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A Road Trip to Remember

There’s no adventure quite like setting off toward destinations unknown on your own four wheels.

We've offered  practical tips on getting prepared for your pilgrimage in a previous article. They’re good ones—but let’s also dig down below the surface and talk about what’s really critical for road-trip success.

Back in the late ‘90s husband, Mike, and I drove from Pennsylvania to California, down the coast and back in less than two weeks. During this time, we hiked the Badlands, biked Lake Tahoe and sipped in Napa Valley.

Since then, we’ve also driven to (or from) south Florida in a day, with kids ranging from toddlers to teenagers. Tasty snacks (always Twizzlers, never Red Vines) and DVDs are a given. But here’s the real deal of how to make ten gazillion hours in the car something you’ll remember fondly rather than a road trip of regret. Throw these babies in the back and you’ll be good to go.

  • Actual maps: Okay, these aren’t mandatory with apps and GPS systems. But doesn’t it just feel more like a road trip with a big fat map on your lap? (Also, think of how glad you’ll be if you lose your phone or run out of juice.)
  • A box of baking soda: Someone always takes their shoes off. And sneakers that seemed perfectly fine at home are rendered high-powered stink bombs in a confined vehicle. Shaking a sprinkle into those puppies will help keep the driver from veering off track in gagging, silent-shrieking repulsion. It also helps if you keep:
  • A healthy sense of skepticism, and well…a little faith: Husband Mike claims to have met Chuck Woolery in the parking lot of the EconoLodge in Shamrock, Texas (population: 2,028). You remember Chuck Woolery? The longtime game show host who said, “We’ll be back in two [minutes] and two [seconds],” with every fade to commercial?Long story short—in which the long story involves a flashlight-lit hotel receipt signature, an email exchange with Chuck’s daughter’s childhood friend and a DVR paused on short-lived prime-time game show Greed to zoom in on his pinky ring— we’re pretty sure it actually was Chuck Woolery. Turns out you never know who you’re going to meet on a road trip.
  • An off-roading spirit: Whether you’re looking to lose your breath at the Grand Canyon or to make magic at Disney, always remember that the journey is just as important as the destination. And the places along the way may be as great as—or maybe even better than—the goal. Stop by the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, to admire large-scale themed crop art. Crane your neck at the tallest totem pole east of the Rockies in Abingdon, Illinois. Take in a field of giant corn cobs, featuring 109 people-sized ears of concrete corn, in Dublin, Ohio. (Is it just me, or do quirky roadside attractions seem to be heavy on the corn?)

And with that, get moving. Just don’t forget the baking soda.

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