Here’s a radical suggestion: The next time you have to take a long trip, drive it.
When’s the last time you saw someone actually excited about flying somewhere? Yes, they’re thrilled with the destination. But the process of getting from here to there – absolute misery. There are lines, lines, everywhere a line. The scrum to get on the plane morphs into a battle for overhead bin space. Your seat fits like a pair of size 0 jeans. And your wallet becomes an ATM for fees at every turn – cloaked by the industry smoke screen of “unbundling.”
Are you surprised that people are getting choked?
A few weeks ago, the death of a friend put a trip from Detroit to Palm Springs, Calif., on my schedule. Flying was possible but not necessarily inexpensive and certainly not comfortable.
I had a few days to get out to the desert. So, I saddled up my Jeep Patriot and drove. Stopped in Indianapolis and picked up fellow Palm Springs veteran who wanted to be at the memorial service. We covered about 2,400 miles in two days. Spent 36 hours in the desert. Then two days to get back.
The road trip was everything flying is not. We left on time. The seats were comfortable and no one complained if you reclined. The Patriot’s cargo hold swallowed up a couple of bags, a cooler and a restored five-dial clock rescued from a newspaper office in our past and spent 25 years in storage. A combination of SiriusXM satellite radio and my buddy’s iPod with thousands of songs provided the soundtrack.
What we saw was memorable. The world’s largest wind chime and golf tee in Casey, Ill. The Gateway Arch in St. Louis. A classic Hudson on a car hauler at a rest stop somewhere in Missouri. The vastness of the prairie in Oklahoma and Texas. The classic hotels of Route 66 in Tucumcari, N.M. Rain and a lightning show from a far-off storm in northern Arizona. The California desert suddenly interrupted by the lush green of the Coachella Valley. A simply amazing Mexican meal at a café in Santa Rosa, N.M.
There’s the thrill of seeing 75 mph as the posted speed limit in Oklahoma, Texas and California. I unleashed the manual-transmission Patriot. It effortlessly cruised at the limit and returned just under 30 mpg. The round trip of nearly 4,800 miles cost less than $230 in gas. Way less than a plane ticket.
This is a beautiful country. Hard to see much of that at 32,000 feet. Pictures will never substitute for seeing the real thing.
Today’s vehicles are comfortable, fuel efficient and mechanically robust. Those are key ingredients for a hassle-free trip.
Yes, there are trips where time is a factor, so squeezing into an aluminum tube is unavoidable. But if you can, make the time and take the scenic route.
Trips back out West loom for me. I’m tempted to ask the boss if I can drive.