The Great American Road Trip
Here's a new word for you to add to your think bank - hodophile. While it's not the most sexy sounding word, hodophile comes from our wonderful Greek neighbors and means "lover of roads" and, simultaneously, "lover of travel." How do we use this word in a sentence? Let's see... my inner hodophile calls out to me, beckoning me to, once again, pack my conventional Samsonite carryon and pick a place on the map to call my home for the weekend. My inner Bianca voice is a little more pleased with the word after reading that sentence back to myself. Sometimes, I even give her a British accent and then EVERYTHING sounds titillating, but that's not the point.
COVID. Coronavirus. Everything always seems to circle back to those other bad "C" words. How about we refer to it as the "2020 Bummer" going forward? Sounds good to me. The 2020 Bummer happened and the lives of millions suffered, including those poor souls belonging to the bodies of hodophiles across the globe; especially us Americans. Americans are on the receiving end of some bad publicity and because the 2020 Bummer is especially familiar with us, other countries have closed their doors to us with no indication of when they'll welcome us back. My heart was broken as I came to the sad realisation (that's inner British Bianca spelling that word) that I wasn't going to be leaving my home country's borders this month, or really this year. I felt defeated with no one in my corner to even ice my bruised eye, but then I remembered my American history class and that small portion about Ford Motors, 1908, the Model T, Detroit and assembly lines. Oh yea! My car! Wasn't the point in 1908 to provide a mode of transportation for people to start exploring beyond their own county lines? Indeed. I don't need to fly to Europe to feel like an explorer, I'll drive to American parts unknown/semi-familiar and become acquaintances again. So, I did.
Before I continue on with my stream of conscious of road trips, I think I need to establish my expertise in the field of road trips so you don't think I'm bullshitting you with anything that follows. I grew up in the Los Angeles area and my family enjoyed camping, so as a young girl, I was very familiar with the backseat view driving north to Yosemite, Lake Tahoe and Donner Pass to name a few. I'll always remember Donner Pass as the place people ate each other because winter decided to arrive early and mess up their plans. They had their own 1846 Bummer. When we weren't camping, we were driving the 5.5 hours to San Francisco for my mom's work trips or the 17 hours to Seattle to visit family (which we did twice). When we moved to Indiana, I drove cross-country twice for the move - 30 hours one way. The second time, I burned out the clutch of my brother's truck and ended up having to sit on a toolbox between him and my aunt from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Indianapolis. For those who aren't aware, that's 18.5 hours on a hot toolbox. I passed the time reading The Kite Runner, so depressing all around. That was my 2006 Bummer. Since moving to Indiana, I've driven to California and back two more times (never again!), Boston and, just last month, Savannah. I ain't afraid of no road trip! Road trips are my middle name. Actually, it's Annaliese.
I hope you've accepted my credentials for me to move forward.
Road trips are a wonderful way to see more of the world and the roads less traveled. Road trips are a way to unwind without the care of time pulling you back in. Road trips are freeing. There is a certain charm to driving on an unfamiliar highway and spotting a small diner that ends up having the best fried chicken and peach pie you've ever had. (Hint - you can find it in Kansas). Depending on what direction you're heading, road trips are also a reassuring reminder of the countless people before you who were on the same path to a journey unknown and without the convenience of an air-conditioned car with Sirius XM. Road trips are not meant for the impatient or the nay-sayers. Just toss their ass on a plane or, better yet, leave their ass at home. Road trips are meant to be a fun alternative and laid back route to reach your final destination. This is the perfect place to enter the cliche saying - the journey is the destination.
Given the 2020 Bummer, more Americans have been on the roads on their journeys to vacations, visiting family, checking out National Parks or maybe driving to a nearby city for a staycation. With the 2020 Bummer scaring people away from the airports, trains and other modes of mass transit, we can all feel safer in our auto-bubbles. I mean, we need to have SOMETHING we can have control over in all of this - why not the steering wheel? While driving takes longer to get from Point A to Point B, we, arguably, have more vacation time to use up at this point in the year because we all sat at home from March to May looking out our living room windows. With more time to spare and likely less money to spend, road trips provide the answer to all of your 2020 Bummer distractions.
