3 Golden Rules of Road Trips

Written by
Jason Barnette
Posted on
March 22nd, 2019
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Everyone has rules. These are my rules for road trips, and why I've broken all these rules.

I was never a person to obey the rules. Seriously just ask my middle school principal. But I have always loved creating the rules. Seriously just ask my high school principal. As I began road tripping across the country, I developed a few golden rules that I would never, ever break. Except for all the times I broke them.

Now these are just my 3 golden rules of road trips Everyone has different rules. Look these over, then leave me a comment below and tell me some of your rules!

Rule #1: Drive No More Than 100 Miles Per Day

I consider this first rule to be the most important, hence why it is first. Too often I have hopped on the interstate to drive from Point A to Point B and missed a boat load of exciting, interesting destinations in between. So now my biggest golden rule of road trips is to drive no more than a hundred miles a day.

One hundred miles is a good distance to drive in a single day on a road trip. Gives me a chance to enjoy breakfast somewhere, explore a few towns, hike some trails, or go to a couple of museums. I have all the time in the world to explore whatever happens to be along the route I’m driving.

Breaking Rule #1

This may be the most important rule of road trips, but I’ve broken it many times and I have a feeling I’ll break it even more.

Life would be great if I could just start every new road trip from the end of the last road trip. But it never works out that way. Sometimes I just need to get somewhere like a travel conference, home for Turkey Day, or I want to start a new road trip somewhere else entirely.

If I were to stick to my “Drive no more than 100 miles per day” rule it would take me days or weeks longer just to get where I needed to be. I only live once, and sometimes I just don’t have that much time.

A slight curve on the Blue Ridge Parkway with a view of mountains in the distance in North Carolina.
A slight curve on the Blue Ridge Parkway with a view of mountains in the distance in North Carolina.

A little bend in the Blue Ridge Parkway with a gorgeous view of the mountains.

Rule #2: No Interstates

This is perhaps my favorite rule. When the Eisenhower Interstate System was first developed people were thrilled with the prospect of skipping around small towns and avoiding traffic lights in favor of reaching a far-off destination faster and easier. The problem is that people kept enjoying the interstates, even while on vacation, and now miss so much while speeding past at 70mph.

In 1926 the General Francis Marion Hotel was built in my hometown of Marion, Virginia. The hotel was built halfway between Roanoke, VA and Knoxville, TN. The idea was that people driving along Highway 11 would only be able to make it as far as Marion on the first day and they would need a place to spend the night.

But then I-81 was built, cars got faster, and the hotel dwindled to abandonment. About ten years ago it was purchased, renovated, and reopened as a very nice boutique hotel. The downtown area is thriving with local shops and restaurants. Just a few miles from downtown is Hungry Mother State Park, the first state park to open in Virginia.

But if people keep driving I-81 they may never know any of that. And that is exactly why I prefer to stay off the interstates. I take side roads and backroads. I’m not opposed to four lane divided highways because I’m still seeing more than I would on an interstate. This way I really get to experience traveling across the country.

Breaking Rule #2

But of course I’ve broken this rule. And I frequently lie about it. Yep. I lie about it. I will tell people, “I just finished a three-month road trip without ever using an interstate,” but I had used an interstate.

It’s all great and admirable to say I drive road trips without using an interstate so I don’t miss anything, but it’s just downright silly to never use an interstate at all. Case in point: I was spending a few days in Greenville, SC. I needed to get from one side of town to the other. I could have driven through town, sat in traffic, wasted so much time. Or I could have hopped on the interstate and been there in five minutes.

That is exactly the kind of mindset that usually keeps people perpetually driving the interstate, but I see nothing wrong with doing it short-term while visiting a destination.

A long highway stretches into the distance with a gorgeous sunset across the sky in North Carolina.
A long highway stretches into the distance with a gorgeous sunset across the sky in North Carolina.

A gorgeous sunset along Highway 74 between Andrews and Murphy, North Carolina.

Rule #3: Never Skip Anything

How often have we said, “I’ll go back to that one day,” and then we never do? This rule is perhaps the most valuable.

I was driving along Highway 23 just leaving Clayton, Georgia when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. It looked like goats. It looked like goats on the roof of a building. I immediately hung a u-turn, went back, and discovered Goats on the Roof. It was one of the most entertaining stops of my three-month road trip.

Never skip anything because you don’t know when or if you’ll ever get back there, and you don’t know if it will still be there.

Breaking Rule #3

Despite how much I love this rule, I also break this rule almost every day for one very simple reason: life is short. Too short.

If I were to stop at everything, skip nothing, it would take me a week to drive a hundred miles. It would probably be fun and amazing and I’d have so many stories to tell, but I would also miss so many other amazing destinations.

A long highway across New York during the peak of fall colors.

Fall colors just starting to pop along Highway 20 through the Finger Lakes in LaFayette, New York.

What Are Your Rules?

Everyone has rules for road trips. Sometimes they are as simple as always fill up the gas tank or never leave your son home alone.

So what are some of your rules for road trips? Leave me a comment below and tell me!

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7 Comments

  1. Steveo March 22, 2019 at 3:21 PM - Reply

    Great rules! I’ve been trying to go shorter distances in a day, but you’re right that it just takes longer to get places. I think I need to quit my job and make the time!

    • Jason Barnette March 23, 2019 at 12:26 PM - Reply

      Haha! Well I can’t exactly recommend you quitting the day job. That’s kinda important. But I do have to admit the only reason I have the time to stick to “no more than 100 miles per day” is because road trips are my life and job.

  2. Lauren March 23, 2019 at 12:59 AM - Reply

    I know that on Twitter I wrote that my 3 rules are to bring snacks, eat snacks, eat more snacks, but I’ve revised my rules. Snacks is still one. Drink lots of coffee is the second one. And have an endless supply of good music is the third. 🙂

    • Jason Barnette March 23, 2019 at 12:27 PM - Reply

      I liked your additional rules before, but I LOVE the new rules now! And I completely agree with one change: it should be endless coffee haha!

  3. Matt March 23, 2019 at 9:23 AM - Reply

    My main rule is never make reservations. Also, never spend more than $4 on a breakfast sandwich. Also, I have a rule that if I’m being tailgated, I’m not allowed to touch the gas pedal until the tailgater has passed me.

    • Jason Barnette March 23, 2019 at 12:28 PM - Reply

      I’m intrigued by your third rule. So you don’t want to be intimidated by tailgaters and speed up, but do you ever brake check them? Slow down so maybe they just pass you?

  4. Jason March 25, 2019 at 1:57 PM - Reply

    Tapping break lights is like giving the middle finger – it immediately starts a confrontation. Just continue your speed limit, maybe let off a bit and slow but NEVER hit the break lights unless you’re ready for a few miles of conflict and possible wreck/gunfire/life-is-short-enough – NEVER tap the break lights!

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