- The Washington Times - Friday, June 3, 2005

When people travel these days, they’re usually thinking about destination. But the road itself occupies a storied position in American culture, and — even in the age of the interstate and its ever-spreading standardization — getting there still can be half the fun.

The Internet is chock-full of ways to find out more about the roads you want to travel, the roads you’ll never get to and the roads of yesterday that are gone forever — plus loads of sites on fun things along the road.

Start on the “Mother Road,” as U.S. Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica, Calif., used to be known. The country’s most famous highway was decommissioned in 1985 and now exists as a series of back roads and segmented chunks of interstate highway.

Roadside aficionados from across the land and as far away as Japan and Germany come to capture something they believe is quintessentially American.

Historic Route 66 — www.historic66.com — offers photos, travelogues, books and maps. Similar visuals are served up by the National Historic Route 66 Federation, www.national66.com. State-by-state guides and sites also are at hand with a quick search-engine query. Before Route 66, the Lincoln Highway and the National Road were attempts at connecting towns with big-time highways.

A Lincoln Highway fan offers a handy take on the road at www.ugcs.caltech.edu/~jlin/lincoln — including a link to the official Lincoln Highway Association, www.lincolnhighwayassoc.org. Also try the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor — www.lhhc.org. For the old National Road — “The road that built the nation” — www.nationalroadpa.org is a useful place to start.

If you’re seeking out people who love roads more than you do, the definitive destination is State-Ends.com — www.state-ends.com. It’s a monument to a delightful obsession. Folks from 11 states have painstakingly documented and photographed where each local highway in their states ends. Fascinating viewing.

To plan a road trip, look to Roadtrip America — www.roadtripamerica.com — for useful tips. For straight-up information on the national highway system, look to the government site www.fhwa.dot.gov/hep10/nhs.

One reason to travel by road is the weird serendipity of the places you’ll find. These are documented affectionately at myriad sites. Among them:

• Motel Americana — www2.sjsu.edu/faculty/wooda/motel — a wonderfully whimsical site about the roadside motel in America.

• RoadsideAmerica.com — www.roadsideamerica.com — dedicated to the still-formidable weirdness that pervades American back roads.

• Roadside Peek —www.roadsidepeek.com — one-stop shopping of American road-trip yesterdays.

• The work of John Baeder — www.johnbaeder.com — an artist who specializes in photo-realistic paintings of diners and other roadside staples.

• Diner aficionados can find Roadside Online, a journal largely about diners and their history, at www.btwmagazine.com.

• The self-explanatory Roadside Art Online, www.interestingideas.com/roadside/artwest.htm.

“Taken on the Road: American Mile Markers,” — www.kodak.com/US/en/corp/features/onTheRoad/home/index.shtml — is an elegant and quirky personal travelogue by Matt Frondorf, who traveled from the Statue of Liberty to the Golden Gate Bridge. He shot 3,304 photos, one for every mile of his trip, and they show the best of the road in America — a place with possibilities, people to meet, things to see; a nation to digest.


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