Whether you’re trying to save money or shrink your vacation’s carbon footprint, you probably know, deep down, that road trips suck. There are definitely good things about the open road; the unexpected detours, the wind in your hair (or exhaust in your face, eyes) … but for the most part, sitting in traffic in a closed vehicle for untold hours with people you may or may not normally tolerate for long stretches would probably be one of Dante’s rings of Inferno, had he thought of it. Road trips suck. Just in time for Thanksgiving, let’s go ahead and talk about it. It might make you feel better.
Top Ten Reasons that Road Trips Suck
1. Time. Driving takes forever. You’re cramped up in this tiny little space (especially if someone’s behind you and demanding leg room of any kind), and even if you speed, you will probably only end up shaving like fifteen minutes off of your trip — that’s if you don’t get arrested. A flight from New York to LA is about 6 hours and 45 minutes. The drive? According to Mapquest, it’s 42 hours and 45 minutes from Times Square to Laurel Canyon and Sunset Boulevard. And you can never have those 42 hours and 45 minutes back.
2. The whole car has to pull over if one person has to “go.” It’s not fair. The whole trip has to stop because someone had a Mountain Dew. Rest stops have gotten better over the years, but it’s inevitable that you will end up at the one with townies who look like they want to bash your head against the condom dispenser and “Beware Cat Burglar” on the back of the restroom stalls.
3. It wrecks the car. Road trips may stress you out. Well, they also put stress on your car. The miles depreciate its resale value one by one. Your vehicle could also break down, leaving you stranded and having to fly or rent, or worse yet, you could just be stuck knowing that “my car has never run the same since that road trip.” A lot of people will tell you to make sure to get your car serviced before your trip. Ever been to an auto body shop that can’t find something wrong? Me neither. There goes whatever cash you were saving by not flying.
4. Sleepiness. When you’re driving alone late at night, it’s not uncommon (and very dangerous) to get a case of the nods. Worse still is when you have a car full of people with you — and they’re all asleep.
5. Carsickness. If you’re not the driver, you’re bored. That’s just how it is after a couple of hours. Unfortunately, if you’re part of the 80 percent of the population that gets motion sickness (at some point, according to Healthline), just about everything that might be fun to do in a small, enclosed space, like read, play a videogame, or do a puzzle, will make you violently ill. Especially if you’re running on low-budget diner food.
6. Radio fail. However many miles it takes you to get sick of your iPod, that’s about how many miles it probably takes for you to be completely free of all familiar radio stations. Then, you have to scan and scan for something even remotely listenable, and whatever decent signal you do manage to pick up is gone within half an hour to an hour. If you bring a book on tape, you’re similarly doomed because if you’re alone, your mind will wander or you’ll get distracted by navigating. If you’re with others, someone will start talking, or, as before, they’ll all be lulled to sleep, and you’ll be stuck rewinding constantly.
7. Traffic. God forbid you should try and take a vacation the same day as other people, because not only will the airports be dire, but the traffic will be literally catastrophic — and by “catastrophic,” I mean that the stop and go will result in accidents. And it might be your unlucky day. Where I’m from in Minnesota, we have an old saying: “There are two seasons: ‘winter’ and ‘road construction,'” meaning that the traffic is just always bad. Which leads us to …
8. Road rage. Road construction and inclement weather both require people to drive slowly, which can turn even the calmest mind into a raging bear. It’s like sitting in the longest line in the world, and you have no control over when you’ll be out of it. People lose it.
9. The hotels along the way. Road trips longer than ten hours (longer for you hard-core trekkers) generally require you to stay a night somewhere. The trouble is that no one wants to deal with the traffic (or upcharge) of venturing into a city when the whole point is to “make good time” (i.e. sleep and get back on the road). Whether you plan your night in the boondocks in advance or just pull over at any decent-looking motel, the result is about the same, and it’s not pretty. Keep in mind, the remote is the filthiest thing …
10. “Hell is other people.” Jean-Paul Sarte said it best (in French) in his classic play, No Exit: “Hell is other people.” His play features three people in a room with no way out. They discuss their lives, decide they hate each other, decide they forgive each other, then hate each other again, and so on and so forth with no forseeable end. What could be worse? Put them in a car.
Other than that, road trips are fine.