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The Rules of the Road Trip

I have a long and complicated history with the road trip.

As a kid, my parents would schlep us across the great state of Texas, going as far as Colorado. I’d sit, wedged between my older brothers, my bag of activities at my feet. Bickering happened. Whining ensued. We were all relieved when we’d finally get where we were going, and we poured out of the car like clowns.

In college, with a newfound sense of freedom, I’d drive to Memphis and back with girlfriends, returning in the wee hours after spending hours sweating on a dance floor. Inevitably, Waffle House or gas station goodies were a part of the journey.

When I was married, my ex and I would travel between Florida and Mississippi or Arkansas to visit family. He never wanted to stop, not even for pee breaks (a story comes to mind: he gave me exactly 3 minutes to dash into a gas station to pee. He threatened to leave if I wasn’t back by the deadline). We are no longer married. Coincidence?

Seven years ago, I took the trip of a lifetime when I drove myself, my mother, and my son from Arkansas to San Diego via Route 66. We took our time, stopping at all the tourist traps, but the journey was long. Too long.

route 66

Here I am now, at age 40, ready to redefine the road trip my way. I’m taking a short trip to Borrego Springs with my boyfriend (there’s a relationship tester!) this weekend, so I wanted to make a fun list of rules for the road.

1. Stop Whenever You Damn Well Feel Like It

clines corners

I’m a sucker for a side-of-the-road fruit stand (bonus for handpainted signs). For larger-than-life cow statues. Tours of cheesemaking. Rusty statues. Gift shops that sell utter crap.

So let me stop. Revel in my childlike delight. Then buy me some old fashioned stick candy and a fun t-shirt.

2. Gas Station Pee Breaks Require a Purchase

road trip junk food

I think my mom made this rule up. It just seems like the polite thing to do, to buy some fun soda and chips if you’re going to use a gas station’s facilities. Honestly, I don’t think the employees care if you buy anything, but we like crap food on the road, so the rule stays.

3. Driver Controls the Music (Unless I’m Not Driving)

road trip music

This is pretty standard, is it not? And I should clarify: the music must be sing-alongable to make for a better road trip experience.

4. Don’t Adhere to a Time Table

road trip rules

I hate being late, and won’t enjoy myself if I know we have to arrive at our destination by a certain time. So relax. Let’s leave early and allow for all that t-shirt buying time we’ll need.

5. Yelping is Required for Dining

ya ka mein

There’s nothing worse than eating at a crappy restaurant on a road trip. There’s no need for it when you’ve got Yelp. I’m a big fan of diners and old school joints on the road, but dammit, they better be good!

6. You Will Be on Instagram

road trip

Look. I’m a travel writer and social media lover. I’m going to take a photo of you driving. Maybe even singing. I’m not asking you to sign a waiver or anything, but know that you will be memorialized on social media and my blog. Deal.

7. Spontaneity is Great

In my “real life,” I’m not that spontaneous. But there’s nothing better than driving for hours and seeing a “fresh donuts” sign and taking a detour. Or “dinosaur garden.” You pick. See #1.

8. Stomachache-Inducing Food is a Must

(See #2).  Yes, I understand that eating fried crap while transporting between bathroom opportunities is in general a bad idea. But so is eating a stick of fried butter at the fair, and I’m not judging you for it. Bring on the flamin’ chips, the candy bars we haven’t eaten since we were kids, and unnaturally red cream soda. Yea.

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