Hello rubber tramps and all who wish they could be. I’m Bob Payne, also known, mostly to myself so far, as Interstate Bob. I hope you’ll join me on Interstate Bob’s Ultimate Road Trip, a 46,876-mile highway adventure around (and around) America.
As a bit of background, I’ve spent much of my life as a travel writer, visiting 140-something countries and seeing my stories appear in some pretty good publications, including Conde Nast Traveler magazine, where I believe I remain the only writer ever allowed to put the cost of a Polynesian tattoo on an expense account.
But now I’ve decided to settle down, which to my mind means taking the time to see more of my own country. And I am beginning with — or continuing, really — Interstate Bob’s Ultimate Road Trip.
Resuming a journey I began decades ago, I am driving all 46,876 miles of America’s Interstate Highway System, of which I’ve already done 13,680, and have 33,196 more to go. (As I travel, check in each day to see the numbers change.)
My first leg began Wednesday August 16
I’m heading out solo from Scottsdale, Arizona, just northeast of Phoenix, 2,987 miles to New York City. Officially, I am transporting a carload of clothing, furnishings, supplies, and wall decorations my younger daughter is sure she cannot survive her first year of college without. It has not gone unnoticed, however, that my route and timing will put me dead center in the middle of the solar eclipse in the middle of America. I’ve even already gotten my special glasses.
But looking for driving adventure on the Interstate? I know some eyes are rolling, because I’ve done the Blue Highways and Travels with Charley thing, too. And I remember totally agreeing with Charles Kuralt, the On the Road storyteller for CBS beginning back in the late 1960’s, when he said, “Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.”
Consider this point of view, though. Sure, it is possible to travel anywhere without seeing anything. Most people do it all the time. But if you look closely enough, in the desert, on the ocean, along the Interstate, you’ll find life, and drama, and sometimes even beauty.
To see all that, I’ll look most closely at the people I meet along the way, because one thing I’ve learned visiting those 140-something countries and covering those first 13,680 miles is that everyone — whether they are taking a break from working behind a fast-food counter, or a sofa has just blown onto the highway from out of the back of their pickup truck — has a story to tell we all can almost always benefit from listening to.
So I’m off, resuming my Interstate run, looking for life, and drama, and beauty. And stories to listen to.
I hope you’ll join me.