Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

November 29, 2021
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The call of the road

Adventure is just at the next exit on a long-distance drive from Toronto to San Diego

This year is the 50th anniversary of the US interstate highway system. Back in 1956, when President Eisenhower kicked off the program, there were only a few hundred kilometres of divided, four-lane highways in the entire country. Today, there are close to 75,000 kilometres.

This summer and fall, more physicians and their families will be on those roads than ever. Even with gas prices at US$3 a gallon, car travel remains the most economical and convenient way to go. Two tanks of gas a day will take you anywhere from 900 to 1600 kilometres in the US and cost you less than US$100, no matter how bad the mileage is on old Betsy. Add to that the strong Canadian dollar, and the open road looks more appealing than it has in 10 years. Why not do as so many of your colleagues are doing: pile the family into the jalopy and take off?

One caveat: don't back down the driveway without doing some planning. The interstates are speedways; they're a fever. The huge temptation, particularly for those of the male persuasion, is to put the pedal to the metal and keep going until the kids are ready to wet their pants and your spouse has her eye glued to the "E" on the fuel gauge, certain that you're about to run out of gas and that "we'll all be stranded."

You can avoid these situations with a little restraint — and advance planning. The key to successful family travel on the interstates is side trips. It may be true that you can make it from Toronto to Disneyland in California in under 50 hours but, really, what are you out to prove? Do it in seven or eight days and everyone will have a whole lot more fun. You can only be away from your practice for two weeks? Hey, what's the rush? Take three weeks. A year from now, no one will remember if you were there that week anyway. But, 50 years from now, yours kids will still be telling their grandchildren about the great road trip they had way back in '06.

And think big. If you live in the West, go east; Easterners go west — and go all the way. At the end of the trip, everyone gets to dip their toes into either the Pacific or Atlantic, a worthy goal in itself.

There are five interstates that cross the US, two north and two south with I-70 smack in the middle. Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Kansas may not sound like nirvana, but if you know how to ride the interstates, they're a revelation. For the purposes of this article, we're moving from east to west, but it works just as well from the other direction.

Remember: you're looking for adventure. It helps to repeat every morning, "the journey itself is the destination."

You can make it to St. Louis in a day from Toronto (1275 kilometres) but who would want to? Instead, start slow and head over to the old beach town of St. Joseph, Michigan ( on the southeast shore of Lake Michigan. It's an easy run. You'll be there in plenty of time to relax on the huge beach. The town's all music and cotton candy, summertime at its best. For reservations go to

The next day will be your first on the interstate. Push on to St. Louis, Missouri ( by taking the I-57 east of Chicago to link up with I-70. It's about a 650-kilometre run. Stick to the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, it's far more rural than the suburban sprawl west of the city in Missouri.

Hit St. Louis early the next morning and head straight for the famous Gateway Arch ( You can walk up or take a tram. The soaring silver ribbon of steel is surrounded by a great park with access to the river and paddle-steamer rides. This year, there's a fascinating exhibit about the Lewis and Clarke expedition to Oregon, 200 years ago; it's a wonderful introduction to points west.

After a couple of hours, push on towards Hannibal, Missouri (, Mark Twain's hometown, 48 kilometres north of the I-70 on the Mississippi River. Prepare the kids by reading a few chapters of Huckleberry Finn.


Alternately, speed across the state to Kansas City, Missouri (, and put in some adult time around 18th Street and Vine — once the stomping grounds of Count Basie, Charlie Parker and Lester Young, and one of the holiest locales in all of jazz. Keep the kids on track by telling them you'll visit the legendary Dodge City of Wild West fame the following day.

If you decide to skip KC consider a stop at Abilene, Kansas (, around mid-state. It's the home of the man for whom the interstate system was named, General Eisenhower himself. The nine-hectare site makes a peaceful respite. The grounds are impeccable. As for Jack and Jill, this is your chance to bring them up to speed on World War II.

An hour or so farther down the I-70, it's decision time. Somewhere near Salinas, Kansas (, you have the choice of staying on the interstate and riding it all the way into Denver, Colorado ( If you do, spend the night in nearby Boulder at the Hotel Boulderado ( before crossing midway through Utah to hook up with the I-15. It will take you into Las Vegas, Nevada before heading down through Barstow into Los Angeles.

Or you could choose to cut across country, through the rolling plains of Kansas into Dodge City, Kansas ( In the morning visit Boot Hill (, where marshals Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson were all the law there was in the 1880s. Out of Dodge, follow portions of the Santa Fe Trail ( across the Oklahoma panhandle to Santa Fe, New Mexico. On the way you can almost hear the creak of the wheels of covered wagons and the moans of the Prairie tribes who, in a few short violent years lost everything they had known.

Santa Fe, New Mexico (, with its art and architecture, wonderful cooking, plethora of bookstores and cafés (not to mention the shopping) is an adult paradise and you'll be tempted to ditch the kids. Instead, plan to come back alone later and take them up to the Children's Museum on Museum Hill ( — they'll love it. While they entertain themselves, you can visit one of several museums in the same location or nip back to the plaza and take in the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum (

Time's a wastin' and there are still 1300 kilometres to cover before you hit the coast. Head an hour south to Albuquerque, New Mexico ( and get onto I-40 for a long, easy drive through Navajo, Hopi and Zuni country ( There are a thousand temptations here but leave them for a return visit when you have a few weeks to spend absorbing the landscape, history and culture of the continent's original inhabitants. If the kids are restless, stop at the Petrified Forest and Dinosaur Museum ( in Holbrook, Arizona — you can't go wrong with dinosaurs.

Decision time again: at Flagstaff you have the choice of swinging up for a quick look at the Grand Canyon. But the better option might be to spend the night in Winslow, Arizona ( at La Posada (, a restored Spanish hacienda with 80 rooms and the best restaurant north of Scottsdale. The trains that slip quietly by on the Santa Fe Railroad should be enough to amuse the young 'uns; the atmosphere and artwork are enough to keep you oohing and aahing for the rest of the trip. Visit the hotel's website for a look.

Refreshed by a good night's sleep and a fine meal, it's on to California. Take in Disneyland ( if you must — it's the 50th anniversary of the park. Better yet, head straight for the ocean. Laguna Beach, California (, a short hop south of LA, is a good pick. This appealing spot has a fine long crescent of sand, an active arts scene and some interesting accommodations. Housekeeping cottages with room for four or five go for US$150-US$200 a night.

If the road still calls, go farther south to La Jolla, California ( This somewhat upscale resort near San Diego has been pleasing beachgoers for over 100 years.

Now that you're relaxed and happy, it's time for a leisurely trek home. By all means use the interstates, albeit with a eye out for the fine attractions that might be just off the four-laner and over the next hill.


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