Road trips are chock full of instances to be contemplative about life, landscape and all sorts of other things. For example, why aren't more people interested in living in Bliss (pop 275)? Also, should there be rundown buildings in a town called Bliss? Personally, I say no.
As I watched the rolling green hills give way to rolling farmland, then to rolling hills again (though this time, mainly scrubland) and then to mesas and other rocky outcrops, I realized just how little traveling it takes to completely change the terrain you look at.
I also realized that an "Icy Bridge" sign in the middle of Utah in 75-degree heat is hilarious -- even if the blinking light (ie, whether the message is relevant) is turned off.
Among my other realizations were:
- Cats are not necessarily smarter than dogs. At least dogs know to make full use of a rest stop: get out, walk around a bit, stretch the legs, pee on various trees and maybe get a bit of food and water. A cat just looks at you, then at the food/water you've put out, then at you again. Despite having been cooped up for two or three hours with no litter box, she will not, in fact, piddle. Instead, she'll plunk down in the same position she used in the carrier. Except now she's not yowling indignantly (until you put her back in). A couple of hours later, she may or may not grace her carrier with a bowel movement.
- Cruise control is a very economic option. Not only does it create some extra fuel efficiency, it's far cheaper to go at a constant speed rather than, say, getting distracted and then getting pulled over for doing 15 miles over the speed limit. Especially when you're out of state and so they stick you with the maximum. Hypothetically, of course.
- Being on a road trip doesn't meant paying rack rate. Most people told me I should book with hotels in advance, to get better prices. But with so many variables -- especially my energy -- Tim and I were hesitant to pin ourselves down like that. Instead, I called Hotels.com and booked a room for $61. And if you book through Hotels.com 10 times, you get a free night at any partner hotel, room value up to $400.
- Cheap hotels don't have to be bad. Certainly, the decor tends to leave something to be desired. (Often a flame thrower, for example.) But some of these places have very nice touches. The Shilo Inn (through Hotels.com) was a nice surprise. The room had wifi, a fridge and a microwave. The beds and sheets could have been a little nicer, but the hotel itself offered a pool and sauna/steam rooms. And the continental breakfast was surprisingly extensive: juice, some fruit, yogurt, milk, rolls, bagels, cereal, pastry, mini-muffins, microwaveable omelets, and even DIY Belgian waffles with those little timed irons. I'm a sucker for those.
- Rest stops can offer invaluable savings -- and, no, I'm not talking about stealing toilet paper. Some will offer helpful pamphlets and other materials for weary travelers. I found something called "Room Saver." It's essentially a coupon book for lodgings, grouped by area. In two minutes, I had found a Best Western in Salt Lake City for $49.99.
- When you're being so crafty, saving all that money by calling about coupons or contacting the travel website by phone, don't do it in a mountainous area. Turns out that, no matter how many bars your cell claims to have, you will get disconnected. About three to four times in the space of 15 minutes. And always right before you get the confirmation number.
But so far the best thing about this trip? The sign I saw this afternoon: