By Hilary Weisman Graham Author of Reunited
The sunny days are officially here, and nothing says you lived summer to the fullest like a slice of Americana and the rugged stretch of open road. Get together your music, your most comfy (yet cute) clothes, your toll fare, your road snacks-and then check this list twice to make sure you're ready to be Queen of the Road.
Lay off the convenience store snacks. After six straight hours of driving through Oklahoma, that overly-caffeinated energy drink and bag of chili picante corn nuts may seem like the perfect idea, but trust me, it's not. Being on the road doesn't always allow for the healthiest food options, but there's only one kind of gas worth getting from your local service station. And nothing leads to an afternoon of bloated lethargy faster than pre-packaged sodium and sugar-laden junk food.
Don't be a music hog. Your boyfriend just doesn't like Adele as much as you do. Just accept it. Or better yet, make it your mission to find a song that everyone in the car can enjoy. For my family, it's "One Day" by Matisyahu. No one knows why, but it's the fastest way to stifle our ongoing, three-way war between Sufjan Stevens, old Grateful Dead bootlegs, and being forced to listen to "Moves Like Jagger" on repeat.
Stay at a dumpy motel. Just once in your life, just for a night. Sure, there might be gunshots in the parking lot, or uncomfortable groaning noises coming from the room next door, but think of the stories you'll be able to tell. And don't forget to bring your quarters for the vibrating bed!
Play goofy car games. Put down your cell phones, your Nintendo DSes, and your iPads and play a good old-fashioned car game like I Spy or 20 Questions. You may be surprised to find out that engaging with real live human beings is actually kind of fun. Who knew?
Sing together. Car games getting stale? Then take it to the next level with some road trip crooning. If National Lampoon's Vacation taught us anything it's that singing in the car can be A) totally annoying, while simultaneously being B) tons of fun. From show tunes to Skrillex, it doesn't matter what you sing, only that you put your heart into it.
Interact with strangers. I know there's not a lot you can communicate to your fellow travelers at 65 miles an hour, but sometimes, a little can go a long way. And no, I'm not suggesting you moon the toll-booth guy (unless you really, really want to). But it pays to be creative. Once, while driving from Olympia to Seattle, my friend Bob attempted to pick up a girl in another car by writing his phone number on a napkin and holding it up to his window as we passed. She never called him, but the phrase "Call MEAT-NUB" made us laugh for hours.
Get off the highway. I know, I know: Life is a highway and you want to ride it all night long. But taking the road less traveled is the only real way to see the country.
Be bored. It's OK to let your mind go slack every once in a while, even if it feels uncomfortable. So instead of texting your BFF for the 56th time, give your thumbs a rest and enjoy the stray thoughts as they float to the surface from the unexplored depths of your brain. Bonus points if you try it in Texas during those stretches of road where there's nothing as far as the eye can see.
Go local. That rural greasy spoon may look sketchy on the outside, but take a chance and you just might be pleasantly surprised. And I guarantee you that the Applebee's in Chattanooga looks exactly like the Applebee's in Scranton, which looks exactly like the Applebee's in Albuquerque, which looks exactly like the Applebee's in… well, you get the idea.
Sleep. As any toddler can tell you, nothing makes the hours fly by like a good car nap. But please keep in mind, this is only recommended for passengers. Get relationship tips. Find help with your love life. Have a happy marriage. Sign up for our newsletter!
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