What is the best way to see our wonderful nation?
One could argue that flying will get you somewhere faster, an intercity bus is much cheaper to go, and the train has a romance of its own. It would be a disservice to break down the pros and cons on each form of travel, but I have my own argument to present.
Then, there’s travel by automobile. This is what I recommend as the best way to see our country — up close and personal.
As Lavender‘s automotive columnist, I would naturally advocate traveling by automobile. It has its own romance and sense of adventure. You do see everything up close with just a stop, unlike a lot of travel methods. And, you can set your own timetable and route on when to go and how.
It is all about freedom. The freedom to roam and witness life with a minimal filter. That is what travel by automobile is all about.
To partake in that freedom, there is plenty to do before, during, and after you take your road trip. It can be labor-intensive, or not. But, if you’re like me, you like to be prepared for anything on the road ahead. You like to do your homework before you drive off.
How do I prepare for a road trip?
First of all, I like to decide where to go and how to get there well before I take off. The big thing for me is a budget. Not a lot of us have the money to do grand vacations and luxuriate somewhere with less stress and more leisure. Therefore, I crunch the numbers.
As I’m driving, I have to be aware of how much to spend on gasoline. That is usually the main cost in an automobile trip. My formula is not exactly simple, but it works. I first go to an online mapping site or app and check the distance between home and where I want to go. I double that and add extra for getting around town. Then, I take the capacity of the fuel tank on the vehicle, multiply that by my average fuel economy figure for my range. I also take the same fuel tank capacity and multiply that by the average cost of fuel along my route for my total cost of a full tank of fuel. There are websites and apps to get that information.
Now that I have my factors, I can calculate the estimated fuel cost for the trip. I take the mileage and divide it by the fuel tank range. Then take that factor and multiply the full cost of the fuel tank and…voila! I have my gas budget!
Thanks to mapping websites and apps, the route can be easily selected. They usually are downloaded to a mobile device, as long as you have it connected to your account. That way, you can see where you can stop for food, fuel, and some attractions along the way.
Now, you want to determine what to do when you get to that destination. I would leave that up to you because our purpose for travel is different than the next person. For me, I have a few interests, like attending sporting events, visiting museums of interest, and checking out GLBT community centers and places that are friendly to me. Plus, if I have friends and/or family at my destination, I drop them a note to say I’ll be in town. I might even stay with them…or check into a hotel…or a shared lodging, like Airbnb. Just book everything. The web and our mobile apps will be your guide. Get tickets to music venues and sporting events.
Perhaps the most important piece is to make sure your vehicle is ready to go, too. That means having the vehicle checked for fluids, tire condition and pressure, the belts, the hoses, the wiper blades, the lights, and the air conditioning. Even in the fall, the climate control system should be checked for both cooling and heating of the vehicle. If you can do it, awesome! If not, there are plenty of advertisers in this magazine that can help you. Even dealerships!
After getting everything ready, the magic day arrives. You lost a lot of sleep because of the excitement to get on the road that day. There’s not enough caffeine in the house to manage your excitement. It is a matter of loading up the car with your bags, gifts, and so forth. Then, you load up your family; your definition of family is open at this point. Rather, it could be yourself that is going. Don’t worry, I travel alone, too. At this point, you probably want to start the vehicle. Once you do…there is no turning back. You’re on your road trip.
Here is a great tip: pace yourself! We often find ourselves in a hurry for some reason. We want to get there as quickly as we can, even if it means driving all night to Denver or New York City. If you plan on a timeframe, factor in some stops. Solo drivers may want to consider stopping every two hours for breaks. That way, you made enough progress to recharge yourself.
For breaks, stop somewhere safe and legal. No, you cannot stop on the side of the road. There has to be a state-funded rest area with some facilities available, like restrooms. Gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants also serve as safety stops to recharge yourself for the next stint behind the wheel. If your spouse, significant other, or friend is riding along, consider switching drivers. That way, long journeys can be made easier with extended breaks to nap or see the sights.
When driving with children, make sure they are engaged and comfortable. Most importantly, make sure they are safe and secure while meeting the laws of the states you are traveling in. Child seat laws do vary from state to state, and sometimes the laws in your home state might not be fully compatible with the next state you are traveling in. While you might not require a lot of stops, your children would. Plan accordingly. Oh, and don’t forget to have them entertained, too! Games, movies, and music will keep them occupied even through the toughest part of the journey.
The same is true about traveling with pets. Always make sure you have access to food, water, and a clean environment for your pets. Always know what specific laws about leashes and cleanliness that might be different than your home ones.
There is one thing to be aware of: your vehicle breaking down. Even though your vehicle had been checked over a few times before you left home, there is nothing stopping your progress like a flat tire or a mechanical fault. If you are a member of the Automobile Association of America (AAA), a simple phone call will dispatch help as soon as they can. Newer vehicles have access to their manufacturer’s Roadside Assistance programs, so they are a phone call away. A little knowledge would help to understand what is covered for no cost in comparison to any cost incurred on your journey.
Meanwhile, you have arrived. Congratulations! You endured the journey; hopefully without incident.
This seems like a path toward a great road trip. However, I must address something that is probably bugging me…and us…a lot. As GLBT travelers, we know that not everywhere we roam will be friendly to us. Yet, as GLBT people, we are diverse as to how we view the world and the challenges we face as we are ourselves. What I mean is, if you are concerned about traveling through areas that may not be as welcoming and friendly to us, find an alternative route or destination that will be more friendly and welcoming. Have some “road knowledge” before you go. By “road knowledge,” I mean knowing the territory ahead before you set off to know exactly where those places exist. Having that “road knowledge” will be very helpful in making great memories of your journey.
But, if we are fearless and can handle anything that is thrown our way, then, go for it! Travel boldly! Put the foot on the accelerator and drive!
It is a lot to cover here. But, this is why you go on road trips. By being able to take children, pets, musical instruments, and all the things you could never check in for free at the airport, train station, or bus terminal helps to make your journey more personal with every mile earned behind the wheel of your chosen vehicle. You can control where you go, when to stop, how to refuel and recharge yourself and your companions.
That is what freedom is all about.