I remember growing up and hearing about the occasional person who would drive across country. Mostly, these were stories about “back in the day” when they were graduating from school and doing this crazy thing before starting a career where it became “impossible” to do again.
In the case anyone reading this is wondering what I am doing at the moment, it is another cross country drive. Kristine is driving at the moment, KC is next to me in his car seat, just calling for Dane, who is in the back editing a video, while Nick is working on our new “playboating Basics” and “Advanced Playboating” DVD, Courtney is helping pick up the box of toys KC threw on the floor, one by one, while Max is taking it all in for the first time.
We are in Iowa… ooops just crossed into Illinois and heading East from Salt Lake City to the Ottawa River in Canada after being West of the Mississippi since April (except when in Europe and another trip to Canada by plane. We just left Cracker Barrel, where I had “momma’s pancake breakfast” with cherries and whip cream and real maple syrup on the pancakes, and substituted country ham for the bacon, eggs over easy, and a chocolate milkshake for my drink, whip cream and a cherry on top. yummy. We hung out for about 15 minutes on the rocking chairs just chilling out. KC, Kristine, and I in the big ones, and Nick, Dane, Courtney, and Max in the kiddie chairs.
“Mega-Mind” is now playing on the TV over the dashboard, which has KC, Max, and Courtney’s attention, while Dane and Nick edit, Kristine drives, and I am typing this. Rocksey, our oldest Dalmatian is riding on the dashboard, Tilly our younger one is riding on the couch next to Courtney, and Dane’s new puppy “Mater” is on Dane’s lap on my bed in the back.
I am just setting the stage. Yes, we are in an RV. RV’s are the ticket for when you want to spend extended periods of time traveling by land; Land Yacht. For shorter stays, a car, truck, or SUV type of vehicle can all work great.
Let me start off by saying that there are two main ways to travel across the country; “power driving” to get where you want to go quickly, and “site seeing” to see new things along the way, too. Personally, I enjoy a combination of the two. I like to power drive and just enjoy the company of those around me, get work done, or sleep when there is a lull in the cool stuff. Iowa, Illinois are two states, just past Nebraska, where it is open highway, cornfields, flatlands, and the occasional city and view of an estate house, rolling hills, golf course, or something. Bass Pro Shops and Cracker Barrel caught our eye and we took some extra time to stop, while also visiting Staples to overnight a contract and buy some memory discs for my Go Pro cameras.
Kristine likes to commit to 750 miles/day. We can do 1,000 if we push, 750 is reasonable, but I like to do 600 (10 hours-14 hours depending on location) With 600 miles you can walk the dogs and take a hike, go for a swim, eat a picnic, shop, play a game, etc… By the time you are at 750 miles you are going from breakfast to nighttime. We are only at 540 miles for the day so far and it is 10:15pm and we started at 7am. We aren’t power driving today.
We have some ideas on how to decide it is OK to leave home and just hit the road for 10 days- 30 days or more. Just committing is key.
1. Kids can be taken out of school at any time for any reason by the parents assuming they don’t already have a terrible record for absenteeism. The reason? Taking a cross country trip to see the areas they studied in Geography.
2. Just about anyone can get away for 2 weeks to 30 days from work as long as they agree to work remotely if their job can be done remotely. For those who can’t, well, gas money, food money and off you go. Any job that doesn’t allow you to take off for 30 days and come back doesn’t truly appreciate you and/or isn’t worth keeping. Sure you should ask, and be sensitive to the timing to try to make it a win/win situation. Many companies could use the break from your salary.
3. Know about how much it will cost, then add 50% and do your best to have that extra. If you are like I was/am you will not want to only go on trips you can easily afford, otherwise going around the block would be your only trip. Realistically, you don’t need to take a cross-country trip and can’t afford it and achieve your savings goals, in most cases. This is where you must prioritize for yourself and those most important in your life. If you have kids, do you want your example to be that you have a nice house, but can’t see the coast, mountains, and friends in far places? Our fist around the world trip of over 3 months was in 1999 when dane was 6 and Emily was 9 and we had a job, but it didn’t pay much. However, having a basic budget for what you have to spend each day/week is critical planning to assure your trip results in returning happy and to the starting point.
4. Packing for a trip. If you are from the East and heading west- bring warmer clothes for most months as you’ll hit the Great Plains which average around 4-5,000 feet above sea level and are not warm in comparison in the spring/summer. Leaving the Southeast summer in May and heading to the rockies? Expect snow again! however, packing should be super light and the mental commitment that daily showers, and clean clothes not yet worn are a thing of the past. For many this freaks them out when thinking about it, but it is so liberating in practice. I just finished a 3 week stint wearing one pair of shorts all day paddling, then wore them dry, wore them to bed, and again the next day. They aren’t dirty as paddling and swimming every day kept them clean. Talk about simplicity. I have a nice yellow cotton shirt I got from Mexico on a trip there for $1.50 and wore it when I did wear a shirt. For showers, I assume you are a kayaker? You also can learn to sponge bath if you must. A warm/wet cloth or paper towel (or cold) will clean off road grime, or sweat if you got too hot during the day and make you feel refreshed. Kayaking fixes just about everything, if you are playboating, or remember to jump in the water after you get out of your boat. When I am playboating or can bath in the river (no soap, just cleaning off the dirt) I can go for 30 days easily without soap and feel, smell, and look clean. The daily shower/bath ritual can be nice, but breaking that trend and learning to do without on this is more liberating than you might imagine.
