For me, road trips are the ultimate way to spend a vacation. It’s not so much about that poetic idea of hearing the miles pass under your wheels. It’s about seeing the scenery gradually change, about passing everyday scenes in small towns, about being caught up in the traffic of big cities and then being alone again with meadows and forests, views and perspectives.
So without further ado, here is a selection of annotated road images I collected through the years.
This was actually a business trip, which required me to take a long drive from Central Germany to a small place near Beziers in Southern France together with a coworker. We took turns at the wheel and had so much fun that the paid trip became a mini vacation. Arriving at the designated point after 1250 kilometers on the road, the asphalt suddenly ended, marking the end of our journey and opening the view on a rural scenery stamped by harvested fields and a few colorful field flowers.
Red Canyon, Utah
The Southwestern USA is so rich with natural wonders and breathtaking scenery that some points that would be a major tourist attraction elsewhere don’t even make it into the guidebooks. Exhibit A: Red Canyon. We came across this little gem en route to Bryce Canyon, only one of several national parks within easy reach of each other. I pulled over rapidly, knelt down in the middle of the road (ignoring the alarmed cries of my wife who was certain I was going to be run over within seconds) and took this photo, which would remain my favorite until many years later.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is definitely one of the cities for which I recommend leaving the car in the garage and get around walking. The cobblestoned street in the picture is the one leading up to the Prague Castle. Walking up to the castle can be a bit of a strain, but the beautifully restored buildings and the colorful mixture of people on their way here make up for that. Besides, you won’t find a parking spot near the top of the street anyway.
Ria Formosa, Portugal
There are some roadways that allow automobile traffic but that you don’t wanna drive on, because it feels a little like intruding. This one here is the entrance to the Rio Formosa nature preserve in Portugal’s Algarve region, the only place in Europe where you can see flamingos in the wild. It’s a pristine habitat that comes to life when the sun goes down and it would somehow be wrong to enter with an engine-powered vehicle. We chose to walk instead and were rewarded by spotting a chameleon crossing the path right in front of us, walking in a seesaw movement, back and forth… Who knows if it would have been quick enough to escape an approaching car.
New Mexico, USA
An endless grey band, the horizon simmering in the heat. Dried out shrubbery left and right of the road, the soil a color combination of burned, reddish grey and sandy yellow, all of that bleached out from the sun. These are the surroundings in which you can set out a sign advertising “cold cider and fresh cherries” and become an instant tourist draw. In New Mexico, on our way from Texas to Arizona, the sign made us stop. Turns out the owner of Runyan Ranches in Lincoln National Forest not only has cider, but he also keeps a donkey and a few goats. Those of you following my posts know that it doesn’t take any more than that to win my daughters heart. So we stopped, petted the donkey, had a nice talk with the owner and bought some of the tastiest veggies I ever had. Road trip perfection.
It took us a day or two to realize what it was that made a difference here: There are hardly any trees. In Iceland, they have built a nice ring road that circles the entire country and touches all the inhabited places, because nobody’s really living in the hinterland anyway. But venturing off that ring road is what gives you the Iceland road trip feeling. Look left, right and ahead and you will see that there is simply nothing that moves. No trees in the wind, no birds crossing the sky. Nothing. This is what they mean when they say it’s like a lunar landscape. It really is, if alone for lack of a better description, because there is really no other place you could compare Iceland to.