“friends, waffles, work” : why road trips rock

Road trips – and you would see this if you spent only 3 minutes glancing over my recent pinterest collection – make my short list for my favorite things to do. I’m actually obsessed with them.

I’ve been lucky enough to spend time in a car going to places like San Diego, Vegas, a college field hockey camp in the thick Chicago heat, to Disneyworld in Orlando, to a national park in the middle of nowhere in Benin, the far coast of Tanzania, and one time, in a mini-van across most of the Southern United States. Hands down, going by car is the best mode of travel.

5 reasons why:

  1. You always have a safe place for your coffee. Put it in the dashboard-thingy and you’re off.
  2. You can move at your own pace, speed, and comfort. Cruise control is at your discretion and if you wish to stop and see things like “the world’s largest groundhog” in rural Kansas, you can. Or, as mom and I usually did on our 16-hour trek to Conway, Arkansas to drop me off at college every year, we just laughed and sped on by.
  3. The best musical playlists are created in honor of long hours and days spent crammed into a car. Hello – who doesn’t have at least one rockin’ “road trip cd mix” tucked away somewhere? My personal favorites in more recent years have consistently been from my bestie Jordana Rogers. I like anything that might have a dab of the Lumineers, Imagine Dragons, or Mumford & Sons (does this make me a hipster?!) classics from the 80’s and 90’s, and most importantly, country. A car ride with no country is hardly a car ride at all, in my opinion.
  4. You see the landscape first hand. Mountains, deserts, road side espresso stands, huts, farms, semi-trucks, questionable rest-stops, trees, beaches, corn fields, cars, cows, podunk food joints – you can feel what a place might be like whether you are stopping or passing through. One time when driving abroad a mid-sized bus with fellow Hendrix students in Vietnam, I could smell the fish, hear the sounds of mo-peds all around us, and watch people walking every which way on the crowded city streets. You couldn’t get that with just air travel. You are in the thick of it when you’re roadtrippin’ it.
  5. That’s some of the best quality time you can spend with a person. With layers of maps or a trite GPS woman named Martha yelling at you to merge left in ¼ of a mile, you find yourself with a bag full of clothes, your car, and the person next to you. Maybe you discuss your travels at hand, or that amazing cinnamon roll you had last week after dinner, or your most recent personal failings (did you really think you could go out into the Colorado winter with no jacket?). Maybe you don’t talk at all and you enjoy the lulls of silence. Inevitably, however, you’re together and the distractions of your quality time together tend to be few.

*

I literally just got home from my most recent road trip. This one was initiated by plane – with flights to and from Portland – but spent mostly in a white rental car from Alamo. I’m tired, sort of cold, but really happy and content about where the last few days in a car took me.

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Grandpa and I headed Northwest to see Jordan, my cousin, play two NCAA women’s basketball games (one in Oregon, one in Washington). It was fun to see her play, cheer on the University of Alaska team, and see how she’s embracing the promising start to her athletic career and college journey. She’s only a freshman and she’s already accomplished a lot, with a lot more ahead of her.

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Our adventure was relatively smooth. Well, if you don’t count the dump of snow we experienced in snow-fearful Salem. By the end of our travels, our little white Toyota Corolla was a fine mixture of black and grey from the polluted snow and ice littered on the highways. Ick.

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On the road and between the couple of basketball games, we ate great food. The highlights included cannoli at a local Italian place in Salem and a tomato chevre sandwich place at a popular bakery on a small, mural painted street corner of Olympia, Washington.

The Northwest is beautiful and with it being our first time to see the area, we were most impressed by the sheer quantity and height of the trees, particularly the Evergreens in Washington. I suppose there’s a reason it’s called The Evergreen State. I get it. The bays alongside the mountain ranges were also a site to see. I was hoping for a trip to the coastline to visit a lighthouse, but the weather had other plans. We managed to see a great deal of Washington’s capital, Olympia, however, driving around for fun, visiting a place to do coffee tasting, attempting to visit a closed museum (can’t say we didn’t try!), taking pictures at the capitol and harbor, and really, just putzing around exploring the nooks and corners of the town.

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On our travels we met this one spunky waitress of 5th avenue sandwich shop, fellow University of Alaska basketball parents, and some nice folks at the airport.

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Towards the end of the trip, I went on a long run through Lacey, Washington, population 43,000. For a while, I was alongside side streets full of restaurants and your typical fast-food chain eateries. I loved the pedestrian friendly atmosphere – every which way was a spot for me to jog. It was awesome. I wanted more, though. I wanted to escape the town and city and find the woods. To do so, I ran over an overpass that looked over the mighty highway that is I-5. I stopped for a moment and peered over the edge. I gasped aloud at the 6 lane highway; I heard and saw cars breaking through gravel at top speeds to get to where they were going. It was a true moment of adjustment—these occasional, almost fleeting moments where I can’t help but think, where the heck am I?

I continued along and luckily found a long state trail surrounded completely by huge green trees. Peaceful and quiet. I ran a little further and then headed back so Grandpa wouldn’t start to wonder about my whereabouts. We had a game to get to, after all. Later, we’d go and grab a stack of pancakes at I-HOP (options are pretty limited in the midst of a snow storm) but it was a really good ending to a really good day.

I like road trips because they remind us of what’s not only important in life, but what’s good.

Who doesn’t like just getting in a car to just go?

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Road trips help you remember a piece of advice that comes from Leslie Knope, perhaps one of the best TV characters. Ever.

“We need to remember what’s important in life: friends, waffles, work. Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn’t matter, but work is third.” –Leslie Knope, Parks & Recreation

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