Profs & Pints DC: The Great American Road Trip-Door tickets remain available

By Profs and Pints (other events)

Tuesday, May 21 2024 6:00 PM 8:30 PM EDT

Advance ticket sales have ended but plenty of additional tickets remain available at the door.

Profs and Pints DC presents: “The Great American Road Trip,” a look at how long journeys and tales of them have shaped our nation, with Allen Pietrobon, historian and professor of Global Affairs at Trinity Washington University.

American history and popular culture are infused with travel narratives, be they accounts of wagon-train journeys to settle the west, descriptions of life aboard steamboats plying our great rivers, or memoirs of modern cross-country road trips.

Why are tales of cross-country travel such an integral part of American culture? What can our nation’s long tradition of road tripping teach us about our country and ourselves?

Get ready for the summer travel season by hearing such questions tackled at DC’s Penn Social. The speaker, Allen Pietrobon, is a historian who has earned a following among Profs and Pints fans by delivering spellbinding talks on prohibition, the gilded age, the race to build the atomic bomb, and other important chapter of our past.

Professor Pietrobon will start by looking at the various ways Americans traveled in the past and what it was like to be aboard a wagon in the 1840s or a transcontinental railroad in the 1880s. He’ll talk about the rapid growth of interstates of the 1960s, the associated rise of fast food and roadside motels, and, most importantly, the birth of the notion that the open road is the epitome of American freedom.

From there, Dr. Pietrobon will look at some iconic travel stories written from the perspective of travelers who found themselves to be outsiders along the way, including Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi, John Steinbeck's Travels With Charlie, and Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. In most of these stories the protagonist is positioned as an explorer in a new and unfamiliar landscape, whether that be Jim Crow-era Alabama or the vast expanse of the American West. They set off to encounter the “real” America and end up on a journey of self-discovery as well.

Learning about such journeys, both real and imagined, will give you plenty to think about the next time you hit the road. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.)

Image: U.S. Route 163 at Monument Valley in Utah. (Image by m01229 / Wikimedia Commons)