Road Trip Reflections: Why You Should Take One Now!

By Kelly Conroy

Kelly Rathburn Conroy
Kelly Rathburn Conroy

This summer, I went on a road trip. The last time I did that, I had a shiny new driver’s license, a best friend, and a list of southern California college campuses we wanted to “check out” before our applications were due in the Fall. The highlights included a UCSB sweatshirt, a stop at Six Flags and some minor flirtation with the guy behind the desk at our Quality Inn. Twelve years later and a pink slip in my own name, this year’s road trip was pretty different.

I mapped our route based on interesting geological features and places I had read about in Sunset Magazine. We packed our snacks and made a budget and set out for Glacier National Park. We even tracked our miles per gallon. It was officially the grown up version of a road trip.

But as the miles wore on, I found that there are some common themes for road trips at any age – like the need for entertainment. Whether it’s your high school best friend or your brand new husband, there is no one that can fill 3,000 miles with sparkling conversation. But now, instead of spending weeks burning “Road Trip Mixxxx 2002!!!” CDs, we stopped by the library and checked out 10 audio books for free. Admittedly, this is the nerdy approach to a road trip, but the point is to have something prepared to fill the silence. Audio books kept our brains awake during less interesting scenery and even gave us something extra to talk about.

Filling your stomach is another issue. Somewhere in Rural Nowheretown, Oregon, we realized that we needed lunch. The honey mustard pretzels weren’t cutting it and I had a hankering for a burrito. Problem is, most places in America don’t have the incredible (let alone vegetarian) food options that Sacramento offers. I’ve never missed the Farm-to-Fork movement more. Lesson learned – don’t pass up a viable food stop because you think you’ll find another one down the road. Stock up on food when you can. Hangry will not be a good color on you.

And, as with any vacation, something will go wrong. Our first day in Glacier National Park was filled with low clouds and summertime snow. We didn’t see a single mountain, and it totally sucked. But as we ran around an almost empty national park, catching snowflakes on our tongues and turning on the seat warmers in the Subaru, we realized that we were constantly giggling.

This is what road trips are all about. Sure, the planned stops and overnight stays are great, but the true adventure, the true fun happens spontaneously. Exit the freeway when a weird sign catches your eye. Check out that hole in the wall restaurant. Take a detour. You’ll almost always find yourself somewhere amazing. And if it’s not amazing, at least it’s unexpected. And isn’t that what makes for good stories and great memories anyway?

So, hit the road! You might just find your new favorite city, or the greatest hamburger you’ve ever eaten. Or a new found appreciation for audio books. Whatever it is, go find it!


Glacier National Park without the fog and snow. (source:


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