Tonawanda News

January 14, 2013

HAYNES: Becoming a road warrior

By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News

— I put a lot of miles on my odometer in December 2012.

Those of you who regularly follow my column know that in the span of 36 hours I drove more than 400 miles early in the month to visit my grandmother’s birthplace in Pennsylvania.

Little did I know it was just a practice run for a 1,400-mile whopper of a trip I’d end up making by myself just before the new year.

I spent a couple weeks with my family in Texas for the Christ-mas holiday, and just before I was set to head back to snowy Buffalo, I was given the opportunity to buy my parents’ car. Sure, it’s five years old, but it’s a definite upgrade from my poor old beater, and a big weight off my shoulders ... I never knew when the old green machine would give out.

But it also meant about 20 hours on the road. By myself. Oh yeah, and since I didn’t know I’d be making the trip, I had no CDs or my iPod on hand to keep me entertained.

Guess I’ll be doing some contemplating of life, soul-searching if you will, on this sure-to-be boring trip, I thought. It will surely make for some good column fodder, I thought.

Not so much.

It was perhaps the most uneventful, easy road trip I think a person could have on their own. I largely just listened to books on tape, so my mind was pretty occupied. No need to contemplate the meaning of my life. No grand, ah-ha! moments worthy of a Tolstoy novel. Nothing to inspire me to go on a two-week bender writing the next “On the Road” or “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

I think any writer — journalist or novelist — envisions being the next great Kerouac or Hunter Thompson.

I had to split the trip up over three days to accomodate for a freelancing gig I had to do one of the mornings, so it wasn’t even all that stressful. A five-hour day, a seven-hour day and a final eight-hour day of driving can hardly be considered all that draining, though by the time I reached home, the cumulative effect of the trip had taken its toll. I hit the hay pretty hard that night once I was back in my own bed.

Never got drowsy, never did the droopy-eye thing, never had to make a desperate stop for some caffeine.

Since nothing profound happened, I thought I’d share some of the smaller bits of wisdom I picked up on the road. And I mean small.

• That thing you want right at this moment while going 80 miles per hour just outside of Little Rock, Ark., — whether it be a bottle of water you bought at a pit stop an hour ago, your pack of gum or the power cord for your cell — is always ALWAYS going to be just out of reach. Always. The empty front passenger seat is your best friend, make use of it.

• Tractor trailers are indiscriminate when changing lanes. They don’t care if there’s a car already there or not. When they throw on that blinker, you best be moving, and fast.

• Eating alone in a sit-down restaurant isn’t all that bad, especially at a Cracker Barrel. Lots of travelers, so the servers usually help get you in and out of there pretty quick. 

• Stopping at a White Castle because you’ve never seen one and Harold and Kumar make it seem so great is, in fact, not a great idea. Gross.

• FM transmitters syncing your MP3 player or smart phone to your car radio will drop the signal roughly once every 45 minutes. Finding a new, clear station while going 80 miles per hour can be tricky. I learned a bit too late in the game that the lowest channels are largely unused, and thus, FM transmitter gold.

• You will always visualize female characters in an audiobook as drag queens when the male narrator tries to do a feminine voice for their dialogue. 

• Sometimes when you go to the cheapest motel room you can find, your clothes will still smell like smoke two days later even though you were in a “non-smoking room.”

• There’s way more room for “contraband” when you’re driving instead of flying. You’re welcome, to all my friends who got to try Texas’ finest, Shiner Bock, at mine and my roommate’s New Year’s Eve party.

• Vending machines in truck stop bathrooms sell some pretty bizarre things.

Happy New Year, folks! Hope yours was as uneventful as mine ... no news is good news, after all. For someone whose previous car often seemed to make front-page headlines in her life, this is the best I could hope for. 

Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116.




Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116.