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Lessons of the Road

August 13, 2020 By The Disrupter Leave a comment

I recently returned home from a three-week family road trip.  This was mostly a vacation but not entirely.  Since I have been working from home since March, working from the road was fairly feasible.  I coordinated to work about one third to one half time and take the appropriate amount of PTO to cover the balance.  It’s a uniquely COVID-related opportunity, at least for me, and my family took advantage of it.  My wife and two boys, ages 6 and 8, traveled from our home in Wisconsin westward to Oregon and back, stopping at Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, Craters of the Moon, and Glacier National Parks, and including some time with family in Central Oregon.  I could write a lot about the scenic beauty and civic history we experienced, but instead I’ll share some wisdom learned from the road. 

  • Pre-plan what you can: Although this trip was determined only 10 days before we set out, my wife Erin and I planned a ton before we left. Lists were created, contingencies outlined, gear organized and tested.  All of the problems we solved before we left were done more easily with the resources of home and bolstered our confidence and preparedness for the unknowns.
    • Campers pro-tip: prep meals (kabobs, curried chicken, shrimp fajitas, etc.) ahead of time, foil wrap, vacuum seal, and freeze.  They kept our cooler cold with less ice (equals more food storage!) and were cooked simply by placing the foil over a campfire.  No prep, no mess, gourmet meals in 20-30 minutes!
  • Take it as it comes: The road of life, and especially the road trip life is full of surprises. That’s part of the fun! Be ready to accept what comes and pivot when necessary.  Planning as outlined above is helpful but should not be maintained at the expense of opportunities and challenges encountered along the way.  If it literally rains on your parade, in our case on a planned rest and water play day in South Dakota, be ready to make adjustments.  Paddle boarding in a hail and lightning storm?  No thanks.  We’ll shift to board games in the camper or adjust some campground reservations and drive to more favorable weather and play there.
  • Be present: This was a constant reminder to our boys (put the screens down and look out the window at those mountains!) but necessary for the adults as well. There is considerable work associated with a multiple-stop camping trip.  Be ready to stop what you are doing at any moment to soak in something special.  It’s the unique experiences that drew you out in the first place, savor them!  Lay out under a clear and unpolluted night sky.  Sip your morning coffee and listen to the birds wake up the world with their songs.  Look at the window.  Stop and stretch your legs at the scenic overlook…
  • Stock critical supplies: Don’t run out of water or let your gas and propane tanks run low. Have back up food that doesn’t require cooking.  Carry cash (and quarters!!!) in addition to your credit and debit cards.  Think ahead.  It’s not always possible to find specific items or reasonable prices at the last minute.  Ice, medicines, coffee, whatever you deem essential, make sure you have it in good supply.  You don’t want to run out of Diesel Exhaust fluid at 11 pm in the middle of nowhere, roll with a full tank and top it off as soon as the first alert pops up. 
  • Routine Inspection: Or, better yet, an inspection routine. Routine is the antidote to mistakes.  Each day as I stowed our pop-up camper and hitched it to the vehicle, I did it in the exact same steps.  In this way I ensured that I would not miss a critical step and leave a latch un-secured or safety chain off, or items forgotten.  I practiced the camper routine a few times prior to departing and improved my routine as I got smarter from my experiences but followed it every day.  The final and critical step was the walk around.  Check, check, good, yup, ok, check…. ready to roll.  What may seem silly, repetitious or unnecessary, is not as soon as you notice you left a wheel chuck in place or a strap unsecured.  Inspection is never a waste, it’s an investment to safeguard you and mitigate mishaps. 

While the suggestions and examples I’ve provided are about a road trip, they are applicable to everyday life.  Why not relish the moment, maximize your experiences, and minimize hazards every day?  Get out there, have some fun and be traveler-savvy even when you’re home.   

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