I’ve been waxing metaphysical lately, so I thought I’d go for the “practical tips” idea in today’s practice post. Having just gotten done with a 45-hour drive from Seattle, WA to Madison, WI, I can give a few suggestions for these kinds of long, marathon drives. By “marathon”, by the way, I mean doing them the way my friend did when she drove the trip in 31 hours, or the way I did. No pansy motels, no stopping for leisurely dinners; food was fuel, and you got it when you got it for car, and ate it on the road. Weather was an obstacle, as was fatigue, and both were simply temporary states barreled through the same way the permanent states of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota were conquered.
Here are the top seven tips I have for doing this kind of trip:
- Don’t. It’s really not worth the fatigue, the sore neck, the stress, or the risk you are putting on yourself and the others on the road.
- Strategize your food/liquids. Eating “brain food” like bananas, dried fruits, and nuts will help keep you alert. If you have to use caffeine (and on this tripI confess I relied on it heavily) pace yourself, and drink lots of water along with it. Yes, that’s a diuretic, but that helps keep you awake by making you need to pee.
- Discipline your stops. Taking the aforementioned bodily function, if you only let yourself use the restroom when you get more fuel, it helps keep you awake. Setting arbitrary goals like “666 miles” or “the next city with two L’s in the name” to dictate your stops can also help keep you more attentive on the road over the long distances.
- Really, though, don’t. You should just take it easy, drive at an easy pace, stop frequently, enjoy the countryside, stretch your legs, and take your time driving across the country.
- Still aiming for the endurance? Fine, I also recommend strategizing your media consumption. As it happens, my car’s radio doesn’t work, so I listened to a mixture of music, podcasts, and audiobooks. I recommend Scott Sigler’s “The Rookie” as entertaining and exciting fare, Aisha Tyler’s “Girl on Guy” and “You Are Not So Smart” podcasts, and whatever music you find yourself singing along to for those wee hours when you find yourself nodding off. Reports of a wild-eyed man driving through the Badlands belting out “Dancing Queen” at the top of his lungs? Yep, that was me.
- If you rely on devices, you may want to strategize their use too. For example, obviously texting while driving is stupid, irresponsible, and ridiculous; however, you can certainly read a quick text off your phone, and so having friends who will ping you on the hour or half hour with words of encouragement can help speed the drive along. Also, using apps like Google Latitude with friends to let them know where you are can lead to personalized messages like “You’re in South Dakota! Woohoo!” Also, if you shut off wifi, location services, and dim the screen on your devices (i-devices or otherwise) they last a LOT longer on one charge.
- Best tip: Don’t. I simply don’t recommend going for the endurance. The world out there is a beautiful, strange, and alien place. I’ve driven the same route three times this year, and seen it completely differently each time. I still wish I’d visited Little Big Horn, or Yellowstone, or tried more of the diners that were off the main drag. Instead, I plowed through to my destination, heedless of the journey.
Now, there were were reasons, each time, for that decision. Sometimes you gots to get to where you needs to be. And now that I’m here, it’s nice to stop, and know that for at least two months I won’t be traveling anywhere further than a Madison suburb.
But I hope, when next I drive, that I can make the time to take it slow. I am convinced I would be richer for the experience.