Head OUT on the Highway
Expert Tips for the Perfect Solo Road Trip
Sixteen months ago, I sold almost everything I owned, hopped in a van outfitted for living, and hit the road. Nearly a year and a half later, I’ve learned a lot about nomad life—and solo road tripping specifically—especially under the limiting parameters of a pandemic. Since sharing is caring, here are my expert tips on how to plan the best road trip in the year 2021 AC (After COVID).
Prepare your vehicle. Before embarking on any road trip that will take you more than a few hours from home, make sure your vehicle is prepared. Change your oil, top off your fluids, check your wipers, and rotate or upgrade your tires; the last thing you want on this mobile vacation is frustrating and expensive car trouble. If you’re not a card-carrying AAA member, consider becoming one.
Make sure you know where all your vehicle’s tools—including the spare tire and its change kit—are located. I was once driving on New York’s back roads late at night with no cell service when I blew a tire that required me to change it. I spent an hour in the middle of nowhere frantically searching my Volkswagen for the tire-changing tools. It’s also critical that you know how to change a flat yourself. Ask a friend or family member to show you or if you want to DIY it, YouTube has plenty of videos, some specific to your vehicle’s make and model. Or, if you prefer a little eye candy with your manual labor tutorials, let one of the hot bois of TikTok educate you.
Flares also are important to have on hand for two reasons: So other vehicles can see your vehicle in the dark and avoid crashing into it, and to alert emergency services that you may need assistance.
Rest up and start early. To allow myself ample breaks on the road, I leave as early as I can with sufficient rest from the night before. I don’t drive more than two hours straight without taking a reprieve to stretch my legs and take my mind off driving for a bit.
If I’m departing from a metro area, I always leave after morning rush hour to avoid beginning-of-day traffic that will automatically stress me out. Your road trip should be fun; don’t put yourself in a position to get flustered as soon as you leave your driveway.
Have a destination in mind. Some road trippers love the element of surprise on their adventures. Not me. I like to have a plan. Specifically, it’s wise to know where you’ll end up, so you know where you’re staying the night. You don’t want to travel all day just to pull into a city or town that has no vacancy at its lodging choices.
Add fun stops along the way. To break up the monotony of driving (it can get tiresome if you’re traveling mundane highways with equally unremarkable scenery), I choose a few attractions to stop at along my route.
I love taking an hour or two to explore a small town’s shops and cafes, peruse an antique mall, or visit historic sites, national monuments, and parks. I have an annual National Parks pass, available for $80 at USParkPass.com, which grants access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites that fall under the jurisdictions of the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, US Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation.
Make it a little gay. With gay bars dwindling in number across the country it can be difficult to find one in less populated areas. I look for bathhouses, clothing-optional hot springs (I love a good naked time), and LGBTQ campgrounds for an opportunity to unwind with likeminded folx. You’ll be surprised at how many of these exist when you start searching for them.
These places are often much less expensive than mainstream destinations as well. For instance, I stayed in my van at the Oz Campground in Unadilla, Georgia for three nights this spring for around $170 total, and I popped into the El Dorado Hot Springs outside of Phoenix, Arizona, during my travels late last year for $30 a night. Day passes are even more affordable if you don’t plan to overnight. Pop in for a little R&R and be on your merry gay way. ▼
Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBT lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world. Connect with Mikey on Instagram @mikeyroxtravels.