Looking for adventure Try getting on the road again

With job and parental responsibilities behind you, the open road beckons. It is today our greatest call to adventure in parts unknown, to surprises in scenery and society, to stories waiting to be told.

Now that your time is your own, there's nothing quite like taking the slow road to little towns we've never heard of, to the ever-changing landscape of our vast land.

We get to set the pace of our road trip; we get to choose which detours and roadside attractions will become part of our memory. In driving, we enjoy freedom in a way no other travel method quite approximates.

"Unlike plane travel, where you boogie straight to your destination and then have a vacation, a road trip is its own adventure," says Jean Lindamood in Automobile magazine's "Great Drives" special issue. "You are master of, if not your destiny, at least your route. Best of all, you can bring your fly rod, your spinning rod and every pair of shoes you own."

Whether you choose to climb into your own car, your own motor home or even a rented car or RV, think of the places you can go: The 50 U.S. states offer a wealth of remarkable landscape viewed from behind the wheel on designated National Scenic Byways. The entire system of national parks promises unforgettable natural wonders best visited by that open road. State parks are attractive destinations and the more adventurous can consider crossing the border into Canada and Mexico.

In considering whether to take your car, your RV or to rent either of those, determine where you will be driving.

If you're headed to the center of big cities, a car is easier than an RV to maneuver in busy downtowns.

The biggest adjustment in learning to drive an RV may be getting used to an 8-foot-wide vehicle and figuring how to make a turn. In most motor homes, the driver sits over the front wheels (in a car, the driver sits behind them), so you have to re-evaluate your reaction to the position of your body.

It's also important to remember that motor homes cannot stop on a dime, that you must use your rear-view mirrors constantly and backing up takes some practice, ideally, a partner on the outside to guide you.

An RV is like a little house on wheels. They won't travel as fast as a car. But if you are planning on visiting relatives during your road trip, an RV means you'd also be bringing your own bedroom and bathroom.

If you are heading to national parks or campgrounds, an RV will be your best cozy home. RVs also can be a good choice if you're headed to major urban festivals where hotel rooms can book up fast.

Plan your own route to a particular destination, whether city, family or park. Or, if you have the time, just wander. Turn where it pleases you, seek out little-known state parks and tiny hamlets whose names simply sound melodious.

The American Automobile Association, which has local offices throughout North America, is a great resource for road travelers. AAA members can receive "Tour Guide" books that cover every state in the United States, as well as every province in Canada and some regions in Mexico. The books list attractions, campgrounds, hotels and some restaurants.

Your local bookstore or library is another resource, especially for books listing campgrounds or national park facilities. And don't forget maps: Locate the scenic byways on them wherever you're traveling.

If you're interested in renting a recreation vehicle, check your yellow pages under "Recreation Vehicles — Renting and Leasing." You also can receive a 38-page directory of more than 270 RV rental companies in the United States, Canada and Europe by sending $10 to the Recreation Vehicle Rental Association, 3930 University Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030; (800) 972-1074, ext. 3.

According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, there are some 16,000 public and private campgrounds in the United States. For information on privately owned campgrounds, write to the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds, 8605 Westwood Center Drive, Suite 201, Vienna, VA 22182, or visit its Web site at www.gocampingamerica.com

Kampgrounds of America, North America's largest campground chain, offers a free directory when you stop by any of its 550 campgrounds, or by sending $3 to cover postage to: KOA Directory, P.O. Box 30558, Billings, MT 59114.

To make reservations at the nation's 367 national parks, a toll-free number was inaugurated in March: (800) 365-2267. The U.S. Forest Service operates more than 4,000 campgrounds; get a free list by writing to USDA Forest Service, P.O. Box 96090, Washington, DC 20090-6090, or make reservations at many of the major national campgrounds by calling (800) 280-CAMP.