Learn to love road trips
By Aidan Mouellic, Staff Writer
Last week I found myself with a bit of time on my hands. In the past year or so, the longest I had been away from Vancouver was a couple nights in Wisconsin, so I decided that a jaunt out of town was called for. I only had a week and a half of time to spare and wanted to maximize my adventure. As convenient as flying is, last-minute flights are often expensive and when flying, you don’t get to see much except your destination.
So I decided to leave Vancouver and head south for California by car. I’d never taken a long road trip, but I quickly fell in love with the slower pace and the constant roadside sights. I learnt my first lesson of road tripping very quickly: plan your driving to avoid traffic and busy borders. As a novice road tripper, I was naive in my belief that I would cruise south without any issues.
Heading to my first stop of Portland, my Interstate-5 naivety took its toll when I hit non-stop slow-moving traffic pretty much right up to Portland. Perhaps the golden rule of road tripping (aside from packing beef jerky and caffeine) is to avoid peak traffic hours.
I eventually made it to Portland, which actually is all that it’s cracked up to be, and it was great to have a car to fully explore the city. For young travellers, renting a car is often not an option because rental companies will charge youth a surcharge or outright ban them from renting. But I would not have been able to fully explore Portland without a vehicle. When you have a car with you in a great city, not only is your range of exploration larger, but you don’t have to worry about packing light. If it can fit in your car’s trunk, you can bring it—so long as it’s not contraband.
The final destination of my short road trip was San Francisco, where I currently am. Before leaving Vancouver, I relied heavily on Google Maps to judge routes and driving distances. Google is a great tool but it has a way of making distances seem shorter than they actually are. Portland to San Francisco in a day seems easy when viewed on Google Maps; in reality the drive took me all day and tuckered me out to the point where I took a nap at a rest stop in Weed, California. It’s easy to be a bit over-confident, so prepare for how long the trip could take. A slow voyage is a good thing and it’s worth embracing. It’s amazing to see the geography of a region change before you.
It’s not always possible to have a companion to share the driving with you. I’m doing this trip solo and it’s been great so far, but I’ve also consumed a lot of sugar-free Red Bull. Try to bring someone with you, because it will make the experience even richer—and allow you to nap in the passenger seat.
For your next adventure, consider a road trip to the United States. Driving allows you to see a lot more than you would by just flying somewhere. If you decide to drive to San Francisco, you can pretend to be Steve McQueen in Bullitt and bomb down some hills for some thrills.