I’m writing this from Caren’s new home in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina… which I drove to. TrekSimple unites! I am here for a variety of reasons, one of which being I keep losing my mind over the lack of travel and seeing people. And while I know flying is very safe, and I felt fine flying earlier this summer, I thought a road trip might be a good way to ultimately get myself to New Jersey to visit with my family. So, I packed enough clothing for every possible weather scenario, renewed my SiriusXM radio subscription, and hit the road.
In college, I was the road trip queen. Now I mostly fly unless traveling within the state of Florida, and even sometimes then I fly for convenience. Fort Lauderdale to Wake Forest is a solid 11.5 hour trip, the furthest I’ve driven alone, and after making this trip, I now have a better handle on how to do Road Trip Math. Road Trip Math, you ask? Road Trip Math is about understanding all of your personal factors and conditions that bend the space-time continuum for or against you while on a road trip.
The first rule of Road Trip Math is knowing your baseline point of reference, or what length of time you can hop in a car, take a drive and say, “Oh, that’s not too bad.” We all have different baselines depending on what we’re used to. The distance from Fort Lauderdale to where I grew up outside of Crystal River, the hometown of TrekSimple, is about five hours, allowing for one quick stop. So, while it’s admittedly a bit of a haul, five hours is my baseline. When I looked at the distance to Wake Forest, I thought, “Okay, that’s about two trips to Crystal River plus a bit extra.” When I first ventured out on my own in college, the baseline used to be the 1.5 hours from Crystal River to Orlando, and then the 3.5 hours from Orlando to Fort Lauderdale. Everything is measured in these distances in our own little road warrior heads. “I’m just one more Orlando to Crystal River away from my next Chick-fil-a stop.”
The second rule of Road Trip Math is that time does not adhere to the same norms when you’re alone as when you have company. People count, but so do pets, particularly dogs, in my opinion, and as you hopefully know, this is all my opinion. This was the first road trip I’ve taken in a while without my sweet Roxie girl, my dog of 13 years who passed away in September. Not only was it a little sad to head out without her, but the lack of company unfortunately slows down time. The presence of humans can definitely warp one’s sense of time on a trip – driving with some insufferable jerk can add what feels like hours, while riding with a kindred spirit who likes good music can make the trip fly by. There’s a reason we call the best people “ride or die” friends. Even a friend or family member sleeping in the front seat next to you – a role I can be counted on to fill – can make a trip seem to go by faster. Without a person or pet in the car, all you have to keep you company are audiobooks, music, and in the South, billboards describing the reasons you will face eternal damnation, and, if you’re lucky – Pedro from South of the Border’s weather report: Chili today, Hot Tamale!
The third rule of Road Trip Math is that you must factor in assorted other conditions. These conditions include weather, amount of traffic, and night versus day driving. Weather can work to your advantage, like making it overcast enough that you don’t have to wear sunglasses, or make 40 minutes of driving through zero visibility rain surrounded by morons who put on their hazards a hellish eternity. I don’t even know how to drive in snow or ice, let alone what kind of vehicle is required to do so – assuming it’s a tractor or heavy equipment of some sort – which is part of why I’m on this trip now and not in December. Traffic, or a lack thereof, can impact your Road Trip Math. Anyone who has ever driven to Key West knows to avoid peak traffic areas, particularly on a road that’s one or two lanes in either direction for many miles. Driving through traffic or past an accident in a major metro area during rush hour can make you wish you would have just left later, and also put you behind by a couple of hours or more. Finally, there’s day driving versus night driving. I’ll do most anything to avoid traffic, including driving very early and very late, but it’s no fun when there’s the devil’s trifecta of torrential downpour, darkness and inadequate highway lighting.
Put this all together, and depending on how you do your Road Trip Math, the same trip can seem to breeze by in a matter of hours or become quite the torturous never-ending affair. What are your tricks for making road trips more fun and to pass the time? What do you look forward to or hate about road trips?