As Zeus and I became accustomed to daily life on the road, we formed habits that defined the way we navigated through towns and across countrysides. Somewhat subconsciously, I developed a list of places to seek each time we entered new territory. The following are items that made our daily travel possible or simply more enjoyable.
Somewhere to take Zeus
A Zeus stop usually included either a walking trail or a dog park and was even better if it featured a water element since he prefers to drink out of rivers or lakes rather than his water dish. I usually planned a stop every two hours, which was good for both of us since I walked most times as well.
Even if we only had a few hours, I sought out a town’s main street, especially back east where we found quaint, unique spots. I ended up staying overnight in many WalMart parking lots along the east coast because camping was too expensive and far between. If I hadn’t ventured beyond the WalMart areas, I would’ve missed the true character of a place. The outskirts, dare I say suburbs, of most cities look and feel the same. One Red Lobster or McDonald’s or AutoZone is the same as another, and, sadly, these chain stores are all you’ll find if you don’t get downtown.
City & State Parks
The quest for parks correlates with finding dog-friendly locales, but I also learned parks allowed a good escape from the sometimes rushed city or town life. I pulled over to sneak quick naps, make lunch, or simply stretch our legs. Most parks allow unmetered parking from dawn to dusk, so sometimes on rainy days I would find a park to stay for a few hours without worrying about the parking police.
I became acquainted with many libraries because I like libraries, but to be 100% honest, my visits were mainly for the Wi-Fi, the good Wi-Fi. Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and WalMart usually offer free service, but I learned quickly that these commercial connections are not reliable. A few Dunkin Donuts had great Wi-Fi, leading me to think they were the place to go, but then I hit a bad run in Maine with repeatedly dropped connections. Also, many times businesses restrict the actions you can take on their internet. WalMart, for example, will let you check email and social media but try downloading anything or streaming a video and you’ll be automatically kicked off. Most truck stops are the same.
The only places with dependable, robust Wi-Fi were public libraries or businesses like coffee shops and breweries where I’d purchase something and get the wifi password (hence why my coffee & beer budget was a little high!). Don’t let the chain coffee shops fool you, though. I paid for enough Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks coffees assuming I’d get good service only to be frustrated by their lackluster connections. Go for the small businesses that actually have good coffee!
Switch out music for podcasts/audiobooks
I love music, but when on the road as long as I was, hours can either be spent passively listening to melodies or actively learning through podcasts or audiobooks. I listen to too many podcasts to count, but the following will always remind me of my trip (in no particular order):
S-Town – The makers of Serial and This American Life give listeners an in-depth look at a small Alabama town and the interesting characters living there who have more complex histories and motivations than first observed.
The Vanished – A weekly pod featuring a real missing person’s story. For some reason, I found myself listening to this religiously although the stories can be difficult because they don’t offer closure. This is a podcast with social ramifications since the wide exposure has helped find some missing persons.
Criminal – One of my perennial favorites! For years, Pheobe Judge has been tackling strange, offbeat crimes and those who commit them. The show delves into the motivations and psychology behind the crimes as well as how the crimes affected all involved.
Freakenomics – If a topic can be related to economics in some way, Steven Dubner has probably discussed it with his trademark lighthearted humor and tight logical arguments.
Tell Me Something I Don’t Know – Another Steven Dubner production! If you want to learn a wide mish-mash of all kinds of things or are a trivia aficionado like me, this is your show. Three to five well-educated guests visit and try to wow the crowd with the most fantastic, useful, and true facts in their knowledge arsenal.
The Divided States of Women – Liz Plank and Hitha Herzog look at the disparity between how the American woman is perceived by society and what life is really like across the country. They explore sensitive issues, issues that became current during the end of 2017 and the #MeToo movement.
Astonishing Legends – If hauntings, ghosts, and urban legends were to be disproved, these guys would be the ones to do it. Scott and Forrest don’t just tell the stories of famous legends, they try to pick them apart using history, science, and deductive reasoning to determine a legend’s merit.
Inside The Exorcist – I was on a ghost story/paranormal kick for a week or two! This pod not only tells the true story of Robbie, a boy living outside of DC who was purportedly possessed by the devil, but also the story of William Friedkin, the director who brought the story to life on the big screen. The movie shocked America and is still considered one of the best horror flicks ever made (Season Two, Inside Psycho, was also fantastic!).
You Must Remember This – The podcast usually covers early 20th century Hollywood, something I’m not overly interested in, but Karina Longworth took a season to delve into the story of Charles Manson and his followers. I knew Manson’s name, of course, but didn’t actually know the story behind why his name is synonymous with evil.
RadioWest – An interview-based podcast usually featuring an author or someone connected to the arts. A wide array of topics are covered in depth with well formulated and executed questions.
Snap Judgement – The place for powerful stories. Another show whose topic can range wildly but is usually crafted around an astonishing, heart-wrenching, perception-shattering, and opinion-changing true story.
I could go on and on and on, but I restricted myself to the pods I listened to on the trip. I started listening to podcasts regularly about three years ago and since have developed a wide range of subscriptions. If you aren’t into podcasts, get on it! There is something out there for every taste, and you might as well learn something.
(Others that deserve a shout out: TED RadioHour, On Being, Strangers, This American Life, On the Media, Modern Love, and Invisibilia)
2 thoughts on “Navigating America”
At first I’d think that stopping for a pet would be a pain, but your insight shows that it’s A) healthy – more walks for everyone! and B) adventurous – you’ll see things you might not otherwise. I also love the podcast shout-outs. Add Radiolab, Reply All, and Heavyweight to the list!
Heavyweight! I keep forgetting to check that one out but have heard good things!