Small-Town Road Trip
Drive with no particular destination in mind
Enormous swathes of the United States go ignored by guidebooks. They’re places where there’s nothing special, or so the conventional wisdom says. But a long, leisurely drive through these areas—and they’re everywhere, from one coast to the other, Canada to Mexico—often ends up being the highlight of a trip. If you’re looking for the so-called ‘real America’, there’s no better place to start.
You might fly into Fargo, North Dakota, and drive southwest. Once you’re past the Sheyenne National Grassland, the map shows nothing but tiny towns (LaMoure, Linton, Berlin, Napoleon...) spread out like buckshot and connected by long, straight roads. You’ll be the only car for miles and miles, and when you see another one driving towards you, get ready to wave. Look out for real-life cowboys and farmers working the broad, flat, wide-open land. At some point—any point, actually—pull over to the side of the road. Listen to the silence. Marvel at the mammoth sky above you.
Stop in any and every town, where your arrival will likely be an event. These parts don’t get many visitors, and locals will be as interested in you as you are in them. Strike up a conversation; ask questions. One always worth asking: where’s the best pie around here?
What else you’ll find depends on where you go. Two pieces of advice: wandering without a particular destination can lead to the best adventures, and stop more than you think you should. Whether it’s for a yard sale or a church bingo game, a corn maze or a county fair, a bowling alley or a high school football game, the only way you’ll interact with Americans is by getting out of the car.