The first time I did the driving across the country thing was a couple of years ago. I rented a car and drove from Boston (where I live) to California (where my parents and car live). Not knowing what to expect (and attempting to ease my parents’ anxieties), I planned most of the trip right down to the accommodations. I (and my parents, who both gently, but persistently, asked for an itinerary from me) knew where I would be each day.
It was nice to know where I would be staying and when, but at the same time, it was too constricting and seemed to run counter to the whole idea and spirit of “the road trip.” I remember driving through Minnesota and seeing a sign for Laura Ingalls Wilder’s house. Make fun of me–I’m a fan. But it was late in the day, I didn’t have a GPS (still don’t) and knew it would take a few wrong turns to find the place, and that I would veer off my course, which meant needing to cancel my hotel reservation. I don’t like wasting money. So, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s house went on the list of places I will need to go back and see.
So, this time I made sure to not make too many concrete plans. I knew what direction I was going in, and I had an idea of a route and what places I wanted to see. But that was it for planning. I didn’t book hotels, motels, hostels, or campgrounds or make any other reservations. I knew that all main roads (and even back roads) lead to accommodations eventually and if not, there was always my car. There’s that road tripping spirit people told me about. They said it was better that way– not to have a schedule.
And it is to some degree. I can stay some places longer or skip some places all together. But at the same time, there are some big disadvantages to living freely. One, is that while I think a lot of people like the idea of the road trip or not having a timeframe in which they have to do something, it’s not the way things are done. Most pay phones don’t work so you better have a cell phone, people assume you have Internet or GPS so finding a good street map of a city can be hard at times, and reservations are expected, especially in the summer.
Hotels, motels, hostels, and camp grounds are entirely booked. Everyone is vacationing. Which means sometimes I’ve had to pay much more for gigantic rooms that I really don’t need, but it’s all that’s available for a hundred miles (especially on weekends). And that sleeping in the car plan– not so great. It’s not only summer, it’s the south— it’s hot and humid, and when I crack a window to my car there’s a lot of bugs that either bite me or freak me out with their ugly selves. And I refuse to be under attack in my car.
But far from accommodations, there also the fun things that book up quickly. Hot air balloon rides (I saw a sign in Moab), white water rafting (the guy in Colorado did his best not to laugh at me when I snag a possible last-minute cancellation), and required guided tours (like for Antelope Canyon, one of the places I’ve been dying to go since the trip began).
Oh, well, all lessons learned. Guess, I’ll just have to do it again sometime, perhaps in the off season.
Onto Monument Valley.