you can look right through me, pass right by me…..
This is a little sadder song than the Sammy Davis Jr. I posted earlier today, but perhaps this fits my mood better. From the movie Chicago.
Please listen with a little charity.
perhaps this is the way I feel today
shipwrecked and alone, counting the days
Some say a good road trip is a great way to spend your vacation, or a great way to spend any time you have with your girl, or any time you don’t have to do something else for that matter.
My very first long-distance road trip was from my place in the North of England to a little villa on a vineyard in Tuscany. At it’s very best that’s 24 solid hours driving, assuming no delays, and that you don’t go out of your way sightseeing and driving mountain roads just for the sake of it. All told it’s a drive of around 1,350 miles, each way. Perhaps I was being optimistic to think my Triumph TR6 would make it there and back without breaking down, at least once. (I was younger and better-looking then.)
In my opinion, there are seven essentials for a successful road trip:
- A cool car.
- Enough money.
- The right girl.
- A great driving road.
- Good weather.
- A relaxed attitude to deadlines and commitments.
- Time. Lots and lots of time.
Not necessarily in order of importance ~ however, if you don’t have all seven then your road trip adventure isn’t going to be all you hoped it would be.
If you are using your own car, then you also need to take along a decent tool kit, some spares, and the knowledge to use both.
It is vitally important that the girl riding shotgun is someone who you really like hanging out with, because you are going to be spending a lot of time cooped-up together. That has been my mistake on more than one occasion, because taking a long road trip with the wrong girl can give new meaning to the concept that there are sixty minutes in every hour, and twenty-four hours in every day.
(It helps if she knows how to take a great picture.)
There are three kinds of road trip;
- Where the destination is important. Usually the time is also important. You have to be in say; Tuscany by Tuesday…
- Where you have organised everything in advance, including booking your overnight accommodations.
- Where the destination is immaterial and time is of no pressing importance. Except perhaps, you have to go back to work in a couple of weeks or so.
Guess which type of road trip is the best? But then, you do what you want as long as you stay cool and relaxed.
As an example of organising everything in advance was a road trip I took down the Loire Valley. Because I wanted to stay in a different château each night, this all had to be booked and paid for before I set off. (If the girl riding shotgun is the least bit ‘precious’ don’t make her pack all her luggage in the back of a tiny 7 ~ or she will sulk.)
For my next road trip I want to follow as much as I can of the old Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica, ending with dinner at The Lobster. Say 2,200 miles. For something shorter there’s the PCH which runs from Orange County in Southern California to Mendocino County in the North. About 600 miles. What the hell, I have the time and money to do both, preferably in a muscle car.
pictures by jack collier
and the girl riding shotgun
One of my friends is taking their first overseas trip in twenty-something years. That set me thinking a little.
I spent 30 years travelling to most places in Europe and North America, unluckily I also went to some more ‘off the map’ destinations ~ such as Ankara, Mexico City and Moscow. Most of these trips were ‘on business’ some were vacations, and some were both. I’ve been arrested, caught all kinds of unmentionable illnesses, been delayed at the airport for 72 hours, held on a non-moving aircraft for 8 hours, arrived at the wrong airport, returned to the wrong UK airport, been mugged by 3 Romanian girls in Rome, got ripped-off innumerable times, held at gunpoint in Nassau, worked / travelled / worked again for an entire week, lost my car at a London Airport, got utterly and completely lost in the middle of nowhere, lost my luggage innumerable times, been stuck in the dark in the Channel Tunnel for hours, and hours and hours….
Well you get the picture. Travel is often misery. International travel is often a lot worse than that.
There are some things one can do to alleviate one’s suffering. My ‘rules for travel’ are:
- Don’t go anywhere you don’t know anyone, or at least have a contact.
- Make certain all of your documentation is in order and in date. Passport, visa and driving licence are my starting point. Then check with the appropriate consulate, Foreign Office, State Department. This can usually be done on-line.
- Get all of the necessary injections.
- Book direct with the airline / hotel / car hire firm / travel insurance company, on-line or by telephone. Shop around. Check for deals and discounts. It costs me exactly nothing whatsoever to call a number in the USA using Google.
- Do not use budget airlines, down-market hotels, or car rental firms that don’t have a desk at your destination airport. Book coach on a decent airline, standard room at a decent hotel / motel. Personally I always rent an upmarket car.
- Study the geography so you know where you are going and where your layovers are. For example, transferring at Chicago ORD means you will be delayed.
- Pack no more than carry-on luggage, and check size and weight restrictions for that. (They have stores in most cities one can fly to.) Take some stuff which will allow you to look smart and clean at all times. In my case this is a shirt to change into during the journey, hand wipes, battery razor.
- Take at least twice as much money as you can possible imagine you will need. Check currency import regulations. Take at least 3 debit / credit cards, and know your PIN numbers.
- Plan on arriving a couple of hours early at airports / railway stations / ferry terminals.
- Have a fat book / tablet to keep you occupied during the interminable waiting.
- NEVER, EVER, EVER lose your temper with anyone ~ no matter how great the temptation.
- Keep your documentation, cash and credit cards very very safe at all times. Keep your carry-on bag with you at all times.
- Don’t pay for early boarding. This only means you will be at the back of the plane and getting off last. Getting on the plane last means that you get off first, (after First and Business Class travellers.)
- Don’t drink any booze during your journey.
- Try and sleep, go to the lavatory, stretch your legs in the aisle during the flight.
- Because you only have a carry-on bag and will be getting off the plane early you can probably stroll through customs and get to the car rental desk avoiding the crowds.
- Get a navigation system (sat nav), and check over your rental very, very carefully. Photograph any damage.
- If you haven’t rented a car, then take a taxi from the rank. Don’t use a gypsy cab, limo, or public transport. (except when arriving at a London Airport, when you should take the tube / surface train ~ better to rent a car)
- Learn your car before you get into the traffic. Set the sat nav. Know exactly where your hotel / friend / contact is located. Drive very, very carefully.
- Watch out for the 99% of the people you will meet who will try to rip you off.
- Do not expect anyone to be helpful, efficient, or polite. Be pleasantly surprised if they are.
- Attempt to speak the local language. Even in the States, US English is different from English English. Learn the local customs, and do it Fast.
- When the shit hits the fan, and it will, be polite and helpful. Do Not lose your temper.
- Have a nice day.
As it goes, all of the above is common sense, but so many times I have seen people get into very, very serious trouble for breaking any one, (worse more than one), of the above guidelines / rules. Sleeping on the beach isn’t the worst than can happen to you.