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American Road Trips: 5 great routes

Highway 89

Length: 1,252 miles.

Route: From Flagstaff, Arizona, to Yellowstone National Park and on to Montana.

Highlight: The geology -- from the Sonoran Desert, the Rocky Mountains and the Great Salt Lake to a volcanic plateau with lava flows. Branch off at Highway 179 to see the famous red rocks of Sedona, sandstone formations in Arizona which appear to glow brilliant orange at sunrise and sunset. Known as the National Park Highway, the route links seven of the US's most spectacular national parks, and 14 more can be reached via short detours from this backbone of the Rockies.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Length: 469 miles.

Route: Along the Southern Appalachian Mountains, from Virginia to North Carolina.

Highlight: The 'Skyline Drive', a 105-mile swathe of road through the Shenandoah National Park, with its mountain views and sightings of whitetail deer and black bears.

However, the whole route is spectacular, which is why it is referred to as 'America's favourite drive'. May is a great time to go, with the exposed mountain flanks ablaze with wild flowers.

Stop at rustic cabins with amazing views, at trading posts, Cherokee reservations and communities where bluegrass fills the air.

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Highway 61

Length: 1,400 miles.

Route: South from Wyoming, Minnesota, to New Orleans, Louisiana.

Highlight: 'The Blues Highway', the section running south out of Memphis, following the Mississippi River, which resonates -- quite literally -- with the Delta blues.

Soul and R&B blast from the windows of passing cars, gospel music swells from behind church doors, and in every town, it seems, a veteran guitarist strums on a porch or under the trees.

Stop off in Clarksdale, close to the crossroads where the devil is said to walk, guitar in hand, at midnight. Its Hopson Plantation (an old cotton farm) hosts regular jam sessions -- and you can stay the night.

US Route 1

Length: 2,377 miles.

Route: Parallel with the Atlantic coast, from Key West, Florida, to Fort Kent, Maine.

Highlight: The 530-mile stretch through Maine, north from New Hampshire to Calais, then the St Croix River and the Canadian border.

Following the sandy southern coast, the route crosses rivers with evocative names (Cape Neddick, Ogunquit, Nonesuch, Goose and Ducktrap) before skirting Penobscot Bay -- the 'lumber capital of the world' and homeland of the Wabanaki indians.

With the ocean in view, it passes through forest and nautical towns, often within yards of the rocky shore.

Brandywine Valley

Length: 12 miles.

Route: From Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, south-east to Wilmington, Delaware.

Highlight: The estates, mansions and gardens of the du Ponts, whose wealth was built on innovations ranging from gunpowder mills and nylon stockings to racing cars.

The winding route -- lined with wildflowers, tulip trees and oaks -- follows the Brandywine river and takes in Longwood Gardens (below; designed by Pierre du Pont), Nemours Mansion (dating from 1910, with gardens evocative of Versailles), Hagley Museum (du Pont inventions) and Montchanin Village, a restored 19th-century hamlet built for workers at the powder mill, with 28 houses in which guests can stay.

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