville (one recently revived with grating pomposity by Bernard Henri-Levy). My battered Rough Guide to the USA lists "hitting the open road" in its things everyone should do in America (next to #35, Pike Place Market, Seattle, Wa.--been there, done that). One imagines Big Sky Country, an empty road, utterly straight, jetting through the desert like a UFO on its way to Roswell.

My Great American Road Trip was of the East Coast variety, where the towns are more interesting, and the scenery a great deal more gemütlich. Think Great Smokey Mountains rather than cacti and dust.

We had been holidaying in Orlando. Most Brits in Florida have a week in Disneyville then head off to the coast for some R&R, but we had to get home to Baltimore. Rather than take the bland I-95 route that rockets from New York to Miami, we took the scenic route through the mountains. On the map it doesn't look that big, but, for example, a drive up I-81 through Virginia--the freeway that follows the spine of the Appalachian mountains--is about 320 miles. That is the equivalent of Birmingham to Edinburgh. In other words, a pretty long way. Add to it Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Maryland and you have one hell of a road trip: 1200 miles, one car, three days. Stories of the Great American Road Trip and a few photographs will follow.