Travel writer Joe Yogerst hits the road

Author Joe Yogerst

Author Joe Yogerst


Car trips are the focus of Joe Yogerst’s new guide, ‘100 Drives, 5,000 ideas’


Local resident Joe Yogerst is a longtime writer, photographer and editor specializing in travel narratives. In addition to the articles he has written for newspapers, including The San Diego Union-Tribune, and for magazines, he is the author of many travel books, including his National Geographic bestseller “50 States, 5,000 Ideas.” His latest, “100 Drives, 5,000 Ideas,” came out this spring.

Q: How did you get started in travel writing, and what about it appeals to you most as a writer?

A: As a teenager, I really developed two interests: one was writing from when I was a freshman in high school, and the other was traveling, which was something I got from my parents and our summer vacation road trips.

I didn’t become a full-time travel writer until the late 1990s when National Geographic offered me my first book: driving the Pan American Highway from Texas to Argentina. Things kind of took off from there.

Q. What was the impetus for “100 Drives, 5,000 Ideas”?

A: It’s the third book in a series. We started out with “50 States, 5,000 Ideas.” It has now sold more than 300,000 copies and has been the top-selling travel book in the U.S. and Canada for almost two and a half years. After that, we did “100 Parks, 5,000 Ideas,” and they wanted to do a third book. We kicked around a lot of things. One of them was on road trips, and that was the idea that tested the best.

Q. What drives are you most looking forward to when we can travel again, and which ones would you recommend to others?

A: There are a couple of drives that I would like to take that I invented for the book. One I’d like to do in one shot is my “Jurassic Drive” from Alberta in Canada to Denver. It goes through Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado and it stops at dinosaur sites, dinosaur digs and dinosaur museums along the way. It’s a great family drive and there are dinosaurs at the end of every day.

The other one I’d really like to take is my “Alien Highways,” which I start in Marfa, Texas, and end in Rachel, Nev. It goes through UFO/alien/ET sites in the Southwest. It features everything from the Marfa Lights to the Roswell Incident to Snowflake, Ariz., where the great alien abduction of the 1970s took place, and onward to Rachel, in the desert about two hours from Vegas right outside of Area 51.

Q. What about close to home for San Diegans?

A: One of my favorite day trips is always to Anza Borrego. Another is driving up top Palomar Mountain. And driving up 101 through the coastal communities, starting in Pacific Beach and going up through La Jolla and UCSD and Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, staying off the freeway and sticking on the coast road.

If you want to take off on a longer trip, there are obvious ones like Vegas. But some are not so obvious. The first road trip I ever did without my parents was in high school. We drove from San Diego to the Bay Area along 101 stopping at all of the California Missions along the way. Another one that I did with my parents was driving Highway 395 from San Diego to Reno along the eastern side of the Sierras, stopping at Lake Tahoe along the way.

Q. Tell us about your next book.

A: It’s “100 Cities, 5,000 ideas” and it’s 100 cities around the world that all of us should visit.

Q. What was your criteria for including a city?

A. Other than the fact that they’re already famous, like Paris, London or Rome? But then going beyond that, there are a lot of places that are really cool but maybe not so obvious.

You have to have new phenomena, like Dubai. Dubai is the place that’s probably changed more than any big city in the last 50 years. Singapore’s much the same way. When it became independent in 1965 the leadership decided they wanted it to become a cultural and tourism hub and a green city that would be a template for cities in the 21st century. Shanghai was also a colonial city that until China opened in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s was kind of dead in the water. They built it and people came.

Q: How many American cities made the cut?

A: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Honolulu have their own chapters. Nashville and Memphis have a chapter on their own. We also have sidebars that go with bigger chapters. San Diego is actually a sidebar to L.A.

Q. How will travel be changed over the long run in the aftermath of COVID-19?

A. I think it depends on how long it lasts and whether it keeps coming back, like the influenza of 1918-19. There are a lot of entities that will not survive. Smaller airlines will have a really tough time. I think the Uniteds and Americans and Deltas of the world will survive because they’ve made a lot of money off us over the last 10 years. The big hotel chains will survive.

Q: And after we have a vaccine?

A. Some people will still be skittish, but I think there’ll be such pent-up demand by then. People will just want to travel and get out. I think people will be a lot more careful and more choosy about where they go and what they do when they get there.

— David L. Coddon is a freelance writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune