Road Trip

Well, my brother-in-law’s brother is paying me to drive his car from New York to Seattle in June.

I can’t $%&@# wait. I thought about asking a friend to come with me, but I decided I’d like to drive alone. Then I can stop when I have to stop, listen to the music I want to hear, sing at the top of my lungs, etc. etc.

Anyone who’s gone on long road trips have any suggestions or funny stories?

I’m taking the northern route (I-90) because I want to see The Badlands and Montana. Does anyone living along the way want to rent me a bed for the night?

Get a cell phone for emergencies!

–Your Jewish Mama

WOW! That is GREAT!

You should get your hands on a copy of Bill Bryson’s The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America and read it before you go.

A friend might not be a bad idea…sure, doing it solo sounds like fun now, but what about when you’re halfway between Spearfish, South Dakota, and Moorcroft, Wyoming, and you start to hear a funny noise under the hood? Not to mention lonesomeness. And armed brigands. and timber wolves. Some backup could come in handy.

Send me postcards, okay?

Head straight north from Montana and you’ll run right into Edmonton. Lots of free bed space here.

I second the notion to bring a friend. Preferrably someone who won’t mind peeing into a mayonaise jar while you drive so you won’t have to stop. And never drink large quantities of grape juice before setting off for a long stretch of driving.

I did a long road trip with 4 friends and it was a blast. The best part was being able to relive the experience with them afterward and laughing about the stupid things we did.


Why would you want to see Montana? Trust me it’s dead boring, with rarely a stray cow to look at.

I drove from Detroit (thereabouts) to LA last October, and you will need someone to keep you sane (and from falling asleep) along the way.

Take your camera and lots of water. Dehydration will cause sleepiness, and all the caffeinated/sugared drinks in the world won’t help. Make sure you have AAA and a cel phone, because towns can be few and far between along the highways.

Get the guy whose car it is to give you gas and emergency repair money.

Other than that, I’ve heard the trip you’re taking is nice. I have a friends who’s done it a few times.

I agree. It really cements a friendship. The tales afterwards are the best part

Just make sure the friends are road-trip types. I used to go down to DC for a few days each week as a consultant, so that stretch of I-95 was like my own back yard. But when I took a vacation to Virginia with a friend who turned out to be a little less hardy than me (okay, she turned out to be a freaking princess) … well, even though we’d been very close for years before that rip, I never quite saw her the same afterwards.

Ever tried peeing in a mayonaise jar without a penis, Thing? T’aint the easiest task in the world.

I also vote for Bring a Friend. One who doesn’t talk all the time. One who can change a flat (in case you can’t) and knows the radiator from the engine. And take lots of pictures.

I’d suggest heading north through Michigan/upper peninsula and driving through the top tier of states or even Canada as opposed to taking a route south of Lake Michigan. That way you’ll avoid IN, IL, IA, NE, the Dakotas, etc. - the Midwest has its good points but is extremely boring to drive through.

I agree that taking a friend is a good idea, but I’ve driven alone from Chicago to Florida and Chicago to Arizona alone more than once, and LOVED it - I was so totally alone and free and self-sufficient. To me, scenery is the key. Plan to be well-rested for the boring parts. If I have scenery I can drive nonstop for days.


Man, I love a long road trip! I’ve done cross-country (roughly) and back 3 times with my family.

Suggestions? Well, we took a route similar to yours on my last trip (although rather than going all the way to Seattle, we headed north after Montana and headed back East through Canada). Some of the things we had great fun seeing (on that trip and others):

[ul][li]Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan[/li][li]Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin[/li][li]Tommy Bartlett’s Ski & Sky show in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin[/li][li]Lumberjack Rodeo in Hayward, Wisconsin[/li][li]Mall of America, Bloomington, Minnesota[/li][li]Museum of Questionable Medical Devices, Minneapolis, Minnesota[/li][li]Tour of the Pilot Training facility, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota[/li][li](As you already seem to know) Badlands National Park, South Dakota[/li][li]Shrine to Music Museum, Vermillion, South Dakota[/li][li]Black Hills Reptile Gardens, Keystone, South Dakota[/li][li]Mount Rushmore. Sure, it’s a tourist trap, but it’s also an awe-inspiring feat of engineering. If you’ve never seen it before, do so; if you have, though, nothing has changed.[/li][li]Little Bighorn National Battlefield, Montana[/li][li]Dip south of I-90 to US 16 in Wyoming. See the Cody Nite (sic) Rodeo in Cody, Wyoming[/li][li]Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, Wyoming. You can exit Yellowstone north and head to Bozeman, Montana, which will put you back on I-90.[/li][li]Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA[/li][li]Boeing Assembly Plant, Everett, WA[/li][/ul]

