From the plains to the coast: The new Oregon Trail road trip
Historically, the Oregon Trail embodies the life-changing experience. It was originally the main wagon route west for emigrating pioneers of the 1800s desperate for a new and prosperous life on the Oregon coast. What they found at the trail’s end was a long way from Idaho’s steaming geysers or the simple beauty of the Nebraskan plains: lush green forests, the Tualatin Mountains and the alien roar of the sea.
Hire a car and make for Independence, Missouri. Trailers got kitted up for their expedition in this small town, but you can forgo the bags of flour, bacon and coffee and stock up on bottled water, sweets and crisps. Join the I-70 to Kansas City, where you can enjoy some of the best jazz clubs in the country. The I-70 then continues along the Kansa Turnpike to state capital Topeka, a great place to watch live motor racing. Heartland Park has a quarter-mile drag racing strip and competitions throughout the week. Head north on Route 75 to Indian Cave State Park, where you can find petroglyph engravings several thousand years old. It’s also ideal for camping and outdoor activities like hiking, biking and fishing so why not take a little break from driving?
Next up are the Courthouse and Jail Rocks, two giant stone formations close to the Nebraska panhandle and historical landmarks for those trail-blazing pioneers. Head north-west to Casper, where you can bone-up on historical records at the National Historic Trail museum. Cross the state line into Idaho and Soda Springs, where natural springs of carbonated water erupt every hour. The I-84 leads north-west to Boise, a lively city surrounded by the snow-capped Rocky Mountains and split by the Boise River. From here you are close to numerous ski resorts, including the Bruce Willis-owned Soldier Mountain. Join the I-84 northbound across the Oregon border and Portland greets you. A few miles south is Oregon City, your final destination.
Today, you’ll find the roads in better shape, and the 2,200-mile journey is achievable in a few days rather than six months. Portland is a great place to wind your journey up, and offers the perfect respite – downtown you can sip a micro-brewery beer or small-batch coffee and flick through your photos. And if you’ve still got the energy, there’s always Seattle or even Vancouver to explore.
This is a road trip that showcases old-style America alongside new; it’s a U.S. rite of passage and can be as exciting (or as unashamedly clichéd) as you decide. For a few other ideas or to read our pick of American cities, sights and events, why not head over to www.alamo.co.uk/news/tag/america/ and let us spark your imagination. Happy driving!
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