Outdoors Column

Cross country road trips

By Bill Howard | Feb 11, 2014
Photo by: File Bill Howard

Valentine’s weekend is here and occasionally, even the most dedicated outdoorsman needs to reward his spouse for her understanding of your last few months of manly activities. A cross-country road trip can be fun, interesting, and exciting as well as just the ticket to an eventful time together. They can also be boring, tiresome and expensive, so here are five tips to make your trip a memorable experience.


Get everyone involved in the planning.
When taking the family with mixed ages and interests, it can make the drive more bearable if everyone has something to look forward to along the way to keep the trip exciting. Look over your route and see if there are any points of interest. On a trip to Niagara Falls we planned our lunch break at the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia, and then stayed in a hotel two blocks away from a haunted cemetery in Pennsylvania.

Prepare your vehicle
Before you leave make sure you check your vehicle’s tire pressures and fluid levels. If you are making a 2,000 mile round trip and your oil change is due in 1,000 miles, get it serviced early. When planning your trip, do an online check of gas prices in the different states you pass through. For instance, filling up in South Carolina when you still have a quarter of a tank of gas can save nearly 50 cents per gallon over fill-ups in North Carolina or Georgia.

Take periodic stops, not frequent breaks
It is important to take breaks, but not too many. Usually a stop every two to three hours allows the body to stretch and stay alert. People with ailments such as diabetes may need those stops closer to the two hour mark to prevent swollen feet and legs and help with blood circulation. A hunting trip to North Dakota with my father included stops at nearly every Bass Pro Shop, Cabela’s and Gander Mountain along the way, which was conveniently spaced about every two hours of drive time. Another trip involved us stopping at each state line rest stop we passed and getting photos next to the welcome signs.

Ride comfortably and pack smart
You have to be comfortable on a long road trip or it will wear you down quickly. Wear slip on shoes while driving so you can remove and put them on easily. Do not keep your wallet in your back pocket in order to prevent a tired and hurting tush. Keep items you can use on the trip near hand while packing clothes and beauty items in the trunk or storage compartments. Keep a small cooler with drinks and snacks nearby.

Change the return route

Make it a true adventure. If you can alter the return route without losing too much time or miles, it will keep things fresh for the whole trip. New places to stop and explore and different scenery will make everyone happier. One trip we planned carried us through mountains and Amish country on a weekday while heading towards our destination, while the return trip was along the East coast passing through New York City, Baltimore and Washington D.C. during the weekend, thus avoiding traffic woes.
And if the cross-country trip doesn’t work out for a Valentine’s surprise for her, just make sure you don’t buy her a toaster or new ironing board. That probably will not work out very well. In fact, you may receive a gift from her afterwards that resembles a to-do list that will last you through next year’s Valentine’s Day.

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