The Themed Road Trip: A Fun Way to Travel

A festival or event is a great reason to road trip, and I still do it, albeit less often these days. So, what gets us on the road? For some, it’s a visit to see family, but for many of us, we need a raison d’être or, in this case, a raison de faire un road trip!

The Themed Road Trip A Fun Way to Travel HeidiTown Kenosha Pass 2023
Kenosha Pass, Colorado (October 2023)

Ryan and I have been exploring themed travel (beyond festivals) for the last few years. It started with our Dust Bowl Road Trip in 2022. I was overjoyed at the amount of interaction those posts inspired. Many people left comments or even emailed me about it. 

Dust Bowl Road Trip: The Reasons Why

That travel was inspired by literature about the Dust Bowl, both fiction and nonfiction. I think, for us, most themed travel will be inspired by literature.

A writer I’ve known for many years now, wrote during that time to tell me that I should consider exploring Nebraska inspired by literature. In graduate school, Carrie Dow, originally from Nebraska, took a Literature of the Great Plains class. 

She had to read Willa Cather, John Neihardt, and Mari Sandoz, all Nebraskan writers. She suggested a road trip based on those authors. There is a Cather Museum in Red Cloud, plus, she is a fan of the entire state.

“I think that area of south/central Nebraska is gorgeous,” she wrote. “I also think Nebraska’s Panhandle has some stunning natural scenery that many people don’t know about. What people see driving across I-80 does not reflect how beautiful my home state is.”

The Themed Road Trip A Fun Way to Travel HeidiTown West Nebraksa
A back road in Western Nebraska.

Another themed road trip idea also involves driving the Lincoln Highway through the entire state of Nebraska. Of course, many do the Pennsylvanian route, but that would be a bit of a drive for us.

The Themed Road Trip A Fun Way to Travel HeidiTown Lincoln Highway Nebraska

We have been on the road several times in Nebraska, but the farthest we’ve traveled is from Kearny to Ogallala. We’ve also been on it in Wyoming when we stopped for lunch at the Historic Virginian Hotel in Medicine Bow.

The Themed Road Trip A Fun Way to Travel HeidiTown Wyoming

The Lincoln Highway is the original transcontinental road completed in 1916. Starting in New York City, New York, it ends in San Francisco, California. The route through Nebraska goes through midwest Americana-style towns. Obvious that some of these towns have seen better days, the road passes retro motels (many remain open) and the occasional vintage gas station, which are sadly no longer open.

It seems like everyone wants to drive Route 66, but the Lincoln Highway would make a unique road trip. 

Television can inspire road trips. Many years ago, we explored Deadwood, South Dakota, due to our enjoyment of the HBO series, “Deadwood.” Unfortunately, the article I wrote about it in 2010, is gone. When was updated in 2016, all posts that were linked via pages (I used to do that because someone told me it was good for SEO) disappeared. Yes, I have moments of pure sadness about this.

The Themed Road Trip A Fun Way to Travel HeidiTown Custer State Park, South Dakota
We discovered Custer State Park when visiting the Deadwood area of South Dakota. Here I am trying to move a turtle from the middle of the road.

A fun trip that unintentionally turned into a themed road trip was our visit to Albuquerque, which is around a seven-hour drive for us. We were going for the Fiery Foods & BBQ Show, but as it turns out, I ate a lot of tacos, even on the way there. 

The Themed Road Trip A Fun Way to Travel HeidiTown, Charlie's Spic & Span Las Vegas, NM
Charlie’s Spic & Span in Las Vegas, New Mexico, on our way to Albuquerque.
Surprised by Albuquerque, New Mexico, in a Good Way

Once there, we drank a lot of beer. There are around forty breweries in the greater Albuquerque area, and every one of them has a taco truck out front. I was in heaven!

Surprised by Albuquerque, New Mexico, in a Good Way. HeidiTown (3)
Outside of Sidetrack Brewery in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Food is a favorite when it comes to themed road trips. Our friends Mechelle and Caleb took a long road trip based on barbecue. Mechelle kindly wrote about their adventures for me in the BBQ Belt Road Trip: 4,000 Delicious Miles.

BBQ Best Road Trip Memphis TN HeidiTown 19
BBQ at the Germantown Commissary in Memphis, Tennessee. Photo by Mechelle Martz-Mayfield.

Road trips around food can take place in Pueblo too. We’ve visited in the early fall several times to visit the farms/farm stores and get freshly roasted green chiles.

