Tag Archives: travel tips

What does it mean to be “Out on the open road”?

If you’ve seen a lot of my previous posts you can tell I like road tripping, both the day and long distance variety. My favorite phrase and thing to say when describing such a trip, as you might have guessed, is being “out on the open road”. What has that phrase meant to me and what does it mean now?

It means…

…putting all things and worries aside for a while.

…enjoying the company of others (if with fellow roadtrippers).

…venturing to the unknown, leading to discovery.

Out on the open road. Lake Hawea - New Zealand.

…stopping to get gas every few hours.

…stopping at a service plaza/travel center and grabbing random snacks and beverages.

…while at the service plaza/travel center, grabbing all the travel brochures and magazines available.

Out on the open road. Tilbury, Ontario, Canada service plaza. Out on the open road. Tilbury, Ontario,   Canada service plaza.

…the floor of the car will fill up with the aforementioned empty snack wrappers, beverage bottles, travel brochures and who knows what else.

…radio stations will come and go on the dial.

…the windshield and front of the car will become engrossed in dead bugs.

…can I or can’t talk on the phone while driving where I’m at now?

…you’ll get stopped unexpectedly due to construction or the road will be shut all together.

…you’ll start singing 99 Bottles of Beer, driving other possible travelers crazy.

…if you drive along enough you’ll be in sunny skies, under clouds of all types, the rain, the dark night skies and who knows what else.

…you’ll want to stop and get out of the car ever two seconds to capture a photo.

Out on the open road. Town of Waihi, New Zealand.

…you’ll try to capture photos while driving. Not advisable. Tip: If a passenger on such a trip, snap away!

…you’ll be begging for a gas station, McDonald’s or a rest area at some point because you have to go.

…every mile further you get from home will be another mile you’ll have on the drive back.

…you’ll keep hearing the same Top 40 songs over and over again on the FM dial. Really need Sirius Satellite Radio. ๐Ÿ™‚

…lots of tweets, Facebook posts and Instagram photos if you’re a social media geek like me. ๐Ÿ™‚

…capturing the same photos with your camera and smart phone.

…stopping and doing goofy things in front of state and town welcome-to signs.

…I’m probably tired of saying “it means” haha.

…lots of tolls and parking meter fees if around a big city.

…getting excited watching the mile-to signs going down for a destination, meaning you’re getting closer.

Out on the open road. Heading east on South Island of New Zealand

…lots of Starbucks and/or random coffee house stops for fuel.

…expect the unexpected. Things will never go completely as planned.

Most importantly it means…

…lots more experiences to write about and share with the world and

…meeting great new people along the way and

…you’re traveling!

Gotta go. It’s time for The Adventures of Elatlboy to continue “out on the open road“!

Out on the open road. Southbound I-75 in central Ohio

What else comes to mind when you think (day) road trip?

Road Trips: Finding Your Way.

You’re on a road trip out on the open road, going from A to B, how do you find your way?

We’ll exclude the random, road trips to the unknown, because in those cases the concept of getting lost can be exciting, adventurous and lead to new discoveries. But if you have a goal, a place you’re looking to get to, you’re not looking to get sidetracked or lost. Here are some ways people try to find their way.

1. Maps and the Atlas. Lots starts with what people used before technology took over. The old tried-and-true. There’s nothing like taking that map and spreading it over the hood of your car along the interstate or trying to drive while holding a map or the atlas in your hand. Cool I’m on the right track to Daytona from Orlando.

Road Trip - Directions - Maps

St. Louis and Missouri here I come!

Road Trip - Directions - Maps & Atlas

2. Planning ahead. People will checkout the aforementioned maps and atlas before they leave or go the online route using an app like Google Maps. People like to see their route highlighted, the turn-by-turn guide and alternate paths from A to B. Benton Harbor, Michigan to Wrigley Field, got it!

Road Trip - Directions - Google Maps

Even with planning ahead, you might get sidetracked due to construction which requires taking a detour. Those that choose not to follow the detours and say “let’s try going this way instead.”, how’d that turn out?

