8 ways to survive a 637 mile car trip in just one day — and make it amazing.

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I love highway driving and I love long road trips most of all, even if I’m driving alone.   Most experts recommend that for anything over 400 or 500 miles, you should think about staying somewhere overnight and splitting your trip into two days.  It’s good advice, but because I want to spend more time wherever I’m going and less time actually traveling (and saving money by not spending it for an extra night at a motel along the way), I never follow that advice, as sound as it may be.   For anything under 700 miles, I make the whole drive in a day.

I’ve made at least five car trips from North Carolina to the greater New York and New Jersey area, and I clocked those trips at 637 miles one way.  Amazingly,  the Tampa Bay area where my son lives is exactly the same distance from my home in North Carolina as those trips to the greater New York area were — and take about the same amount of hours to traverse.  I also once drove from New York to Chicago in just one day — that was a slightly longer trip at close to 800 miles — but that was a little too much.   I’d definitely split that into two days if I ever had to to it again.

There are apps and online programs that tell  you how long a car trip should take, but you should always add about two hours to it.  Those calculations they give you don’t take into account the various stops you will need to make along the way — and if you’re driving alone (or even if you aren’t), you WILL have to stop.   You can get exhausted and stiff as a board from sitting in a car all day, not to mention you will definitely need to relieve yourself from time to time and fill your gas tank.

Since I’m experienced at one day long road trips and have done so many of them,  I’m going to offer some tips to make your trip not only tolerable, but utterly enjoyable.  I for one, consider the road trip part of the vacation itself — even the road trip back.    As far as I’m concerned, the vacation isn’t over until I’ve stepped inside my house.   The actual road trip is definitely part of the pleasure of a vacation.  I can’t even imagine taking a plane for trips like these because the driving part has become such an integral part of it for me.    There’s a delicious feeling of freedom and adventure driving along the highway, especially when the scenery is lovely and you make music a part of it.

Here are eight things I do to make my long road trips not only tolerable, but an absolute blast.

1. Before your road trip, make sure your car is road worthy and in good shape for a long trip.  Check your fluids, get your oil changed, and get any repairs made beforehand.  If your tires look worn, it’s a good time to replace them.  There’s nothing worse than breaking down on the side of the road 400 miles from your home in an unfamiliar or remote place, especially if you know no one there.  It’s happened to me and believe me, it’s a nightmare and you’ll waste much of your trip with car repairs and towing, not to mention wasting money.

2. Time your trip well.  Leave early enough — preferably very early morning, or even at dawn, to start your trip.   That way you won’t be rushed, and can actually enjoy the drive instead of stressing out over the possibility of being late or arriving late at night — and absolutely exhausted. In my case, I try to time my trips so no to very little time is spent driving after dark — since I don’t see well at night.

3. If you leave at dawn (as I do), there’s something almost otherworldly yet serene about an empty highway with only you (and maybe a few early morning truckers) on the road.   It’s a very zen-like feeling, and you feel like the whole world consists of just you, your car, and the road.   It’s an incredibly peaceful feeling.  Just be sure to carry a thermos of coffee so you don’t fall asleep!

4. Pace yourself.   Never try to drive straight through to your destination without stopping.   Even if you’ve brought along snacks and don;t plan on stopping to eat anywhere, you will almost certainly need to stop for gas or to use the restroom.   Whenever you stop, get out of the car and walk around, stretching all your limbs and getting the blood running through them.   You will be surprised at how stiff and sore your muscles will feel after hours of nonstop driving (or sitting in the passenger seat).   It can be worse than after a workout at the gym!  Spend about ten or fifteen minutes just walking around or stretching.   When you get back in your car you will feel awake and refreshed — and a lot less sore.

5. Stock up before your trip with high energy, healthy, but light snacks.  Granola bars, trail mix, nuts, high energy but filling fruit such as bananas, orange slices in a plastic container,  juice, water and coffee will keep you going without filling you up so much you feel heavy and sleepy.     Cheese sticks or slices will give you the protein you need, but nuts will too if you prefer those.  I don’t like to eat big meals along the road, because they always make me fall asleep.    Keep a thermos of coffee that will last most of the day.  Water is better than soda — if you don’t like the taste of plain water, stock a small cooler filled with naturally flavored sparkling water.  It tastes like soda but is much better for you.  Make sure it’s sweetened with real sugar or a sugar substitute like aspartame if you can’t eat sugar, but avoid anything with high fructose corn syrup.

