~ Give yourself more time. 13 hours may seem manageable, but remember that it takes about an hour to get a meal (and you will want to get out of the car to eat, trust me.) So you're looking at about 15 hours of travel all day. That doesn't leave much time to coo over scenic passes, stop at random museums, go explore caverns, or do the typical adventures one expects from a Road trip. If I were doing this again, I would drive a maximum of six or seven hours a day and do a bit of research of fun places to stop.
~ Don't have expectations. I thought that we would stop at funky, bizarre places and have lots of adventures and stories to tell. I thought I would have plenty of time to study while the other two were driving. I thought 13 hours wasn't such a long time. All of these were wrong. 13 hours is long- too long to have those sorts of adventures, too long to do much more than sleep in the back when I was finished. Studying was unfinished and we mostly saw interstates. I wish I had known better and not given myself these expectations going in so I didn't feel disappointed when the road trip finished.
~ Camping is cool and inexpensive. But bring tarps for your tents. Our best night was camping out on this random little river behind a cornfield in Missouri. We made a fire, collected frogs, chased after fireflies (this was the first time I had seen them) and went for midnight walks were disturbingly nice people in pick up trucks pulled over and asked if we were alright. (sorry, the east coast has rubbed off on me. Not used to friendly strangers). Sure there are no beds, showers or, often times, electricity, but the memories are better.
~ Choose non-chain restaurants. One of the best stories we have is pulling into a tiny town where their restaurant (the star street diner) doubled as their town hall. The entire town of about seven looked up as we stepped in and asked if the kitchen was open. Oh, the food wasn't good. But we played pool (first time for that too!) and were more or less kicked out at 8:30 when it closed.
~ Drive through the little towns. Not only is that where you will find the little shops and diners, but you can really see a side of America that I, having only ever lived on one of the coasts, haven't seen. The Great Recession doesn't touch my life. But driving through town after town where most of the main streets were empty store fronts and only strip clubs, liquor stores, groceries and hardware remained? It really brought home how hopeless people are feeling and how desperate they are for change. This was the most eye opening revelation for me.
~ Know yourself (the constant theme of this blog). If you are an introvert, ten days of constant exposure to even your best and dearest friends will leave you socially worn out and depressed. Just be aware of this and have some contingency plans.
Have you been on road trips? What did you learn about them?