We are about to embark on an epic road trip. While we have done plenty of car journeys over the years, we have never been on an official road trip together. That’s impressive, considering we have been together for almost sixteen years (wow, time flies) and have done a lot of traveling along the way. For some reason, a road trip just never materialized. Instead of dipping our toes into the road trip pool, we decided to do a cannonball into the deep end, and we will be literally crossing the full USA, from California to Maine over the course of three weeks.
The main concern? Will we get along, stuck in a small metal box for hours on end?
Surviving 60 hours in a vehicle is likely to stretch your sense of patience no matter who you’re with. Luckily, Julie and I enjoy each other’s company, so that’s a good start. I took a road trip once in college with some friends and we were fighting before we left town. Never a good start. This time around, I’m sure there will be some moments of frustration but we are employing a few tactics to make the hours on boring US interstates go by a little faster and easier.
1. Lots of Podcasts
We are huge fans of podcasts. We both listen to multiple podcasts everyday. Radiolab, This American Life, Planet Money, Stuff You Should Know, and Slate’s Culture Gabfest are just a few of our favorites. Listening to fun and interesting stories will help pass the time and generate some interesting conversations for sure. Thanks to Steph from 20 Years Hence for the suggestion of BJ Novak’s “One More Thing” which we are adding to our libraries.
2. Fun Detours
The first major leg of the road trip is taking us from Santa Barbara, California to Aspen, Colorado. Originally, we were planning to break up the drive into two days, driving as far as possible the first day and spending the night at some random hotel along the highway. Julie suggested that maybe we could squeeze in the Grand Canyon on the drive, something neither one of us have visited. Looking at the map, we realized that it would be nearly impossible to take the detour and still get to Colorado in two days.
So we changed our plans. The new plan is to leave California and drive to a small town near the Grand Canyon on day one. Day two, we will wake up early, explore the park, do a short hike and continue heading north, spending the second night in Moab, Utah, near Gates National Park. Julie informed me after booking our accommodations in Moab that we would be staying in some sort of fancy tent. Probably wouldn’t have been my pick, but then again, I don’t think I had a say in the matter. Day three we will explore Gates National Park and show up in Aspen just in time to join in our friend’s wedding festivities.
So our itinerary went from staying one night in a roadside motel in the middle of nowhere, to seeing two National Parks and spending the night in a tent. That is what I call a fun detour.
3. Small Town Food
I will admit to fast food cravings from time to time. I love crispy McDonalds french fries and still warm chicken nuggets from Wendy’s. But eating junk like that, again and again, for every stop on our drive would be boring and unhealthy. I always feel sluggish after eating fast food, an uncomfortable feeling when you have to hop back in a car to continue a long day of driving.
We will pass through hundreds of small towns on our journey and we plan to stop in those places for our meals. Skip the fast food or service stations, and choose a local diner or roadside stand instead. Sit down, relax and enjoy some solid comfort food. The kind of places where the servers call you “hun” and no one is in a particular hurry. Our kind of place.
4. Be Flexible
This may in fact be the key component to a successful road trip. We need to be flexible. There will be hurdles along our trip, whether it’s heavy traffic or getting lost in the middle of nowhere. It will not go smoothly.
If one of us gets hungry, we will stop, even if we are running behind schedule. If we get lost, we will ask for directions and not just carry on stubbornly (as I tend to do). If we are dead tired, we will listen to our bodies and stop for a rest or for the night. We will strive to be flexible with our schedule and with each other. If needed, we will remind ourselves out loud that this is supposed to be fun! And adventurous! And about the journey as much as the destination.
Have you been on a road trip? Do you have any advice about not killing each other on a long car journey? Let us know your thoughts below.