Off the Beaten Path
Just because you're taking a road trip doesn't mean that you have to start from home. Sometimes you want to get away -- far away.
Alaska's Seward Highway
If you can make it up to America's Icebox, you're in for some of the longest interrupted stretches of stunning scenery the country has to offer. At 127 miles (204 kilometers) long, it might sound more like an afternoon drive than a road trip, but that's only if you don't slow down and take in its parks, mountains, glaciers, fishing, skiing and wildlife-watching opportunities. Besides, for those unaccustomed to the wild northlands, being within a few hours of Anchorage is comforting. Take the trek in the summer, when the weather is nicer and there are a ludicrous number of daylight hours during which to take it all in.
The Black Hills
A land made famous by gold, Custer and the TV show "Deadwood," the Black Hills of South Dakota possess a stark, otherworldly beauty, surrounded by lush prairies, black forests and fossil-rich, striated cliffs. History haunts these lands, where Lewis and Clark trod, Crazy Horse fought and Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok lived. Fly into Rapid City, then head east on Highway 44 to Loop Road (240), which will take you on a scenic tour through Badlands National Park. If you’re a nature lover, check out Prairie Homestead, a prairie dog town located just off 240 as it circles around to join Interstate 90. I-90 will return you to Rapid City, where you can set off on Highway 16 to visit Mount Rushmore. Continuing south, make time for Custer State Park’s 71,000 acres of preserved forest and grassland, where you can get your fill of bison, pronghorn and mountain goats. Then, on your way back to Rapid City, visit Crazy Horse Memorial, a colossal and controversial sculpture still under construction.
Hawaii's Big Island
The Big Island (aka Hawaii) has it all, but you'll miss it if you stay put, so fill your thermos with Kona coffee, grab a handful of macadamia nuts and take a spin around its breathtaking bays, rugged uplands, lush valleys, plunging waterfalls and stunning scenery. History greets you around each bend, including 19th century churches, Polynesian cultural sites and reminders of the conquest and reign of Kamehameha the Great. Don't miss the island's beaches of black, pink and green volcanic sands. Speaking of volcanoes, check out the still-erupting Kilauea. The Big Island is so nice, they're making more of it all the time.
Now that your head is spinning with possible destinations, let's run down a list of tips that will make your trip a success, no matter where you're bound.