Growing up along Route 66 in Southern California, Jamie Jensen was immersed in road trip culture at an early age. Back then, freeways were new, cheeseburgers cost a quarter, and every beach had a waterfront amusement park. Family road trips to national parks and historic sites nurtured an appreciation of the USA's distinctive natural landscapes, one-of-a-kind attractions, and unexpected local traditions.
A summer break from studying architecture in college turned into a two-year odyssey driving, hiking, biking, and hitch-hiking all over the continent. Odd jobs became unforgettable experiences. He made hay in the summer heat of the Midwest, crewed sailboats from Cape Cod to Chesapeake Bay, and tuned guitars in a Manhattan recording studio.
A fondness for old road maps and a chance encounter with the 1930s WPA Guides led to an obsessive exploration of the two-lane highways that preceded today's interstate freeways. To spread the word about small-town businesses surviving in the face of anonymous "big box" chain stores and sprawling suburbs, Jamie set to work on Road Trip USA, which first appeared in 1996. Since that prehistoric era of paper maps and pay phones, technology has brought once-distant places ever closer. New generations have been busy reviving old gas stations as microbreweries and turning historic warehouses into farmers markets. Meanwhile, parenting his twin sons Tom and Alex provided Jamie with a good excuse for enjoying minor league baseball games, studying historic plaques, and taking silly photos of roadside dinosaurs and supersized Paul Bunyans.
After a half-million miles spent in search of the perfect stretch of two-lane blacktop, the joy of discovery remains strong. Jamie still feels that sense of adventure every time he gets behind the wheel and heads out on the road.