Publisher’s Note, No. 3

Planned or Spontaneous, Nothing Beats a Road Trip | By Matt Harding, Publisher

At least in the past century, there’s next to nada that is more American (or more American West) than a road trip. From the famous Route 66 and the infamous Loneliest Highway to the dramatic PCH and backroads you’ve never even heard of – there are so many spectacular places to hit the road in this region… for a day, a week, a month or longer.

No matter how you do it, take this as your sign to embark on a road trip.

The road trip is a fundamental part of this magazine and my life. I always advocate for getting out on foot, bicycle, horseback or other slower forms of travel, which is why our second-ever issue was themed Public Lands. That featured mainly articles about hiking, camping and recreating for free or cheap.

But in this issue, I want to emphasize the equal importance of getting to those oftentimes far-off places. A road trip is all about the journey itself and the stops in between, even if the destination is the highlight. 

This has been a busy year for me, between a full-time day job and launching this magazine, but I’ve still made time for a lot of road trips and have no plans to slow down.

I started 2022 on the road for a quickie from L.A. to Vegas to ring in the New Year with Lizzo at the fairly new Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. 

While I was busy moving into a new apartment at the end of January, I planned for a road trip to Phoenix at the end of February for Innings Fest, a baseball-themed music festival held in Tempe. Most of that trip was about the festival, but I decided on a whim to swing by the Salt River area (pictured above) after learning about it from our contributor Hayley Haws, who did a photo essay in the Spring issue featuring the wild horses that live there.

I only spent a few hours and didn’t see any horses, but I managed to get in a decent amount of morning hiking, taking in the views and the desert air. 

April found me at my first Coachella, the famed California music festival. Again, this was a destination-based trip, but I decided to lug my new (circa 1960s) Calumet 4×5 camera along with me for a post-festival detour through the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. It was my first time shooting 4×5, but I got one decent result out of four shots (pictured below).

A week later, I was back on the road, this time to western Arizona to meet up for a morning with the Kyle Petty Charity Ride (which you can read about on the following pages). I went through Oatman to Kingman, had lunch at Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner and headed back toward Los Angeles.

I was going to either car camp or drive straight home via the interstates, but I did neither. Instead I decided to detour through Christmas Tree Pass, another American West-inspired route. See our contributor John R. Beyer’s article on page 34 of our Spring issue (though be warned you’ve missed the window for non-100-degree daytime temperatures until at least September).

The 16-mile dirt-road mountain pass was doable in my compact rental car, though the constant bumps along the way definitely made me relieved to hop out, walk around and take some photos on my phone. I saw only two other vehicles in the few hours I took to enjoy that trip.

There’s so much road trip inspiration in this magazine, thanks to our terrific contributors. I’ve already got my eye on a quick trip along the Bohemian Highway… and, of course, there’s always the possibility for a detour.    

Matt Harding is the publisher and editor of American West.