Survivor–The Summer Road Trip

open road

The purpose of taking a summer vacation is to get away from it all–to rest, relax and regroup before returning to the rat race.  The problem is that you are tired and frazzled when you leave on the road trip to get to your vacation destination.  On top of your daily responsibilities, you have had to pack, make arrangements for your pets, figure out the best route to travel, etc.  And then you take on the most stressful part of your vacation–spending hours on the road getting from point A to point B.

If you are the driver, at least you are occupied with maneuvering your vehicle down the highway.  It may be dull, but you have to keep an eye on the posted speed limit, watch out for merging vehicles, pass slow moving trucks, etc.  But what does the poor adult passenger do to survive the interminable hours on the road before your reach point B?

I recently participated in “Survivor–The Summer Road Trip,” so I was forced to determine how to avoid insanity en route.  Since millions of Americans will be hitting this road for a summer vacation, I want to share my findings on how to survive for the benefit of future travelers.

In this electronic age, most drivers rely on a GPS and/or mapquest to get them where they are going.  Don’t be fooled by the travel time which is given to you.  Electronic travel time is not equivalent to real travel time.  Electronic travelers apparently never have to stop to get gas, eat, or use the restroom.  Therefore, don’t be lulled into a false timetable.  Add at least an hour to the time your device tells you.  If you think that it will take 11 hours to get to your destination and it takes 12, you will be frustrated because you were expecting to arrive sooner.  If you think it would take 12 hours to get to your destination and it takes 12, you will be tired and cranky, but at least you were expecting that travel length.

GPS

It’s a funny thing about car travel.  All you have to do is sit inside the vehicle and watch the world whiz by.  You can get very hungry from this inactivity. In actuality, you are just bored, and, well, eating is something to do.  Accordingly, you should pack some snacks to consume to help pass the time.  And be sure that you pack the snacks in an easily accessible place.  It does not contribute to marital harmony to find out that your beloved spouse has packed the object of your gastronomic desire in the trunk as you barrel down the interstate at 75 mph.

Nevertheless, inaccessible food can provide an entertaining activity.  You know you have been in the car for too long when you start reading all the billboards and determining what new menu items you must try at the inevitable fast food restaurants conveniently situated off any exit.  I personally was able to try three new menu items on pits stops during my recent road trip–one which lasted over 12 hours one way.

Mac'n Cheetos

Not only was I able to sample new food items, but I killed some time taking pictures of the items with my cell phone and providing my spouse with a critique of the food quality.  Thumbs up for Mac’n Cheetos at Burger King.  Sounds gross but tastes great.  The  buffalo chicken slider at Arby’s missed the mark with me; it did not have enough blue cheese on it to match the fire of the buffalo sauce.  The loaded curly fries at Arby’s tasted yummy, but got low marks for presentation.  Whole bacon strips on top looked out of place; crumbled bacon bits would have been a more eye-pleasing choice.

Arby's Slider

Maps can also add moments of fun.  Welcome centers located just past the state line usually hand out free state maps.  I like to look these maps over and see what strange/weird locations I can find.  Did you know that there is a town in South Carolina called Switzerland?  I really wanted to stop there so I could brag to my friends that I had been to Switzerland on vacation.  Unfortunately, Switzerland was too far off of I-95 to take a detour; we were already going to be on the road for 12 hours or so, and I was not eager to add to that figure.

SC sign

Music is also a good distraction.  Hubby found some downloaded songs on his phone and played them on the car radio for me.  I was amazed at how many of the lyrics to Bread’s greatest hits I could recall.  And speaking of singing, why not see how many times you can get through “99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall” from your starting point to your destination?  If you assume you can sing the lyrics for one bottle in ten seconds, then you can get through the whole song in about 17 minutes.  Um, no.  I do not want to sing that song 42 times in a 12 hour period. That would contribute to insanity rather than help avoid it.

How about playing a game?  The driver can’t play a board game with you, but there’s always I Spy, a favorite game when I was a child on vacation with my family.  Warning.  Do not play this game while traveling on I-10 through Florida or on I-95 through South Carolina.  The only thing that you really spy outside your car along the interstate there is trees.  BORING.

Why not use the time you are trapped in the car to improve your mind?  Given that it is an election year with Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate and, more importantly, that we had just seen the movie “13 Hours” on Netflix, we decided to look up Benghazi on the cell phone and read all about it.  Oh, my!  I understand the incident much better now, but perhaps ignorance was bliss.

The passenger can always read.  I tried to be considerate of my driving spouse and offered to read interesting articles out loud to him from the newspaper and from a magazine I had brought on the trip.  Unfortunately, you cannot share the amazing pictures that accompany these articles with the driver because you want him to keep his eyes on the road.  Arrive alive and all that.

