Road trip tips

Thanks to Tynan’s continuing feature on the nomadic life, Gadling’s been receiving an influx of requests on tips for big road trips. Those of us who are not quite as daring as Tynan might want to start with a cross-country trip, for example. There’s much to consider before you embark on such a journey, so it’s important to keep these things in mind:

  • The company: Road trips are not for the faint hearted. If you’ve ever seen “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or “No Country for Old Men” you’ll know what I mean. If your road trip is longer than a week, choose your company wisely. S/he better like the same music as you, you better have something worth talking about for hours on end. Ultimately, you should determine beforehand whether you can tolerate this person’s antics or not.

  • The car: You’ll definitely want to get your car pimped out thoroughly before the journey. On my most recent 3-week trip from Florida to California, my boyfriend bought an old Chevy van that we called “Vanzilla.” He didn’t tell me at the time, but it cost him only $500. We pushed “Vanzilla” a bit too hard one evening and slept through a freezing cold evening in shopping mall parking lot in Flagstaff, Arizona. The next morning, the radiator blew. Little disasters and problem-solving is part of the package when it comes to road trips, so be prepared!
  • Stuff in the trunk: Little thought has to be put into what to bring. As long as you don’t bring your most valuable stuff, the rest is fair game. Stuff it in the trunk and hit the road! Whatever you forget to bring, you can buy at Walmart or a roadside gas station.
  • The route: If possible, you should have a rough outline of the route you’re taking and the stops you plan on making. GoogleMaps has a great feature where you can drop pins and calculate driving time and distances (click on the “My Maps” tab and then “Create new map”). Most likely you’ll be visiting friends along the way, so make it a point to tell them you’re coming, so they know roughly when to expect you.
  • It’s not all fun and games: The purpose of a road trip is not to drink and drive — at least I hope you’re not endangering other people by thinking the road is such a playground. You don’t want to do anything stupid. My friends got caught somewhere in South Dakota with weed in their car and ended up in the slammer. You can imagine their parents reaction when they got the “Please Save Me” call. Have a great time, but be responsible.
  • R & R: Rest and relaxation is definitely possible when you’re on the road. Take some detours. If you see a strange sign and it makes you curious, follow it. You can also stay clean on the road by utilizing the trucker stops, which have fully functioning hot-water showers. Some are quite clean! If you’re really road trippin’ you must try it. As for the famed roadside motels, you might try one or two, but you might end up preferring the comfort of your reclined seat in the car. You can always pack a tent, too, and just camp it in a rest area if you’re desperate.
  • The memories: My Florida-California Vanzilla trip was designed to be a woman’s version of “Travels with Charley,” as I brought my pug Iris with me. Keep a blog (you can read about our journey HERE), take tons of photos (the photos from this article are also from this trip), and make great memories!

Enjoy your road trip — and let me know if there are any other tips I’ve missed!

Book inscriptions inspire travel, and make great souvenirs

I walked into the wrong bookstore in Granada, Spain last February, but I’m so glad I did. I was looking for an English-language bookstore on Calle Gracia called Metro, but instead I wound up at a different shop just a few doors down. Libreria Praga shelves mostly Spanish titles, but has a small section of used English-language books. A spine with Simon Winchester’s name caught my eye, and I was soon the owner of a used copy of The Professor and the Madman. This story about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary seemed like something I’d enjoy (which I did when I read it a few months later) but I bought the book simply because of the fascinating inscription I found written in blue ink on the title page:

August 18, 2003: For darling Maggie on her one hundred and fifty-sixth birthday from him who unabashedly adores her – U. David.

Actually, there is another short word scribbled before “U. David”, probably a first name or initial, but I can’t quite make it out. But what an interesting discovery, huh? Was it an inside joke between old friends? Or did someone really live for as many years as Hong Kong was under British rule? Highly unlikely. There is surely a backstory, and one that most likely will remain untold. But for a book-lovin’ traveler, this is one of the best souvenirs around.

If you’ve come across interesting inscriptions, consider submitting them to The Book Inscription Project, a neat online effort to collect special book messages found by readers worldwide. Two recently posted travel-inspired inscriptions on the site reminded me that I have to submit my Granada discovery. Take a look at these: First, a short note to a voyager about finding his special island, inside a copy of Vonnegut’s Galapagos. Second, a Christmas gift for a nomad — a copy of On the Road, the only book that moves as incessantly as he does.

Books move and messages get carried with them, from one reader to the next. What travel treasures have you found (or left for others) inside the front cover of a book?

Tracing the Steps of On the Road

Literary pilgrimages, in which one shadows the adventures of a fictional character, is some of the most rewarding travel around if you are a bibliophile.

Certainly the most famous example of such travel is Bloomsday, a national holiday where intoxicated fans of James Joyce’s Ulysses reenact a 24-hour jaunt through Dublin.

While there are many other literary journeys across the globe, the American version of disturbed, lost souls wandering about can be found within the classic, On the Road.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Jack Kerouac’s seminal work, journalist Christopher Reynolds thoughtfully updated and modernized the journey of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty as they gallivanted from coast to coast.

Revisiting sites from ‘On the Road’ is the perfect guide for such a journey. Reynolds breaks down the article into sections titled “In the book” in which he describes the places Sal and Dean visited. He then follows up with a “Now” section in which he directs the reader to these same places today. Naturally, a few have disappeared. There are, however, a surprising number of restaurants and hotels which are still standing and awaiting the Kerouac faithful.

