5 Tips for Solo Cross-Country Road Trips

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A few weeks ago I drove a smart car from Michigan to Colorado. By myself. Here’s a little wisdom I learned on the way:

1. Sleep at truck stops. They are totally not what they used to be! A more correct term would be “travel stop.” Love’s and Flying J are two popular ones. As a single girl travelling alone, I felt a little leary about it, but I found that it’s totally (or mostly) safe. I hadn’t planned to stop at all on my 17-hour trek, but 14 hours in, Nebraska decided to give me an epic rain/thunder/heat lightning storm. Luckily there was a Love’s at the next exit. I parked my smart car between two mom vans (filled with small children who woke their mothers (and me) up at 5AM) in the well-lit parking lot and slept like a baby for 8 hours. In the morning, I was able to brush my teeth and wash my face as well as get coffee.

I would not recommend staying at a rest area. These are not the same as truck/travel stops. They are not businesses, and therefore not monitored or staffed. There will not be anyone nearby to hear you scream if someone breaks into your car in the middle of the night (not that that is likely to happen).

2. Eat what you want. Give yourself permission to have Krispy Creme donuts for breakfast, or to have a 40 oz Coca-Cola after ten non-stop hours on the road. There is no better way to stay alert when you’re sitting for long, long periods of time than filling your body with sugar and caffeine. Or, if you’re better at being an adult than me, feel free to stop and treat yourself to a good sandwich or a hot meal. Give your body what it wants and needs.

3. Nap in public parks. If you’re driving during the day and you get tired (which I did) because you were way too excited to sleep the night before your epic adventure, find a nice public park to nap at. Cruise around the nearest mid-to-large sized city and find a park that has some people in it. This is key. I found one in Iowa City that had a skate park full of teenage boys and a few families picnicking. Just enough people that if someone tries to attack you while your napping with your windows down and doors unlocked, someone will hear your scream (again, not that it’s likely, but you never know…). If you find a nice enough park, take out the blanket you should have packed and nap outside on the ground. Just pretend you’re a local. It’s fine.

4. Stop when you feel like it. Don’t listen to what people say about stretching every three hours to prevent blood clots, or to drive for as long as you can during the day light hours.  You’ll have to stop and get gas every few hours, so you’re already going to be stretching. Don’t give yourself strict limits. If you want to drive for 9 hours and only stop to get gas, go for it. On the way back, maybe you’ll feel like taking an hour nap after only 3 hours in the car. That’s okay. The best thing about solo road trips is that there’s no one there to judge you.

5. Have a printed map. Even the smartest cell phones die or lie to you about where you are. Or get dropped and are stuck under your seat when you are driving through rush hour in Chicago. Print a hard copy or your directions and study it so you don’t think you are in Nebraska for four hours when you were really in Iowa the whole time.

Those are my best tips for now. If you’re a girl, you should definitely also read Cameron Tuttle’s The Bad Girl’s Guide to the Open Road before you embark on your solo journey. It will change your life.

Do you have any good tips for long drives? Crazy stories of all the stupid shit you did when you drove across the country? Questions? Comment below! :)

5 Great Finds for Writers in Denver

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1. Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop

Imagine a place where every Friday you can show up, grab some Oreos and white wine, and write for an hour in a beautiful, old home with a bunch of other writers. Then, for another hour, you gather with those awesome writers for conversations about craft, networking, and sharing of your work.

Yes, it really exists.

Lighthouse is a beacon of hope. It made me believe that communities of writers really exist. Besides Friday 500, they also host their annual Lit Fest (which I missed by one day…kill me), writing workshops and classes, and a writing retreat in the mountains.

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2. Tattered Cover Bookstore

Tattered Cover is an AMAZING indie bookstore with three great locations, plus 2 satellites (one at Denver Airport and one, opening this summer, at Union Station). The one on Colfax Ave is the Gryffindor Common Room of bookstores.

They host a variety of amazing authors of quality, have a great local authors program, and are super invested in the community.

On top of that, they also have the Tattered Cover Press where you can self-publish at really reasonable prices.