3. Makes a phone call. People will call and ask someone they know for directions and help. Sometimes helpful, sometimes will lead to more confusion especially when they can’t tell them where they are.

4. GPS. Once on the open road, people turn to their Global Positioning System (GPS). There are lots of devices out there these days that people suction onto their windows or set-up on their vehicle dash. If you veer off path, Glados will probably say “recalculating” or something like “proceed 500 feet then make a U-turn”.

Others will just use the GPS off their Smartphone like the TomTom for the iPhone and the Google maps navigation that comes with the Android. Lot’s of people add-on a GPS device when renting a vehicle so they can find their way.

5. Follows the road signs. In the countries I’ve been in the most, New Zealand does an exceptional job with this, the United States so-so. Signs tell people how far they’re away from the nearest prominent city, town or attraction. Signs on interstates and some numbered roads will tell you what direction you’re going in. Of course, if you wanna take a shortcut and get on a dirt or remote road in the middle of the night obviously all bets are off.

Signage you would see on northbound I-75 in Northern Georgia and in Freedom Park in Atlanta.

Road Trip - Directions - Road signs Road Trip - Directions - Road signs

6. Looks to the sky. Instead of looking for signs along the interstate, they take to the sky following the sun, moon or stars. Lot’s of people take road trips in the summer, the perfect time in regards to the sun. The sun will rise more due east and set more due west. Checking out the sunset outside my window in Toledo, Ohio. That’s west so I must be going south.

Road Trip - Directions - sunset in the West

7. Gut instinct. Some people refuse to ask for directions. Described some above, they go with their gut feeling. Lot’s of people say I know where I’m going or I think it’s this way. Others use the flip-a-coin method or break out “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe”.

8. Asks for directions. Those that do ask for directions, will commonly do so at a gas station while they are filling up. Sometimes it’s helpful. I’ve been asked a few times recently at gas stations, but I’ve been traveling myself in all cases and could only provide them with a guess.

Above are some of the common ways people find their way when road tripping. I’m sure there are many more. How do you find your way when out on the open road? Any tried-and-true tips for when you get lost?

Ten Travel Tips for a Day Road Trip.

It’s the night before your going to hit the open road on another day road trip.

Day Road Trip - Ohio, Michigan state line in the country

Have you done any planning? Though I believe the best trips are spontaneous and unplanned, there are some things that should be considered before and during your day on the road. Some tips of things I have found helpful:

1. Check the weather. The days leading up to or the night before your thinking of traveling, go to a website like The Weather Channel and check the forecast. Hmmm let’s see… if I decide to drive to Philly tomorrow a lunchtime arrival seems ideal.

Day Road Trip - Checking the weather

Also, while you’re traveling if it’s looking dicey outside follow the weather on your smart phone. You’ll increase the chances of not running into a blizzard, high winds or getting caught up in a deluge of rain. You might alter your plans accordingly. Well than again, that might add to the adventure haha!

2. Speaking of the night before, try to get a good night sleep. A day road trip could sometimes last a full day or more. 24 hours? I look at it this way. The longer you make the day, the further you can travel away from home and get back and the more you can see. You gotta love the longer days in the warmer months. If the sleep thing doesn’t work out then your going to need…

3. …fuel, I mean coffee is what you need! Whether it be from home, at a travel center or truck stop or Starbucks (if they open early), there’s nothing like starting off with a great cup of java. As the day goes on make sure to refuel at unique, mom and pop coffeehouses along the way. At least that’s my philosophy.

Grabbed a peanut butter mocha from The Wormhole Coffee in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. The fuel needed after a drive before starting to explore the city.

Day Road Trip - The Wormhole Coffee, Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago

4. Charge, charge, charge. It’s not just you that needs to be fully charged. Make sure your smart phone, camera, tripod, etc. is ready to go. You’ll wanna have enough juice to take those pictures, Foursquare check-in, Tweet, post to Facebook, etc. Have spare batteries and bring your chargers so you can recharge whenever you have a chance. Gotta get that cigarette lighter fixed in the vehicle!

