My wife and kid and I are vegetarians, which can complicate road-trip dining. For non-vegan meatless meals, let me recommend the Country Sampler at Cracker Barrel. It’s just a plateful of not-especially-healthy side dishes, but they’re really good side dishes, and hey, we were on vacation.

My kid has been horse crazy for most of her 13 years. As a parent who is more or less responsive to the wants and needs of my child, I donated a precious week of vacation time to a spring-break, horse-country road trip.

As luck would have it, Consumer Guide’s long-term Nissan Pathfinder arrived right around the time I was setting up my out-of-office voicemail greeting. Our handsome red test vehicle came well equipped, though not quite loaded. (Getting lost in St. Louis is still pretty much my fault—what was life like before navigation systems?)

American Travelogue: An Old-School Family Road Trip in a 21st-Century Minivan

The Pathfinder proved an almost perfect companion for our long journey. Nissan’s latest crossover earns top marks for long-distance driver comfort, ride quality, space utilization, and storage space for receipts and other sundries.

Even our fuel economy was noteworthy. Over more than 1,000 miles, we averaged just over 20 mpg. While that number includes mostly highway driving, there’s a three-hour whiteout blizzard lumped in there—and a St. Louis traffic jam.

It’s worth noting that our Pathfinder’s CVT transmission is a perfect mate for Nissan’s sudsy 3.5-liter V6. The Pathfinder made easy work of the steadily rising hills on the way to Kentucky.

My sole complaint—and it’s a minor one—is the amount of road noise that filters into the cabin. While the Pathfinder isn’t noisy, it’s just not quite as hushed as a Dodge Durango or GMC Acadia.

It took Nissan a while to update the Pathfinder, but the new vehicle is a must-see for families looking for refined people- and cargo-hauling capability. I personally recommend it as an excellent vacation ride.


Really? This far south in late March? This bit of glacial nastiness caused three hours of white-knuckle time. Our AWD Pathfinder is impressively surefooted in the white stuff. I snapped this shot on Southbound I-65 somewhere around Columbus, Indiana.


Churchill Downs
Churchill Downs may be steeped in history, but the Kentucky Derby Museum is a terrible waste of time. That is, a waste of time unless you want your kid to place mock bets on a mock race or—I’m not making this up—learn to make a mint julep.


Photo taken by the kid someplace between Lexington and Louisville.


Kentucky Horse Park
I left my horse-minded loved ones here while I took off to play photographer. As reported to me, the Kentucky Horse Park is a must-visit destination for horse lovers. The sprawling park will easily consume a full day of any equestrian-minded visitor’s time.


Turns out the only stop I insisted on during our trip was entertaining for the whole family. Plan on spending two to three hours strolling through significant Corvettes both old and new. The factory itself is shut down for the changeover to the all-new 2014 Stingray.


Spotted on I-66 between Bowling Green, Kentucky, and St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis, by the way, is home to the City Museum, a 200,000-square-foot McDonald’s Playland for older kids and adults. No horses there, but the kid had a great time.


After giving up on trying to use the real Gateway Arch as a backdrop, I settled for this darling replica.


If you look closely, you can see the Arch sort of straight behind the driver-side headlamp. Hey, it was the best angle I could find. It’s better than the replica Arch, anyway.

Motoring to the Motor City: Sometimes, It’s the Journey

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