We’ve just returned from a two-day, seven state road trip in a rented U-Haul box truck. While not as torturous as I was anticipating, the drive was certainly no easy feat. There was road construction, bad food and dirty rest stops – not to mention the mind numbing hours watching the white lines zipping down the middle of the highway. I picked up some lessons along our cross country road trip and, since I’m not ready to write about anything else right now, I’m going to share them with you.
1. Commerical radio sucks. Our U-Haul truck did not have an auxiliary port for hooking up an MP3 player to the stereo so we were reliant on commercial radio to pass the long hours on the road. I almost succeeded in driving The Mister to the insane asylum with my constant flipping of the channels in search of good music. And it seems like every time we did find a good radio station we would drive out of its range in the matter of a couple of songs.
2. America really needs better fast food options. Here at home we tend to eat healthy. After reading Fast Food Nation at the dawn of the millennium I vowed to never eat McDonald’s again. While I’ve stayed true to that promise, it’s not easy avoiding the golden arches on road trips. There was a McDonald’s at nearly every rest stop and travel plaza and little else as a healthy alternative. Eating healthy usually meant subsisting on bags of nuts and bottles of water.
3. Secure the contents of the truck. We have a lot of experience moving, albeit usually short distances, so we already knew we would need to tie down the cargo in the back of our truck. Now, I’m no sailor and I was never a boy scout so I can’t attest to the proper knot to use, but I can say that if we hadn’t used multiple yards of rope to secure our load it would have been a mess. We also had to make a last minute stop at a K-Mart (yes, K-Mart still exists!) for a pad lock. We didn’t want our goodies to get stolen while we made an overnight stop!
4. There’s no escaping road construction. Whether it was in the middle of a major city or on the outskirts of nowhere, we encountered plenty of roadwork between Connecticut and Iowa. While the sight of brake lights and orange cones was far from comforting, we tried to just relax and go with the flow. No matter how slow that flow was!
5. Road games really do pass the time. Whether it’s license plate bingo or the picnic game, it’s a welcome distraction from the endless blacktop stretched ahead of your truck. Edmunds has a great roundup for road trip games.
6. Stretching is key. At every stop we made we would both get out of the truck to stretch. We would stretch our backs, necks, legs and arms to relieve the fatigue of being in a cramped truck for hours on end. Sure, we were still sore at the end of our journey but not as sore as we could have been!
7. Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. Before we set out on our journey we considering making our 850 mile, 14-hour drive in one day. “If necessary,” I said, “we could just nap in the truck at a rest stop instead of renting a hotel room.” Ha! First of all, there is no napping in a U-Haul truck. Unlike cars, the seats do not recline. Secondly, have you ever tried to drive while totally exhausted? It’s no fun! We ended up renting a hotel room in Ohio just as we hit the halfway point in our journey.
8. Gas is expensive! There’s nothing like pumping 29 gallons of gasoline into a truck to make you appreciate the Prius you have parked back at home. Each time the gas pump would click its way close to $100 I would do a silent cheer for hybrid technology.
9. If your relationship can survive a road trip, you can survive anything. “You’re going to drive halfway across the country together? Good luck! We would kill each other before we even got out of the state!” The couple who uttered that phrase has a good, solid relationship. But not all couples travel well. While we certainly had our snippy moments on the road, The Mister and I made the journey unscathed.
10. There’s no place like home. Yep, Dorothy said it best in The Wizard of Oz. Sometimes it takes getting far away from home to really appreciate it. After a week away from the Dream House it felt like heaven to come back and settle back into our routine. Oh, sure, the trip was fun and we got a lot accomplished. But if you need me for the next six months, you’ll find me tucked away safe and sound in our happy little house.
Images: This American House