An American road trip in a Chevrolet Colorado

Shenandoah National Park (above) is where you can drive on the road that inspired the John Denver hit song, Take Me Home, Country Roads. The Chevrolet Colorado is ideal for a rustic road trip in the United States.
Shenandoah National Park (above) is where you can drive on the road that inspired the John Denver hit song, Take Me Home, Country Roads. The Chevrolet Colorado is ideal for a rustic road trip in the United States. PHOTO: KEVIN CHIN
Shenandoah National Park is where you can drive on the road that inspired the John Denver hit song, Take Me Home, Country Roads. The Chevrolet Colorado is ideal for a rustic road trip in the United States.
Shenandoah National Park is where you can drive on the road that inspired the John Denver hit song, Take Me Home, Country Roads. The Chevrolet Colorado is ideal for a rustic road trip in the United States.PHOTO: KEVIN CHIN

The road trip is as big a part of American culture as burgers and baseball.

Blessed with vast interstate systems, rugged small towns and an amazing landscape, the land of the brave and free offers the willing traveller limitless adventures - as long as he owns a set of wheels.

During a recent family holiday, I took a Chevrolet Colorado for our journey from New York City to Washington DC to find out what makes this time-honoured tradition so appealing.

The Chevrolet Colorado is what Americans term a mid-size pick-up truck. Although it is almost 30cm longer than a Mercedes- Benz S-Class, it is "mid-size" in the land of giants.

The trip did not start well. The one hour it took to cover the 7km from our rented apartment in downtown Manhattan to the mainland city of New Jersey was excruciating, to say the least.

The American road trip has been immortalised in countless movies and songs...my“short” 1,200km trip was the perfect initiation into this celebrated American culture.

After getting lost and honked and yelled at by impatient cab drivers and getting stuck in the city's infamous gridlock traffic, I could see why most New Yorkers do not own a car.

For a country that prides itself on freedom and liberalism, the speed limits here are anything but. The maximum speed on the freeway is 65mph (104kmh), which seems measly considering how wide and abundant the lanes are (five at times).

Under the watchful eye of the numerous state troopers and "speed limit enforced by radar" signs littered along Interstate 95, I stuck religiously to the speed limit.

Everyone else on the road was as law-abiding as I was.

If the fast food at the highway rest stops did not help break the monotony of the motorway, the Chevy's built-in Wi-Fi certainly did. My son kept himself entertained streaming YouTube videos while the missus was busy Googling attractions (and like a typical Singaporean, food stops as well) to visit along our route.

It was by far the most useful feature alongside navigation and cruise control.

About 160km into our journey, we made a detour to the City of Brotherly Love - Philadelphia. After deciding that Philly's trademark dish, the cheesesteak, was more interesting than the city's main attraction, Independence Hall (the birthplace of the US Constitution and Declaration of Independence), we bought lunch to go and went on our way.

Washington DC is 370km from Manhattan and at sunset, we rolled into our rented house in a quaint neighbourhood not far from the city centre.

You have to tread carefully when it comes to parking here. Park in a wrong zone at the wrong time and your car can get towed away really quickly. When a parking space was available, chances were the truck was too long to fit in it. America never felt so small.

A chance Google search revealed we were only 117km from the Skyline Drive - a historic 167km mountain pass in West Virginia that runs through Shenandoah National Park, home to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Besides being famous for inspiring John Denver's 1971 hit Take Me Home, Country Roads, it is considered one of America's best driving roads. But the strict 56kmh speed limit meant that the Skyline Drive is better suited to nature lovers than driving enthusiasts, especially when you have 305bhp under the hood of the V6 Chevy.

Flanked by the Shenandoah Valley to the west and the Virginia Piedmont to the east, the route had spectacular views that just about made up for the lack of speed.

When it was time to leave DC, we chucked our considerably heavier luggage into the "cab" (trunk) and made our way back to Manhattan, where the city that never sleeps lay waiting.

The American road trip has been immortalised in countless movies and songs (Easy Rider, 1969, starring Dennis Hopper, and Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen are some examples). For someone who has never driven in the US before, my "short" 1,200km trip was the perfect initiation into this celebrated American culture.

And to have done it in an American institution like the Chevy pick-up is another plus.

My highway adventure was incident-free, except for a US$45 (S$61) fine for "indiscriminate" parking near our rented house in DC. A small price for an instant induction.

I left for my road trip a cautious, wide-eyed wanderer. I returned practically a laid-back, cap-wearing, gum-chewing driver with a cheeseburger beside me and my left elbow out the window.

If a road trip does not Americanise you, nothing else will.

• The writer is a regular contributor to Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2015, with the headline 'Take me home, Colorado'. Print Edition | Subscribe