Summer road trip stories: Long days on the road
Published: January 27, 2011 at 11:39 AM
We set the Niles family record last summer, with a one-day haul from suburban Cincinnati to Celebration, Florida. The trip took 15 and a half hours and covered 915 miles. But that's still not my personal best. I covered 1,000 miles from Orlando to just beyond Houston in one day during a epic three-day drive from Walt Disney World to Disneyland in the 1990s.
But driving solo's much easier to make great time and rack up the miles than driving with a family of four. Especially when you've instituted a no-meals-in-the-car rule. (Four people eating in a car gets nasty, fast.) Traveling with three others, people talk during meals. Which is nice, of course, but adds 10-20 minutes to your mealtime "pit stops." And as much as you might hope for it, four people rarely all need to go to the bathroom at the same time.
Driving a Prius, we stopped for gas just twice on the road between northern Kentucky and Central Florida. And the second stop - at the entrance to the Florida Turnpike - could have been a "splash and go" had we cared about shaving every possible second from our trip time.
I love getting an early start on long-haul road days. If the sun's up before I'm on the road, I consider myself having started too late. Knocking down 10, 50 or even 100 miles before dawn leaves me feeling like I'm ahead of schedule and able to relax for the rest of the day. The anticipation of a long road trip gives me an adrenaline rush, too, so I might as well spend that by hitting the road ASAP.
So I set the alarm for 4:30 am and had the family in the car with wheels rolling by 5 for our trip to Orlando. While I was awake and ready to roll, the rest of the family merely did the zombie shuffle from their beds to waiting blankets and pillows in the car, which we'd packed the night before. Laurie stirred around 7 and by 8, we stopped in Jellico, Tennessee for her coffee and our breakfast at a Starbucks.
We ate lunch in suburban Atlanta, enjoying our first Chick-fil-A's of the trip. (There are none anywhere near us in LA.) We filled the gas tank and Laurie took the wheel for our drive through Georgia.
While I've done up to 1,000 miles in the driver's seat in one day, having someone else take the wheel for a spell helps keep me from going to a very weird place once I get out of the car. On my three-day trip from Disney to Disney, I remember the most vivid and bizarre dreams I've ever had during my brief nightly hotel stays. My brain couldn't simply turn off from the hyper-vigilance it needs while driving super-long stretches.
With Laurie driving, I didn't sleep, but I could let my attention wander and my concentration evaporate, giving my eyes and brain a welcomed rest. A little bit before 5pm, we were crossing the state line into Florida, on our way to arrive in the Orlando area as the sun set.
Please share your story about favorite (or at least memorable) long day on the road, in the comments.