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Apparently, I'm a Road Dawg. You can be, too.

Updated: Nov 16, 2023


mountain skyline photo taken from a vehicle.
Driving through the North Georgia Mountains

Last week, Hubs loaded me in the truck for a road trip south of Atlanta because he had promised the kids that we’d all go to this tiny local Lego collectible shop in Newnan. Oh, and on the way, we were going to stop at a Staples to apply for TSA pre-check. Oh, and could I drive? Because -- according to Hubs -- I’m so good at driving on long trips and he wanted to read his phone on the way down.


I didn’t want to go anywhere. It was one of those mornings where the sunlight was coming gently through the windows instead of its usual glare, the fan above was creating a cool breeze, the pillows were just right, and I had not gotten myself tangled up in my pajamas and blankets. The conditions were perfect for dozing.

After Hubs reminds me that a promise is a promise, I roll over and text Slone about how these boys were dragging me out to the country for rare Legos. She responded:

If you weren’t such a good road dawg people would quit making you go places with them. Be less awesome, Brandi… Geez!

She likes to remind me that I was her road dawg for a long time. She’d instruct me to get in the truck, tell me we were going shopping, to pick up something, to get an oil change, or to pick up a friend who was having car trouble. We’d grab a big drink from Sonic on the way, and I’d flip through a copy of In Style magazine as she drove.


This was often my position, riding shotgun for my friends. We’d bounce down back roads with the windows down and the music cranked up. Rap, Metal, Country, Dolly, Reba, Cher, Tina, Celene, Nicki, or Beyonce. We’re shopping, we’re looking for boys, we’re buying beer, we’re meeting other friends.


And now I’m road dawging these boys.


I showed Hubs the text from Slone and he said, “Can confirm!”

Eventually, I asked him, “So what is it? I need some perspective. What makes me a good person to travel with?”

He said, “For one, you’re willing to drive. That’s key.”

I do like to drive. Surprisingly enough, it’s not a control thing. I just enjoy driving.

He continued, “You know when to not talk. When you talk it’s engaging, but you also know when to not talk.”

“Okay,” I said. “What else?”

“Just a general readiness. Like you’re up for it!”

I laughed. “Even when I’m not?” I was thinking about our most recent trip to the Lego store in the country.

“Exactly.”


Hubs loves to travel. When we were first dating, so young and broke, he tells me we were going to London. I thought he was crazy because I didn’t understand how we could just go to London. What for? Why would we do that? I didn’t understand the concept of going someplace for no purpose other than to see it. I was a flea market kid. If we were traveling, we were setting up to sell something. Also, I didn’t go to many places that I couldn’t easily drive in less than eight hours. I’d flown to Chicago, New York, and Kansas City for conventions – destinations with specific purposes. When he asked me to go to London, I shrugged and said, “I don’t even have a passport.” His response was that we’d just have to get me one. And then the deal that was going to make our trip so cheap fell through. He was seriously disappointed. But I wasn’t because I was still struggling with the concept of traveling for pleasure.


I did not grow up middle class. We didn’t have things like “vacation days”. We hustled to make a buck, and only one time did that life take us to a beach. So when Hubs is like, “We have vacation days, let’s use them.” I was like, What? Why?


To be clear, while Hubs travels for pleasure, he doesn’t believe in leisurely travel. We go hard. We went to Disney World for our honeymoon. This was back when you could buy these meal plan packages where all the food was prepaid and you cashed in with credits. Before we even hit the parks, we’d driven all night from Paducah to Tampa. Then we drove down further down to Clearwater for a pre-season baseball game. When we finally made it to the Disney parks, he had a plan for us to visit all three parks, sometimes two different parks a day. It was fun. But by the time we made it home, we were beyond exhausted.


And that’s how Hubs likes to do it. If we’re going, we’re going to see it all. I’ve warned him that he goes too hard on these trips, so we have to factor in rest times, easy days, and recovery days when we get back.


Our life made it difficult to travel for pleasure for a long time. Once we had kids, Hubs made sure we were to Disney as much as we could afford while our boys could get in free. But between law school and then grad school for me, multiple moves from city to city or commute to commute, we couldn’t travel as much as he wanted. And then COVID.


When the travel bans had been lifted, he’d spent that quarantine time spinning his wheels. He’d started building up credit card points. He joined travel Facebook groups. He started listening to Points Podcasts. He started coordinating the kids' school calendar and overlapping it with my school calendar and started booking flights, hotels, and reservations months–sometimes years–in advance.


I told him, find me something where we don’t have to walk everywhere all day or drive hither and yon to see everything. No stomping all over NYC, no driving from beach to beach, no waiting around for cabs and Lyfts. I said I wanted a vacation that I don’t need a vacation from.