5. While getting all your gizmos and gadgets charged you should also check the inventory in your vehicle. Make sure you have a blanket, bottled water, wind-shield washer fluid, flashlight, jumper cables, spare tire, snack food, etc. Also consider getting an oil change and all your fluids checked.

Vehicle supplies from a Day Road Trip

6. Have navigation help. Lot’s of people have Gladys (GPS) directing them now days. Others use their smartphones to guide. At times they’re helpful, but using them constantly takes all the fun and mystery out of a trip. When I do seek help I’m still a little old-fashioned, carrying around my atlas and travel maps. I guess it traces back to being the navigator with all my maps on family trips. In general some form of navigation can be helpful in case you get lost.

Day Road Trip - Atlas, Travel Guides and State Maps

7. Bring cash including change. You never know when you’ll need it for tolls, parking meters, to buy a local newspaper (yeah I still do that too). When you call for help to fix a flat tire or for road-side assistance, a lot of the time cash is the only payment option.

8. Hit the road on an empty stomach. You can snack and have your coffee, but be hungry and ready to eat so you can try some local cuisine. It’s not a day for fast food stops. A Primanti Brothers sandwich in Pittsburgh, now we’re talking!

Day Road Trip - Primanti Brothers sandwich, Pittsburgh

9. Wear comfortable clothes and walking shoes. Hopefully there will be lots of getting out of the vehicle to explore. Some jogging and photo-running could also be in order. I traveled fifteen miles on foot on my last day trip to Chicago. With the cost of parking in the big city it’s better to centrally park and get to everything on foot.

Day Road Trip - Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio

10. Even with planning as described in the tips above make sure to have semi-plans. In other words be out there on the open road with an open mind. Things will never go as planned. Be willing to get sidetracked with new discoveries. The unexpected can be the most thrilling.

Going on a day’s worth of travel and discovery is unbelievable. Who knows what you’ll start seeing and discovering as soon as you leave your local area. I hope I’ve given some tips that will help make your next day road trip fun and a success.

Day Road Trip - New Zealand, South Island near Lake Tekapo

What other tips and advice do you have for those looking to go on a day road trip? For any kind of road trip? I hope to see you out on the open road.

It’s a coffeehouse bonanza. How do I choose?

Biggby Pumpkin Spice Latte - A Michigan company
Starbucks, Biggby, Caribou, mom and pop shops, the coffee house options are limitless now. When driving you see the blue signs on the interstate telling you what’s at the next exit. A coffee house or two is usually included. When you’re in a city there seems to be a coffeehouse on every corner. Whether it be doing work, freelance, writing, processing photos, surfing the web and/or just passing by while on a day road trip, the coffee house is a second home to me. It got me wondering. Why do I choose to go to some coffee houses and not others? What catches my eye when I’m on the road and need to satisfy my caffeine and social media fix?
Freeway food signs - Coffee Houses included

The basics. Let’s get those out of the way first. Usually having my phone, laptop and camera on me, it’s extremely important that there are adequate electrical outlets. There is one near where I live that has only two, which is unbelievable considering it’s highly trafficked and near a lot of businesses. Everyone usually bows to the person with the power strip in these cases.

At least it has the high volume going for it. I look for coffee houses that are busy which means they’re popular. If they don’t have free Wi-Fi in this day and age forget about it. Starbucks did a great thing by changing course and providing free access a few months back. Starbucks also scored big in my book with their Foursquare mayorship promotion back over the summer. I enjoyed quite a few discounted frappuccinos over that period. It was great introducing the workers to FourSquare in more detail too.

The layout and type of seating is also important. Sometimes I like to people watch or sit on a couch and a coffee house that has those possibilities definitely gets an A in my book. I rarely have headphones on so the music playing in the background is important too. No matter if it’s Top 40, country, local tunes or someone playing live, it definitely has to make the mood more relaxing.

What about the beverage selection you ask? Sure I love mocha drinks, anything with vanilla and this time of year the pumpkin spice latte, but in the end I’m usually just looking for caffeine or something to quench my thirst. I haven’t really come across a coffee house where I’ve consistency received bad drinks. I guess I’ve been lucky.