Bring a headlamp, pad, sleeping bag, tent, travel mug, flip flops for summer, water shoes, mosquito repellant, a towel and washcloth, map and phone with GPS loaded, music, and games. I recommend the following games: Carcassan for ipad or iphone, settlers of catan, banana-grams, and a fishing pole. Bring a collard shirt if you play golf and disc golf discs if you do that. A cooler, kayaks, gear, cash (about 30% of your expected costs), and at least two cards from different banks (one of them will get cancelled or declined if you don’t tell the bank you are going!)
1. Long open roads with low wind, straight aways and dry conditions are good for cruising. We cruise at 75 in the RV much of the time. Wet roads, after dark, windy or busy, keep to the speed of traffic or slower.
2. you can’t stay hydrated and healthy if you only drink coffee and energy drinks all day. So start any day with your coffee, but try to wait until you are driving to drink it to get the benefit of drinking it while driving. I find that you can avoid getting drowsy if you are snacking or actively drinking. I keep something to snack on next to my seat if driving. cereal (like fruit loops), or chips, or gorp, etc. are all perfect for staying awake. Gatorade or water is perfect after you had coffee or any caffeinated drink, but it will cause you to have to stop to go to the bathroom sooner.
3. When you stop to go to the bathroom- remember that you will be in many cool places and don’t have to just use rest areas or normal exits. I enjoy stopping at exits with “no services” when I am out West in the more rural areas and hiking up a hill, etc. and getting a new view.
4. For getting gas, Kristine is often about pushing the tank dry before stopping, as every stop really ads up. I personally, ad balance to that, as I feel I deserve to stop and have a little fun for a while if I am below 1/2 of a tank. I focus more on where we can stop, then whether we can keep going on the tank. If something catches my eye, I stop. Leaving room for stops is critical to enjoying the drive to its fullest. Powerdriving can be fun, too, but you would be surprised at how fun new places are for just a short stay. I have been known to stop at a golf course, disc golf course, a creek or river for swimming, lake for fishing, trail for running on, big field for taking the dogs out to run, field for flying a training kite, biking trails, play football, soccer, a movie that is playing that we want to watch, bowling, and more. I just asked Kristine what other things we have stopped for and she said, “We are getting to the Ottawa tomorrow night!” as she knows I can easily add a day to it by stopping for fun stuff.
5. Important historical, geographical, family, or other landmarks are worth checking out and going out of your way for. Major national parks are on Kristine’s favorite’s list. Yosemite, Yellowstone, Arches, Nation’s Capital, Teton, most coastal parks, Everglades, Mountain drives, ski towns, Mesa Verde, Disney World, Kennedy, NYC, LA, San Francisco, Chicago (we’ll be there tomorrow), etc. etc are all awesome. Don’t be fooled, however, some of your best memories can be in the small towns, etc. like Wausau, Wisconsin, Beachburg, Ontario, Rock Island, TN, etc. etc..
6. Eat out, but not at chains if you can help it. I can name almost a restaurant for every town. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, so many cool home owned places. Salida, CO – Laughing Ladies, Hood River, OR- Brian’s pourhouse, or 6th street bistro, Rock Island, Tn Foglight foodhouse, Coloma, CA- coloma club , Sierra House… list goes on. Like having home’s away from home, where the OWNERS get to know you and welcome you like a friend into their home for supper.
7. If you are staying in hotels- don’t Stay in bed and breakfasts. So many wonderful people will welcome you into their homes. Awesome food, historic houses, great hosts/hostesses. Now you really get to know the area. An $8/hour desk clerk doesn’t usually do that for you. Camp in between to save money.
8. Have a purpose to your trip, besides traveling to travel. Go paddling, biking, surfing- spend time finding cool bed and breakfast’s etc..
9. Gas- always get the cheapest gas- 85% in the west- 87% in the east, diesel if you have one. Anyone that tells you that the higher octane has any benefit other than costing you more money hasn’t tried both, or has a really old car.
10. Live in the now. Don’t focus on getting where you are going, and don’t fret about what is happening in your other world. Live in today’s world, and enjoy the ride. Don’t make schedules. Don’t tell somebody you will be there for dinner in two days. You need more freedom. Tell them that you have no idea, but not to expect you until another day or two later unless you hear from me. The more other people you include in your plans, the less freedom and the more you’ll feel on a schedule and challenged by it.
Don’t forget about North South driving, East/West, and kitty corner, and definitely don’t forget about Canada and Mexico. So many options, so many cool places, not enough time.
Mark Twain once said, “the cure for prejudice is travel” Travel is the cure for much more than just that. It is enlightenment and rekindles childhood dreams of doing what you want to do, be who you want to be, and go where you want to go. It helps you think about things and be creative, get out of a rut, recommit to a loved one, family, and work. It makes you more effective in your life, as you stay focused on what is important. It also helps you figure out what you are doing in life that has no true positive effect on it, so you can eliminate it.
We are so in love with the world around us that we travel over 6 months each year. We don’t truly call it travel, however, as we go from one home to another, while never leaving home (our RV). Our house at Rock Island also has special meaning as we only spend 6 months/year in it and really want to enjoy every minute of it.
Give it a try.
See ya in Canada in a day… or two!