All Purpose Guide to 'On the Fly' Roadtripping!

Mar 26, 2000

The best toad trip I ever went on was during the summer after I graduated high school. I was really stressed out to be moving out on my own, despite having detested my town everyday since I had moved there 5 years previous. I was really scared about moving to a town where I knew no one and that I would be bad at being a college student (whatever
that was).

So needless to say I was wound extremely tight one day while on lunchbreak from my job at sleazy video store, I stopped at a small diner that had placemats with all the landmarks of America and suddenly things became so simple. I went back to the video store and immediately quit. I went home and packed a bag, left a message on my best friend's & mother's answering machine, and left town within an hour. My only goal was to visit the
factory where Gobstoppers are made and visit my friend who had moved to Boston the month before.

When I tell people about my adventure they usually ask about the same things:

This was actually something I rarely thought about which is surprising because it's some I'm usually very conscious of. I did carry a can of mace with me for when I had to nap at a rest stop, spend the night in sleazy motels, and while pumping gas at some freaky berg in Montana. Pay attention to your gut, if you're getting the creeps, get out! Who cares if people think you're weird, you're never going to see them again!

What did people do before ATM's? I put everything on debit and credit cards. Checks are too tedious but I usually keep cash on hand for tipping. I think I saved a lot of money by not eating much, something about long distance driving kills my appetite. Though I did go to three weddings where the food was delicious and plentiful (and I got to do the
duck-dance!). Another nice thing about weddings: people are always so nice! Probably because of all the free booze.

Is the saying "a good defense is a good offense"? I did all this in a 1989 Ford Taurus and never had too big a problem. Make sure you know how to change a tire and how to check & maintain your oil and fluid levels. These are simple tasks which any driver should know how to do anyway. One of my tires blew out in the middle of nowhere, North Dakota. I put the bubble tire on and as I was tightening the last lugnuts a cop pulled over
to help, gee thanks. He gave me an escort to the closest town (Jamestown, about 30 minutes away) where his friend owned a garage. The cop's friend had just towed a drunk driver who drove a car very similar to mine so he gave me one of the drunk's tires for free. Sweet!

I find most scenery pretty blase. Sorry, but rock formations, trees and mountains look cool for about 10 minutes and then it's time to go. That's what makes travelling alone really great, you don't get stuck anywhere and you don't spend a lot of time bickering about how and when to leave. I really like listening to books on tape and lots of different music. If
you drive through the midwest there will be a lot of time when you won't be able to pick up any radio stations.

Whatever! You can find anything you need or want on the road. Though after a while the placemat had to replaced with a more detailed (and laminated!) road map. Excessive packing and planning will just weigh you down and make your trip a disappointment. Not to mention it would be so sad if you forgot or lost any of your personal stuff which you had
worked so hard to pack. Also, try not to have a schedule of any sort. Some days you may just want to hang out wherever you are and some days you may want to drive all day and all night. Trust your instincts, after all when on the road, you are capable of anything!

Pardon the cliche, but When in Rome do as the Romans do. If you're staying in a town where country line dancing is the thing then go do it! Maybe they know something you don't! Plus if that's where EVERYONE in the town is you know you're safe. Most small towns have weird little 'claims to fame' like a telephone museum (Cle Elum) or side shows with Alligator Boy's skeleton and a LIVE two-headed snake (somewhere in Texas)! I don't have any cool "places to see", I thought everything was a lot of fun (even breaking down was interesting).

Some of these places can't be avoided so be on guard: Montana, it's HUGE! It can take DAYS to get out of Montana. Missoula is pretty cool, it's a college town. ALABAMA! OHIO! and the weirdest of the weird: CALIFORNIA!

The most important thing to remember: things will NEVER turn out as you plan, even if you plan as I do. I didn't get around to visit my friend or see how gobstoppers were made, but I did a lot of great things and met lots of wonderful people. What I love about roadtrips is that it's a great way to drop out of society while learning more about it. And how sweet and accomodating people are when they find out you're a vagabond. It also sharpens your ability to be resourceful and entertaining.

Kudos to anyone who has read this far.

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