I’ve slept on bloodstained motel room floors in Spokane. I’ve laughed at the peasant filth from stories above the slopes at Oprah-class condos in Telluride. I’ve put lifelong friends at risk speeding 20 hours into Canada only to ride polished ice. And I’ve dropped into bottomless powder only two hours up the highway. I’ve had high hopes, low standards, and set off with no destination at all, only a direction. The experience of putting the rubber to the road from time to time provides not only an adventure but allows a kind of wisdom to unfold we can’t really get anywhere else. I’ve come up on a free seat in a heli because I was in the right place at the right time; I also scored a two week stay in a Kamloops hospital because of poor decision making. All in all, the road has taught me much, but most of all, the message has been very clear — while the destination may hold the bounty, the journey itself is the beating heart of the road trip.
Here are a few things (eight, to be exact) the road has taught me over the years.
Do not have expectations.
For me, this is the most important idea by far. As in life, when you try to control everything what you are ultimately trying to do is control the outcome — a damn near impossibility. It’s one thing to get excited at the prospect of two feet of fresh snow; it’s another to be let down by accompanied 60 mile per hour gusts of wind.
Too much building up of the glory of your all-time best case scenario will fail you every time. Instead, go into the trip with a level head and an ready-for-anything open mindset. That dual mentality allows for the most pleasant surprises to unfold. Fact is, my most memorable experiences have always come at random. Rarely does a trip live up to what you build it to be before hand and what a shame to be let down when the basic intention of the mission is to have a new experience.
Don’t weight it up against anything else. Instead let go and see what happens.
Don’t think of it as this huge mission.
If a road trip signifies the be-all end-all mission of the decade, you should rethink your scene. Once you have the basic essentials squared away, you don’t necessarily need a week off to get some. Line up that extra day and hit the road at night. The main thing to consider is time driving-versus-time playing, and often a day riding powder is worth a day driving to and from… and then some! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bailed with less than a couple hours notice.
For me, keeping a dedicated pack with these road trip essentials in the trunk helps. I know that my sleeping bag, cook stove, lawn chair and all other necessities are already in the car. I just have to pack some clothes, toiletries, feed the cats… and then I’m out.
Buy food at grocery stores.
Spending money eating out three times a day adds up real quick. Moreover, it leads to road-gut and is a precursor to diabetes and general biotoxicity. On the other hand, loading up an ice chest or cooler bag at the grocery store on the way out of town is the way to go. At once it saves money, allows for healthy cuisine, and adds bonus time to your excursion as you can chow in the car or pull over for a scenic picnic instead of sitting down at a greasy diner.
Also, avoid spending money at gas stations. Gummi dinosaurs, pork cracklins and novelty AK-47 lighters may fill a psychological void, but in my experience it’s fleeting. Grab an apple from the back instead. Contracting a hostile hitchhiker in the form of a highly adaptable and intelligent intestinal parasite at a Green River, Utah Arby’s learned me this lesson a long time ago.
Get a couple audio books.
When you tire of your comrades drivel, nothing passes the time like embellished tales of intrigue and deception. Or if you are into science or cool shit like spirituality there’s a treasure chest of mind-expanding non-fiction out there to activate your higher potential. Podcasts are also awesome.
My personal favorites are The Duncan Trussell Family Hour and the Joe Rogan Experience. I use this time to polish my mental hygiene, unclogging the deceptive folly of modernity… but then again I do spend a fair amount of time listening to Richard Pryor talk about cocaine benders gone fantastically wrong.
Bring a swimsuit and a towel.
Not everyone has a lenient full-frontal policy so do us all a favor, bring some trunks. I’ve passed too many natural hot springs to count, missed too many jacuzzi parties and had to dry off with a filthy t-shirt at buddies house too many times to underestimate the importance or bringing a swimsuit and towel everywhere I go.
Be prepared to sleep anywhere.
A nice bag, inflatable sleeping pad and pillow are essential. They often mean the difference between having to drop on a hotel room for just a few hours sleep or rolling out your portable sleeping coozie for a dream session in the back of the truck. Once your kit is dialed, if you are like me, I often gift the lice riddled bedding at the destination to my buddy while I curl fetal in my cocoon on the floor.
Don’t be afraid to hike.
Have you ever driven through an untracked forest or spent hours drooling out the window at the snow on the way to your destination? It’s crazy how much terrain out there lies unridden. If you have the means, get a split board, some snowshoes or just boot pack the pillow line off in the distance.
I do this all the time and often come across the coolest shit. I once stopped at the Grand Canyon of all places because it was snowing so hard. Check that one off the bucket list.
Keep an open schedule.
With fluctuations in storms and often conflicting reports, having a set destination is good but having a contingency plan is better. If it’s looking like the storm missed your destination by a couple hundred miles, keep in mind what it will take to get to the goods. This means never setting anything in stone, including lodging or any lift ticket packages.
If you want to get the goods, you have to be as unpredictable as mother nature — it’s that simple.
This is of course a partial list based on my personal experience is and merely intend as anecdotal at best. I’m fully aware the detrimental consequence of getting in the car and sniffing out adventure could cause you to miss a little work, hinder your internet frequency and may very well lead to the gum disease gingivitis.
The question is: is it worth it?