Today I’d like to discuss what is perhaps the most common form of traveling in my culture: road trips.
I know some people who LOVE road trips. But being cramped in a vehicle all day for days on end just doesn’t appeal to me. The endless array of junk food snacks gives some pleasure, but ultimately even they end up making things worse.
Perhaps some of you don’t have much experience with road trips…perhaps you’re considering undertaking one…I’ll give you an idea of what to expect.
For starters, your trip will be best if some member of your party is really organized and plans it all out in detail. Hopefully they’ll figure out routes and distances, make camping and/or hotel reservations, and plan meals. If your wife has done this, you’re a blessed man. If she’s actually made a binder with all this information, that’s a bonus.
The locations you can choose for your trip are virtually unlimited, but for the sake of this example, let’s say you’re starting in rural Minnesota and travelling to the East Coast to tour a number of historical sites. Let’s suppose you choose two weeks as the length of your trip, and that you leave home on Labor Day weekend, hoping to avoid crowds (since most kids are in school the first two weeks after Labor Day).
In general, this is a good idea. However, I don’t recommend going to Niagara Falls that weekend, because it’s super busy. Even more so, I don’t recommend crossing the border back to the U.S. on Labor Day, unless you enjoy spending two hours on a bridge waiting to go through customs.
Next, you might notice that the roads of certain states—let’s say New York for example—are awful. Don’t they have high taxes in New York? I wonder what they spend all that money on…apparently not roads.
Now if you cross into Pennsylvania, you might notice that the quality of the roads improves immediately (I guess we know where their tax dollars go!). It will also become apparent (if you’re from the Midwest) that in states like Pennsylvania roads that are flat and/or straight are more rare than a Republican in New York City.
This only intensifies as one works their way farther Northeast. In a state like Massachusetts, for example, the roads appear to have been designed by a drunk British guy who threw a bunch of freshly cooked noodles on a table and then used them as a guide for laying out the roads.
There’s also a chance that there will be lots of intersections that are unlike anything you’ve seen back home (and I’m not talking about roundabouts). I don’t even know how to describe such intersections other than to say not to feel too bad if you navigate them improperly and get honked at by a local.
Adding to the stress that weird intersections can give is the fact that many street signs are obscured by foliage. I understand wanting to preserve nature, but this seems a little excessive. Will the climate be adversely affected if they trim the branches away from in front of their signs?
Speaking of environmental consciousness, you may also see some of those huge windmills that are becoming so popular these days. Chances are that any you see will be sitting motionless. Also, if you find yourself in the midst of eight straight days with no sun, you might wonder why they bother will all those solar panels as well. Maybe they should spend that money on the roads…
One important concern when planning any road trip is determining where you’re going to sleep. If you’re crazy, you might just sleep in your car, but that wouldn’t be very fun. If you’re rich, you could just stay in hotels. Or you could camp.
Maybe you’ve been camping in a tent for years and are ready for an upgrade. Let’s say you invest in a pop-up camper. Perhaps a very small pop-up camper. You might even buy one that doesn’t comfortably sleep everyone in your group, meaning someone (let’s just say your wife for the sake of this example) still sleeps in a small tent. This could elicit feelings of pity for her until you realize that she’s slyly avoiding one of your children (maybe a son?) who is a notoriously restless sleeper. That tiny camper may just sway from side to side with every shift of that kid. A pleasant night in the camper now feels like a ride in a small rowboat on the open ocean.
Adding to the aquatic feel, any rain could leak in, making your pillow and sleeping bag damp (and pretty much defeating the idea of using a camper). At this point, your wife—er, I mean the person in the tent—might have their plan backfire when the tent leaks even worse and ends up with a prodigious amount of water sloshing about.
Water is unquestionably necessary for life, but it can sure be a drag on a road trip. In addition to the aforementioned sleeping issues, it can make any lengthy walking tours less than fun, especially if you leave one of your umbrellas in your vehicle.
On the other end of the weather spectrum is heat and humidity. Most people take vacations in the summer when most of the country is ridiculously hot and humid. This can be a problem if you’re from Minnesota and have little tolerance for what you consider hot weather (anything over about 75 degrees Fahrenheit).
One of the most important things you can bring on your road trip is a map. And by map, I mean paper with ink on it indicating where stuff is. A phone is not a map. While you can’t pick up a map and say, “Siri, how do I get on I-90 West of Boston?”, you also don’t need to deal with the frustration of your map answering your request with “Searching for Azerbaijanirestaurants in your area.”
Okay, so those navigation apps on your phone are very helpful, though they’re no replacement for a good human navigator riding shotgun. This is essential for any road trip. I have to caution against switching roles, because you might get lost. Even in your home state.
I could go on and on (I guess I have…) but let me finish by saying not everyone’s cut our for road trips. However, any relationship requires compromise, and there are plenty of things that are worse than enduring lengthy road trips for the sake of relational harmony.
I've included some old blogs along with the new. Should you ever find yourself suffering from insomnia, this is the place for you! That's as poetic as I get...