Well, first I do not believe in rules for my travel, I have my own set of rules. But for any of you who have set out the cross this great land of ours, I am sure you were inundated with advice. My only advice is to stop where I have enjoyed a stop, like a landmark, meal, or point of interest. What better time to go than now?
While some are good, Yahoo has their own rules:
1. Never say No to a full tank of gas
This is very important, but I also say, “never pass a toilet without using it” comes in very handy on some of those endless interstates and toll roads. And remember, your AAA roadside service card is useless when you don’t have cell coverage! So, fill up the gas tank and empty your bladder whenever you stop!
2. Be nimble?
Jack be nimble? Yes, allow time for unexpected stops, along with the most important stops along the way. Just do not get burdened by your “must do or see list” at the cost of something unexpectedly wonderful and memorable.
3. Always take a respite.
Travel, especially by car, can be tiring, boring, and agitating. Take some time with a cocktail break or breaks, or a day spa, or both! In other words, take a break!
4 Take lots of photos!
Never regret the shot you should have taken. The great thing about digital cameras and cell phones: the delete button, of course! Ah, easier to delete than to regret! Oh and keep your camera and cell phone full charged. Always carry an extra thumb drive or memory card. And make sure that you are in some of them!
5. Get off the Interstate!
Yes, the back roads of America are worth side trips and excursions. Read the books by William Least Heat-Moon, it tells the story of America (blue highways). You can be like Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) in “Vacation” and find the world’s largest ball of twine, or Buffalo Bill’s grave. But remember the speed limit, and lack of toilets.
6. Eat locally.
Avoid fast food completely. Stop at roadside fruit stands and “Ma and Pa” diners and dives. A nice huckleberry pie is better than a soft serve ice cream at McDonald’s. Just be ready for an adventure, as the food may not be up to your standards.
7. Pay attention to what truck drivers do in bad weather.
If they pull over, I would do the same. Also, my trip to LA on New Year’s Day was foggy and icy. So, a group of four of us took turns leading the way down south, convoy style, the valley of fog. It was so much easier to drive this way!
8. Find the right partner.
First, the answer is NO, you cannot have Mr. Mike. Also, make sure someone likes to drive, and someone likes to navigate. Ideally, try to find a travel mate with the same size bladder (just kidding). Of course, this brings to mind Thelma and Louise.
9. Pay attention to all the local signage.
You may need an interpreter. Some states do not allow right hand turns on red lights, things like that. And remember, these little towns love to catch you in a speed trap, as you translate to easy money.
10. Have some good sounds, either through your phone, or satellite radio since your regular radio will not work at least 50% of the time.
This goes without saying, same for your GPS, although they are much better now. Make sure you have uplifting music, along with some more relaxing music for “quiet” times. Do NOT rely on your radio!
11. Have a good story to tell the locals.
Remember when? Did I tell you about my Uncle Buck? Make one up if you must, but have a great story, like a flat tire in Patagonia in a rental car, with nobody driving by!!
12. Don’t overpack.
If I do over pack, I try to give my extra clothes away. There is always somebody who wants your stuff, no matter where you go in the world. Just make sure you do not leave a bag of dirty laundry behind! And always save room for that special purchase!!!!
13. Go grocery shopping.
This is a great idea, no matter what, both for road snacks, water, wine, and meal times when nothing better than the Red Eagle Café in Browning, Montana is the only game in town. And you might find some nice souvenirs as well.
14. Buy a real map or go to AAA.
Remember, your GPS is only as good as your power supply, and your reception. A real map can be your best friend.
15. Trust your instincts.
The jury is still out on this one for me. Yes, I do end up driving by the “Braille” method, and usually come out right. But don’t try it in south central LA or East St. Louis!
16. Know your limits.
When you get tired, stop! When you are fed up with the car, take a walk, or just find the nearest “no tell motel” and get a good night’s rest. But stay out of trouble! No strip clubs or honky tonks!!!
17. Savor your destination.
The journey is important, but so is your destination. It took a near act of God to find Torres del Paine, but it was worth it!
My No. 18 Always bring small gifts!
You never know when you might need to fend of a gang of school kids. Locals love small gifts too! It might only be some cheap gum or candy. Better yet, some items form the dollar store.
My only really long car trip was driving Chile, mostly from top to bottom, with a few side trips to Mendoza, Buenos Aires, and Ushuaia, Argentina. Yes, it is a thin, long (2670 miles) country, so east-west travel is not a problem. To the west lies the Pacific Ocean, and to the east, the Andes. The northern end is the famous Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth. It is home to Chile’s famous copper mines, and lithium farms. We flew from Santiago up to San Pedro rather than drive through a sand storm. To the south, the famous Beagle Channel of Chuck Darwin.
The Pan American Highway starts or ends in three places (termini), we were in two of them: Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, and Puerto Montt, a non descript seaside town. We did cheat a little, as it was a twelve and a half hour bus ride from Ushuaia to Puerto Montt. This trip normally, can be driven (not recommended), or sailed (out of season), so we took the bus. Could not find anyone crazy enough to rent us a car! From PM, we drove the rest of the way to Santiago, where we started.
We did this without any Spanish language skills, but with a true sense of adventure. And the only reservations we had were the round trip airline tickets from home, and the first two night’s hotel in Santiago.
I am not saying it was any easier driving through Spain and Portugal to play golf. Or to visit Barry the V in South Africa, and traipse around the Cape to the wine country and many coastal towns.
And this from a dear friend
: I (aka Thelma) made a lot of declarations when I set off on a ten-day road trip from New York to San Francisco with my friend G (Louise) this past summer.
We would see Mt. Rushmore, we’d finish the audio book of “Go Set a Watchman,” we’d stop in road side dives and talk to interesting people, learn about the “real” America and we wouldn’t eat any fast food.
We fancied ourselves a modern day Thelma and Louise with less drama and the same amount of red lipstick.
When you make a choice not to eat fast food you instantly become mindful about where you do eat. Quality inherently matters more and you invest more time into scouring the options rather than accepting the next empty calorie.
G put it best when she said “non-fast-food restaurants were written in invisible ink, and once we decided to stop eating fast food it was like they all magically appeared and were everywhere.”
Food is so essential to the American story that we had to make it part of ours.
We also agreed to say no to chain restaurants, to forces ourselves to seek authenticity. We had to define the terms. Was Cracker Barrel ok? It wasn’t. We ate at a lot of diners and had more red meat than we probably should have, but when driving through country where cattle are actually grazing alongside of your car and you know where your meat is coming from, ordering a burger feels like an OK thing to do.
It was day one. Dark was falling and we were just outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, nearly out of gas, daylight and patience. We’d assumed it would be simple to find something to eat that didn’t involve golden arches, but each rest stop laughed at us with its neon options and every time we left the highway to track down real food we discovered nothing but acres of cows and restaurants that had long been shut down.
At our wits end before the trip even began, we finally spied a sign that promised little more than a “Family Restaurant,” which took us to the New Fork diner, a sweet little spot right on the Turnpike service road whose motto was “where our cookin’ is better than home cookin’.”