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By the time Jack Kerouac published On the Road , his counterculture account of a zigzag adventure around North America, the idea of a cross-country road trip was reaching the mainstream. One year earlier, in , the Eisenhower administration had authorized construction of the interstate highway system, promising 41, miles of new roads that made travel almost impossible to avoid for millions of Americans. While travel stories were common long before the invention of the automobile, the rapidly growing network of highways meant more people could take to the road, and they could actually do it as a form of leisure.

But the matter of who could partake, and who could tell their stories, shaped the genre in one unmissable way. Perspectives of women and people of color, by comparison, are few and far between. For people of color, meanwhile, the issue of safety has loomed large. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

The idea of the road trip is uniquely American. One of the first big rises in travel stories is in the s, featuring the wagon train heading out West.

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Almost all the stories are driven by the idea of the quest—either to find yourself or to find the quote-unquote real America. Authors go seeking rural areas and they go out west, to the Southwest or the Midwest. They know nothing about the world. Only 36 percent of Americans even have a passport. Traveling through the U. You can get in your car and get experience deserts, oceans, lakes, bayous. In , the governor of Virginia had claimed some land where the French were building forts, near modern-day Pittsburgh. He sent a year-old George Washington to walk almost a thousand miles round-trip to deliver this letter to the French that ultimately broke out into the Seven Years War.

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Washington became one of the few British citizens to go west of the Appalachian mountains to see what was there and he wrote a book about this after keeping a journal. It became the talk of the colony. The invention of the Model T after was a big shift, but we saw a spike in travel in the s in the midst of the Great Depression. People were traveling out of necessity because jobs are leaving towns. Follow along and we'll tell you amazing stories of local heroes taking small and big steps to fight climate change.

Driving Change

Who knows? You might be one of them -- or know an unsung climate hero you can introduce us to! Explore the technology that the next generation will grow up with -- and learn about how Americans throughout the heartland are already making progress for greener jobs.

Our adventure starts at the closing ceremony of Global Climate Action Summit, where leaders declare their commitment to climate action, and we carry that momentum across America. Do some good in Sin City!

The best American road trips and how to do them

I recommend starting in Austin, the easternmost point on the trip because I think it's the best city in Texas. Austin has a great sense of community and plenty of outdoor activities that are cheap or free. Big Bend is one of the least-visited national parks in the US, according to Texas Monthly, so it's quiet and peaceful. It's also stunning.

The American Road Trip

This half-mile hike with almost no elevation made it really easy to relax and enjoy the sunset For a more adventurous hike, check out the Lost Mine Trail. It's 4. But if you have the whole day, I highly recommend making the trek all the way to the top. When I made it up there, I spent about an hour reflecting on this peaceful summit, and I was proud that I didn't turn around earlier. It felt good to work hard for this view.

This hike features some of the grandest sites I've seen at Big Bend. Featured in the film "Boyhood," this trail is absolutely gorgeous. There are stunning degree views throughout the entire hike. This drive will take about five hours, but the route is scenic.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is comprised of more than limestone caves found underground below the Chihuahuan Desert.

You can take an elevator down to the caverns. It's cool and humid inside the caves. Although mostly dark, there are lights placed around the caves, so patrons can see the different shapes, colors, and textures. The caves are inherently ominous and spooky thanks to the shapes found in the limestone and overall darkness down there. The best way to experience this surreal site is to have no agenda. Just get down there with your pals and get lost. About three hours west of the caverns, you'll find yourself in a place that is the complete opposite of these dark caves: White Sands National Monument. This area is very bright, and the sand feels like no other. It is soft and silky to the touch, and even on a warm day, the sand was cool.

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After an afternoon in the sand, it's only a minute drive to the next destination. The Lincoln National Forest campsite.

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