After awhile you will find that your sanity can only be maintained by periodic stops to escape the torture chamber in which you are trapped.  What?  The Florida Welcome Center is giving away free OJ?  Stop now!  The fact that the beverage comes from the same carton you would buy at the supermarket and is served in a miniscule paper cup is irrelevant to you at that point.  What?  A rest area?  Stop now!  We must walk the dog in case she needs to go potty.  The fact that the dog went potty about an hour ago and did not drink any OJ or any other beverage in the meantime is irrelevant at that point.

FL OJ

Why in the world would any sane adult embark on a 726 mile (one way) road trip in the summer heat putting her safety at risk on the interstate and straining the current good relationship with her spouse?  It is all about motivation.  For me, the motivation was small, very small–grandchildren size small.  It’s amazing what you will endure to be with the ones you love.

I am happy to report that my road trip was successful–I reached my destination and returned home safely with my sanity intact.  I won “Survivor–The Summer Road Trip!”

Map Musings

wisemenandstarloop

In Biblical times, the stars were used to guide travelers such as the three wise men who journeyed from afar to Bethlehem.  We still look to the heavens to guide us, but in a more indirect way via satellite transmission from above to our GPS.  Paper maps were the intermediate guide, but they are used today about as frequently as camels to reach one’s ultimate destination.

While paper maps may not be the handiest guide tool in our modern society, they are still an asset on a long trip.  On our recent trek to Texas I pulled out a paper map–not to find my way but to entertain me during the long hours on the road.  How can a map be amusing, you ask?  Well, have you ever stopped to really look at one?  The names of places and their locations in relation to each other can be pretty interesting.  For example, my Texas map shows both an Old Dime Box and a New Dime Box.  Which was settled first?  Why that name?  Was there a family feud that led to the establishment of a second Dime Box settlement?  What the heck is a dime box anyway?

texas-reference

While sailors and the Magi may have looked upward at twinkling stars to point the way, they already had their destinations in mind, i.e., a specific port and the location of a newborn king respectively.  Paper maps can be used differently.  What if we want to figure out where we want to go?  Wouldn’t it be fun to pull out a map and decide on a place to travel based on the names found on the map?  OK, I was trapped in a moving vehicle for hours on end traveling in Texas, so you have to get creative in how to amuse yourself.

If you take the time to look, there are some pretty interesting place names in the Lone Star State.  Maybe I should move to Alice, Texas temporarily just so I could leave and then say, “Alice doesn’t live here anymore.”  If you are a fan of the Jetsons cartoon, you may want to check out Elroy, Texas.  Or you could kill two birds with one stone and visit a Texas location that connotes another spot such as Nazareth, Moscow, London, Nevada, Sudan, Ireland, Scotland, Trinidad and Buffalo.  I’d suggest going to Nazareth at Christmas, Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day and Trinidad for spring break.  And for an out of this world experience, consider checking out Venus and Mercury–Texas, that is.

Some choose destinations for the local food.  Why the Sterns earned beaucop bucks writing about food on the road.  You could enjoy breakfast in Oatmeal, TX, a healthy snack in Plum, TX and pasta in Noodle, TX.  You might need a plate from Dish, TX to hold your meal.  Come on; you have to admit these thoughts are entertaining (for someone who is road weary and has miles to go before being released from vehicle jail).

Tired of traveling?  Why not pick a place that suits your mood?  You can be difficult in Moody, TX. on cloud nine in Utopia, TX, compassionate in Loving, TX and confused in Uncertain, TX.

While you may scratch your head at why some place names are chosen, it is understandable that a town may be named after a historical figure or beloved character.  I must have been absent, though, on the day in American History class when Elmo, Kermit  and Ben Hur were discussed.  Were those three at the Alamo?  I remember the Alamo, but not them being there.  All three are towns in Texas along with Jonah (you know all those whales they have on the plains) and Ben Franklin (the plains must be  a good place to fly a kite during an electrical storm).

Concern for my safety tempers my desire to visit some Texas towns.  Think I’ll pass on Cut And Shoot, Bang and Bigfoot.  Gun Barrell City might be safe if all citizens are packing to keep the bad guys in line; let’s just hope no one has an itchy trigger finger.  Shootings might necessitate a sidetrip to Spade, TX to dig a grave.

Gun-Barrel-Smoke

Other Texas locations just seem like a good time is inevitable based on the name alone.  Who wouldn’t be happy in Friday, TX where you could say, “Thank God It’s Friday!” every day?  Tuxedo, TX sounds like it is up for a fancy party all the time.  And you’d never be too tired for fun in Energy, TX and Pep, TX.

As entertaining as my map musings were, at the end of the day, there’s no place like home.  I want to be off the road in a place where I don’t need stars, a GPS or a paper map for me to find my way around.  I live in Valparaiso, FL, the vale of paradise.  Paradise, TX will just have to do without my presence for now.