Road Trip!

Monday, March 19, 2012

I used to hate road trips.  I take that back, I used to dream of trips by air rather than countless hours spent in the car.  Car trips weren't horrible growing up - a Chevy Suburban that seats seven for just the four of us left plenty of space, but no matter which direction you drive, you'll see miles of flat-ish farmland.  It feels like if you've seen one mile of Nebraska, you've seen them all. 

We flew every couple of years throughout my childhood - spring break in Phoenix was always a favorite. I romanticized flying, dreaming of 1960s air travel that I had never even experienced.  When I was 18 or 19, I promised myself that I would take a trip by plane at least every other year.  Ha!  If I only knew then my career would leave me less than thrilled at the idea of waiting in an airport.

A few years ago, I temporarily relocated to El Paso, Texas and made the 21 hour drive by myself.  I spent 13½ hours on Saturday and another 7½ hours on Sunday.  I’m not going to lie, rolling into town that Super Bowl Sunday was a pretty proud accomplishment.  Thankfully, I convinced my sister to fly to Texas and drive with me back to Iowa when it was time to return.

Most of my road trips now are along I-20 in Georgia from the Atlanta Airport to Augusta for business; a fairly easy two hour drive. This last year, I’ve started to appreciate road trips little by little.  A quick weekend getaway to Minneapolis?  Relaxing and easy.  When my bestie Lauren Rapp got married in Saint Louis, my date and I loaded up my little hybrid car for the eight hour trek. 

Here is my formula for a good road trip – these might not be up your alley, but they work for me. 
  • Music – Driving across the Midwest, it is difficult to keep a good radio signal for very long (unless you have satellite).  My car has a hook up for my iPod and nearly every rental car I get has an AUX input jack.  So I always make sure to download a couple of new songs for a trip, make some playlists and recently, I started downloading podcasts.  Some of my favorites are NPR’s “Wait, wait, don’t tell me,” “This American Life,” and “Car Talk.” 
  • Refreshments – Road trip food is not the healthiest, so when planning a drive for over 5 hours, I try to take a couple of snacks.  I have an awesome cooler from 31 Gifts that fits easily in the front or back seat, and takes up little room when empty.  Throw in a cold pack, a bottle of water or two, and apple, and some licorice or beef jerky – stuff that is easy to consume in the car and doesn’t leave much mess. I’ve even packed a sandwich for lunch to save time and money.
  • Plan your stops – I never realized how much time a “quick stop” effected my travel time until I drove to El Paso.  With every stop, it seemed like my GPS would add 30 minutes on to my arrival time.  I had to get past the idea of a “quick stop” actually being quick.  Using my GPS and watching road signs, I try to multi-task my stops.  Stopping just for gas or just for the restroom wasn’t practical on my timeline.  On more than one occasion, I found myself paying a few cents more per gallon of gas to stop at a place clean enough to use the restroom and near food. 
  • Plan time for fun – No matter what route you take, there will always be some roadside attraction that sounds intriguing.  If you have the time, go check it out!  Did you know there is a Swedish Heritage Museum in Swedesburg, Iowa?  Been there! White Sands National Monument in Alamogordo, New Mexico?  Go sledding in the middle of summer! Heck, even stopping to buy fireworks in Missouri is fun.  Time spent out of the car means you can stretch your legs, wake up a little and can help make the trip more bearable – especially if traveling with companions. 
So what road trip advice do you have? 

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