Let’s rewind for a second. It’s 1994. I’m 23. My former college roommate and soon-to-be Los Angeles roommate and I are speeding down Interstate 44 in Oklahoma, blasting Soundgarden’s just-released “Superunknown” as we continue on our cross-country move. I don’t mean to overstate things, but I’m on the greatest road trip ever.
We’d just spent the night in Tulsa’s finest Holiday Inn after a decadent dinner at a mid-range and wholly mediocre restaurant buffet. What I remember most about Tulsa aside from the comically gigantic buffet (and the oppressive June heat) was that I was wildly excited about everything we encountered on the trip. “Those guys are all wearing cowboy boots!” “Look at how different the street signs are in Oklahoma!” “Everyone back in Massachusetts is in a different time zone!”
It wasn’t just Tulsa; I was happy to be anywhere, as long as it was new. As I’ve put together this issue, I’ve been trying to predict what we’ll all remember 25 or 30 years from now, just as the travel, hospitality and live-music industries return to pre-pandemic normalcy. I keep going back to the wide-eyed exuberance I had for everything during that post-college trip across the country.
It’s not just me. In a recent poll of Fifty Grande readers, 83% of you said you planned to take a road trip this year (another 16% said maybe). The number one reason given was “to see someplace new,” followed closely by “just to get out of town.” In conversations I’ve had with just about everyone I know, there’s an unsurprising and universal yearning to “get out of town.” Traveling feels like a collective tug on a relief valve. We may not know exactly where we’re all going yet, but we’re going.
As you flip through the pages of our road trip issue, you’ll find info and inspiration to help you figure out where to go on your next trip. The classic road trip experiences that defined generations are awaiting our mass return. We highlighted eight quintessentials that are just as relevant today as ever. If you’re looking for a different kind of route, we explore two American icons — I’m talking about Tennessee’s whiskey and Wisconsin’s cheese — and have recommendations for classic summer and fall getaways, perfect places for weekend treks. There’s good news to celebrate in this issue as well: new hotels are opening. We’ve highlighted 10 notables.
You’ll also find a handful of essays that tap into that Tulsa feeling and remind us why we want to travel in the first place.