6. Enjoy the scenery and local customs.   Even in the most seemingly boring locales, there’s always something of local interest to enjoy.   If you stop for gas, look around at the local fare at the gas stations (you may find things there you never saw before and want to try), and spend time people watching to get a feel of the local culture.  Listen to the local accents too.   If the scenery is breathtaking, just enjoy it — but avoid taking pictures unless you’ve stopped the car to take them (or are with a companion who can take them for you).

7. If at all possible, make your road trips take place on weekends.   There’s a lot less traffic on the highways, and you won’t run into annoying rush hour traffic, which can slow you down and make your trip stressful and less pleasurable.   Also, on the weekends, you won’t have to deal with as many semi-trucks and 18 wheelers, which can sometimes become intimidating when you find yourself boxed in by them on the highway.  That probably won’t happen on a Saturday or Sunday.

And finally, this is probably the most important of all —

8. Make music a big part of your road trip.    A road trip just isn’t quite right without a soundtrack to go with it.   If you enjoy listening to the radio, there’s something compelling about just flipping around the stations and finding music you like.  Personally, I love to listen to stations come in and fade out as you enter new cities and regions.   It gives me a feeling of vast distances and a kind of ineffable mystery.   It’s hard to explain but I love it.    I also enjoy listening to my own music on road trips.   If you have a special “road song” you love and that fills you with energy or happiness while you drive, turn it into your own driving anthem.   Here’s mine — the feeling of freedom this song conveys makes me want to roll down my windows all the way and sing as loud as I can along to it:

 

Further reading:

15 Things I Love and Hate About Long Road Trips

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Pink Paradise: Lake Hillier, Australia

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When I first saw these pictures of Lake Hillier, a saline (salt) lake located in Middle Island, Western Australia, I thought they were Photoshopped, but they are quite real.   I think this lake is fascinating.   It looks like it could be on another planet.

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Here is a short article I found that describes how it gets its bright pink color (edited and shortened).

In Australia, precisely in Middle Island, there is a lake that can amaze anyone who visit it. The lake is named Lake Hillier. The unique color of the lake is the primary attraction for tourists that come to visit. The pink color is thought to come from the micro-organism Dunaliella salina and Halobacteria, but some say that the pink color caused by red halophilic bacteria in high concentrations salt.

In Australia, Lake Hillier became a favorite destination for tourists. Pink water in Lake Hillier is safe if exposed to human skin. Travelers who come here can play in the water or even swim freely.  Because the location of Lake Hillier is in the middle of the wilderness and the size is more than 600 meters, Lake Hillier can only be seen fully from the air. Lake Hillier was discovered in 1802 by British explorer Matthew Flinders.  Hillier is not the only one lake that have a pink color in the world. Lake Retba in Senegal also has the same color as Lake Hillier.

Lake Hillier – Magical Pink Lake of Australia ! | Tourism-Spot.com

Going with the flow.

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I wanted to get up early and walk on the beach at sunrise, but I guess I was so exhausted from my long drive yesterday and busy evening (also stayed up late blogging about it and chatting with my son) that my body needed extra sleep, and I didn’t get up until about 1 PM!

No worries though.  My son has to work all night tonight so he was still asleep too.   I quietly ate some cereal and headed out. I decided to go back to Rees Park, where we witnessed the sun set last night.   I felt like it was calling me back.  This time I had the presence of mind to wear a swimsuit.

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The day was hot, very hot–95 degrees and very sunny.    I drove to Rees Park and immediately smelled the ocean smell and felt the soothing sea breeze, making it seem cooler.    I noticed that unlike last night when we were there, the tide was coming in.  There were no sandbars and there were very small waves (really, more like ripples), and a lot less of the beach was visible.   Banks of puffy white clouds dotted the horizon against the bright, almost electric blue of the sky.

I took off my sandals and stepped into the water.  It was as warm as bathwater!  So unlike the ocean water further north, even as far south as Myrtle Beach. Of course, this was the Gulf, a smaller body of water than the Atlantic Ocean, so that probably had a lot to do with the very warm temperature.

