We’re a nation of drivers, no doubt about it.
Don’t believe me? During the first five months of the year, Americans flew 321 billion miles. They drove 1.1 trillion miles. (It’s not a perfect comparison, since these are calculated slightly differently, but you get the idea.)
Last holiday weekend, less than eight percent of travelers flew to their destination. Almost 9 out of 10 drove.
You might not arrive at that conclusion from reading most travel blogs or magazines, but it’s true. For all the fretting we do about the indignities of flying, we sure don’t do very much of it.
All of which made me wonder: How far would you go to avoid a plane?
Full disclosure: I’m spending the better part of next year in a car with my family. We’re going to see America from ground level and, hopefully, learn a thing or two while we’re crisscrossing the country.
I’m not afraid of flying. But let’s just say I have reason to believe I won’t be welcome on a plane anytime soon.
The conventional wisdom is that for longer trips – anything over 12 hours – flying should be your first choice. And that’s fine when you’re traveling solo. But for a family of five, and even with gas prices hovering around $4 a gallon, that rule gets tossed out the window.
Flying isn’t just a hassle – it’s also too expensive.
Ann Azevedo and her husband once drove from eastern Oklahoma to California – 1,114 miles – in a straight shot. They passed the 19 hours talking, looking for radio stations, reading and sleeping (the latter two as passengers, of course).
“It helps to switch off every couple of hours,” she says.
What if you can’t? Grant Petty remembers a road trip from South Florida to Louisville that he did solo.
“When I hit the Georgia border about eight hours later, I felt good, so I thought I’d drive a little further,” he says. “When I hit Atlanta, I still felt fine, and decided to drive a little further. When I hit Nashville at 11 p.m., I began to feel tired, but decided to drive through since by this time I was so close to home.”
By the time he arrived in Louisville – 20 hours and 1,207 miles later – “I had the air conditioner on full blast, the windows down, and the radio at max volume,” he remembers.
Incidentally, the world record for driving long distances belongs to a Swiss couple, Emil and Liliana Schmid, who crossed the globe in a Toyota Landcruiser. Now that’s some road trip!
I’ve done a few long drives, myself, but nothing like the Schmids. Back in the 80s, in an effort to save a few bucks, we decided to Go Greyhound across the country instead of flying. It took 3 ½ days to get from New York to San Francisco. I’ll never do that again.