September 3, 2014

TICE | Six Things I Learned in a Volkswagen

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After an eventful Freshman year and nine months immersed in our beloved bubble of Eastern Ivy academia, I was aching for some West Coast vibes and counting down the days till those familiar and endless Alaskan summer nights. Little did I know, I would spend this summer soaking up more of the West Coast than I had imagined I would ever see before graduation.

I flew home to Alaska for a few weeks after a two-month internship in Los Angeles, thinking I would hike, fish and bonfire to my heart’s desire. After little more than a week at home, my parents made a spur of the moment decision to fly the fam down to Los Angeles and drive back up to Vancouver, where I would depart for school and they would drive the remaining 1,000 or so miles back to Alaska. Reluctant to leave my friends after months away and only several days back at home, I pouted my way through the Anchorage airport and all the way to LA (don’t get me wrong, LA is great, if you like the desert and also smog and happen to hate trees). As we drove north on the 5 from LA through scenic desert hills and canyons, the whole idea of a coastal road trip started to seem a bit less god-awful. Though I’d road-tripped in the past, I’d only driven through Alaska (because you can spend multiple days driving the same direction and STILL stay in the state), and I was pleasantly surprised to find diverse and ever-changing scenery along the West Coast. As follows are Do’s, Don’ts and a few pleasant (and some not-so-pleasant) discoveries I made along the way:

1. DO drive through the night, wired on janky gas station coffee so that by the time the sun starts to rise you’re just tired and crazy enough to realize it’s beautiful to coast down the highway so early in the pink glow of the morning.

2. DON’T try and stick to a rigid driving schedule. Stuff happens, ie. construction zones, traffic, side of the road fruit stands (thanks, Washington) and random tourist traps (like paying five dollars to drive your car through a giant redwood tree and being way too excited about it). The stress of reaching a destination at a certain time just isn’t worth it, but the scenic route always is. Say ta-ta to your schedule and explore, stop at scenic lookout points, take that turn-off marked with a hiking sign and see where the road takes you.

3. DO explore your music taste. With hours to listen and a changing array of radio stations, go ahead and try some reggae hits. This is also the ideal time to hit shuffle on your iTunes library and just let ‘em roll.

4. It may sound convenient to pull off at the next rest stop exit and grab drive-thru McDonalds for dinner. DON’T. Stop, Google and find out the best places to eat in that tiny town five miles up the road. There’s fast food everywhere, but a local hole-in-the-wall is a great way to experience the vibe of an area you’re passing through.

5. Truck stop and campsite showers are great. DO skip the hotels and save money; just drive in shifts. Plus, after you shower you can look at nature or buy some chips!

6. DON’T stop looking out the window. The best part about road trips is that you get to cover so much ground in a relatively small amount of time, so put down Candy Crush and enjoy the fast-paced view. It’s a surprisingly decent way to pass time. Either that, or you’ll end up falling asleep, so there’s really no losing.