Saturday, December 05, 2009

[Travel] See the U.S.A.

See the U.S.A.: Sophia Dembling at World Hum explains why you should visit flyover country by picking ten must-sees, and nails it. Best of all she doesn't short change the commercial sites (Vegas, Disney World). These places are popular for a reason, specifically: they are awesome. But for the folks who claim to be unable to stomach such commerce oriented places she explains re: Vegas:
[T]his is a basic philosophical question: Do we travel to see what we want, or to see what is? I subscribe to the latter philosophy. Vegas IS, like it or not, in a very big way. It's more quintessential America-it's big, loud, razzle-dazzle, and unapologetic and, by the way, it's full of Europeans, who wouldn't dream of skipping it.

There is little to quibble with in her list of all-American places. I could do a similar list but it wouldn't be better. I'll try anyway:
  • Manhattan -- Center of the universe. Arts. Food. People. Energy.
  • Utah -- Spend some time in the big four parks -- Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands -- you will have the same awe at the world that you had as a kid.
  • Vegas -- What Sophia said.
  • Disney -- What Sophia said.
  • French Quarter -- After two hours on Bourbon Street and you will be drunk, deaf, and broke. If you're lucky.
  • Carlsbad Caverns -- The only place I've seen that is as striking as the Utah parks. It's just unimaginable that such a place exists.
  • South Dakota -- I'll extend Sophia's Mt. Rushmore recommendation to include the swath of western South Dakota that covers the Badlands, the Crazy Horse memorial, Custer State Park, and the rest of the Black Hills.
  • Charleston/Savannah -- Two cities wholly devoted to the preservation of their past. Savannah's antebellum homes were made for touring. The heart of Charleston is more modern, but the surrounding plantations are verdant beauties.
  • Hana, Maui -- This is a tough one. You need Hawaii in this list and I could easily have gone with Kauai. But the road to Hana, the town itself, Hamoa beach, and the Seven Pools hike are as sweet a set of experiences as you can have. Forego the bus tours and day trips and arrange to stay a couple of nights in Hana. Only then will you relax enough to glimpse the spirit.
  • Northern Michigan -- I could have easily picked the upstate New York (Adirondacks or Finger Lakes), but this is a sentimental favorite. Follow the Lake Michigan shore from Saugatuck up around the glove to Leelanau Peninsula and on to Mackinac Island. You will then know Lake Culture.

The more I think about it, I bet I could do another set of ten alternatives. Maybe next month.

(If you are looking for a single massive road trip, check out the Nation Park Service's site devoted to Route 66.)