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100 Reasons to put America on your bucket list

Most of the trip was the pleasure of two-lane roads allowing travel into the small towns and cities of the American West. U.S. 89A in Marble Canyon, Arizona, near the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.
Most of the trip was the pleasure of two-lane roads allowing travel into the small towns and cities of the American West. U.S. 89A in Marble Canyon, Arizona, near the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.Eric Jay Toll

America the Beautiful: Desert to Rain Forest

U.S. 89A in Marble Canyon, Arizona, marks the end of the first day's journey on a 24 day road trip.
U.S. 89A in Marble Canyon, Arizona, marks the end of the first day's journey on a 24 day road trip.Eric Jay Toll

America the Beautiful: From Desert to Rain Forest series chronicles a 4,500 mile road trip over 24 days from Phoenix, Arizona, through Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington to the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park. Over the course of this journey, a selection of 100 sights to see in the West will be shared.

If the American West is not on your bucket list, it should be.

Introduction

The America West is big, beautiful and diverse. A road trip from desert to rain forest captures merely a slice of its colors, fragrance and sights. From the moment the garage door closed until it once again opened, an adventure of discovery finds the West falls into breathtaking regions, each with its own magic as its own destination.

Discovering the American West is more than what is seen. It is the look of wonder in a child’s eyes seeing an elk stroll casually across a meadow without regard to the people gawking from the road. It’s being stopped while a flood buffalo divide and flow past the car on a narrow lane. Discovery is the collective sigh heard when looking deep into the colors of the Grand Canyon for the first time.

Road Tripping on Real Roads

There are a dearth of interstate highways in the West, and this is a good thing. It makes a road trip an opportunity to really slow down and see America from local highway speed. The freeways crisscrossing the nation are placed to move goods and not to show off what makes this part of the nation a remarkable place. Using U.S. and state highways is slower, but meanders travelers through towns large and small.

Come travel through the experiences and sights seen on a road trip wheeling off freeways on more than three of four miles during the trip. Listen to people talk with love for the land they call home. Hear visitors shake heads in wonder at what this land unveils.

On this journey, foreign visitors were found in the most unusual places—visiting unpredictable locations, because in their homelands, the West is really what America really is. There is much in this country that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. It should be on everyone’s list to see it.

Staying Local, Staying Under the Stars

Getting into America also means staying in places that may not carry a national lodging flag. Over the course of nearly a month on the road, a cumulative week was enjoyed in national and state park campgrounds, the rest of the time found heads resting in locally-owned motels and inns, places standing on their own merits. Meals were shared in local, and sometimes off-the-wall places. Many dining gems were discovered along the way—extraordinary meals in unexpected locations.

America the beautiful. It is, and it is a place to be explored region-by-region, off-the-track and into visitor hearts.