Monday, July 1, 2013

Road Trips: The Surefire Way to Get to Know Someone & Have an Adventure

Growing up, my family didn't have the money to do things like fly to far off destinations for vacation. In fact, we didn't really have money to go on vacation. We were doing the staycation long before that term ever existed. For the record, I HATE the term "staycation"; it's just a fancy & very pretentious way to say you're too broke or have too stingy a work schedule to take a vacation.

So when we actually got to go anywhere later on (mostly due to my desire to look at schools for undergrad before spending time and money on applications), we would take a road trip.

Personally, I love road trips though you have to do them right. You don't want to travel with anyone who has to stop every 5 seconds to use the bathroom or without clearly established rules on music, driving labor, food, etc. Nor do you want to travel with anyone who's going to deviate from the pre-established route like in the last episode of Nickelodeon's Doug. Go here for a reference to what I'm talking about. Believe me, if I'm driving there's no way in hell we're going out of the way like that. I don't care if Jesus and Santa Claus are appearing at the bug ranch & handing out bags of cash to everyone who shows up. Everyone I know who has driven or navigated road trips is the same way.

Now why are road trips so great? First off, if you take the right route (not overly scenic & not a massive toll plaza) you get a lot of room for exploration.

Second, they are a great test of a relationship. After a few hours, the veneer of politeness & reserve vanishes and you'll see people's true natures. Annoying personality quirks, crazy behavior, all that stuff comes out. Sometimes you're riding with the sleep deprived; just make sure they aren't the ones driving. I went on a road trip with my husband's family early in our relationship & I had the pleasure of dealing with the guy I was dating in a sleep deprived state. He gets looney & wacky. We were in the back seat. I think a road trip is much like an extended stay at the person's house; it will either tell you it's time to dump your significant other or that you should marry the person since you don't have the urge to kill him/her after it's all said & done. My husband was the first guy I spent an extended amount of time with & didn't want to kill after it was all over. If I couldn't handle being around him in a road trip, I wouldn't have married him since I'd have wanted to leave him at some restaurant in Fair Play, South Carolina (that is a real place where a family friend of ours once had car trouble when he was driving to Atlanta).

The same goes for friendships but I think going on a road trip that is at least 4-5 hours is a good test of a relationship since you'll either never want to see your significant other again or have overcome so much in the trip that you're bonded forever. I'd totally recommend doing that before ever getting married to someone. Flying, though it's a hassle, just isn't the same since you don't have to worry about anyone navigating or doing the driving. People in the car with you can actually screw that stuff up. If you can't stand being in a car with your significant other for at least 4 hours, you will never be able to live with him/her without being seriously tempted to commit murder.

Third, it's a bonding experience. You get shared experiences & stories about things you might never see at home. For instance, condom machines in the bathrooms were a big deal when we drove to Atlanta and stopped at gas stations in South Carolina to use the bathroom. There was also that weird gas station next to the video store my husband & I went to in Georgia when driving back from Florida. This place was legendary & it's something we know about but no one else would unless we told them (or they happened to get off that exit on 95). There's also being able to manage a crisis like bad weather or road closures. Those are always fun, especially if you don't have a GPS system or a phone app to help you reroute.

Again, that veneer of politeness comes down sooner or later so you're dealing with the real person; if you manage to travel with someone who can maintain that veneer for 10+ hours in a car (the distance to drive from NYC to my hometown in NC), that person should probably be awarded sainthood. There's no way a normal person could do that unless (s)he was asleep or passed out for at least half that time. Obviously, you don't get sainthood unless you were asleep or passed out for less than a couple hours of that 10+ hours.

Finally, you figure out your roles. Some of us are good drivers, some of us are awesome navigators, some are good at entertaining everyone even if there's no radio reception or great music to play. I think romantic relationships work better if you've got a good driver & a good navigator.

Another type of person you don't want in the car? A backseat driver. I discovered my husband was one when I had to drive part of the route to NC last Thanksgiving. As a rule, I always insist that the driver gets to play the music (s)he wants; after all, you don't want the driver getting into an accident or getting pissed off and doing stupid stuff that risks everyone's lives. I switched to my CDs. Having driven from Atlanta to NC many times by myself, I made sure to create a good mix of music for my CDs. In a 5 hour drive one way, you need to have some loud music with a beat so you don't cave in to being tired or have your trip last longer because you got drowsy and had to pull over. This is especially true if you're doing night driving, as I'd had to do pretty often.

