My co-author and best friend, Julie, and I took a very amazing road trip through Appalachia recently. We do a lot of them in Arizona and we have a tendency to have no tight schedule and just wing it as we drive along, getting distracted, doing lots of U-turns to photograph abandoned buildings, and test the cafe in small towns.
Choose the country route whenever possible. Highways and interstates can have some awesome abandoned things, but they are also seen by thousands of other people every day. The things most likely abandoned are along those rural routes.
If you plan your trek so you hit small cemeteries, you will be assured of hitting some small towns and secluded spots that are not only picturesque, but likely to have a good cafe in the historic district, a real find. Julie and I always stop and try to find the best authentic chimichanga here in the Southwest. I, however, believe that the single best item I've had in Arizona was the chocolate chimichanga at El Rincon in T'Laque Paque in Sedona. Crispy, flanky, rich thick, oozing chocolate inside. Best margaritas there too.
Have one of you be the lookout for anything that looks interesting, curious, or downright weird, so you can turn around and go inspect.
If you must play music on a road trip adventure, at least get the soundtrack right. I'd highly suggest the best singalong feel good bunch of music - the soundtrack to "Rock of Ages" for the 80s songs that we cut our teeth on. You need ballads, windows rolled down.
Enlist the co-pilot in the car to do some filming of the trip or photographing, simple shots of feet sticking out a window, the wipers going as the bugs are cleaned away, the pile-up of styrofoam cups and trash on the floor, or the changing sunset out the windshield. This will tell the story of what it was really like for the folks who took the trek. Sometimes, we just film the view while you hear us having a ridiculous conversation.
And for those who wondered about my sidekick, Dale the Doll, he had antics of his own when I left him at home.