Not that I think I’m so great or anything, but there aren’t too many things I regret about our 4000-mile odyssey this summer. Probably this is in part due to the fact that both my kids are getting older. Or maybe it is because I’m also a little grayer and hopefully a bit wiser as well. (I’m thinking specifically about my very first road trip with Tommy when he was three months old and I planned to pump breast milk in the front seat of the car while Matt was driving. Good times.)
On this trip I was rarely caught without sufficient snacks or activities. We also had plenty of books. Since the speed limit in the Midwest is often as high as 75 miles per hour, we didn’t manage to always drive at 60 mph or slower as we had planned because it didn’t feel safe; but we did stay under 65 for the most part. And yes, Matt and I did ignore the fact that our car stereo, which had slowly been breaking for over two years, had finally given up the ghost for good right before we left. This meant no music on the drive from Delaware to Wisconsin. But we redeemed ourselves by buying a new stereo there – and since it was one that we could plug our iPods into, we had even more music than before for the rest of the tip.
However, when I do think about the things I might have done differently, there’s one theme that emerges, which we’ll call Road Trip Tip #6: Be realistic about driving times.
I have a bad habit of deciding what I want our driving time to be and then convincing myself that I can will it to be so, disregarding the possibility for traffic or weather, the need to eat and use the bathroom, or even the actual distance we need to cover. This last was especially problematic given our effort to drive more slowly. I don’t know what wacky math made me think that we could make it from Saint Louis to Bardstown, Kentucky (a distance of 300 miles) in four hours, but I did. That we could do so became even more unlikely when we left Missouri in a driving rainstorm that chased us most of the way. Since we had nonrefundable and not inexpensive tickets to see “Stephen Foster: The Musical” at 2 p.m., my underestimate made for a tense last half hour in the car.
So here’s my solemn promise, made for all the world to see: In the future, when I’m planning a trip I will tack at least 60 minutes onto any estimated driving time and make decisions accordingly. I’m sure Matt would say I should add 120, but there’s only so much change I can handle at one time.
And here’s a tip-within-a-tip – don’t be fast and loose about holiday weekends. We came back to Delaware on July 4th and 5th but I didn’t try to book a hotel on the 4th until about a week beforehand when every room in West Virginia (not that there are many of them) was taken. We ended up having to spend the night of the 4th in Lexington, Kentucky, which meant a very long driving day on a Sunday of a holiday weekend – hence the detour I described in a previous post. It would have been better if I had booked a hotel well in advance and we had driven as far as possible on Saturday to shorten up that last day of driving.
Does anyone else have mistakes they’ve made on long driving tips that they’d like to share? I’d love to hear what they are!
This post is the last one in my 2009 series of Road Trip Tips. Other tips in the series include: