“I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.”
Alexander the Great
My brother is going on a road trip. How fun is that? Let’s talk about it some.
It may seem obvious but sometimes we want to jump in the car and go, go, go. Planning a trip is part of the fun.
- Line up your car maintenance to right before the trip. Go to your Jiffy-Lube and make sure that all of the liquids are topped off and that your tires are well pressured.
- Two words: Windshield Wipers. Think about it.
- Open your trunk and confirm that you have a spare tire and that it has air in it. Takes two minutes.
- Travel with water, buy a one dollar gallon jug of water and set it in the back seat.
- Have some cash.
- Toss a jacket in the back seat, even in the summer.
- Belong to AAA. Fifty bucks a year is worth it when you’ve just trailed engine parts for the past one hundred yards.
It is All about the Food.
One summer, I was sitting at home and got a phone call. My buddy was traveling from North Carolina to California. He said, “About an hour outside of Kansas City, where can I get the best Kansas City steak?” I did some quick internet searching and soon had the exit number and the street address.
Towns, even small towns, have pride in their local fare. Personally, I prefer to do some advance research but often ask the guy behind the counter at the gas station. Visit a franchise if you must, that local diner has more potential.
Please, do not settle for a microwave burrito and gas station coffee. Travel is also about the stopping along the way.
Put Your Camera Away
A few years ago, I went up to see Mount Rushmore. That was a fun trip. I saw many of the tourists with cameras, shooting the area but also each plaque with writing; I can not vouch if they ever sat and looked at anything. The thing about signs is that you can read them and then look, right there, to see what it is about.
When I have visited big cities, I’ll buy the postcards. That photo of the Empire State Building was shot by a professional and looks ten times better than anything I could manage.
Only document things that really need to be documented. It is much better to sit and absorb an experience instead of thinking that you will review it later. Be in the moment with that field of flowers or that waterfall. I don’t have a photograph of Bridalveil in Yosemite but I’ll never forget sitting and looking in the shade on a bench.
Know Where You Are Going
Wherever you are going, someone has been there before you. Did you know that when the pioneers crossed the Great Plains in covered wagons that they averaged eight miles a day? That is five minutes for you at the speed limit. A good day would be twelve miles.
Something happened at some time at the places that you are traveling. It is a richer experience to look and see that the desert you are driving through was once a lake. Perhaps there was a war or a gold mine or a glacier or a land dispute or more and more. You know, history and stuff.
Travel books can be worth it, depending on your trip. Road side markers can be worth stopping to read. And, on the Interstate, rest stops are awesome. Each one is designed to reflect the region. Beware of rattlesnakes!
Bring Your Hobby
If you are a fisherman, photographer, own a sketch book, read novels, knit scarves, write blogs; attempt to stop somewhere and pass some time at a good spot. They say it is about the journey, not the destination; that sounds ripe to me!
When I was in college, in Los Angeles, two of my buddies decided to go to Canada. They drove up and across the border, bought a case of Canadian beer and a local newspaper to prove that they did it. And then drove back.
Driving in a car on the open road has a thrumming rhythm to it that is fantastic. I never listen to the radio or play music because I’m not trying to pass the time but working to enjoy the travel.
I even set the cruise control to five miles below the speed limit. Let others pass me and hurry by, I could not be bothered to deal with traffic.