“For fast acting relief, try slowing down.” ― Lily Tomlin
I enjoyed family road trips when I was young.
I remember packing everything in our family’s non air-conditioned sedan and heading off somewhere. Even our dog squeezed into the back seat next to me. I loved those adventures and always got excited when the time finally arrived.
The Burma Shave signs were our entertainment. We read them aloud as they popped up and all laughed at the punchline of the final sign. Alas, those funny little signs are now all but gone, replaced by giant billboards that whiz by so fast I can’t make out their message.
Today, I’ve come to rely on the large green signs to get me where I’m going, and the faster the better. At least they WERE my choice until a friend told me about the signs he follows. His signs aren’t placed to speed up the trip but to slow it down.
Beverly and Richard Darlington follow brown signs on road trips. They’re the ones that direct travelers to historic buildings, museums, state parks and other places that put the “entertainment” back in driving.
This slow travel was the perfect way for the Darlingtons to complete their dreams. Beverly had wanted to visit all thirteen Presidential Libraries and Dick longed to drive across our great country, from one edge to the other.
They’re retired now; so this is the perfect time for the compatible and curious pair to cross both goals off their list, with a relaxed trip they both can enjoy and remember.
First, there was a twenty-two day jaunt into New England’s countryside following their favorite brown signs.
Then came the main event; an 8600-mile journey lasting thirty-eight days. “This trip of a lifetime showed me the beauty of our great country,” Richard recalled. “From our farmlands to our national treasures. From the rushing water to the green fields there was always beauty around me. Even in areas of poverty there was a richness where my eyes were opened. My camera didn’t capture it all – but my heart did.”
After those two big adventures, the Darlington’s composed seven helpful tips for all wannabe happy road trippers:
Tip One. Brown signs are easier to spot when you get off the Interstate. You see real things on back roads and you have more time to react when you spot your next great adventure.
Tip Two. Don’t plan to end up where you’re headed unless you have something inked into your calendar. The best route from here to there is never straight when you’re traveling slow. Flexibility is key.
Tip Three. Take time to visit downtown. That’s where you’ll find the heart and you don’t want to leave before checking its pulse.
Tip Four. Invest in paper maps. A GPS is fine for some things but paper lets you touch and feel the journey. You can write on paper, take notes, fold it as you wish, and then save your memories along with your pictures.
Tip Five. Yes, Pictures Do Matter. They tell your story – sometimes in a single image. A person is important but the look and feel, the scenery and the scope of the long road trip are the real story; the people are just shown enjoying their memory.
Tip Six. Buy a National Parks Pass (now called the America the Beautiful Pass), and do it NOW – before the price goes up. Buy it even if your trip is a few years off, then keep it with you. You never know when you’ll spot a park or monument and your pass number is not searchable from a ranger’s database.
Tip Seven. Enjoy your trip, relax, breathe and have fun. Road trips are never tiring when you’re both having fun.
Now back to Tip Two. There were two inked-in dates on the Darlington’s calendar.
The first ‘must’ was a vacation home on the San Juan Islands, just off Seattle’s coast in the Puget Sound. They would live there for a full week with their grandchildren; everyone hiking, swimming, and kayaking. These memories will be with the Darlingtons and their grandchildren forever, making that time alone worth the trip.
The other inked-in must was a wedding in Bozeman. Their friend’s daughter works at Yellowstone and the groom is with the state environmental department. This was the perfect chance to catch up with Charlotte friends in unique surroundings. Plus, once you leave Bozeman it’s only a short – almost eight hour – drive over to Mt. Rushmore. There they could see the four gigantic carved faces of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. Four presidents for just one admission ticket.
That was the Darlington’s trip. Now tell me about yours, or the one you’re dreaming of. Where are you headed? Who’s your companion? What’s the vehicle (car, pickup, RV, VW microbus?) It’s all worth sharing.
Would you want motel reservations or why would you prefer a flashing “VACANCY” sign along the old state road?
Have you ever found times when the wrong turn on any journey became the right turn? That would be a good story to share.
As always, the conversation starts here.
“In the ordinary choices of every day we begin to change the direction of our lives.” – Eknath Easwaran
And here’s your bonus!
Tip Eight. Don’t pass up the fly-over states. Skipping our heartland would be a mistake.
“From pristine forests and awe-inspiring landscapes to sweeping prairies, flowing water and free-roaming wildlife – meet an endless adventure in The Mount Rushmore State.”
Take a look at what this tip gives you.