A girl’s guide to road trips: Choose your own adventure
Ladies and gents, in grand Jack Kerouac fashion, I’m driving as we speak across Nebraska and Wyoming, headed for the land of fog and seafood and fabulous people–San Francisco. I’ll continue my post about my grandparents next week.
Because my family was never super wealthy and because they liked the kind of torture that only road trips with small children can provide, I’m an expert road tripper. It’s almost the end of the road trip season, and because we’re talking drinks at The Idler this week, I’m writing you a handy choose-your-own-adventure guide for all your road trip drinking needs.
A caveat before we begin: When I say I’m a professional, I mean it. No, we’re not stopping for food and then stopping an hour later for a drink and then an hour later to go to the bathroom. Sometimes, at work, I built my stamina by making myself wait until I finished a project to use the bathroom. I can go 8 hours. I suggest you woman up, too, because there’s no crying in baseball or road trips.
Step 1 (6 a.m. (but really more like 7)): My father liked to plan a really ambitious (i.e. really fucking early) time for us to get on the road. An hour later, after much rushing around and bickering, we’d actually be in the car. And then we always had to go back for something my sister forgot. Now that I’m older, I wonder if he didn’t con us by planning an hour earlier than he actually wanted to leave.
First drink: coffee. Whether you’re adult enough to want actual coffee, or whether you’re me who wants the chemical-filled cappuccino from a machine, get the sugar or caffeine to get you going. But get a medium or smaller, and get a water too. You’ve trained for this at the bar–pace yourself. You don’t want to peak too early.
Step 2 (10 a.m.): Drink half the water. It’s boring and sugar-free, but it will keep you from dehydration and a headache from all the sugar you just consumed. If you’re already complaining about having to pee, I will pull this car over right now. Not to pee, but to kick you out. KEEP DRIVING.
Step 3 (12:30 or 1 p.m.): Stop driving. Are you bickering yet? You probably want to get out of the car as much as I do. Find a Cracker Barrel or some other suitably adorable and artery-hardening place and consume away. The buffet is your oyster. Are you driving next? If yes, go on to the next step. If no, eat way more than your companion and skip to step 5.
Step 4 (12:30 or 1 p.m.): Drink anything you want at lunch except for coffee or alcohol. You’re driving, and there will probably be hazards like semis careening down high-grade mountain inclines and mothers driving minivans in the fast lane. More coffee will make you jittery and alcohol is illegal, plus you’ll fall asleep after having waffles and a mimosa. Skip to step 6.
Step 5 (12:30 or 1 p.m.): Drink some alcohol. Chances are, you’re probably annoyed at your companion or she’s probably annoyed at you, and it would be better if one or both of you were drunk. Since it can’t be both of you and you’re not driving, it might as well be you. Have some drinks. Take a nap. Go the eff to sleep. Go on to the next step.
Step 6 (3:30 or 4 p.m.): Since your companion is probably not as much of a camel as you are, you’ll probably have to pull over at some disgusting gas station or another to go to the bathroom. Never concede who’s to blame, since both of you will end up using it anyway. To drown out the memory of what might have been alive in that toilet, get an Arnold Palmer or a Coke. Get something with a little caffeine–enough to get you over the midafternoon slump, but not enough to make you have to piss again. Repeat step 2, for the same reasons, then go on to step 7.
Step 7 (7 p.m.): Eat dinner at a safely mediocre chain restaurant because you don’t think your stomach can stand stand anymore charmingly deep-fried diner food. Did you drink at lunch? If yes, tough luck–it’s your turn to drive now. Drink water or Gatorade. Go on to the next step. If not, forget about that rabbit you ran over and drown your sorrows in an enormous and overpriced cocktail with a name you feel embarrassed to order. Go to step 5, then skip to step 8.
Step 8 (7:30 p.m.): This is your last convenience store stop before bedtime. Stock up on ill-advised snacks and prepare for impending philosophical discussions. Are you planning to drive past 10 p.m.? If not, skip to step 10. If so, now is the time for your last shot of caffeine. Make it count. Get something with taurine that speeds up your heart rate and is probably unsafe. My caffeine of choice is Monster, or Low-Carb Redbull if I’m feeling healthy. Go on to the next step.
Step 9 (7:45 p.m.): Buy good liquor or cheap beer for later–whatever you can find depending on the puritanical or not-so-pure liquor laws of your current location. Start thinking like Dean Moriarty and digging everything in sight. Rub your belly. Become thrilled by the sight of fireflies, the sunset over the Rockies, the old drunk hitchhiker, or the way the turn signal sometimes matches the beat of the song on your iPod. But come to grips with the fact that you’re actually more of a Sal Paradise. Hide the unopened bottles in the trunk, just in case.
Step 10 (Whenever you feel like you might lose your mind and you start hallucinating that every tree or highway stake is a human being about to jump into the road): Find a hotel. Look for freeway exits with lots of lights and a hotel with a name you recognize. Stay away from hotels with only semi trucks or any including the word “discount.” Did you buy alcohol? If not, skip to step 12. If so, go on to the next step.
Step 11 (You’ve lost track of time by this point): Slip the liquor or beer into a pillowcase and drag in your suitcases. Try to ignore how exhausted you feel. Sit cross-legged on one of the beds and pass the bottle back and forth. Start talking and tell secrets you meant to keep. Forget what you were saying and watch as your train of thought goes flying away without you. Keep talking. Keep drinking. If you’re conscious, go on to the next step. If you’re not, get conscious. I’ve written no more steps for you and you’ll be lost in the adventure void.
Step 12 (…): You’ve turned on the hotel TV and are watching infomercials and considering purchasing the Super Extra Heavy Duty Magic Slap ‘n’ ChopMaster. You’re boring and tired. Go to bed. In the morning, go on to the next step.
Step 13: Repeat steps 1-12 as many times as necessary to get where you’re going. I’m going to San Francisco. Meet me there and we’ll dig the town together.