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Roaming the iconic American highways across the country’s riches of eclectic natural landscapes in search of something lost or undiscovered is a central theme in many films, songs, and people’s dreams. It’s an idea so romanticised and coveted that some dismiss it as yet another cliché.

But there’s one thing about clichés we tend to overlook – their bad reputation comes from their over-exploitation and social media philosophers watering down their original versions which were pure gold. 

And there’s hardly anything that screams “old, but gold” louder than your inner child as it crosses the iconic American highways and catches a glimpse of freedom in all its elusive forms – gorgeous, ever-changing scenery, movie-esque neon-bathed motels, or your own thoughts and dreams, soaring somewhere beyond the end of the endless wide-open roads. 

Pacific Coast Highway, California

Iconic American Highways
Image Credits: 
Hoosier Tim’s Travel Videos

This road can not only take you from Northern California’s Leggett all the way to San Diego, but also along the entire spectrum of the Californian spirit. You can race with the ocean’s waves and waft with their sounds, admire the distant steep cliffsides which always look like a living painting, hear your car’s voice within the peace which green forests envelop you in, or rejoice in California’s signature, coastal small-town vibes.

This highway drove significant parts of the narratives of films like “Sideways” and “Play Misty for Me”

Overseas Highway, Florida

Iconic American Highways
Image Credits: Beach Life A1A

The Overseas Highway basically transforms your car into a jet as nothing comes closer to driving on water than this exotic road which was once a historic railroad. For avid drives with a soft spot for the dreamy tropical scenery and island-hopping, the Overseas Highway is a true paradise.

Highway 12, Utah

Iconic American Highways
Image Credits: My Itchy Travel Feet

We can’t talk about iconic American Highways without including one that wreathes around signature red sandstone cliffs, with their rugged beauty embellished only by with proud, green pine trees. How many different films have used these otherworldly terrains as an unforgettable central character with an impossible to pin down nature – there are few places on Earth which are as unadorned as they are beautiful. Driving across Highway 12 is a chance to inhabit some of your favorite movie characters.

Road to Hana

Iconic American Highways
Image Credits: Gypsy Guide

Taking the Road to Hana feels like a journey to a different world for two reasons.

First, this drive is so beautiful it really does look like a place that only exists in post-cards. Lush rainforests cover towering hills, waterfalls stream down like divine grace from the Heavens, everything is imbued with life and vigor.

Second, this beauty doesn’t come without a price. This snaking road can be pretty arduous to navigate, in fact, its tricky curves have earned it a nickname – “Divorce Highway”, for the spousal arguments this demanding terrain can cause.

Route 66, Illinois to California

Iconic American Highways
Image Credits: Connections

Of course, missing out Route 66 would be blatant blasphemy.

Cheesy, cliché, banal – you might hear those labels attached to Route 66, but one you won’t hear is “overrated”. This highway has long outgrown the mere concept of transportation, transcending the realms of culture, history, art, dining, and many collective, personal, and fictional memories. It’s gorgeous, boundless, liberating. It’s packed with beauty, yet empty enough for your imagination and thoughts to wander and fill in the vast spaces. And of course, listening to “Born to be Wild” from the classic “Easy Rider” on this highway is like drawing a painting in Paris while drinking absinthe – it’s what dreams (and films and culture) are made of.

There are many more iconic American highways out there, each holding countless hidden gems somewhere along its hypnotizing roads. The kind of “clichés” that paved the way for many deeply internal wonders, beliefs, and desires to come at the forefront of our culture and existence. It is this kind of “clichés” that both people and cars dream of. 

Petar Petrov
About the Author

I love stories in all shapes and forms, whether they come from the imagination, or are real-life moments, captured and told in imaginative ways. Writing gives me the chance to focus on making my own stories - through words, travelling, having a social excuse to drink a bit more than others, or staying in my pijamas all day long. You can follow me on https://twitter.com/pesh0man

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