There is nothing that beats hitting the highway, driving cross-country, soaking in the sites, stopping for a good meal and a great night’s sleep, and then hitting the road again. Even though road trips don’t always go as planned, you can always count on adventure.
My husband and I have scored a few doozies over the years. Like the time we decided to surprise family and friends with an unannounced quick trip back home. The surprise was on us when the car broke down at midnight on a long stretch of lonely highway in the middle of a Louisiana swamp—just the two of us with the moon, the stars, and the alligators. That night was my first (and to date, only) ride in the backseat of a squad car, and I was plenty happy to be there.
Once, when we were returning home from a family gathering, we watched these mysterious little white balls rolling across the highway. What were they, runaway golf balls? Thirty minutes later, shivering in short sleeves against a frigid wind while knocking ice and snow from the car’s encrusted windshield wipers, the mystery solved. We had driven straight into a blizzard. They closed the highway down that night.
Then there was the time we decided to drive north to take in the colorful autumn leaves, but neglected to secure overnight reservations anywhere. Apparently, unbeknownst to us, the rest of the country had decided to do that same, but with reservations. I must admit the leaves on the trees surrounding the casino parking lot that we slept in that night were brilliantly colorful and vibrant—unlike us after 16 hours of bleary-eyed driving.
Once, determined to be home for the holidays we opted to brave ice-covered highways only to spend Christmas Eve in a small motel in a small town in the middle of somewhere eating cold pizza, not our most brilliant decision. And then, there was the epic 32-hour, non-stop Hurricane Rita evacuation trip, traveling with two elderly gentleman, four cats, a dog, my husband and I in a five-passenger sedan on a trip that should have taken four hours. That one was memorable, but brutal.
Still, when we bought a new car recently a road trip seemed to beckon. Hitting the road again, my favorite part of the drive from Houston to Phoenix is watching as the landscape changes from the flat wetlands of the Gulf Coast to the arid openness of the desert Southwest. Unfortunately our traveling companion, the dog, was unimpressed and totally annoyed when the grass disappeared from the rest stops, replaced with rocks and sand. At each stop she searched futilely for the elusive grass, before going in desperation.
Rest stops are a huge part of any road trip, and not just for dogs. There’s actually a Texas business, Buc-ee’s, which is based on providing travelers clean restrooms, and more—a whole lot more. This place is Stucky’s on steroids. We stopped at one of its flagship stores. My eyes glazed over when we stepped inside the 67,000 square foot mega-stop filled with tons of souvenirs, merchandise and a food counter the length of a football field. The restroom included a long row of private enclosures with locking doors that were so clean you could sleep in them.
All in all, it was a good trip. There were a few bumps in the road like leaving later than planned and spending more time in the car than intended. And there was a bizarre, two-hour traffic jam in the middle of the desert. Hints of New Jersey? Or just poor planning on the part of the state highway department? Who knows?
I think life is kind of like a road trip. You may start with a plan, or maybe not, but you never know what will happen along the way. There are sure to be a few surprises, some lessons learned, a little rough weather encountered, along with road closures and unexpected traffic jams. You might luck into a Buc-ee’s along the way or you might have to settle for a grass-less rest stop, but one thing is for sure—in the end the adventure is worth it.