Where to Stop
My dad was always the type while on road trips to be completely obsessed with average miles per hour. Are you familiar with this? Basically he would calculate what are average speed was including stops. So if it takes you 10 hours to go 400 miles your average mph is only 40. You may have been on the interstate going 70, but bathroom breaks and food and gas all take away from your overall mph. He would sit in the front sit and give us up to the hour updates on our speed. For him travel was all about one thing: arriving.
My wife and I have put quite a few miles on our car since we have been married. We've gone from Michigan to Virginia, from Georgia to New Hampshire, from North Carolina to Oklahoma...and for us we have embraced the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to road trips: the experience. We like to experience the drive. We embrace seeing the landscape change and enjoying being in the car together rather than stressing out about losing valuable time. In order to enjoy things better we try to stop and get out every once and a while, and for that we have found locations operated by the National Park Service to be a great spot.
National Park Service
You maybe didn't know it, but the national park service is more than just the headline wilderness areas such as Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks. The service operates over 300 locations across the country including rivers, battlefields, historic site, memorials and museums. With this many locations you don't need to go far very often to find a place along your road trip route to stop, get out and stretch your legs and experience a slice of America that you hadn't experienced before. Better yet, you've already paid to go there! That's right. Since it is funded by your tax dollars, you already have a vested interest in the park. Don't you want to see something you got your money in? (I should note that few parks charge an entrance fee, some charge for special things like tours and presentations, and others are completely free. You just have to check)
We have been to many places now that we wouldn't have gone to as a destination unto itself, but since it was on our way we stopped and looked around. We have always enjoyed ourselves. We have learned about Presidents, seen wild horses, toured forts, and climbed lighthouses, all within the National Park Service. We rarely stay more than an hour since we are trying to get to where we are going, but getting out and seeing something like that really gets you excited to finish the drive. You'll also have something to talk about for the next couple of hours.
When my wife and I first started this National Park tradition when we were engaged we decided to buy a hiking patch every time we stopped. I sometimes feel silly buying a hiking patch when we don't do any hiking, but now a few years into marriage we have a backpack covered in patches. So many places I would have already forgotten we stopped, but we have a patch to remind us. That patch brings back all the fun memories of the moment. So my suggestion is to find a way to make your stops unforgettable.
So stop stressing and start experiencing.
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