In 2013, I’m republishing my travel questions series with updated responses for a new year. Feel free to join in on the conversation this year, even if you had something to say in 2011.
One of the things I most enjoy about traveling is talking about it. In this new weekly series, I’d like to pose some of the questions I’ve discussed with friends, family and fellow travelers over the years. I invite you to pull up your backpack, grab a handful of the local snack food and chime in with your comments and thoughts. Feel free to respond to others, but remember to play nice!
Here’s a Question for You:
On your perfect fantasy car trip, who would be the perfect companions?
2013: I still love a good road trip. And I still travel extremely well with my husband, though these days we often have a third companion, a teenager, in the back seat. Car trips now often include a rousing game of 20 Questions or laughs as we all share jokes and stories.
2011: I am a road trip fanatic, so I have a pretty good idea about who I am most compatible with when it comes to long journeys by car. My husband and I have become the perfect yin and yang on road trips. He drives, I navigate. He fills the gas tank, I buy drinks and snacks in the gas station. I read to him, he listens. He chooses music, I find the CD or navigate to the song on his iPod.
Sometimes we sit in silence and just enjoy the ride. Other times we talk for hours about anything and everything.
Though my perfect road trip companion really is my husband, the requirements in general for this companion would be as follows: He appreciates the need for me to have my own space while still sharing a confined car with me. My perfect road trip companion drives safely and isn’t afraid to ask for directions. He knows when to stop for lunch, when to slow down for a picture and when to pick up the pace to reach a certain destination at a specific time. We work together well to make the most of the drive, and we appreciate the fact that this activity that could be tedious is actually a lot of fun.
If you’ve got to get from place A to place B, you might as well go in style. And, if you’re going in style, you might as well up the ante and ride with someone who is invested in making sure you get there safely, in a timely manner and with a bit of personality.
Enter Bon Temps Express.
I’d never been on a party bus prior to my Lake Charles Mardi Gras trip earlier this year, and when I climbed on board the Bon Temps Express, I had no idea what to expect besides a roomy way to travel from parade to party to restaurant to hotel. Bon Temps Express is a true-to-life bus that has been outfitted with dozens of comfortable inward facing seats able to fit 30 people, a food counter and a bathroom. At first I didn’t think much of it. After all, this was just a bus, right? Wrong. I quickly realized that there are companies with big fleets of vehicles, and then there are privately owned businesses run by people with a true interest and incentive in ensuring you reach the places you want to go in a timely manner safely while you’re enjoying the company you’re with and the ride itself. Add to that the fact that the owners of the company — Ralph and Joy Huval — are on board and making sure every moment on the Bon Temps Express is a good one and you pretty much have the ideal solution for transportation.
You’ve packed the bags, dumped ice into the cooler and stocked up with on-the-road snacks. Perhaps you’ve got camping gear, kids’ toys, garment bags with fancy clothes and assorted pieces of technology that need to go with you on the trip.
Though some people are partial to simply squeezing everything in to open spaces haphazardly, it often makes better sense to pack with a plan. When you need to find something, it’s much easier to find it when you know where it’s located.
Survey all your items first. Before you begin packing the trunk, set everything out that needs to go in it. This will help you visualize how it will all fit together … and it also ensures you don’t forget to take something into account.
Take note of emergency items. Before you pile everything into the trunk, make note of where your spare tire, tire jack and other roadside emergency items are stored. This way, should you need to stop for an emergency, you know where to find these items without having to tear apart everything in the trunk.
When planning our trip to Costa Rica, my dad and I waffled briefly over whether to splurge on a rental car or get around by public bus. Ultimately, we decided to rent a car and drive ourselves around the country. This was the right decision for us, but we definitely learned a thing or two about renting a car and driving in Costa Rica. If you’re thinking of doing the same, we’d like to pass along the following tidbits of wisdom:
Rent a 4WD vehicle.
Unless you plan on sticking near San Juan or any specifically established city, you will need a four-wheel-drive vehicle. We were originally just going to rent a basic car, but when we mentioned that we wanted to head up to Monteverde and La Fortuna (heavily traveled areas), the guy at the car rental place strongly suggested we go with a four-wheel-drive vehicle. I’m really glad we listened to him.
If you suspect a road might be unpaved, it will not only be unpaved but is very likely practically impassable. Log truck roads in the United States are in better condition that a few of the roads we drove on. For miles on end, we drove over boulders and avoided potholes the size of small cows. I read a description for one of the roads we drove that strongly suggested those with neck and back problems avoid using it.