All of the above criteria are important and play a factor for sure, but ultimately it’s the view that determines my feelings towards a coffee house. Nothing else matters. Boy it took me longer then I thought to reference Metallica.

The number of window seats or outdoor seating definitely increases the odds of getting a good view. I love sitting by the window or being outside wherever I am at. If someone could point out a coffeehouse anywhere that has an open view of the water or other amazing scenery that would be a place I’d have to check out. A good coffee, amazing scenery, out on the road, all my tech gadgets and social media tools open and good company makes for the ultimate coffee house experience.
Inside a Starbucks

Of course you can’t always have an ocean view and sometimes the weather is lousy so the scenery inside is equally important. What am I looking for inside? Artwork, color schemes, lighting, the style of the furniture, a loft ceiling it all plays a role in having a good view.
Biggby Coffee - A Michigan company

If you follow me on various social media outlets you can tell the coffeehouses that I would give a great score too. Out and about and looking to find a coffee house? Go to Google Maps of course. I just did a quick search for Biggby Coffee’s in the Detroit area, a local chain.

Have an iPhone? Check out the myStarbucks iPhone App. No matter where you’re at, you’ll know how close you are to a Starbucks. If you use a location based service to check-in like FourSquare you can always see if there is a coffee house nearby. If the coffee house is tagged appropriately you will see a coffee cup next to the location. Checkout Finding Coffee as well.

Those are my two cents. What are you looking or not looking for in coffee houses you go too? I’d love to hear.

A travelers thoughts on checking-in.

Foursquare. Gowalla. BrightKite. Yelp. Your reading about these terms, you hear people talking about them, but what are they? Basically these are social technologies that allow you to (check-in) let people know where you are and in the process your winning badges, smack talk rights, points, sometimes even promotions from places that you visit. This phenomenon is still relatively new so both individuals and businesses are still figuring out how to most effectively use these technologies.

I’ve used Gowalla a little bit, but Foursquare is my choice because it’s the most well-known, popular and I find it easy to use.

How am I using these technologies? As people that follow me on Twitter and Foursquare know, I tend to check-in a lot more when traveling then when at home, sometimes going overboard. Why do I do that? What is my goal? Basically to showcase what a certain place has to offer. I’ve “somewhat” lost interest in the day-to-day checking in a lot around home and gathering mayor ships. Believe me, I still check in and give shout outs to great places around home, but I’d rather have a variety of check-ins in different towns, states, even countries just to highlight great places to check out. I’m sure no one is interested in my daily gas station, fast-food, grocery and errand habits anyways.

New York Welcome to Sign - I-90 North

When traveling my favorite check-in spots include welcome to signs, coffee houses, tourist attractions, sports stadiums, unique restaurants/bars, parks, river fronts, piers, anything around water for that matter. Just checking in at these places is not enough. I love adding a water photo shot, a great meal tip, something special that will make someone else want to experience the same thing.
I’ve definitely got the parks, stadiums and water shots covered in the Foursquare screen shot below on a recent trip through Tennessee.

Using Foursquare when traveling.

The day road trip. My staple. On these, I’ll check-in usually only on the way to a destination. I find no reason to check back in at the same places, trying to collect mayor ships unless there is more to see. On a recent day venture I checked in at the same park in Cleveland to and from because I wanted day and night photos.

When traveling, contrary to my statement above, I will check-in at a gas station or fast food joint, especially on long distance trips. It’s to let followers know where I’m going and passing through. Sometimes I’ll drive through a whole state and that’s my only chance to give them a shout out.

How about when flying? Airports are a must. They show your on the move, ready to travel. I check-in at the airport itself and usually a restaurant within. I just laugh at all the gates, bathrooms and seats that have been checked in at. Do people really to be that specific with their check-ins?

So next time I’m out on the open road, I’m sure you’ll see me checking in a lot, shouting, tweeting while taking photos. Maybe I’ll see you out there.