Tuesday, March 21, 2023


Why we wander: New column reminisces on road trip culture and why it’s still so important

As “normal” life begins to creep back, we wanderers keep our secret safe. The pandemic didn’t completely rob us of our ability to move around. For certain, there were changes and there still are situations that have yet to return to the way they were. But, as wanderers, we knew that no matter what, the open space and especially the open road was the safest place to be.

As a travel writer, my life was affected but what we have all been through. But it also pushed me to look harder for little places that cast big shadows. I’ve written many books with you, the wanderer, in mind. My goal since the beginning has been to find those little spots that tell big stories. Maybe it’s a little speck of the road where Cary Grant dodged a crop-duster in the Hitchcock classic, “North by Northwest.” Or perhaps it’s where Theodore Roosevelt spent the night in the great outdoors with the naturalist John Muir, giving birth to the concept of the National Parks. Many of those places were safe and sound while COVID raged, and now, as you get ready to roll once more, I just wanted to remind you how many places like that are out there.

Offbeat historical landmarks

Over the course of the next several months, I will be writing a regular column here which will suggest and lead you to some of my favorite offbeat historical landmarks. This whole idea started for me when I was a kid, at about 9 years old, when I learned that the subway grate where Marilyn Monroe posed in the film “The Seven Year Itch,” her iconic white dress billowing up on a warm New York City summer night, was a very real place on the sidewalk near 52nd St. and Lexington Avenue. That planted the seed that got me thinking about all of the other places around the country with no signs, plaques or markers; places where history quietly happened. Being a road tripper, it felt natural to write the series of books that I did and to continue writing about these places today.

We wanderers, in my opinion, always find ways to take the little detours and side trips to stand in the spot where something happened. I think that’s just part of road trip culture. Our clock is set differently. We make time for things like this that matter to us, and we passionately appreciate both the education and entertainment associated with travel like this.

Where do you like to wander?

Where are your favorite little cultural landmarks? Maybe where the cheeseburger was invented? Or the Mai Tai? Or Irish coffee? Is it tracing the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington or other founding fathers? Is it movie locations, infamous crimes, or rock ’n roll landmarks? They are all good and they all matter. It’s so nice to know that this community of wanderers exists because, in a way, you are all part of road culture history. You understand the magic of the road and the feeling of setting yourself free.

Not long ago I remember being in Gettysburg and finding a little plaque along the main street there that simply marked the spot that President Lincoln had passed on his way to deliver the Gettysburg Address. That was all. He didn’t stop there and he didn’t speak there. He just passed by. But someone thought to mark that exact location. Because it mattered to them. Think of the places that matter to you, the things you want to seek out, and let’s all get ready to hit the road this summer in search of those things that fascinate us. I’ll see you in a week or so with some suggestions to get the summer rolling.

Chris Epting is an author, award-winning journalist/photographer and dedicated road tripper. His best-selling books including James Dean Died Here (the locations of America’s pop culture landmarks), Roadside Baseball, and The Birthplace Book, along with many others that remain popular with many travelers and RVers throughout the country and world. He is excited to be contributing to RVTravel.com and looks forward to helping to lead you places you may not have discovered otherwise. You may learn more about Chris at his author’s site, www.chrisepting.com



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Uncle Swags
1 year ago

Car hiking is great. Just drove 2 minutes out of my way to see the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, Minnesota. Eat your peas!!!

Tom H.
1 year ago

I look forward to your articles. It’s always fun to stumble across an interesting place, especially when you least expect. Welcome aboard!

1 year ago

We are “blue road” travelers-some call us shunpikers. We love the quirky and interesting things we find along the way, and I am excited about your new addition to this newsletter.

Greg Thompson
1 year ago

I’m excited to read your articles in future issues of the newsletter. Chuck used to write about similar discoveries in his weekly editorials from the road (back roads, not interstates). I’ve missed them since he stopped traveling so much.

1 year ago

Yellowstone was created as the world’s first national park 30 years before Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir went camping in Yosemite. It was created by Congress when U.S. Grant was president.

Lee Brandt
1 year ago

I find this very interesting and will read each article. Should be fun and who knows.

Pete Karczmarczyk
1 year ago

Great article! Too many times people speed from one spot to the next without stopping and smelling the “roses.” There is so much to see in our great land. Please keep ’em coming…

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