Stop #8 – Driving | Cross Country
Sometimes a road trip is just that – a trip on the road with nothing else to do or see but watch the never-ending stretch of grey pavement in front of and behind you. For anyone who plans on taking an extended travel companion anywhere, you better make sure you like your company for days like these.
Growing up, I was used to taking long road trips several times a year with my family. California is a big stretch of a state with a lot to see, and living in the central Bay Area made everything north or south of me just within driving reach. I am well-practiced in 2-hour day trips to Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, or 4-6 hour weekend trips to Burney Falls, Big Sur, Solvang (I should write a book on my California travels sometime). However, I’d never spent an entire day, morning to night, traveling to my destination. From New Orleans, through the great state of Texas, onward to Colorado – this stretch of driving required all of my life-learned patience.
No matter how many times I switched leaning from my right hip to the left one, my butt was numb on both cheeks while my legs screamed to get some blood pumping. A straight day of driving can get back-achingly uncomfortable, even for the most professional of nomads. Not to mention dangerously boring.
My mind would wander off to our previous or pending destinations because it was too torturous to dwell in the never-ending, never-changing scene in front of me: flat lands with straight, straight roads. These may be the trickiest roads to drive along for someone like me.
For a California girl, I’m used to the undulating gold hills and green mountains surrounding me on all sides. But, on this trip, with just the yellowed brown horizon surrounding me made me feel lost. Everything looked the same no matter which way we turned, giving a sickening weight to my stomach when I realized that I finally understood the meaning of “in the middle of nowhere.”
At night, occasional signs warned us of the possibility of deer or rabbit crossing (which I never saw, but constantly feared hitting during one of my day dreaming moments behind the wheel). Seeing another set of lights coming on the road provided an exciting change of scenery and momentary consolation in letting us know we weren’t the only ones on the road. We’d go an hour or so without seeing anyone in front of or behind us.
Time restraints forced us to speed along (my hubby had a new job, starting Monday); we went straight through the state where everything is bigger – including the expanse of land within the U.S.. It took us up to 10 hours before we finally crossed the Texas border, leaving behind a spread of land full of cow farms.
Thank God I have a travel partner I actually like talking to, laughing with, and enjoying the same music with on this great American road trip. Good thing I married him.
Road Trip Advice
Road trips can be fun or become an arduous task if you don’t prepare ahead of time or have the right traveling companion.
- Wear Comfortable Clothes – Avoid jeans (those definitely chafe after several hours of sitting), choose something stretchy in case you want to curl up your legs under you or lay on the side in the back seat.
- Bring Blankets and Pillows – I know I’m not the only one who falls asleep in the car, and I’d much rather rest my head against a pillow than a cold window, risking the inevitable headache when your head eventually bumps the glass.
- Be Ready to Talk… Or Not – Luckily my hubby and I are pretty good at filling the empty spaces of time with conversation, whether it’s planning, reminiscing, or just talking about ridiculous nonsense, like why grape jelly is always purple when there are green grapes. Then again, my hubby and I are also so comfortable with each other that silence isn’t awkward between us. And, that silence is kinda inevitable.
- Bring Music or Audio Books – Part of our fast planning included making playlists of our favorite albums for the road. On other road trips, we’ve even listened to Spanish lessons in the car together.
- Plan Fun Stops – If you have the time to check some fun restaurants or see a particular monument that’s along the way, you should. Research for a couple stops that would break the monotony of sitting in the car. Otherwise, the only excitement you may get is sitting your bare butt on a cold porcelain or metal toilet at a gas station that resembles a horror film.
- Bring Snacks – A road trip is still a form of a vacation, so pack a cooler full of fun and appetizing snacks that are diverse. Our own peanut butter pretzels and bananas were enjoyable, but after a few days of smelling and eating oranges, I kinda got sick of the sweet smelling cuties that no longer appealed to my nose or tongue.
Other people would recommend watching movies or shows, but unless the driver is satisfied with just listening instead of watching, than it seems more like a hazardous idea for the front seats. Unless you have kids, of course.
I’m sure we missed a lot of great stops along the way (feel free to list them in the comments so I can add to my “to-do list”).
One touristy site we missed would have been Route 66. We saw huge advertisements through New Mexico for the historic route, though we couldn’t take that either, unfortunately. Random lights and lit polls were randomly placed close to Albuquerque, including a section with a hotel, casino, and one called Route 66.
Oh well. We live we learn. Here’s hoping my dear readers can learn from my missteps and strides.
Around 12:30 am on Friday, we parked at a motel, rolling our cramped bones and joints out of the car. We stretched our backs, craned our necks, and reached our fingers as high as our limbs could extend, relishing that there was no car roof above our heads. We had reached Colorado.