A Road Trip in Southern Colorado, Day One, Pueblo Eat All the Things. HeidiTown (8)
This is my bushel of roasted green chiles.

The North Fork Valley is another place that excels when it comes to a fresh food-based road trip, it’s also an ideal spot to take a road trip around wineries. Don’t miss a personal favorite, Big B’s. They make amazing hard ciders and Ryan’s much-loved Pommeau.  

FEATURED FESTIVAL Farm to Fiddle Festival, Hotchkiss, Colorado. Our haul.
Our haul from Delta County in 2016.

Of course, Mesa County, where the cities of Grand Junction and Palisade are located, makes a sweet winery tour spot. Plus, you’ll find loads of fresh produce and veggies here.

Colorado Wine Country, JR Carriage Services, in Palisade.
Colorado Wine Country, JR Carriage Services, in Palisade.

As it was with the Dust Bowl Road Trip, our next one will likely be related to a new literary obsession for Ryan: cowboys. Specially, the cattle drives between the border of Mexico and ending in Montana. “Lonesome Dove,” the book-turned-television mini-series, outlines a cattle route that we could take. The book, by the way, is great.

As with the Dust Bowl Road Trip, this is a doable outing for us as the cattle drive routes are all around us in Northern Colorado, but mostly just east. It would involve driving down to Texas through many small towns and then up through Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. 

We probably won’t make it to Montana on this cattle drive-inspired road trip because we won’t have the time. Right now, we’re considering April 2024. I’m excited because I might finally get to see Kerr County and Kerrville, Texas. This area has long been on my radar for obvious reasons. As a Kerr, I should be a celebrity in Kerr County!

Traveling with a Dog: The Importance of Dog Parks

A real benefit of doing a road trip, by the way, is the ability to bring the dog. Fritzi has been to nine states already. She is more well-traveled than some humans.

Meet Fritzi, the German Shepherd Colorado Dog & Head of Security. HeidiTown (7)
Her first road trip was four years ago to Salida, Colorado.

I’d love to hear about any themed road trips you’ve taken or themed road trips that you’d like to take. Leave a comment!


  1. It all started innocently enough, dropping kids off and picking kids up from college and visiting kids while at college in Siloam Springs, AR, Hays, KS and Missoula, MT. The college roadtrips were fun, but then we began to stretch the road trips out beyond the weekend in order to watch an occasional minor league baseball game. Some of these included seeing the Springfield Cardinals, Arkansas Travelers, NW AR Naturals, Amarillo White Sox now the Amarillo Sodpoodles, Wichita Wingnuts, now the Wichita Windsurge, Missoula Osprey, now the Missola Paddleheads.

    Of course we started to become a little obesessed, with my husband’s stated goal to collect the home game hat from each team. Now we take trips with a goal to get in as many games as possible. This last summer we took two trips amd got in 5 games in total between Amarillo, San Antonio, Corpus Christi (which was too hot to actually see a game that afternoon, but the hat was obtained) Trinidad, Ogden, and Grand Junction.

    The beauty in minor league ball is that each team has its loyal fan base. The crowds have good, family friendly energy. The fans banter with home and away teams and with fellow fans in the stadium is fun to watch and sometimes hilarious.

    I highly recommend minor league ball trips, especially if you are disenfranchised by professional sports.


    1. Linda, I LOVE this! We are a big sports family too. Ryan has a dream of visiting all the east coast football towns (like old steel cities) and going to a dive bar to watch football. He wants to do it in places like Pittsburgh and Buffalo. He doesn’t need to see them play in the various stadiums. He wants to experience the game with the fans sitting at the bars. The ones who have been there for years. We haven’t discussed this as a road trip, but it could be. We might have to work on this idea!!!

      They mentioned minor league baseball in the book, “Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America,” by the Fallows. They claim it is a good way to get to know a town and your comment proves their theory. I will have to keep this in mind. I am more of a football and soccer fan, but who doesn’t love baseball in-person?

      Thank YOU for your great comment!


      1. If you complete your football trip with Ryan, do share! It sounds like an amazing trip. The local fans in bars would be a great bunch, I’m sure.

        I’ll have to check out that book, thanks for the great suggestion and thanks for giving us great ideas for trips. I often tell others about your website if they need Colorado and Wyoming suggestions for things to see.


  2. Mayor, you are right on target with this one. I’ve loved road trips thanks to my dad who would load up seven kids and take off for a destination only he knew. We just returned from one; Utah, Idaho, Yellowstone & Grand Tetons. Planning a southwest swing in January to see migrating Sandhill Cranes, friends and get a little desert time.


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