By Richard Truesdell
With the summer driving season upon us, and with gas prices moderating from this Spring's peaks, it's time to start thinking road trip. You're on the Automotive Traveler website, after all!
The other day I caught a TV commercial for Valero that wrapped up with a URL, PlanYourRoadtrip.com.
Loading the homepage, I wasn't too surprised to find a trip-planning interface called The All-American Roadtrip. I expected little more than a site that could locate the nearest Valero gas station and convenience store (they're everywhere it seems), but what I discovered was a truly useful trip-planning tool.
Since I've been tossing around ideas for my next cross-country road-trip adventure--a tour of America's Little Italy neighborhoods from San Diego to Boston--I put the site to the test.
Designed by Magnus Andersen, a Norwegian living in New York, the interface is based on the now-familiar Google Maps engine. It was easy to load each day's stops (usually an Italian restaurant) and plot the route. Where PlanYourRoadtrip.com is especially useful is the zoom function for a specific location, which allows you to locate other restaurants, bars (for you and your designated driver), hotels, shopping, campgrounds, general points of interest, and, best of all, local attractions with ease.
Best as I can tell from a quick Google search, Valero launched The All-American Roadtrip website back in the Spring of 2011. Based on available web analytics, it hasn't attracted too much traffic since. Clearly, this is a travel tool website that deserves better.
If I was to change anything, I'd find a way to make the map element larger and offer a satellite view, since the underlying map is Google-based. Otherwise, The All-American Roadtrip is an especially functional trip planning tool.
It's also a great way to track down that next 44-ounce fountain drink. In a promo sure to get New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's heart racing like a kindergartner on sugar, the Valero Corner Store is offering a free Billboard MP3 download or a Redbox DVD rental with each such purchase. Very cool!