Simply put, without a 4WD, your options for getting around are limited.
It takes a long time to get anywhere.
These underdeveloped roads combined with windy, one-lane roads mean that it takes a long time to get anywhere. What you think might be a two-hour drive can easily take five or six hours. Always give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination, and don’t try to cram too much into a single day unless you’ll be staying within a very limited area.
I’ve stocked up on sunscreen, packed the cooler, locked up the house and am ready to embark on our epic summer road trip.
Okay … so we haven’t exactly made all of the preparations for our trip quite yet, but we do know where we’re going and that for a few thousand miles we’ll be car bound. Which means, of course, that in addition to buying snacks, packing camping gear and filling up the gas tank, we also have to put together the perfect road trip play list.
Road trips have the potential to be incredibly long, lonely and boring, but with the right music and company, time passes quickly and memorably. What goes into the perfect play list? For me, the music has to match my mood and the atmosphere, and all of the songs need to complement each other in some way. This year, in addition to simply putting the iPod on shuffle, we’d like to make four specific play lists to pass our time in the car:
>Daytime (fun, upbeat, something we can sing along to)
>Nighttime (chill, easing into the night, what Cory will listen to in the morning before having his first cup of coffee)
>Americana (songs that evoke the best of the United States)
>Canadian (fun music by Canadian musicians and bands)
We’ve thought of a few songs to add to each of our lists but would love your thoughts on what else we should add. Here’s what we’ve got so far:
I met Cherie Ve Ard at Burning Man in 2009. After some snafus with the camp I was originally supposed to stay in, Cherie and her partner, Chris Dunphy, invited me to stay in theirs. Their Burning Man community, Camp Nomadia, is very much in tune with their lifestyle: minimal, interactive and drama-free.
You see, Cherie and Chris, known jointly at Technomadia, travel, work, play and live full-time in a small solar-powered RV. They go when and where they choose, traversing the United States with their cat, Kiki. Cherie and I have remained in close contact since meeting nearly a year ago, and she was kind enough to answer a few questions about the life she and Chris lead as nomadic ambassadors.
1. Tell me a little bit about your nomadic lifestyle.
I’ve been on the road full time since May 2007 in a small, solar-powered, geeked out travel trailer roaming around the USA with my life and business partner, Chris, and our cat, Kiki. We run a software development and technology consulting firm, doing a variety of remote and onsite work … embracing nomadic serendipity at every turn. We have no physical home anywhere else.
Truth be told, I don’t care much for driving when I just have to get myself around town, but drop me in the driver’s seat for a road trip and I’m ready to buckle in for the long haul. I’ve been a sucker for long car rides ever since I was a kid, and, even now, knowing that I have hours to hunker down and bond with my trusty Ford Focus is undeniably comforting and exciting. The road to reach the destination is almost always as interesting and fun as the destination itself.
But I digress.
The point is, I like to road trip … but only if I have a few essential items with me. Regardless of where I go or how long I’ll be on the road, there are a handful of items that absolutely must be in my car. They are:
1. An up-to-date map. It’s not that I get lost. In fact, when I’m not driving, I always play navigator because I don’t get lost. But I am overly cautious when it comes to driving, and I’ll check and recheck a map a dozen times, even though I know I’m going in the right direction. A good map is especially important in the Southwest where the closest town (and therefore the closest place to turn around) is sometimes 50 miles away.
As I drove out of Las Vegas and into the wide open desert that surrounds the I-15 heading into California, the sun was hot, the air was heavy and I was finally free (at least for the week). I spent the last week asking people what I should listen to in the car for my road trip. Not being much of a music connoisseur, I sought advice on Twitter and the Lonely Planet forum. When it came right down to it though, I just wasn’t feeling the road trip music vibe.
Instead, I turned on the radio and began flipping through stations. To my pleasant surprise, it seemed like every station dedicated a healthy portion of their air time remembering the King of Pop. I turned the station up and sang to Beat It, Thriller and Billy Jean. I’d never really thought about listening to Michael Jackson on the road, but his music has a great beat and is easy to sing along with — two components essential for good road trip music, in my opinion.
For me, it was a fitting time to listen to Michael Jackson’s music. People seem to rush though life without taking the time to notice the details. My goal with road trip travel is to slow down and share the details I find with the people who journey with me. We assume we’ll have time to notice those details tomorrow, but I think we all learned a lesson with the King of Pop’s passing yesterday. Any day can be our last. I intend to live each one to the fullest.