Engine and sky view from the window of a Southwest flight.
Cloudy morning on the way to NYC

One day he tells me we’re going to Cancun. He’d found an all-inclusive. He cashed in the credit card points that he’d spent a year building up. He made appointments for everyone to get passports. While we were at the resort, we were blissfully ensconced in the glorious ocean views and access to on-demand margaritas. Getting there was another story.


This is where being a road dawg came into play. We missed our first flight because we got backed up at TSA. So we had to fly standby. When we made it to Houston for the connection to Cancun, they only had three seats available on standby. One of us had to hang back and fly solo. That was me. We ran all the combinations and it had to be me.


I was freaking out, but I couldn’t show it. Because if either Behr or W. saw me upset, they were going to freak out. One at a time, I sat next to them and explained the situation. I told them it was not a big deal and that I would meet them in Cancun. I watched them board without me.


I spoke with Southwest about what I could do. They said the next available flight would be hours later. But on the board, there was a Frontier flight leaving in 30 minutes. They still had several seats open for under $100. I wasn’t looking for comfort. I wasn’t looking for amenities. I just needed a ride. The couple sitting next to me was handsy. The college bros sitting next to me had pregamed pretty hard. The senior ladies traveling with what I can only assume was their granddaughter were decked out in muumuus, shield sunglasses, and clip-on hair pieces. A toddler sitting in front of me flung her sippy cup and coated one of the college bros in what looked like a smoothie. Everyone laughed. The bros played with the toddler. Everyone was a buzz with excitement. Before we landed, the flight attendants gave a hard pitch for the Frontier Credit Card, however, they also forgot to give us the customs forms.


The return trip wasn’t less stressful. We were all able to fly together, but a hold-up in customs resulted in us running through the Fort Lauderdale airport to go through TSA again, and then reaching our gate just in time to board our flight for Atlanta.


We have another vacation season upon us and Hubs is planning out our tourism spots, our meal spots, the rental cars, and all the logistics. And I’m ready to ride. I pack light. I remind the kids to download movies for the flight, pack gum for the plane, and to prepare themselves to share a bed. I have to tell Behr that one stuffed panda for his suitcase is enough because he’ll buy another while we’re there. And I’ll tell W. to pack a jacket because even when it’s hot outside, he needs something to cover his arms.


And I’ll admit, sometimes I am the problem. There have been times when I have vetoed plans at the last minute. I’ve refused to go places because of the rain. I’ve been struck with migraines and needed to stay at the hotel. In New Orleans, I had an angry stomp off because dinner plans fell through and I said I was going to find a restaurant that would seat four. Hubs’ dream is the take a European vacation like Rick Steves where he hits the railways with a backpack and versatile outfit. I have already told him I am not doing 15 countries in 15 days.


But I am also not going to turn down a chance to go. As much as he cites me as being a good travel companion, in the end, it’s because I am letting him do all the hard work. When I’m with other moms, they like to ask me questions about booking our trips – did we use VRBO, how did we book our flights, and which meal plans are we using? I can’t answer any of these questions because I let Hubs be the one in charge.


Here are my road dawg tips.

  1. Pack snacks. One of the Progressive Commercials shows a group of people turning into their parents at the airport, and one of the women has ziplock bags of snacks. Pop culture has made packing your own snacks lame. Whatever. I get hangry. Kids get hangry. And I can’t eat a bag of gummy bears from the airport shop and think, “Wow! I’m full.” A pack of peanut butter and crackers used to be a surefire way to ward off my diabetic father-in-law from having a comeapart on a hostess for daring to inform us that it was going to be a fifteen-minute wait before we could sit down. A little snack goes a long way.

  2. Bring your own entertainment. When I rode with Slone, I’d bring a magazine because I could show her pictures of pretty things when I found them. I have magazine subscriptions on my tablet, but it’s not the same as holding a magazine in your hand. When I fly, I like to keep a book in my bag or I watch a show on my tablet.

  3. Bring a deck of cards. Sometimes being a road dawg isn’t about going, it’s about waiting. Waiting for someone to be ready. Waiting for a slow wait staff in a restaurant. Waiting for a layover. A person can wait around by playing Candy Crush or scrolling through socials, but if you can engage someone with a game then it’s a group activity and more people are content. The kids and I play Crazy Eights whenever we have to wait, and one time lured the wait staff at Mark's Feed Store in Louisville to play with us.

  4. Comfortable shoes. There may have been a time when I could walk the Disney parks in a pair of Old Navy flip-flops. No more. A good pair of shoes – arch support, quality flats, soles that can take a licking – can make the difference between a joyful trip and a painful, resentful, irritable trip. I started a trip to NYC one summer in boots and ended it in Birkenstocks after a slog through The Met. I just got an excellent deal on a pair of Adidas Stan Smiths for our summer travels.

Next week I am going to post my travel light tips. Keep an eye out!

Read Books. Wear Boots.

XOXO,

B.

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