Band on the Run: A Roadie Without The Heavy Lifting

Alright, this is the first post of a new series entitled “Band on the Run,” (as you can see above.) This is a blog about travelling on the road as a musician here in North America. It’s about what we see and where we’ve been – the stories that go along with those journeys and the images to accompany them. It’ll be like you’re the roadie that gets to witness what happens behind the scenes without having to carry any heavy equipment.


(I mean, I’m the bandleader and I don’t even get out of carrying the heavy stuff!)

Specifically, I’m a Canadian musician with a Canadian band who performs more than half of my shows south of the border. And yes, I have provincial license plates on my van and work permits for the U.S.of A. for all of my band members, so I’m down on American soil legally, don’t worry!)

We are on the road A LOT, which sometimes means that we’re home less than we’re away. In fact, at one point just a few years ago, we peaked at 200 days on the road during the year. I am happy to report that we’ve calmed down slightly and probably are out only half the year now. That’s slightly healthier all around, for everyone.

The downside of this life is the fact that we’re travel-tired most of the time and we spend copious amounts of time in moving vehicles, most notably our van (or occasional rental vans if there’s a flight involved.) Sometimes we joke that we’re professional drivers who moonlight as musicians.

Sometimes it feels like that.

The upside of this life is that we get to make music for different audiences sometimes four and five times a week. Music is what we love to do the most in this world. Music is the drug of choice for this band; it’s the art; it’s the heart; it’s the fuel. Without it, why would we do this to our bodies? Why would we sit in a van for ten hours in a row, for example?

Honestly, music has taken me far and continues to pull me farther still. I am tempted by its long distance promises and its moments of brilliance on foreign stages, no matter what it takes to get to them. (So tempted that I sometimes make bad touring decisions, but I’ll leave that for the blog as they happen…)

Music is my nightlight. It’s the good dream. It’s consistent.

Stylistically, it’s a rather mixed-up folk-jazz-funk-pop-world combo (check out samples here). It’s lyrically-driven music and the show is as much about what’s being said in the songs themselves as it is about what’s being said between the songs. I sometimes write about topics that people don’t want to discuss. I also write about love and beautiful summer days and funny situations worth laughing at. All in all, the music has listeners and that’s all that matters.

After ten releases (counting the 2005 documentary-stye DVD, of course), five vans (we’re on our fifth now), uncountable tours across various parts of Canada and the U.S., eight trips to Australia, two tours to New Caledonia (link to where that country is, as it’s little known!), and one solo trip to China, the adventure continues.

We’re not famous, but we’re well-known in some circles. We have fans – listeners and supporters and friends – and we continue to sell albums. We continue to perform live. People continue to buy tickets to hear those shows.

Life is good.

We’re independent, too, which is important. These tours are not being funded by big label tour support or sponsorship dollars or product placement. We aspire to sustainability and this means we ride waves of occasional prosperity and occasional poverty. In the midst of it all, we find the balance of a living and breathing career that has careened along the corners of mountain passes for over a decade now.

No complaints.

I don’t think it’s poised to stop anytime soon. It always changes shape a little as time loops around us, but the wheels keep turning on these travelling vehicles and we keep finding ourselves in them along with gear and contracts and passports and a well-calculated number of clean underwear tucked away in our suitcases and stashed around guitars and amps and on top of boxes of CDs to stop that incessant rattling of plastic against plastic.

It’s not all glamorous, but what is really?

Behind the scenes is just behind the scenes. It’s my job to strip the scene for you, I suppose. It’s my job to bare all.

(But it’s not that kind of show, so get your mind outta that sticky trench now!)

Now if you do enjoy these stories and we end up in your town all of a sudden, we won’t deny you the opportunity to lift some heavy stuff if you show up early to help us load in or you stay long after the rest of the audience has gone home until we’re finally loading out.

In fact, temporary roadies are the BEST.

They have enough strength to lift the bass amp…

And that same strength didn’t require a meal buy-out.

Love it.

[All photos except the van shot by Desdemona Burgin, a fantastic friend and photographer]

Shape’s Top 25 Stay-Fit Travel Tips

In addition to travel, I’m also passionate about healthy living and that’s why this article caught my eye. It’s a list of Shape Magazine’s Top 25 Healthy Travel Tips. There’s some good ones in there, including my favourites:

  • Be a picky eater: When I was in Australia recently, I took a lot of long bus trips, which included stopovers at greasy spoon-esque diners. Now, I’m not a food snob, and can usually find something I like. But I gave up after the ‘chicken’ I ate at Matilda’s Roadhouse in Kybong clearly wasn’t chicken — or edible, for that matter. Seriously, it’s better to go hungry than to end up sick on the bus.
  • Take a brisk walk around the airport before your flight: This is especially important if you’re going on a long flight. I usually do some yoga moves before a long flight. Yeah, I get funny looks, but so what!
  • Check with your gym: Chances are they have a deal with other gyms in other cities that will allow you to workout wherever you go.
  • Bring the workout with you: You don’t have to carry dumbbells around in your suitcase, but a few resistance bands will work wonders on the road — if you find the motivation to use them, that is.
  • Buy new workout clothes: If you plan on shopping at your destination, be sure to make an extra purchase: workout clothes. If you’re like me, you’ll want to try them on– and out — right away.