So young, so innocent.

In Moby Dick, Ishmael starts out by telling us that whenever he grows grim about the mouth, and he feels like knocking people’s hats off, he gets to the sea as soon as he can. Well, Ish, I hear you. Except for me, I take to the road.

It’s been a rough few weeks, friends. Yours truly hasn’t felt quite like herself, and frankly, has felt quite grim about the mouth. So, it seemed like as good a time as any to take to the road. I’m off to Stowe, Vermont for the weekend to clear my head, catch up with one of my oldest friends and to check out the Stowe Mountain Lodge. It promises to be full of mountain vistas, a touch of pampering, and some tasty eats – everything you need at the end of a long journey to make you forget why you left in the first place.

So here, my friends, is my essential guide for road trips. In my years of road trip experience, I’ve found that this is everything you need to make sure you get from Point A to Point B in true chilled-out style.

1. Perfected Playlist
There is an art to a road trip playlist. The key is to not try to impress anyone. Now is not the time to show off your alternative taste. I don’t need to hear your bootleg Velvet Underground track off the B side of a record that no one ever heard of. Stick to the classics: ’80s, ’90s, classic rock, and a few guilty pleasures. And you need a balance of fast and slow. It can’t be all about bringing the party up to speed. There must be a few sappy ballads or emo contemplative melodies to bring you and your companions into a pensive mood. Because what is a “find yourself” road trip without a little contemplation?

2. Physical Maps
I love my iPhone as much as the next girl, and yes, in the days of GPS travel has certainly become more convenient. But let me tell you: cell reception sometimes fails you, and your GPS does not have everything. Printing out or buying physical maps allows you to see the roads laid out in front of you. If you want to take a scenic detour, you can actually see where the two-lane highways join back up with the interstates. Let’s take a trip back to the Stone Age, friends. Join me. It’s quite comfortable.

3. Cash
Sometimes, sh*t happens, and when it does it’s always best to have cash on hand. That gas station in Eastern Middle of Nowhere may not have a pump that accepts credit cards. ATMs could be out of service. Anything, really, is possible. It’s always best to be prepared. Note: I’m going to lump “jumper cables” into this category as well. The point is, just be ready for anything.

4. Crank-Reducing Snacks
I can’t stress the importance of this. I could tell you about the time I got lost driving through the Battle of Vicksburg site in Mississippi, on the brink of starvation, and I almost tossed my companion out of the car until we made it through and found a Cracker Barrel. This could have been easily avoided by the presence of snacks. When on a road trip, you need something tasty that will stay delicious at room temperature, and not cause you to become overly thirsty (which results in numerous bathroom breaks). You also need to be able to eat it with one hand, assuming you are driving.  Nothing sloppy or runny. Sorry BBQ chicken sandwich on a roll..you need to stay at home.

5. Comfy Clothing
If you are going to be sitting in the same position, possibly eating, for more than three hours, you can leave the skin-tight jeans and heels at home. A flexible material and flats (or go barefoot!), along with a somewhat baggy shirt is the optimal driving uniform. Guys have it a little easier, since they seem to dress more comfortably anyway.

6*: This addendum is for the true road tripper. I’ve said it before, but the book Road Trip USA is the ultimate driving companion. It has a list of America’s most picturesque two-lane highways, and where you can stop along the way for local culture, flavor and color.

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