Ah, the road trip. Whether those two words stimulate traumatic memories of sweaty family road trips that seemed like a never ending highway of screaming siblings (“This is MY side, that is YOUR side”), on-edge parents and visiting smoochy aunts or that last crazy trip with the boys that resulted in a less-than-enviable tattoo and carefully censored photographs, it will not prepare you for that road trip with your girlfriend. Whether you have been dating for 6 weeks and are still in the fuzzy do-no-wrong stage of the relationship, or in at the 6-year, there’s-nothing-I-don’t-know-about-you phase, the road trip is one thing that can bring out the good, the bad, and the ugly in a twosome.
You’re in a convertible, blasting the soundtrack of your lives, her in a streaming scarf and short skirt with the garter peeking out the bottom, which you are surreptitiously checking out in the rearview mirror.
“Would you like a cold beer, baby?” she asks, leaning her glistening bosom in her direction. “It’s so hot.” She reaches in the back to pull a cold one out of the back seat cooler for you. “I can drive if you’re getting tired and want to take a nap. Oh look, a hitchhiker. And she’s barely wearing anything. We should pull over and see if there’s anything we can do for her, sweety. Sweety? HEY! Are you asleep at the wheel or something? You’re going to kill us!”
What the…? You snap out of it. You look over to see the love of your life in a pair of your old cut off sweats and a stretched out tank top with sweat stains on the pits. She has a sunflower seed shell stuck in her teeth and you are suddenly scared to make eye contact lest she tell you you have to stop AGAIN so that she can go to the bathroom. “No, I’m awake. I guess this mixed tape of yours from 1989 just has me so nostalgic that I was in another world.” Stupid reality.
The first thing you two will want to do is plan your route. Maybe you are planning towards an eventual destination or perhaps you just want to see where the road takes you. Preliminary planning of some sort, however, will go a long way into preventing the terrible moment when you realize that maybe seeing Graceland isn’t her life-long dream as well.
Find some mutual sights that you want to hit along your basic route so that you can do some initial panning about accommodations and scheduling. You don’t necessarily have to stick to your schedule, but some initial investigation may lead you to discover that every quaint little town doesn’t necessarily have a quaint, cheap little bed and breakfast to take you in. Set out from the beginning just what type of budget you have for daily living and accommodation and maybe set some boundaries as to what each of you deem “satisfactory” accommodations. The novelty of vibrating beds in roadside motels tend to be directly proportional to the amount of suspicious stains and unwanted critters you two have to share the bed with.
If you are camping, map out campsites and design your schedule around their accessibility. If you can book sites before hand, it will eliminate the possibility of planning a day around a site that has already been booked up for the Smith family reunion. Very little is more stressful than trying to find a campsite in the backwoods at 10 pm. with the daunting task of putting up the tent in a dark, mosquito-infested clearing. If you want to be a little more “free,” with your schedule, make sure that you are both very open to the possibility of sleeping in your car. It was romantic in high school, right?
If you can buy a guide book beforehand, do. It’ll give you more insight to the wacky goings-on in each little community you pass through so that you are sure not to miss the local Museum of Barnyard Oddities and other such spontaneous sights.
Take your car in for a pre-trip check up. Get them to check your tires (including the spare and tools that go along with it), and make sure you both know how to change it! Check out your brakes, steering and suspension and fluid levels. Get an oil change or find out when you’ll need one. Also, get them to test your battery, as hot weather tends to wear them down quicker if they are old or weak.
Make sure you have a current map. If you are hitting any large cities, it will be worth your while to get a map of those areas too, in order to eliminate the “just ask for directions” argument. If you make the non-driver the navigator and you can both share the responsibility (and blame) of being lost. But don’t blame each other for getting lost. Try to remember that the point of the road trip is to go where the road takes you. Unless you absolutely have to be somewhere (for a blood transfusion or wedding, for example), make a rule that you are not going to worry about where you end up. These moments are when the true adventures (and stories, when you get home) spring up.
Finally, make sure that you have diversions for the car. If you have vastly different taste in music, you are going to have to compromise. Childhood games can be made into adult versions. Like 20 questions about your favorite fantasies. If you like trivial pursuit, bring the box of cards to ask each other to keep the driver awake. If you like to read, bring books and read aloud to each other, or buy some audio books (you can also get these at the library).
Most importantly, make sure that you have both talked about your philosophy for the trip and recognize that one of you might be better at the spontaneity than the other. Keep this fact in mind, and keep in mind how much you love this person. No matter how often she has to go pee.