As for whether or not to bring someone…for safety’s sake, it’s probably a good idea not to be alone. On the other hand, if it weren’t my wife, I don’t think I’d have wanted the company. A toss-up, but I’d say go with the safety, and just establish some ground rules for your companion that she’s not allowed to complain about your musical choices and the like.

One more thing: Don’t ever let yourself dip below 1/2 tank of gas without immediately filling up again; on a route like that you could get pretty far from the next gas station. And, if you get a flat tire, replace the spare immediately. I can’t emphasize this enough. You may not have that extra day or two with 4 good tires that you can afford to wait and hope your brother-in-law is stuck with the tab.


Slimming Ruggers and the others have some good points about bringing someone along BUT if you want to go it alone, by all means do so. I much prefer driving alone on long road trips. After a short while I get in a groove and the miles just roll by. I seldom even stop to eat. The only thing I’m real careful about is getting sleepy. If I start to feel that way I pull off and catnap for 20 minutes or so. If you’re worried about a breakdown join AAA. (Or AA first, if necessary!)

I’ve driven from Peoria to Seattle solo three or four times and it was a lot of fun. The nice thing is that once you hit South Dakota you no longer have to steer. And you can see the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD!!

Actual sites to see along the way – Mt. Rushmore is a bit of a detour but worth it. The Badlands are great – there’s a scenic route that parallels the interstate. Yellowstone Park is a possibility but it’s more than a slight diversion and it’s busy in June. But my favorite all-time must-see, can’t miss tourist attraction is the Custer monument at the Little Bighorn River in Montana. It’s just off the interstate and very, very interesting. They have a diorama at the visitor’s center that gives you a good idea of the way things went, and then you can walk around the actual battlefield and it’s very easy to imagine the scene unfolding. (Here’s a hint: Custer was STUPID! There’s this skinny ridge that their little group marched along in broad daylight, in plain view of about nine gazillion Crow and Sioux Indians. They got to the end of the ridge and decided to fight it out. “Hey General! You take those two hundred redskins over there and the men and I will get the rest, OK?”)

There are long stretches with little to offer in the way of scenery (i.e., Wyoming), but for the most part the views are nice, especially in the Rockies. There aren’t a lot of big towns along the way but the little ones are nice. By all means stop and have a meal at the 4B’s in Missoula. When you drive through Kellogg, ID, you might take a minute to reflect that your good friend pluto spent a few scary minutes there in a car going about 40 mph on its roof! (This was not on a solo trip. I wasn’t driving. It’s not my fault!)

Mrs. Pluto and I would be happy to put you up but we live at the western terminus of your trip and I presume you already have arrangements in Seattle. If not, let me know.

I’ve done that cross country thing three times - it’s loads of fun if you’re a true masochist!

I did Baltimore to Seattle to L.A. to Memphis to Baltimore.

Then I moved from Baltimore to Portland

About ten months ago I flew to Tampa to help my friend drive to Portland. Aided by the rejuvenating power of St. Ides (Our motto: Malt Liquor Gets You There Quicker) , we did the whole 3,200 mile trip in about 36 hours with a stunning total of 2 hours of sleep.

You should:

Drop by Chicago. Cecil has a standing offer to all dopers - his guest room for the night and all the jerky you can eat.

Have the car break down in Wisconsin. I did, and I while I was stuck somewhere just past the End of Time, I met some of the nicest people on this godforsaken continent. And I stocked my trunk with rediculously cheap merchandise from a local Wal-Mart.

Drive as quickly as you can through Minnesota. This “State” may drive you to drink.

Stop in Sioux Falls, SD and climb on some of the cool rock formations along the falls. Oh yeah, and marvel at the stench of rank livestock auctions.

The badlands are baddass. Get out of your car, stretch your legs and just try to get a good picture without some guy in a Hawaiian shirt or some brat throwing rocks in it. Damn RVs.

If you want a detour that will REALLY pay off, go through NW Wyoming to Yellowstone. This will easily eat up at least two days.

