Based on my experience, there are two types of road trips.
The first is the kind that conjures up all sorts of romantic notions of setting off toward the horizon in some flashy ride or something dripping with character. There might be a destination in mind, but it’s the journey that matters most. Choosing the road less travelled and seeking out every scenic overlook and local curiosity is the plan, all in the interest of having an experience break free of the daily grind. This is the type of road trip desired by dreamers and the unencumbered, and should only be attempted by those with lots of spare time on their hands.
The second kind of road trip is familiar to most of us. It’s the kind where a practical, but overstuffed family vehicle is chosen to deliver its occupants as quickly and comfortably as possible to the end destination. Sure there will be stops along the way at various tourist traps, but mostly the Family Truckster is locked in cruise control mode while the driver does his or her best to ignore the sounds (whining, complaining, sibling battles) and smells (youthful feet, that piece of beef jerky that slipped between the seats, and… well, you get the idea).
Thanks to Nissan Canada, I have just finished an odyssey of more than 2,200 km in four days of driving on what they’ve dubbed the Altimate Rogue Trip that blended a little of each type of road trip.
Day 1 – Chicago, Illinois, Palmer House Hilton. Click image to enlarge
After a restful night at the stunning, historic Palmer House Hotel in Chicago, our entourage of merry motorists briefly paused for a photo op in front of a sign indicating the start of the legendary US highway before setting out in a small armada (see what I did there, Nissan?) of Rogue CUVs and Altima sedans.
While these two vehicles may not be the driving enthusiast’s choice in the Nissan corral (that role is better filled by the 370Z and GT-R), they are nevertheless smart choices for a long cross-country journey like this and represent the type of vehicle many North American families use for their own vacation travel all year round.
All of our test cars were loaded up SL trim models featuring leather, satellite navigation and really decent Bose stereos. Each had a four-cylinder engine attached to a CVT transmission ensuring Nissan’s fuel budget was kept in check. All this combines to make for some excellent long-distance touring machines and pretty great fuel efficiency.
Nissan’s goal for this adventure – in addition to reminding the journalists about the finer points of two of the company’s most important models – was to drive the full length of what’s left of the historic Route 66 highway from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California. Regretfully for your humble writer, time constraints meant the journey would only be little more than half the full distance, terminating in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Day 1 – Start of Route 66 in Chicago, Chicagoland Speedway. Click image to enlarge
Decommissioned in 1985, U.S. Route 66 had been slowly replaced by the faster and more direct Interstate system enabling more efficient motoring between Midwest industry and agriculture and the southwest coast of the United States.
Thanks to this transition to the Interstate system, much of the original route has either been paved over, or in many cases left to return to nature, slowly being swallowed by weeds and grass. Throughout many parts of the length of 66, alternate alignments were created during its nearly 60-year life and many other parts have been given new state-allocated names or numbers.