By Lisa Sugarman
When my alarm went off at 4AM last Monday, there was little consolation for my eyes burning and having to get out of bed before the entire rest of the world, except for the fact that it was Road Trip Day. And on Road Trip Day, I’ll do whatever it takes to get myself into that car and onto that asphalt. Because a road trip, for me, is just about the end-all-be-all. Always has been.
I love the gasoleeny smell of the rest stops, the vending machines with travel-sized Bonine (thousands of them!), crappy rest-stop coffee, Satellite Radio, making the eighteen-wheeler dudes honk their horn. All of it. I know, I’m pathetically easy to please.
This time we happened to be driving from Boston to New York. It wasn’t the 500 sexy miles along the pacific coast highway, zigzagging from Baja to the tip of the Olympic peninsula. This was just the Mass Pike to the Merit Parkway. People confuse that for the PCH all the time, though, right?
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved the idea of getting in the car and just going. And it never mattered where or how far, as long as we were going somewhere. I just love that feeling of being transported. And while I’ve always enjoyed the thrill of getting on a plane in one place and getting off somewhere else altogether, I still prefer driving when I can. Because when you’re in a car and you pass a place that somehow calls to you to pull in, you almost always have the ability to hit the brakes, bang a uey, and explore. And since banging a euy in a 747 gets the FAA involved, it’s pretty much off the table.
I can’t tell you how many farm stands and antique shops we’ve pulled into over the years. Places we definitely would’ve missed if we were flying over them at 30,000 feet. My poor patient little family humors me a lot. A real lot. I mean, I can’t tell you how much local knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years just by going off the grid when we’re on the road. We’ve found the best Mom & Pop restaurants and shops and boutiquey type places you’d just never find unless you knew they were there.
I also just love the compactness of having everything you need right there with you in one little space, with only the obvious exception of a toilet. Not to mention having the flexibility to change direction whenever you get the impulse. And I haven’t even mentioned the maps! The crispness of them and the way they can only be folded one way. Pure joy to me. To this day I have a very hard time giving in and using a GPS. They’re just so artificial and intrusive. In 1 mile, you will turn right. In a half mile, you will turn right. In a quarter mile, you will turn right. In 300 feet, you will turn right. In 50 feet, you will turn right. In about a second, you will turn right. You’re turning right. You’ve just turned right. I honestly can’t take it. Makes me want to lop my own head off.
Thinking back, though, I’m sure that having a dad who raced cars as a hobby helped. His influence and passion for everything that had to do with cars infused me at a super early age with a love of driving and being on the road and the excitement of finding my way. I mean, didn’t every second-grade girl know how to unscrew an oil filter and drain the pan? I mean, I learned that the same time I learned how to ride a two-wheeler. I honestly thought it was normal.
I know all of this sounds suspiciously like an ad for Airstream, but the truth is, being able to travel around in a way that allows me to stop and really absorb the flavor and texture of what’s around me is actually one of my dreams. My friend Jim and his wife Alison just did it for like four months and the experience changed their life. I’m giddy thinking about springing that on Dave when it’s time for us to retire. (Don’t tell him, ok. I want it to be a surprise.)
Can’t you just picture it? Driving off into the glow of retirement with my head out the window and my tongue flapping against my cheek. Heaven. Pure heaven. I can’t wait.