Montana is spectacularly mundane. Stop and crack up at the sign that says, “You are now entering Butte”. I laugh even now. And feel free to take the guided tour of Insane White Separatists.

Idaho is gorgeously green and mountainous up north. And the local streets are actually paved with gold.

If you were a Northern Exposure Fan, right before the mountains of Washington State, make sure to stop in Rosyln (sp?). That’s where they filmed the series - stop at the Brick for a cold pint of local brew. You’ll learn all sorts of juicy gossip about the cast and crew.

If you’re doing this the first week of June, I’ll be in Seattle for a Mariner’s game and I’d love to meet you.

And most importantly, bring a small figurine you can put on the dashboard and talk to. Some of the truckers thought I was a bit strange, but they didn’t say anything because my friend on the dashboard was Godzilla and you don’t mess with him.

Sounds like fun.

DEFINITELY take a companion. Even if you think you never get highway hypnosis, you will after the first fifteen hours or so. Just take someone who is excited enough to be included in the adventure to be flexible about the music, stops, singing, car-dancing, etc…or pay them enough to be flexible… :slight_smile:

The added bonus is that you can take turns reading to one another in the bleak areas where the radio stations are few and far between after you’ve become sick of all the music you own.

Essentials include: books, music, a tent, sugary snacks, lots of water, swim suits and towels readily available for taking a dip in charming mountain streams. Oh, and money. And the cellphone sounds like a good idea.

All the suggestions above for stopping places have been great. I always like just picking out places with funny-sounding names near the route and stopping for a bit. Gets you off of the interstates, where no one should be for too long, and into little places like Only, Tennessee, where a friend and I together drove past the town three times in as many minutes. Turns out it’s only one little old shack serving as gas station, library, post office, general store, and coffee shop. Met some charming people. Makes for a nice, tourist-free break.

I did lots of these trips during undergrad; our preferred mode of transportation was a beat-up, on-its-last-legs old car. We were usually bone-tired after exams, with no money, and a cross, yowly cat for whom we had to drive nocturnally because she would get over-heated. Ah, the good old days.

  • Paradocs

I love road trips!! I drove from Kansas to Dayton, Ohio last October… me, my 2 year old daughter and my 1 month old son! It was kind of a pain in the ass for me because everytime I stopped for gas, food, or to go to the bathroom I had to take both kids in with me, which was kind of difficult. But I used to go on road trips by myself all the time when I was single/childless! The highlight of the trip was when I got pulled over for going 80 mph in a 55 mph work zone!! Plus I had my 22 pistol loaded, cocked, and ready to fire in my glove compartment!! The cop was pretty nice though. He looked at my sleeping children in the back of the car and asked me where I was going. When I told him I was going to visit my grandparents in Ohio because they hadn’t seen my children… he let me off with a warning!

Also, I went from Kansas to Jacksonville back in January with my boyfriend (now ex-boyfriend). We drove straight through… it took 20 hours. We had so much fun though. My kids were in the back seat of the truck (Dodge Ram 3500 Diesel - great for travelling in) and slept most of the time. Sean and I talked the whole time, we’d stop and eat and let the kids play and stretch out. We stayed there for about 3 days and then had to come back. The drive back was the same… we talked a lot and listened to the radio and there were a few times when it was just nice to sit back and enjoy the view! It was a blast.

I know that I would definately carry a cell phone. You never know what’s gonna happen! And always pull over and sleep whenever you feel tired!!

Have a great time!!

I almost forgot – you will see a multitude of signs telling you how far you are from Wall Drug in South Dakota. This may suggest to your mind that Wall Drug is a bit of a tourist trap. It is, notable only for having absolutely nothing of any value whatsoever to offer, except the signs. If you want souvenirs stop at the $10,000 Silver Dollar Bar in Lincoln MT.

Also, with regard to the cell phone. Cell phones only work if there are cells. As you are passing through the miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles that are the Great Plains you will almost certainly be out of range of the nearest cell most of the time.

If you do go to Yellowstone stop at Lewis & Clark caverns just north (and a little west) of the park in Montana.

The Boeing assembly plant tour is fun and it’s free, but it’s only available a few times a day. Everett is a little ways (less than an hour) north of Seattle, so you have to include the drive time in your calculations. If you want more info, let me know. I can also get you into the Museum of Flight for free but one of you will have to be Pluto and the other Mrs. Pluto.

