Are We There Yet? Life Lessons I Learned from a 1,400 Mile Road Trip

Brent Pittman —  11/20/2012
Long Road

Credit Rob Warde.

Are we there yet? This past week I drove over 1,400 miles in two days from Los Angeles to Oklahoma. I kept asking myself, “Are we there yet?” Unfortunately this was a solo cross trip drive and the answer was always “no”.

I’m sure millions of you are preparing for a trip across the state or even across the country. In fact, AAA estimates 39 million will drive more than 50 miles for the Thanksgiving holiday.

As you prepare on your road trip, I’m sure many of you will hear the phrase “Are we there yet?” or at least will think it to yourself on my last road trip.

The short answer is no your car hasn’t arrived. The get the kids to shut up answer is—30 more minutes (I got this one a lot). The philosophical answer is–will you ever truly arrive?

No matter what your answer, enjoy the drive. Hopefully the lessons I learned on my road trip will both entertain and educate you on your many miles.

Life Lessons Learned from a 1,400 Mile Road Trip

Lesson #1: I prepared for my journey well: stocking up on Trader Joe’s snacks, getting cash, having the oil changed, loading up the iPod, checking out a few books on CD…etc. I felt confident.

Just as I crossed into Arizona in the Mohave Dessert on I-40 my car lurched. Warning lights flashed and my 97′ Civic suddenly didn’t have the power to climb the looming hills. I stubbornly pushed the car to the next exit where I found out the nearest mechanic is 20 miles down a 2 lane off Route 66.

The mechanic ended up fixing a small problem, yet to repair the engine 100% could be $1,000 and a few days. I decided to press on sans 1 cylinder–I now understand what the phrase not firing on all cylinders literally means.

Lesson LearnedNo matter how much you prepare, the unexpected will always happen. 

Lesson #2: My mouth watered at every Cracker Barrel sign I passed. The only problem was the signs read: only 10,000 more miles, exit 1.5 million. It was an eternity to my stomach. [For a little insight I used to work at Cracker Barrel as one of my first jobs and I’ve been craving the food ever since.]

I finally arrived in Flagstaff, New Mexico at the Cracker Barrel. I noticed I was the only person there under 50 that is when it hit me. I like old man stuff. My wife reminds me of that constantly.

I read the WSJ whose average readership is around 60. I’m considering starting coin collecting, I don’t watch T.V., and read mostly nonfiction books.

Lesson Learned: Be yourself and be o.k. with it. 

Lesson #3: The mountain into Albuquerque, NM is a steep decline where the speed limit drops unexpectedly from 75 to 65. I had learned from my fellow truck drivers to pick up speed on the downhills in order to gain momentum into the upcoming mountain.

Apparently, the Albuquerque police didn’t understand that I was running on 3/4 cylinders and needed to keep my speed up. The white mustang made a u-turn and roared behind me with lights flashing. 81 in a 75.

Questions asked. License exchanged. Grace given–Warning ticket issued.

Lesson Learned: Dispense mercy to others as mercy has been dispensed to you. 

These are just a few lessons I learned on my recent road trip. I hope you drive safe and remember these next time you hear “Are we there yet?” 

What life lessons have you gleaned from your road trips?

More Life Lessons

Thanksgiving is a Lifestyle and Not a Holiday

Moneyball: 7 Lessons for Life and Personal Finance

10 Activities to Practice in Tough Situations

Financial Lessons I’ve Learned in 34 Years

8 Lessons I learned from the $100 Startup

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Brent Pittman

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Brent is a financial coach and writer looking for the perfect donut. He believes personal finance should be both fun and accessible to anyone willing to learn.
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  • maria@moneyprinciple

    At least you asked yourself ‘are we there yet?’. I remember when our son was young and this will be piping from the back seat at regular (and very short) intervals – I used Mr Incredible’s response – we’ll be there when we get there! And yes – there will always be unexpected things happening but this is life.

  • krantcents

    My road trips are considerably shorter (350 miles max). I load up on CDs and usually start out early because I do not like driving at night. When I had an old (17 y.o.) car, I rented a car to avoid mechanical issues and adding miles to my car.

    • Yeah, I left L.A. at 4:00 a.m. and there was still traffic…ha ha.

  • In 1991 I did a 17,000+ mile road trip spread over about 10 months! Life lesson: Everything I need to be content fits in a VW Jetta.

    • That is a lot of time in the seat. I hope you earned a truck driver handle from that excursion!

  • THE most important road trip lesson is pee before you go.