When I was growing up, my parents took my sister and me on many a trip. Spring Breaks in Colorado, summer trips to San Antonio or Pidgeon Forge, Tennessee. These trips could take us some 500, 800, 1,000, miles away from home, but we never flew. Nah, that wasn't for us. For one thing, my mother got anxious on planes. Instead, we decided to drive, and test our mettle as a family on the road. We would race against time to get from point A to point B as fast as humanly possible, marathon-driving everywhere we went.
For a while, I thought that this urge to drive long distances was exclusive to my father, who was the primary driver for long car trips. But a few years ago, when I started going to college in Atlanta, Georgia, I learned that it was in me too. I had inherited the driving gene.
Getting in a car and going for 12 hours straight is no easy feat. For many, it is not an option. But for those of us crazy enough to try it, I have a few pointers.
- Prepare a driving playlist! You’ll run out of Houston radio stations by the time you get close to Beaumont, so you’re going to need something you can jam to for the rest of the trip. With a dozen hours and hundreds of miles ahead, your tunes need to be something that always gets your blood flowing. I recommend getting the soundtracks to every single Disney musical and shoving them into an iPod. Plug that bad boy into your car’s A/V jack, and you’ll be singing along to The Little Mermaid until sunset. (Is that just me? Fine. Your own favorite music should do the trick.)
- Perfect the art of the Five-Minute Fill-Up. It is important to note that this miracle is only possible when you’re driving with one other passenger. Five-Minute Fill Ups are all about timing, and you have to begin it by letting your shot-gun rider jump out of the car as it rolls to a stop at the gas station convenience store. They must then sprint to the bathroom and stake out the territory. You, on the other hand, will be long-jumping over gas-pump tubes to get your zip code in as fast as you can and set the pump to auto-fill. With the fuel a-flowing, tag-team off with your passenger so you can take your own personal pit stop. Whoever isn’t manning the car is contractually obligated to re-stock on crazy gas-station junk food.
- Sustain yourself on Twinkies, juice boxes, and trail mix. There is no better source of spontaneous energy than the sugar rushes gained from inflatable sponge cake, over-sweetened lemonade, and chocolate-covered anything. In order to make the full 800 miles in one day, you’ll have to forgo nutrition. Make up for it later with celery sticks and a kale cleanse, but for the 12 hours that you’re driving, you'll need an energy high. If your passenger is a good friend, get them to occasionally squirt Reddi-Wip into your mouth while you cruise along.
- Create a game out of finding the strangest signs. While you sing “Let It Go” for the fifth time, you might notice some interesting place names showing up along your path. On my journeys to and from Atlanta, I found lots of interesting landmarks in Alabama. Murder Creek still ranks No. 1 on my list of strange place names. There can be hours of entertainment in simply reading strange town names aloud while you drive. Repetition is key, so if you find yourself bored further down the road, keep repeating a town name until you get so tired and loopy that it’s funny again.
- When you get to where you’re going, savor it. Marathon drives aren’t easy, that’s for sure, and if you happen to be the driver on the trip, then your job is about ten times worse. When it's over, you deserve to take a nap. Go sleep for the next 12 hours and make up for all the times you had to sing “Hakuna Matata” in the car to keep yourself going. The rest of your vacation will wait.