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America’s Greatest Road Trip! Key West to Dead Horse: 9,000 Miles Across Backroad USA is a gem of a book. Basically, it’s about these two guys, well-known auto writer Tom Cotter and photographer Michael Alan Ross, driving a new Bronco (with a travel trailer) from Key West all the way up and through to the North Slope of Alaska in a big diagonal slash.
The Perfect Drive
In some ways, it seems like a really simple idea if you’re a gearhead: get enough money, buy the right car, and take off across any wide expanse of American terrain and write about it. What makes America’s Greatest Road Trip fly is not just the writing and the pictures (both of which are great) but the whole approach. This is the sixth book Cotter and Ross have done together, so they have documenting road trips and finding unique pockets of Americana down to an exact science.
Cotter has done just about everything in the automotive world. He is a former mechanic and car salesman, later heading the PR department at Charlotte Motor Speedway before forming his own PR and marketing agency, the Cotter Group (he even teaches public relations at Belmont Abbey College today). Cotter appears in the Barn Find Hunter video series, distributed by Hagerty, and has written many titles for Motorbooks, including Secrets of the Barn Find Hunter, 50 Shades of Rust, and Barn Find Road Trip.
Meanwhile, as a photographer, Ross’ prestigious client list includes Porsche, Porsche Design, Polestar, Audi, Jaguar, Hagerty, and many notable car magazines and websites.
Get Your Motor Running
Cotter and Ross have the right approach: an epic path, the ideal vehicle, choosing to enjoy the trip, and, most of all, interacting with the people and places along the way. America’s Greatest Road Trip is not a Point A to Point B speed run. This is not Cannonball Rally. This is not, “Let’s drive Uncle Bob’s Porsche back from Chicago in a weekend and ‘document’ it on Insta.” No, America’s Greatest Road Trip is more comprised of going over the mountains to find that cool lunch spot only the locals know about.
You have to give Cotter and Ross props for not just going from Key West to someplace like San Diego or Seattle. Oh no, they went all the way up to frickin’ Deadhorse, Alaska. Not only is that a long way to go (basically doubling the length), but simply getting to Alaska means diving through British Columbia and the Yukon Territory.
Photos: Michael Alan Ross.
British Columbia is beautiful and mostly easily passable. But the Yukon? There are miles and miles of nothing, few people, and few services. Mechanical problems can be A Problem. You know what else can be A Problem? Bears, wolves, musk ox, moose. There are big, bad, toothy things just running around in the Yukon that will kill you without blinking.
I have family that lives up there and several close friends from college. The mindset it takes to live in a place twice the size of Texas and four times colder is unfathomable for most. And my family and old friends have that “If you’re dumb enough to get lost in the Denali, I ain’t comin’ to look for ya” sort of attitude. But as it turns out, Cotter and Ross are clever guys and made the journey in the spring and summer for the book.
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Author Tom Cotter and photographer Michael Alan Ross drive across the country, through British Columbia and the Yukon, and finally through Alaska to the literal end of the road.
Along the way, Cotter and Ross meet and talk with fellow road trippers, small-town Americans, and world travelers.
Cotter and Ross’ sixth book together for Motorbooks.
Pre-Order America’s Greatest Road Trip
For their 9,000-mile journey to Alaska, Cotter and Ross stay off main freeways and interstates and bypass traditional chain restaurants. Along the way, we meet all sorts of interesting characters doing exciting and unconventional things. We see everything from the Gulf of Mexico to the Northwest Passage and even a year-round Christmas town.
Sure, America’s Greatest Road Trip might strike some as being too folksy and Lake Wobegon, but it ain’t that. It’s a fun read, and Lord knows it might inspire some to head for the horizon just to see what they can see. America’s Greatest Road Trip! Key West to Dead Horse: 9,000 Miles Across Backroad USA is available on Amazon.
Longtime Automoblog writer Tony Borroz has worked on popular driving games as a content expert, in addition to working for aerospace companies, software giants, and as a movie stuntman. He lives in the northeast corner of the northwestern-most part of the Pacific Northwest.