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The Rules of the Road

The road trip is as much a voyage of self-discovery as it is a physical journey. The traveler need do no more than turn the key in the ignition, shift gears and head out into the great unknown ... pausing only to execute a six-point turn on a suburban dead-end street while mopping up lap-scalding coffee and shouting, “You’re the one with the map!” Alternatively, you could do a little prep. To this end, we gave our intrepid correspondent Sam Polcer a Corvette, a map of Route 1 (Massachusetts to Maine) and a mandate to write down all the things that make a road trip work.

Author SAM POLCER Photography SAM POLCER


This is essential, particularly if you’re driving something sporty (a word derived from the Greek for “limited trunk space”). Also, you’ll be checking into and out of hotels every day, so you won’t want to waste valuable driving time segregating your socks from your T-shirts in a dozen easily misplaced baglets.

A general rule is that you have to be able to toss your luggage into the car — emphasis on the word “toss.” The Parma duffel from Floto (above, inset) is durable enough to withstand such stylish insouciance while also looking the part. Italian calfskin, stainless steel zippers, thick khaki stitching … it feels good to toss this beauty pretty much anywhere. $549, flotoimports.com

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How to alleviate the inevitable periods of boredom

HIT THE BUM NOTES: When you’re in a car, all issues relating to musical aptitude are off the table. It really doesn’t matter if you sound like a seagull being tickled to death. You will, many times during your trip, feel compelled to sing, and sing badly. Don’t fight it. “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” is a good place to start.

EAT UP: If you’ve chosen your route wisely, you’ll pass scores of great roadside food joints, and it would be rude to neglect them. In a single day, I had a breakfast sandwich (Becky’s Diner), a burger and fries (Fat Boy Drive-In), a lobster roll the size of my head (Red’s Eats) and seared salmon (Bar Harbor Inn), along with a shameful amount of beef jerky (purchased with cash, per Rule No. 9), all without breaking a sweat.

PIPE DOWN: The limitations of dialectical materialism, the relative merits of Ho Hos and Ring Dings, the time you did the chicken dance at your high school prom — road trips are an invitation to exhaust every conversational subject known to man. Even more important, however, is the ability to endure long silences without discomfort.

PLAY STUPID GAMES: There will be times when discussions about how boring Face-book has gotten will lose a bit of their sheen. So you’ll need some stupid games to pass the time. Spot the Silly License Plate is a good one for Maine. Also, Spot the Antiques Shop, Spot the Inappropriate Motorcycle Attire, and Spot the Cop Car a-Hiding Behind That Tree. D’oh!

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Other than marriage or long-term incarceration, it’s hard to imagine a situation that thrusts people together more inexorably than the road trip. So, to avoid long stretches of tedium and even unpleasantness, you’ll want to choose your co-driver very, very carefully.

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Should you find yourself road-tripping in a sports car, you will have the urge to look nonchalant as you wait at traffic lights, your elbow jutting from an open window. You will also be tempted to rev the engine excessively, and may even make little brrm-brrm noises with your lips. All of this is fine, as long as you don’t tell anyone about it when you get home. It’s a bit unbecoming.

One Response to “The Rules of the Road”

  1. Abby Mundro Says:
    August 17th, 2012 at 10:05 am

    My mom sent me this article as I am about to take a trip from Pennsylvania to California with my friend and it was so perfect! Just what I needed. I’m leaving in two days! Great article

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