The Test Drive

Last week my wife and I took a test drive to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  No, not a new car.  Just testing some ideas we have for a long drive.

My fourteen faithful readers know that my job came to an end recently. To commemorate the occasion my wife and I are planning a cross country trek. (It’s not a midlife crisis because, frankly, we don’t anticipate living past 110.)  But we are big planners so we took a test drive to see how some of our ideas would pan out.  I’d say we gathered valuable information. 

We’ve never owned a Garmin GPS but borrowed one from our son. Lesson One: enter your destination BEFORE you stick it on the windshield and buckle up. Otherwise you feel like you are working with T-Rex arms.  Lesson Two:  Calibrate. For the first 20 minutes it thought we were driving in the ditch parallel to the highway. 

As we crossed the state line my wife mentioned she wanted to stop at her favorite country store for terra cotta items. About 5 minutes later she must have sensed an issue based on my present speed because she said ‘not to miss the place’ this time. After 10 seconds of my mind running through various scenarios I had to ask ‘what place?’  Whew, got the answer just in time to brake! Lesson Three: Listen!

Since we plan to drive for days we want an economical alternative to fast food restaurants.  Our test drive entailed prepping a couple salads to see how they fared by the end of the day.   This strategy was a huge success and we even had entertainment as we parked near a church with an outdoor labyrinth and watched people try to maneuver from A to B. Or just cheat.  In the shadow of a church.  Of course the packing of food was humorous in itself.  It’s as if we try to anticipate every craving we might possibly encounter in a given day and then find something we can pack that won’t resemble the compressed lint you find in your coat pockets at the start of each winter.  Lesson Four:  plastic containers take up space but protect food from being crushed.

If you’re going to pack food, eventually you’ll want to eat it and that can take planning.  On this test drive, lunch didn’t occur until almost 2pm.  Ideally we would have liked a restroom nearby but in all of its 469 miles, we estimate there must be 3 restrooms on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  And even on Mondays the lines are long.  Lesson Five: pack hand wipes as you never know WHERE you may be when it is time.

Before leaving I had googled waterfalls on or near the Parkway.  Two caught my eye so I jotted down the milepost or exit number and a brief summary of how far to walk.  The first was called Skinny Dip and the instructions said to park and “hike a half mile”.  But you see, in the fall there are lots of leaves on the ground and we couldn’t even tell which trail to take from the parking lot.  I started following one but it was obviously headed to a spot frequented by all the people who missed those three restrooms previously mentioned.  A younger couple started following us and when we asked what directions they had, all they knew was “hike half a mile from the parking lot”.  But like good bloodhounds we eventually sniffed out a trail.  Later that day we searched for the second waterfall on the list.  I could never find the exact address or even road name, but GPS was content on telling me where to turn and how far to travel.  When the voice in the box told me to make a right turn on a dirt road that could have been from the movie Deliverance, my wife spoke up and politely said ‘oh hell no’.  That became my first U-turn of the day.  Lesson Six:  Google is sometimes lacking in details.  Plan accordingly.

This was a relatively short test drive at only 200 miles compared to the 500-600 per day we plan to do on our big trip.  Nevertheless we were able to test where phones, drinks, sunglasses, etc. work best on the console and even what we might talk about on the trip.  My wife has requested noise cancelling headphones.


1 comment

  • Loved this, Dave!
    We packed some food on our trip out West, but since we stayed off of the Interstate going and coming, we tried just 2 meals a day, a hearty breakfast and evening dinner with snacks for “lunch.” We also only ate at local mom and pop restaurants which were better food and much cheaper! We also stayed at local motels instead of chains which was another big savings. They were all extremely clean if lacking on luxury, but we stopped to sleep, so who cared! Ours turned out to be a 2 week trip of a lifetime!

    Sandy Bailey

Leave a comment