Tag archives for USA road trip

I came to Estes Park, Colorado, to see purple mountain majesties, blue hollows, and flaming red alpenglow. Maybe get some taffy and a T-shirt. My guide is a marked-up copy of Isabella Bird’s A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains, a remarkable travelogue spun from letters the British writer wrote during her trip to Colorado…

“We bike and drink beer. And that’s pretty much it.” A barista in Fort Collins, Colorado, is describing local life here as she readies a hand-pour cup of an Ethiopian bean she calls “delicate, like a flower” (with a wink). We’re at Bean Cycle, a downtown café/printing press on a block of late 19th-century buildings…

Lyrically, “America the Beautiful” covers “sea to shining sea,” but at its heart it’s about where prairies and mountains meet. Katharine Lee Bates, a schoolteacher-poet from Massachusetts, wrote it in 1895, after a trip up Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs, where she looked east over the plains and soon found herself reaching for a pen.…

One of the great things about visiting Europe is getting around by train. Even short hops get you to places with new cultures, languages, cuisines, even types of chocolate. Truth is, you can do that in the U.S., particularly along the Northeast Corridor. I’ve long wanted to do this—connect the dots by train or bus…

Across the Anacostia River from Capitol Hill, the 12-acre Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens has pockets of wetlands that predate city construction. And visiting it feels like a lost surprise. Built in the late 1800s by a Civil War vet who lost an arm at Spotsylvania, the park’s claim to fame, such as it is, are a series of man-made ponds filled with lilies and lotus blooms from Asia, Africa, and the Amazon.

This is part of Capitol Hill’s backstreet charm. Not Capitol Hill, that mound that holds up the U.S. Capitol for flurries of tourists and Congress folks. But what lies beyond, Capitol Hill the neighborhood: a leafy network of setback townhouses on little lawns filling the diagonal blocks of D.C.’s original layout. It’s closer to the National Mall than, say, Georgetown or Dupont Circle, yet it’s a sleepy secret to most visitors.

Philadelphia may not have Central Park, Millennium Park, Golden Gate Park, or the National Mall. But, quietly, it is home to the largest landscaped park in the United States. Fairmount Park, and its associated 60-some parks, fill 9,200 acres of green space in the City of Brotherly Love. That’s over 10 times the size of Central Park (843 acres). It took form in the 1840s but is linked to a 17th-century pastoral vision William Penn had for “Liberty Lands” in the present-day northwest of the city.

It’s fun to watch Austin, Texas, and Portland, Oregon, debate who’s weirder. Both cities—bastions of progressive ideas in (mostly) conservative states—have “Keep Austin Weird” and “Keep Portland Weird” stickers to drive the point home. But no matter how much they try, they can’t out-weird a city that hardly notices its quirks.

That’s Philadelphia, the original American weird. A different type of weird.

The man with graying dreadlocks raking outside a New York mansion is hip-hop pioneer Kool DJ Herc. He hasn’t switched careers, but is an artist-in-residence helping out at the Andrew Freedman Home, a one-time “country club” retirement home that’s now a workspace for graffiti artists, a 1920s-styled bed-and-breakfast, and space for homegrown art and theater.…

Outsiders who associate New York by stacks of New Yorker magazines, Woody Allen films, or even Broadway shows can be excused for overlooking what a big sports town it is. And, unlike many cities in the U.S., it’s baseball first here. After all, the Yankees (aka “Manchester United of the U.S.A.”) have won 27 championships. Beyond those Bronx Bombers though, you can see a game in the Big Apple for much less than pro football, basketball, or hockey tickets. And there’s a game most days of the summer.

This is a battery at Peddocks Islands’ Fort Andrews, opened at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898. And it’s one of the more adventurous ways to spend a day in the Boston Harbor Islands, called the “fair emeralds on a sapphire plain” in the 1882 King’s Handbook of Boston Harbor by MF Sweetser. Most of the 110,000 who visited via ferry last year just go for sea, sand, and forts. Others to camp.

How to Bike to Walden Pond

“It is not worth the while to go round the world to count the cats in Zanzibar,” writes Henry David Thoreau in one of the less-quoted parts of Walden Pond. But is it, I wonder, worth it to go to the place that inspired those, and other more everlasting, words? One can “live deliberately” close to home, but can one do the same on the road far from it? I’m in Boston to find out.

The great thing about the Northeast Corridor of the United States is how easy it is getting around without a car. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. rank amongst the most ped-friendly cities in the country. And I’m seeing them all by Amtrak. Who says a road trip can’t be by train? Over the…

“Taylor Swift ate 650 cupcakes?” I asked, incredulous. “No!” laughed the woman at the bakery, “She bought 650 cupcakes and then sent them around to all the radio stations that played her music.” “That’s a whole lotta cupcakes.” “It was. But I think it was a nice way for her to say, ‘Thank You.’ They…

Plants get hungry, too. Sometimes it just gets really hot down here in Georgia and if there isn’t enough food in the house, the White Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia leucophylla) lures unsuspecting insect guests into its backyard pool and shoves them in, drowning them and then digesting them in slow motion. Nature can be cruel, but…

The shark bumped me before I’d even put on my fins. “Hello there!” I gurgled into my regulator, then fitted the rest of my gear and dropped below the surface and down to the sandy bottom of the massive blue tank. Georgia Aquarium’s Ocean Voyager exhibit is unfathomably large—the size of a football field, ranging…

Alabama was beautiful—growing brighter with the fading sun as I headed east to the great green home of Georgia. Like a slow-burning fire, the land changed from brown to pink to red-orange, glowing like an ember beneath the jungle that is Georgia in June, a tangle of trees and vines and growth so thick I…

I could go to church or be in a music video. Since the awesome Church Organ Karaoke was not happening at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium, I chose fame instead at the Apache Café. B-roll meant that nobody would actually see my face on TV. Maybe it would be…

Driving from New Orleans to Atlanta has led me through forests and swamps, through small towns and big cities, and past civil war and civil rights memorials. No question the complexity of the South is manifest in the landscape, down to the people who are buried in the tough red dirt. It’s amazing the personalities…

No other city in America calls you to the table like New Orleans—the city lives and breathes great food and without question, the Big Easy offers my favorite destination dining in the entire US of A. Though I will be the first to rave about the oysters and po’ boys, duck sausage gumbo and the…

I like going to bars where I’m afraid of the people at the bar. And I like going to bars where my feet stick to the floor. I like ordering dinner from a lady with a skull tattoo on her ring finger who’s actually really cool, though I’m scared if I order the wrong thing…

The pigs are naked today. Andrew is a little disappointed. With superlative words and hands in the air, he attempts to paint the scene for me. “Seriously. My neighbors decorate their pigs for every holiday. Shamrocks for St. Patrick’s, costumes on Mardi Gras!” He looks back one more time to be sure, but the two…

“I think I’d like to dip my toes in the Chatahoochee River.” That’s how most of my journeys begin—a crack of the atlas, a glance at the map, and a sudden longing to reach that place on the page. Long before we smell the souk or walk on the beach, we read a name—on a…

It took me all day to drive across Los Angeles. Friends warned me about the traffic but after so many days of solitude in the dry and empty desert, I had forgotten the feel of a city. Los Angeles is a city of cars, built for cars. People are second-class bystanders to the rivers of…

In early May, the Colorado River separates Arizona from California with a painted stripe of transparent turquoise. The blue water glowed in the sun and the black pavement on the bridge sent up waves of heat that felt pleasant at first, then oppressive. I had the whole desert to cross, but honestly, all I wanted…