The art of road tripping

I love road trips. Love. Send me on a 6 hour drive with some sunflower seeds and a podcast and I will be the happiest camper you know.

That said, road tripping can be a bit of an art form. If you’re setting out for a cross-country adventure with no stops planned, an ambition to listen to strictly the radio and intentions to just get from point A to point B with as little resistance or adventure as possible, your opinion on the venture may be very different. The word “daunting” comes to mind.

The following are a few things that I’ve learned throughout my road tripping experiences. Keep these in mind before you embark on your next journey as a road warrior. And then thank me. Hopefully.

Check out the road trippers app.

A couple years ago, a coworker of mine introduced me to an app called “Roadtrippers” and my trips have never been the same. Just think of the countless stops you can make to see things that you never before cared about!

Sincerely, though. On road trips, you need a break. Mentally and physically. So why not use an app to help map out logical break points where you can actually stop to see something while stretching your legs? Some of the most beautiful points of interest on my trips have come from Roadtrippers (ref: Treasure Falls and Zapata Falls). As have some of the useless (ref: Sinclair gas station or the Mike the Headless Chicken memorial). But hey, it was something to see that didn’t look like the inside of all of those gas stations I used to stop at!

Be Flexible. And take risks.

I think we can all probably agree that nothing ever goes exactly as planned. Or, as Robert Burns sort of said:

The bestlaid plans of mice and men often go awry. No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it.

Robert Burns

There have been many times where the adventures in my mind maybe weren’t coming to fruition exactly as I had planned them, and that’s okay. There have also been a few times when I thought “Maybe I should skip this one” only to forge ahead and experience some of the most beautiful scenery I could have imagined.

Take, for instance, my venture to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Zapata Falls. Had I let the sketchy looking road, gray looming skies and lack of visibility scare me away, I would have missed out on the blue sky experiences waiting only 12 miles up the road.

I know that it doesn’t work out that way every time. But you don’t know if you don’t try. Take the risk. And if it doesn’t work out, then shrug and carry on your way to the other destinations you have picked out.

It’s boring sometimes.

Let’s just be honest with each other. No matter how many destinations you map along the way, there will come a time when you’re bored. And probably uncomfortable.

My advice? Be prepared with something to do during the times when there aren’t things to appreciate. Before you set out on your trip (more importantly, before you lose your cellular connection), download your favorite Spotify playlist. Scour Pocketcasts for a new podcast to listen to. Side note: I recommend How I Built This by NPR and The Daily by the New York Times.

Whatever you decide to do, know that dead zones are inevitable, but they’re not as bad if you come prepared.

Be prepared for the unexpected.

Speaking of being prepared, make sure you’re thinking through the minor things that could go wrong.

On my last drive from Kansas City, KS to Scottsdale, AZ in December, my windshield wiper fluid froze. And I had no plans or intentions to park in a garage for 4+ hours waiting for it to thaw. Rather than panic, I grabbed a jug of non-frozen fluid from the nearest gas station and made intermittent stops along the way when visibility got bad. Ideal? No. But also not the major inconvenience it maybe could have been.

That said, use basic common sense. Anticipate the failures that could occur. Your phone is going to disconnect at some point, so have a general sense of direction in case your GPS stops tracking. Know that you’re going to have to eat at some point, so plan ahead rather than driving only to realize the next stop is 3 hours away, or ridiculously out of the way.

Appreciate shit.

Last, but certainly not least: make sure to set out on your journey with an appreciation for this incredible world we live in. Keep your eyes, mind and heart open. I’m consistently overwhelmed by the unexpected beauty along the way. And by all of the glorious sunsets. Some things you can only see from the road.

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