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.

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Anne Vaeth

Anne Vaeth

A communications professional trying to turn the jumble of thoughts in my brain into actual words.