Someone who knew that Ruth & I visited the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, said that we missed one of the great drives in the United States by not going from Cody to Yellowstone National Park via Highway 14-20. He called it one of the most scenic highways in North America and a real heart stopper of a road. This may be true, but the fact is I have driven this road. However, it has been a few years and I don’t remember this highway as being especially beautiful. That’s not to say it isn’t. It’s just that, at the time, I was not prepared to fall in love with this road
I do have a history of favoring certain drives. The one from Harrodsburg, KY to Lexington via Shakertown has always been one of my favorites and is part of our family tradition. I loved the drive from Raceland, LA to Grand Isle that Ruth & I did a couple of years ago. I especially liked the road food. I favor crossing Nebraska from Grand Island to Alliance via State Highway 2 with a long stop in Broken Bow, one of my favorite American towns. Ruth & I had been planning a return drive on California’s Highway One after many years via Big Sur when COVID interfered. But I think that my favorite all-time drive is the Natchez Trace Parkway experience, a pulse-slowing, diverse 444 mile drive through 3 states–Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. But If I were to do it again, and I might, I’d do it differently.
We did some side trips as we moved ever closer to Nashville. I loved seeing Helen Keller’s Ivy Green in Tuscumbia, AL and Elvis Presley’s humble childhood home in Tupelo, MS. But if I did it again, I’d get off The Trace and spend even more time in Tuscumbia by going to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
As it turns out, Alabama has been called home by an inordinate number of genuine celebrities. This state also justifiably has a Jazz Hall of Fame in Birmingham. Movie & TV stars like Channing Tatum, Courteney Cox of Friends fame, Octavia Spencer, and Louis Fletcher, who won an Academy Award for playing the original Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest were all born in Alabama. Names historically but loosely associated with jazz or some types of popular music over time include Nat King Cole who is currently undergoing a kind of Renaissance, Lionel Hampton, W.C. Handy, and Dinah Washington. All 4 hailed from Alabama. Country & Western stars with Alabama roots include Hank Williams, Tammy Wynette, and the group called Alabama. Then there’s Lionel Richie, Jim Nabors, Emmylou Harris….
What’s your favorite American drive?