The first rule of road tripping is this: you will never leave as early as you plan. At least I never do. Rather than fight it, I’ve come to accept it. After all, “the journey is more important than the destination” is a cliché for a reason––it’s true.
When I was seven, my family packed into the car and drove from the suburbs of Minneapolis to the Badlands in South Dakota. It was my first, quintessential American road trip I can remember, and it left a lasting impression on me. In the Black Hills, we saw the northern lights. In the Badlands, my sister somehow managed to get some bison pie on her sock. It was more than memorable. It instilled the love of the road within me.
And yet, that was one of the few road trips we took as a family that I can remember. We didn’t drive to Disney World every year, or to D.C. (although we were fortunate to take a few trips to Europe; I’m not complaining). So the love of the road I discovered on that trip to South Dakota wedged itself deep within me, and in 2014 I pried it out and drove almost 20,000 miles around the United States.
Never forget your driving sunglasses!
Since then, I’ve tripled that mileage up and around the West Coast and back and forth across the country. With my Sunski sunglasses in tow (I have a dedicated pair of driving sunglasses so that they’re the one thing I never forget), I make annual pilgrimages to Death Valley and the Sequoias. I find myself by losing myself on the road.
“I find myself by losing myself on the road”
More adventures await…
With Covid-19, things are going to look different. I’m sure that I’ll road trip in the future. I’m looking forward to the quietness found in the desert, and the calmness of leaves shaking in the wind. I’ve spent a fair amount of my time at home closing my eyes and pretending the rustle of the trees in my yard is on a hill somewhere, removed from the worry. Road trips always feel a bit like running away. You return to a more primal state of concern: where am I going to shelter, when’s my next meal.
I’m supposed to tell you what to pack for a road trip, but it’s the one time the destination somewhat matters. I never leave without my camera. I always grab at least two gallons of water along the way so that I can fill up my water bottles as needed. My food game has improved over the years, but is usually limited to what I grab and pack into a cooler the day-of. I keep a pair of hiking boots, a tent, and a sleeping pad in my trunk.
The world is different than we left it just a few months ago. I’m not going to let that be an exclusively bad thing. My love for the road is still wedged there within me, and when I feel like I can safely pry it out again, I’ll pass you on the road wearing my driving sunglasses and give you a waved “hello.”