Road-trips can quickly become long, tedious endeavors and cause even the calmest of personalities to become cranky, on edge and an intense desire to be entirely alone. In order to keep your sanity, here's my unconventional list of road-trip essentials that I deciphered after my recent TBEX Road-trip.
Think back to your childhood and that long drive to grandma's house, the beach, or the amusement park. What do you remember? Being crammed in the back of the car? Drawing imaginary lines in the seat? Convincing your sister to sleep on the floorboard? (Yes, I actually did this. I told her sleeping on the floor was cooler. Mom and Dad totally failed as parents for letting this occur, perhaps it was because we were quiet for more than two minutes.)
Ok, so space was key then and now as a grown up I can say that space is the MOST important thing needed for a good road-trip. For us, VW kindly provided us with a 2009 Routan minivan and solved all of our problems. All-in-all, I think the Routan not only provided us with a comfortable way to get across the US, but it allowed us to keep our sanity. No fights broke out, no one got frustrated with having to dig through piles of gear to find their bag or having to sit so close together. Thank you VW, we kept our sanity and our friendships and now I understand why every mom wants a minivan.
I don't normally travel with coolers, so ice was not something I thought about while on the TBEX road-trip. Pam, however, was an expert at keeping the cooler filled and, in turn, our food fresh. The best apart about ice, is that you can make an icy cold beverage (of the non-alcoholic variety) for when you're stuck at the drivers wheel, which for some reason made the chore a lot less nerve wracking.
I'm notoriously bad at organizing my iPod and I also have a notoriously random assortment of music. I don't bother with playlists when I'm alone, because I'm ok with listening to Jay-Z followed by Vasco Rossi. I'm also ok with hitting the next button a hundred times in a row. I also realize that this is annoying, so on a road-trip, however, I'd suggest you spend a few hours organizing your favorite songs in a suitable playlist. Pop your iPod in, hop in the drivers seat, and leave your hands free for controlling the cruise control.
A place for everything and everything in its place. I didn't start off our TBEX road-trip like this, at all. I dug around in my bag a thousand times, I opened every door on the Routan to find my chapstick. After awhile, we let order find us. The Routan became a swiss army knife of gear. Open this door to get to the cooler and drinks, the other for camera gear. Pop open the back to get to your stuff and the camping gear. It saved our sanity many times. By the end of it all, I had created my own camping caddy in the cupholders in the back. Easy access to my nightly bug spray application, dental hygiene and strange animal noise blocker, my iPod.
My caffeine addiction becomes that much more apparent when I'm on the road. Long days and less than perfect sleep make it a morning necessity. For coffee aficionados, I wholeheartedly recommend REI's Double Shot Press Mug. A french press and mug in one, it's perfect for the special brew you brought from home to tide you over. Admittedly, you have to clean it out after each use. And, like all things in life, I got a little lazy, so I also recommend that you've got a stash of instant coffee (like Starbucks Via or Nescafe) on hand for times like this. And, I can't take the credit for this, but Pam of Nerds Eye View invented the most brilliant use for instant coffee. Take it with you to breakfast, and if the diner coffee is really a poor imitation of the real thing, just add your own. I highly doubt Starbucks thought of this use when they invented their special brew, but I challenge you to find a better one.
I learned to drive and drove for many years on a 1989 Honda Civic. I didn't have the cruise control. In the past, whenever I tried to use cruise control on another car I just got all anxious and felt out of control. What the heck do I do with my foot? On the 5,000 miles we covered on this trip, at some point I learned to let go of my cruise anxiety and embrace the footless driving experience. With acceleration and deceleration buttons that actually made sense, I had a moment of clarity "oh, this is why people use this." It's like driving...but with your hands.