Thank you all for your great replies!!

Here’s a little background before I get to responding:

I have taken tons of road trips in my life, some with friends, some with family, some alone. Trust me, I know the boredom and banality of driving long distances alone, funny thing - but I like being alone!

For safety reasons though, I have decided to invite a friend. My first selection is my dearest best friend, Tommy. He just quit his job as a paralegal in a Manhattan law firm and moved to his parent’s summer home on Cape Cod to sail and windsurf all summer. Since this trip is all expenses paid, I think he’d be able to come.

The only problem is that Tom and I completely opposite tastes in music. We argue about music all the time, too. Well, it could make the trip more interesting - the one who’s driving is the DJ or something. But that could cause problems after 1,000 miles, too. We’ll see - if Tommy can’t/won’t come, I’m going to ask my saxophone teacher Brian. (I’ll get him to go by calling it a ‘tour’)

Eve - Dear friend, I already have a cell phone!

Uke - Can I borrow that book? I promise to send postcards to anyone who provides an address.

Canadian Sue - Thanks for the offer! I just might take you up on it!

Thing - You sound fun - wanna come?

Suo Na - I want to see Montana at the top speed their car can achieve!

KP & SwimmingRiddles - Suggestions noted! I will be scrutinizing and getting background checks on everyone.

Sulla - I have family and friends in Chicago/Wisconsin/Minnesota so I’ll have to go that same boring route. It sucks, I know.

**cmkeller & pluto ** - great suggestions! I’ll take in all I can. Pluto - let’s hang out anyway!

Sake - I think it’s going to be late June. Will you come up to Seattle anyway? I want to shake your hand and buy you several drinks.

Paradocs - I think I may take some smaller roads and detours. Great idea.

Rachelle - thanks!

You may never see a nicer place than South Dakota. You may never meet nicer people than South Dakotians. If your car breaks down and someone stops, and someone will stop, they are stopping to help and not to rob you. Wall Drugs is a bit of a tourist trap but you don’t have to buy anything. Take pictures though and fill up your jug with free ice water. The Badlands are awesome—look out for the buffalo (bison). And while driving the western part of the state, look out for antelope on the highway. Go to Deadwood and do a little gambling and see where Wild Bill was murdered. Saloon Number 7 is still in business. But the hotel in downtown Deadwood is haunted. Go through Rapid City and do visit Mt. Rushmore. You cannot help but be impressed by that. Also, see the Custer National Forest and feed the wild burros there.

I loved SD and if my ex-wife would just leave, or preferably die, I might go back.

I’ve done the cross country thing. Seattle to D.C. and agree with most of the suggestions made.

Sleep is the most important thing to worry about. If time is relatively unlimited then stop frequently. On my trip I was with a friend and had all the time in the world to get to D.C. (we took about 15 days) but had to return to Seattle in three days. I don’t remember Ohio on the return trip - and I was the one driving!

If you have the time, I recommend following the I-90 route but don’t use it all the way through. The best way to travel is off of the interstate. You see the most interesting thing this weekend.

My favorite thing to do with my SO is to just get in the car and wander aimlessly, the only rule being that we can not get onto an interstate. This will let you see the real America.

If you don’t have anything specific to see, I would recommend going into Canada through Niagra Falls and wander through Canada, crossing back into the United States in Michigan.

As far as your friend goes, compatability is important. Fortunately I have no interest in music so I didn’t care what my friend listened to, but I know it would become important for most people.

Have fun. If you see some that looks interesting then stop. If you get all the way across the country and never had to use a gas pump older than your parents then you didn’t get far enough off the interstate.

Oh! If you are going to be driving into the night and off of the interstate, manage your gas carefully.

"Ever tried peeing in a mayonaise jar without a penis, Thing? T’aint the easiest task in the world. "

No Swimming Riddles, I never tried it. Of course I never had to as mine is always handy. Besides, nobody said it would be easy.
"Thing - You sound fun - wanna come? "

Thanks for the invite, but I can’t make it this time. If you are serious about the post cards, e-mail me and I’ll get you my address.


Saxy, it looks like you have plenty of advice, so I won’t pile on any more. If you find yourself wanting to stop in Ohio, the I-80/90 toll road has an exit about 5 miles south of my apartment. I’d be happy to host you and your friend for a night.