Travel Tuesday: The Great American Road Trip
By: Charlotte Bleau
The average American only travels within US borders. Some articles cite that more than half of the US population has never left the United States. While there are many reasons for this, including financial ability, the vacation (or ‘holiday’) differs from that enjoyed by Europeans, who tend to travel to warmer climates or to experience other cultures. In the US, on the contrary, the domestic road trip is a historic staple.
The idea of the grand road trip originated in the 1930s and 1940s before air travel was as accessible as it is today, and while the interstate highway system developed westward and connected most of the 48 mainland states. Though the road trip isn't quite what it used to be - two plus kids, a mom, and a dad pile into a minivan or station wagon for two or six weeks of the summer - there is still some incentive to see the United States by car.
The biggest landmark to visit in the southeast, which is where I grew up, would probably be the Grand Canyon. Last summer, I went on a two-month camping trip with my home institution (University of Georgia), where I travelled out west past the Grand Canyon to California, north to Oregon, and then headed back east, while visiting more than twenty national and state parks. Arguably, this is the best road trip anyone can take.
However, this summer, I did not take that road trip. I took another, shorter, less adventurous, but perhaps more ambitious trip.
My sister went on the same camping trip five years before me, and during this time, she fell in love with the environment and the life purpose of protecting it. She was accepted to Vermont Law School (if you don't know where that is, it is about six feet under snow about six months of the year in the northern Appalachian Mountains), and decided to make the huge move north. We packed up her apartment, put her dog in her car, and my dad, my sister, and I took off for Vermont.
Coming from Atlanta, which is a pretty vibrant and liberal city in the conservative and sweltering south, you see lots of different kinds of people en route to Vermont, known as the home of Bernie Sanders. For one, the number of Trump supporters is astounding, especially because they put his name on their cars for so many people to see. At rest stops, you can see the diversity of the American population just in the parking lots. Aside from political affiliations, cars have bumper stickers for bands, places, stores, music, and religion. Inside these rest stops, familial antics take place between the maneuvering of snack and coffee orders.
The only thing that really bound us all together was that we came from somewhere, and this was one stop on the way to somewhere else. My family was in a hurry. In a rented U-Haul and a small, tightly packed Volvo, we traveled the roughly 1,000-mile journey in under thirty-six hours. To be honest, we drove so much in so little time that it is difficult for me to remember the journey.
Some things I do remember, however. Driving through Virginia was especially beautiful. We drove late the first night until we reached Pennsylvania, and at the old conference-style hotel we stayed in, Fox News played at breakfast. Ultimately though, I was focused on the destination: South Royalton, Vermont.
We finally made it right before the sun went down, and immediately started to unload the truck. It is a cooler summer up north. In Georgia, the summer is almost exclusively sweltering and miserable, but in South Royalton, the summer nights cool off nicely. About a thousand trips up and down the stairs to unload the truck later, and we went to dinner.
South Royalton's population was last recorded at a whopping 694 people, and that’s including the law school students who reside there. St Andrews, which can feel quite isolated and small, is twenty five times that. The law school lies on the river on the north side of the small town. In the center of town is a small park with two gazebos, lined on all sides with a few pubs, a couple of small co-ops, one post office, a tattoo parlor, and a clinic. Beyond that there are a few houses, a fire station, and that's about it. Smooth and forested mountains surround the town. It is quiet and serene.
In some ways, this town may sound like a nightmare, especially to a lover of cities. My sister and I grew up in Atlanta, a very neighborhood-oriented city, but a city nonetheless. But South Royalton is nice. It reminds you of the ‘small-town America’ everyone talks about, but no one really knows or sees. It's a great place for new beginnings.
I left South Royalton two weeks before I left for St Andrews. I was ready to find my new place, but that's another story for another day.