Yesterday, Annie posted a top ten list about why road trips suck. I was shocked and appalled, to say the least. After reading her piece and discussing it with folks on Twitter, I deduced that Annie didn’t really hate road trips. She hated long car rides. There’s a distinction and it’s an important one. Road trips make the journey the adventure. The act of being in the car, seeing the sights and not having to rush becomes your trip. The destination is secondary. Long car rides are just attempts at saving money or avoiding a confrontation with your fear of flying. They’re utilitarian and should not be confused with what you and I consider a true road trip. Road trips should be celebrated. To all of you whimsical travelers who have ever made a mix tape specifically for a road trip (and still nostalgically listen to it today as an iTunes playlist), this one’s for you. 1. Time Doesn’t Matter – Who cares when you get to the destination? You’re with your friends, you’re on vacation and you chose to drive for a reason. Enjoy the scenery. Moon the car next to you. Play License Plate Bingo. Cherish those moments in the car because they will breed the inside jokes that you repeat not just on that trip, but for the rest of your life. It’s not about killing time. That’s murder.
2. Pit Stops – Cracker Barrel. Waffle House. Truck stop diners. Gas station convenience stores. These are a road tripper’s oases. All foods are viable options on the road. I’ve seen vegetarians eat meat and justify it with the “I was on a road trip” excuse. Relish that fast food burger. Enjoy a side of pancakes with your omelet (Perkins, I’m looking at you). Buy chips and cookies and candy that you would never think to eat at home and bring them back to the car to eat on the road. You’re on a road trip. You can eat anything you want!
3. Instant Gratification – Ever been excited to go on a trip only to sit at the airport for five hours? Ever had a vacation delayed because you missed a flight? Road trips can’t be delayed. Traffic? Who cares (see #1)? Are you in the car? Congratulations, your vacation has started.
4. Look at That! – If you’re sitting on a plane, you’re only scenery options are the tiny screen in front of you or, if the person in front of you has reclined, some dandruff and a bald spot. Not exactly riveting entertainment. On a road trip, you never know what you’re going to see next. It could be an amusing sign, a classic car or even a sheep herder who needs to play through. Keep your camera handy because road trips are human safaris!
5. Pranks – Sure, at some point the laughter will die down and your car will become a moving nap box. This is the perfect time to mess whoever passed out. Draw a penis on his face. Scream at the top of your lungs and swerve to trick her into thinking you’re about to be in an accident. Call his mother and tell her he’s dead. OK, that last one may go a bit too far but you catch my drift.
6. Music – Road trips need soundtracks. Mix tapes may have given way to MP3 players, but the effect is the same: sing-alongs! If everyone on the trip brings their iPod, you’ll have music for days. And, if they die (or you get sick of listening to your friends Backstreet Boys “classic mix”), the radio is a viable and underrated option. Radio gets a bad rap, but listening to local stations is a road trip tradition. Blast that country music in the South, listen to some bizarre Christian talk show or find the Top 40 station that every town has and harmonize with Rihanna. Because Rihanna is awesome.
7. Detours – Have you ever asked your pilot to make an unscheduled stop along the way? The FAA frowns on that. But if you’re road tripping and see something like, oh, I don’t know, a hedge maze, you can make an executive decision to get lost in some shrubbery. There are countless amazing destinations just waiting to be stumbled upon. The world’s largest ball of twine is going to call out to you some day. Will you answer?
8. Souvenirs – Road trips generate the best makeshift souvenirs. A menu from a dilapidated diner can easily be slipped into a purse and added to a scrapbook later. Trucker hats from rest stops with innuendo-filled names make great keepsakes (I own a Kum & Go hat that a friend purchased for me on a road trip). One man’s schlock is another man’s memento.
9. Friends Both New & Old – Who needs hotels when you can stay with friends? Road trips are a great excuse to call up old friends to ask if you can stay the night when you pass through town. Or, if people are willing, to stay with friends of friends who are willing to put you up. If you announce on Twitter or Facebook that you need a place to stay en route, you’ll be surprised who volunteers their couch or air mattress. We’re only strangers until we say hello.
10. Bonding – The older you get, the harder it is to spend real quality time with the people you care about. Work will demand more of your attention. Family will become a bigger priority. And the time you have to share with friends will diminish. A road trip is a great opportunity to really be ourselves, relive old glories and create new memories that will sustain us through those dull days at the office. Road trips heighten emotions. Jokes are funnier. Laughs are heartier. And the farts stink more if you lock the windows.
Road trips are less about the destination than the journey. It’s cliché, I know. But if all you cared about was getting from Point A to Point B, you wouldn’t call it a road trip. You’d call it driving. A road trip is its own special category of travel. Enjoy each and every moment of it. And then avoid your tripmates for a few weeks when you get home. You’ll be sick of them by then.