An ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ Car Crash Disappearance Inspired the ‘On the Road to Remember’ Tour Which Honors Missing Persons

Unsolved Mysteries showcases many missing people’s stories that involve an abandoned or crashed vehicle, usually in remote areas, and poor decisions regarding car safety. During one episode in Season 11, a strange tale emerges of Leah Roberts, a young college student who went missing under pretty mysterious circumstances. This story sparked the nationwide “On the Road to Remember” tour to bring awareness to missing persons.

The missing person case that inspired ‘On the Road to Remember’

Missing persons posters in Libya featured at the Misrata museum
Missing persons posters in Libya | In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

One night in March 2000, 23-year old Leah Roberts took off on an adventure. She was an avid fan of Jack Kerouac, famous for writing about the journeys he took across America back in the 50s, such as in On the Road. One of those travels took the author to Desolation Peak in Washington state. 

Here, Kerouac observed the beauty of the area, which prompted him to write about leaving your material things behind and just enjoying the open road. Roberts was intrigued by this story and wanted to go there, so a few months before graduating college, she packed up all her belongings and took off headed toward Washington, according to the Unsolved Mysteries website. 

Not long after that, a couple of joggers in Mount Baker, near Desolation Peak, noticed some clothing dangling on a tree branch. They went to see what was going on and found that an SUV had gone over a steep embankment in the area, but no one was in or near the vehicle. Local authorities investigated and determined that the driver had to have been going 40 mph when it went off the road. They figured the driver had to have been hurt, but there was no sign of blood anywhere, which led them to question whether or not she was in the vehicle at the time it left the road.

Other things puzzled the investigators as well. Roberts’ belongings were all in the vehicle. She didn’t take any of it with her, including her deceased mom’s engagement ring, which was very special to her. That led them to wonder if she could’ve gotten a ride from someone else, where she might’ve met with foul play. 

A week after the SUV had been found, a strange caller contacted the local authorities, claiming that his wife had seen Roberts at a gas station not far from Seattle. The caller said that the person they felt was Leah Roberts acted disoriented and confused. Investigators, however, couldn’t get any more information from them. 

The ‘On the Road to Remember’ tour brings light to car mysteries and missing person cases

The “On Road to Remember” tour came about because of Roberts’ case. Volunteers from the CUE (Community United Effort) group tried retracing her steps along the journey. They informed the media of all the other missing person cases along the way. This led to the “On the Road to Remember” tour, which was to help families keep the memories of their lost loved ones alive and possibly bring fresh clues to the case to help families get some resolution.  

According to CUE, the National Missing Persons Conference sets out on this tour every October, which takes several stops along the way. Each stop involves participation in activities like candle lighting, listening to guest speakers, prayer vigils, and even performances. The families of a missing loved one decide what takes place at the stops. 

How women can travel alone safely

While it’s always best to travel with a companion, it’s not always feasible. Not everyone can take the same amount of time off work and has the money to spend on gas, food, and lodging. So, more often than not, people leave by themselves and travel hundreds of miles alone. 

However, women are especially vulnerable when traveling without a companion. If women must drive by themselves, then they should take all sorts of steps to ensure they arrive safely at their destination. Before leaving on the trip, plan out the route you’ll follow and then let a trusted friend, family member, or co-worker know what the plans are. Be sure to account for fuel and food stops. Also, pick places that aren’t in high-crime areas. 

Always make sure to have your vehicle serviced before the trip. Ask the mechanics to check it over well and address any issues they might find that could cause problems on the road. Of course, there could still be problems along the journey, and your vehicle could break down at some point. If it happens to be in a remote area, call 911. Don’t risk your safety by accepting help from strangers, especially in a remote location. 

While you’re away, it might be tempting to visit a local bar for a few drinks before going to bed for the night. However, it should be avoided because those couple of drinks can impair your judgment for driving, or it could lead you to let your guard down and allow others to take advantage of the situation. Always stay alert and leave the drinking for when you’re home.

Traveling far away from home doesn’t always end up in tragedy, but if you’re planning on going on a journey, you should treat it as if it did. Always take precautions, plan the route, and stick with that route. That way, if something happens, someone can retrace your path and hopefully find you. 

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