Road Trip Rules
If you've stuck around this blog for a while, you know I love a good road trip.
I've never minded driving, which is good, because it seems I end up doing a lot of it anyway. Between family and friends in the Austin and Houston areas and general curiosity, I get my miles in — and the recent holiday season only exaggerated it.
I drive enough that it sparks conversation with friends and coworkers — usually, revolving around how much they hate driving. After several (mostly unsuccessful) recent attempts at convincing people to embrace the age old road trip, I was inspired to shift my strategy.
Maybe people don't hate road trips — maybe they just don't know how to road trip right.
If you, like I, suspect that you could love road trips but are just doing them wrong, I have great news for you: I wrote you this.
The Ryley Rush Official* and Comprehensive** Guide to a Great Road Trip:
First of all, you need to be okay with the situation. However long you’re going to be driving, it’s best to resign yourself to it early on. Make friends with the drive. Take the actual amount of expected hours, and then decide that actually, we’re going to mentally prepare for twice that. We are going to be in the car forever. Have you accepted this fate? Perfect.
Next, coffee. You need it to stay awake. And to be happy.
For a truly #authentic road trip experience, your only two options are to either bring your own, delicious coffee, or go straight to the other end of the spectrum and drink really bad black coffee from gas stations. You just kind of have to. It's the rules. The former only delays the latter, anyway, and besides, something about the part-coffee, part-motor-oil nature of gas station brews really makes you feel one with your vehicle.
Have your listens downloaded and ready to go. I try to save a wide variety of podcasts to catch up on, and if I’m driving far enough, it’s the perfect opportunity to tackle a series. (I listened to Serial in one go driving home from college once, for example.)
Music is also obviously necessary, but listen to me: lower your standards in advance. You will start out your road trip listening to genuinely good music. You will finish your road trip listening to Fergie. You don’t think you will, because right now, you and your artfully curated playlists are young and full of hope. But no one can listen to Bon Iver or whatever for ten hours. Not even the coolest, most trendy road trip version of yourself. Whatever you think you will want to listen to after hours of staring out your windshield, I promise you, you will want something so, so much worse. What did Eighth Grade You like? That’s probably what You Who Has Been Locked In A Car is going to like.
(Alternate/additional option: long drives are a great time to catch up on phone calls. Give people you miss and haven’t heard from in too long a ring!)
This is just my personal opinion, but I like to have decently healthy snacks on hand. You know how travel is — once you’ve been in a vehicle for more than two hours, you feel gross. Gross food only compounds it. Besides, you save money by bringing your own snacks! Kale chips for the win.
One of the best parts of driving is that you can stop when you want to. Take advantage of it! See something interesting to explore, or beautiful to photograph, or just need to stretch your legs? You can! And it’s usually worth the little time it costs you (see point one).
In that same vein, if you have the choice between a prettier route and uglier one with no real significant difference in time, take the prettier route every time.
At one point while still living in Virginia, I drove to Boston for a long weekend. The trip up took somewhere in the neighborhood of 13 hours, but it was gorgeous — winding through miles and miles of farmland in the New England area. On the way back, I decided to take the Jersey Turnpike instead, which would shave off almost 8 percent of my total drive time. Coincidentally, this is also the percentage of my soul that was siphoned by staring at ugly, unchanging concrete for hours on end and being in New Jersey in general. LESSON LEARNED.
A rolled-up t-shirt (or something similar) stuck between your lower back and the seat will save you mass amounts of neck/between-the-shoulder-blades pain. (Is this normal, by the way? Should I go see a chiropractor? One of my hobbies is talking about how I should go see a chiropractor and then never going to see a chiropractor.) Having a lacrosse ball on hand to stick under legs or behind shoulders also does wonders on a long haul.
Stop for gas before you need it, because otherwise, you might get so focused on getting where you’re going that you forget to actually monitor your gas gage and not see the gas light turn on and not hear the accompanying noise because you’re listening to Luke Bryan so loud (see point three) and suddenly your car won’t work and you call your dad in a panic and he asks if you actually put gas in it and you have to awkwardly realize that you did not and then you have to admit that and then he has to come retrieve you from the side of the road in Columbus at midnight because he’s a really good dad. You might. I don’t know, though. That’s never happened to me.
Do not, under any circumstances, wear real pants. You have a world of shorts, running tights, and sweatpants available to you. Do not settle for less than an elastic waistband.
And finally, just do it. Don’t overthink a road trip. They’re fun, therapeutic, and best done on the fly. They give you time to think, and process, and to really see and feel a place. Apply the lessons above, get behind the wheel, and go — you won’t regret it.