Facts from the Road
Sixteen-year-old me was terrified to learn to drive. I only got my permit to have an ID when I left for college. I was twenty when I got my license. And then I fell in love. Windows down, music up, and nothing but the open road.
Ten-year-old me hated being alone. I’d call everyone I knew on a Saturday afternoon to find someone to hang out with.
25-year-old me drove 6000 miles, solo. How the tables have turned. Here’s what I learned after 23 days and 18 states:
- Trader Joe’s instant coffee is pretty damn good
- The great plains are really flat. And windy. And you really can see forever.
- There’s no shade and the sun gets very hot.
- There are lots of cows in North Dakota. And Montana. And everywhere. I moo-ed at every single one I saw.
- Don’t pet the fluffy cows. No matter how tempting.
- State Park day-use fees are cheaper than a truck stop for a shower. Plus you can go on a nice walk.
- Sleeping in my car is crazy comfy.
- A hot shower after 5ish days of no showering makes you feel like a million bucks.
- Some states are much nicer than others for allowing overnight parking at highway rest stops.
- There’s a reason our national parks are our national parks. They really are something special.
- In case you didn’t know already white settlers treated the indigenous people like absolute shit.
- Balancing my love for our parks and the knowledge that we stole the land I’m walking in on is a challenge.
- They call Montana big sky country for a reason. Because holy shit the sky.
- Trails are harder to follow where there are no trees or grass, and no obvious path.
- There are a whole lot of stars in the sky. And you can see a lot more of them in the middle of nowhere.
- Being a solo traveler increases your chances of getting last-minute tickets for tours and activities.
- Being a part of one means you can sit at the bar of a restaurant and not have to wait for a table.
- Pennsylvania and Wisconsin both have an odd ratio of anti-abortion, call 83-for-truth AND adult superstore billboards.
- Speaking of billboards — they work. I rerouted my route at least four times for attractions I saw on billboards.
- Some gas stations have much better coffee than others.
- The fact that some truck stops and restaurants and places are still using styrofoam cups in the year 2022 is irksome.
- Some highways have a lot more trucks than others.
- You can apparently buy fireworks almost anywhere. Except for New York.
- Hostels are fun. (This isn’t new information, but important).
- Live music is an absolute vibe.
- There are a lot fewer tolls west of Chicago. And a lot more free camping opportunities.
- Accidentally being in Nashville during CMA Fest can destroy your planned trip budget.
- Some state capitol buildings are a lot grander than others. Kind of unnecessary.
- Driving through Pennsylvania is terrible. At least in Iowa, there are cows to moo at.
- Tampons are even more stupid expensive at a truck stop than at Target.
- Audiobooks are great. Switching from an audiobook or podcast to music and back just about every hour is ideal.
And I can’t wait to be on the road again.