Thursday, July 30, 2009

“And miles to go before I sleep…..”

If you ever get the opportunity to undertake a road trip when in the US, don’t let it pass. Many choose to travel by air to the various attractions, mainly due to constraints of time and some for reasons of comfort. But if you have the time and a desire for adventure, a road trip is a must. Besides the pleasure of the drive and the journey, the spectacular views one comes across are simply unsurpassable! In order to click those gorgeous landscapes you do not even have to pull over at the designated vista points you will encounter on the highways or freeways. The routes pass through deserts, national parks, mountains, canyons and by beaches and lakes.

There are two broadly categorized road trips you could choose to undertake. The first would be a planned journey with hotel reservations and attraction tickets booked well in advance, with fixed arrival and departure times. You know where you are going, what you will do when you are there and where you will stay. The second kind would be a spontaneous trip wherein you know your final destination but decide to take everything else as it comes by. The latter is my personal choice and most of our trips would be filed under this category.

The thrill and excitement about the unexpected and the undefined is definitely unparalleled. Most times there are no major problems encountered. Usually the vehicle is a rented one, hence any roadside breakdown means that the rental agency helps out by sending out assistance or a replacement vehicle. Similarly, there is no dearth of hotels and motels along the most popular tourist routes.

Of course the situation is a bit different when you are on a trip during a holiday weekend, particularly in summer. Like the time we cruised into San Diego, one late evening in peak summer and found just the one room available and three other families waiting impatiently in the queue, ready to grab it in case we decided not to take it up!! On the other extreme was the lonely hotel in upstate New York, which looked so empty, dark, and foreboding that it reminded us of that famous song by the Eagles. One close look at it and sleeping in the car seemed a much better option.

It is definitely an adventure to stop by at a quaint one-hotel town and grab a bite to eat. Thanks to the numerous fast food chains in this country, you are sure to never go hungry even in the remotest part of the desert. There are also other benefits of stopping at a place where there is not too much of a crowd — they keep your belongings safe should you leave behind something when you leave after lunch! Yes, believe me, that does happen to quite a few people.

The one time it happened with me, the bag I left behind at a Burger King on the outskirts of Las Vegas happened to contain all our travel and identification documents including passports!! Luckily for us, the staff there happened to be an honest lot who kept the backpack safe until we came back looking for it. Also many gas stations carry fresh sandwiches and salads or soups if you are in too much of a hurry to make a separate stop for food.

Being prepared is always a good idea when traveling, hence be sure to stock up on basic essentials such as water and food, flashlights, warm clothes, appropriate footwear and the most crucial thing on a road trip – a full gas tank. Gas stations can often be located miles away in certain regions and if you are stranded it could be a while before help gets to you.

As with anything else in life there is the good with the bad in road trips too. I would say that the good definitely outweighs the bad. The kind of road trip you make would depend upon you. But one thing is for sure — coming upon hidden natural wonders that would have been missed if you had not taken the less frequently used highway as opposed to the freeway with its rushing traffic; seeing unfettered cows and horses graze leisurely upon acres of green pastureland; snow-capped mountains; tranquil lakes echoing solitude; deer and the occasional raccoon scrambling across the road; gorgeous sunsets and marvelous moonscapes — are all definitely worth taking the longer route.


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