Here are my main offerings of advice for road trips. Take them or leave them.
Splurge on a music subscription.
If you're like me, you're a music junkie and always need a fix. Sure, you can sometimes find a gem of a station on your AM/FM radio, but commercials suck and sometimes you're completely out of range, so all you're left with is white noise (and that's when the dead might want to start communicating, so no thanks). What's a poor girl to do? Cue the handsome Sirius XM and Spotify to come to the rescue on their white horses with hundreds of music stations/playlists to pick from. I usually end up on the 90s station, turn up Garbage and sing along with Shirley.
Weekend road trips are the best.
I think most people think if they're going to give the time and exert the energy to a road trip, it has to be a weeklong excursion or it's not worth it. I'm here to emphasize the opposite; a quick weekend trip is worth the effort and allows you to experience more than you'd think. It's also a good cure to the bad juju left by the 2020 Bummer in that it allows you a temporary escape from reality - kind of like a tiki bar! Another blog, another time. It took me a couple years to take the plunge on a weekend trip because I didn't buy into it for time and money reasons, but if you're taking a 1-5 hour drive to a nearby city, a weekend is the perfect amount of time to explore and experience what you need to. You'll be more upset that you didn't just take the trip as the end of the year inches closer and you haven't done anything.
Don't be afraid of rest areas.
I used to think rest areas were dirty and nasty until I downed a venti iced coffee too quickly and couldn't wait until I reached my destination. When you gotta go, YOU GOTTA GO. If you need to use the bathroom, rest areas are MUCH cleaner than a gas station bathroom or a random McDonalds. I love going into the rest areas and seeing the big map pinned on the wall with a "YOU ARE HERE" marker. It's always a reminder that the world is a bigger place and it's meant to be explored (after a bathroom break).
Bring an ice chest/cooler/Igloo - whatever the hell you call it.
Ice cold beverages are just better on a road trip, in the car in the middle of nowhere. Also, they allow you to pack snacks that require a little refrigeration and bring back tasty souvenirs you pick up along the way. I was recently in Charleston, SC and it was hot AF and pulling out an ice cold lime Bubly was exactly what my thirst desired.
You're in charge.
If you're on a plane and you bought a roundtrip ticket to New Orleans, you know you'll only be going to New Orleans and back. The pilot isn't going to stop in Atlanta and alter the course. When you're behind the wheel, you determine where you're going. If the destination is Milwaukee, but you've always been curious about Madison, go to Madison! You're not bound to Milwaukee or Madison - head to Green Bay! As someone who is a planner, changing the schedule at the last minute makes me physically uncomfortable, but it's a boundary I'm constantly pushing to get me out of my comfort zone and I admit, when I drive down a different path, I'm not disappointed. It's another small thing during the 2020 Bummer you can remain in control over.
Check your car before you go.
I'm adding this in because on a recent road trip, I was blindsided by a low oil light that turned on and had to figure shit out in the middle of Tennessee. Make sure your oil level is good, there's enough air in your tires, your have wiper fluid and your battery is in working order. Getting stuck on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere is any woman's worst nightmare.
Pay attention to where your mind goes.
Being in a car for hours on end allows your mind to go there. Go where? Go where you don't usually allow your mind, thoughts and opinions to pass through to because you're too busy binging a show on Netflix. Staring out the window and looking at the quickly passing scenery is some form of hypnosis that suddenly gets you thinking about life, what you're doing, what you want, what you don't want, the 2020 Bummer, love, hate, if you saw a rest area sign and what you're eating next. If you have a road trip buddy, talk to them about the weird thoughts that are coming up. It's therapeutic.
Maybe these recommendation seem obvious, or maybe you're still pondering them and thinking about your future and travel. There's a little hodophile in all of us, so appease that cute lil monster before the check engine light comes on.
One more thing. Please stop saying "Safe Travels." It's disheartening.
Happy Travels, y'all.
|These were all of the states I drove through on my 2018 road trip to California.|