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I waded out into the water, and when I looked down, I saw small schools of tan colored fish swimming around my feet.  I squeezed my toes into the very fine, silt-like sand, an lowered myself into the water.   It was like sinking into a bathtub, only so much better.

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I closed my eyes and used the rest of my senses to feel nature around me.  I felt the ripples gently rocking me, and I just let my body respond to that, rolling over and floating and stretching every part of me that could be stretched.  I breathed in the salty air and listened to the seagulls on the shore.  I scooped up some of the silt-like sand into my hands, and squeezed the water out of it until the claylike substance squeezed out between my fingers and left a small ball in my hands.   I looked at it and could see many tiny shells and fragments of shells studded throughout the ball.    It felt so nice in my hands I decided to rub it all over my arms and then lifted my legs out of the water and rubbed some of it on those too.

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I looked around me and saw a few other people, also just relaxing and enjoying nature.    I had a short conversation with a woman lying in the water nearby, who was visiting her mother.   She said this was better than going to a spa, and I agreed.

I just sat there, not caring that the tide was now getting dangerously close to where I’d laid my things.  I looked down into the clear greenish water and then looked out where it seemed to stretch out into infinity, becoming dark blue as it receded into the distance.   I looked down again and there were those little fish swimming all around me, as if protecting me.    I looked back at the beach and gazed at the palm trees and listened to the hissing of their fronds in the gentle breeze.    For a rare moment, I was completely in the moment, not worrying about the future or fretting over something in the past.  I just was me, just a part of nature.  Not my ego or my achievements or my failures or my fear or my anger or my shame.   Just me.

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I felt the healing energy of the sun, sand and water that cradled me, and realized that this was all God’s doing.   It wasn’t the water rocking and comforting me, it was God holding me gently and using the warm water to do that.  I never felt like I got that from my family or anyone else I loved, but God has always been there, always ready to hold and comfort me.  All I had to do was ask and be open to it.   I felt a lump of gratitude form in my throat and thanked him for bringing me to this place.   Through grace, I knew I would be healed, that one day my mental disorders would be a thing of the past.

When I got back to the apartment, I found out an answer to an earlier prayer was answered favorably.   I think that has everything to do with what I found out on the beach today.

Getting ready for my road trip next week!

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The Florida Gulf Coast before a storm (credit: my son)

I haven’t taken a long road trip since 2008! That’s WAYYYY too long. But after 8 long years, I’m getting ready for another one. Today I got my oil changed and my tires checked to make sure my car is road worthy for the 700 mile trip. I took Monday off so I’m going to Goodwill to look for an inexpensive travel bag. (I also have an emergency appointment with my therapist).

Next week, most likely next Sunday when the traffic on the highways is a little lighter, I’m driving to Port Richey, Florida, to visit my son for a whole week. I saw him in April when he came here to visit for a few days, but I’m dying to see his place (he lives in a nice apartment complex with a pool and a hot tub). I’ll be staying there to save money instead of staying in a hotel. He lives close to the beach, so we will also be hitting the beach a few times. He wasn’t able to get days off from work, but his hours are variable and I’m sure we’ll have a lot of time to spend together. He’s as excited as I am, and is planning to take me to a couple of his favorite eateries, of course the beach, and also fishing!

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The water looks like molten gold.

Hopefully the weather holds up. The Gulf Coast can be iffy this time of year since it’s the middle of hurricane season. I really need this trip, not only to see my son but also to get away and just relax near the ocean and see some new sights. The timing couldn’t be better, since I’ve been so triggered and upset lately. I think this trip is just what I need and will help me regroup and get my head and my emotions together.

I’m bringing my laptop with me because I will continue to blog while in Florida, and will post pictures every day of my adventures with my son. Gosh, I can’t wait!

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My son in Clearwater last year.

I think this might be what heaven looks like.

These pictures were taken on a beach in the Maldives (no, I didn’t take them–I don’t know who the photographer is), where the plankton in the water makes the beaches there glow.   These photos are not tampered with.  I think this is probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.   I must find a way to go there someday!

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The organisms responsible for the magical glow.

These photos appeared on the Twitter account @ThatBucketList