“You’re driving?!?” This was the reaction (dramatic but valid) of friends and family when I told them about my break plans; a road trip from the greater Los Angeles area to Dallas, Texas with my friend Paige in a compact Honda Civic. The Civic is ideal for parallel parking into tight LA street spots, but maybe not for a multi-day voyage. However, unable to be apart from our Texas-residing roommates for a month, we decided a road trip would cure our separation anxiety.
As two college students raised in suburban Southern California, we had never experienced this mythical Wild West Willie Nelson writes songs about. Our Wild West consisted of earthquake-proof tract homes, zig-zagging freeways (no, not highways or interstates), and dimmed starry skies competing with the City of Stars’ radioactive glow. However, once the Los Angeles traffic got in our rearview mirror, we saw the true Wild West that has beckoned cowboys and ranchers alike.
What was gained? In the most cliche way, our road trip gave us countless memories to look back and laugh about. After over 40 hours in a moving box, my friendship with Paige became much stronger. In this craze to “romanticize your life,” road trips are the perfect plotline for your main character moment.
Collecting state signs like key chains, Paige and I joined the ranks of truck drivers and U Hauls on our quest to the Lone Star State. We stayed at an intensely teal Motel 6. The television was a dinosaur and the blankets were thinner than wrapping paper, but we rejoiced in the 60-dollar fee. This Motel 6 got bonus points for being 2 minutes away from Chiles.
Turns out, Texas is much larger than we thought. It took us 8 hours to break through the crusty exterior of Western Texas and into the buzzing and Cowboy-blue city of Dallas. We saw small towns that looked straight out of Footloose. Cattles and corn and factories lined the highways, as we serenaded it all with a marathon Beyonce concert. Queen Bey is from Texas, after all.
One of my favorite memories comes from a coffee shop near the Texas and New Mexico border. Maps lead us to a cafe (shack) with an affinity for lion head decor. A cup of coffee cost $2.50 and no plant milk was to be seen. Despite my almost immediate stomach revolt, I enjoyed every sip. The owner, a man with a thick Southern accent and kind eyes, talked to us for every moment he curated our lattes: the weather, directions, salsa and trip recommendations.
After he asked where we were going, his response was “California? Why would you go back?” Nothing humbles a California native swifter than a trip to Texas with a California license plate.
While seemingly unglamorous to our peers, our semi-cross country road trip has become a highlight in my young adult life. You can talk — and talk we did — with the comfort of knowing the road in front of you in an easy and predictable straight line, along with the camaraderie of truck drivers chugging along all around you. American teenagers and young adults have road trips coded into our DNA, along with Bruce Springsteen and Coca Cola. It has been “immortalized” in American culture. Car rental companies like Hertz have leaned into this hardwiring, with slogans for summer rentals like “Pop Culture Cruzin’” and “Discover the Ultimate American Road Trip.” Think of all the songs inspired by cross country journeys. Spotify has a whole genre for road trip playlists. Road trips also make for great vlogging enterprises. Who else used to watch Zoella’s road trip snack hauls during the stone age of Youtube?
I don’t know if I’ve convinced you or not. Just think; car naps, soundtracks and albums, and gas station snacks. 9 a.m. slushies. Swagger comes with every mile collected. Instead of an expensive and stressful international trip, spend the summer exploring the vast stretch of exploration laid out in the United States. Road trips are peaceful. Road trips forge deeper bonds and won’t drain your bank account. Gas is not cheap, but it’s still cheaper than airfare. Currently, that plane ticket to live out your best Donna/Mamma Mia/ABBA-filled summer in Greece is 1500 dollars.
If Life Is A Highway, why would you not grab it by the steering wheel?