Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How to Survive the Drive

Cross country travel is an interesting mix of adventure and people watching. On the one hand, you get to see parts of the country you may normally never have thought to travel to on purpose...like Conway, Arkansas. Then on the other, you get the added bonus of witnessing not only people's driving habits, but you can sneak a peek at them as they're driving by for a little quickie entertainment. You can watch the guy in the pickup yapping on his phone while picking his nose (obviously thinking no one's watching)....you can see the immaculately made-up woman in the luxury sedan asleep with her head against the headrest, mouth open, probably snoring loudly (so at that point you can assume the music is cranked in THAT car). And then you can watch the brother and sister comedy duo in the mini-van and have fun adding your own soundtrack ("Stop touching me," "I'm not touching you," "Stop touching me," "I'm not touching you," "MOOOOOMM!!! Billy's touching me" "You kids stop that RIGHT now or I'm turning this car around"...which, depending on whether or not they're headed to Disneyland or to visit grandpa in the retirement home may or may not be such a bad thing after all.....).


But I believe there is a common denominator amongst all road weary travelers, and that is this: at some point in time, we all experience the exhaustion of the drive and will find the need for a little "pick me up", if you will. And while I don't nearly have the experience of a cross country truck driver, having driven 3 times from ocean to ocean in, ohhhh, 6 months, I'm here to share what I've learned with you, perhaps a first time cross country driver, should the need arise.

The obvious first choice is to grab that great standby...a cup of coffee...cuppa joe...espresso....cappuccino....or whatever form of liquid that comes from bean goodness that corporate America tells us we should be drinking these days.



I've found that coffee is good for about thirty minutes when you start to feel that first little tinge of fatigue. It's good enough to get you to a nearby hotel for a crash, or to the closest city so you can pass off the wheel to your driving companion (or your 10 year old kid if the need is desperate...hey, if their feet hit the pedals, it's OK, right?). In MY opinion, truck stop coffee is your best bet...most truck stops offer a wide variety of coffee blends that have been brewed at different times (and thickness)--so you can create your own "special cup"....anything from barely brown-water weak (because you don't like coffee, but you need the caffeine, so you'll suck it up) to something a hammer would stand up in on its own (also known as the Morning Show DJ blend). Keep in mind however, that truck stops have a lot more entertaining things for the kids to look at and aisles to get lost in--so unless you lock 'em up in the trunk while you run in (OK...maybe not the trunk, although you may consider it at some point on the trip), you may want to just hit your usual morning cafe shop. Now, there's nothing wrong with stopping at Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts (or anything along those lines)...but these places can be few and far between--and sometimes not open so early in the morning. So again, for variety and convenience sake, I say "Amen" to the All-American Truck Stop.

So now let's say that it's about 3 in the morning, your contacts have dried out and the lines aren't blurry, but starting to look a little fuzzy on the road. At this point, you may need something stronger to go along with that cup of mocha goodness.



Ahhh, the energy drink. A slightly more condensed version of "jump-start juice" in a convenient 12 or 16 ounce can. Now these little suckers pack a slightly higher punch than coffee--but can take a few extra minutes to kick in...so be sure you don't wait until the absolute last minute to shoot this one down the gullet. And while they will keep you awake for a few more hours than the coffee you slung back 30 miles ago, the problem with these is this: if you're not used to the added kick, then you might find yourself tapping your foot in double time to the music and anxiously drumming your fingers on the steering wheel all while trying to explain to the nice officer in a faster, higher-pitched voice you don't recognize as your own how it wasn't YOUR fault your foot planted the accelerator to the floorboard, it was the bull's fault.

And then there is the energy shot.



These are only for the TRULY energy deprived and those of you with a normal resting heart rate of 180. Now these bad boys will keep you AWAKE! And jittery. And twitchy.  Did I mention jittery?  And you may start to hallucinate things at 4am--for example, are those trees really dancing on the side of the road or did you make a wrong turn at Oklahoma and now you're in the Land of Oz?? I do have to admit, however, that I find that I can burn a whole crap-load of calories on these things. If I can just figure out how to get any kind of nutritional value out of 'em, I may be on to the next new fad diet!!!

So these are my own thoughts on the various "liquid goodies" out there that can help you get over the early, early, early morning-drive hump. Now, because I don't feel like getting sued by anyone who actually takes what I say to heart, what I've written here is based on no medical science, isn't approved by the FDA and (lets be honest) could put you into cardiac arrest. So don't come crying to me if you try any of these things and end up in a ditch...anything you do to your own body is done at your own risk. Just get a room already and get some sleep.

And just to prove a point, for sheer amusement value alone, I share my own experience with you...

Today...3am...just outside Nashville....one 24 ounce cup of black coffee, one 16 ounce can of Red Bull, and one 5 Hour Energy bottle later, where was I?

slight recreation--obviously not 3am, judging by the daylight behind me

I kid you not. Dead to the world.  I can't make this stuff up.