Since I spend so much time wandering the back roads of my fine state, I thought I would post some of my helpful tips for making any road trip better. Generally speaking, a successful road trip is about snacks, driving music, good company and well thought out pit stops. Oh, yeah and eventually getting to your destination.
The Snack Category:
Racetrac has the best fountain Mt. Dew and hot dogs anywhere- I start all adventures with a big Mt. Dew and a delicious hot dog. Not only are they tasty, but it is a good luck ritual. I know that might not be everyone’s cup of tea (or Mt. Dew), but that is how I roll and it has been working pretty well so far. Don’t fix what ain’t broke!
Hot boiled peanuts make all trips better-In a pinch, the ones sold at convenience stores will do, but the nuts sold by roadside vendors are much preferable. Now this can be a tricky thing. A bad boiled nut can make for a very long ride. A quality nut vendor will be more than happy to let you have a sample to test for taste and texture. Be sure to quiz the proprietor as to freshness and cooking duration. If you know your nuts, they should too!
The Driving Music Category:
Turn It Up-Good driving music should keep your blood pumping and have you singing out-loud. In today’s era of mp3 players and personal playlists, it is easy to have a good mix on hand to keep the tunes pumping and the miles rolling. I, however, am a little older school. When traveling alone, I keep a supply of cd’s on the passenger seat where they are easy to reach and easy to change.
During your travels on the back roads, it is possible that you may pass through some communities that do not have an appreciation for the importance of loud road music. Watch your surroundings!
The Good Company Category:
One for the Road-I maintain this is one of the hardest of human relationships to find. It is harder than dating and more difficult than finding a dentist. No matter how close your friends are, they may not be the best road trip companion. That does not mean they are not great, but they may not meet the criteria for being locked in a 25 square foot box with for several hours.
Now I understand that people travel together all the time. Co-workers, spouses, families, team mates and many others all ride in vehicles together on a daily basis, but those are not road trip buddies. A trip buddy is a special thing.
Here are some of the traits I find important in any highway companion:
- Make like Casey Kasem-The buddy, by default, becomes the trip DJ. Remember, the good by-way DJ never has to ask “What do you want to hear?” They just know what tune has been bouncing around your brain. “Remember to keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the pork rinds!”
- Tone Def is a Plus-Let’s be honest. At some point, we are going to be singing the wrong lyrics at the top of our lungs to some song that makes us feel sixteen again, so your co-pilot must either a.) Sing the same wrong lyrics. b.) Sing their own wrong lyrics, but not loud enough for you to hear over your wrong lyrics. c.) Just not care how loud you sing or what lyrics you use. They simple embrace you in all your weirdness… “Wrapped up like a douche, another rumor in the night.”
- The Snack Shack-Almost as important as musical compatibility, snack compatibility can be a deal breaker. No one wants the pungent aroma of Slim Jims and Doritos to be overtaken by the sticky sweetness of a Cinnabon. Like minds make for like treats.
- The Compass Rose-Like the dj, the co-pilot will become the navigator. The most imperative skill of this trusted position is realizing that the time to tell the drive about an upcoming turn is not after you have past the turn. Any other wrong turns, miscues or detours are part of the fun to be embraced and celebrated.
- Rest Stop Hero-Well, this is down to the basics of it. The perfect side-seat hero has roughly the same bladder size as you. This makes pit stops a joint effort and a happy time for everyone involved. Also, this gives you someone to provide a disapproving shake of the head as you contemplate a cup of rest stop vending machine coffee.
- The Un-awkward Silence-Not all silence is awkward and not every second must be filled with idle conversation. Good music and being lost in thought is ok sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that you don’t care about their dogs latest icky rash, but just not while “Don’t Stop Believin” is pouring from the speakers.
My Road Trip Buddies-They are not talkative, but don’t mind my singing
Three’s Company-It is hard to find one person that fits the bill, but if you can find a third person that fits all the guidelines all the better. The back seat buddy can fill some of the jobs of the co-pilot, but they also become cooler commander and the gate keeper of snacks.
The Pit Stop Category:
It Happens-So this is a less than delicate subject, but it is an important part of any trip. If you spend as much on the back roads as I do, you are going to need a pit stop and gas at some point. So, here are some things I have learned.
Think about it before you eat it-We are all tempted by some sort of gas station munchies at some point, but remember you may be many miles from a clean restroom in the case of gastric distress. If it looks sketchy, it probably is sketchy.
Grocery stores generally have cleaner restrooms than gas stations-In the event you ignored tip #3, Publix, Winn Dixie, Wal-Mart, etc, have a cleaning schedule. Always a better option! This is also a chance to multitask by refilling snack supplies and possibly a delicious Publix sandwich.
Avoid Palm Beach County for gas-Last weekend I discovered that gas in PBC is $.50 a gallon more expensive than St. Lucie County. That is a whole lot of snack money!
The Destination Category:
The Destination is not the End-Now, you have had a great time singing, laughing and snacking all the way to your destination. This is not the end, but a new beginning.
You have to like the company of your buddy (or buddies) enough to enjoy yourself where ever you ended up. Ideally, the laughing and singing does not stop, it simply changes location. Then you do the entire process in reverse back home.
A final thought, always remember that it is just as important to be a good road trip buddy as it is to have a good road trip buddy. Isn’t that one of the most important rules in life? Be someone you would want to spend time with!