You learn a lot, driving across the country. All the hotels have Wi-Fi, most of them offer breakfast, and some of them still smell vaguely of pee, even though the carpets are dry. I recently dragged my family from Colorado Springs to the Canadian border of New York and back, and thought I’d share what I learned. Also, if I write it down, there’s a chance I won’t forget it all for the next time.
–If there are buzzards circling the rest area, drive on.
–Always wear shoes at rest stops and restrooms. Always. No exceptions.
–NY State has terrible rest areas. If you’re lucky you’ll find one picnic table, far away from any shade, near the dumpsters, the pet relief area, or both. Missouri, on the other hand, has opulent rest areas, with clean bathrooms and plenty of tables under shade trees.
–At the free continental breakfast, don’t stop and think about who, exactly, peeled all those hardboiled eggs.
–Keep a notebook handy to write down funny things your family says, strange road signs, unusually named towns. We’re still talking about Nob Noster (MO) and Nanty Glo (PA).
–Our personal experience is that GoogleMaps is superior to MapQuest.
–Visiting local grocery stores and liquor stores is like an anthropological expedition. Take the opportunity whenever you get the chance.
–If tea is important to you, take a hot-pot, your own tea bags, and your own supply of whatever you doctor it with. Some of us don’t function without that morning cuppa, and the stuff served in most restaurants and hotels is either caustic, bitter or flavorless. And that’s only if you’re lucky enough to get water hot enough to brew the tea in the first place.
–If you wear a hat with “Bitch” embroidered on the front, most people will leave you alone. Except for other bitches.
–It is always worth it and usually cheaper to go the extra five minutes to get past the fast food chains clustered around highway exits and find a real restaurant or diner. But once you’re east of the Mississippi, don’t order the green chili. You’ll be disappointed. But if you luck into a place that bakes its own bread or pies on the premises, give thanks and order fast before they’re gone.
–I can’t figure out why every hotel gives you towel sets for three people, even when you’ve reserved a room for four.
–A closet with cracked tile floor and one treadmill is not, in fact, an exercise room.
–If there’s a local specialty, try it. The exception is anything involving organ meats.
–Only someone who loves you will listen to you sing, off-key, for a three-day car trip. And no, your children do NOT love you that much.
–Alternate drivers on long trips. This cuts down on the chances of the family lead foot getting a ticket. Don’t listen when that person tries to convince you that on Sundays you don’t have to obey speed limits, just like you don’t have to plug parking meters.
–Never stay in a hotel near a feedlot or slaughter-house.
–The all important family debriefing. Your kids are going to come out with some sayings that are absolutely hilarious to your immediate family, but could be considered rude in general company. Be sure you clear the air about what sayings and topics are family-only and which are suitable for general consumption. Remind them, what happens in the minivan stays in the minivan.