Tips For Solo Road Trips

By Joan Stommen

Whether heading cross-country or around my home state, my #1 rule for road trippin’ is NOT to plan ahead too much or too far. However, you do need to prepare a bit before taking off.

✔️Gas, tires and brakes are in good shape. Having your car checked before a road trip is always a good idea. Just tell your mechanic, dealer or favorite car guy you want the fluids, belts and battery in good shape.

✔️Your directions and destination should be in your head…not GPSed or redlined on a map. Attention to navigation devices or handwritten notes is distracting in my opinion. Unless time of arrival is important or there’s no other option, avoid the interstates in favor of blue highways. Oh the people you’ll meet, the treasures you’ll find! I look up landmarks where I’ll need to turn and know what motels and restaurants are in the vicinity where I’ll probably stop for a night.

✔️Six hours driving time is enough at my age. I stop for 20–30 minutes of walking about every two hours. On back roads I find pasture paths or country lanes; at a four corners, there’ll be gas stations or fast food stops and in small communities an office park or playground along their main street. The day gets away from you if there’s an art fair or community garage sale in that quaint little town you discover coming around the bend. Never underestimate the anticipation and allure of open roads.

✔️I pack a small cooler with water, a small Pepsi in case I need a little caffeine, protein bars, veggies and fruit, my homemade trail mix and a turkey sandwich. Throw in a couple cacao squares for another pick-up if needed. I look forward to one proper meal each day…whether breakfast, lunch or dinner will depend on where I meander and the pull of trying something new.

✔️Connect to travel sites along the routes you’ll take to be aware of events and detours. In the old days, we stopped to ask what lie ahead. Sometimes I still do as local knowledge is still the best. Seemingly run-down diners and pizza joints have traditionally served made-from-scratch food long before farm to table was a thing! Serindepity and synchronicity are the best things about road trips. Finding new places, being welcomed by strangers and enjoying yourself…that’s traveling!

✔️Listen to music as you drive. My favorites are the oldies, but when station choices are a problem, I pop a CD in. On past trips it’s been John Melkencamp all through Indiana, John Denver as I navigated the Rocky Mountain switchbacks and Michigan’s Kid Rock and Bob Seger along the lakeshore on my way up north.

This summer, I’ve got a few short trips planned and a longer three-four day adventure driving south from Michigan to Florida come fall. The fun is in anticipation and discovery along the way! Remember to stop and smell the flowers, watch the sunset and exchange names with at least 1–2 new people! Mind your driving manners, take pictures, buy local and roll the windows down now and then. Roads grow the miles, traveling grows your soul!