Mac Nelson’s “Twenty West: The Great Road Across America”


Cruisin’. By Jennifer Palumbo.

This article contains affiliate links.

US20 stretches coast-to-coast, 3,300 miles from Boston, Massachusetts to Newport, Oregon. That makes it the United States’ longest road and, according to Mac Nelson, America’s Great Road.

'Twenty West: The Great Road Across America' by Mac Nelson

“Twenty West: The Great Road Across America” by Mac Nelson

Twenty West: The Great Road Across America tells the story of a road that played its part in the history and development of American society and culture. Chapter-by-chapter, theme-by-theme, Nelson unpacks the intricate connections between the Great Road and the birth of American literature; the religious and spiritual revivals of the 19th century; Presidents van Buren, Fillmore, Hayes, Garfield, Cleveland and McKinley, and John D. Rockefeller; immigration and the movement west into new frontiers; the oppression of the land’s indigenous inhabitants; Yellowstone National Park and wilderness. It all culminates one mile east of the Pacific Ocean, where the road ends, the book ends, and where the American nation reached maturity.

As someone who has never travelled along US20, I still found Twenty West fascinating. Nelson is an English Professor at SUNY Fredonia and he approaches the book with a storyteller’s heart. His voice is casual and engaging, that of the knowledgeable guide showing you the sights of a destination. That makes it an ideal accompaniment for anyone planning to travel the Great Road, or part of it. Don’t expect a guidebook; but do expect to be guided through the heritage and historical importance of each section of US20.

Twenty West: The Great Road Across America is for sale on

Other books about great American road trips:

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Discussion »

  • #1Megalead11

    Your article has revealed a book that I was looking for. US20 is indeed the longest road in United States. The author has rightly mentioned it as Americas’s Great road.

  • #2Matt Thompson

    I live less than two miles south of Route 20 in New York (have for most of my life) and for the longest time now, I’ve wanted to do just what the author has done. Now that I’ve found the book that I want to write, I’ll have to read it and make sure I don’t copy it.

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