My husband, a man who hadn't done that or even made late night drives to my home like I did to his when we dated & I was leaving from my last law school class on Thursday evenings to see him, even commented on that. Then, he yelled at me for doing 70 miles per hour in a 70 mile per hour speed zone. Considering my father taught me how to drive & he was extremely good at it, I got quite upset. I also consider driving semi-relaxing if I have the right music on. I view it as akin to mastering a dance routine. You have to make sure you have the right steps & if you misstep, that's when you have accidents. That analogy is probably how I'm able to drive in construction areas and narrow spaces instead of being terrified like I was when I was first learning.

I also come from a family that prides itself on not driving like arthritic grandmothers. My mother regularly complains about slow drivers & she lives out in the country. My husband's family is the opposite & I did tell him he was acting like his mother, who will do the same thing when my husband is driving.

It seems if you're married & a straight woman, your husband will insist on driving the entire 14 hour trip himself. My mom had this happen to her & it's happened to me. I've offered to drive & my husband usually tells me no. When we were coming back from Florida, he later complained to people about driving the entire way from Florida to North Carolina even though I offered to take over anytime he wanted me to.

Are all men that stubborn? I say don't bitch about driving once you've turned down someone's offer to give you a break. When I traveled with my family, we shared driving responsibilities so no one would feel like they drove the entire way all alone.

At least I'm a good navigator so my husband doing the driving works for us. It's got to be worse if you're a driver and your significant other can't navigate for shit. I was the one who got my family out of NYC and back to Nanuet without the benefit of GPS back in 2002. I figured out the direction we needed to go & used the One Way streets to get us back where we needed to be. Guess my driving in Atlanta helped there. I'm also the one everyone goes to when they got off the wrong exit and have to get back on the interstate.

As a rule, I never rely solely on GPS for directions. We always used MapQuest directions and would learn the routes enough to see where alternate ways might be easier. I still do that today, in fact since GPS wasn't part of my life experience until more recently and I feel like you don't really learn how to get someplace unless you have the directions on your own. Just relying on GPS makes you too mindless and doesn't really allow you to recognize landmarks, exit numbers and things that would help you acquaint yourself with a route. Suppose I'm also speaking partially as a former courier since I also got directions when needed while doing that job.

Though eating is more of a challenge on a road trip if you don't eat fast food or at most chain restaurants, I still enjoy road trips. If you're smart, you research where the restaurants are on the route. This is something I've done when going near restaurants I'd never get to eat at in NYC or even where I'm going to visit. Unlike in New York and New Jersey, there are signs along the interstate in the South that will tell you what's off a particular exit. Even then, though, you sometimes can find a place is hidden. I once found a Chick-Fil-A in my route that wasn't listed on one of these signs. I joke with my husband that up here, it's "If you don't know what's off this exit, then fuck you! We're not telling you. Figure it out yourself, jerk!"

Road trips also work better if you don't have young kids, a small bladder, a hatred of adventure & novelty or fears of other people driving. Those people make the road trip much longer or more horrendous in some way. Fortunately, I don't have any of that stuff so I'm much more apt to go on one if given an opportunity. Being able to entertain yourself also helps sometimes. I also don't get car sick so I'm probably the perfect road trip companion if I've had enough sleep. I like evening trips better. Not sure why, I just do.

However, I'm not sure if you could call me a morning or a night person since my sleep schedule has varied so many times over the years that I didn't feel a difference when I was used to whatever schedule I had to follow at the time for work or school. As long as we're not leaving at 6 am & I have to drive first, I'm fine.

Man, I miss going on road trips. We're going to have to go someplace where we can do a road trip. I wouldn't mind doing one cross country as long as the proper planning happened & I got to travel with people I didn't want to strangle. I also wondered when someone mentioned a need for the means to have one to an event she was trying to get to whether there's a company that does that for you. Hires people to go on a road trip with you or use their car to make it happen? I think that kind of company would be interesting, don't you? Screen out the people so you don't get whiners and backseat drivers. If you could make it happen, I think it would be cool.

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