Growing up I was surrounded by two things…hilly back roads and things with engines…we would drive everywhere for everything and my rural tree lined world was either framed through a car window or motorcycle helmet. Those early ways of seeing landscapes helped shape my early composition skills and also a love of being in a car and taking road trips.
Every once in a while the freelance life allows little windows of time where you can run away last minute and pretend to be an explorer. This time I chose to make a run to Southern Utah to explore Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. Then off to Mexico to take part in the best collection of bad ideas that has become a couple time a year adventure and rally north from San Miguel De Allende to Chicago. All tallied, I will be in a car, mostly as driver for a little over 3000 miles in roughly 14 days.
You are not doing a road trip, or any travel right, if you don’t come back with some bit of perspective change. (Zion’s Angels Landing was a bad ass) unusual landscapes and people from around the world…like the Dutch couple who was taking a motor home from Chicago to San Francisco via Southern Utah. Capitol Reef and Grand Staircase Of The Escalante were also unforgettable.
Feeling inspired, recharged I spent a hot second in my home to repack and off for a 5:18am departure to Leon, MX.
I was at a roadside table with bubbling caldrons of goodness in Mexico by 11:30am, feasting on the spicy, saucy, offerings and a couple cervezas for the equivalent of $5.00 us. San Miguel is a beautiful town up in the highlands, this is my 5th trip here. High on the checklist this time was a 150 miles worth of motorcycle riding on the back roads of the area. Stunning scenery, coble stone back roads, Spanish Missions, cows and chickens. A virtual obstacle course that left smiles from ear to ear.
GALLERY OF TRIP MAGES HERE
I’ve had a LOT of road trips and a good number of co-pilots. The good ones become life long friends…the bad…well…let’s just say, if ever there was a test for a relationship, 700 miles at 85-100 mph is my litmus test of relationship strength..any relationship. A girl who can read a map and call out directions rally style will win my heart as fast as her 5’10” slender frame and snark would catch my attention.
Driving through the vast amounts of these here United States of America requires a couple states of mind, preparations, and commitments. So here’s my guide, some photos from the last couple runs and hopefully you’ll take this and get out there and see something.
1. Make a plan and then have a plan to cover the first one once it gets completely scrapped. Restaurants will be closed, airlines will loose luggage, glasses will get broken, you might get lost. Roll with it. Have a car charger, have a map, have spares, and have fun.
2. You need to be in the car with someone who’s got the same level of adventure lust. Tim Steil…Tom Neubauer…Francis Anderson…Tom MacDonald…4 people who I didn’t know so well before getting into a car and driving thousands of miles with. These guys have become friends for life and all had the attitude of “yeah…let’s do that, sound fun”.
3. Context…if you’re from the city and you think you’re going to get “city” service or food in “not the city”…or expect city points of view, you will be consistently disappointed. You’re visiting someone else’s local…someone else’s culture. Is what it is, Mate…blend and flow, be water, talk to people, be nice, be courteous, people actually dig meeting people who aren’t from “there” who aren’t dicks.
A lot of the food in anywhere USA, kinda blows. If you live in a food mecca consider yourself lucky. Most of your fellow Americans are stuffing their faces with Sysco frozen goods at their favorite restaurant and are eating their feelings at home via carbs and fat. That sucks…but know it and understand there isn’t a Whole Foods or Starbucks or an “awesome Indian joint” at every turn. McDonalds has the best coffee…”out there”…that’s the reality. Also, in the vein of context…pulling up Wikipedia and looking up info about places you’re at is an amazing way to enrich the trip. The story of the Jim Bowie knife fight at a sand bar in Natchez MS, stories of the Comanche Indians in Texas and Oklahoma…all at your fingertips with a smart phone. Being where history happened and reading the stories puts it all into a unique perspective.
4. Have friends along the way. Driving an hour out of the way in another state to spend an hour with someone you know is time well spent. I stopped and saw the Bonneville Salt Flat Racing fellow I wrote about and photographed for a car magazine, while in Texas. An hour of his and our time was so worth seeing his operation, the cars and just cementing chance meetings into friendships. Not to mention seeing the article proudly framed in his office.
This last trip from Central Mexico to Chicago had a new crop of firsts. Back roads in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Iowa that opened my eyes to landscapes, people and US History stories that were new to me…Wikipedia and a co-pilot looking up Comanche Indian stores put every hill into context and the stories we read about had a tactile realism because we were in the landscape that the stories took place. Time was taken to stop and see and interact with people and places along the way…planned and unplanned.
Road Trips allow you to see, smell, taste and feel different parts of the country first hand. Being aware, open and humble will take you places you didn’t expect and will undoubtedly give you story material…and the rule is…he who dies with the best stories, wins. It ain’t hard…gas and go…hotwire, hotels.com, Google maps, do it.