6 Things You Need To Know Before Roadtripping The US
It's the best way to really see America.
The classic American road trip is one wrought with poetic possibility. Wherever you decide to ride – through Californian Redwood Forests, the Nevada desert plains, or the quirky small towns outside Florida – you’re bound to learn something about America that you would have never discovered in those bountiful big cities.
Roadtripping is a great way to see America, and if you like the sound of motel breakfasts followed by highways peppered with religious billboards and more drive-through animal parks than you would have thought necessary, then this is the experience for you. Here are six things you need to know before you head out.
#1 Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel
Don’t be distracted by the enormous billboards littering the I-5 highway, offering everything from cheap accommodation to eternal salvation. At any moment you may need to be prepared to swerve when any number of daring deer (or dog, or cow, or human) choose to step out in front of your vehicle, and one by one, slowly walk to the other side of the road. It’s maddening.
#2 Keep your eyes peeled, you never know what you’ll find
The flipside to rule number one is that you should always keep an eye out for local attractions. The thing about America is that there is no thing about America – there are no rules here. Being the land of the free means literally that – the people here feel entitled to, legally can and indeed do anything they think might be cool, including building a massive animal safari park in a tiny town along Oregon’s main highway. It’s basically like Jurassic Park without the dinosaurs, but instead with every cool non-aquatic animal you could want, from ostriches that will peck at your windows to lions who will look hungrily at the ostriches pecking at your windows in the adjacent enclosure.
#3 Be selective
Keep in mind that there is a lot out there. On any given day, you’re bound to encounter dozens of things you think might be worth your time. America is a bountiful country, so you can’t just go to every ‘Mystery Forest’ and ‘Confusion Hill’ you come across, because something better might be right around the corner. A road trip is full of these very tricky (and very important) conundrums, so take heed.
#4 Nature, man
Take the time to enjoy it. From lakes and lagoons to Redwoods taller than skyscrapers, everything in America is kind of ridiculously huge. For example, after stopping for a short hike down a forest trail, my partner and I ended up wandering in circles for hours completely lost among some of the biggest and most beautiful trees in the world – only to realise we were right near the exit the whole time. It was distressing, but also magical….and also very frightening to think that, though we were less than a mile from Highway 199, no one would have heard us among a giant pile of lush fernery.
#5 Bring an apple, or ten
Life on the road is wearisome after a while, and part of that is because of the diet. Roadside diners and motel breakfasts aren’t big on the ol’ health front, so it’s important you bring your own vitamins and minerals. Though it may seem exciting to be around all that real-deal American candy, it’s vital you load up on fresh fruit and sustenance of the non-lolly variety when you can; particularly when you’re driving through a forest the size of a small country, and there’s the very real possibility that you might get lost, or you might come across a place to get supplies for a few hours. So make sure you have at least something nutritious to keep yourself alive – and no, Snapple doesn’t count.
#6 If you can, meet the locals
You never know who you’re going to meet on the road. Once, while parked at a rest area off the I-5, a stranger approached me for a light. Along with the other bright-spirited kids and the four dogs they travelled with, he was one of the friendliest people I’ve met, and he told me something about Australia I didn’t even know. For me, half the joy of travelling is sharing it with like-minded people (the other half is eating).