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3. Stella’s Coffee House

Stella’s is located in the Old South Pearl Street business district of Denver, which reminds me a lot of Wealthy Street/East Hills in Grand Rapids. When I walked in, I knew I found my home away from home. If you like to sit in the sunlight, surrounded by good books, while an espresso machine whirs in the background, this is your nirvana.

I also love that Stella’s is super dog-friendly. They have water bowls all over their patio, and treats just inside the door (for pups big and small).

4. Denver Writing Meet-Up Groups

There are two really great ones every writer should know about:

  • Denver Writers Meet-Up Group. For just $10 a year, you can be part of a super cool group of nearly 700 writers. They meet bi-weekly on Saturday afternoons or Thursday nights.
  • Denver Writer’s Workshop. This meet up group is nearly 600 members strong. They are more critique-oriented than the aforementioned meet-up group.

5. Book Organizations of Colorado

For over 10 years, Book Organizations of Colorado (BOOC) has been “connecting Colorado’s book community.” They have over 30 nonprofit member organizations “whose activities support literacy, libraries, writing, publishing, selling or promoting books for the mutual benefit of the members and the general public.” Basically, they are a huge resource of things writing-related in Denver.

Do you have any good suggestions for writers in Denver? Feel free to add to this list by commenting below!

Inspiration Lately | Denver Edition

Image rights: www.thislittlespace.com Fall River Reservoir.

Image rights: www.thislittlespace.comThis drive to get there.

Image rights: www.thislittlespace.com Creeks that ran through roads.

Image rights: www.thislittlespace.com Views that took my breath away (literally).

Image rights: www.thislittlespace.com Colorado beer at campsites that had to be hiked to.

Image rights: www.thislittlespace.com Waking up with the sun on my face here.

Image rights: www.thislittlespace.com Seeing yelllow-bellied marmots at this river. 40 feet from where I slept.

Image rights: www.thislittlespace.com And finally, lakes in the sky worth leaving your heart in Denver for.

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I hope your summer has been  as full of wonder as mine. 5 Best Things for Writers in Denver and Road Tripping Cross Country Solo 101 coming soon. :)

Things I’ve Been Doing | 101 Things Update

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In the two days I’ve been on vacation, I’ve been able to cross the following off my list:

6. Visit a state you’ve never been to.
11. Forgive yourself.
27. Take a real road trip.
28. Watch a sunrise.
29. Watch a sunset.
51. Let something go that hurts you.
63. Vacuum your car and clean inside windows.
76. Go on vacation.
78. Learn a new skill.
79. Be okay with being alone and lonely.
93. Buy something from a locally owned book store.

Thanks for being so good to me, Denver.

46/101 Things complete. :)

A Quick Synopsis of My Road Trip [So Far]

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Left White Cloud, MI at 5:00AM. Promptly almost hit a deer.

Celebrated near miss with gas station Krispy Creme donuts and Twizzlers for breakfast.

Drove 6 hours to Iowa City. Found this bookstore. Bought these postcards.

Napped in my smart car in a public park for 30 minutes.

DROVE 8 MILLION HOURS. Didn’t know which state I was in 40% of the time. 

Decided to stop driving at 10:00PM, when Nebraska graced me with an earth-shattering sunset & lightning storm at the same time.

Fell asleep listening to the rain at a truck stop in North Platte, Nebraska. Slept like a baby child for 8 hours.

Left world’s best truck stop at 5:00AM.

Found bliss listening to this song with the windows down at 85mph.

Arrived in Denver an hour earlier than I was supposed to (“Oh shit…there’s a time change?) and found a coffee shop that is my home away from home.

The universe is being so good to me. Hope you are just as happy as I am. :)

 

Inspiration Lately | 6-18-14


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A bathroom with a baby sink and a plant in the shower, just like mine…except this one manages to feel airy and open.

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High-waisted pants, woven belts, and dark hair. The anthem of my summer.

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Muted tones and mixed patterns I could fall backward into.

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A watch I really need.

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A reading chair that would make me whole.

An 8tracks.com mix that is basically a summation of all my current feelings. And another one that also does the trick.

Thrifted vests and silly cat kids.

A workplace that believes in giving me the honey badger as my spirit animal.

And the gift of this book and this amazing portable phone charger that made me feel loved and known.

Only 4 more sleeps until I am in Denver. Road trip inspiration found here,  here, and here.