Mariner and his wife were motivated to travel across the United States in their well-organized van; it is comfortably outfitted with a bed, efficient living quarters, and three van seats as well. On the road, it is a comfortable environment. On the road or just as importantly when one is off the road, broader, more challenging issues arise.
Mariner will not go into lurid details. Suffice it to say, one must understand the broadening opportunity behind one’s travel: peace and tranquility, exploration, cultural learning, new territories and new weather, but not just to get somewhere. As grossly dissatisfied as mariner is with all forms of commercial travel, if one wished only to be transplanted to another set of coordinates, fly, or take a train, or even a bus; use taxicabs and Uber. Do not plan on using your vehicle as a bus.
There is a tendency, if one is traveling with a tight schedule and a definite event at the end, to streamline the travel. Do not assume one is traveling; one is driving a bus – a bus with a schedule. If one is traveling farther than two days will allow, consider a commercial solution even if it means those waiting to greet one on the other end must go to great lengths to retrieve one from the nearest commercial point of disembarkation.
Some simple rules that will prevent one from busing:
Do not plan a daily itinerary from city to city. It seems efficient but it isn’t and often is more expensive. If one must endure several days driving a bus, do what mariner’s wife does: Make the first day a half day; travel only a few hours to an extra-city location. The next morning schedule a normal day’s travel so that rush hours are avoided and the next night’s stay also will be extra-city. In fact, horror of horrors for most folks, minimize interstate highways.
Determine a pleasant objective if nothing more than to see the world’s largest ball of string. Arrange lodging with that location in mind. One need not worry as often about the dreaded orange signs of road construction or the disaster of road closings that the GPS does not know about. One will not be bothered by traveling the world’s largest, most confusing interchanges while caught in rush hour. One need not be in the left lane of a busy, truck-laden, six-lane highway when suddenly the GPS suggests that one should be in the far right lane to take an exit in one quarter mile.
If, in fact a city is the destination for educational reasons, for example touring New York City, use commercial transportation – especially within the city. Leave consternation to the cabbie. (In NY, there is tourist trepidation in the subways; be sure to be adventuresome in one’s attitude)
Limit the range of daily travel. If one notes that the GPS says anything more than six hours, be wary of becoming a bus. Even if one is looking forward to touring a unique Aztec site, rearrange one’s schedule or perhaps insert an extra day and visit another spot of interest to keep daily travel to a minimum. Especially in the Southwest, deserts prevail and can place one in an awkward position without human support.
Never have a commitment within three days of the end of one’s projected travel. This leaves room to deliberately avoid busing. If one has an extra day, find some local characteristic to visit – even if it’s a discontinued seminary or a rundown gemstone store. (Mariner found the makings of a fine necklace for his wife in a gem and rock store where the front door could not open fully because of overgrown vines)
If one becomes tired, insert a stop at a tourist trap or take a tour of a small town. Do not travel tired. If the trip hours that day are properly short, extra stops will not endanger arriving at the last stop of the day; if they do, one is driving a bus. This also means bring entertainment along – more than one thinks they would need. Diversity is important: CDs, DVDs, laptop with wi-fi, books and magazines. Traveling with children and pets takes travel to another level; be sure to include entertainment and necessities for them, too.
Give serious planning to onboard capabilities. Keep food to prepared items. A very small cooler will suffice for perishables lasting a day or so. If the cooler must be replenished, use this as an excuse to stop at a local grocery. Further, be aware of vehicle environment, note the region one is traveling in and have a variety of clothing available. Also important is to carry all the items specified in an emergency travel kit. Mariner knows about needing a simple pair of cheap pliers to reconcile an issue.
In recent decades, commercialism has trained us to seek standardized expectations. For example, brand hotels and restaurant chains supposedly are the only places to use while traveling. Nonsense. Nonbrand businesses won’t hurt a traveler and provide a different kind of pleasantness that is much more memorable. Ever stay in a six-unit motel where one is wakened by a bleating goat? Can’t beat it for non-bus travel.
Finally, make a thorough list of toiletries, lotions, medicines, reading glasses, toothpicks, penknife, aids like hearing aids and batteries of all kinds; check it twice when loading for the trip.
Remember, the trip is for education, inspiration, enjoyment and fellowship – oh and yes, don’t forget one has a final destination at some point.
And really finally, don’t forget your bathing suit.